Top 11 reasons why the Browns, for the first time in 30 years, will win their division this year:
- THEY HAVE A PLAYER WITH THE BEST NICKNAME IN THE LEAGUE: Forget about John Dorsey’s great drafts, his great trades, his great free agent signings, his great head coach hiring, and the fact that he wears old school Browns gear to work. The biggest reason why the Browns will win their division can be found in two words: The Scottish Hammer.
OK, three words. But only two matter. And if I’m the Browns’ vice president of jersey decoration, I’m requesting the NFL grant permission to rookie punter Jamie Gillan to wear “Scottish Hammer” as the name on the back of his jersey. If the NFL says no, do it anyway, and pay the fine.
It says here that the Scottish Hammer is the greatest nickname for an NFL player since Red “The Galloping Ghost” Grange was galloping ghostly through NFL defenses back when your great grandparents’ parents were driving Hupmobiles.
Attention T-Shirt manufacturers: This is your 48-hour courtesy notice before I copyright my idea for a design: a hammer, wearing a kilt, kicking a football.
- BAKER MAYFIELD: Like LeBron James (greatest basketball player in the world), Jim Brown (touchdown maker), Terry Francona (baseball manager), Manny Ramirez (hitter) and Albert Belle (Albert Belle), Mayfield was born to be exactly who he is. In Mayfield’s case: the man who will lead the Browns to a world championship.
He’s a cocky, overachieving underdog — Cleveland in a nutshell — with a raging leadership gene, who plays like he knows where the money is buried, and knows that you know he knows where it’s buried, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- FREDDIE KITCHENS, FOOTBALL SAVANT: He’s the football version of Charlie Manuel, baseball savant. Don’t let the accent, the easy smile, the folksy facade and free-form phraseology fool you. Freddie knows football, inside and out, and his players play for him. Kitchens says more with one “Whoopty hell” than Bill Belichick says with a grunt. Actually, “Whoopty hell” is a grunt wearing makeup, and I mean that in a nice way.
How can you not root for, and how can fate not be kind to, a guy named Freddie Kitchens, who looks, talks and acts exactly like a guy named Freddie Kitchens should look, talk and act? You can’t. Hence, the NFL better get ready for Freddie.
- THE BROWNS ARE PUTTING THE STRIPES BACK ON THEIR HELMETS: Don’t get me started on the whole high-schoolish “they have to earn their stripes” premise that apparently governed such nonsensical preseason besmirching of the most attractive helmets in the NFL. I believe this was an unfortunate holdover from the Hue Jackson Era, no? Need I go on?
- ODELL BECKHAM JR.: The receiver with the greatest hands in the NFL, maybe ever, deserves an appropriate stage for he and his hands. Where better to perform than 50 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Beckham’s divatude may be a challenge for Freddie’s foxhole mentality. But OBJ, an OMG human highlight reel, is worth the trouble, because he’s going to have the greatest season of his career.
- DID I MENTION THE SCOTTISH HAMMER? OK, just checking.
- THREE WORDS: NICK CHUBB: Huh? Oh yeah, two words. Sorry. But what a runner. What a runner that nobody seemed to notice last year even though he came within one carry of a 1,000-yard rushing season — and he only started nine games! Barely played in the other seven. Then Freddie took over, if you get my drift.
The thing I like best about Chubb The Quiet is when it comes to me-myself-and-I-ism, he seems to be a low-maintenance anti-OBJ. I’m A-OK with that.
- THE BROWNS ARE UNVEILING A STATUE OF OTTO GRAHAM: It’s never a bad idea to remind the hired help, and the customers, that greatness once played here. In the first 10 years of the Browns’ existence (1946-55) they played in the league championship game every year, and won the championship seven times, including the first five in a row. Their quarterback every year was Otto Graham. They called him “Otto-matic.” Get it?
- A CLEAN KAREEM: Imagine having a 1,000-yard rusher backed up by a runner just two years removed from being the NFL rushing champion? That’s what will happen for the Browns starting in Game 9, if Kareem Hunt stays out of trouble during his eight-game suspension. A Chubb/Hunt one-two punch in the backfield is scary.
- THE DEFENSE SHOULD BE MUCH IMPROVED: The general manager made sure of that, with a busy offseason spent acquiring defenders who can defend, and improve the unit’s biggest weakness last year: tackling. Bad tackling is always a problem, but especially when you’re playing tackle football.
- THE DORSEY FACTOR: When it comes to roster sculpting, John Dorsey is a football Michelangelo. Exhibit A: signing the best available Scottish Hammer.