Shepard: Browns are most impressive story of 2020 season

Baker Mayfield Browns
Photo credit USA Today Images

The Cleveland Browns played the Baltimore Ravens in the first week of the 2020 NFL season and were completely outplayed, losing in typical Browns fashion 38-6. It was simply varsity versus junior varsity. It seemed that the inevitable horrid season was on the table yet again for the struggling Browns. A franchise that has had NINE head coaches in their last TEN years. Then you know what happened? They put up at least 32 points in each of their next four games. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield finally looked like a first-round draft pick, and as he went, so did the Browns. They won all four of those games in which they scored at least 32 points. In three of the past six years, they hadn’t won four games ALL season.

It’s not easy to finish with a winning record in the NFL for any team. Something the Browns had not accomplished in thirteen years. Not only did they check that box off for the 2020 NFL season, but they, at 11-5, had more than twice as many wins as losses! Keep in mind that they averaged just three wins per season over the last five seasons. They nearly quadrupled that in one season alone!

The Browns’ last playoff game was on January 5, 2003, one day shy of being EIGHTEEN years ago. Let’s put that into perspective. The reigning NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson, was just 5 years old. One of the most popular NBA players in the world, Zion Williamson, was 2 years old. One of the biggest names in the world, Billie Eilish, had just turned 1 two weeks prior. There was no Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or even Facebook. Speaking of which, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was still just a teenager. The Browns have had TEN different Head Coaches since then. Their three other AFC North foes have had just two coaching changes each over that same timeframe.

This is a Browns franchise that has never even made a Super Bowl appearance, let alone won one. The last time they won a playoff game was 26 years ago. Rex Grossman—a quarterback who played for the Bears in the mid-2000s—won more games in a single postseason than the Browns have in the last 30 years.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfied was simply incredible this season. In his last nine games, the guy threw just ONE Interception. The world’s worst kept secret is that Aaron Rodgers will win the 2020 NFL MVP. Rodgers had an unbelievable season. You know how many interceptions he threw these last nine games? THREE, tripling the interceptions that Mayfield threw.  Mayfield is the same guy who threw three interceptions last season in the last game alone. Mayfield has had this great season with a 38-year-old rookie head coach in Kevin Stefanski whose previous experience consisted of just one full season as a coordinator in the NFL. Mayfield put up great numbers and led the Browns to an 11-5 record without his best offensive player, Odell Beckham Jr., who was out for more than half the season due to injury. He did it in the AFC NORTH, which is the most competitive division in football. The Ravens and Steelers have as many wins this season as all four NFC East teams combined.

When you are coming off of a 38-6 loss in Week 1 and an average of just three wins over the last five seasons, just to finish at .500 is quite impressive. To more than triple your average win total from the last five seasons in the toughest division with a rookie head coach and without your best offensive player for more than half the season, that is the most impressive feat in the NFL this season. Cleveland Rocks!

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.