Or are they?
The 2014 version of the Cleveland Browns were preceded by fourteen years of bad football achieving a winning record only twice and making the playoffs only once. And even then, they bowed out in the first round by losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yeah, those guys. The Steelers literally owned this century’s version of the Browns racking up an overall record of 25-4 from 2000 through 2013 including going 7-1 from 2010 through 2013. The lone Browns’ win in this decade was aided by an eight turnover abortion by the Steelers in 2012.
The 2014 Season started much the same way as seasons past with the Steelers surviving a terrific 24 point 2nd half comeback by the Browns with a Field Goal in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter to start the Browns season at 0-1. The Browns followed up the next week with another 2nd half rally against the New Orleans Saints except this time it was the Browns who were the ones to kick the winning field goal as time expired and improved to 1-1.
Next, it was a disappointing home loss to the Ravens who themselves needed a 4th quarter comeback to kick a game winning field goal. After an early season week 4 bye, week 5 found the Browns in the NFL record book for staging the largest regular season road comeback in league history by coming back from being down 28-3 and scoring 26 unanswered points in the 29-28 victory. After five weeks of the 2014 NFL season, the Browns were a surprising 2-2 with the cumulative margin of victory in those four games being 8 points – total.
Cardiologists across northern Ohio were treated to a rare Sunday afternoon without being called this past Sunday as the Browns cruised to a 31-10 dominating win over those guys – the Pittsburgh Steelers. So here we sit after week 6 with a record of 3-2, positioned somewhere other than last place in the AFC North and feeling pretty good right about now.
Then it dawned on me. Something was eerily familiar about this season. Almost as if I had seen it before. And I had.
- In 1980, the Browns had experienced a decade of hell with those guys, the Pittsburgh Steelers, riding the crest of their 1970’s NFL dynasty.
- In 1980, the Browns started out the year with a 3-2 record.
- In 1980, the Browns had a Quarterback that had labored in obscurity for most of the early years of his career. Drafted by the Browns in 1972, Brian Sipe spent the first two years on Cleveland’s practice squad. The next two years he spent on the bench behind a Quarterback that the Browns had given up Paul Warfield for the right to draft – Mike Phipps. Then, in 1977, he was lost for the season due to injury (shoulder).
- In 1980, the Browns had a running back acquired two years prior from an NFL team in Texas. Calvin Hill from the Dallas Cowboys. In 2014, the Browns acquired another running back from a Texas team – Ben Tate from the Houston Texans.
- By 1980, the Browns had purposely and methodically built an offensive line through the draft and via trade (free agency wasn’t yet an option). And it was a good one. Tackles Doug Dieken and Cody Risien, Guards Joe DeLamielleure and Robert Jackson and Center Tom DeLeone. By 2014, the Browns had also built a solid offensive line through the draft and free agency. Tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, Guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco and Center Alex Mack.
- In 1980, the Browns had so many close games and come from behind victories that they earned the nickname the “Kardiac Kids”. The 1980 Browns went on to win the AFC Central Division with a record of 11-5.
So, if your father was a fan of the Browns in 1980, maybe – just maybe – these are your Father’s Browns.
A side note to Kyle Shanahan: Should this year’s Browns make the playoffs . . . do not, under any circumstance, call for “Red Right 88”!