These Cleveland Browns are not the same old Browns

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in every facet of their game on November 14. Every facet that is, except in the court of public opinion. It seems the Browns will always be the same old Browns. Even when they’re not.

It’s about 24 hours from “the incident”. It’s a moment we’ll reflect on as one of those “Where were you when …” moments. I was in a state of disbelief as I watched the replay of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett breaking the one law that matters in this case. The unwritten law among players that you may try to hurt a player, but you never try to injure one.

Just like the NFL officials who can splice together whether a runner made the line to gain like the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination, I watched to see what provoked Garrett. Something had to happen. A kick. A grab. Words that we don’t repeat in polite society. We may never know.

Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph seems content to call Garrett a coward while allowing his “gracious” act of not pressing charges to paper over any acknowledgment that he had a smidgen to contribute to the outcome.

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I feel these things, irrationally, like a Dad. I wasn’t mad at Garrett. Just really disappointed. Nevertheless, I went to bed that night resigned to the fact that Garrett would likely be suspended for the season. What’s done can’t be undone. The Browns eventually did learn about the penalty which is a ban for the remainder of the year. They will appeal and a decision will be made, and we’ll move on.

But I’m finding moving on hard to do.

As I made my way around the morning sports shows, I heard a common refrain: “Same old Browns”. Maybe not those exact words, but the sentiment was there. And as I went through my day, I got angrier. Because if there is one thing last night’s game displayed it most certainly was not the same old Browns.

For the better part of the last 20 years, I’ve watched a team that plays for a city, and a region, that I love, get taken behind the woodshed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ve endured our share of “legal at the time” hits including one that effectively ended whatever career Colt McCoy may have had. And oh, by the way, was the prime mover behind today’s concussion protocol that was also a side story to last night’s game.

I’m disappointed in you too Damarious Randall.

If last night, the Steelers had put Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry in concussion protocol. If T.J. Watt and Baker Mayfield had gotten in some sort of “incident”. If the Steelers had done what they have done for the better part of 20 years and physically dominated the Browns. If the Steelers had won by two touchdowns in our house.

If any or all of those things happened, we would have heard this familiar anthem. “Big Brother beat up little brother in their own house. The Browns lack toughness. They lack an identity. It’s a losing culture. It’s the same old Browns.”

So it was much to my surprise when I heard that the Browns were bullies. The Browns were headhunters. The Browns lack discipline. It’s a loser’s culture. It’s the same old Browns.

I can assure you of one thing. Last night was many things. Embarrassing? Maybe. Disappointing? Certainly. But one thing it was not was the same old Browns.

The Cleveland Browns were a team that looked dead in the water at 2-6. The very thought that they would win eight in a row may have been saved by, of all things, a Chris Hubbard false start (not that we coach that).

But this team has risen off the mat. They may still be a little unsteady. Reaching their goal of the playoffs may be unattainable. But they’re finding an identity. But it’s not one that, as fans, we’re used to having.

I remember the Mark Price era Cavs being called marshmallows by the same sports radio talking heads who are calling the Browns bullies. We like when Yasiel Puig hits a home run, but don’t gesticulate as you round the bases.

And when it comes to our football, we want sanitized violence. In fact, sadly, we’ve come to accept the role of victim. We would rather be the team with Diontae Johnson than be the team with Damarious Randall. We liked the swagger of LeBron until he talked about things that made us uncomfortable. We like Baker shotgunning a beer. But we don’t like it when he cuts the handlebars off his mustache after a loss.

And speaking of swagger, I even heard fans at the Buffalo game griping about Swagger Jr. Leave the pooch alone. He’s awesome and he’s ours.

We want to do it “the right way” as we climb up off the mat. But while we’re hoisting our virtue other teams are hoisting championships. Football should be a game of controlled violence. That’s why what Randall and Garratt did crosses the line (emphasis mine). But it is never going to be a game where you can sanitize the violence. It is a game of one man imposing his will on another man. And that can get uncomfortable. It can make the best players unlikable.

Next. Bush league, or locked in?. dark

But the Steelers don’t care if we like them. They just command our respect. Last night, the Browns may have earned some of theirs. And that is why that was not the same old Browns.