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Solak | Key offensive selections herald culture shift in Cleveland


Benjamin Solak

April 28, 2018

Cleveland is full of losers.

That’s objective. The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007, and after a long, hard look at their roster (did Joe Thomas retire…yep) I can comfortably say that not a single football player, coach, or executive with the Cleveland Browns is a winner. They are, thereby, losers.

The song and dance isn’t hard to trace: when members of a team lose, they become frustrated. When they lose a lot, they become very frustrated. Very frustrated players and coaches become desperate players and coaches; impulsive players and coaches. Desperation and impulsivity leads to some of the greatest hits of the Cleveland Browns’ recent performances: weekly inconsistency in messages to quarterbacks; inexcusable decision-making late in the fourth-quarter; egregious drops on potentially game-winning drives; deploying Jabrill Peppers on Mars.

Losers continue to lose; frustration continues to fester.

New blood, when injected into the system, helps clean out the disease. In the past two seasons, GM Sashi Brown stemmed that flow of new blood by accumulating capital, and as such, the noxious pestilence that is losing grew more rampant than ever. Now, with the rewards of the Browns’ trade-backs finally realized, more new life than ever before fills the Cleveland facilities.

But it’s even more than that.

Just as GM John Dorsey couldn’t make all of these selections without the disciplined acquisition of capital by Sashi Brown, so could Brown never make the culture-oriented picks that Dorsey has. A tried-and-true Football Guy, Dorsey has made a distinct effort to not only bolster the Browns’ offensive personnel, but also reinvent the mindset behind the Cleveland offense. He didn’t just draft players. He drafted fighters.

If the identity of an offense–and even a team–is erected around the quarterback, then Baker Mayfield represents a massive cultural shift for the Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns are losers; Baker Mayfield is anything but that. Baker Mayfield, in his own words, “hates losing more than [he] loves winning.”

Losing demoralizes most players, but Baker is so desperate to win that it only emboldens him. He continued playing against Texas on an injured shoulder, lead a game-winning touchdown drive, sat out a week of practice, played against Kansas State on the same injured shoulder, and lead another game-winning touchdown drive. Like many of the great competitors in football, that razor’s edge between victory and failure only sharpens Baker’s instincts and primes his motor.

When Baker beats you, he plants his flag in the center of your stadium. When you disrespect him, he grabs his crotch and stares you down from his sideline. Baker Mayfield hates you, because you stand between him and winning. And for a franchise as often beaten and disrespected as Cleveland, Baker’s arrogance and desperation will prove foreign to the point of unrecognizable. Until it becomes law.

But one man alone is not enough to lift a city. A culture is changed through collective efforts, and if the culture was to be remade in the image of the fighter, then that fighting spirit needed to pervade the key positions across the offense. At the top of the first, the Browns selected their field general; at the top of the second, they brought in the infantry.

If Baker Mayfield hates you because you’re between him and winning, Austin Corbett hates you because you’re across from him, simple as that. Why would you rush against him? Why would you try to hold your ground against him? Who, exactly, do you think you are?

Austin Corbett once said that his favorite part of playing offensive line is “breaking another man’s will across the course of a game.” Austin Corbett seemed to conflate a man’s will with a man’s body across the course of his Nevada career.

The left tackle is the explicit defender of the quarterback on the field; he’s the implicit defender of the quarterback off of it. When the only player nastier on the offense than the quarterback is the left tackle, the necessary bond of trust between LT and QB is forged in the fires of hatred. There is a passion, a need to impose the will of the Cleveland Browns–when was the last time you heard that?–on whatever roadblock stands before them.

And that’s where Nick Chubb comes in.

227 pounds packed into a 5’11 frame comes into the picture. Elite athlete who rehabbed all the way back from the worst knee injury you can get–that guy comes into the picture. Run over you, stiff-arm you, drag you into the end zone with me–that guy’s now on the team.

Nick Chubb is a vicious runner who fights for every yard on the field–but just being on the field is special for Chubb. His knee was dislocated on that fateful day against Tennessee. He was told he wouldn’t play football ever again. Baker Mayfield might be desperate to win; Austin Corbett might be desperate to fight; Nick Chubb was just desperate to get on the field.

And with every step, Chubb is reminded of what that desperation drove him to do: intense physical therapy over the course of six months, working three tendons in his left knee back to football shape through taekwondo and MMa fighting techniques.

John Dorsey drafted good football players, but he also drafted, with unmistakable intention, a certain makeup of man. The defining characteristic of the recent acquisitions? Unwillingness. An unwillingness to relinquish the bit, to surrender even the slightest point.

Cleveland is full of losers, and losers wilt. Losers bend. Losers are acted upon by others. You cannot build a team without those inflexible standards, without those rigid laws of conduct. With the introduction of a new front-office and a new pool of talent, Cleveland has stopped yielding and begun resisting; mustering up a mission and acquiring the men to pursue it.

Cleveland is fighting back.


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2 minutes ago, cambridgeho said:

Thank you very much. Closer to 40 then 30 now. 

Makes draft weekend a extra gift..Cheers to getting this thing turned around..Have a great UDay!

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