These are not the Same Old Browns

These Cleveland Browns, led by head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry, are not the “Same Old Browns.”

Ending the season on a low note, the Houston Texans defeated the Browns in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. It is not how anyone envisioned this 2023 squad ending their season after finishing the year 11-5 and as one of the hottest teams in football.

However, this team, led by this regime, showed nothing but fight, determination, and resiliency this season. Despite losing Nick Chubb, Deshaun Watson, both starting offensive tackles (then the backup right tackle who was playing well), all three of their starting safeties for a large chunk of the season, and more, this Cleveland football team fought until the end of the line week in and week out.

While the sunset on their 2023 season after a loss to the Texans, the dawn is just rising on the long-term future of this organization.

The right regime is in place

Browns Kevin Stefanski Andrew Berry
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns have continuity in their front office and their coaching staff.

Stefanski and Berry are both going to get contract extensions as the head coach likely wins his second NFL Coach of the Year award. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone have not gotten any head coaching interview requests this offseason. One of the best offensive line coaches in the league in Bill Callahan just signed a contract extension last offseason to hang around.

This is the first time since the return of the franchise in 1999 that the Browns have been blessed with the ability to keep their staff and regime together for the long haul. Owner Jimmy Haslam has not been afraid to shell out money to help the front office build a competitor as well.

The organization, from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff is aligned. That alone is a massive reason for optimism in Berea.

Young players stepping up gives the Browns a long-term window

Browns Kevin Stefanski Andrew Berry
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The “Andrew Berry can’t draft” agenda is coming to a close. Looking back at his 2020 class, only first rounder Jedrick Wills is the one who has not lived up to the pick. Grant Delpit is a Pro Bowl alternate who just signed a long-term deal, Jordan Elliott and Harrison Bryant have played themselves into the potential to get another short-term deal in Cleveland.

Then over the last two seasons, Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah emerged for this defense. Tackle James Hudson has proven he can start if needed, which is all you can ask out of a fourth rounder. Martin Emerson Jr. and Alex Wright are mainstays on this defense for the foreseeable future as well.

Even David Bell flashed some potential down the stretch this season.

While it is too early to judge the rookie class, the Browns already got significant contributions from fourth rounder Dawand Jones and fifth rounder Cameron Mitchell.

Even the veteran stars of the team are not that old! Myles Garrett is only 28, David Njoku is only 27, and Denzel Ward is only 26. We are talking about three players, all Pro Bowlers, who have become foundational core pieces of the franchise that will still be around for a very long time.

As long as the draft picks keep hitting and the youngsters continue to play well, the Browns are going to be alright.

It all comes back onto the quarterback

Browns Kevin Stefanski Andrew Berry
(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

The elephant in the room, however, still looms large.

While Deshaun Watson played well over his last three games before his season ended with a broken bone in his shoulder, posting a positive Expected Points Added in each of those games, there is still plenty of room for skepticism moving forward.

After all, he has played just 12 games in two years since the Browns gave up three first rounders and more for his services. He progressed back to the average a bit this year, but will Watson ever return to the quarterback he was in Houston before the news headlines and before the trade?

The Browns proved they can go further than the quarterback will take them, which is not always the case. But the Browns will not be able to compete on the biggest stages without their $230 million quarterback playing like the top-10 quarterback he is paid to be.

While the front office, coaching staff, and young talent give the Browns plenty of reason for hope and longevity, much still rides on the right arm of Watson.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire