BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns have had many expectations placed on them in recent months after the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, coupled with the consistency from receiver Jarvis Landry and defensive end Myles Garrett, as well as the offseason acquisition of Pro Bowl pass-catcher Odell Beckham Jr.
And when the Columbus Blue Jackets visited the Browns at Tuesday’s training camp practice in Berea, they had some advice for the players as the 2019 season approaches.
“We actually lived that a few years ago where it’s sometimes premature, where everyone on paper is writing you as a Stanley Cup champ and you really haven’t proven anything,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said.
“You have to believe it in your room first, and I think we got caught in what everyone else was saying instead of what we felt.”
As a leader for the Blue Jackets, Foligno understands the importance of setting a tone for the team, and he is confident Mayfield will do the same for the Browns in 2019 as the second-year signal-caller manages keeping a talented corps of players happy and willing to work on a day-in, day-out basis to get to the end result of winning.
“Make sure your room is as solid and understanding of what it’s going to take and what you’re trying to build, and then, everything else kind of takes care of itself,” Foligno said. “That’s usually why the underdogs do well because they have a belief in themselves before anyone else does.
“I’m excited to see what these guys can do because they’ve gone through a hard enough time where they appreciate that, and we’ll see if they can put it on the field.”
At 2-5-1 following a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 28 and in the middle of an unprecedented midseason coaching staff upheaval following the dismissals of Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley with eight games left to play, the 2018 Browns looked to be anything but a team capable of the greatest year-to-year turnaround in franchise history.
However, a 5-3 record over the second half of the season and a three-game winning streak in December secured the Browns’ highest single-season improvement in team history, as they finished plus-7.5 in wins over 2017’s winless campaign.
The Blue Jackets know what the Browns are going through heading into 2019, as they have had lofty expectations placed on them in previous years, but it was not until this spring that Columbus got over the proverbial hump and won a round in the playoffs.
And the Blue Jackets did so in stunning fashion, as the last team to qualify for the postseason swept their way through the NHL’s best regular-season team in 2018-2019, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in four games.
“It can be tough when the expectations are high,” center Brandon Dubinsky said. “It can be real tough, but if you just stay within your group and your leadership, believe in what you’re doing and your process, it really doesn’t matter what the expectations are.
“You don’t want to fall short. You’ve got to have your own expectations and just continue to grow as a group and as an organization, and then, you’ll eventually get where you want to be.”