“Year Of The Dawg?” – By Ger Sayers
It’s been six months since you heard from me. It has been a whirlwind of emotion in the time I’ve been away from you lovely Vault Folks. Between my new daughter arriving, work, looking after the family and the likes, I have been kept away from writing some stuff for you good people. Today we’re going into a topic that JA and Coach Richard asked me to look into a while back. I am going to give you guys my opinions, some context and a lot of facts into why the Cleveland Browns are the absolute worst team in the NFL and my reasons why the Factory Of Sadness will be open for a long time.
~ The Dawg Breath Variations ~
Bang out of the gate, to the folks who may not know me, have not read any of my other stuff or are not a member of the Australian NFL Connection Facebook group, I am a Baltimore Ravens fan. The reason this is important to the context of the article is to point out I’m not writing this as a piss take of a divisional rival. To a younger generation who may not know, there is no Baltimore Ravens without the Cleveland Browns. I have covered this in my other article, Why Is A Raven Like A Racehorse?, that former Browns owner, Art Modell, decided to move his team to Baltimore in 1995. Due to some legal wrangling, the Browns logo, history and pretty much everything to do with the team besides players and organisational staff were stuck on a shelf until the team could be reactivated in 1999.
So in essence, the “old” Browns are in Baltimore, now wearing purple but only have history since 1996 and the “new” Browns in Cleveland, still wearing orange and brown, have only existed since 1999 but have a history as far back as June 4, 1944. This is very important to remember as the Browns weren’t always as terrible as they are today. For this piece I will split the Browns in two and will refer to the Pre-99 Browns as the “Historical Browns” and just the “Browns” for the Post-99/Current Browns team.
The Historical Browns had a healthy enough record of success. They started life in the AAFC where they dominated all before them. The AAFC was around from 1946 until 1949 when it folded and in that time frame, the Historical Browns won the AAFC Championship on all four occasions it was contested. When the AAFC folded in 1949, they joined the NFL where they would go on and win another four League titles before the Super Bowl was a thing. They would go on to also capture eleven Conference titles, the last being in 1969, and twelve Divisional titles, the last being in 1989.
As you can imagine by the years mentioned, the current Browns have had nothing much to be proud of. They have amassed just one Play Off appearance in 2002. They almost qualified in 2007 but, in a very Cleveland Browns scenario, a 10-6 record was the exact same record as the Pittsburgh Steelers who finished first due to beating the Browns twice in that season. The bigger kick in the nuts was their amazing record, their best since 1994, wasn’t enough for a Wildcard slot either as the Tennessee Titans had a better record against common opponents. All in all, since restarting in the 1999 season, they have had two winning seasons and their regular season record stands at 304 games played, 88 wins, 216 losses and no ties. The last time they beat a team with a winning record was in 2014 when they beat the 10-5-1 Bengals. They have only picked up 20 wins against teams with a winning records since the restarting of the team.
To stick the knife in as a Ravens fan, the Browns currently stand 9-29 over nineteen seasons in the head to head. Worse again for the Cleveland Browns faithful, they had to sit and watched the Historical Browns/Ravens raise the Lombardi Trophy in the 2000/01 season and again in the 2012/13 season.
~ March Of The Dawgs ~
While looking at the stats and figures gives us a grim state of what has happened to the Browns since rejoining the league, it doesn’t tell the full story. People say stability is one of the most important parts to building a successful organisation whether it is in sports or an actual business. To that affect, the Browns have as much stability as a three legged rocking horse taking to the fences at Oakbank Racecourse.
In 19 seasons, they have had three owners. Al Lerner, who had a hand in moving the Historical Browns to Baltimore, was the first by paying $530 million for the rights for the team. He owned the team until his death in 2002. Randy Lerner, Al’s son, took over control of the team until it was sold to Jimmy Haslam in 2012. It’s hard to tell who is the worst out of them but Lerner Snr. gets a minor pass since he founded the team but, my God, the other two are responsible for some amount of money paid out to people to end contracts. Let’s have a look at the hiring and firing.
The Browns have also had nine General Managers since they were reactivated. First to take a swing was Dwight Clark of 49ers and “The Catch” fame. He resigned when Head Coach, Butch Davis, requested control over personal decisions in 2002 which made Davis the de facto second GM. When Davis walked away in November 2004, Paul Savage got the nod for the 2005 season. In a stretch of time which included an internal power struggle with Team Manager, John Collins and an outbreak of Staph Infections which resulted in a blow up with Tight End, Kellen Winslow, the whole thing came to a crashing halt after an angry e-mail exchange with a fan of the team in 2008. This left the Browns looking for GM number four after firing Savage. 2009 brought George Kokinis who was apparently marched off the teams premises after eight games. Tom Heckert Jr. was next into the breach for the 2010 season and got a good shake at the job…for three seasons before being drop kicked out the door. One half of my second favorite NFL Podcast, Mr. Mike Lombardi, was signed at the beginning of 2013 and then sacked at the beginning of 2014. Ray Farmer was announced as Lombardi’s replacement and then he was replaced himself by Sashi Brown in 2016 who in turn got almost two seasons before being replaced by John Dorsey in week 13 of the 2017 season.
To complement this shit show, the Browns have also had nine Head Coaches. If we’re being honest, it should be ten but we’ll get to that in a bit. Chris Palmer got to be the first Head Coach and first sacked Head Coach with the new Browns after 2 seasons. Megalomaniac Butch Davis lasted just over three seasons and is the last coach to get the Browns to the Playoffs, in 2002. He resigned with five games to go in the 2004 season and coach three, Terry Robiskie would take over until the end of the season and go on to interview for the full time job but wouldn’t get it. The job would go to Romeo Crennel who would get the longest run of four complete seasons and gave the Browns their best season in 2007 with 10-6. The Browns didn’t learn from their experience with control freak Head Coaches and brought in Micro Manager extraordinaire Eric Mangini in 2009 and it was described by Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Posnanski “the worst coaching hire from the past 25 years”. After two back to back 5-11, Mangini got shit canned. Pat Shurmur was next and got two glorious years with a 9-23 record before joining the now growing list of ex-Browns Head Coaches. Rob Chudzinski got one season in 2013 before it was deemed he wasn’t doing a good enough job. Number eight was Mike Pettine who got the bullet when he lost 22 games out of 32.
Here is where this whole thing takes a massive swerve. Hue Jackson. Hue FUCKING Jackson. After all the failure and misery and depression that went before. After all the losses. After all the GMs. After all the Head Coaches. After all the Owners. Hue fucking Jackson has managed to get a third season in charge after going 1-31. One question, HOW!?!?!?!? I have fuck all experience with Gridiron Football outside of Madden/NFL2K and Fantasy Football. I’ve barely touched a egg ball that wasn’t for rugby but I reckon I could have a fair old fucking punt at getting a single fucking win with a team of coaches and 52 players, all of which are of some sort of professional standard. Jesus wept! He previously went 8-8 with the Raiders and wasn’t exactly wet behind the ears when taking the Browns job. He must have pictures of Jimmy Haslam doing some dodgy shit (I mean REAL dodgy shit!) in order not to get fired for the pile of hot garbage the last two seasons have been. Its HISTORICALLY bad. No team in the NFL has ever lost 31 games in two seasons except the Browns. No one has ever gone 0-14 twice in successive seasons except the Browns. But somehow Hue Jackson has kept his job. Fuck me…
~ I Wanna Be Your Dawg ~
The other side to this shit covered, unlucky penny is the titanic amount of poor choices the Browns have made in selecting players. They have been so bad at it since the ‘99 Draft, and I’m including free agents too, it is the reason why I don’t think the Browns will be doing much this year.
Arguably the most important player on any team in football, the QB is usually the cornerstone to any successful team. To that end, the Brown have had 28 starting Quarterbacks NOT including the latest lambs to the slaughter who are Baker Mayfield, Brogan Roback, Drew Stanton and Tyrod Taylor at the time of writing. The Steelers have had 10. The Ravens have had 16. New England have had 5. The Colts have had 9. The Broncos have had 15. All of those have been the AFC Super Bowl Winners since ‘99. The other two teams from the AFC to the Super Bowl are the Raiders and Titans who have gone through 19 and 14 respectfully. That puts Browns 9 ahead of the nearest team that has reached a Super Bowl. If the Browns start 2 QBs this season which is a massive possibility considering they may start Taylor and switch to Mayfield or vice versa if the wheels fall off the wagon (like it always seems to do), they will have started 30 different QBs in 20 seasons. You can run the rule over almost every position in the team and find a level of inconsistency that just blows your mind. Wide Outs, Running Backs, Line-Men, you name it, they’ve made some stupid calls that no one can work out. For a team which brought in Sabermetrics guru, Paul DePodesta, to sort this mess out, all it seems to have done is made the team worst with more cap space and draft picks becoming available.
When you look at first round drafting, you really get a sense of how poor decisions have impacted this team. Since 2007 draftee Joe Thomas’ retirement and a lack of a first round in ‘08, there are no active players in the league the Browns drafted in round one before the 2009 draft. Here’s the list and where they are now (keep in mind there has been 10 drafts since then):
2009 – Alex Mack – C – Went to the Falcons in 2016 after he chose to void his contract. He got to a Super Bowl and is still with the Falcons.
2010 – Joe Haden – CB – Cut after 7 seasons. Now with the Steelers and got to the playoffs.
2011 – Phil Taylor – DT – Cut after 4 seasons. Missed the last 3 seasons with multiple injuries. Now with the Redskins.
2012 – Trent Richardson – RB – Traded to the Colts for 2014 1st round pick in 2013. Now a Saskatchewan Roughrider in Canada but is currently suspended by the team.
– Brandon Weeden – QB – Released after 2 seasons. Now signed to the Texans.
2013 – Barkevious Mingo – OLB – Traded after 3 seasons to the Patriots for a 2017 5th round pick. Won Super Bowl VI. Now, he’s a Seahawk.
2014 – Justin Gilbert – CB – Traded after 2 seasons to the Steelers for a 2017 6th round pick. Now, a free agent with a year ban to serve for Substance Abuse if he ever resigns.
– Johnny Manziel – QB – If you don’t know about this shit show, see here. Cut after 2 seasons and currently a Hamilton Tiger-Cat in Canada
2015 – Danny Shelton – DT – Traded after 2 seasons to the Patriots with a 5th round pick for a 2019 3rd rounder. Set to become a free agent after the 2018 season
– Cameron Erving – C – Traded after 2 seasons to the Chiefs for a 2018 5th rounder. Set to be a free agent in 2019.
2016 – Corey Coleman – WR – Still with the Browns. Dropped the pass that could have stopped the 0-16 season.
2017 – Myles Garrett – DE – Still with the Browns. Played only 10 games due to injury but was still the Sack Leader of the team with 7.
– Jabrill Peppers – S – Still with the Browns. Played 13 games in his rookie season. Tried his hand with some punt/kick returns with the longest being 35 yards.
– David Njoku – TE – Still with the Browns. Played in all 16 games in his rookie season finishing with 386 and 4 TDs.
2018 – Baker Mayfield – QB – Still has to sign his contract thought to be worth in the $33ish million region.
– Denzel Ward – CB – Still has to sign his contract thought to be worth in the $29ish million region.
So what has this got to do with 0-16? Well, it shows nobody seemed to like their predecessor’s handy work when it came to drafting. It shows either a team that couldn’t evaluate talent properly, blatantly ignored players bad behaviour in their college days or were constantly gambling on finding future stars who flamed out. It’s scary to think that out of 16 first rounders in 10 drafts, they have 6 players (2 of which haven’t signed at time of writing but most definitely will) still with the team. Hindsight is alway 20/20 but to have 10 first rounders all walk out the door, for whatever reason, is dumb. It’s not like the Browns have been struggling for cap room either. It just looks like a mountain of incompetence from the top down and the fact the top is constantly changing, no one can be surprised.
~ Dawgs In The Midwinter ~
Imagine you worked in a store. That store sells jeans and after two years, the store owner doesn’t want to sell jeans but tuxedos instead. It’s a little bit more work but hey you’ll give it a pop, you’re a team player, go you! This business model is going ok but the money isn’t raining in like the owner hoped but now his son takes over the business. The son decides he wants to sell cds, then cars, then building blocks, then fucking sex toys, just loads of random things in the hopes something sticks and make millions but nothing does. You are now jaded from all the change and you just hope this place will just have the smallest amount of success. You enjoyed the jeans/tux store, it was looking like it was going somewhere but after many, many restarts, you are angry. You rejoice when you hear the son has decided to stop messing with you and is selling the store to someone who is going to bring back the good times…only for him to fuck you worse with one of the large dildos left over from the adult store days. The store now sells the latest fads and crazes around. For six months, it is filled with excitement and the place is buzzing with life. Then the excitement dies. Less and less happens until the store is soulless and void of anything of interest so you spend all your days waiting on the next fad to sell so you can have the hope you might actually enjoy work again. The cycle keeps following the same path of the excitement of something new then the crushing reality that it’s the same crap just dressed a different way but then that excitement slowly creeps back in…
This is what I imagine it feels to be a Browns fan and it must be soul crushing. The eternal hope the front office keeps spinning before it all comes to a crashing halt by, on average, week 12. They truly have my unending respect. To keep turning up, spending the duckets, wearing that abhorrent colour combo takes true grit. What would upset me more though is when the team seems to enjoy the misery they cause. Hue Jackson famously said the Browns wouldn’t go 1-15 again and if he did, he’d jump in Lake Erie. By all accounts, it’s not the first place you’d want to go swimming and Jackson’s stunt was meant to be an act of penance. Personally, if it was my team he was running into a historical low point, I’d personally help him in the lake like Barry The Baptist from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and drown him. But no, the Browns saw it as a chance to raise a few notes for charity, to which I don’t have an issue with, but it looked to be as if they were celebrating this achievement when 150 people rocked up to do it with him! They raised a stupid amount for a charity that looks to help people who are victims of Human Trafficking. They should have used the money to pay for the fans therapy bills after the misery the team has put them through! And then you throw in the fucking parade by some of the fans to mark the season! To carry on the swimming shick, it’s like nearly drowning in a swimming class and being proud you got “At Least You Tried” cert. You can’t get any more failure in football than going 0-16 and for the organisation and some fans to see it as a joke and something to be proud of just doesn’t comput to me.
Losing is engrained in this organisation. It is dyed into them as much as the orange and brown colour scheme is and this is why I cannot see them achieving anything of note. While I think the hiring of John Dorsey is step in the right direction, the fact that Paul “Moneyball” DePodesta is still Chief Strategy Officer is baffling. I know DePodesta had dreams of being a Football Coach and played in college but his strategy has failed just as bad as Jackson’s coaching has. For these two to be kept while so many others did better and got chopped is just mind bending to me.
This team will suck and continue to waste the talents of 1st rounders until they are broken and trade them away for a bag of ready salted where their remaining talent can be used correctly for whatever amount of time they have left on the clock. For all those who think that this season Cleveland will be releasing the Dawgs Of War and will somehow be some sort of contender, get real! It’s more likely Browns fans will be begging for the Old Yeller treatment by week 10.