Well, it’s official. Hell has officially frozen over. For the first time in 635 days, the Cleveland Browns could finally call themselves ‘Winners’, if only for a week. Last Thursday evening witnessed one of the stories of this early NFL season, with the luckless Browns – who had gone 19 games straight without a win to their name, finally picking up a ‘W’ in their own backyard with a 21-14 victory over the New York Jets.
Now, some of you reading this will be thinking, “what is the big deal about this win for the team, as all teams suffer spells of no wins and losses at some time or another”. However, you have to understand the whole picture to get it. It would be fair to say that the Cleveland Browns in the NFL are not one of the big-hitters in the league or deemed as one of the glamour sides in the league either.
Cleveland has always been in some quarters, a kind of ‘cult’ team within the National Football League and one of the sides that fans of other sides and pundits dismiss instantly. They are the American Football equivalent of the Chicago Cubs pre-World Series champions in 2016, to which the Cubs were dubbed ‘The Loveable Losers’. For the Browns last winning season you would have to go back to the 2007 NFL Season for when they posted a (.500 season) and record of 10-6, but was denied a playoff spot by their divisional rivals in the Pittsburgh Steelers in a tiebreaker and also saw the Steelers miss out by thE same token against Tennessee.
Since then, the Browns have flirted with the bottom place in the league for many years and saw them last year not just finish bottom of the pile, but managed to become the first team since the 2008 Detriot Lions to register an ‘Imperfect’ season record of 0-16. In comparison to the Lions sides of ’08, the Browns can take a slight victory that they didn’t concede as many points as Detroit did in their winless year, with the Browns conceding 107 points less than with 410 against as opposed to the Lions 517.
Meanwhile, the Browns haven’t made the postseason playoffs since 2002 and saw them losing narrowly to the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-33 in a Wild Card game in Pittsburgh. Barring, of course, the 2007 season, the Browns have only ever won more than five games once in a year, and that came back in 2014 with a 7-9 season record. However, it’s been a slippery slide for Cleveland and saw them posting their best year in 2015 with a 3-15 record and in previous years posted 1-15 and of course the infamous 0-16 of last year.’
The Forest City’ as Cleveland is sometimes referred to by people, has seen the team lost in the wilderness of sporting sides there in the City – as with the Cavaliers battling for an NBA title with star player LeBron James and finally landing success in 2016, it has also seen a sleeping giant in the Cleveland Indians baseball team reaching a World Series the same year, and lost perhaps the greatest game seven in MLB history to the Chicago Cubs.
In the past few years, Cleveland fans have used social media to show their frustration and wanting their team to ‘tank’, meaning they want them to lose on purpose just so that they can get a good shot in the draft at a new quarterback. In 2014, the Browns selected Johnny Manziel as 22nd pick overall and the man dubbed ‘Johnny Football’ had an eventful spell in Cleveland, but ended with him getting injured in 2015 and would never wear the Browns uniform again.
With all the losing records and defeats piling up one after another against the Browns, it saw a couple of fans looking to inject a bit of dark humour to things and put forward a ‘Cleveland 0-16 parade’ following a winless year.
The idea was put in motion and saw long-suffering fans of the franchise going through with their parade and was met originally with some of the Cleveland players expressing displeasure and offence to the parade happening. The three who expressed their anger towards the staging of the parade was Defensive-End Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive-Tackle Danny Shelton who has since been traded to New England and Linebacker Christian Kirkey.
The man responsible for the parade was Browns fan Chris McNeil and was interviewed by ESPN over the whole parade. In an interview he gave to the website, he mentioned that the parade was a ‘shot across the bow to ownership and front office’ as fans were fed up with watching a poor team. On social media, it saw McNeil fending off calls that this parade was an embarrassing event for the City of Cleveland, while his reply back was “The Brown have one win in two years, that is embarrassing to me as a fan”.
So on January 6th, 2018, on a snow-covered day in the Rock and Roll city, the ‘Cleveland 0-16’ parade took place and saw many humorous sights being captured on camera on local news and national news too. At one point it saw fans carrying ‘tombstones’ of past Browns quarterbacks since their last postseason success, but all in all, it was lighthearted and something to allow Browns fans to vent and be creative with and not be rioting.
All money raised in the build-up to the parade was to pay for security, public restrooms and things needed for a parade. For all the comings and goings of it, it was reported that $50,000 was raised and donated to the City’s Food Bank and so it saw a positive outcome overall.
So following their horror year last season, it saw all change with the Front Office and Coaching changes all happening in the offseason. At this year’s 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas, Texas it saw Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield being drafted as the first overall pick, having just come off a heartbreaking double-overtime loss against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl Semi Final.
Following a preseason to which the Browns won 3 of 4 games, their opening season saw them facing their divisional rivals in Pittsburgh Steelers at home and from being 21-7 points down with seven minutes to play, it saw two scores to bring them all square at 21-21 and go to overtime. With nine seconds left to go in the sudden death, it saw kicker Zane Gonzales having a chance to kick a winning 43-yard field goal but saw it blocked by T.J Watt and put a halt to their defeats with a tie.
After their tie with Pittsburgh, they then headed to the Superdome in New Orleans, and for most of the game had led the way and with 2.40 left to play, they found themselves throwing away the game as a touchdown and 2-pt conversion saw the home side Saint going 18-12 up. However, on a 4th & 5 play for Cleveland, the ball was thrown upfield by Tyrod Taylor and saw Antonio Callaway making the catch for a touchdown and had Zane Gonzalez needing only to add the extra for what seemed like a victory.
Having missed his previous two kicks, Gonzalez missed another and after the Saints converted a field goal late on, they led 21-18 before Gonzalez missed another saw him missing four in a row and saw the Saints win and you could say his kicking cost the Browns victory in the opening two weeks of the season and saw the streak continue on.
With two successive games of snatching ‘defeats from the jaws of victory’ against both Pittsburgh and New Orleans, the Browns returned home against a New York Jets side that had a similar 0-2 record to Cleveland. New York opened up a 14-0 lead in the 2nd quarter and then later on in the half, saw the Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffering an injury and was gone for the rest of the game.
Cleveland’s new kicker Greg Joseph, who was given a great ovation by the home fans in the warm-up, saw him literally kick-starting the Browns into action. With two Field Goals either side of the half and with Taylor gone for the game, it saw rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield coming into the fray and throwing some nice passes and led to Carlos Hyde scoring a touchdown to bring it within two points and then tied it up with a version of a ‘Philly Special’ or ‘Cleveland Cleveland’, with Baker Mayfield catching his first NFL touchdown on debut to level the game at 14-14.
New York then led again, but the Browns had a new hero in Mayfield and he then led the Browns to victory with a drive that saw Carlos Hyde running for his second touchdown and with Terrance Mitchell making an Interception at the end of the game, it brought the Browns closer to a win. With Cleveland taking a knee, it saw the home fans going wild in the stands and throughout the City, as they were no longer ‘losers’ and could finally claim to be ‘Winners’.
Plus for the first time since beating the San Diego Chargers (now L.A Chargers) on December 24th, 2016, the Cleveland Browns could finally celebrate a regular season victory.