Our Minister once gave a sermon titled “God and the Cleveland Browns.” That was back in the days when the Browns were “the Greatest Show in Football.” That is not the case any more. As a long time Browns fan (53 years) I have come to the conclusion that God hates the Browns.
I don’t arrive at this opinion easily or without significant thought. After considering the possible explanations for the last 15 years, I can not find any other alternative that can explain the suffering. I remain open for suggestions. Let’s look at the facts.
The Browns under Art “I have no money to fix the team” Muddle fire Marty Schottenheimer (46-31-1) in 1988 because he can’t get the team into the Superbowl. Great move! Losing in the AFC Championship game is no longer a problem. Instead, we never sniff the Superbowl again. In 1995, Muddle hires Bill “I am the smartest guy in the country” Belly-chuck. Belly-chuck had never been a head coach but is the kind of guy the city will grow to love—not so much. The team under Belly-chuck (I just love typing his name) is so bad that the City of Cleveland refuses to fix up old Municipal Stadium. Muddle, being the cheap guy he is, gets a bribe from Baltimore and moves the team there. Muddle is not a total idiot. He moves and does not give Belly-chuck the forwarding address.
Why did God let all this suffering of the Cleveland fans happen? What did we do to deserve such a fate? Was there too much swearing at the Stadium and all around Ohio on fall afternoons? Did too many televisions fall victim to projectiles thrown their way? I don’t know but facts are facts.
- The Browns come back in 1999. Instead of picking Kurt Warner, the soon to be 2 time player of the year in the veteran allocation, the Browns decide to use their first overall choice on Tim “I’m now sitting on the” Couch. He bombed and set the franchise back years.
- First time head coach Chris Palmer stumbles through 2 seasons with a total of 5 wins and 27 losses. This wasn’t exactly the team that we waited years without football to see.
- In 2002 the Browns beloved owner died. His son took over but was more interested in soccer than football. He bought an English soccer team and commutes to work in both countries. Never do business with a widow or disinterested son.
- The Browns sign former pro-bowl and OSU great Chris Spielman but he suffers a career ending injury and never plays a regular season game for the team.
- The only pro-bowler that the Browns had until 2007, linebacker Jamir Miller, suffers a career ending injury in the prime of his football life in the first game of the 2002 preseason.
- Butch Davis is named head coach to save the team. His drafts produce almost nothing. Things are so bad that he quits in 2004 after 7 games rather than try to explain the debacle to the press and the fans.
- In 2004 the Browns select the son of a Hall of Fame TE, Kellen Winslow. In the second game of the 04 season, Winslow blows out a knee on the all hands team trying to recover an onside kick on a game the team could never win. He is lost for the season.
- Winslow needs some excitement in his life. He buys a huge motor cycle and again blows out a knee and suffers multiple other injuries horsing around with the mechanical beast in a parking lot. The team sends him to the Cleveland Clinic and he becomes one of far too many players to contract staph infection after surgery. He is lost for the 2005 season as well. He now practices and plays in pain and never regains the speed that made him an early first round pick.
- In 2006, the Browns sign all pro offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley. He was born and raised in Cleveland and cries as he is interviewed putting on his uniform for the first preseason practice. On the first 7 on 7 drill he is hurt and never plays a game for the Browns. He suffers multiple staph infections and almost loses his leg.
- The head coach of the team, Romeo Crennel, flips a coin to determine which QB will start in the first preseason game. Evidently, the flip was wrong because his starter, Charlie Frye, is benched at half time in game 1 of the regular season and traded away before the final gun.
- In 2007, the Browns need only to beat the lowly Bengals to get into the playoffs for the second time since 1999. But their all pro QB, Derek Anderson, throws more completions to the Bengals than to his own team and they miss the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Despite failing to beat a team with a winning record, the team gives the coach a new contract. Now they want to fire him.
- The Browns needs a veteran possession wide receiver and sign one of the best in Joe Jurevicius. He plays almost 2 seasons before suffering a knee injury. He is sent to the Cleveland Clinic and guess what? He contracts not one but two different staph infections and he may never play again.
- The Browns lose their nickel defensive back to injury for the season even before training camp begins but don’t see the need to find a veteran replacement.
- During a frolic in training camp, the Browns top receiver, Braylon Edwards is being chased by newly signed free agent Donte’ Stallworth. Stallworth steps on Edwards’ stocking foot and opens a gash. The injury not only affects the 07 all pro’s foot but must affect his hands as well. After the injury he drops more passes than he catches. At this point, the injury by Stallworth is about the only memorable thing he has done since the team signed him.
- Winslow, the only reliable receiver the team has, is suspended for “actions detrimental to the team.” The Player’s Union gets his money back for him. It is later learned that the action is telling the press the truth—that he has again contracted a staph infection after a minor cleanup of his damaged knee. The truth may set you free but it can cost you a game sitting at home. Later, the team seems to be surprised he has a problem with the benching.
- Despite fans and media calling for a QB change, Crennel waits until game 10 on a short week to give QB of the future, Brady Quinn, a start. But during the next game Quinn is injured and the following week he goes to see the doctor about his hand. The team gets the bad news that he is out for the season. He should have taken Edwards with him to have the receiver’s hands checked at the same time.
- Anderson comes back in but won’t last a full game. He is hurt leaving the job to Ken Dorsey. I like Dorsey because he is like a coach on the field. He has the brain of an offensive coordinator and the heart of a lion, but unfortunately the arm of a chicken.
Now, after all that, do you have any explanation other than that God hates the Browns?
Let me know. I am as open as Gary Collins in the Championship game against the Colts to other alternatives.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He has also published several novels on and edits