The Cleveland Browns are not the worst team in the NFL. Yet, front office chaos, locker room drama, and a lot of lousy football have made them exemplars of what it means to be a terrible sports franchise.
So let us lead you on a journey through their violent, messy and loss-filled 2009 campaign. It's sure beats a January swim in Lake Erie. (Barely.)
After failing to making the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, the Browns begin the 2009 offseason by firing head coach Romeo Crennel and replacing him with Eric Mangini—who had been fired himself just days earlier after leading the New York Jets to the non-playoffs. One of his first acts as coach is to order a mural depicting former Cleveland football greats be painted over. [AP]
USC head coach Pete Carroll announces that he has been "talking ball" with Mangini during the downtime of the offseason. Later that year, Carroll's Trojans fail to finish the 2009 season ranked in the AP Top 5 or in first place in the Pac-10 Conference, the first time either of those events have occurred since 2001.
In the early hours of March 14, Browns wide receiver Donté Stallworth strikes and kills a pedestrian while driving his Bentley in Miami Beach. Stallworth would later plead guilty to DUI manslaughter and serve 24 days of a 30-day jail sentence. He is put on two years of house arrest, eight years of probation, and suspended by the NFL for one year without pay.
During Browns training camp, Derek Anderson accuses Brady Quinn—his rival for the starting quarterback position—of turning over offensive signals to the defense to sabotage Anderson's performance during a scrimmage. [AP]
Week 1: Brady Quinn is named the starting quarterback for the regular season opener against Minnesota. The Browns lose, 34-20. [AP]
Week 2: Mangini fines an unnamed Browns player $1,701 dollars, because he took a $3 bottle of water from his hotel mini-bar and didn't pay for it. The Browns lose their second game of the year and fall to 0-2 [AP]
Week 3: The Browns lose their third game of the season to fall to 0-3. Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski declares, without hyperbole, that Mangini is "the worst head coach hire in 25 years." [AP]
A bit of rookie hazing goes awry, when first-year cornerback Coye Francies is doused with a bucket of water at practice, and he responds by throwing buckets of ice—and punches—at several of his teammates, before having to be restrained in front of a locker room full of reporters. [Getty]
James Davis suffers a season-ending shoulder injury during a "post-practice opportunity period" when the running back—who was not wearing pads—was "trucked" by a Browns linebacker wearing full pads. (The Browns deny the no pads claims.) Later in the year, teammate Jamal Lewis accuses Mangini of working the team too hard during training camp and practice, leaving players too worn out for Sunday games.
Week 4: The Browns lose to Cincinnati, when the Bengals kick a 31-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in overtime. Replays are inconclusive, but Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (and others) believe the kick should have been ruled a miss. The NFL does not agree. The Browns are 0-4.
The evening after the loss to the Bengals, disgruntled and distracted wide receiver Braylon Edwards is accused of a punching a promoter outside a Cleveland nightclub. Ten days later, Edwards is traded to the Jets. [AP]
Week 5: The Browns record their first win of the season, a 6-3 triumph over the 1-3 Buffalo Bills. They will not win again until December. [AP]
With trade/benching rumors swirling around him, Brady Quinn puts his Cleveland-area home up for sale.
Week 6: The Browns fall to 1-5 after losing to Pittsburgh 27-14. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi declares, with much hyperbole, that the Browns are "the most fucked franchise in all of sports." [AP]
During the November bye week, the Browns fire general manager George Kokini. (Not pictured.) A group of fans representing the famous "Dawg Pound" plan a temporary boycott of the upcoming Ravens game. The Browns would lose that game, 16-0, and fall to 1-8.
Week 11: The Browns blow a 24-3 first-quarter lead to the hapless Detroit Lions, eventually losing the game when Matthew Stafford—playing the final down with a dislocated shoulder—throws a game-winning touchdown as time expires.
Week 15: One of the season's lone bright spots, Josh Cribbs scores two kickoff return touchdowns against Kansas City, breaking the NFL's career record. His wife immediately takes to the internet to make contract demands.
Improbably, the Browns win their last four games of the season, all against teams that were .500 or below. They finish 5-11, 4th place in the AFC North. On December 21, the Browns hire Mike Holmgren to be president of the team. Despite having only one season at the helm, at present, Mangini's future as coach is uncertain.