BEREA — The Browns are no longer a laughingstock. Or a punch line. Or a guaranteed win for the opponent.
At 2-2-1 and with Baker Mayfield at the controls, the Browns are one of the league’s surprise teams. They’re also cool.
Enter Snoop Dogg.
The rapper stopped by practice Wednesday. He goes way back with coach Hue Jackson, who was glad to see him but took offense with the timing.
“A lot of guys see him on the sideline, and his message was, ‘Man, you guys are doing some good things, some really good things.’ I thought that was great,” Jackson said. “At the same time, there are going to be a lot of people that want to come be on this wagon when the wagon gets rolling, and we are going to circle the wagon.
“I know that because I did not see any of these people the last two years. I am still the same guy. I still knew all of these people prior to this year. We are not going to get caught up in any of that. Our players won’t, and that is my message to them. We are going to work, and we are going to continue to get better and see where we are.”
So a bus rolls up to the entrance of the #Browns facility today and out pops @SnoopDogg. Appreciate you coming on CBD and best wishes on Redemption of a Dogg coming to @playhousesquare on 10/28. pic.twitter.com/ehBzI6yrYW
— Jason Gibbs (@BGSUGibbs) October 10, 2018
“Dawg Pound, you better turn up this week!”
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 10, 2018
The Browns won over plenty of people Sunday with a 12-9 overtime win over the Ravens, who entered 3-1 and look like a serious playoff contender. The man perhaps most responsible for the tremendous turnaround insists he’s not the least bit shocked.
“I have known that the Browns were not bad since the second I stepped foot into this franchise,” said Mayfield, the No. 1 pick. “We had a special team from the get-go. We believe in this team that we have. Management has put together a great group of guys.”
The belief comes from within for Mayfield. He announced at the scouting combine before the draft he was the man to turn around the Browns, who went 1-15 and 0-16 the last two years. He said they were close and just needed a quarterback.
“When everybody said I was a short quarterback that could not do much, I said if anybody is going to do it, I believed in myself to do that,” he said. “That is something that I carry with me, and I hope our guys believed in themselves.”
The confidence grew after Mayfield led the winning drive in overtime Sunday. He overcame second-and-21 from the 5-yard line to set up Greg Joseph’s 37-yard walk-off field goal, earning even more followers.
“Relentless effort, man, just a winner,” free safety Damarious Randall said of Mayfield. “That’s something that he’s always been at Oklahoma and just somebody that can overcome a lot of things. Because he was a walk-on twice and he ended up being the Heisman Trophy winner, so just to have a guy like that you just know that he’s always going to try to put the team in position to win the game. You’ve just got to love it.”
Right guard Kevin Zeitler isn’t one for hyperbole but he’s all-in with Mayfield.
“He is making great decisions. He is making plays with his legs and arm. He can do it all right now,” Zeitler said. “If he keeps getting better, it is going to be scary to see what he can do.”
Randall, acquired in March in a trade with Green Bay, didn’t need the win over the Ravens to believe in the Browns. He said they have “by far” the best defense he’s played on and could easily be 5-0 if not for a few blown chances.
“We feel like we’re a contender,” Randall said. “We feel like we’re one of the best teams up in the league.
“Just the rate that the defense is getting the ball (a league-high 15 takeaways) and the way the offense is starting to click, it should be a lot of exciting football coming forth.”
The Browns remain a long shot to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, according to gambling site Bovada, which lists them as 1-to-10 to miss the postseason and 11-to-2 to make it. But that hasn’t stopped receiver Rashard Higgins from letting his mind wander.
“Absolutely. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about,” he said. “We’ve got one of the best defenses, and the offense is major as well. People tend to sleep on us, but we’re going to wake them up.”
The simplest way into the postseason is to win the division. The Browns have never won the AFC North but tied Pittsburgh in the opener, beat Baltimore and are just 1½ games behind first-place Cincinnati, with the two in-state meetings yet to come.
Linebacker Joe Schobert said the solid start has increased the motivation for the rest of the season, with winning the division the driving force.
“The No. 1 goal every offseason you come is to be the AFC North Division champions,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good situation that way and you can just see that it’s achievable and everybody in the locker room knows that.”
Mayfield acknowledged the long-term goals of the season but said they can only be accomplished by focusing on a week at a time. Jackson said the next step is to string wins together for the first time.
“We have done some good things, but really, what have we done? We have really done nothing, and they know that,” he said of his players. “We have to put our heads down, keep working and keep getting better.”