The Real Deal?
With Cleveland taking an aggressive approach to the offseason, experts and fans are calling the Browns a team on the rise, maybe even a Super Bowl contender. But that doesn't always mean much in March. A look back at two teams that were trendy Super Bowl contenders the previous two offseasons shows that the best-laid plans don't always work out:
2007 San Francisco 49ers:
Signing defensive backs Nate Clements
and Michael Lewis
to big contracts and drafting linebacker Patrick Willis
were supposed to put the 49ers over the top. They didn't. Other holes appeared on defense. Quarterback Alex Smith
and running back Frank Gore
battled injuries, and the 49ers finished 5-11.
2006 Carolina Panthers:
Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, it looked like all the Panthers needed was a complement to receiver Steve Smith
. Their fans and the national media bought into the Super Bowl hype when the Panthers signed aging receiver Keyshawn Johnson
. He produced decent numbers, but it didn't matter because the running game disappeared and the defense was vastly overrated.
-- Pat Yasinskas