Browns endured another losing season, which has become the standard
By Josh Ungar
To close out the 2022 season, the Cleveland Browns fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-14 at Acrisure Stadium back on Jan. 8. As a result, Cleveland finished the ‘22 campaign with a 7-9 record, last-place in the AFC North.
It was yet another season that ends with no playoffs and a losing record. Cleveland enduring another losing season has become the standard for them. The Browns went out and made some moves that look good on paper, but they’ve done that in the past and it hasn’t translated onto the field.
Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 where they became the Baltimore Ravens (the name “Browns,” the brown and orange, and the team’s history all stayed in Cleveland), but the Browns made their triumphant return to Cleveland in 1999. Ever since they returned to Cleveland, all the Browns have known is losing.
During the height of the pandemic, social distancing was heavily emphasized to keep everyone safe. But the Browns have been practicing social distancing for much longer than that. Super Bowl I between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers took place in 1967 and we just had Super Bowl LVII.
In that span of time, the Browns have been practicing social distancing from the Super Bowl because they’ve never played in the game nor have they ever hosted the game (the only way Cleveland will host the Super Bowl is if they were to build a new domed stadium).
It seems like every two seasons or so, the Browns are firing their head coach, bring in a new quarterback, or both. That doesn’t bode well for success. On the other side of the coin, the Pittsburgh Steelers have only had three head coaches since 1969: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and now Mike Tomlin.
"In Cowher's 15 seasons as coach, the Steelers won eight division titles, made the playoffs 10 times during which they participated in 21 playoff games. Those 21 playoff games included six appearances in AFC Championship Games and two trips to the Super Bowl, in which the Steelers were 1-1. Cowher finished his career as one of only six coaches in NFL history with at least seven division titles, and he joined Paul Brown as the only coaches in history to take their teams to the playoffs in each of their first six years as coach"- Steelers official website
The Steelers have never had a losing season under Mike Tomlin and they’ve played in two Super Bowls. Furthermore, “Big'' Ben Roethlisberger was the Steelers' QB for 18 seasons.
There are countless examples of coaching stability benefitting a franchise’s success. John Harbaugh has been the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens since 2008 and they’ve been to the playoffs a multitude of times, including winning Super Bowl 47.
The Kansas City Chiefs hired Andy Reid in 2013 and they’ve been to three Super Bowls since 2019, although that’s partially due to Patrick Mahomes being their quarterback. Bill Belichick has been the head coach in New England since 2000 and the Pats have won six Super Bowls. When teams have stuck with the same head coach, it’s paid off for them.
Cleveland hasn’t had that type of stability at all since making their return in ‘99. The instability at quarterback has just added more fuel to the fire that consistently having losing seasons is the Browns’ standard. Other than in 2007 and 2020, Cleveland has done nothing but lose. In 2017, the Browns made the type of NFL history that they didn’t want to make as they joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only two teams to ever go 0-16.
By this point, Browns fans shouldn’t be surprised when the team endures a losing season. Rather, they should be jumping for jubilation when the team finishes the season at .500 or if they actually have a winning season.
This season, the Browns don’t have to worry about being in the spotlight 24 hours, seven days a week, because the Deshaun Watson saga won’t be hanging over their heads. Watson will have a full offseason to work with head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to construct an offense that fits his skill set. Hopefully, that will give the Browns the opportunity to evolve their offense so that they’re not as dependent on running the ball.
The Browns have become so accustomed to losing that it’s essentially become part of their DNA. Stefanski is entering his third season with the team, and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, to say the least.
They made the playoffs in 2020, taking Kansas City to the limit in the Divisional Round, but couldn’t follow up with winning seasons in 2021 or 2022. This upcoming season will mark the first full year that Stefanski and QB Deshaun Watson get to work together. They’ll have a tough task on their hands trying to change the reputation of this team from the doormat of the NFL to a team to be reckoned with.