Myles Garrett has plenty to be proud of when he looks back at what he achieved in 2021.
Garrett broke the single-game franchise record for sacks in a game when he amassed 4.5 against the Bears in Week 3. He then set the franchise single-season sack record when he tallied his 15th of the year in Week 14 and scored his first career touchdown on the same play — a strip-sack, fumble recovery and 15-yard return to the end zone that was arguably the best play of the Browns' season. Garrett was also named a Pro Bowler for the second consecutive season, too.
But none of those accomplishments have made the year a true success for Garrett.
The Browns fell short of their goal of cracking the playoffs for a second consecutive season. With no shot of a Super Bowl, Garrett wasn't able to check the goal he wanted to achieve most.
"(A Super Bowl) is the one goal that means everything to me," Garrett said. "Everything else goes by the wayside."
Garrett has said that same stance nearly every time he's discussed his personal achievements this season. He's not naive, though, in realizing how his work elevated the rest of the defense, a group that is set to retain several of its top playmakers for another year.
The unit jelled as it hoped — and promised after an inconsistent start in the first six weeks of the season — and likely will finish the year as one of the top-ranked defenses in the league. The Browns sit sixth in the league in total defense and saw improvements at nearly every level as the season progressed.
Garrett's constant pressure against opposing quarterbacks, thus forcing opponents to assign more than one blocker to him, was one of the biggest factors. Garrett has always been double-teamed since he was drafted first overall in 2017, but his extra attention this year helped DE Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014 and a prized free agent acquisition last offseason, attain seven sacks, his most since 2018.
It also helped the secondary create more stops on pass plays and the rest of the defense create more turnovers. The Browns went from totaling just five takeaways in their first eight games to 14 in their previous eight games, one of the biggest statistical points that shows how strong the defense grew in 2021 and how potent they expect to still be next season.
"We have a lot of young guys and a lot of new guys," Garrett said. "That cohesion takes time. I think we're really trying to find what our strengths are, and through the year, we've gotten close to it and tapped into it a couple of times. I think by next year, we should have all of the kinks out, and we should really be rocking and rolling."
Check out exclusive photos from the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus of the Browns preparing for their Week 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals
The Browns still have one game left to play before they finish the season, and Garrett expects to play despite battling through a groin injury for the last two games. Even though the Browns' top team goals are no longer on the table, he wants to finish the season strong and complete his first full year since 2018.
Being able to play in all 17 games will be one Garrett's proudest achievements from this season. The sack records are great, but Garrett has strived to be available for every game this season after missing two games due to contracting COVID-19 a season ago and a suspension in 2019.
"I knew I could always do it," he said. "I feel like I'm back on my game physically and mentally, and I'm able to just do what I do."
Finishing the year with a few more sacks could help Garrett come even closer to another major achievement — he's only 5.5 sacks from eclipsing Clay Matthews as the franchise's all-time sack leader. Barring another record-setting performance from Garrett on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, that record will have to wait until next year.
But when that time comes, Garrett will likely just repeat the stance he mentioned at several points of this season.
There's only one goal truly set in his mind.
"That Super Bowl means everything," he said. "Not only to me, but to the team and the city. That's who I play for, and that's who we do it for."