As a lifelong Browns fan it is very hard to comprehend the stagnant state of this once proud franchise.
As a child my father’s good friend, who was also the father of my best friend was the general manager of the Browns. It was the heart of 80’s and the pride that ran through this great city for the Browns was off the charts. Because of this, I was able to stand at the 50 yard line with our cub scout troop and be the honorary color guard against the Baltimore Colts in 1983.
On this same day, I had the privilege to have a short toss with Ozzie Newsome and have a little chit-chat with Tom Cousineau. To say I was on cloud nine was an understatement. These guys and this team were the epitome of Cleveland, and I was right in the heart of it. I was so proud and all that mattered back then was the Cleveland Browns..period.
We rode the highs of the late 80’s teams and suffered through the lowest of lows with those teams as well, in the form of “The Drive” and “The Fumble”.
The early 90’s saw future Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick take over the franchise and after a few mediocre seasons, led the 1994 Browns to an 11-5 record and the playoffs. After defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Wild Card game, the Browns season ended in a lopsided 29-9 blowout to their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even though it was a disappointing loss to the Steelers, the Browns were back in the playoffs and had started building a team to go further in the playoffs and had their sights set on a Super bowl title.
Unfortunately, Art Modell had different plans, and moved the team to Baltimore in 1995, leaving the city of Cleveland with nothing. Stolen from the city was the very thing, the glue that kept it all together. Our Cleveland Browns, and it was heart wrenching and to elaborate more on it would just open old wounds.
The point is, that up until this point the Cleveland Browns were a model franchise. One of the best franchises in football. The illustrious Super Bowl title had eluded them up to that point, but they had come close getting there a multiple of times and this storied franchise had a ton of titles pre-Super Bowl era.
But now it was over.
All that history, all the momentum the franchise had built since 1946 was gone.
Now as the story goes, the city got their team back in 1999, but it was the Browns in name and former records only. Gone was the allure of the original Cleveland Browns. The momentum they were building on in 1995, was now being carried on by the “Purple Browns”, known as the Baltimore Ravens. Ironically enough, anchored by the two first round draft picks that would have been the Cleveland Browns back in 1995, Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, lead the 2000 “Purple Browns” to the Super Bowl title.
Everyone in Cleveland was ecstatic to have their Browns back, but they didn’t go without noticing who won the Super Bowl in the year 2000.
Without going any further into the history of the new Browns, let’s just say it has been a giant train wreck since the team came back in 1999.
One high draft pick after the other falling into the bust category, and one regime after the other failing and then sent packing. I scoured the internet trying to find a dollar amount on how much the Browns owe past coaches and general managers, but it was an impossible undertaking. We can all agree it is in the tens of millions of dollars.
And in that time, the Browns have made the playoffs one time, going 9-7 in 2002.
Since 1999, the Browns overall record is 77-163!!!!
For 14 years, watching this franchise has been like watching the movie Ground Hog Day. Regime after regime it has been nothing but failure. High draft picks wasted, overall talent wasted and just total waste across the board.
Last year, Jimmy Haslam III bought the team and promised he would get it right. After firing the entire staff and general manager, he handpicked former Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Banner and former general manager Mike Lombardi to “right” the ship that lost its course years ago.
One year later, they fired their handpicked coach Rob Chudzinski. The same coach a year earlier, Lombardi and Banner were praising as the right man to coach the Browns into the playoffs, a local guy who grew up loving the team he would now coach.
The honeymoon lasted one year, and here are the same guys who swore up and down they finally got it right, admitting they did not and had to make the move now to find the guy that would be able to take the Browns to the next level.
Until this team has a winning record and a playoff appearance it is not insulting to believe this is the same old Browns. In his press conference, Haslam was very adamant that it is not the same old Browns and it is upsetting to him when he hears that.
Well unfortunately for Jimmy Haslam III, as of now, that is the status quo. Maybe he hasn’t studied up on the current history of the new Browns, but he should. Heck, maybe he will read this article and start to understand, but I doubt it.
Not until we see some progress in the standings, can we say the ship is finally starting to be righted. Not saying, well five guys made the Pro Bowl so we must be on the right track. No, that isn’t good enough, because with the five Pro Bowl players this team was 4-12.
The only difference now between the Lerner and Haslam ownership is the Haslam regime is currently upgrading the surroundings. Things like new scoreboards, and better internet connectivity at the stadium. That’s all fine and dandy, but Browns fans would rather see a replay on a 14″ TV and send messages via the homing pigeon if it meant 12-4 and a playoff run.
At the end of the day the once proud franchise that hooked me as a kid standing on the 50 yard line of Municipal Stadium is gone. It left with Art Modell in 1995 to Baltimore and is gone forever.
The only way it can come back is in the way of this new Browns franchise getting it right and building a new history.
Until the new Browns put a winning team on the field that challenges for division titles and ultimately the playoffs, and dare I say a championship or two it won’t matter.
Is this the ownership group and front office that will be able to do that and show the rest of the NFL that the Browns are relevant again and not the laughing-stock of the league?
That is a question nobody can answer now.
However, saying this franchise is the same old Browns isn’t an unfair statement to make at all…
-MR(@puckelves) Instagram: Elves73