Tag Archives: Brady Quinn

Former Notre Dame Quarterback Makes His Pick to Lead Irish Offense

Former Notre Dame quarterback and FS1 analyst Brady Quinn joined Bruce Feldman on The Audible podcast to discuss the quarterback competition at his alma mater. In sitting down with Feldman, Quinn discussed his choice for the Notre Dame quarterback position.

Quinn chose to side with last year’s game one starter, Malik Zaire, in lieu of his eventual replacement, Deshone Kizer.

Much of Quinn’s decision has to do with seniority. Zaire can graduate in the spring, but still has a year of eligibility left. Under the graduate transfer rule, this would give him the ability to transfer without sitting out a season. Giving Zaire the nod to start this season would likely eliminate this as a possibility.

According to Quinn, if Zaire gets the nod to start the season, the Irish will be better suited in the long-run. Should Zaire falter, Kizer would replace him, much like he was able to do last season. Zaire would then be free to transfer with no hard feelings and the Irish would move on with Kizer as the starter.

However, should the Irish start Kizer on opening weekend, there is greater chance of instability at the position. Should Kizer falter, Zaire would undoubtedly replace him. Zaire potentially could feel slighted enough to transfer at season’s end if he is not given the job to start the season. This would leave the Irish with a shaky Kizer and an inexperienced Brandon Wimbush to start 2017.

Whatever the decision is, Quinn highlighted the importance of making a decision early in the process. Quinn’s “X-factor” is the fact that Zaire is left-handed and Kizer is right-handed. According to Quinn, “Your entire team has to adjust to a different spin of the football and the fact that the plays are going to be formatted a different way. Teams are going to attack you differently based on the arm of your quarterback.”

Quinn certainly has valid points. One idea that seems to be conventional wisdom is the desire to name a starter sooner rather than later. Zaire seems to be the safe choice, while giving the Irish the most flexibility going forward.

Many will argue that the experience factor gives Kizer an edge. One must consider if that argument matters, given the number of players the Irish are replacing from last year’s team. Neither Zaire nor Kizer gives the offense much as far as chemistry with returning players is concerned. Of the many newcomers, many will come at the wide receiver position. Whoever wins the starting job will need to develop chemistry with a nearly-brand-new group of receivers.

One area of optimism carrying over from last season is the emergence of the running game. Even with the injury to Tarean Folston, the Irish were able to plug in ball-carriers with great success. Folston will return from injury and will split carries with promising sophomore back Josh Adams. The Irish may need to lean on their running game while the passing game develops continuity.

Zaire is the better of the two runners and can add an element to the running game that Kizer cannot. For Brian Kelly, the best decision may be to go with Malik Zaire to start the season.

A True Top 25 of Browns-Steelers Games

Joe “Turkey” Jones. Dave Mays. Chris Jennings. Gerald McNeil. David Grayson. Brian Hoyer. Trent Richardson. Tim Couch.

Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)

Most of the names on this list didn’t amount to very much during their Browns career. But their names are remembered because of the roles they played in victories over the team’s biggest and most bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lost in all the turmoil surrounding this year’s team – the seemingly impending dismissal of coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the quarterback controversy between veteran Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, the possible trade of veteran captain Joe Thomas – is that this is “Steeler Week.” And, with Browns nemesis Ben Roethlisberger’s status for the game doubtful due to a leg injury, this Sunday’s game at Heinz Field suddenly looks to be a winnable one.

The Browns have only won one game at Heinz Field since it was opened in 2001, and it was also the site of one of the Browns’ biggest heartbreaks since the franchise returned in 1999 – their 36-33 come-from-ahead playoff loss to the Steelers in early 2003. And, wins for the Browns over the Steelers, and overall for that matter, have been few and far between since the franchise was reborn in 1999.

But, once upon a time, it wasn’t always like that. From 1950-70, the Browns got off to a 32-9 start in this series, winning the first eight games and 16 of the first 18 games the two teams played against each other. In the 80s, the Browns won seven straight games and went 14-8 over Pittsburgh.

However, thanks to the Steelers’ 26-6 record since 1999 – 34-10 dating back to 1990 – Pittsburgh has taken control in this rivalry.

A Jaded Steeler fan may wonder how someone like me could find 25 winning Browns games against the Steelers. I would like to remind Jaded Steeler Fan that your team only leads the series 66-58, not counting two playoff victories over our beloved Dawgs.

So, in honor of “Steeler Week” and the 127th meeting between the Browns and the Steelers, here are my top 25 games between these two squads in this rivalry. Who knows, maybe what happens Sunday can crack this list.

25. Browns 17, Steelers 9 (Oct. 11, 1992): Before Mike Tomczak ended his career as a long-time Steeler backup quarterback, he spent one year backing up Bernie Kosar with the Browns. And, when Kosar battled injuries in 1992, it was the former Ohio State Buckeye and Chicago Bear who stepped up and filled that void. Under second-year coach Bill Belichick, Tomczak did just enough to lead the Browns past the Steelers at the old Stadium, throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown pass, a 47-yard strike to Michael Jackson midway through the fourth quarter, turned a 10-9 lead into a 17-9 advantage. Kevin Mack added a 1-yard touchdown run  to start that second half, turning a 6-3 halftime deficit into a 10-6 advantage they never relinquished. Pittsburgh wound up going 11-5, while the Browns slumped to 7-9.

24. Browns 15, Steelers 7 (Oct. 3, 1970): Let the record show that the teams’ first showdown as members of the AFC went in Cleveland’s favor. While the Steelers wound wind up being the NFL’s “Team of the 70s,” they began the decade just 5-9. And, rookie Terry Bradshaw’s introduction to Cleveland on this Saturday night at the old Stadium was not a good one. He was sacked for a safety and threw three interceptions, including a pick-six to Erich Barnes that was returned 38 yards in the third quarter that wound up being the final points.

Fellow rookie Mike Phipps relieved an ineffective Don Gault, who went 1-of-16 for 44 yards and two interceptions, and made his NFL debut a winning one. He went 3-for-5 for 86 yards and a touchdown, a 53-yard pass to Reece Morrison. Yep, the Browns just completed four passes against the Steelers and won. Gault never took another NFL snap, but yet is credited with a 1-0 record as an NFL starter. Bradshaw did rush for a touchdown in the loss.

23. Browns 21, Steelers 16 (Nov. 25, 1973): Less than a month before I was born, the Browns handed

Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

the Steelers an ugly loss. With Terry Bradshaw not in the lineup – Joe Gilliam started and Terry Hanratty came on in relief – the Steelers scored the first points of the game and led, 16-14, midway through the fourth quarter. Gilliam found Ron Shanklin for nine yards in the opening drive and then he led three drives that ended in Roy Gerela field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Mike Phipps, who only completed 5 of 17 passes with three interceptions, scored on a one-yard sneak and found Greg Pruitt for a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Browns a 14-10 halftime lead. Pruitt, a rookie, scored the winning touchdown on a 19-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly, who would retire following the season, was held to just 12 yards on 11 carries. Franco Harris, in his second year, was held to 48 yards on 22 carries. The Steelers went 10-4, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Raiders. The Browns went 7-5-2, their last winning season until they went 9-7 in 1979.

22. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Nov. 1, 1964): En route to their final NFL Championship, the Browns rebounded from a 23-7 loss to the Steelers at home by coming into Pitt Stadium and dominating their rivals from pillar to post. The Steelers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score at halftime, but the second half was all Browns. Ernie Green rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, en route to 86 yards on 17 carries, while Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza added two of his three field goals during that 20-7 second half.

Jim Brown gained 149 yards on 23 carries and added five more receptions, while quarterback Frank Ryan completed 15 of 28 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to Clifton McNeil. The Browns defense intercepted Steeler quarterback Ed Brown twice – both by Larry Benz – and held him to just 8 of 23 for 128 yards. The win improved the Browns to 6-1-1, en route to a 11-3-1 finish and a championship.

21. Browns 17, Steelers 7 (Sept. 16, 1985): A new era of Browns football began with this Monday Night Football clash at Cleveland Stadium on the second week of the regular season. With Marty Schottenheimer in his first full-season as the head football coach and veteran Gary Danielson and rookie Bernie Kosar taking over at quarterback, the Browns needed to knock off their hated rivals after dropping a 27-24 overtime loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last week’s season opener. Danielson, making his second start as a Brown, completed 18-of-30 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown and an interception. His 17-yard scoring pass to wideout Fred Banks in the second quarter opened the scoring for both teams, and an 18-yard field goal by Matt Bahr in the third made it a 10-0 Browns lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Mark Malone found John Stallworth for a 6-yard score in the fourth to cut the Browns’ lead to 10-7. But Cleveland put the game away on its ensuing possession with a 21-yard touchdown run by second-year running back Earnest Byner. Byner rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, while rookie Kevin Mack added 40 yards on 12 carries. Both backs would go over 1,000 yards rushing –just the third time in NFL history a pair of running backs would accomplish the feat – and the Browns wound up winning the AFC Central Division with an 8-8 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and winning their first division title since 1980.

20. Browns 19, Steelers 13 (Dec. 26, 1987): Wins at Three Rivers Stadium could never be counted

Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

on, especially since the Browns had just ended a 16-year losing streak the previous season. Yet the Browns needed to win at their perennial house of horrors in the 1987 season finale to clinch their second-straight division title over an 8-6 Steelers team. The Browns jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal from Matt Bahr and a two-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar to backup tight end Derek Tennell, but a 39-yard field goal by Gary Anderson cut that lead to 9-3 at halftime. The Browns got a 30-yard field goal from Bahr to take a 12-3 lead heading into fourth quarter, and the Steelers cut that deficit to six with another Anderson field goal.

However, the Browns put the game away with two-yard touchdown run by Earnest Byner to take a 19-6 lead. Pittsburgh’s Cornell Gowdy made things interesting with a 45-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point game, but the Browns were able to run out the clock and improve to 10-5. Hanford Dixon and linebacker Eddie Johnson each picked off Mark Malone once apiece, while Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome caught six passes for 94 yards to lead the Browns offense. The 10-5 Browns reached the AFC Championship game three weeks later, but lost a heartbreaking 38-33 game to the Denver Broncos when Byner fumbled on the 2 with just over a minute remaining in the game.

19. Browns 27, Steelers 7 (Nov. 20, 1988): The Browns, who had started four different quarterbacks during the season, were sitting at 6-5 with the hapless Steelers coming to town. If the Browns wanted to get back to the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, they needed to take care of business against Pittsburgh. With Bernie Kosar healthy and back under center, the Browns didn’t waste any time showing who the dominant team really was. After opening the scoring with a 32-yard field goal from Matt Bahr, Kosar found backup tight end Derek Tennell for a two-yard scoring pass to take a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Frank Minnifield added to that lead when he blocked a Harry Newsom punt and returned it 11 yards to give the Browns a 17-0 lead that the Steelers cut to 17-7 just before the half.

Kosar, who threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, found Reggie Langhorne for a 77-yard touchdown bomb early in the third quarter to put the game away, and Bahr added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Browns defense sacked Steelers starter Bubby Brister six times, led by rookie Michael Dean Perry’s two, and picked him off twice. Linebacker Eddie Johnson had a sack and an interception, while Minnifield had the other pick to go along with his huge blocked punt. The Browns used this performance to win five of their last six games and finish 10-6, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team. This was also the last time the Browns swept the Steelers in a season series (until this year, perhaps).

18. Browns 23, Steelers 20 (Sept. 17, 2000): The Browns had just stunned the Steelers, 16-15, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999 – one of just two victories for the expansion Browns that season – and had rebounded from a 27-7 thrashing by Jacksonville in the 2000 season opener to defeat the Bengals, 24-7, on the road to take a 1-1 record into Cleveland Browns Stadium and their next meeting with the hated Steelers. The Browns jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two first quarter touchdown passes from Tim Couch to tight end Aaron Shea and fullback Mark Edwards, respectively. But the Steelers, behind former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, rallied to cut that lead to 14-10 at halftime with a field goal and a four-yard scoring run by Richard Huntley. A 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson gave the Browns a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

However, a 10-yard rush by Jerome Bettis gave the Steelers a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth. Instead of rolling over, the young Browns fought back with a pair of fourth-quarter Dawson field goals – the latter from 19-yards out with 2:48 remaining – to take a 23-20 lead. Graham had the Steelers marching into field goal territory on his final two-minute drive. However, with no timeouts, rookie No. 1 overall draft choice Courtney Brown sacked Graham for a four-yard loss with 13 seconds remaining, and the Steelers ran out of time before assembling the field goal team. It’s the last time the Browns have won two straight against the Steelers (hopefully, until this coming Sunday). The Browns couldn’t sustain that 2-1 start, finishing a dismal 3-13. Ironically, of Chris Palmer’s five wins as the Browns’ head coach in two seasons, two of those wins came against the Steelers. That loss dropped the Steelers to 0-3, but they rebounded to finish 9-7 (and missing the playoffs).

17. Browns 33, Steelers 13 (Oct. 5, 2003): This is still the only time the Browns have won at Heinz Field (until this Sunday, hopefully). More importantly, not only was this a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but this was the teams’ first meeting since the Steelers came back from deficits of 24-7 and 33-17 to escape with a 36-33 playoff victory. Tim Couch, playing arguably the best game of his short five-year career, completed 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. William Green gauged the vaunted Steeler defense for 115 yards on 33 carries. Couch’s six-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis and a short Phil Dawson field goal gave the Browns a 10-0 first quarter lead, and a 9-yard scoring pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson made it a 16-3 advantage midway through the second quarter.

Jerome Bettis plunged in from the 1 to cut that lead to 16-10, but Couch capped a 9-play, 78-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime advantage. Daylon McCutcheon’s 75-yard interception return off a Tommy Maddux pass early in the third quarter was the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. The Browns improved to 2-3 with the win (same record as the Steelers). However, they would finish 5-11. It would be Couch’s final year in the NFL. This would also be the Browns’ last win over the Steelers for the next 12 games and six seasons.

16. Browns 45, Steelers 7 (Oct. 29, 1950): The rivalry made its first appearance on the shores of Lake Erie with the 4-2 Browns taking on the 2-4 Steelers. The Browns had beaten Pittsburgh three weeks prior, 30-17 (see No. 15 on this list) in a dominating effort, and actually were more dominant at home. Hall of Famer Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and scored a 69-yard rushing touchdown and a 38-yard receiving touchdown from Otto Graham. Both scores helped the Browns open up a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter, and a 14-yard scoring run by Don Phelps made it a 31-0 lead after three quarters.

After the Steelers scored, the Browns put the game away with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Dub Jones and a 38-yard TD pass from backup Cliff Lewis to Horace Gillom. The Browns defense forced eight turnovers in this romp, and the Cleveland offense outgained Pittsburgh, 533-349. The Browns wound wind up going 10-2 in their first NFL season and won the NFL Championship – their fifth title in their first five years of existence.

15. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Oct. 7, 1950): This was the first-ever meeting between these two storied franchises, and the Browns – in their first year in the National Football League after dominating the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 – quickly showed who the dominant force was.

Played at Pitt Stadium, Hall of Famer Otto Graham rushed for two one-yard touchdowns to give the Browns a 14-3 lead, followed by a Dub Jones 7-yard rush to make it a 21-3 halftime lead. Cleveland put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run by Jones to make it a 30-10 advantage. The defense forced six Steeler turnovers, despite giving up 345 yards of total offense.

14. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Dec. 18, 1983): This was Brian Sipe’s final game in a Cleveland Browns’ uniform, and he went out with a blaze of glory against their hated and bitter rival in this late-season showdown. With the Steelers at 10-5 and already clinched the division title, the 8-7 Browns needed to win just to get a chance at a playoff berth. Sipe completed 14-of-22 passes for 199 yards with four touchdowns

Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

and no interceptions to lead this minor upset. Sipe opened things up with a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Rocky Belk, and added a two-yard scoring toss to backup tight end Harry Holt and a three-yarder to wideout Ricky Feacher to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime lead.

The Sipe-Holt connection put the game away early in the third quarter with a one-yard scoring toss and a 30-10 lead. Belk would only play that season, finishing with five receptions and two touchdowns. Franco Harris, in his final game as a Steeler, would be held to just 56 yards on 20 carries by a Browns defense that picked off quarterbacks Cliff Stoudt and Mark Malone once apiece. Alas, the 9-7 Browns finished second in the AFC Central with the win, but missed out on the playoffs by tiebreakers. It would be the last hurrah of the Kardiac Kid-era Browns — head coach Sam Rutigliano would be fired midway through the 1984 season after a 1-8 start.

13. Browns 10, Steelers 9 (Dec. 19, 1982): This one landed on my ninth birthday (it’s still the last time the Browns have won a game on my birthday). However, a closer look shows just how important this win really was. The Browns, in the strike-shortened season, were just 2-4 heading into this showdown at Cleveland Stadium with Paul McDonald at quarterback replacing an injured Brian Sipe. A loss would have essentially ended their season. However, the defense picked off Terry Bradshaw four times — three of which by rookie Hanford Dixon — and sacked him three times. The Steelers led, 7-3, at halftime on a six-yard TD pass from Bradshaw to John Stallworth.

However, McDonald, who completed 19-of-40 passes for 227 yards, led the Browns on a third-quarter scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Johnny Davis. An intentional safety taken when punter Steve Cox ran out of the end zone in the final seconds made it a one-point game, but it wasn’t enough. The win improved the Browns to 3-4 and led to a 4-5 season. It was good enough for them to make the playoffs under the expanded eight-team format, and this win propelled them to that playoff berth. It was also the last time the Browns beat a Bradshaw-led Steeler team – he retired after just one game in 1983.

12. Browns 20, Steelers 14 (Nov. 25, 2012): Prior to last year’s 31-10 win at home, this had been the most recent victory for the good guys. With the Steelers down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, the Browns defense forced a whopping eight turnovers – three of which occurred in the final three minutes of play. They intercepted three Batch passes, but recovered five fumbles from five different Steeler running backs. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had a batted pass intercepted and returned for a 53-yard touchdown by linebacker Lawrence Timmons on the fourth play from scrimmage, recovered to lead the Browns to 20 points. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron late in the second quarter off of a turnover, but the Steelers led, 14-13, at halftime on a Chris Rainey 1-yard run in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Kicker Phil Dawson connected from 28 and 32 yards out in the first half. But rookie Trent Richardson’s 15-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Browns a 20-14 lead, which was good enough for the long-awaited ‘W.’ Richardson finished with 85 yards on 29 carries, while Weeden (who was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter) threw for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

11. Browns 13, Steelers 6 (Dec. 10, 2009): This one cracks our list because of how out-of-nowhere it really was. The Browns came into this Thursday Night home contest with a 1-11 record, and new coach Eric Mangini was on the hot seat with the rumored hiring of Mike Holmgren as team president earlier that week. However, instead of rolling over to the vaunted Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, they hit them in the mouth.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times – a season-best for the Browns’ beleaguered defense – and held them to just two field goals. Brady Quinn only threw for 90 yards and was offset a lot by receiver Josh Cribbs, who ran for a team-best 87 yards out of the Wildcat formation. But, he led two first quarter scoring drives (both Phil Dawson field goals) and another just before halftime, capped by rookie Chris Jennings’ 10-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0. The game wasn’t over until linebacker David Bowens batted away a fourth-down Roethlisberger pass with just over a minute remaining, and Santonio Holmes was leveled after a short punt return with no time remaining to cap one of the most satisfying Browns victory during the “Expansion Era.”

10. Browns 24, Steelers 19 (Oct. 9, 1965): The Browns came into 1965 as the defending NFL champions (alas, they haven’t been able to do that since then) and picked up right where they left off, winning two of their first three games before hosting the hated Steelers (0-4) on a Saturday night. However, the underdog Steelers hung tough with the vaunted Browns, rallying from a 10-0 first quarter deficit to take a 19-17 fourth quarter lead on a Dick Hoak 15-yard run. Jim Brown (who Cleveland drafted just one pick after the Steelers selected Len Dawson in the first round of the 1957 draft) scored two touchdowns, one receiving, and gained 168 yards on the ground.

However, it was his backup Leroy Kelly (who also wound up in the Hall of Fame), who made the biggest plays of the game-winning drive, which began on their own 22 with 3:35 remaining, catching passes of 22 and 21 yards. Following a four-yard run by Brown to put the ball on the Pittsburgh 14 with less than a minute to go, Frank Ryan found Gary Collins on a post pattern in the end zone for the game-winning score. The Browns wound up going 11-3 and reaching the NFL Championship game for the second-straight year, but lost to the Green Bay Packers in what turned out to be Brown’s final game of his storied career.

9. Browns 16, Steelers 15 (Nov. 14, 1999): After three years without football, the Browns were reborn

Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)
Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)

as an expansion team in 1999, playing in a sparkling new stadium in the exact spot that the old Cleveland Stadium stood. In their first game back, the Browns were humiliated by the Steelers, 43-0, at home. Just a few weeks later, on Nov. 14, the Browns played like a totally different team, keeping themselves in the game. The Browns scored first on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson (both rookies), but the Steelers battled back to take a 15-7 lead on a touchdown and three field goals.

But, with 6:26 left in the game, defensive lineman John Thierry intercepted Kordell Stewart and was brought down at the Steeler 15, setting up a Couch to Mark Edwards touchdown pass a few plays later. Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s two-point conversion run was stopped, but the Browns had one more chance. Taking over with no timeouts at his own 20 with 1:51 remaining, Couch drove the Browns 58 yards in five plays. Without stopping the clock and with 18 seconds left, Chris Palmer ran the field goal team out on to the field. The Browns snapped the ball with two seconds left, and rookie Phil Dawson, into an 18 mph wind, calmly drilled a 40-yard field goal to give Cleveland the stunning upset win. It turned out to be the Browns’ second-to-last visit to Three Rivers Stadium and their first win there since 1989’s 51-0 blowout.

8. Browns 26, Steelers 24 (Nov. 19, 1972): The suddenly resurgent Steelers, after decades of ineptitude, took a 7-2 record into this contest at Cleveland Stadium, with the Browns at 6-3. The Browns jumped out to a 20-3 lead behind two TD passes from Mike Phipps, but the Steelers scored just before halftime to make it 20-10, then got two touchdown runs – the latter a 75-yard run from Franco Harris – to take a 24-23 fourth quarter lead.

Don Cockroft missed a 27-yard field goal with just under two minutes remaining, but he got another chance thanks to the defense forcing a three-and-out and a clutch drive led by Phipps. With 13 seconds remaining, Cockroft earned his redemption with a 26-yard field goal, giving the Browns a much-needed victory. Both teams made the playoffs that season, but both were defeated by the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

7. Browns 27, Steelers 26 (Oct. 16, 1980): This game virtually signaled the death of the first Steeler dynasty and helped propel the “Kardiac Kids” to their first-ever AFC Central crown and first playoff berth since 1972. Despite the Steelers missing most of their regular offensive starters, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead with backup QB Cliff Stoudt, an Oberlin native, at the helm.

But Brian Sipe and Co., despite blowing a couple of golden scoring opportunities earlier in the game, came to life in the fourth quarter. Sipe found Greg Pruitt for a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9:21 remaining (Don Cockroft missed the extra point, keeping the Steelers ahead by six). Then, with 5:38 remaining, Sipe found a streaking Ozzie Newsome wide open for an 18-yard touchdown, sending 80,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium into a frenzy. Ron Bolton prevented Stoudt from making a late rally with an interception at the two-minute warning, and the Browns were able to run out the clock on this huge victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.

6. Browns 31, Steelers 10 (Oct. 12, 2014): What does Brian Hoyer have in common with Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden? They were all starting quarterbacks during the “Expansion Era” who manufactured wins over the hated Steelers. The Browns enter this Sunday’s game on a one-game winning streak over the Steelers thanks to this white-washing – the Browns biggest win over the Steelers since they went to Three Rivers and won, 51-0, in 1989. The Steelers took a 3-0 first quarter lead before Hoyer – a former Pittsburgh backup in 2012 – led three second-quarter touchdown drives to take a 21-3 halftime lead.

The biggest play was a 51-yard bomb to tight end Jordan Cameron with 9:35 left in the quarter, sandwiched between touchdown runs by rookie Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate (who would wind up starting for Pittsburgh in a Wild Card game that year). Tate’s second touchdown of the season, a 1-yard plunge with 12:37 left in the game, made it a 31-3 lead. Hoyer went 8-for-17 for 215 yards and a touchdown, but the running game rolled up 138 yards on 38 carries. Defensively, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, but threw an interception and was thwarted on two fourth-down conversions. It snapped a four-game losing streak to the Steelers and was, arguably, the most satisfying victory for the Browns since 1999.

5. Browns 18, Steelers 16 (Oct. 10, 1976): This game is famous for Browns defensive end Joe “Turkey” Jones’ sack of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, where Jones slammed Bradshaw right on his head and knocked him out of the game. The Steelers had won Super Bowl X the previous season and were poised to try to win it again.

They knocked out Brian Sipe early in the game, which resulted in little-used rookie Dave Mays (the Browns’ third-string QB) making his NFL debut. Mays – who was Cleveland’s first black quarterback – earned his way into Browns lore by calmly leading the Browns to two third-quarter scores – a 1-yard run by Cleo Miller and a 50-yard field goal by Don Cockroft – which gave them a 15-10 lead. Following Turkey’s sack, Cockroft added the game-clinching 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining.

4. Browns 27, Steelers 24 (Oct. 5, 1986): Since Three Rivers Stadium opened up in 1970, the Browns had never won there. They would always seem to lose in bizarre fashion as well, which perpetuated the local myth of the “Three Rivers Jinx.” The previous season, the Browns had the Steelers on the ropes before Gary Anderson’s last-second field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 win. The Browns tried everything; staying in different hotels, busing instead of flying, bringing dirt from Cleveland Stadium and sprinkling it on the field during warm-ups, you name it. And, this one wasn’t without its bizarre moments as well.

The Browns took a quick 10-0 lead, but back-to-back turnovers gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 lead late in the first half. That’s when Gerald McNeil, nicknamed “The Ice Cube,” became a permanent fixture in Browns lore when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 17-14 halftime lead. At the time, it was the Browns’ first kickoff return touchdown in 12 years! However, the Steelers regained the lead early in the third quarter, and the two teams traded scores which resulted in Pittsburgh leading, 24-20, to start the fourth quarter. But, Mike Johnson recovered a muffed punt, and Earnest Byner’s four-yard TD run with eight minutes left gave the Browns the lead for good. It got interesting though – Matt Bahr missed a chip-shot field goal with just under five minutes to play, but Mark Malone’s pitch to Earnest Jackson on a bizarre option call from the Browns 35 was botched and the Browns recovered.

3. Browns 37, Steelers 31 OT (Nov. 23, 1986): The Browns had just ended their 16-year “Three Rivers Jinx” earlier in the season (see No. 4) and had come off a huge win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night at home. Bernie Kosar and Mark Malone engaged in a wild shootout. Kosar completed 28 of 46 passes for a then-career-best 414 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, just two days before his 23rd birthday. The Browns had taken a 31-28 lead with 1:51 left on a Matt Bahr field goal, but lost Bahr for the season on the ensuing kickoff when he made a game-saving tackle on the Steelers’ Lupe Sanchez at the Browns 40.

Gary Anderson made a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, and the Browns did not have a healthy kicker. After both teams went three-and-out in the OT, Kosar went to work. With 6:37 remaining and the ball on the Steeler 36, Kosar pumped once and fired deep down the left sideline for rookie Webster Slaughter. Slaughter caught the ball in stride and scored the walk-off touchdown. The Browns’ 536 yards offense was the most a Pittsburgh defense had ever yielded up to that point.

2. Browns 51, Steelers 0 (Sept. 10, 1989): The Browns were in the midst of a five-season playoff streak, where they qualified for the AFC Championship game three times in a four-year span. This season

Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

capped off both streaks and began with question marks concerning new head coach Bud Carson. Carson, who was the architect of the famed Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s, had never been a head coach before. But, in this season opener at Three Rivers Stadium, Carson’s attack 4-3 defense stunned Bubby Brister and the Steelers by forcing six turnovers and scoring three defensive touchdowns – two of which by linebacker David Grayson and the other by veteran Clay Matthews.

Rookie running back Tim Worley fumbled the ball at least four times, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. This rout catapulted the Browns to a 9-6-1 season and their last AFC Championship game berth. The Steelers rebounded to finish 9-7 and came within a point of meeting the Browns in that AFC Title game.

1. Browns 28, Steelers 23 (Oct. 24, 1993): Just two weeks after this game, Bill Belichick and Art Modell touched off mass furor when they released regional icon Bernie Kosar. However, all was right in the world with this game, simply remembered as the ”Eric Metcalf Game.” The Browns jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to a 62-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Jackson and a 91-yard punt return by Metcalf, but the Steelers tied at 14 just before halftime. The Browns led again, 21-17, on a short TD pass from Testaverde to fullback Ron Wolfley, but the Steelers came back to take a 23-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

With Testaverde knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder, Kosar was poised to direct one his patented two-minute drives. However, Metcalf never gave him the chance, weaving through the Steeler special teams for a breathtaking 75-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining. Metcalf became just the first NFL player to have two punt return TDs in the same game. Stevon Moore clinched the win by recovering a fumble with less than a minute remaining, but everyone remembers the Metcalf return as the winning play. The win improved the Browns to 5-2, but Kosar’s release deflated this team that wound up a disappointing 7-9. It was also the last time the original Browns beat the Steelers. The Steelers wound up 9-7 and reached the playoffs.

Here we go, Brownies, here we go!

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

Excruciating Losses Continue To Haunt The Browns

One thing about the Cleveland Browns – since they’ve returned in 1999, they’ve found more inventive and heart-breaking ways to lose games than any other NFL team.

 Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Last Sunday’s last-second 30-27 loss by the Browns to the San Diego Chargers was the latest in a long line of “Only In Cleveland” improbable losses.

After the Browns tied the game with 2:09 remaining on a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge and subsequent two-point conversion pass from McCown to Taylor Gabriel, the Chargers – missing three starting offensive linemen and with just two healthy wide receivers – drove down to the Browns 21 in eight plays, going 57 yards. Rookie kicker Josh Lambo lined up for a game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left and kicked it wide right. However, the Browns’ Tramon Williams jumped offside, giving Lambo and the Chargers one last chance five yards closer.

This time, and with no time on the clock, Lambo delivered from 34 yards out, giving San Diego an improbable win that dropped the Browns to 1-3.

Andrew Clayman from the site Waiting For Next Year compiled a list of all 41 instances in which the Browns had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the final minute since the franchise returned in 1999. Whatever you do, avoid being around sharp objects or listening to songs from The Cure while reading this article (http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/09/heres-every-last-minute-browns-loss-since-1999) because chances are good you may feel suicidal when you are done.

What I’ve decided to do is take that list of 41 and whittle it down to the 10 most memorable (or most heartbreaking) of those last-second losses. The more unique the circumstance, the better chance it got on the list. I did not include the Browns’ 36-33 loss in the 2002 playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers because I wanted to limit it to regular season games (and, also, because that game is still a sore subject).

Because it’s so new, I did not include Sunday’s loss in this list. Instead, and because I feel like torturing myself and you, I found 10 others. Enjoy.

10. Dec. 2, 2007: Cardinals 27, Browns 21 – Nowadays, there is no such thing as a force out – defenders can shove a receiver out of bounds on a catch and, as long as his feet don’t touch inbounds, it’s considered an incomplete pass. But back in 2007, defenders weren’t allowed to do this maneuver. This came into question on the last play of this late-season game in Glendale. Derek Anderson, who threw for 304 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, took over at his own 18 with 1:48 remaining and began to put together a nice drive. The Browns drove to the Arizona 37 with 22 seconds left, but Anderson threw three straight incomplete passes. On fourth-and-10 with six seconds left, Anderson found tight end Kellen Winslow in the left corner of the end zone, but Winslow was shoved out of bounds before he could get his feet in. The play was not overturned by a replay review, and, in a season in which the Browns just missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record, this loss loomed large.

9. Nov. 14, 2010: Jets 26, Browns 20 (OT) – The Browns were surging under rookie quarterback Colt McCoy after he engineered two shocking upsets over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Playing with confidence in a charged up stadium that booed the returning Braylon Edwards every time a pass was thrown his way, the Browns forced overtime when McCoy found Mohamed Massaquoi for a 3-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. In overtime, a Chansi Stuckey fumble at the Jets 30 after a long completion prevented the Browns from attempting a potential game-winning field goal. And, an interception by rookie Joe Haden at the 3 with 1:35 left appeared to seal a tie game. But, in typical Browns fashion, they wound up punting the ball back to the Jets, who took over at their own 37 with no timeouts and 24 seconds left. On the first play, Sanchez found Ohio State product Santonio Holmes, who broke an Eric Wright tackle and ran into the end zone for a walkoff touchdown. The Browns wound up going 5-11 and Mangini was fired.

8. Sept. 23, 2007: Raiders 26, Browns 24 – Another narrow loss in the 2007 season that loomed large because the Browns came up an eyelash short of a playoff berth. The Raiders, quarterbacked by Josh McCown – yes, THAT Josh McCown – jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead before Anderson and the Browns came battling back. A 21-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in the third quarter gave the Browns a 17-16 lead, and a 1-yard sneak from Anderson with 3:33 left cut the deficit to 26-24. Getting the ball back at their own 9 with no timeouts and 1:04 left, Anderson drove the Browns into field goal range on a 13-yard completion to Joe Jurevicius with 3 seconds left. As Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal, rookie head coach Lane Kiffin called timeout just before the ball was snapped. Having to re-do it, Dawson’s second attempt was blocked by Oakland’s Tommy Kelly.

7. Sept. 29, 2002: Steelers 16, Browns 13 (OT) – The Browns went 0-3 against the Steelers in this playoff season, with all three losses coming by three points apiece. Other than the playoff defeat, this one was probably the most bizarre. At Heinz Field, Tommy Maddux relieved an ineffective Kordell Stewart in the fourth quarter and found Plaxico Burress for a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining to send the game into overtime. After Andra Davis intercepted Maddux on the first play of overtime at the Steelers 34, Dawson missed a game-winning 45-yard field goal. Given new life, Maddux and the Steelers drove inside the Browns’ 10-yard line. Pittsburgh elected to try to kick a game-winning 24-yard field goal on second down – remember that, folks. However, Todd Peterson’s kick was blocked by Alvin McKinley. Peterson recovered the kick, and his fumble was pounced on by Steelers lineman John Fiala. Because the kick did not cross the line of scrimmage, and because the kick didn’t occur on fourth down, the Steelers got another chance. This time, Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the bad guys the win.

Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

6. Oct. 10, 1999: Bengals 18, Browns 17 – In the 1999 NFL Draft, the two quarterbacks the Browns were torn over for the first pick were Tim Couch out of Kentucky and Akili Smith out of Oregon. Both QBs were photographed together wearing Browns jerseys with John “Big Dawg” Thompson for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Couch wound up being the pick and Smith wound up being taken third-overall by the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Both quarterbacks didn’t amount to much in the NFL, but Smith’s career was more miserable than Couch’s. However, for one afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Smith showed up Couch and the Browns’ braintrust who passed on him. On a day when rookie kicker Dawson scored the first – and only – rushing touchdown of his career, and the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Browns, the young hosts clung to a 17-12 lead late in the game. Smith took over at his own 20 with two timeouts and 2:04 remaining and drove his team down to the Browns’ 2 thanks to a 9-yard pass to Darnay Scott on fourth down and a pass interference penalty on Corey Fuller at the 2. On third down and with nine seconds on the clock, Smith found Carl Pickens on a fade route to rob the expansion Browns of their first win of the season. Smith only finished with five TD passes in his career and only won three games in four years, adding insult in injury.

5. Dec. 8, 2013: Patriots 27, Browns 26 – The Browns really had no business being in this game. But, thanks to receiver Josh Gordon’s 151 receiving yards and quarterback Jason Campbell – who wasn’t cleared to start until two days prior to kickoff – and his 391 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, Cleveland led throughout and took a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left on a four-yard pass from Campbell to tight end Jordan Cameron. At that point, the Patriots’ win probability was 0.1 percent. But that doesn’t factor in the team they were playing. Tom Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 remaining to cut the deficit to 26-21. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jordan Poyer on the touchdown allowed the Patriots to kickoff 15 yards closer than normal. Then, Fozzy Whitaker fumbled the ensuing onside kick, which was recovered by kicker Stephen Gostkowski at the Cleveland 30. A pass interference penalty on rookie Leon McFadden in the end zone put the ball on the 1, where Brady found Danny Amendola for what turned out to be the improbable game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. Amazingly, the Browns had a chance to win on the last play of the game. But Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal fell just short.

4. Nov. 4, 2001: Bears 27, Browns 21 (OT) – After winning just five games in the two previous years, the Browns were 4-2 under first-year coach Butch Davis heading into this showdown at Soldier Field. And, a 25-yard fumble recovery by former No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown just 55 seconds into the game gave the Browns an early 7-0 lead. A 55-yard touchdown pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson late in the third quarter gave the Browns a 21-7 lead, and, with less than a minute remaining, that lead appeared to be safe. But that’s when things got really weird. Bears quarterback Shane Matthews, the regular backup, found Marty Booker on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left to cut the deficit to 21-14. Then, Chicago recovered an onside kick at the Browns 47. After two short completions, Matthews flung a Hail Mary pass that was tipped in the air and caught in the back of the end zone by running back James Allen for a stunning 34-yard touchdown with no time remaining. Then, before anyone realized what was truly happening, the game was over. After the Browns stopped the Bears in overtime, a Couch pass on their third offensive play was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Mike Brown, who returned the gift 23 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

3.  Nov. 22, 2009: Lions 38, Browns 37 – Former first-round pick Brady Quinn had, by far, his best game as a pro on this afternoon at Ford Field, throwing for 304 yards with four touchdowns. It was a shootout with rookie top-overall pick Matthew Stafford, who wound up throwing for 422 yards and five touchdowns. The Browns blew a 24-3 first-quarter lead, but a two-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Michael Gaines – and a two-point conversion from Jamal Lewis – gave Cleveland a 37-31 lead with five minutes remaining. A Brodney Pool interception in the end zone with 3:40 remaining appeared to be enough to get the Browns just their second win of the season, and, when Detroit got the ball back, it had to drive 88 yards in 1:46 without any timeouts. With eight seconds left and the ball on the Cleveland 32, Stafford threw a Hail Mary into the end zone that was picked off by Pool with no time on the clock. However, officials flagged Hank Poteat for pass interference – officials rarely flag defenders for interference on a jump ball, but they did on this day. Because coach Eric Mangini called a timeout, Stafford – who separated his shoulder on the throw – was able to reenter the game and find Brandon Pettigrew for the game-winning touchdown. Typical Browns.

2. Sept. 8, 2002: Chiefs 40, Browns 39 – Browns backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb, starting for an injured Couch, burst on the scene with a 329-yard, three-touchdown performance in the season opener. Holcomb completed 27-of-39 passes in his first start as a Brown, and the Browns threw four touchdown passes in the game (one from receiver Kevin Johnson). A 41-yard field goal from Dawson with 29 seconds remaining appeared to give the Browns a wild 39-37 win. However, as Trent Green tried to throw a Hail Mary pass with no time remaining, linebacker Dwayne Rudd got to him and appeared to sack him. Green was able to pitch the ball to lineman John Tait just before he went down, but that didn’t stop Rudd from running to midfield and flinging his helmet off in celebration. In the meantime, the 320-pound Tait was rumbling down the sideline, and the officials flagged Rudd for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet on the field of play. That gave the Chiefs one last play with no time remaining, and veteran Morten Andersen made a 30-yard field goal to give the visitors an improbable win. Rudd will always be remembered in Cleveland for this boneheaded maneuver.

1. Dec. 16, 2001: Jaguars 15, Browns 10 – This game will forever be known simply as “Bottlegate.”

Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Trailing by five with under a minute to go, Couch drove the Browns deep into Jacksonville territory. Believe it not, the 6-6 Browns still had a chance to make the playoffs, but needed a win. On fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 10, Couch connected with Quincy Morgan for three yards and a first down. After Couch spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down, referee Terry McAuley decided to have another look at the Morgan catch – which is forbidden by NFL rules. When McAuley decided to reverse the catch, giving Jacksonville possession with no timeouts remaining, confused and angry Browns fans decided to let the refs know they weren’t happy by throwing whatever they had available onto the playing field. That was mostly hundreds of plastic beer bottles that were, at the time, served at the games. McAuley further broke more NFL rules by deciding to call the game with 48 seconds remaining, but was forced to return to the field, along with both teams, to run two more plays 30 minutes after the game was initially called. The riot from fans makes this one more memorable, but overshadows the fact that McAuley and his officials broke an NFL rule. The Browns wound up finishing 7-9. It’s still the only time that play has been reviewed after another play had already been run.

As you can see, the Browns found 10 very inventive ways to lose a game in this list. It’s not uncommon for a franchise to fall victim to one of these types of losses. Maybe two or three. But 10? And when you realize this is only the tip of the 41 last-second loss iceberg, it only gets more nauseating. I don’t know what forces are at work when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, but I think they’ve made their point by now, don’t you?

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

BCS In Review: The Bush Push And I

bushpush
Every sports fan has a small, exclusive aisle of “those games” in the mental library; comprised of the short-listed contests we hold near and dear to our heart regardless of outcome.
Some bring memories of joy and happiness, while others we dare not speak of (unless beer and pub-talk have given us no other choice) invoke feelings of anger and frustration that force sounds out of our mouths only Lou Holtz could effortlessly imitate.
By now you should know when I refer to “those games” I’m speaking of the ‘I remember the exact time, date, and location of where I watched” games. From there we can expound even further by detailing sounds of other spectators, the smell of the bar, and even where the grass stains on a player’s pants were located. And, if you’re an arrogant, annoying, and biased Chicago fan like me– you spare no expense in telling your friends no less than twelve times about how much you loved, hated, and in some cases both hated AND loved anything related to your teams, and “those games”.
Here, I’m going to talk about one of my games, if not THE game for me; and what it would mean for my life as a sports fan forever.
The date was October 15, 2005. I was 14 and working as a busser at Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery in a southern suburb of Chicago called, wait for it… the Village of Flossmoor.
It was a busy night, especially in the bar, so lucky for me I got to spend most of my time bussing pub tables and refreshing water glasses with TV’s all around me. It was a packed house because all of Cook County it seemed was out to watch the annual Notre Dame-USC rivalry game.
The match-up was pegged by ESPN as the “Game of the Century”. USC would come into the game as defending national champions riding a 27 game win streak. Notre Dame, conversely, despite a national ranking of 9th having won four straight road games, was on a three game home losing streak and had lost three straight contests to USC by at least 31 points. The pre-game pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium featured speeches by Joe Montana, Tim Brown, and Master of Ceremonies—Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger.
Needless to say, one of the clearest things I remember of that night is the noise. Everyone was waiting in angst to see The Irish take back the Jeweled Shillelagh.
Touchdown Jesus was watching.
The other is that everyone was so busy they didn’t notice the spectating schedule I had set for myself which was; for every ten minutes I worked– I watched for one, uninterrupted. It seemed as though all the employees were doing the same thing on a slightly different schedule, as for the customers their fixated eyes were taking care of their generally impatient nature.
However, despite my efforts to miss nothing, at times I would have to turn my back only to hear a loud unified “OHHH”, “AWE”, “WHAT?!” or some variation of exclamation (I was at work after all). And, just to give this oral history an accurate justice, go ahead and add a four letter word of your choice before and/or after any of those examples.
And so as I remember it:
A back and forth first quarter gave Irish fans hope this would actually be a rivalry game rather than a rout, the Trojans led 14-7.
In the second Brady Quinn capped off a 72 yard drive with a touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija to tie the game at 14. The place blew up.
Forcing USC to punt on their next possession, Irish safety Tom Zbikowsi took that punt 59 yards to the house to put Notre Dame ahead 21-14. “Bartender, get us another round! The Irish are here to stay and so are we.”
Matt Leinart seemed to have had enough and was trying his damnedest to reverse momentum, leading USC 69 yards down the field on the following possession. That drive was capped off by a pick in the end-zone. Drive over. Game over? An overly optimistic Irish fan would certainly say so, and plenty were. As for me, I had been wiping the same table for about 6 minutes. Score, 21-14 Irish at half.
The Irish still had the momentum to start the second half, intercepting Leinart for a second time. The place was electric. Employees and patrons alike were all smiles and cheers. Highfives and Rudy references for everybody! However, the Trojan-D stepped up and forced a punt. This is when Bush finally decided to show up, with a 20-yard return and a subsequent 45-yard touchdown run. But, neither team would score for the rest of the quarter. Here comes the fourth, tie game.
The fourth quarter came just as advertised with all the hoopla and hype that came before the game. There were fumbles, missed field goals, another Reggie touchdown run, and after a clutch 5-yard touchdown run by Brady Quinn the Irish were leading 31-28 with just over two minutes remaining. All we had to do now was hold on and stop the herculean tandem of Leinart and Bush, simple task right? I’m sure the boys in green and gold could feel the pressure of one million tensed up white knuckles. Everyone could tell they wanted this one BAD.
Montana, was watching.
Tim Brown, was watching.
For the love of all things Irish, RUDY WAS WATCHING! Seated under Touchdown Jesus, who was also, you know…
You wanted to be silent but it was too late. What starts loud in Chicago, ends loud in Chicago. It is our nature. We are never quiet, and rarely humble.
What came next was one of those rare moments in sports that defines you, never leaves you, and forces one (despite their nature) to be silenced.
Matt Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds with seven seconds remaining. The clock continued to run down to zero and the students rushed the field. The referees righted the wrong hurried the students back to their seats and gave Leinart the ball with the correct seven seconds remaining. We thought we had it, and it was at this moment I got that tickle, standing in front of a TV in the bar with seven seconds left on the clock with nothing in my hands and no intention of moving, I knew something was about to happen.
Everyone knows what happened next, so I’ll go ahead and spare you the regurgitation (myself the pain) and just type the call as it was heard when all of ND Nation fell silent.
“USC will get one more play. Leinart gonna try to sneak it ahead. Did he get it?…..TOUCHDOWN SC!”
Actually, I don’t mind anymore. Here it is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62P8_Ik7NlE
I walked away from my 10:1 schedule spot immediately after the push, with no words. I turned around to a collective mosaic of faces in palms and calm before chaos. The rare silence was awkward and infuriating. This was supposed to be a night of celebration. And so brief as it was, there was silence before the bashing.
Despite the outcome, this was the moment I became a true Notre Dame fan. Sure, I had always been a “fan”. But my investment was never really my own, so to speak. I was a fan by geographical osmosis.
I had three logical choices. There was Northwestern, University of Illinois, or Notre Dame. I grew up with family and friends loving the Irish, reliving the glory days of the “horsemen” and growing up during Lou Holtz’s successful reign. But, I was young and knew nothing more. I lived through years of mediocrity in the late nineties and 2000’s rooting and cheering with little excitement or expectation. So when I was coming into my own as a man and growing in literally every way humanly possible it was only fitting that I witnessed this game as a newly minted high school freshman.
At the time I didn’t quite know what was happening to me but still somehow appreciated the mysterious enormity of the moment. High school if nothing else is a very curious and adventurous time of self-discovery. And at that moment, disappointed as I was, I fell in love with the way the Irish battled and thrust themselves back into the national spotlight right before my eyes.
In Charlie Weis’ first season Notre Dame would remain at #9 despite the loss to USC, and win the rest of their games. They earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl where they would eventually lose to a damn good Ohio State team, a disappointing end to a promising year.
But, what if Notre Dame won that game? What if, they stopped the Bush Push, it was ruled illegal, or if they just made a 34 yard missed field goal that would have put it out of reach? Now, considering USC entered the season heavy favorites to repeat as national champions, the hype surrounding that game, and assuming they still swept their remaining schedule; is it reasonable to assume Notre Dame would have been chosen to play Texas for the National Championship?
And, if that happened (even though Weis experienced all of his success with Tyrone Willingham’s recruits) would Charlie have been given the benefit of the doubt when it came to firing time? If they went to the Rose Bowl that year, win or lose, would he have been able to get some 5-star recruits that otherwise passed on him, allowing him build a program of his own?
Okay, probably not.
After all, having been given all the opportunity in the world Big Chuck has time and again proven himself to be a pretty average head coach at best. But, I think the big boys at Notre Dame may have given a little more thought before throwing him $19 million to just go away and die.
In sports don’t we all love a good “what-if”?
And of course all of those wins, Reggie’s Heisman, the National Championship from the previous year; everything would be vacated.
That push kept my team from an opportunity to play for the crystal ball. That push from the kid that (according to NCAA rules) shouldn’t have been playing, cost my team a win against the team we have circled on the schedule every year. And, for years crushed us.
That push silenced Chicagoland.
But, that push made me a fan.
Am I bitter? Hell no. Poetic justice was served and now we have a nice little win streak of our own going against the University of Spoiled Children as my Dad likes to call them.
History is cyclical and therefore success comes in waves. Brian Kelly has a nice thing going and I expect Notre Dame to make me proud for years to come. Sanctions brought the Trojans back down to Earth to mingle with the mortals and the Jeweled Shillelagh back to us. But, I can’t help but feel that success is just as tainted as Pete Carroll’s Trojans. I want to see Notre Dame beat USC at full strength with no strings attached. I want a real rivalry between powerhouse teams that beat the hell out of each other.
I want battered, bruised and broken with pride win or lose. We are arguably the two most successful and storied college football programs in the land. And the Bush Push game was the only time I really got to see it as it should be. It was the day I was convinced I would be a fan for the long haul.
Despite all the failures and controversy that will be forever linked to the BCS era, I am still thankful it brought me that game.
My game.

Dear December 28th…

This morning, I woke up and decided to be skeptical.  I wanted to stick all of my optimism about the Browns, or anything Cleveland, back under the pillow and take everything the outsiders tell me at face value.  You see, I’m not allowed to feel good about anything, not when it comes to these Browns.  When fate doesn’t intervene, we need to draw pessimistic vibes from places they don’t necessarily exist.

I have decided to reach out to a place that doesn’t yet exist, the end of the 2014 regular season, because let’s face it, it would be foolish to consider the end of this particular road extending itself into 2015, or even a minute beyond the final gun on December 28th in Baltimore.

It wouldn’t exactly come with the nostalgia of Doc Brown’s letter to Marty that sat at a Western Union office for 70 years, but it might be fun to get Shooter McGavin’s cronie to come knocking on my door at, say, 4:07 PM on that 28th day of December with the following.  Hell, if he’s buying, I’d probably actually be game for some Sizzler, as the melancholy good-bye to my team for another off-season wrestles with the emotional relief that it’s once again over for another eight months.

Dear Jeff (on December 28th),

If my calculations are correct, you just watched the conclusion of yet another chapter in the annals of the Expansion Cleveland Browns, one that left fans feeling unfulfilled once again, for whatever reason.  I’d also say it’s highly likely that some once-believed bizzarre scenario is playing itself out, setting the stage for the Ravens or Steelers to back themselves into the playoffs.  They both missed last year, but it took a Chiefs team losing a game that was meaningless to them on a missed field goal  that came with its share of controversy.

Isn’t it awful how the spite has consumed us?  Is it really all we have left, because this organization has been lacking in the department of making us proud for so long?  I caught myself doing it during the draft, childishly hoping that every player that’s going to earn their pay in Western PA ends up being a bust.  Those jokers have played in as many playoff games as the Browns the past two season, and fell victim to a Tebow-aided one-and-done cameo the year before that; that would be something to celebrate if they weren’t still light years ahead of the Browns.

For a while, it seemed like the Browns were stuck in the starting blocks, but the agony has reached a point where I’m pretty sure they stopped being invited to the race.  It’s this damn draft, the actual root of Cleveland Sports Misery, because in the NFL’s case, it’s a Browns fan’s excuse to party and be overly optimistic, but in reality it’s why the teams we love are so terrible, always and forever.

Still, I have a hard time convincing myself; this is different from the year they took Brady Quinn or Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick, just because it is.  Ray Farmer is a different type of talent evaluator, so he’s done his diligence to alleviate our concerns that Johnny Football is Colt 2.0.  We have to believe that Joel Bitonio isn’t another attempt to do what the previous regime was trying to do with Mitchell Schwartz on the right side fo the offensive line, though we should really be hoping for better results above all else.

Then, there’s the never-ending saga of Josh Gordon’s urine and the circumstances that made said pee a little less than pristine…allegedly.  You obviously know more than I do, whether he played 16 games, 8, or 0.  I am thinking he played as many snaps as I did this season, but can’t really make anything of rumors until we actually hear something official.  Rumors became truth for the elite receiver last spring, and for Joe Haden at the start of the 2012 season.

Those truths equaled six games worth of lost checks for Cleveland’s versions of star players, which ultimately equaled a loss on all six occasions.  For Haden, a clean track record since dictates isolated incident, and there’s $45 million in guaranteed money that proclaims he’s worthy of trust, both from the fans and his bosses in Berea.  Gordon, on the other hand, might never wear the orange helmet again.

The defense is supposed to be better, but are they healthy?  Are they staying out of the law’s way?  Are there discussions about whether Paul Kruger is a bigger bust as a 2013 Free Agent than Barkevius Mingo was as the #6 overall pick in the 2013 draft?  Has Justin Gilbert played well enough to have kept Buster Skrine on the slot receiver, and not in over his head in a place he’s not physically built to play?  Look, the potential of Karlos Dansby and rookie Christian Kirksey as a tandem at inside linebacker intrigues me, but there’s a very real possibility it’s a marriage made in Hell.

I’m curious about so many things, and that’s why I watch, though 5.5 seems to be easy money if anyone will still take your action on the under, if we’re talking about total wins.  I’m anxious to see how well Brian Hoyer plays, coming back from the ACL in jury.  I’m also curious if it’s going to matter, with all of #2 jerseys in the crowd and a fan-base that’s going to insist (as if they have that authority) on seeing Mr. Excitement–pardon me, Mr. Football–play right away.  When will we see him?  Remember, it was an essentially meaningless Week 17 game against the 49ers in 2007 that we first saw Brady Quinn take the field, despite similar pleas to then-head coach Romeo Crennel.

I’m more interested in how empty I’m going to feel at that moment, the one where the season ends and I’m taking it much worse than my father and my wife.  They approach me with more caution when I’m more likely to reach my boiling point; to their credit, they do a pretty good measuring that sort of thing.  Seriously though, it’s probably a good way to tell how many games they’ve won.  If it’s six, I’m not doing back-flips or thinking Super Bowl for the next year, but maybe I can smile for a few minutes and just take in the best season they’ve offered us in seven years.

Did they win the opener, for just the second time in sixteen years, and the first time on the road in their expansion history?  That gets them part of the way to a place I’ve been hoping they can get to eventually, a place where they beat every division opponent at least once; it’s something they’ve never been able to do in their expansion history.

I don’t want to assume they dropped the opener in Pittsburgh, but I can easily see that coming.  I just don’t need that feeling of emptiness to hit me that soon, but what I need and what the NFL offers me are two entirely different things.  Someday, they’ll avoid being swept by one of the division rivals, but between the Steelers and Bengals, one of them will take both games against Cleveland.

Working with only the limited information I currently have, I don’t have any reason to be thrilled with anything Browns-related right now.  On May 15th, I have to seriously entertain the possiblity that Earl Bennett might be the best option Hoyer and Manziel have to throw to in 2014.  I have keep the possibility of a Jimmy Haslam indictment being a major distraction, and give weight to the idea that Mike Pettine is no more qualified to be a head coach in this league than Pat Shurmur.  

I really hope I’m wrong.  I hope someone throws this in my face as we’re getting ready to watch the playoffs.  If it’s printed out on tasty paper stock, I might even volunteer to eat this rubbish, but history is certainly on the side of these words staying out of my stomach.

I suppose I’ve been rambling on, when everything I’ve said could have been addressed with a single question.  The win total, will it be 5 or 6?

Regards,

Jeff Rich (May 15th, 2014)

There are some things to consider, mostly the schedule, in trying to figure out where the wins are going to come.  They should be good enough to beat Baltimore at least once, and I think they get at least one of the other four in the division, so if they need four or five wins to come from the other ten games, where are those games?

I mean, they couldn’t lose to Jacksonville two years in a row, even with the game at Jacksonville, right?  You never actually know, but you have to imagine an improved team, as the Browns allegedly are, not being expected to win that one.  Oakland and Tampa Bay at home both sound promising, but there are factors at play, like how quickly Lovie Smith can turn things around on Florida’s west coast.

Houston and their new tandem of Jadaveon Clowney and JJ Watt come to town, and we don’t know what their quarterback plan is just yet.  Atlanta and Buffalo both host the Browns in late-November, and each will feature an offense with a playmaker at receiver, they have these play-makers because the Browns traded away Top 10 picks to enable these 2014 opponents to select them.  This point becomes more relevant when you consider what the Browns have put out there in recent years and what they think they’re putting out there in 2014, given how Plan A is really up in the air right now.

It’s easy to be skeptical about this, about them, but it ends up being so much more fun to believe.  To think that, maybe just once, everything could bounce the right way for us, for our teams, is a better approach to all of this.  To think of how little it has mattered whether or not players have done the right thing, it makes it a little easier to keep a clean conscious while I sincerely hope Gordon beats the system, even if it comes across slimy, like I think a lot of people see Ryan Braun’s victory by technicality.  Once could look at the cases of Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger and easily laugh off dirty urine.

However, I’m not laughing at anything, with it being so hard to muster up joy for such an act in this context; it’s the real world, where we wait for the of the season to know if we were watching a 4-12 or 5-11 team.  What’s the difference?

Rivalry Week: The Big Game

Stanford v Cal has been one of the longest rivalries in college football history.

In my junior year of high school, I really became immersed in college football. My weeks were so busy, that on my Saturdays (where I didn’t have dance practice) I wanted to be able to relax, so I spent as much time as I could, watching whatever I games I could. A lot of the games consisted of Notre Dame (Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija duo) and Stanford (Toby Gearhart powerhouse).

Watching Stanford was not how it is now. They were not a football school at all. There was practically no one at their games, and their record was a joke. They were the team known for their academics, not what they did on the field.

Even though they weren’t the best, it was still a lot of fun to watch the Big Game. I never really had a “hatred” for Cal. I was never one of those fans that would really wish something bad to happen, if Cal won. Of course I wanted Stanford win, to show that they were The Bay Area team, but I never had a rivalry with a friend or anything, about these teams.

I just never really paid attention to Cal, essentially. Stanford only played them once a year, for what seemed just to be a Bay Area rivalry game. It never seemed like a big rivalry to me, growing up. Then, over the past few years, as Stanford has gotten better and made themselves a contender in the football world, I would say the rivalry has grown. I think the rivalry has gained some resurgence, now that Stanford has a new stadium that they built following the 2005 season. The competition between the schools and the players is also a fun one.

Stanford has won the past three meetings between these teams. The Cardinal hold the “Axe.” It is an axe hammered to wood, where it has the outcome engraved of the games previously played between these schools. This year, the Cardinal are looking to not only keep the Axe at Stanford, but are also looking for their fourth straight win.

For senior Tyler Gaffney, this game is even bigger for him. After playing a year in the minor leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and deciding it wasn’t for him, he decided to return to Stanford for his fifth year and play football. Gaffney had previously played both sports while attending, but then when the opportunity came to play in the minors he decided to give it a try.
Since he came back to play this year he has been the real offensive spark, leading the Cardinal in rushing. He has been unstoppable and is one of the best players on their offense. Watching him play is absolutely fun to watch. He makes a routine play that will usually only get a player a few yards, and turns into a first down.

Losing to USC last week is not going to go over well with the Cardinal. This game is going to hold a lot more meaning for them because they are going to want to 1, Beat Cal and 2, just win because they don’t want to lose two in a row, especially since they have two losses on the season.

Stanford has a very strong defensive team this year. With fifth year seniors Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Josh Mauro, along with senior A.J. Tarpley, their defense has been a “party in the backfield.” It’s term coined by the defensive lineman, because of how unstoppable they have become against their opponents. They have been able to stop some of the Pac12’s biggest competitors and the biggest teams.

This year, Stanford’s offense has been a little inconsistent. There will be games where their offense will be able to run all over an opponent, and then the next week they will be playing a team that isn’t a ranked team, and just tank against them. They lost to both Utah and USC this year. Both losses could have been avoided, but losses happen.

I think their offense is relying on Gaffney and Montgomery too much. They are great players, who have been making great plays and being the key to the Cardinal offense. The only concern I have about only them two being the only offensive sparks, is that it doesn’t give the opponent an easy way to know what plays they’re going to run.

With this being a big rivalry game against Cal, I would love to see Stanford play some of the young and talented RBs and WRs that they have. I think they could give the

Stanford University's Axe Committee carries the Axe around Memorial Stadium.
Stanford University’s Axe Committee carries the Axe around Memorial Stadium.

offense some of the depth that they have been looking for.

One of the players the Cardinal should play is Barry Sanders Jr. He has played for a small amount of time, but I think now is the time to let him shine. Let Cal and the rest of the sports world see what this kid can do. He is going to be a star. He has such raw talent.

The Cardinal also need to go back to what they did in the first season game, where Devon Cajuste was their go to guy. He is going to be the spark they need on offense and the guy that can make big plays. I think he is great add on offense, and will be able to make big plays against Cal.

I am very excited for the Big Game this weekend. When it comes to these two teams playing against each other, it always seems like a good game. Their records never seem to matter beforehand; it is just some good and solid football that is being played.

This game has a lot of history and holds a lot of meaning that you know it is going to be one of the best games to catch on a Saturday. I think Stanford has such a fun and exciting way to play the game. They have a lot of talented players, and Coach Shaw is one of the best college coaches there is.

I predict that the Cardinal are going to beat the bears 58-7.

I wrote that score down before the start of the Big Game on Saturday. I just had this feeling that Stanford was just going to go off and run up the score on the Bears.
Well looks like I was right. Stanford was just running over the Bears. Ty Montgomery was having the best game of his career. Montgomery is great on special teams and offense. Glad to see him have a breakout game. (Again) he had a great running game against the Washington Huskies earlier in the season.
Also like that the Cardinal were using other players to mix in during the game. Liked seeing Michael Rector get some carries. He is another young player hat has talent and will be one of Stanford’s standout players. Most of his receives have been for big yards. He is going to be the player that will make those big plays when it counts.

This was the fourth year in a row that Stanford has won and has kept the Axe in their possession. With this win and the Oregon Ducks losing on the same day the Cardinal have clinched the PAC-12 North. This is the second year in a row in which they have won the Pac-12 division.

Their next game is against Notre Dame at Stanford on Saturday.

Cleveland Needs Real Change

Hiram Boyd may be one of Cleveland’s most controversial personalities, but he struck a chord with me the other night.

If you follow me on Twitter, or simply know me, you’ll know that my good friend, Jake Dungan, and I hosted a weekly radio show for Indians Baseball Insider throughout the summer called Call to the Bullpen.

Hiram would chime in week-after-week, as he normally does with Cleveland radio shows, and offer his thoughts or opinions on the Indians. Hiram seemingly enjoyed calling our show because we wouldn’t cut him off and we’d debate with him for an extended period of time before he insisted on simply listening.

Well, this past week, Jake and I hosted a special offseason edition of Call to the Bullpen, as we will sporadically throughout the winter, and, of course, Hiram called in.

We were in the midst of a conversation about the Indians and closer-extraordinaire, Brian Wilson. I offered my thoughts on WIlson said something along the lines of, “we don’t need a distraction like him on this team.”

“Hayden,” he said. “You disappointed me with something you said earlier. I would love to have Brian Wilson on this team.”

Of course, I was willing to listen to his point and ready to hear out his argument when he said something that struck me to my core.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” Hiram said. “Clevelanders are so afraid of change. Cleveland is afraid of stuff that is different. They’re afraid of people that are different.”

Instantly, the bells and whistles started chiming in my head. The proverbial lightbulb went off. Suddenly, I heard Drew Carey- the newly appointed, Cleveland-born host of “The Price is Right”- say “Hayden, come on down!”.

It all made sense.

Hiram Boyd, Cleveland’s “craziest” fan, made a point that I think hits the nail on the head.

Let me preface this argument by saying that Cleveland fans are the best fans in America. Undoubtedly.

Maybe not the smartest, maybe not the quietest, but they are certainly the most involved, loyal and passionate fans anywhere. Period.

That being said, I want to delve in to Hiram’s point and why it makes so much sense to me and why it’s absolutely true.

Cleveland is afraid of change. It’s afraid of the truly new and uncomfortable. It wants new faces, but the same attitudes and ideals.

Let’s start with the Browns.

How can you say that Browns fans are afraid of change?

The Browns have had 20 different quarterbacks and 7 different head coaches since 1999. How are they afraid of change?

Look at the 20 different quarterbacks we’ve had. Was any one of those guys different than the other in terms of performance or demeanor?

Was Tim Couch any different, really than Derek Anderson? Was Derek Anderson any different than Brady Quinn? Was Brady Quinn any different from Colt McCoy? Was Colt McCoy any different than Brandon Weeden?

Of course, they all had different styles of play, but they were all cut from the same mold. They were all “safe”. None made any trouble, kept their mouths relatively quiet, etc, etc. None was really a risk taker, on or off the field.

Look at the couple of times when the Browns did take “risks” in the draft. Braylon Edwards was probably the best receiver the Browns have had since 1999 and Kellen Winslow was certainly a playmaker and the best tight end since Ozzie Newsome.

Ultimately, they didn’t pan out for a while, but that’s because Cleveland fans helped to drive these “risks” out of town.

Interesting.

Lets move on to Browns head coaches.

If you really, really look at it, was Chris Palmer different from Butch Davis? Was Butch Davis any different from Terry Robiskie? Was Terry Robiskie any different from Romeo Crennel? Was Romeo Crennel any different from Eric Mangini? Was Eric Mangini any different than Pat Shurmur? Was Pat Shurmur any different from Rob Chudzinski?

Again, they all had different styles of coaching and treated the media differently, but again, they were all safe. Nothing exciting, nothing different. Cut from the same cloth.

Rob Chudzinski, in his first season, has shown an aggression that we’ve never seen from Browns coaches prior. Is it a coincidence that the Browns are 4-5 and on the brink of a winning record against the AFC North division for the first time since 1999?

Again, interesting.

Finally, when the Browns regime was finally changed, as the Lerner’s left town, Clevelanders, for the most part, were already skeptical of Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi. They wanted change, but at the same time, they really didn’t. The Lerners stunk, but at least they were comfortable.

They “understood” us. That’s another phrase that’s comfortable for Browns fans. It makes outsiders immediately disliked and makes Browns fans feel as if they are somehow special, despite never having seen a Super Bowl appearance.

Anyways, as soon as the new regime took hold, Browns fans became uncomfortable and at the slightest sign of trouble from Haslam, were already calling for his resignation. “Bring back the Lerners,” they said, despite the years of misery caused by Randy and the family.

Already, with the new and uncomfortable regime, the Browns have shown signs of vast improvement in just one season. Again, looking at a chance to have a winning record in the AFC North for the first time since 1999.

Alas, interesting.

Even the other day, as the Browns announced big time stadium renovations, fans were already pointing out the flaws with the system.

Again, just another example of Clevelanders and their inability to cope with change.

The Browns are the most glaringly obvious example of this attitude problem in Cleveland, but it comes with the Indians and Cavs as well.

Many fans clamored for Sandy Alomar Jr. rather than Terry Francona to manage the Indians.

Francona won the Mananger of the Year award.

Fans whined about Nick Swisher’s massive contract.

Swisher lead the Indians in home runs, despite dealing with injury throughout the season.

Cavaliers fans wanted Mike Brown fired when LeBron became a free agent.

Three years later, we welcome him back with open arms.

Kyrie Irving was far too risky a pick to make over the established Derrick Williams.

One is Uncle Drew and one rides the bench.

The bottomline is this: no fan-base is more vocal about change but less willing to actually change.

Browns fans are constantly calling for a new quarterback, yet, won’t consider Johnny Manziel or anyone out of the ordinary to do the job. We constantly bash the quarterbacks that come in and yearn for the old days with Bernie.

Indians fans are constantly calling out for big time free agents, yet complain when we finally bring them in. We constantly say, “why can’t we just develop talent in the 90’s?” rather than appreciating the big time free agents we bring in.

Cavs fans constantly called for a new coach, yet missed the old one when they realized what they had. We say, “why did we get rid of Mike Brown in the first place?” when just years before we said, “get rid of Mike Brown, he’s obviously not a good coach.”

It’s not even simply the sports teams that Clevelanders complain about. When city officials want to bring this city to the 21st Century, add new buildings, create parks and opportunities for employment, many argue and complain. When there’s an election and many complained about mayor Frank Jackson, they re-elected him anyway. Even something so trivial as a name change for Cleveland Browns Stadium created an uproar, despite the fact that it brought in added funds for the organization.

As Hiram said, Clevelanders clamor for change yet change nothing. They do the same things over and over again, without any difference in their actions. As Hiram said, this is literally the definition of insanity.

I just want to thank Hiram for helping me to see what I was completely blind to before. Again, this doesn’t go for all Clevelanders, but there’s certainly a large majority to whom it applies.

I love Cleveland and that’s why I’m saying that it’s time for Cleveland to actually change. Change the mentality, change the city and change the culture.

Accept the change and embrace it.

Cleveland’s best times weren’t in the past. They lie directly in the future.

 

 

My Fantasy Football Problems

For many years I have played Fantasy Football and for many years I have lost miserably.

I have yet to win my first Fantasy Football league and have been kicked out of more leagues than I’d like to mention, thanks to my horrible records year in and year out.

To me, it makes no sense. I’m a football nerd; a numbers guy; someone who loves to analyze the game. I consistently think: “why am I so awful at Fantasy Football?”.

Well, I explored those possibilities and would like to share them with you, as maybe you have the same experiences I do.

First of all, I’m too much of a fan.

In Fantasy Football, you must view players as nothing more than names and statistical numbers. Forget about their faces or reputation, they’re simply statistical machines built to win you Fantasy Football championships.

All too often, we — I should say, I — will stray away from a certain player just thanks to who they are.

For instance, I don’t think I’d ever draft Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton in a Fantasy Football League simply because I happen to believe that their numbers accurately represent them as QBs. In both instances one word comes to mind. It starts with over and ends with rated.

On the other hand, I’d draft a player like Cam Newton or Michael Vick simply because I love their style of play. Both have big arms, incredible speed, and second-to-none athleticism. Their numbers, however, aren’t always the best, especially compared to the Flacco’s and Dalton’s of the world.

When I first got into Fantasy Football in the eighth grade, I remember “stacking my team” with incredible players.

“Who’d you have?”

Oh you know, just some of the finest NFL players in the last decade: Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Evan Moore, Brian Robiskie.

Clearly, mind you I was young, my love for the Browns and Buckeyes interfered with my ability to compete in Fantasy Football.

While I feel my objectivity has blossomed over the years — Josh Flagner still calls me MTAF’s resident “homer” — my love for certain players and their various attributes still deters me from the players I should be drafting based on nothing more than numbers.

(PS: I’ll probably never draft a Cleveland Brown again.)

If you’re going to be a good Fantasy Football player, you must put all of your preconceived notions about a player to the side, and instead focus on their statistical output.

I’m not saying you can’t be a fan, you like who you like, but to be a Fantasy Football genius, fandom can’t enter into the arena.

It can, but you’ll end up like me: trophy-less.

The second problem that I’ve oft encountered in my experiences with Fantasy Football is the “too many leagues” dilemma.

As many of my friends are football fanatics, I’m often invited — before I get kicked out — into a good amount of leagues. Filled with thoughts of my Fantasy Football crown, I join without a thought and before you know it, I have 6 to 8 teams that I can’t keep tabs on.

When you have so many teams, it’s so incredibly hard to make sure that each is successful. One or two is reasonable, but any more than that becomes difficult and can ruin your chances in other leagues that you care more about.

That’s how it has become in my experiences. Too many leagues, too many players, and too many teams in addition to my awful, yet overbearing fandom makes for disastrous Fantasy Football scenarios.

Finally, and you can jump all over me for this one, I don’t like people who choose their Fantasy interests over their actual-rooting interest.

You know the people I’m talking about?

The Cardinals fan that roots for the Steelers just because he has Ben Roethlisberger on his Fantasy team.

Or the Cowboys fan that suddenly loves the Falcons because of Roddy White.

It’s part of the problem that’s spreading like wildfire through fandom these days. People root for players because they don’t want to be put through the emotional roller coaster that comes along with rooting for a single team. It’s a classic case of bandwagoning, just disguised as loyalty to a player.

It’s something I’ve never seen until recently,  it’s something that upsets me, and it’s something that I will definitely write about when the 2013 NBA season rolls around.

Anyways, it’s awful and Fantasy Football plays into it big-time.

I just want to root for the Browns on Sunday, is that so wrong?

The Browns put me through enough of a ride as it is, why should I have to go follow another team and another player just because their on my Fantasy Team?

While I absolutely see the view from the other side, I simply don’t like actively rooting for teams who aren’t the Browns.

That’s part of the reason I love football. I can watch as a fan of the game when the Browns aren’t on, rather than having a rooting interest for each and every team in the league. I can root for a solid blitz-pick up by the Bears offensive line or the perfect downfield coverage by the Packers.

Football is very much a team-oriented game, and Fantasy Football puts too much emphasis on the individual while the whole team should be getting credit.

When they start using offensive linemen or the offensive line as a whole in Fantasy Football, I’ll definitely start to enjoy it more.

So there you have it: my outlandish, yet real reasons why I’ve struggled so mightily to pick up and succeed in Fantasy Football.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What are your opinions of Fantasy Football? Are you good at it or are you awful like me? What makes you so successful or so terrible?

How many leagues are you in? Do you like to root for individuals rather than teams?

Let me know in the comments section of this page or on Twitter @H_Grove!

I’m VERY interested in what you have to say!

 

Tim Tebow Has Earned the Right to Play QB

It has been said, that being a starting NFL QB is one of the most exclusive jobs in the world.  The hiring process is intense and intricate.  It is done with thousands of hours of game film, interviews and workouts focused on the attributes required of job.  You must show natural leadership ability and be able to rise above pressure and adversity.  At the end of the day only 32 people will hold this position.  While some spots become available yearly, others are filled by the same applicant for more than a decade.

With all this being said, I come to Tim Tebow.  Hayden (@H_Grove) had a column a few days ago discussing why Tim Tebow would be good fit in Cleveland.  I just can’t wrap my mind around Tim Tebow not getting a shot somewhere, anywhere.  Despite all that goes into the process of earning a starting job in the NFL, many players have a bad first impressions and it ruins their career.

Continue reading Tim Tebow Has Earned the Right to Play QB

NFL Fans Need Some Perspective

Eric Winston hit the nail on the head yesterday, after an absolutely classless showing by the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s sickening. And I was embarrassed. I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK.”

This was just an excerpt of Eric Winston’s long-winded speech on the Kansas City Chiefs fans who were clearly cheering when Matt Cassel was knocked out of the game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

Don’t consider yourselves all high and mighty Browns fans. I specifically remember a nearly identical situation occurring in Cleveland while the Browns played host to the Indianapolis Colts. The head coach and the backup quarterback were the same in each situation. The Browns were amidst a struggle against the Colts when Derek Anderson, the Browns quarterback du jour, tore his MCL and was done for the 2008 season. I specifically remember the cheers from the Browns fans after Anderson walked off of the field. I, like Winston, remember that being the most embarrassing moment of my Browns fandom. Forget the lack of a Super Bowl, the lack of wins this season, or the lack of any sort of consistency with this organization. It was that moment, when Anderson was walking off the field, that I was truly embarrassed to be a Browns fan.

Whether it’s Cleveland or Kansas City, what is wrong with NFL fans?

It’s one thing to boo a player for his performance. It’s one thing to cheer when a player gets pulled from a game. It’s one thing to laugh when a player makes a terrible mistake. It’s clearly another to cheer when a player is hurt.

As Winston stated, players risk their lives for the love of the game that they play. They sacrifice for their city, for their teammates, and for their loved ones week in and week out. They give 110% every day. If they don’t, they probably aren’t playing, or are going to be jobless fairly soon. Matt Cassel, while not the best quarterback we’ve ever seen, has certainly been a good teammate, a good person, and a guy with extraordinary work ethic. Although I haven’t seen it first hand, I have seen it through guys like Winston, who will stand up for their quarterback in such a way. Derek Anderson was a players favorite as well. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to talk to an unnamed Browns player back in the midst of the Quinn and Anderson debate. Of course as we were very much off the record, I asked this player his thoughts and he explained that to him, and to most of the team, Derek Anderson was the guy. These guys clearly have the love and respect of their teammates. While I understand that performance on the field trumps everything, I also understand that you should be able to appreciate a guys effort and not cheer him when he is injured and sacrificing for those around him.

I’m not saying that all NFL fans are soulless. That would simply be ridiculous. Many NFL fans, many Browns and Chiefs fans, are model citizens and great people. It just baffles me how some fans can be so heartless.

Maybe it’s the “suit of armor” that NFL players wear out on the field. It makes them seem un-humanlike. The helmet, the shoulder pads, and the uniform are easily identifiable. Maybe fans forget that underneath that garb is a person. A real human being, just like you and me. They have real feelings, problems, and issues. They aren’t perfect and make mistakes. They get hired and fired just like the rest of us, although it may be on a much different scale. I guess some people care so much about winning that they forget about the human lives that are involved. It may not be their fault.

Today, everything is about competition in professional sports. The battle for the “elite” rankings, the “ring” debates, and the win at all costs attitudes. While I think winning is of utmost importance in professional sports, I think all fans, NFL fans especially, need to take a step back and take a look at what’s going on. They need to look at the players as people first and foremost, and not just objects of their affection or loathing. They have to realize that as important as it may be, football is an entertaining game and that winning and losing football games isn’t worth wishing injury upon a human being.

I know it may be petty, but I hope there are Kansas City Chiefs fans who are apologizing for their actions on Sunday afternoon. I hope Matt Cassel is receiving apologies left and right. It doesn’t mean that these people have to support him as their quarterback, but they have to support him as a human being and apologize for treating him as a less than human figure. It’s unfortunate for the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and for the entire NFL that such a situation has arisen.

I have booed just as much as the rest of you. I have booed LeBron James unmerciessly. I have booed Brady Quinn, Romeo Crennel, and most recently (and probably most of all) Pat Shurmur. Booing is a part of the game. It is done in each and every stadium and arena in professional sports, and rightfully so. There is a major difference, however, between booing a player for doing a bad job on the field and jeering a player who’s career and and health could be at stake. It’s embarrassing for the NFL, for the Kansas City Chiefs, and for the fans around the nation, that football has gotten to this point. The point where winning and results on the field are more important than the life of a fellow human being.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove