I still can’t believe it happened. The Cleveland Browns traded for Deshaun Watson. In any other situation, I’m liable to do an Irish jig, which would be quite the sight to see from a guy who has Cerebral Palsy and chicken legs 😉
But I still don’t know how I feel. It’s been a wild 24-36 hours as a fan. On Thursday afternoon, news broke that Browns GM Andrew Berry and other team officials flew down to Houston to attempt to persuade Watson to sign with them. Normal free agency practice right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Two weeks before all of this blew up, Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski had publicly come out and supported Baker Mayfield to be the team’s starting quarterback for the 2022 season.
I’ve strongly supported and defended Mayfield ever since the Browns drafted him in 2018. But that’s because I see myself in him. I know he’s an athlete who plays a kid’s game. But to me it goes deeper. I identify with him. He’s not the biggest, strongest, or most athletic quarterback. But he has the heart of a lion, a stubborn work ethic, and he genuinely seemed to love Cleveland, and fit the blue-collar attitude the city has. He was the leader of the underdogs. I’ve always been an underdog my entire life too. I’m not big, strong or fast. And I sure ain’t athletic. But I have had to dig deeper for when I’ve succeeded in life. I see all that same determination and heart in Baker Mayfield. He has a lot of the qualities I want to have as a person when it comes to being persistent and doing well in spite of my circumstances. Being a fan of his fit like a glove. I wore that #6 proudly on gamedays.
So when I first heard that the Browns visited with Deshaun Watson, I was an absolutely nuclear mix of white hot angry and heartbroken. I was FURIOUS. I still will always feel like he got screwed. What the Browns did to him was wrong. They didn’t have to stay with him at quarterback. But if they weren’t sold on him, they shouldn’t have said so. This wasn’t just a business decision on their part. They made it personal. You don’t let a guy get the living tar kicked out of him for 15 weeks, tell him to get shoulder surgery, give him your blessing, and then stab him in the back by looking for, and ultimately acquiring his replacement. No wonder Baker responded the way he did. I would’ve too! I probably would’ve been worse! He’s completely justified in doing so.
The Browns may have succeeded in upgrading at quarterback from a football standpoint. Watson is incredibly talented. But to me in a way, it still feels like they failed miserably. This trade still feels wrong to me. And this wrong feeling goes deeper than just giving up five draft picks and $230 Million.
For all the ugly and awful losses the Browns have suffered over the decades, they were always an organization that never seemed like they would stoop so low to win whenever they finally DID get there. They’d climb out of hell, into the light and finally raise the trophy after doing things the right way. With character guys. They’d build and maintain a team that fans could finally be proud of for not only winning on the field, but being great men off of it.
Yes, there still are character guys on this team. But it feels incredibly hypocritical and arrogant of the Browns front office to say they wanted an “adult” at quarterback, yet they just traded for a guy who’s facing 22 civil lawsuits for sexual assault or misconduct. How much more of a 180 could this team do? They curb stomped the only guy since Bernie Kosar who said he wanted to play for them. And then he played his heart out every single week. They dropkicked him without a second thought, in favor of the guy who has a checkered past at best, and who may just be a serial rapist at worst. Watson was acquitted of criminal charges, yes. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong.
It also already annoys me that some other Browns fans are pulling the “allegedly” card when fans of other teams point out Watson’s past. That’s weak. C’mon now. You don’t get to make fun of Steelers fans for supporting Ben Roethlisberger, and then conveniently look the other way now that Watson’s here. It doesn’t work like that.
This trade also seems to be a glimpse into some of what’s wrong with American society today. By this point I know what you’re probably thinking: “Jeez Luke. Get over it. It’s just a game.” I will at some point. But no matter how this turns out, I’ll always remember how the Browns got into this mess. They sold their souls. They became so enamored with Watson’s athletic gifts, and so desperate to win a Super Bowl, that they didn’t care who or what they sacrificed as long as Watson got here. They sacrificed their principles and doing the right thing in the total pursuit of victory.
That’s when it hit me: Just as the Browns prioritized the wrong things, we priortize the wrong things and people as a country. We prioritize winning and famous people. Never mind how stupid or questionable those famous people are, or what it takes to “win.” We also seem to ridicule and make fun of those who stand for something that matters to them, no matter what our values are. As a country, we toss the right things and people aside like trash.
And there’s also the issue of instant gratification. Instant gratification is built in to our society today. It’s like a drug. If we don’t instantly feel good from anything we do or get in life, we’re disappointed. I understand the Browns have been a losing team for decades, and people have been patient enough. But to me, tossing a Mount Everest of money and picks at Watson seemed like a quick fix. One that may not even work. If it doesn’t, what lesson will we learn?
When all is said and done, even if the Browns start winning and this does work out for them, I’m not sure how I’ll react. They kicked one of my favorite players to the curb, and sacrificed everything they seemed to stand for from a moral standpoint. But at the end of the day, I guess winning is everything, right?
Maybe I’ll forget about it eventually. But right now I just feel numb, kind of stunned and disappointed as a fan. I know sports is just that, sports. But I end with a question that seems to fit this situation: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”
The Cleveland Browns will find out the answer to that question sooner rather than later. And it may not be pretty.