The Browns (0-2) travel to Baltimore (2-0) this week for another beat down at the hands of Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens. We know the history there, but that isn’t the wound salt I offer up today.
Instead, I turn your attention to New England. No, this actually isn’t about Bill Belichick either. (There are a lot of wounds that could be salted aren’t there?) This week the Patriots (1-1) welcome the Atlanta Falcons (2-0). For many of us who are old enough to remember the Kardiac Kids, we remember the Falcons as an also-ran type of team with a few good years. We think of Steve Bartkowski, Bill Fralic and Gerald Riggs. But never did Cleveland fans think of the Falcons as a dangerous team, at least until the Browns were gone and Atlanta went to the Super Bowl with Dan Reeves at the helm.
The Falcons went to the Super Bowl during the 1998 season, coincidentally the last year the Browns were on hiatus. As the Browns came back in the league in ’99, the Falcons found themselves in shambles, going from the Super Bowl to a 5-11 season. They had hit bottom once again. The Browns, basically an expansion team won two games that year.
The 2000 season saw the Falcons regress to 4-12, as the Browns improved by a win to 3-13 (Stick with me, there is a point coming). In 2001, both teams finished with 7-9 records. They had pulled even. In 2002 (I know, get to it. You have to see the history though to fully appreciate the point) both teams won nine games and went to the playoffs.
And now here’s the point: Atlanta has had it’s share of ups and downs. They too have fired coaches, and had a QB scandal the likes of which Cleveland has never seen. Even ‘diminished skills’ can’t compare to what Atlanta went through with Michael Vick. Don’t forget the Bobby Petrino fiasco – He’s the coach that quit 13 games into the season to go back and coach college ball. Even through all of that, which I must say is Cleveland-level sports catastrophe, the Falcons manage to rebuild and make a playoff run every three years.
Since the Browns and Falcons were both in the playoffs that 2002 season, the Browns are 33-65 and the Falcons 48-50 but with two playoff appearances. The Falcons are on their fourth head coach since ’02. The Browns are on their third.
The Falcons have an excellent young quarterback in Matt Ryan. They have a dangerous running back in Michael Turner, who they didn’t have to draft and develop themselves. They have a solid defense and a good offensive line. They haven’t found a Tom Brady in the back end of the draft either. They do make wise decisions with their first round selections however.
If only the Browns could be more like the Falcons. Wow. That’s a sentence I never thought I would utter growing up.