BEREA, Ohio — The upstart Browns will kick off training camp Thursday with expectations unseen in Cleveland in decades.
Yet their principal leadership, in general manager John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens, is embracing those enormous expectations.
“I want everybody to understand this: Our goal here with the Cleveland Browns, as long as I’m here, will always be to win the Super Bowl,” Kitchens said Wednesday, when asked if the expectations might be too much for a franchise with the longest playoff drought in the NFL. “Just know and make it a given that that’s what I believe to my core, is to win the Super Bowl.”
Two years ago, when the Browns went 0-16, such a goal not only would’ve been unthinkable, it would’ve been laughable. But then, Baker Mayfield broke an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes, and Dorsey later traded for New York Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in March.
Suddenly the Browns, who haven’t won their division since 1989, have become a trendy pick to win the AFC North. At least one sports book even gives them the fourth-best odds to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
“My job is to get (Kitchens) as many good football players as I possibly can,” said Dorsey, who also bolstered the defensive line by signing Sheldon Richardson and trading for Olivier Vernon this offseason. “With the talent that this coaching staff has in terms of developing young men, I have no problem with trying to achieve that goal.”
Dorsey has put the talent, at least on paper, in place for the Browns to potentially reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Beckham and his former LSU teammate, Jarvis Landry, form arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL. The rest of the roster is littered with up-and-coming standouts, including running back Nick Chubb, defensive end Myles Garrett, cornerback Denzel Ward and, of course, Mayfield.
That hype led the Browns to sell out of training camp tickets in a matter of hours last month.
“I think training camp, to me, it’s a chance for this organization, and its fan base, to see what kind of team we have,” Dorsey said. “We’ll find out what this team is about at the end of training camp.”
For the moment, the team is still merely just expectations, big as they are. Dorsey and Kitchens, however, believe they have the means on the field to meet them.
“I’ll never be scared to talk about what our goal is,” Kitchens said. “I want them to have that goal. But I want them to understand how they get there. And it’s not by talking about it. And it’s not by predicting.
“I also don’t want them to be scared to go get it.”