July 28, 2014

And Then, There Were Two

Slaughter and Langhorne*Sorry, I do not put the Texans and Jaguars in this category.

As many have pointed out, the New Orleans Saints victory yesterday put them into their first ever Super Bowl. This now leaves the Detroit Lions and your Cleveland Browns as the only teams who have yet to reach a Super Bowl. The Saints are the second NFC team in two years to make their first appearance in the big game. Meanwhile, the Browns haven’t won a playoff game since 1994 and haven’t played in a conference title game since 1989.

I am 33 years old. I grew up bleeding Brown and Orange, watching every game either on TV or down at the old Stadium. My formative years were in the middle of the best Browns run since the 60′s. From 1985 (the 8-8 AL Central Champions) to 1994 (Bill Belichick’s 11-5 Wild Card team), the team owned the city and for good reason. Three times in four years those Browns made it to the AFC title game. It probably would have been four in four years had it not been for injuries to its top three QB’s in ’88. That team still made the playoffs thanks to the miracle performance by Don Strock in the final week of the season against Houston.

Sure, the end of the Bud Carson/beginning of the Belichick era produced four straight losing seasons, but they improved their win total in each of those years.

At the time that “The Lord” Bernie Kosar was spraying the ball all over the field to Webster  Slaughter, Reggie Langhorne, Ozzie Newsome, and Brian Brennan. Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner were a 1,000 yard talented tandem with third-down back Herman Fontenot a solid pass catcher and clutch performer before handing the reins over to the speedy Eric Metcalf. The O-line was rock solid behind Cody Risien, Mike Baab, and Dan Fike.

Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield were two shut-down, All-Pro corners. Safeties Ray Ellis, Al Gross, and Thane Gash laid the wood. Mike Johnson, Clay Matthews and Eddie Johnson were mainstays in the linebacking corps. Michael Dean Perry plugged up the middle with the best of them. Matt Bahr? Dude was MONEY as a kicker.

Gerald “the Ice Cube” McNeil. Tim Manoa. Clarence Weathers. Dave Puzzoli. Bob Golic. Paul Farren. Ricky Bolden. Harry Holt. “Leaping” Lawyer Tillman.  “Big Daddy” Carl Hairston. Al “Bubba” Baker. Mark Harper.

I could go on and on about how much I loved those teams. It was the perfect time for me. Those were my heroes. The best part was that they were great. Sure, they never made the Super Bowl (even though three times they were one game away), but it didn’t take away my love for them. I look back at those years with such fondness and all I can do is feel sorry for that 10 year old kid who watches these games wondering if they will ever be good. Will that kid look back when he/she is 34 the way I did and think of the Browns the way I do? Not likely unless things turn around.

But I do feel much better about where the organization is going today than I did a year ago at this time. There is finally a quality front office hierarchy in place with new Czar Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert on board. The team finished up a miserable season on a high note, winning its last four games and playing hard for coach Eric Mangini, who managed to stay his execution for another year (and deservedly so). It seems like all the BS could finally be behind us.

Now all we need is more talent.

I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. The NFL is a league where you can turn it around rather quickly.  Last year was the Cardinals. This year it was the Saints. Why can’t it be our time soon?

photo via SIvault.com

  • lstavole13

    When I was ten years old the Browns were just coming back to Cleveland. I don’t really remember watching them before they left, so pretty much all of my memories are from this current era of the Browns. I am and always will be a diehard fan. I don’t really know how we all do it every year. But I will never pass up an opportunity to go to a Browns game. In high school I went to at least 6 games every year, and now that I’m in college I can’t wait to get to my two games over Christmas Break. Thankfully this year I got to see two wins! Anyways, I know it will get better, and I also am highly encouraged with the direction the program is taking. I’ll drink that Kool-Aid every year. Maybe one of these years i’ll still be drinking it as we prepare for a Super Bowl…just maybe…

  • TV

    I’m 34 and was just saying to someone how I worry that we’ve lost an entire generation of fans because of the long Browns drought. I’d love to say that I’d be just as passionate a fan if the Browns had been lousy back when I was a kid, but I just don’t know. I love the litany of names. Brought back some good memories. I still remember playing in the backyard as “Ozzie Newsome” or “‘Ice Cube’ McNeil…”

  • Guy L

    Don’t you mean then there was 4? Browns, Lions, Texans, and Jags.

  • http://www.SundayStrategy.com Logan Cash

    I’m 34 years old and this article is just like emails I have written to many friends before.

    It’s sad that I talk to my younger cousins now and they have none of the same feelings for the Browns that I have. But, I can’t blame them.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    @3 Guy L you are correct it’s 4 teams left but half of those 4 are/were also expansion teams. Unfortunately for Browns fans eventhough the current team is a reincarnated version it’s not considered an expansion team which is probably why alot of people consider only 2 real NFL teams left. Semantics.

  • JM

    Just curious why you didn’t include Jacksonville. I can understand Houston, since they just joined the league in 2002.

  • Tim

    I think you have to include Jacksonville if the other expansion team that came into the league the same year as them (Carolina) has made it to the Super Bowl. Regardless, this is still very sad. I do, however, feel the Browns have started to move in the right direction.

    As a side note, I sometimes also wonder to myself which is worse to experience as a fan: Never making it to the Super Bowl or getting there multiple times and losing every time(ie Bills, Vikings). Just a thought.

  • mgbode

    apparently NFL titles don’t even count on a Cleveland-based website? not even mentioned?

  • doug1121

    Tim…that’s a tough one to answer…to get there four times in a row like the Bills and lose every time if probably worse than NEVER making it all…but the ride getting there was probably fun for Bills fans, so I’d take it as a Browns fan, too. It’s like wishing the Tribe didn’t make the WS in 95 or 97 b/c we lost both times, the second time in horrid heartbreaking fashion. Still, I’d do it all again, cuz the ride getting to the WS was some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a C-town sports fan.

    Agree w/ the author about the Browns…a year ago I didn’t see any way they could turn they could get out of their black hole of perpetual suck…but I love how they’re finally structuring the front office w/ a real plan, and Randy can stay the hell out and let Holmgren and Co. do their jobs. I wanna see results on the field, but I’m willing to drink the kool-aid for now.

  • David

    I can remember the Browns as far back as 1991. I am 25 now. So I have some reference to the Browns being good. I remember Eric Metcalf vs. the Steelers with the two punt returns. It is interesting to think what a 10 year old Browns fan would think about the team now.

  • Casey

    Ya know, I remember those days as well, but I also feel bad for the kids today that watch the horrendous play of what used to be the Cleveland Browns. I mean we used to be football royalty, now we are just a laughing stock. Kids that have grown up watching the Browns after they came back, they cant understand what it is like to actually have a good team that wins on a regular basis…Like when we saw the Browns back in 07 and that glimmer of hope that we might get in the playoffs. That was what Browns football used to be like, but again we were let down, not by the Brownies, but by the Colts… It was that feeling of excitement I had back then, even if only for a short period of time, but never ever will I give up on a team that I love so damn much. I dont care how much they suck, I will continue to go to games, I will continue to watch and or listen to the games, because they are a part of who I was, who I am, and who I will be forever because I love the Browns, and will continue to love them forever because of that… And maybe, just maybe one day the team I hold so dear to my heart will produce a winner, not only for one year, but many years and times will bring me back to the old days and I can maybe raise my children to be Browns fans and have pride in their team, and every generation of Browns fans, the ones who were there to see the winners, and those of us that were there to see the last set of winners will rejoice to know we have a new era of Browns football to not forget, but remember these hard times as a fan and say we lived through it, making a playoff game, or even better a Super Bowl appearance, or even, will I say, a Super Bowl victory for the Brownies that much sweeter… So I say, in the words of a good man Sam Cooke, A change is gonna come, and maybe soon, maybe not, but one thing will not change… I will be a Browns fan forever. GO BROWNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BuckeyeDawg

    That last post man…that was beautiful. (apologies to Pedro Cerrano)

    I’m 30, and have many of the same memories that have already been mentioned. No offense to my wife, but she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand why in the hell I want to drive two hours to Cleveland on a work night to watch my 1 win football team on Monday night football. She doesn’t understand why I would take a half day off of work to drive to Cleveland to tailgate in the muni lot in sub zero wind chill before the Steelers game. She doesn’t understand…but she doesn’t try to stop me or talk me out of it either. She knows that the Browns are one of the few things that I won’t waver or compromise on, so she might as well not waste her breath. I haven’t taken her to a game yet…I think once I do she might “get it” a little more.

    Thanks for this thread…lots of good memories here. I truly hope that we are on the verge of winning football again. Beating the Steelers was fun, but how much better would it have been if that game had decided the AFC North?

  • Vare-A-Jay

    On the bright side…we’ve never LOST a Super Bowl!

    /optimisim’d

  • sleepless in cincinnati

    Nice work Casey! You have captured the sentiments for many of us. I am 38 and started watching the browns in the early 80′s. I consider myself lucky because when I first became a fb fan, I had an exciting team to root for. Those teams were exciting and at times dominating. Im not only rooting for the browns bcuz I am a homer. Those 80′s teams gave us ever-lasting memories. The names mentioned in this article bring back some of the best memories of my life. We have waited a long time to get back to the glory days. We have endured pain and suffering watching a once proud organization be brought to its knees and used as the punchline to jokes. I will always be a browns fan. A season ticket holder since 1999, I have lived in Cincy the last 4 years now and still drive up for a couple games each year. This is what Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack, Webster Slaughter, Michael Dean Perry, Eric Metcalf and the rest of those guys did for me. The browns are losing generations of fans with their play over the last 20 years. I look forward to seeing the team get back to prominence and it cant happen soon enough. Go Browns!

  • deebo

    The Browns used to be so good that we got out of wearing our catholic school uniforms and got to wear jeans and Browns gear to school and had shortened schedules complete with Browns themed art projects and activities and pep rally’s on all of the Friday’s before the AFC Championship games. My HS pastel portrait of Ozzie Newsome got hung in the hall outside the office with all the other ‘good’ art projects. My earliest Browns memories started in 1980-81 with the Cardiac Kids and my fandom was cemented in those teams in the 80′s and 90′s. I was born into it, embraced it, continue to ‘live the dream’, will always do so – even when it is hard (see 96-10), and if I am fortunate to have children they will be raised in the tradition should they chose to be sports fans. And when we finally win it all (this goes for you too Cavaliers and Indians) it really will be worth it all and I will savor it as will the rest of the Cleveland sporting fan community.

  • Pedro Cerano

    Pedro says… leave out Texans and Jags. They expansion teams, they no good to football. It is very bad, you steal Mike Holgrem’s ring. It is very bad.