Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - There is never a dull moment in Brownstown when it comes to the Cleveland Browns and 2012 was no different.
Here are the top 10 stories that made headlines and shaped the franchise in 2012.
No. 10: Browns end pair of streaks with win over Bengals – Rookie receiver Josh Gordon caught his 3rd touchdown in 2 weeks – a 71 yarder from Brandon Weeden and Montario Hardesty scored his 1st NFL TD as the Browns beat the Bengals 34-24.
Sheldon Brown sealed the victory with a 19-yard pick-6 midway through the 4th quarter to end an 11-game losing streak dating back to the 2011 season. It was also their first win within the AFC north since Oct. 3, 2010 – a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati. The divisional drought spanned 12 games.
No. 9: Browns trade up for Richardson, take Weeden in 1st round of NFL Draft – Typically a draft day trade would be higher on a list like this but it was an eventful year for the Browns.
After missing out on Robert Griffin III, the Browns took no chances on draft day. Minnesota was sent a 4th, 5th and 7th round pick to move up 1 spot to No. 3 to ensure that the Browns could draft Richardson.
When Baylor receiver Kendall Wright went off the board at No. 20 to Tennessee, the Browns went ahead with their plan B and took Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick.
Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur looked like kids at Christmas after landing what they thought would be the bedrock of the franchise for the next decade.
Who knew that 8 months later that the 3 of them would be gone.
No. 8: Browns beat the Steelers – After entering the first meeting of the season with Pittsburgh having beaten the Steelers just 4 times in 27 meetings since 1999, the football gods gave the Browns a break.
3rd string quarterback Charlie Batch started for the Steelers and the Browns defense forced 8 turnovers and turned them into 17 points en route to a 20-14 win.
The game started ominously for the Browns when Brandon Weeden’s 2nd pass of the game was tipped then picked and returned 59 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Trent Richardson sealed the victory with a 15 yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter.
The victory was the 2nd of the season for the Browns who went on to follow it up with wins at Oakland and at home over the Chiefs. It was also the first for new owner Jimmy Haslam against his former team.
No. 7: Browns lose RG3 sweepstakes – Following another 4-12 season, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert met with Randy Lerner and told him their plan to breathe life into the team was to target Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, the St. Louis Rams announced that the No. 2 pick was for sale to the highest bidder.
While denying rumors about actively pursuing Griffin, the Browns reportedly offered both 2012 1st round picks – Nos. 4 and 22, plus their 2013 1st rounder to St. Louis but whatever offer was presented was not good enough to get RG3.
The Rams received the Redskins 2012 1st and 2nd round picks as well as 2013 and 2014 1st round picks in the deal for the draft rights for Griffin on Mar. 22.
No. 6: Scott Fujita, bounty gate – It was a saga that started in March and lasted through the offseason, into training camp and then the regular season.
Linebacker Scott Fujita, along with 3 other current or former New Orleans Saints players were accused of participating in a bounty system, which allegedly included payments for illegal hits and cart offs of opponents during the 2009 playoffs and was run by former defensive coordinator Greg Williams.
For his alleged role, Fujita was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for 4 games.
Fujita, who championed player safety over the years, maintained his innocence from the very moment the accusations became public.
After months of appeals, court filings and arbitration hearings, his suspension was reduced to 1 game.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the suspensions levied against the 4 players and Fujita was completely cleared of any wrongdoing in early December.
No. 5: Phil Dawson selected to 1st Pro Bowl – Like a fine wine, kicker Phil Dawson gets better with age.
For the first time in his 14 season with the Browns Dawson was finally named to the Pro Bowl after making his 300th field goal of his career.
Dawson, who is 2nd on the Browns all time scoring list, only missed 2 of his 31 attempts during the season. He made all 7 field goals beyond 50 yards. He ranks 7th all time in field goal percentage.
A day after being picked, his teammates teased Dawson, who was often the subject of old man jokes from his younger teammates, by decorating his locker with inflatable parrots, leis, Hawaii themed decorations and ‘Aloha’ draped across it.
Dawson, who will be joined in Hawaii by Joe Thomas after the left tackle was named to his 6th straight Pro Bowl, is scheduled to become a free agent in the offseason.
No. 4: Joe Haden suspended 4 games – On Aug. 9 it was revealed that Haden faced a 4 game suspension for testing positive for the unapproved use of Adderall.
Haden appealed and was able to play in the regular season opener – a 17-16 loss to Philadelphia that saw him break up a pass, intercept another and record 6 tackles.
Haden lost his appeal and was forced to sit out the next 4 games. The Browns didn’t win a single one of them and ended up starting the year 0-5.
The Browns won 5 of the 10 games that he played in 2012.
No. 3: Mike Holmgren leaves, Joe Banner arrives – The day Jimmy Haslam agreed to buy the Browns, Holmgren’s days in Cleveland as team president were numbered.
Haslam named Banner CEO meaning that Holmgren was no longer needed. Holmgren said goodbye on Oct. 23 and then again a month later.
Banner took over as CEO officially when the sale of the team closed Oct. 26 and began working in Berea in early November.
After rumors surfaced that Holmgren might want to return to coaching in Dallas, he was caught by TV camera’s yucking it up with Jerry Jones prior to the Browns’ 23-20 loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 18, which did not sit well with Haslam.
Holmgren’s last day was Nov. 30 and he was able to ride his Harley back to Arizona without worrying about anyone calling him for playoff tickets.
No. 2: Heckert, Shurmur fired – A day after a 24-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers which capped a 5-11 season for the Browns, the rumors and speculation became reality – general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur were fired.
While the Browns finished with 11 or more losses for the 5th consecutive year, the team will now search for it’s 6th full time general manager and coach since 1999.
No. 1: Jimmy Haslam buys the Browns from Randy Lerner for $1 billion – The story began in mid June with rumors that the Browns were for sale. The team emphatically denied them until the first day of training camp when it was announced that Jimmy Haslam, a billionaire truck stop magnate, was interested in “making an investment in the Browns.”
A week later he was introduced in Berea with promises to give the current regime a fair opportunity to keep their jobs and his desire to turn the woebegone organization around.
Haslam was unanimously approved by NFL owners on Oct. 16. He immediately named Joe Banner CEO and announced Holmgren’s “retirement.” Haslam officially took control of the team on Oct. 25.
He is now charged with rebuilding the front office and finding a coach who can not only win but actually survive more than 2 seasons.