In any NFL season, the bye week brings change. Teams get extra time to scout themselves, tweak their schemes, assess the progress of their young players and evaluate what worked before the week off vs. what needs to change the rest of the way.

That’s all standard stuff, and it’s all stuff you almost certainly already knew. The Browns got back to work Monday following their bye week, but what’s ahead for the Browns is really anything but standard. This week’s game in Miami qualifies as significant by any measure, and for the 3-5 Browns to have any realistic shot at making a playoff run through a crowded AFC in the official second half of the season, they need to win this week.

But the back half of the season is really all about Deshaun Watson’s December debut and the future of the franchise. Watson, who’s serving an 11-game suspension for multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, was allowed to return to the team’s facility last month and will return to the practice field next week. He is eligible to play in Week 13, when the Browns visit his former team — the Texans — on Dec. 4. Last March, the Browns traded three first-round picks as part of a six-pick package to acquire Watson from the Houston.

Eight games into the third season with Kevin Stefanski as head coach and Andrew Berry as general manager, the Browns are three games from what all involved will be the last quarterback transition of the foreseeable future for a franchise that’s made a bunch of them through the years. Watson will be the 33rd starting quarterback the Browns have had since their return to the league in 1999. So this won’t be the first in-season transition, but it will be the one that defines the tenure of Stefanski and Berry — and almost certainly the one that determines whether the Browns can move past their rather forgettable record in the team’s new era. The Browns have had three winning seasons since 1999, the third of which ended an 18-year playoff drought in 2020, Stefanski and Berry’s first season in their current roles.

For the first time in 15 seasons, the Browns have the same head coach and general manager for a third season together. The Browns have built a strong running game and an offensive line, and what they thought was a strong defense has bounced back after a terrible stretch in early October. The Browns would have never made the Watson trade without believing multiple key pieces were already in place across the roster, and they made the trade in March believing that from a big-picture perspective Watson would be the piece that’s always been missing here, and that for this team he could be the player who helps make the Browns true AFC contenders — now and for years to come.

Considering what the Browns gave up to acquire Watson and that they only got Watson to agree to the trade by offering him the largest single-contract guarantee in NFL history, Watson is the plan. And after an awkward and tumultuous offseason as the Browns waited to find out if Watson could play at all this season, we’re about to see — finally — that plan in action.

“We spent a lot of time with Deshaun in the spring and in camp and (Watson) banked a lot of good reps during the time,” Berry said during his standard bye-week meeting with local reporters. “That being said, our approach isn’t — really with any quarterback but certainly with the time that Deshaun has had off — to expect him to shoulder everything. That is not necessarily how the team is designed or put together. I don’t know if that would be a fair ask for any quarterback. In a couple of weeks, we will be in that world where we are getting him ready to play, and we will handle it appropriately.