Cleveland Browns 2023: Season of Fever Dreams

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Published on
November 30, 2023

To say the 2023 season has been a turbulent yet fun ride for the Cleveland Browns and their fans would be an understatement to what they have endured this year. Only one other team in the NFL can say they have won games with 3 different starting quarterbacks this year, the New York Football Giants... They are 4-8. The fact that the Browns are 7-4 at this point in the season is mind-boggling enough, but when you consider how they got here it's even more of a wild ride. Let's take a look at what led this team to such an improbable start through 11 games...

2023 Cleveland Browns Season Timeline of Events

Offseason Additions

Dalvin Tomlinson, Ogbonoro Okoronkwo, Zadarius Smith, Juan Thornhill, Rodney Mcleod; traded for Elijah Moore and Dustin Hopkins. Re-signed Anthony Walker, Ethan Pocic

May 18, 2023 - The passing of Jim Brown… Some Browns fans think this was a sign of things to come, I was one of those fans thinking this meant the curse could finally be lifted. Little did I know of the ride that we were in for as Browns fans...

August 26 - WR/KR/PR Jakeem Grant goes down in the final preseason game with a season ending injury

September 10 - HUGE Week 1 Win over Bengals at Home, lose starting RT Jack Conklin for the season

September 18 - Week 2 vs Steelers THE DARK KNIGHT FALLS - Browns commit multiple penalties and turnovers in a 26-24 loss…Lose All-Pro RB Nick Chubb for the season to knee injury.

September 24 - Week 3 BLOWOUT win over Titans, Deshaun Watson has his best game in a Browns uniform…. only to find out after the game that he injured his shoulder during the game and will go on to miss the next 4 games.

October 1 - Week 4 Blowout loss to Ravens after Watson was day to day all the way up until 2 hours before kickoff when they announced he wouldn’t play, DTR throws 3 interceptions in debut.

Week 5 – Bye week gives Browns fans a chance to breathe, most fans feel relieved to be 2-2. Considering all of the turmoil they've been through they are proving to be a resilient bunch... The team that is, Browns fans don't need to prove their resiliency to anyone.

October 15 - Week 6 – SHOCK THE WORLD win over unbeaten 5-0 49ers team many were hailing as the best team in the NFL at the time. Defense overcomes 3 PJ Walker turnovers to earn the W at home

October 22 - Week 7 – Watson says he’s going to play, goes through warmups, suits up, goes out and throws an ugly pick and gets knocked out of the game after starting out 1-4 with an INT. Browns rally to score 39, including a game winning drive by XFL MVP PJ Walker to give the browns a THRILLING 39-38 win over the Colts in Indianapolis

October 29 - Week 8 – PJ Walker leads the team down the field for seemingly the game winning drive, only to have the Seahawks dice their way through the #1 defense in the NFL on their way to a game winning drive of their own by none other than Geno freakin Smith throwing the game winning touchdown to OSU’s own Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Heartbreaking loss to the Seahawks to fall to 4-3.

November 5 - Week 9 – All is right with the world again, as Stefanski’s track record of bouncing back from a loss continues with a 27-0 beatdown of the Cardinals at home, however lost in the shuffle is starting LT Jed Wills is injured during the win and will miss multiple weeks on injured reserve. The Browns are now down BOTH of their starting tackles, thankfully 4th round draft pick Dawand "DAWALL" Jones has been the steal of the draft so far, anchoring the right side of the line since Conklin went down. Jones suffers an injury and will have to miss the next game vs the Ravens, leaving the Browns to turn to their #4 and #5 tackles on the depth chart, placing practice squad signee Geron Christian at LT and 3rd year backup James Hudson at RT.

November 12 - Week 10 – Browns shock the world once again, this time knocking off the #2 seed Ravens IN BALTIMORE in what most considered Deshaun Watson’s coming out party as a member of the Browns… Not only did he have a big day on offense, accounting for 250 yards of total offense and 1 touchdown, but he led the team on the game winning drive to secure the win in a hostile environment, endearing himself to Browns fans everywhere and lifting the team to a 6-3 record, second place in the hotly contested AFC North…

Browns fans would learn the following TUESDAY that their franchise quarterback has structural damage in his throwing shoulder that will require season ending surgery… Cleveland fans had less than 48 hours to celebrate a rare road win over their most hated opponent.

November 19 - Week 11 – Browns host Pittsburgh in a battle of 6-3 teams vying for positioning in a tight battle between the 3 teams atop the AFC North… In a defensive slugfest, the Browns were victorious after rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson led them on a drive late in the game to setup fan favorite Dustin Hopkins for the game winning field goal. Hopkins sends the fans home happy.

Browns end up beaten and battered after the division battle with their rival, losing Rodney Mcleod for the season and Denzel Ward for the next game against the Broncos. They scoured the free agent wire to resurrect 38-year-old former nemesis Joe Flacco and scooped him up onto their practice squad in advance of the showdown in Denver.

November 26 - Week 12 – House of Horrors in Denver as both teams come into the matchup riding impressive winning streaks (Cleveland 3 games, Denver 4 games) yet it’s the Browns who just can’t seem to find a way to get out of their own way… Facing the league’s 29th ranked run defense giving up 160 yards per game, Kevin Stefanski decides to put the ball in the hands of his rookie quarterback and allow him to air it out 29 times before leaving the game early. Overall the Browns attempted 42 passes compared to just 24 rushing attempts. The team as a whole played undisciplined from the start, committing multiple penalties and fumbling their chances at victory away with 5 fumbles on their way to a 29-12 beatdown by the Broncos. DTR is hit during a roughing the passer penalty with the Browns trailing 17-12 in the 3rd quarter which leaves him concussed, putting his status for week 13 in question as the Browns prepare to travel to LA to face a resurgent Rams team…

This injury leads the Browns to call on their 38 year old practice squad quarterback Joe Flacco as he will fill in as backup quarterback for this Sunday’s game in LA and could potentially start for Cleveland if the rookie DTR is unable to clear the concussion protocol. Flacco has a career record of 18-3 vs the Browns, including a record of 9-2 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. His last game against the Browns was last season, in which he led the Jets to a last second comeback win over Cleveland 31-30… He threw for 307 yards, 4 TDs, and no INTs in the win, however was unable to replicate that success as he threw for just 744 yards, 1 td and 3 ints in the 4 games that he did not have the luxury of facing a Joe Woods coached defense.

This Browns team has no business being 7-4 considering everything they have been through, yet they stand in 3rd place in the best division in football and hold on to the 6th seed in the AFC playoff seeding. If the season were to end today, the Browns would travel to Jacksonville to take on the Trevor Lawrence led Jaguars in the wild card round of the playoffs, who they will face next week at home. The question is, can they keep this up?

The Browns final 6 games are as follows:

At the LA Rams, who have looked much more competent these last few weeks with Matthew Stafford leading the way

Home vs the 8-3 Jaguars, who currently sit at the #3 seed in the AFC

Home vs the Bears, who despite losing their first 4 games have since went 4-4, although none of their wins have come against teams with a winning record...

Christmas eve IN HOUSTON vs a Texans team that is vying for positioning in the playoffs, currently sitting at the number 8 seed at 6-5. CJ Stroud has this team believing they can beat anybody...

Thursday night game at home vs a Jets team that will likely be starting Aaron Rodgers under center...

Finish out the season in Cincinnati playing a Bengals team that has also lost their quarterback and likely won't have much to play for at that point...

I see 2 wins at most, but I am a pessimistic Browns fan. I've lived through the Drive, the Fumble, and everything since. It's hard for me to see anything but impending doom on the horizon as I've seen this unfold before...

The last time the Browns started out 7-4 they went to the playoffs under first year head coach Kevin Stefanski in 2020... However, back in 2014 they also started out 7-4... only to drop their final 5 games of the season and fall to 7-9 under first year head coach Mike Pettine. The 7-4 start earned Pettine another year as head coach, however the team would flounder to a 3-13 record the following year and both Pettine and GM Ray Farmer were subsequently fired to usher in the Hue Jackson era in Cleveland.

My question to Browns fans is this: Does this feel more like 2020 or 2014 to you? If you had to ask any fans who were there to endure the Johnny Manziel era, they would undoubtedly tell you that this team is far more talented than that 2014 version, and the coaching staff for this team far exceeds that of the 2014 staff... Yet, Kyle Shanahan was on that staff, so was Mike Mcdaniel... Two of the best coaches in football right now... And they had 6 current or former pro bowlers on that roster...

All I'm saying is weird things happen in Cleveland. I've seen it, from Dwayne Rudd ripping his helmet off during the middle of a play to cost you a win to a kick six at the end of a game against the Ravens, we've seen it all as Browns fans... and we've lived to tell the stories of each and every season that ends in that all to familiar phrase, "wait til next year!"...

Is this the year that the Browns are going to win the Super Bowl? I wouldn't bet the house on it, but hey, crazier things have happened... Trent Dilfer has a super bowl ring because of a dominant defense, Brad Johnson does too... If he is tasked with being the savior for this 2023 version of your Cleveland Browns, thankfully Joe Flacco won't need to be superman to get this team to the playoffs... He just needs to make the plays that are in front of him and don't make costly mistakes... This defense is certainly championship caliber when healthy, now it's up to fate to decide if the Browns are worthy of the breaks they will need for this wild ride to end on a high note.

About the Author

Owner of Mullins Entertainment Productions, and head of sales at Heart of Ohio Sports, Nate has an associates degree in Music Business and over a decade of experience in media. Along with his duties at HOOS, he is a devoted husband, a father of three boys, Bailey, Gabe, and Issac, and he also volunteers his time as a board member for local non-profit Tiffin Youth Football. Follow him on twitter at @N8_Mullins, or email nmullins@heartofohiosports.com.

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