Brown’s reckless bet on quarterback Deshaun Watson is a failure. Desperate to change the course of the team after winning only three seasons in past twenty yearsFront office in Cleveland It was comfortable Signing the most expensive guaranteed contract in NFL history and replacing three years of first-round picks for a quarterback accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault or other inappropriate conduct. The allegations against Watson include ejaculating women without their consent, touching a woman with his penis without their consent and verbally penetrating two women. without their consent.
On Monday, it looked as if Brown’s moral resilience had paid off – at least from a football perspective. Sue Robinson, the discipline officer jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to decide on punishment, has found Watson guilty of sexual assault, posing a threat to another person’s welfare and conduct that undermines the integrity of the NFL – but she Watson suspended for six matches No fine is imposed. At that moment, Cleveland was definitely elated by her good fortune. The rest of the sports world? He. She He was angry.
But on Wednesday, the case that has been going on for more than two years was extended for a few more weeks when it was extended The NFL announced that it will resume It seeks to impose both a fine and Longer suspension indefinitely. Such a decision could dent Brown’s chances in 2022 and beyond – plus, one hopes, teach other teams about the risks of trying to win at any cost.
The NFLPA has until the end of Friday to file a written response to the appeal, but at this point it has few options. Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement It gives Commissioner Roger Goodell the power to set discipline on appeal (or delegate the decision to someone of his choosing—in this case, Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey), and no new evidence could be provided. Goodell’s decision will be binding and final, and- Based on reports On the league’s approach to appeal – there’s almost no reason to believe Watson would face anything short of a year-long suspension.
It is not hard to argue that this would be the correct outcome, given the scale and severity of the charges brought against Watson – conduct for which Robinson found Watson guilty, and which are called “the predator” in her decision. And the current moment is already a moment of reckoning for the league, as it continues to deal with scrutiny before Congress investigation In the leaders of Washington Team culture and employee treatment.
Brown can sense that arithmetic sharply on the football field. according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo . Modelwho adjusts the team’s expectations for the quality of the QB he starts with, Cleveland was the favorite to win the division for First time since 1989 With Watson available for the entire season. Our model gave Browns a 58 percent chance of making the playoffs in this scenario, and a 4.2 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
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Following Robinson’s decision on Monday, we ran the model assuming Watson would make six games. Although Brown’s odds had fallen under the circumstance, Cleveland was still in the hunt: playoff odds dropped to 47 percent, for example, but remained close to the playoff odds of his rivals in Cincinnati and Baltimore (53 percent each who are they). The probability of Brown winning a Super Bowl in the six-game suspension scenario fell to 3.6 percent, down just 0.6 percentage points from the drop with a full season from Watson. Even if Cleveland squabbled early without Watson, a successful comeback against Baltimore in Week 7 will likely have sparked mid-season. And at least, 11 games with Watson behind the center through the end of the year could generate excitement about the future of the franchise.
But with the season completely suspended, the immediate future in Cleveland will be bleak. Our model gives the Watson-less Browns only a 27 percent chance of making the playoffs—about the same odds as the humble New York Giants. Without Watson, the odds of the Cleveland’s Super Bowl in 2022 are slim: about 1 in 135. And things could get worse from there: If Watson is suspended indefinitely, there are no guarantees he’ll return in 2023.
The prospect of being suspended for more than a year is likely what makes Brown uneasy. Losing a painful year, but it was within the range of possible outcomes when they signed Watson. Indeed, Cleveland apparently foresaw this as a possibility; He protected Watson from the financial impact of his actions by structuring his contract so that only $1 million of the $230 million owed to him would be forfeited if he was suspended for the entire season.
in Released by the team In May, chief strategy officer Paul Depodesta spoke of the difficulty of waiting until the end of the 2022 draft after trading three first-round picks for Watson, and explained that the team is taking a longer look with the trade.
“You know, it wasn’t that hard (laughs), because you’ve had what you’ve been wanting all along, right? And he’s the franchisee quarterback,” Depodesta said. “I texted Les Snead during the draft, GM of the Rams , which I imagine is more fun to sit around on these nights when you already have the devices to view. So hopefully that’s how we feel in the next couple of years.”
DePodesta’s comments and team contract machinations make clear that Watson’s situation has been, so far, just a game for the Browns. To truly address the problem, Goodell and the NFL need to upend Cleveland’s expectations and deliver dire consequences. If Goodell imposes a suspension of more than a year, he is guaranteed to feel the real pain both in Watson’s pocket book and on the court in Cleveland. It’s also important to remember that he was there More teams interested In Watson from Just Brown. (Some put the number up to 10.) A suspension for longer than one season would certainly be a stinging rebuke to Watson and Browns, but it would also send a powerful message to future teams considering throwing their ethics aside in an all-out bid to win.
Guy Boyce contributed research.