CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Saturday’s ‘Perfect Season Parade’ was not well received by players of the Cleveland Browns, which a few of them made perfectly clear on Twitter.
Here’s a letter to members of the 2017 0-16 Browns concerning Saturday’s parade around FirstEnergy Stadium:
Dear Cleveland Browns players,
It’s understandable after nearly 5 months of preparation followed by 17 weeks of disappointment that any jokes about the inability to win a single game during the 2017 season would be deemed by you to be disrespectful and insulting.
What took place on the streets outside of FirstEnergy Stadium that saw nearly 5,000 people brave single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills was not directed at you or meant to mock you and your failure to win this past season.
It was a culmination of nearly 30 years of pent up frustration and anger.
Because the profession of playing football has brought you to Cleveland and many of you are likely unfamiliar with its history, here’s a 16-point explanation as to why Saturday’s parade took place.
– The reason you are even employed by the Browns today is a direct result of the hard work of the good people of the city of Cleveland and northeast Ohio. They fought in court and with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 1995 and 1996 to get the franchise back and preserve its history after then-owner Art Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore despite drawing well over 70,000 fans per game. Cleveland was forced to go 3 years without football while a new taxpayer-funded stadium was built on the same location that saw the likes of Otto Graham, Lou Groza, Paul Warfield, Jim Brown and Paul Brown establish the Browns as one of the premiere football franchises. Before the Super Bowl era, the Browns won 4 AAFC championships and 4 NFL titles while playing in 7 other championship games. That was all callously ripped away from them when Modell stood at a podium with the governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore and declared “I had no other choice.”
– That’s right, the Ravens – the team you typically lose to twice a year – used to be the Browns. As if the 9-29 record against the Ravens wasn’t enough of a gut punch to fans here, Baltimore has made 10 playoff appearances, won 4 AFC North titles, played in 4 conference championship games and 2 Super Bowls – winning both – while the Browns have made 1 playoff appearance in 23 years, their last division title came in 1989 and the team is just 1 of 4 clubs remaining to have never been to, let alone won a Super Bowl. The Browns are the only franchise in the league to have never participated in or hosted a Super Bowl.
– Frustration with ownership. Al Lerner was awarded ownership of the expansion franchise by the NFL in October of 1998 and wasn’t even given a year by the league to get the team off the ground. Fun fact: Modell signed the agreement to move the Browns on Lerner’s plane, which was parked on a runway in Baltimore in Nov. 1995 before Lerner was later awarded the replacement team. How’s that for a kick to the teeth? Following Al Lerner’s passing in 2002, his son, Randy, took over and ran it for 10 years before walking away with a billion bucks after selling it to the Haslams in 2012. Since then the Browns have won only 20 games and they’ve fired 2 presidents, a CEO, 4 general managers and 3 head coaches.
– Hue Jackson kept his job despite leading you to 1 win in 2 years – which is also a new NFL record for futility.
– Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcolmb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Nos. 29, 30, 31, 32 etc. TBD.
– The team’s 88-216 record, which is the worst over the last 19 seasons, since returning as an expansion club in 1999 is not your fault. However 0-16, 1-31, 4-44 is.
– Of the 88 wins, just 20 of them have come against a team with a winning record at the time. The Browns rarely win and even when they do, it’s often meaningless.
– Joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the 0-16 club was simply the straw that broke the camels back.
– The Cincinnati Bengals not only thrust the Buffalo Bills into the playoffs this year, they also bequeathed the longest playoff drought in the NFL to Cleveland: 15 years.
– The Browns have had just 2 winning seasons since 1999, and their best one – a 10-6 record in 2007 – didn’t even earn them a playoff berth.
– Conversely, the franchise has had 17 losing campaigns and 15 of them included 10 or more losses – including 9 of the last 10 years.
– It’s been so hard rooting for the Browns that tears from the losses have simply turned into laughter. Anger has turned into jester. Comedy is now a coping mechanism to deal with the pain. The Browns are like family to northeast Ohio, much like the Packers are to the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin. No one is allowed to pick on their little brother but them. Sure, they will poke fun at you when or if you do something ridiculous, but when push comes to shove, the fans here will support and defend you to the death.
– Being a Browns fan is something that is passed down from generation to generation, like a family tradition. That’s why when you travel on the road you see so many Browns fans in the stands. The team has a ‘Browns backers’ with membership clubs all across the globe supporting the team. The losing is making it harder to pass down the traditions to kids who want to root for winners, popular teams and players, which hurts parents who are simply trying to keep tradition alive.
– The draft is the Super Bowl here. It shouldn’t be. But it’s the only time of year fans here have hope that better players are coming and wins will follow. They haven’t. Year after year draft picks have disappointed on the field or seen their careers derailed by bad luck and injury and losses have piled up as a result.
– Cleveland has gone through multiple renaissances in the last quarter century and been able to ditch the “Mistake on the lake” narrative thanks in part to their pro sports teams. The 1990’s saw a boom when the ballpark and arena where the Indians and Cavs play respectively were built and opened in 1994. The Cavs have made the playoffs 12 times and played in 4 NBA Finals since. They finally ended the city’s 52-year championship drought in 2016. The Indians have made the playoffs 10 times and advanced to the World Series 3 times since 1994. Meanwhile the Browns have been and remain the worst team in the NFL.
– If what took place Saturday bothered you, I’d recommend staying away from watching Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert or Comedy Central because odds are, after this season, the Browns will make a few more appearances in some of their monologues, which is pretty much the only national exposure you guys get these days. The NFL doesn’t want you on their prime national TV games and the Browns used to play in prime time all the time. In fact, the first Monday night football game, yep, was played here in Cleveland.
As coach Jackson has told you many times this past season, only you can change the narrative.
Winning in Cleveland would mean more than doing it with any of the other 31 teams.
Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner, Felix Wright, Hanford Dixon, Eric Metcalf, Frank Minnifield and so many others never won a Super Bowl here. The closest they got were 3 losses to Denver in the AFC Championship game, but they are revered by fans to this very day.
In closing, please don’t mistake those empty orange seats you played in front of for the final few home games for apathy. Cleveland loves the Browns and those who play for them.
Always has. Always will. For better or for worse. ‘Till death do us part.
They’re just still waiting for the Browns to finally love them back.