Just how far does the Bengals-Browns rivalry go? Very far, if you ask Garrett Bush, Browns insider and host of Locked on Browns.
According to Bush, a lot of why Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland’s front office decided to make a very aggressive move for Deshaun Watson is that they looked at the recent success of their intrastate rivals and decided they didn’t want to be left behind. “Joe Burrow is probably 60 percent of why the Cleveland Browns got rid of Baker Mayfield and got Deshaun Watson,” Bush said.
He began the discussion by explaining how Burrow’s ability to elevate an entire franchise was a wake-up call for other franchises:
There are certain cliches as to why some organizations are terrible, like [a poor] offensive line or a lack of continuity, blue chip prospects, pass rushers, and lockdown corners... But Joe Burrow changed the perception of how football teams are constructed, what kind of guy you need and how good he should be to take you to new heights. [At the start of 2021], Burrow was coming off a torn ACL and his coach was on the hot seat. They go draft his buddy Ja’Marr Chase, instead of doing what everyone thought was the right thing to do in taking [Penei] Sewell. And in just two years, that man took the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl...
That is why, Bush says, despite having the best quarterback in his decade-long ownership of the Browns, Haslam decided to fully guarantee the contract of a man who may face a suspension but can certainly perform at an elite level:
What happened was, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, along with all the other owners, were put on notice and realized that’s what a quarterback looks like. And if you want to be able to compete with guys like [Patrick] Mahomes, [Josh] Allen, [Justin] Herbert or even Russell Wilson in Denver and Lamar Jackson, you have to have a guy like Joe Burrow. And we didn’t have that guy. So they moved heaven and Earth to get Deshaun Watson regardless of anything else that was going on.
Watch the entire interview below:
One more interesting nugget of information that Bush shared is that Watson’s suspension isn’t due to allegations but rather as a way of punishing Haslam and the Browns for fully guaranteeing his contract, which amounted to “blowing up the structure [of contracts]”. He went on to say:
The league is almost like an Italian mob family or syndicates. If you’re a made man and the head of your family, you still can’t just make moves. You have to go to the rest of your family, the rest of the council to get permission to whack somebody or move drugs or guns. You have to get the buy in. So when Jimmy Haslam heard that he was out of the running for Deshaun Watson, he decided to give him a guaranteed contract. Then every other owner was like, “Now you know good and well we don’t do that...” All of a sudden, the Baltimore Ravens don’t want to give Lamar Jackson the money... For certain owners, like the Bengals, money is kinda tight. They have to have that money in escrow, in an account they can’t touch... The owners are not pleased by that.
You can also listen to the entire show on iTunes or using the player below: