Hey we were only joking!

It was the late 1980s, the Browns had just suffered a third heartbreaking AFC Championship game loss in four years to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, and my brother-in-law Randy and I were trying to pick up emotional pieces of our broken hearts that were strewn – coincidentally enough, in the form of adult beverage cans – across one of our living rooms.

One of us said, “We’re never going to get to the Super Bowl, are we?”

Although this clearly had to be one of the ultimate rhetorical questions in the history of sports – at least in Cleveland – the other deep thinker in the room nodded without hesitation, and replied, “Nope.”

It’s hard to believe that this profound in-depth conversation took place almost 35 years ago. It’s no longer hard to believe that we actually knew what we were talking about.

Little did we know at the time that half a decade later, Art Modell, reviled in Cleveland as the worst owner in the history of the Browns (not exactly going out on a limb making that statement as Modell, who had purchased the team in the early '60s and soon fired the best coach in the history of Cleveland, Paul Brown, before eventually moving the franchise to Baltimore in the mid-90s). I mean, what was not to dislike about Uncle Artie?

Incredibly, Randy and I weren’t done predicting the future, with accuracy so powerful that Nostradamus himself would turn green with envy at our collective prowess.

The Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 with an expansion team. The owner of the expansion Browns, Al Lerner, was not at the helm very long before passing away, which left the team in the hands of Lerner’s son, Randy.

As it turned out Randy was much more into soccer than he was football, and it showed. In the 10-plus years the Lerners owned the Browns, the team was awful – and those were the good years.

In or around 2012, Jimmy Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns.

Upon hearing the news, Randy and I talked football with renewed enthusiasm, because even though we knew little about Haslam, the Lerner trainwreck was so bad, we concurred unanimously that the new owner “couldn’t do any worse” than the yokel he was replacing.

Are we good, or what?

Okay, so maybe we were off a little on that one. Nobody’s perfect, right?

In Haslam’s 10 years as owner, the Browns have averaged a record of 5-11. Per year. For 10 years!

Haslam’s trademark as owner has been impulse moves. He’s hired and fired with such regularity that it’s contributed to many a fan’s irregularity.

Unfortunately, the Deshaun Watson deal reeks of spontaneity. They should have gotten rid of Baker Mayfield before the Watson deal as they will now get little or no return for a first-round quarterback – yet we paid through the nostrils for one who may be in the slammer when the season begins.

I spoke with Randy shortly after the Watson deal. We talked about our “never making it to the Super Bowl” prediction and agreed that it was only the frustration talking almost 35 years ago.

The sad thing is that now, in the aftermath of the Watson trade, we’re more convinced about the lack of Browns’ long-term success than we were three and a half decades ago. 

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 9:48 AM, 05.17.2022