Thursday, March 17, 2022 started out as a beautiful St. Patrick’s Day in Cleveland, OH. The sun was shining, and it felt like spring was in the air. However, over in the offices of the Cleveland football team in Berea, things weren’t all bright and shiny, at least we thought.
Right before noon Eastern Standard Time, it was reported the Browns were out on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, and the troubled quarterback was deciding between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons for his next destination to play. This comes after word got out that Owner Jimmy Haslam, General Manager Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski flew on Haslam’s private jet to Houston Tuesday afternoon to go meet with Watson in Houston. Once the whole NFL landscape knew the Browns were interested in the Clemson alumni and former National Champion, Baker Mayfield, the team’s No. 1 draft choice in the 2018 NFL Draft and the man who won the Browns their first playoff game in over two decades, posted his goodbye to Cleveland on social media Tuesday night and requested a trade. When the Browns were informed they were out of the running for Watson, they denied Mayfield’s request as the team seemed set on bringing Mayfield back on his fifth-year option for the 2022 season.
However, all that changed a little more than 24 hours later when Watson informed the league he had changed his mind, and he decided he wanted to get traded to the Browns, and he was willing to waive his no trade clause to do so.
What caused Watson to change his mind? Reportedly, it was the fully guaranteed $230 million dollar contract he was offered by the Browns regime.
The Browns never gave up on Watson. I believe since the end of last season, Watson has been the No. 1 target for Berry, Stefanski and the rest of the organization. With Chris Mortensen of ESPN reporting the Browns wanted an “adult” in the room, the writing was on the wall for Mayfield.
As a collective unit, the Browns decided they needed to upgrade at the most important position in sports. You can think what you want about Watson off the field. He still has 22 sexual assault cases pending in civil court. If you are disturbed by Watson because of his off the field situation, I don’t blame you. You won’t get any counter argument from me.
With that said, on the field, the former No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is a clear upgrade over what the team previously had starting at the position, and that’s why they made this move.
In life, you can accomplish anything you desire as long as you continuously work until your goals are met. When the Browns were told on Thursday they were out on Watson, it’s being reported they never believed that sentiment, and they even upped their offer to the fully guaranteed $230 million dollar contract over five years as mentioned above, something the other’s involved in the Watson sweepstakes were unable to do. By staying patient and not giving up, the Browns showed Watson how much they wanted him. The team could have very well panicked when Watson initially told them no, and it would have been natural to do so. If you are told ‘no’ during a job interview, how many times do you circle back to that job? Not very many times, if at all.
Over the last few years, it’s been said a lot in sports that “aggressive teams win”. The team that goes out and makes big splashes in free agency and the draft typically wins big, oftentimes winning the championship. We saw it with three Los Angeles teams over the last two years. First it was the Lakers in 2020. Then the Dodgers in 2021. Then the Rams this past NFL season. All three of those teams made significant upgrades either in the offseason or at the trade deadline that catapulted them to a title.
But sometimes, aggressive means patience. The Browns were aggressive in their pursuit of Watson, but they remained patient. A lot of times, when a move isn’t made right away by a team in free agency, the fan base of said team paniacks, thinking the team is never going to make a move or upgrade.
Take for instance, the Cleveland Guardians. Once the MLB Lockout ended, many, including myself, thought the Guardians would make a move to improve their outfield and discard a handful of infielders, a position where they have too many to count just on fingers. Now, here we are, just under a month away from the start of the regular season, and the team has yet to make any sort of significant move besides signing backup catcher Luke Maile.
Guardians fans have the right to feel frustrated about the lack of moves by the team, but the history of Team President Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff say they’re going to make a move. It may not be before spring training ends. It may be during the season, but I trust Antonetti and Chernoff to yield a competitive roster for the 2022 season.
A lot of people like myself thought the Cavs were going to be stuck in the lottery for one more season. I didn’t see the fit between Darius Garland developing into a superstar. I didn’t see how Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio could make a significant impact on the team. I didn’t see a point to having a malcontent Kevin Love on the roster.
Yet, all of the moves the Cavs have made over the last three years are starting to pay off as of this season. The team is set to finish above .500 for the first time since the late 1990’s without LeBron James on its roster. The Cavs stayed patient with their building blocks instead of making a reactionary trade just to improve ticket sales.
If there’s one thing we learned from all the pro Cleveland teams over the last year, it’s patience wins in sports.
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