DING DONG! Deshaun Watson’s season is dead. One of the many elephants of the NFL season no longer needs to be tossed around, as the Cleveland Browns have announced that their problematic quarterback is done for the rest of the year. An MRI revealed Watson needs season-ending surgeryso it’s back to a life of misery in the salt mines for the Dog Pound.
To call it anything other than compensation for gobs of bad karma would be foolish. The Browns, who just beat division-leading Baltimore in arguably its most impressive win of the season, are (were?) actually good. Their defense gives up the fewest yards per game in the NFL and is top five in points allowed. Only the Ravens take a more productive rushing attack, and all the Browns need is a serviceable quarterback to make it work.
Watson wasn’t even average, failing to pass for more than 300 yards the five times he was healthy enough to finish a game, while never accounting for more than two scores. However, Cleveland is 5-1 when he starts (4-1 when he plays the entire game) and 6-3 overall. They are tied in the loss column with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and one loss behind conference-leading Kansas City.
A once-promising campaign looks less so now, but the caveats are that PJ Walker might be able to give a passable impression of 2023 Watson, and broadcasters no longer have to dance to the latter’s indiscretions. Outside the booth, players and members of the media openly joke about happy endings/rapes at the Cleveland quarterback’s expense, continuing the embarrassment of employing a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct by half the massage therapists in Houston. Watson continued to deny all of these accusations.
It’s over, or at least it’s not front and center every time the Browns are mentioned. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this version of Cleveland is redeemable because Jimmy Haslem is a villain in his own right, but the team no longer elicits dry spells. It’s more of an upturned nose.
So congratulations to every parent in Cleveland who no longer has to ponder the question, “How do I talk to my kids about the Browns?” That’s a silver lining, right?
And everything I mentioned leads me to believe that the Browns aren’t going anywhere. If losing Nick Chubb and an abysmal, overpaid franchise quarterback doesn’t sink this team, nothing will. They are indispensable and probably boast great value to reach the Super Bowl. Walker can’t be worse than Nick Foles.
The locker room will rally around all the doubters and maybe some of the haters too. Sure, the AFC North is the best division in football, but its members have an uncanny ability to cannibalize each other. Add in a schedule with just four QBs above the Mendoza line the rest of the way and 10-7, 11-6 feels possible.
I mean, if you overlook decades of heartache and bad luck, there’s a lot to be hopeful about in Cleveland.