If the whole story feels too Hollywood, too contrived to be the actual narrative of an NFL football team in a singular season, remember everyone who benefited from your goodwill.
Browns fans and alumni, who have endured years of great administrative incompetence, wasted draft capital, ruined games, organizational infighting, regime changes, and an emotional chinlock Sunday after Sunday, couldn’t just have a team. That turned things around and one day they found themselves on the sunny side of the competition. It wouldn’t feel good. It would not level out the type of mental tax that is paid year after year. It wouldn’t adequately answer the question that everyone who loves this team has inevitably asked themselves at some point over the past two decades: Why the heck am I doing this?
It had to be big. It had to be the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It had to be without the head coach, who was isolated in his basement with his cell phone turned off, unable to contribute to the team due to an untimely contraction of the new coronavirus. He had to be without one of his best offensive linemen and one of his best defensive players, also in reserve from COVID. It had to be with a game management coach running the offensive line and a special teams coordinator running the entire operation after a week of no practice. It had to be with him support for offensive linemen getting hurt and his replacement having met most of his teammates before the game. It had to be after a week of being mocked by their much more successful divisional counterparts. It had to be okay when everyone thought that the little morsel of goodwill the franchise had finally stumbled upon was just a mirage from the desert.
It had to be a 28-point lead that strangled everyone like an injection of Patrone on an empty stomach before it all eroded over the course of three hours, becoming more reminiscent of the anxious, white-knuckle affairs that this franchise has. done. calling card over the years.
It had to be epic, and it was.
“This was a tough week,” Mike Priefer, the team’s interim coach, said after the game. “And they never flinched.”
During his introductory remarks after Sunday’s victory, Preifer, a Cleveland-born Navy veteran, said he felt great happiness for people who care about the Browns and admitted that he grew up as one of them. He had to recover for a moment to avoid crying.
“I know what this means,” he said.
The Browns’ path out of their darkest days was never going to be subtle. During the season that meant untimely losses like the Jets in December, which forced them into a de facto Week 17 game. It means premature injuries and lingering doubts. Ultimately, it meant that a collective group of people would eventually need to rise up and confront an organization’s past through their own inherent confidence and attitude.
While an NFL team is a fluid organization that is never together long enough to develop a collective identity, it’s hard not to see the Browns in a different light. Two decades of trampled and wasted talent tend to tell a certain story. It tends to make people believe it is less than the moment they enter the facility or don a replica of the jersey to hang out in the stands. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said it best earlier in the week, describing the team with the kind of disgusted nonchalance one might use to talk about a bug infestation or a package thief in the neighborhood during games. holidays.
“I think they are nameless gray faces,” he said. “They have a couple of good players on their team, but at the end of the day, I don’t know. The Browns are the Browns. “
Before the game, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield posted the last part of that quote on his Instagram page and screamed again as he ran into the tunnel and back to the locker room, where his teammates danced and connected. with all his wounded or sick. counterparts via FaceTime to join in the celebration. Years ago at the beginning of this journey, when the Browns were an expansion team playing the Steelers for the first time, they scoffed at the conventions, featured first on the stadium speaker, and then he strangled by a Pittsburgh team that felt it was not given due respect. Bullies are bullies. Now, the Cleveland franchise quarterback was essentially throwing a middle finger at the Steelers while dancing off the field (as are a lot of Browns players). imitating the signature dance of Smith-Schuster on the bench during times of decline in the game).
It must have been cathartic to know that this was now a rallying cry for the continued dismantling of that identity. Finally, a group of people had come together strong enough to laugh at the past instead of feeling it perpetually crawl on them. The browns are the brownsAnd for a day it doesn’t mean what it used to be
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.