Some people are fans of the Cleveland Browns. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Cleveland Browns. This 2009 Deadspin NFL team preview is for those in the latter group.
1. Those aren't really the Browns. I know they kept the records. And the team name. And the uniforms. I know the current assemblage of players known as the Cleveland Browns are supposed to be just like the real thing. But I'm sorry. They aren't. Ever since the Browns returned to the league in '99, I've always felt like I was watching the football equivalent of a new stepmother, or a turtle that was purchased to secretly replace the one accidentally killed by a parent. Everyone affiliated with the New Browns may as well have buttons sewn into their eyes. They are fucking impostors. IMPOSTORE!!!
Before they left for Baltimore, the Browns had a distinctive football identity. I know this because the Browns were my favorite AFC team when I was a kid for reasons that escape me (I think Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield rocking orange shoes had something to do with it). And they're the team I will probably try rooting for when the Vikings decide to leave Minnesota two years from now. Then I'll give up after a year of that and become just a general NFL fan, which will be for the best.
Anyway, I digress. The reason I used to love those old Browns teams was because they never made anything look easy. Bernie Kosar threw sideways. Earnest Byner had to plow through six defenders just to get a lousy four-yard gain. They relied on trick plays more than pretty much any other team in the NFL (a trait Bill Cowher brought with him to Pittsburgh once he became a coach). Every time the Browns scored 30 points, it felt like a miracle. They felt like the kind of team maybe I could play for one day. That's a stupid concept, but it's the kind of thing you imagine when you're young and retarded. They were a proud team defensively. And if you ever beat them, they'd at least make you hurt the next day for it.
Those are the Cleveland Browns I remember from when I was a kid, and they have absolutely nothing to do with the supposed Browns you see before you today. The Browns of today have no identity. The two times they've had winning records since they've returned to the NFL were both freakish, inexplicable anomalies. There's something off about this franchise now. Like they crawled out of the Pet Semetary. Like the players have had their bodies snatched, and if you cut them open, you'd find aliens underneath. Aliens who are really, really, really fucking bad at playing football. Like watching George Clooney's wife return from the dead in "Solaris". No, wait. Scratch that. It's like watching "Solaris". Very slow and painful.
Face it, Browns fans. Deep in your heart, this doesn't really feel like your team. The team you really want – the one with the great defensive tradition and wonderful front office stability; the team that is now Pittsburgh's true archrival – that team is in Baltimore now, and there's no hope of getting it back. That's the team you SHOULD have. That's the team you feel you truly deserve, and you know it. That Super Bowl title should be yours. Stabby Ray Lewis should be yours. Joe Flacco should be yours. You don't deserve this Cleveland Stepmoms franchise, this Bizarro bunch of Browns birthed into the world by that scumbag Carmen Policy and run into the ground by everyone who's taken the wheel since. It's the oddest situation in sports. You have your team, but you don't really have them. The NFL let you keep the team's colors, but didn't let you keep the team's soul. And that's the cruelest part of Art Modell's legacy. Fucking prick.
2. They're the reason you don't have a job. The Browns are owned by Randy Lerner, who inherited the team from his father Al Lerner. Al Lerner made his fortune as chairman of MBNA bank. That name ring a bell to you? Of course it does. MBNA was responsible for the proliferation of student-issued credit cards for much of the past two decades. OOOH, LOOGIT! A VISA CARD WITH YOUR SCHOOL'S LOGO ON IT! AND YOU'RE PRE-APPROVED! HOW CAN YOU RESIST? MBNA issued pre-approved cards to millions of students across the country who charged shitloads of money to them and couldn't pay the tab. That's the debt that got gobbled up by the banks, packaged with subprime mortgage loans, slapped with a gold star rating by some fuckhead at the SEC, insured by AIG, and sold to banks the world over, triggering an economic crisis that will soon have us all killing each other and scavenging each other's bones for stray, edible flesh. Or so I was told by a couple of articles I read in Rolling Stone.
MBNA was also responsible for about 85% of all the goddamn direct mail advertising I have received over the course of my adulthood. (Capital One has since taken over those duties. Assholes.) It's not enough that they preyed on retarded college kids and ruined your life savings. No, no. They also have to rape your mailbox day after day with envelopes you'll never open. All of this made Lerner rich enough to buy the Browns, make Dwight Clark the GM, and give the team a lifetime of terrible karma. So remember that the next time you open up your credit card bill only to realize you're still paying interest on that Razor scooter you bought back in 1999 for no good reason. Fuck MBNA, and fuck the Lerner family right on their magnetic stripe.
3. Mangini? Really? It's as if Browns ownership is deliberately trying to turn off Cleveland fans. It's not enough that Cleveland had Belichick before he became arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history. No, now they have to hire all of his shitty underlings, thus repeating the shitty first Belichick era over and over again. Because what better way to win the hearts of a city than by making coaching hires that constantly remind citizens of the darkest moment in their team's history. A flawless plan.
Reader Andy S. points out that new GM George Kokinis was director of player personnel in Baltimore after Phil Savage came to Cleveland. Combined with Mangini, Andy says, "They basically hired the understudies of the two men who led the team to three last place finishes, two top-five draft picks and zero playoff appearances in four years."
4. Did I mention they suck? Oh, do they ever. Cornerstone tackle Joe Thomas is the team's best player, and nothing he protects is worth protecting. The team traded up to draft Brady Quinn and has shown no confidence in him since that day (we call this the Akili Smith plan), Mangini's presence now rendering him all but unwanted. Their best wideout can't catch the ball. Their best running back is a shell of a shell of his former self. Tight end Robert Royal may as well have his hands amputated. They gave $23 million guaranteed to Shaun Rogers so he could buy his own Pancake House franchise and eat it out of business. This is arguably the worst roster in the NFL. I know this, because I was forced to watch it in primetime five times last year. Fuck you, NFL schedule maker. Fuck you to Hell.
5. Readers dislike this team more than any other. Since we started this preview series, I've gotten more emails about why Cleveland sucks more than any other franchise, with extra jabs at James Frey tossed in for good measure. Some of the vitriol:
RE: CLEVELAND BROWNS=ANAL LEAKAGE
Please crucify the Browns like the dirty Jews that they are. You have no idea how wretchedly disturbing it is to live in the same state as the Browns. My taint is tainted. An acquaintance of mine (not friend), said how excited he was to have Browns tickets this year. I shot him in the dick and murdered his only child.
And from Ryne:
I'm shocked you've yet to piss on the Browns. There isn't another "professional" (and I use the term professional about as loosely as VH1 uses "celebrity") football team that's as catastrophically, unbelievably fucked in the NFL. At least the Raiders and the Lions are entertaining off the field despite their pussy fart of a team.
We're talking about a team that didn't score an offensive touchdown in their last 6 motherfucking abomination of football games. How do you not accidentally butt-fuck your way into a touchdown in 24 quarters? Perhaps it's because A) we've had more shitty quarterbacks in ten years than dicks in Brady Quinn's ass (lazy pun I know, but what can I say, he's a weak-armed cocksucker) B) our number 1 receiver couldn't catch AIDS even if he gargled Robbie Alomar's balls while simultaneously fucking the corpse of Freddy Mercury C) has a worse draft record than Dick Cheney D) whose defense couldn't stop team of players with Asperger's sufferers.
No wonder we threw bottles onto the field, although for $12 they should provide you with a brick. At least if you had a chance to cave in the face of one of the Division I-AA players that make up this steaming shit pile of a team. And, in perhaps the greatest example of how ass backward the sporting culture is in this herpe sore of a town, Indians GM Mark Shapiro is the Mangina's brother-in-law. At Christmas time they could play a drinking game: one shot for each shitty organizational move until one of them dies painfully of cirrhosis. Everyone in this sorry organization deserves a cock shoved in their ear.
And the White Boom Boom:
I went to a Hooters in Cleveland once. This location was almost entirely empty, sans a very large and fat family. Kids as young as six, and an obese father wearing a Cleveland Browns sweatshirt. I was wearing a Steelers jersey, to which FatDad had to comment, "Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a Steelers Fan!" Well played, hope Baltimore winning that Super Bowl doesn't sting too much.
Speaking of the fans, they are the worst people on Earth. They (along with Eagles fans), make me lose faith in humanity. For example, a friend of mine who attends Case Western had the opportunity to attend his first NFL game at Brown Stadium. Really not a fan of any team, he decided to go wearing a Case Western t-shirt. No problem, right?
He quickly realized that Clevelanders are such dumb fucks that they assume that if you are not wearing a shit-colored jersey, you are a fan of the other team. Mind you, the Browns were playing the Ravens. In no way shape or form do the colors of his Case Western t-shirt resemble that of the Ravens.
Nevertheless, he had at least 3 cups of beer spilled/poured on him, threatened countless times, and was later stalked out of the stadium. Needless to say, he transferred out of Case just to get the hell out of Cleveland.
That last one just about killed me.
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