There have been many great blunders in this life. There was that Trojan Horse thing awhile back, and JFK’s Bay of Pigs comes to mind. So does Nixon and Watergate. How about Bill Buckner’s hand/eye coordination? And of course, anything out of the mouth of Donald Trump.
However, the mistake that keeps on giving, week after week, year after year…is the Cleveland Browns. As far as mistakes go, this is a whopper. Ever since Art Modell moved the Cleve Brownies (in the vernacular of the late Myron Cope) to Baltimore, the expansion Brownies have been Frownies.
Frownies by the way, are the marketing genius of Kings Family Restaurants, in their attempt to keep up with Eat’ n Park’s Smiley Cookie. The concept here is a brownie that, well, frowns…as this is supposed to attract consumers. I doubt this is Madison Avenue stuff…more like Liberty Avenue stuff.
The Browns, not the brownies, left the Land of Cleve in 1996 and the Clevers were adamant about keeping the name “Brown” in town (to go with their diarrhea colored helmets), as if this is somehow sacred. Sure, there was a wealth of winning when Paul Brown coached the Browns (Art Modell even named his team after Paul) and Jim Brown ran for the Browns, but that was yesteryear. Even Paul Brown left the Browns, and the Brown name, to form the Bungles (another Copeism) in Cincinnati.
Maybe the Clevers should have let the Browns go to Baltimore (well they did, did they not?) and take the Browns’ moniker with them. The Baltimore Browns has a nice ring to it. Then the new Cleve Browns could have been the Cleveland….ah…Ravens? Or the Cleveland Crows. Or something along those lines…the Blackbirds…the Redbirds…whatever.
Maybe the mistake that is the Browns, has nothing to do with their name. After all, Antonio Brown is no mistake, nor was the aforementioned Jim Brown. Maybe it has to do with the people not named Brown.
Let’s look at the possible names that may be to blame, as we play the name blame game.
As with any entity that does not work, you have to start your search for answers at the top. In this case, it’s owner Jimmy Haslam, who spent $1,000,000,000.00 on this team. That’s ONE BILLION! For the Cleveland Browns! Yikes!! (Please excuse any typos as I’m laughing while I write this.)
I would say that one billion dollars for the Cleveland Browns is one hell of a mistake.
Maybe Haslam should stick to trucking. Being a billionaire truck stop owner does not translate to successfully running another enterprise. (Perhaps Donald Trump should realize this as well.) Haslam’s company also was busted for fraud and paid $92,000,000.00 in fines. That’s 92 MILLION! Possibly some of these unsavory business practices have been brought to the Brownies or Frownies.
If the issues do not lie with Haslam, then let’s look at general manager Ray Farmer. Farmer was suspended for the first four games of this season for illegal electronic activity during games, aka, texting down to the sidelines some strategies and personnel matters. This is the NFL…the No Fudging League…so texting is Fudging, which is a No-No. You might be thinking what the league is thinking… No Fudge Brownies.
Farmer would go on to say “…as a leader, I need to set the right example.” Farmer was subsequently fired. Now that’s setting an example. Sashi Brown (yes another Brown with the Browns) took over the GM position.
If the GM is not the issue then we must look at the head coach,……. ah wait. I have to consult the NFL media guide or Wikipedia to see who the head coach of the Frowns is this week. Oh, wait, I know who it is….it’s Hue Brown.
No, just kidding. It’s Hue Jackson.
Jackson is the 18th coach of the Frowns since the Woodstock era. In that time span, the Stillers have had three. Since the Browns left town to become the Baltimore Brow-vens, the Frowns have had nine coaches. The Stillers have had two.
One of the coaches the Frowns should have made sure they hung on to was Marty Schottenheimer, who coached from 1984-1988, winning 47 and losing 21, which is a .620 winning percentage. When was the last time a Frowns/Clowns coach did that? Well, the last one was Marty Schottenheimer.
Marty stormed out of the Clowns organization (organization…a questionable word) because Art Modell was meddling in Marty’s coaching staff decisions. Schottenheimer regrets quitting but I’ll bet the Clowns regret it more. They’ve been losing ever since.
Who picks these coaches and why? What’s the criteria for picking a coach? I suppose it’s who they think can win. Because every time a coach is hired, it’s with much confidence and praise. At that first press conference, they tout that this coach is a proven winner…that is until he proves he’s a loser, which in the case of the Clowns is every year or two. But is a coach who loses a loser?
One of the losing head coaches of the Clowns was originally some assistant under Bill Parcells in New York (Giants), who was hired after Bud Carson (a former Steeler) was fired after just a year and a half, which is par for the Clowns. His name is Bill Belichick…maybe you’ve heard of him. He won 36 and lost 44 games with the Clowns. He lasted an entire five years. No Clowns’ coach has lasted that long in 32 years. Eventually, this guy landed a coaching gig in Boston, and is now famous for having a dress code problem. But he has won a few games, here and there.
So maybe it is the players who are to blame. What names can we look at that might shoulder blame?
Actually, there are just too many players to investigate here, so let’s just look at the quarterbacks who have started for the Frowns. After all, there has been a lot of frowning going on concerning starting QBs over the years. Since 1950, when the Frowns joined the No Fudge League, they have had 53 starters at the quarterback position. Do the math….66 years, 53 QBs. Since then, the Steelers have had 19.
Here are some blame game names: Tim Couch, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weedon, Charlie Frye, Kelly Holcomb, Brady Quinn, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Garcia, Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel (omg), Mike Pagel, Seneca Wallace, Doug Pederson, Jason Campbell…and a whole lot more. All of these dudes were under .500 as starters. There were a few winners such as: Milt Plum, Frank Ryan, Otto Graham, Bill Nelson, Brian Hoyer, and a few others. And then the .500 type starters were Vinny Testeverde (really!), Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar and Mike Tomczak.(also a Steeler).
Still, it takes more than a quarterback, coach, general manager and owner to lose perpetually. It takes an overall sensibility, a mentality, a sociology of a team to do it. What is the social order, or more precise, the disorder, of the Cleveland Clowns? I started an inquiry, starting with the usual suspects.
“It starts at the top. Multiple general managers, obviously multiple head coaches and even more obviously, multiple quarterbacks” says Stan Savran of Root Sports, “horrible drafts, bad coaches and no continuity.”
Stan is a native Clever who grew up with the real Cleveland Browns, as in Paul Brown and Jim Brown. As Savran puts it, “They have an owner who demanded that the GM draft Johnny Manziel. Why? In order to sell tickets. Has there been a bigger draft mistake?”
Well, we know how that turned out. “Beeg meestake on zee lake.”
Manziel suffered from the same malady as Tim Tebow and Ryan Leaf…highly touted quarterbacks coming out of college, only to fail as NFLers. Except Manziel wasn’t even highly touted despite winning the Heisman as a freshman at Texas A&M. Manziel was gone from the No Fudge League in two years. It’s bad enough to be cut by an NFL team…it just hurts. But imagine being cut by the Cleve Clowns? What does that say?
Wait! Hold on! As of October 26th, the New York Jets are talking about bringing Manziel back into the No Fudge League to replace the injured and ineffective Geno Smith, who is out for the season. Could there be another big mistake looming over the Bad Apple? Well, given the Rex Ryan years…anything is possible in New York.
“They seem to think they can fix everything at once” says Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “They change their style of who they want to be, based on who they get in the draft, rather than the other way around. Those are long engrained issues.”
Of course, it’s easy to disparage anything Cleve from the Pittsburgh side of things, so let’s check in with some Clevers themselves.
As Tony Grossi, former Clowns’ beat writer and now of ESPN Radio puts it, “a constant turnover of players, management, coaching, GMs, presidents and philosophy. They’re always starting from scratch.”
What is their philosophy, I inquired?
“They adopted an analytic approach to what they do. One guy came from Major League Baseball” says Grossi.
“So they’re playing moneyball” I queried? I could hear him shrug over the phone.
“They have to create stability” he says. “They have a lack of football expertise. The head of football operations is their legal entity, Sashi Brown. The owner is responsible for everything.”
And what does Tony Grossi think of the Johnny Manziel draft pick? “It’s one of the worst ever. They (Clowns) have to find a quarterback because in addition to being the face of the team, he establishes the identity of the organization. But they constantly misidentify players. They draft down and pass up players to gain bodies.”
Johhny Manziel was the face of the Clowns, their organization, and the land of Cleve for the last two years. How was that for Clevers?
“People are so tired of the constant change and it seems to get worse every time they make one” says Grossi. “They are in danger of losing their grip on this city.”
Holy Gpodawund! (This is how the Cleve Dawg Pound spells Dawg Pound now.)
As of this writing, the Clowns are 0-10. (Beware floundering Steelers who are up next…the Clowns are Frowning big-time).
What is the owner’s philosophy for the Cleve Frowns?
“They’ve never displayed one” says Savran, “I think this one (Haslam) would have had one, being a (former) minority owner of the Steelers. They have never settled into one.”
Perhaps Herr Haslam should be shipped out of town, conveniently by way of one of his own trucks. Or maybe by UPS,.. who begs to ask the question, “What can Brown do for you?”
Lee Kann is a film/radio/concert producer, and a writer. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org