Two of Cleveland’s pro sports teams are starting fresh this week. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Browns are hoping to turn things around after the bye week, while the Cavs open the season with low expectations.
A reset for the Browns
The Browns return from the bye week with 10 games left in the season. “You hate to come back against the NFL’s best team,” Pluto said. The Browns, who are a disappointing 2-4 on the season, head to Foxborough, MA, to face the 7-0 New England Patriots.
Pluto says it’s a pivotal game.
“You could go there and make some adjustments, play a good game and lose anyway, and walk off the field and be 2-5. From a good point of view, if you actually beat New England, that’s huge.”
Still Pluto says, the Browns need to start winning big games. “They have a rookie head coach in Freddie Kitchens. You have a second-year quarterback in Baker Mayfield that’s struggling, and you have a team that lacks a history of success. They’re trying to build their own culture of winning.”
After New England, the schedule gets softer. They play Cincinnati (0-7) twice. They play the Miami Dolphins (0-6), the Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) and the battered Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4).
“But if they play like they did in San Francisco, losing 31-2 or losing by 30 points to Tennessee, I don’t care if you’re playing Cincinnati who’s terrible, you could lose. A lot of it is on who the Browns are, what kind of team they’re becoming. They’re hoping this bye week would begin a fresh start and a reset. They’re talking about making changes to the offensive line."
A rebuild year for the Cavs
The Cavs open the season Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic. It's the second year without LeBron James, and the team is essentially starting from scratch with a young group.
“This is a young team," Pluto said. "Their oldest player is Kevin Love, who’s 31.”
The Cavs' record was 19-63 last year. “My feeling is that if they win 29, that would be considered good,” Pluto said.
"They have a new coach in John Beilein. The first time he ever coached a 48-minute game was in the preseason. And I know that Beilein has been a little shellshocked by what he’s seen in the preseason from his team because it hasn’t looked very good."
Still, Pluto said the team has some "young, interesting players," including 18-year-old top draft pick Darius Garland from Vanderbilt.
"He's got a lot of talent, but he played only four-and-a-half games in college. He blew out his knee playing against Kent State. He’s been battling some minor injuries in training camp.”
And Pluto said he enjoys watching their second-year player, Collin Sexton. "He averaged 20 points a game after the All-Star Break last year. He’s just turned 20, and he’s an electric scorer."
"This is a year, if you’re a basketball purist and you like young players and you’re curious what a 66-year-old rookie coach from college will do, that’s your Cavaliers."
Pluto said it's interesting to see how the two teams have flipped in the past two years.
"Two years ago, going into LeBron’s last year, that’s when the Browns were in their throes of the rebuilding analytics phase. We would be talking about the Browns as we just did the Cavs – they’re gonna lose a lot of games with young players. And it would be the Cavs that you’re expecting something really good to happen. But the Browns, unlike the Cavs, haven’t been able to take that step into being a playoff team and being a contender and the expectations were on them to do that this year."
"But I’ll say this about the Cavaliers and John Beilein. There’s zero expectations from ownership and front office. Play these young guys, get some more draft picks and we’ll check in again next year."