The mood surrounding the Cleveland Browns and their fans is ugly right now.
Their new star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, is facing over 20 lawsuits related to alleged acts of sexual misconduct, and it seems very likely the NFL will suspend him for some amount of time.
There is a growing feeling that, for several reasons, the league may suspend him for an entire season, or possibly even longer.
— PFF (@PFF) June 25, 2022
In addition, the franchise is plagued by an image problem resulting from trading assets for a quarterback who is very talented, but has been accused of acts in a day and age in which more and more people have no tolerance for any type of misogyny.
As bleak as the situation looks right now, the Browns simply have to get through it and make sure they have a contingency plan under center.
"Deshaun Watson is gonna meet on Tuesday & perhaps Wednesday in person with the third party arbitrator.. this is the first time where a resolution is imminent" ~@RapSheet#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/7J8kGyifs7
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 27, 2022
But once they get through it, their future could be bright.
The Browns Are Starting To Build A Good Team
Lost in the swirl of controversy around Watson and his alleged misconduct is the fact that he is a great QB, or at least a very good one.
Watson has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last three seasons (he didn’t play at all in 2021), and he has posted a passer rating over 100 in three of his four pro seasons.
In 2020, he also led the NFL in passing yards with 4,823.
One of Watson’s other good attributes is how well he protects the ball.
Although critics will point out that he gets sacked more often than almost any other QB, he doesn’t throw that many interceptions.
His career-high in that department is just 12, and other than his rookie season, his overall interception rate has been rather low, as it has fallen under 2 percent twice in four years.
Compare that with Baker Mayfield, who, at times, has been an interception machine.
In three of his four NFL seasons, his interception percentage has been at least 2.9.
Watson is a pretty good deep ball threat, which provides the hope that he can make the most of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, as well as young wideouts Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Cleveland Has Time To Find Its Final Pieces
At age 26 (he will turn 27 in September), Watson will have a little bit of time after his likely suspension to grow with a Browns team that, by and large, is also pretty young.
For a while both during and after Watson is suspended (if he indeed is), the Browns will have to weather a PR storm from a legion of their fans who deeply wish they hadn’t gone after Watson.
Perhaps the Haslam family and general manager Andrew Berry deserve some criticism for the perceived image the acquisition of Watson sends to the Northeast Ohio community about the organization’s values.
But America does love a redemption story, and if Watson comes out the other side of this saga leading the Browns to some playoff appearances and even a spot in the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl, those fans who hate him now could start changing their tune in time.