You play to win the game right? At least that’s what Herm Edwards believes.
No team tries to lose games. But sadly, some teams are just consistently better at it than others.
History tells us that losing comes naturally to many professional franchises. The esteem list usually amasses the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Columbus Blue Jackets, Charlotte Bobcats, and several other notable professional franchises that can’t seem to get their act together (no disrespect to any teams mentioned on this list).
Luckily for these infamously bad teams, there is one team that has far and above mastered the “art of losing” unlike any other professional franchise the American people have ever seen: the Cleveland Browns.
There was a time when the Cleveland Browns football team was actually one of the most successful franchises in football. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Browns won four NFL Championships, and had one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Jim Brown.
The Browns took a step back in the 70’s, but made the playoffs seven times in the 80’s, and five straight years from 1985-1989. In fact, the Browns made it to the AFC Championship game in 1986, 1987, and 1989. But, in typical Browns fashion, they lost each time to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The first time it was “The Drive.” The second time it was “The Fumble.” And the third time, the Browns just got manhandled.
After that, things pretty much went south for the Browns and their entire organization. The longtime owner of the team, Art Modell, decided to move the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season. For three years there was no football in Cleveland. Some devoted fans would call this the worst three years of their life. However, if they knew what was coming afterwards, they might have said the complete opposite.
The Browns were re-charted in 1999 as an expansion team, and selected quarterback Tim Couch with the number one pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. I was lying when I previously said things went south, because this is when life became a nightmare for any and all people associated with the city of Cleveland.
Couch was an All-American at the University of Kentucky and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1998. After his great career at Kentucky, Couch was picked by the expansion franchise in hopes that he would lead the Browns back to their once heralded name and finally bring a Super Bowl title to Cleveland.
In five seasons as the Browns starting quarterback, Couch was unable to establish himself as a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. He did lead the Browns to their only playoff appearance in 2002, but his lack of consistency and his inability to stay on the field led to the Browns benching him in place of Kelly Holcomb. Couch was eventually released at the end of 2003 season.
Since the Browns began play in 1999, not one, not two, not three, not four, not 10, not 15, but 19. Nineteen quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Browns since their inception.
To give you a comparison, the Green Bay Packers have had just two starting quarterbacks in that time span (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, in case you weren’t sure).
The coaching hasn’t been much better either. With the hiring of Rob Chudzinski this offseason, the Browns have now had seven head coaches in the last 14 years.
Up until this past offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles had just one head coach in that time span. Now their former coach, Andy Reid took the Kansas City Chiefs head-coaching job this past offseason, and has led them to a 4-0 start.
Sucks to suck I guess.
In the last 14 years, the Browns have had just two winning seasons and have finished last in the AFC North ten times. In that time span, the Browns have averaged a mere five wins per season and have had only nine players selected to the Pro Bowl.
The numbers pretty much prove the point that the Cleveland Browns have been the epitome of what you would call, a really really bad football team.
Because of this, there’s been a lot of this:
And of course, the occasional obituary that mentions the Browns’ lack of success:
Coming into this season, there was unusual amount of optimism from media and fans surrounding the Browns’ chance to compete this season. Norv Turner was hired as the offensive coordinator, and was charged with the task of turning second-year starting quarterback Brandon Weeden into an NFL caliber quarterback. The Browns defense was considered an above average unit with the likes Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, Joe Haden, and first-round pick Barkevious Mingo.
The Browns looked even better during the preseason, and Weeden looked like a totally different quarterback than the one who threw 17 INTs last season.
After a 3-1 record in the preseason, Browns fans thought they had something to be optimistic about.
But then the regular season showed up, and people remembered that the Browns aren’t usually very stout when it matters most.
After a Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and a Week 2 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns made a shocking move. In what could only be dubbed as a “Browns Move,” the team traded their franchise running back and the number three pick in last year’s draft, Trent Richardson, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first round pick.
Surprising right? With this move, the Browns have successfully proven once again that they will do everything possible to throw away this season, and attempt to rebuild this team through the draft.
With an array of great young quarterbacks en-route to enter next year’s draft, I see the logical reasoning behind the Trent Richardson trade. New CEO Joe Banner clearly has his priorities set, and letting Richardson go is his signal to the rest of the organization that no man is safe.
To make matters worse, going into Week 3 the Browns had lost Weeden to injury, and called upon third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer to get the Browns their first win of the season. Luckily for the Browns, their opponent that week was the struggling Minnesota Vikings, and Hoyer was able to guide them to a closely contested 31-27 win.
Last week, Hoyer delivered the good stuff again, not throwing an interception while helping lead the Browns to an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hell, the Browns are 2-2, and have a shot go over .500 for the first time in years.
Could this be the second coming of Christ?!
Relax everyone, this is still the Cleveland Browns we’re talking about; the same team that has consistently been the best losers in professional football since the beginning of the century.
When the Browns take on the Buffalo Bills Thursday night, don’t be shocked to see Brian Hoyer continue to play well and help the Browns win their third game in a row.
But looking at this organization from top-to-bottom, there is lack of precision and dedication that every elite franchise possesses. There is no formula for success, and no plan of action to change the culture inside the locker-room.
I’m willing to give new management the chance they deserve before I criticize their inability to put together a winning football team. But the groundwork needs to be clear; the Cleveland Browns will never be a successful franchise unless everyone associated with the organization is willing to change the way in which they do business, and change their attitude towards creating a winning atmosphere.
The Browns have been dealt their cards. Will they go all in?
That question, amongst many more, remains unanswered.