When Cleveland Browns General Manager Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski spoke to the media at the NFL Combine, what they had to say, or didn’t, made it difficult to forget the team’s recent futility.
For just over 20 years, Browns fans have faithfully clung to the hope that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was finally within reach. Until it wasn’t yet again. Now, with that same light clearly at its brightest since the team came back in 1999, and with some elements back in place from that two-year span of 1-31, it’s left us wondering if ‘what’s past is prologue’?
‘Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge’ – The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1
This Shakespearean metaphor suggests that the past is a precursor to the future, which in Cleveland Browns parlance portends a return to the rationale for football-related decisions that contributed to 1-31. Paul DePodesta? Check. Andrew Berry? Check. Ryan Grigson? Check.
While blind loyalty can be a good thing, especially in sports fandom, remembering the past, hearing Berry and Stefanski speak without saying anything of substance in Indianapolis, and giving Shakespeare’s words their due respect does little to inspire confidence about 2020 and beyond for the Cleveland Browns.
Whether you’re Team Dorsey or not, rarely did he talk about players or his philosophy without invoking the word ‘football’. When he referenced ‘guys that are competitive and love to play the game of football and love their teammates, you can’t have enough of those guys on your team’, John Dorsey was talking about gladiators, mud-caked passionate football players with a capital ‘F’. To us, someone who passes the football smell test instead of the gym shorts and measurables test is the kind of player we crave seeing on the Cleveland Browns.
On the eve of on-field workouts at the Combine and with the start of the NFL league year mere weeks away, we can’t help but fear at worst and wonder at best what the composition of the Cleveland Browns roster will look like in 2020. Hearing Berry and Stefanski soft-shoe their way through their media availability definitely provided little in the way of clues.
Odell Beckham Jr.? We like him a lot, but sure, we’d consider trading him. Joe Schobert? Great guy, talented player, but who knows? Kareem Hunt? Another good player that we think can help us, but if you’re expecting a full-throated endorsement, you’re looking in the wrong place. David Njoku? He could have a big year for us. Maybe.
We get it, Berry and Stefanski showing their cards in Indy would be foolish. Why compromise any intel you’ve compiled and competitive advantage you feel you’re building just to satisfy fans and media? Conversely, there’s a way to deftly communicate with both groups in a way that generates excitement without sharing state secrets and that clearly wasn’t achieved during the pressers.
On the heels of Berry’s and Stefanski’s brief interactions with the media at the Combine, one can’t help but posit that Shakespeare’s words were indeed prophetic.