This Browns season has been pure joy, and last Sunday's win at Pittsburgh was the cherry on top.
That glorious victory was, in my opinion, the final thing you had to do to bury the bad football and all of the losing of the last two decades and fully embrace that this is a new version of the Browns that looks a lot like the Browns from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Being able to win in such an emphatic and decisive manner really buried all of the bad juju that was around this team since they came back in 1999. Now, this is truly like the Browns are back.
And these Browns are dangerous because they've fully embraced the "nobody believes in us" mindset.
They believe in themselves, they're hungry, and the fact that they're underdogs and that everybody's telling them they're not going to beat the Chiefs, plays right into their hands. It's like a wrestler who embraces that underdog role. The more you say that they can't do it, the more they believe in themselves they can do it.
The team has really taken on the mentality and the identity of Baker Mayfield in a lot of respects because Baker has always thrived off of his underdog role. He plays that perfectly, and he loves when people count him out and you can see that the Browns have really embraced that mentality as well. That motivates them not only to be better prepared, but also to be better able to handle any adversity that does happen and will happen in the game on Sunday.
A team that maybe doesn't embrace that underdog mentality, that is not comfortable when adversity happens — like what happened with the Browns all last week with all of the different players and coaches out with COVID — they get a little bit shocked and are much more willing to accept losing as an outcome. With this Browns team, when something bad happens, it almost coalesces them and hardens their resolve and their will to continue playing even harder and more focused football. There's always that belief that "We're going find a way to be able to win this game. We don't know how, but it's going to come down to somebody, so everybody needs to just continue doing their 1/11 of their part when they get onto that field because at some point, it's going to crack, the pendulum is going to swing in the other direction and we're going to find a way to win."
That same mentality will be a must Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions.
You take the same mentality you did going into the Steelers game where nobody's giving you a chance, us against the world, but also let that feeling of the underdog mentality — the chip on their shoulder, the "nobody respects us" — and funnel it into a detailed approach to the preparation of this week's practice. Go through and make sure every I is dotted, every T is crossed and everybody fully understands and is able to execute the game plan.
I think the Browns snuck up on the Steelers last week, but I don't think they're going to sneak up on the Chiefs this week. The Chiefs are going to be much more well-prepared and they're going to see what happened to the Steelers when you overlook an opponent in the NFL playoffs. The Browns are going to need what they were last week and more.
The Browns, of course, aren't going to take the Chiefs lightly. They're going to have maximum focus in preparation during this week, just the same as they did last week when they dealt with all of that. I don't think the Chiefs are taking the Browns lightly, whether everybody nationally thinks the Browns have a chance or not. I think you're going to see two teams that are really ready to play this game.
No matter what happens Sunday, it's become so clear the Browns now have a rock solid foundation. I've always enjoyed seeing things being built from the ground up. Watching the guys that do have their hands on this team from Andrew Berry, to Kevin Stefanski, to Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Joel Bitonio and Myles Garrett has been just like I said at the beginning — pure joy.
I've talked in the past about the satisfaction of joining an all-star team and winning a championship and how it's not nearly as satisfying as joining a team and watching it being built from the ground up with young players that turned into stars. That's what we're watching with the Browns right now, and it is the epitome of satisfaction when you're a fan and part of a fanbase that's been loyal. They've been proud of their team for a long time through a lot of bad football and are now able to finally watch that success percolate and that team come together as a team that is better than the sum of its parts.
It's really special and it's what sports are all about.