Chico: Raising the norm

You know what hasn't been "normal"? The Browns winning a home opener.

Mike 'Chico' Bormann
September 08, 2019 - 12:20 pm
Aug 29, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens talks with fans before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens said it in passing the week of the final preseason game against Tampa Bay. I'm not sure of the exact wording of the question, but it was referencing his decision to not play many of his starters much, if at all, in four exhibition games. He was asked about long, physical practices, and two days with the Colts in Indianapolis that galvanized his players and was the measuring stick he was looking for. 

"We're not the only ones in the National Football League doing this. In some places, this is the norm; this is not the exception. That is the whole point of all this. We have to raise our norm up a level. It can't stay where it's been."

Raise. The. Norm. Bingo.

Over the last two decades, I've heard many slick catch-phrases that sounded great at the time, but never amounted to anything. Remember "Play like a Brown?" What was that? Now when I think about that phrase, all I can see is a bunch of guys riding a stationary bicycle. I honestly don't recall seeing a single stationary bike on the practice field at Camp Freddie.

Raise the norm. It's short, simple, and to the point. It also sent sirens going off in my head when I heard Freddie say it that third week in August. That is exactly what this team did over the last few weeks in Berea. 

Painful as it might be, think about what "normal" had become with the Cleveland Browns:

Losing
Lots of it. Including 31 of them over a forgettable two year period.

Dysfunction
Enough to have Dr. Phil's eyeballs bugging out of his head. There was the "Three Stooges" comment in reference to Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, and Mike Lombardi (we never really saw Mike, but he had a name plate on a door). Or how about Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, who could never meet at the same church, let alone "sing from the same hymnal?" Hue Jackson? Enough said.

Draft Bombs
Mingo, Weeden, Manziel, Gilbert, Coleman...You get the idea.

That was then. This is now.

Haslam finally saw the light and brought a proven talent evaluator to Cleveland in the form of GM John Dorsey. Haslam was later blinded by that same light when he decided to just get the hell out of the way and let Dorsey and his capable staff make football decisions. The result?

Manziel became Baker Mayfield. Gilbert became Denzel Ward. Coleman became Nick Chubb. Throw in some great trades and free agent signings, and you have a talent pool, the likes of which haven't been seen since the mid 80's.

Make no mistake; tough, physical practices mean nothing in the NFL if the guys giving blood and sweat don't have talent. But this is where we circle back to Kitchens and those three beautiful words:

Raise. The. Norm.

Kitchens has raised the level of intensity, physicality, and accountability since taking over as Head Coach in mid-January. He may have actually introduced those traits to a culture mired in losing and accentuated by throwing the guy next to you under the proverbial bus. Now, words like collaboration and trust have become staples of a Kitchens' transcript.

The time has finally arrived to put words into action. The Cleveland Browns have real talent and real expectations. Raise the Norm.

You know what hasn't been "normal"? The Browns winning a home opener. They haven't accomplished that since 2004 when Jeff Garcia guided them to a 20-3 victory over the Ravens. For crying out loud, an innocent Miley Cyrus was just 11 years old!

Raise. The. Norm.

Prediction: Browns 23, Titans 10