The situation is impressive: the Cleveland Browns have not had a season with a positive record since 2007. They have not played in the play-offs since 2002 and have not won a play-off meeting since 1994. Their last appearance in the conference finals dates back to 1989. Finally, the Browns are one of the few NFL teams that have never played in the Super Bowl. However, we are talking about a historic team.
Prior to the creation of the Super Bowl (in 1966), Cleveland was a four-time champion, in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964. The Browns actually originated in a rival NFL league, the All America Football Conference. This championship lasted only four years, between 1946 and 1949, and each time Cleveland won the title. In 1950, the team was integrated into the NFL and was champion in its first season in its new league. Even stronger: From 1946 to 1955, the Browns played all the finals of the championships in which they participated.
Disappearance and rebirth
The stars of the team were the quarterback Otto Graham and Lou Groza, an offensive lineman, who was also his team’s … kicker! Both have made it to the Cleveland Browns’ 10 consecutive finals. In 1964, the year of the franchise’s last title, the team was led by Jim Brown, one of the best runningbacks in NFL history. He played for Cleveland for nine years and was the season’s best runner eight times.
Then the Browns were more irregular. The last great team was that of the late 1980s. With the quarterback Bernie Kosar, a native of the country, she played three conference finals against the Denver Broncos, and lost all three! That of 1987 is remembered, Denver snatching an extension at the very end of the game. That of 1988 was marked by a fumble of a runningback of the Browns in the dying seconds, as his team could equalize.
And in 1995, it was a shock. Art Moddell, the team owner, decided to move the team to Baltimore. The city of Cleveland and the team’s fans threatened Moddell with a lawsuit. A curious agreement was then reached: the intellectual property of the team (name, logo, colors, history, palmares) belonged to Cleveland and the next franchise created in the NFL would be based there and would be called the Browns. This was the case in 1999.
Cleveland’s best season in 13 years
The Cleveland Browns began a new life, which turned out to be gloomy, with, in 22 seasons, only two positive results and a qualification for the play-offs. Cleveland also joined the unappreciated circle of teams who completed a championship without a win (16 losses in as many matches in 2017). But, this year, the nightmare could end.
After 12 days of the regular season, the Cleveland Browns have eight wins against three losses (with one day having been exempted), and are second in their division behind the untouchable Pittsburgh Steelers (11 games, 11 wins). While they still have five games to play, the Browns are already assured of their best season since 2007, when they won 10 games and narrowly missed the play-offs.
Browns stars of 2020 Chubb, Hunt and Garrett
This season, Cleveland’s success revolves around its running game and defense. Nick Chubb (719 yards, six touchdowns) and Kareem Hunt (706 yards, four TD’s) are in the top 10 of running backs of the championship. The defensive end Myles Garrett is one of the best defenders of the season. With 9.5 sacks, he is currently third in the NFL. Garrett also caused four smokable.
Conversely, the Browns’ aerial game is more discreet. Baker Mayfield threw 2,108 yards and 17 touchdowns. It’s okay, but very far from the 3,497 yards of Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and the 33 TD’s of Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay). At the level of receivers, Jarvis Landry, who had been All Star last season, has so far only harvested 614 yards, and Cleveland must deplore the absence of Odell Beckham Jr, victim of a ruptured ligaments of ‘one knee and absent until the end of the season.
Another downside: apart from the Indianapolis Colts on Day 5, the Cleveland Browns have not beaten big teams this season. Their last three wins came against Houston, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, all credited with negative results. The trip to the Tennessee Titans (8 wins, 3 losses) Sunday (7 p.m., live on the L’Équipe site) therefore represents a good test, as the home stretch towards the play-offs approaches.