For the last 18 years, the New England Patriots have been the premier franchise of the NFL. They’ve won a third of the Super Bowls, played in half of them, and have only missed the playoffs once during that span — a year in which Tom Brady was hurt and the team still found a way to win 11 games without him.
There are few stretches in professional sports that mirror or exceed what the Patriots have done over the last 18 years, and it feels unlikely that any NFL franchise will ever be able to replicate what the Patriots have done. But that isn’t going to stop any of them from trying, and Odell Beckham Jr. wants to not only turn the Cleveland Browns franchise around, but turn them into the Patriots of the AFC North.
“I plan on being there for the next five years and trying to bring as many championships there as possible,” Beckham told GQ‘s Cam Wolf. “Turning [the Browns] into the new Patriots.”
When you consider everything that’s gone wrong with the Browns and everything they’re going to have to overcome just to become a playoff team, turning the franchise into the Patriots feels rooted in fantasy. However, the Patriots weren’t anywhere near the gold standard when things turned around, and they had to luck into Tom Brady even having a chance to get on the field with Drew Bledsoe getting hurt.
Nearly 20 years later, Bill Belichick is essentially the NFL’s Gregg Popovich and they find ways to win despite everyone thinking that the run has to eventually end. The Browns have set themselves up pretty nicely with what promises to be an exciting offense, though. Along with Beckham, the Browns will have Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb trying to run up the score against opposing defenses.
Even without Beckham, the Browns managed to win seven games last season in a loaded AFC North. With the Steelers taking a step back with the loss of Antonio Brown, the Ravens being a question mark and the Bengals expected to finish at the bottom of the division, the Browns have a real shot at the playoffs this season, and once they’re in, anything can happen.