And, every year, fans are stuck asking themselves: When will the Browns finally make it to the Super Bowl?
The one thing the NFL holds over every other professional sports league is its parity. No other league is able to say that every team has a legitimate chance to win it all without a trail of cynicism behind it.
So why, then, are the Browns no closer to a Super Bowl than they were in 1999?
You can chalk it up to any number of things: bad management, a lack of talent, disappointing drafts, etc., but many other teams in the NFL have experienced these types of stretches and still managed to fall into an impressive season or two.
The Browns have managed to make the playoffs once (2003) and put together one 10-win season in 2007, but there hasn’t been any sustained success or even the clear evidence of a plan to reach the next level. And, after numerous disappointments, president Mike Holmgren was brought in to turn that all around.
However, after another disappointing season in which the Browns finished a dismal 4-12 and were “rewarded” with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it’s worth pondering whether the team will ever actually reach a Super Bowl.
Obviously, building a team takes time, and the roster that Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert inherited contained a glaring lack of superior talent. Knowing that, there has to be at least a five-year grace period before determining the entire operation to be a disaster. And two years into it, there are certainly signs of progress.
But there is so much riding on this next season. The Browns need another great draft that will produce multiple starters and it’s essential that they make moves in free agency, even if that means re-signing some of their own players.
But what if Colt McCoy is not the answer at quarterback? If the Browns decide to draft, say, Robert Griffin III, and bank on him for the future, a Super Bowl wouldn’t be a realistic aspiration for at least three to five additional years.
The point is, the Browns have a small window this offseason to set the stage for a real Super Bowl run in the next few seasons. What they do now will not only dictate the immediate direction of the team, but it could affect the extended future as well. If the current front office implodes and is unable to bring the Browns any closer to contender status, where does that leave the franchise?
It’s hard to gauge a time frame, but it’s even harder to imagine a scenario where a Super Bowl berth for the Browns actually happens. Without an established franchise quarterback (but that’s not saying McCoy can’t be that guy) and needs at almost every position, the Super Bowl will continue to be the game from another universe, pitting two other-worldly teams against each other.
The Browns may get there someday. It’s the when that makes it almost too daunting to consider.