Heading into Week 13 last year, the Browns were winless. They hadn't won a game, and they'd just lost by double digits for the fourth straight time. Another year Browns fans once believed to be different continued down the same tired path. The players felt it, too.
"This time last year, It was kinda — I don't wanna say depressing, but I guess morale was a little bit different this time of year last year," Myles Garrett said.
"This year" always feels like it will be different in April, July, September even.
But heading into December? "This year" has certainly felt different than the ones in the recent past.
The Browns have entered December with a winning record just four times since the Browns moved back to Cleveland in 1999. They only made the playoffs one time out of those four seasons, and Browns fans would prefer to forget the other 14, particularly the three most recent ones.
This year, though? The Browns have juice entering December. Garrett can feel that, too.
"Guys are confident this year," he said. "You can feel it on the practice field and in the locker room."
That's because despite their 4-6-1 record, the Browns are just a game and a half behind the Ravens for the final playoff spot. And more importantly, this recent string of play feels sustainable. Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb are going to get better, not worse. The same goes for Garrett and Denzel Ward and, well, the rest of the Browns roster. The Browns enter the offseason with plenty of cap space and draft picks.
Winning each day (and game) the rest of this season is the Browns' current mission. If they accomplish it, they might make the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. But even if they don't, "this year" feels undoubtedly different.
"I definitely think this is a different team than what the last few years have been and have experienced," linebacker Joe Schobert said. "I think we still have some stuff to do to turn the corner per se, but I think that we kind of started that and we just have to be able to start off this year strong and kind of build on it."