Browns’ relevance is ‘fun’

Posted Nov 14, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns’ being in playoff contention has created a fun atmosphere around the team.

So this wasn’t exactly the way many of us thought it would play out. 

So we assumed, given all of the talk from the people in charge about building for long-term success, that the 2013 season would be more about gathering future assets (such as the first-round pick from the Colts for Trent Richardson) than having immediate success.

So … the Browns are about to play their most important game since 2007 when they face the Bengals Sunday.

They’re very much in contention for the AFC North championship. They’re on the short list of teams “in the hunt” for a wild-card playoff spot.

It is mid-November, and the Browns still are relevant.

For many fans, it is cause for excitement. Fans live in the here and now. As much as they would like to believe that the Browns will add some key difference-makers, especially on offense, in May’s draft, they would much rather see the difference-makers they already have make a difference.

They don’t view the team with the same sort of schedule that the team has for itself – a timetable that essentially says, “It would be great to win the Super Bowl this season, but the roster is being put together in incremental steps that should produce even more success next year and beyond.”

Players don’t refer to that schedule, either. They haven’t the slightest interest in the new players the Browns will acquire, because that threatens their job security.

They are all about winning now. And they love the atmosphere that has been created by the Browns’ rebounding from a 0-2 start to be 4-5 and only a game and a half behind division-leading Cincinnati.

“It’s a great feeling, because when you’re playing games, when you’re part of it, you’re in that hunt, it’s meaningful, it’s fun,” offensive tackle Joe Thomas said. “This is kind of when the fun in football comes out, when you’re in that playoff hunt.”

Thomas hasn’t been a part of something like this since his rookie year, which was 2007. The Browns were 10-6 that season, but lost a tie-breaker to the Steelers for the division crown and just missed the postseason as a wild-card.

Thomas is a consummate professional. He doesn’t believe that a player’s effort in preparation or performance should depend on the stakes of a given game. He believes that every game should be treated with the same level of importance.

But Thomas also knows that it is very different to go out to practice on a cold day to get ready for a game with playoff implications than it is to get ready for one that is merely part of a countdown until the offseason.

“It definitely is a lot more fun when each game is meaningful and you’re not just out there waiting until the season’s over, being done with the season,” he said. “When teams are playing better, everybody feels better. They’re happier, it’s exciting to come into work, you want to put in the extra time.

“But, really, that comes from just playing better, winning games, those sorts of things.”

And that’s what the Browns are doing now. They’re playing better. They’re winning games.

They’re relevant.

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