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'Tough, Smart, Accountable': The Browns' 2020 Mantra Carries into a New Season with Bigger Expectations

Quarterback Baker Mayfield during a NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants Dec. 20, 2020
Matt Starkey
Quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during a NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants Dec. 20, 2020, on Sunday Night Football at MetLife Stadium. The Browns won 20-6.

The Cleveland Browns 2021 season kicks off Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. They face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of their Divisional Round loss in the 2020 Playoffs.

Commentator Terry Pluto gave his opinions on the team's most anticipated season since returning in 1999.

Mirror image: Late 80's/2021 Browns
"I equate this era of Browns football with the Browns of the late 80s," Pluto said.

From 1986-1989, the Browns won 41 of their 62 games. Players like Bernie Kosar, Clay Matthews and Webster Slaughter were coached by a young, first time Head Coach, Marty Schottenheimer.

Now, a young team consisting of Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb are coached by reigning AP NFL Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski.

"I equate this era of Browns football with the Browns of the late 80s."
Terry Pluto

Pluto said the combination of Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta and General Manager Andrew Berry along with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and quarterback Baker Mayfield bring along an expectation of consistency and winning, similar to what the team had in the late 80s.

"You could see [the late 80s team] were going to be good for several years and that's what I think you are seeing now," Pluto said.

"Tough, Smart, Accountable"
By re-signing and retaining key players on offense such as Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry, and maintaining a solid offensive/defensive front, Pluto says the team did something this offseason that has not happened since their return in '99.

"The Browns did not make one significant change to anyone on their coaching staff," Pluto said. "I'm sure since 1999 that has never happened."

Though the mantra "Tough, Smart, Accountable" may be left in 2020 for the team, those words must remain important in 2021 in order to have more of what has been lacking since 1999: consistency.

Not only is consistency with coaching and personnel staff important in the NFL, but the ability to draft players, develop the players you have along with continually getting better through free agency is as well. Since 2020, the Browns have been consistent with all of these, keeping them in the conversation as one of the NFL's best teams.

Week 1 expectations and beyond
The Browns have not won their opening game of the season in 17 years. Though they made and won a playoff game last season, they lost their opening game 38-6 against the Baltimore Ravens.

While there may be reason for excitement or disappointment depending on the outcome of Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs, Pluto says fans should temper their feelings either way after week one.

"Fans will panic if they lose, or they will be euphoric if they win. From a pure football point of view [in a 17 game season] if you go into Kansas City and get blown out, frankly it's not different from when they opened last season into Baltimore and got blown out."
Terry Pluto

Regardless of the end result from week one's matchup, another 16 games will be played after that, the most ever in an NFL season.

The addition this year of a 17th game did not make the schedule any easier for the Browns. Pile on the tough schedule with uncertainty with the pandemic and new key pieces, a tough start may be inevitable.

Despite that, Pluto has The Browns going 11-6 in 2021 and another deep run in the playoffs.

"11-6 is really good," Pluto said. "I have them going to what amounts to the final four of the NFL, basically on the doorstep of The Super Bowl."

"The thing to remember is ... you are good enough in the next few years to be in the Super Bowl conversation," he said.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.
Christian Hinton is a Senior at Kent State University majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Through his time at Kent State University, he's had his own sports radio show on Black Squirrel Radio along with participating in live sports reporting for TV2.