Browns fans have been through a lot of losing and incompetence since coming back in 1999. We could go through the list of busted picks, terrible free agents, and awful front offices, but that’s for another time. Then John Dorsey came along and picked Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward. The next season he brought in Odell Beckham Jr. to play with his previous year’s big trade Jarvis Landry. The Browns went into 2019 with high hopes and a LOT of hype. We all know how that turned out, Dorsey and Kitchens out, Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski in. The here we go again sigh could be heard around the world. Then free agency and the draft happened and Andrew Berry has started winning over Cleveland with every move he makes.
Analytics take the reigns back
With Dorsey on the way out, the Browns had no coach or general manager once again. Jimmy Haslam would turn to Paul DePodesta to find the next group to run things. DePodesta was hired by Haslam three years earlier and given the title chief strategy officer. The guess is that title means running the largest analytics department in the NFL.
Based on everything written, he won Jimmy over with the choices he would have made over the last two seasons if he was in charge. He was the man that pushed for Kevin Stefanski the previous season only to lose out to Dorsey hiring Freddie. So, when this season rolled around, the Browns interviewed some coaches and then hired the guy DePodesta wanted last year. The Browns now had two Ivy League brains running the show and would add a third a few weeks later in Andrew Berry.
Berry had left the Browns after three years as the Vice President of Player Personnel to join the Eagles after the 2018 season. One year later, the Browns signed him to a five-year deal, making him the youngest general manager in the NFL. He was also given the title executive vice president of football operations. It certainly looked as though this was Berry’s show to run, and the 33-year-old executive has not missed a beat. Berry, Stefanski, and DePodesta set a plan in place and have carried it out flawlessly.
First offseason in charge
Berry’s first offseason started a bit rough when it comes to Browns’ fans. The front office was reportedly not interested in keeping fan-favorite Joe Schobert unless he met their contract offer. While fans, including myself, did not like the decision, it showed that Berry would not let the player dictate how things will go or desperately keep players on bad contracts. While not popular at times, these are the choices the general manager has to make. The Browns followed that up by cutting another fan favorite in Christian Kirksey. While Kirksey’s injuries made cutting him the right choice, fans became concerned with who would play linebacker. Since that point, Berry has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the fans and is getting some rave reviews on his first offseason as general manager.
After a year of watching the Browns tackles be turnstiles and penalty makers, fans were ready for a change. In comes 25-year-old Jack Conklin and his solid pass blocking and stellar run blocking to solidify right tackle. Berry opened free agency signing the best tight end and tackle on the market. That is how you win over a fan base. Berry wasn’t done making bold moves signing Case Keenum to add a steady veteran to the quarterback room. Berry and his staff methodically filled needs with solid signings.
They would add Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo, and Kevin Johnson to stabilize the secondary. BJ Goodson was signed to add some depth to a thin core at linebacker. Last but not least, he added depth to the defensive line signing Andrew Billings and Adrian Clayborn. Browns fans and media lauded every signing. When free-agent grades came around, the Browns were near the top of every list.
According to nearly every outlet you can find the Browns killed the Draft. Filling needs with high-end prospects early and finding high-end potential later in the draft. Here is the list of draft picks Berry is bringing to Cleveland.
- Jedrick Wills Jr.
- Grant Delpit
- Jordan Elliott
- Jacob Phillips
- Harrison Bryant
- Nick Harris
- Donovan Peoples-Jones
The NFL draft is where you win the hearts and souls of Browns fans. Over the last 20 years, they have watched mostly head-scratching terrible picks made over and over. If the previous general managers just picked the right guys, but they didn’t work out, that would be one thing. They always seemed to come off as trying to outsmart everyone with out of left field picks or flashy picks. Berry and his staff went in with a plan, and they executed it. This Draft yielded players that fill needs and are considered some of the best players in the Draft.
The true test is coming
Berry has taken a fan base punched in the gut again at the end of 2019 and got them to hope once more. Will it all work out? Who knows, but hope has found its way to Cleveland once again. Cleveland truly lives up to its famous moniker as it is Believeland once again. Now the true test comes as Berry, Stefanski, and the rest of the organization try to take the offseason success to the field.
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