2016: Cleveland's "Next Year"

 

About a year and 99 posts ago, I joined More Than A Fan as a young and naive writer looking to gain experience in sports journalism.

A year ago, things were a lot different for me. I was at a different school, my career path was in the process of changing, and there were quite a few different writers on this site. The Cavs still had Byron Scott, the Browns had Pat Shurmur, and the Indians had Manny Acta. Swisher was still a Yankee, Bourn was still a Brave, and Reynolds was an Oriole. While many things in my life have changed, most for the better, I like to think that More Than a Fan was the first step in the positive direction, and for that, I am very grateful.

I really want to thank Josh Flagner and Ryan Isley for all that they’ve done for me in my year here at More Than A Fan. They took what I believe was quite a risk when they brought on a 19 year-old kid to expand their blog. I had very little experience, was quite opinionated, and thought I knew way more about sports than I actually did. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive, and for that I am truly thankful. You know when you are around quality people, and I knew within days of getting in on this website that I was surrounded by them. Josh and Ryan, thank you!

I also want to thank Damien Bowman for his guidance since his arrival. Damien was brought aboard the MTAF bandwagon much later than I, but has somehow been much more effective than I’ll probably ever be. Damien has been a source of information and help that I couldn’t do without. He’s helped me on pieces, given me advice, and has always been available whenever my seemingly endless myriad of questions come to mind. Thank you Damien, for all of your hard work!

I want to thank the other writers for helping to promote More Than A Fan and upping the quality of work that is posted on the website. Damon, Mark, Mike, Matt, Kyle, and even teenage Matt, you guys are really great at what you do, and it’s an honor to be writing on the same website as you week after week, thanks!

Finally, I want to thank you the readers. You are the people who help MTAF to grow more and more with each coming day. Thank you for taking the time to read and appreciate our work. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone when I say we truly appreciate your readership. More Than A Fan would be nothing but a bunch of guys rambling about sports if it wasn’t for your support. I’d like to thank you again, as I truly appreciate you all.

As this is my 100th post, I hope to write 100 more and become an even larger part of the MTAF community within the coming year. It’s been an absolute joy!

In Cleveland, the term “next year” may be used more than any other. Next year is what Browns, Cavs, and Indians fans have let themselves believe for just about a half a century now. There is even a blog that’s premise is waiting on that next year. “Next year” is coming folks, and it’s not that far away.

Pretty soon, the city of Cleveland will have three new coaches in their respective sports. Terry Francona will be in the midst of his first year with the Indians, Rob Chudzinski will be in the process of his first season as the Browns Head Coach, and a new Cavaliers Head Coach will take on the challenge of leading the Wine and Gold. This is the first time I can remember the Cavs, Indians, and Browns each coming into a season with a new coach in the same calendar year. While Clevelanders love the coaching carousel, I think this one is going to stop spinning.

It’s a new era in Cleveland sports.

A new owner, a new president, a new vice president, a new general manager, a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and a new special teams coach will all be a part of the 2013 Cleveland Browns for the first time. Phil Dawson will not be a member of the Cleveland Browns for the first time since their return in 1999. Joshua Cribbs will no longer be the face of this franchise. Art Modell is dead. The “expansion Browns” are over.

A new manager, a new face of the franchise, a new lead off man, and a new slugger are now at the heart of the Cleveland Indians. For the first time, the Indians had an offseason worth writing home about. For the first time, Larry Dolan decided that money was to be spent. For the first time since the 1990’s, the Indians are the talk of the town. The Indians made their biggest free agent signing ever, bringing back Ohio State graduate, Nick Swisher, back to the Buckeye State. This is not your 2000’s Tribe.

A new coach, a new outset, and a new core of players have the Cavaliers primed for contention. They will have bright young prospects coming in for the third year in a row, thanks to the NBA Draft. The Cavs are on the brink, and the new coach is just what they need. While the owner and General Manager have stayed the same throughout, the Cavs are a young and exciting group that, after this disappointing season, will bring some magic back to the Q.

While things may seem gloom and doom for the city of Cleveland and it’s sports teams at the moment, (Byron Scott’s firing, the Indians getting off to a slow start, and Jimmy Haslam being accused of fraud), this may be the most exciting time to be a Cleveland sports fan within the past twenty years. The next couple of years will prove it.

The Cleveland area code is 216. It’s the number by which the city is called, and it’s been especially significant recently as Cleveland celebrated it’s 216th birthday. Well, I’m calling it right now, in 2016, the year that will numerically resemble the city of Cleveland, the Indians, the Browns, and the Cavs will be competing for Championships in their respective sports. A NBA Finals trophy, the Lombardi trophy, or a World Series trophy will be brought back to the city of Cleveland, and it’s going to happen in 2016.

This is why.

The Browns, by 2016, will be an established football team. Rob Chudzinski will establish himself as a great NFL head coach thanks to his offensive prowess, his coaching demeanor, and his overall attitude. By 2016, his experience will make him one of the better coaches in the game. Brandon Weeden will have established himself as a quality QB, who is incredibly comfortable in his coaches offensive system. Trent Richardson will keep pace with some of the top backs in the NFL and his injury bug will diminish as his number of carries dwindle. The aggression that Ray Horton preached in his time with the Browns will continue long after he is gone. Joe Thomas and the offensive line are going to be one of the most underrated and solidified groups the NFL has ever seen. The Browns are going to break that playoff barrier in 2015 and are going to return to their spot as a perennial powerhouse in the NFL thanks to Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, and Jimmy Haslam. In 2016, everything will be in place, and the Browns will be poised for a Super Bowl run.

In 2016, the Indians will finally have the pitching to compete for a World Series. A roster chalked-full of veteran players, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will lead the way and bring the magic of the Jake back to Progressive Field. Through free agency and trades, the Indians’ starting rotation will be a solid group of young guns and veteran touch. Michael Brantley will become one of the best contact hitters in the Major League. Jason Kipnis will be among the best second basemen out there. Carlos Santana will become a bonafide slugger, and the Tribe will hit their prime after a ALDS run in 2015. Again, poised for a World Series run in 2016.

The Cavs, no matter their coach, will be NBA Finals frontrunners in 2016. In year two of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, after an ECF run in 2015, the Cavs will be the favorites to bring home the crown. With Kyrie just hitting the prime of his career, Tristan Thompson becoming a solidified double double threat, and Dion Waiters bringing his offensive game every night, in addition to the three time NBA Champion LeBron James adding his expertise to the roster, the Cavs will have a squad second-to-none come 2016. Mike Brown will get back to the Finals in Cleveland and this time he’ll win it, in 2016.

Call me crazy, but what’s the point of negativity? There is optimism abounding within these rosters, from these coaches, and from these owners. The time for Cleveland sports starts now. These rosters are being built the right way, and the right people are in place. Haslam, Banner, Lombardi, and Chudzinski will be with the Browns when they make their Super Bowl run. Gilbert, Grant, and Brown will be with the Cavs when they make the Finals again. Shapiro, Antonetti, and Francona are going to lead the Tribe back to contention. In 2016, everything is going to come into place and it’s going to be glorious.

LeBron will be back in town, Swisher Buckeye guy will be leading the Tribe, the Browns will be lead by their Brown-loving Chudzinski. Cleveland’s teams are going to be lead to championships by Cleveland guys. It couldn’t be scripted any better. It’s going to happen, I can just feel it.

I know this is horribly optimistic, but what do we have to lose? We’ve been down every road of athletic misery imaginable, what’s the worst a little optimism can do.

In 2016, Cleveland will be known as Title Town. You can mark my words.

2016 is “next year”.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove