In 2001, the Browns were just three years removed from the Art Modell-invoked Death Penalty on Cleveland football. In a move that would pre-date LeBron James, Modell decided to take his talents to Baltimore.
After being purposely set up to fail by the NFL owner’s money lust coupled with incompetence to build a winning team, the Browns were starting to show some life in 2001. They came out of the gate to a tune of 4-2 and they were at 6-6 heading into the December 16, 2001, game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There was a small chance, emphasis upon small, the Browns could have made the playoffs if they could win out. The Jaguars that season were 5-7 and looking to ride out the year the best they could. A victory over Jacksonville could have been the momentum-building win they needed.
However, the game was not going the Browns way. The Jaguars started fast and got out to an early lead. Cleveland’s lone touchdown of the day came from an interception by Anthony Henry returned for 97 yards. By the time the 2-minute warning hit, the game was 15-10 Jaguars.
But the Browns were driving late trying to steal the win. With 1:08 left on the clock and facing a 4th and 2 inside the Jags’ 15-yard line, quarterback Tim Couch completed a pass to rookie WR Quincy Morgan for a three-yard gain and first down. The gain put the Browns on the Jaguars’ 9-yard line. A touchdown would win the game — finally, all was going well.
The Browns hurried to spike the ball because the clock had not stopped. Couch double clutches the pass and throws the ball down, spiking it on the second throwing motion. The ball was incomplete, but it quickly became clear that something was amiss. The officials gathered to discuss something.