"Man has always needed to believe in some form of a continuity of achievement."-Robert Vaughn
Hey there, Browns Backers. I've missed you. Hope you've missed me.
Ray Lewis is out for the year with a torn triceps. I wonder what that feels like.
There's nothing more American—or German, and heck, Clevelander for that matter—than Schadenfreude.
While there's no cause for freude (joy) in our own house, the schade (disappointment) looms like a Jerry Jones-sized Texas Twister of an ego, with new owner Jimmy Haslam III kicking up all the dust.
Some teams change personnel or personalities, often defined by the head coach and/or quarterback. The most successful sustain a head coach-quarterback-ownership synergy that fosters consistent success and institutional continuity. Think Rooney-Tomlin-Roethlisberger, Kraft-Belichick-Brady or Mara/Tisch-Coughlin-Manning. All those combinations have won multiple titles in the last decade, and they rarely miss the party come January.
The Giants ownership, in particular, exercises the kind of dexterity Browns fans can only dream of, according to ESPN and Forbes.
What do they all have in common? Let's consider the Steelers, because that should really teach us the lesson, and it might relate to our...(pulls collar from neck) new owner.
Rewind to 1969. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a laughing stock compared to their rivals up Route 76. They've had three head coaches and an average of four or five wins per season over the previous decade. Four or five wins a season—wouldn't that be nice...
Anyway, the Steelers tried to get Joe Paterno, but he turned them down (imagine the course of history—or at least ESPN coverage—if that had worked out).
So, they hired a defensive coordinator from the Baltimore Colts. His name was Chuck Noll. Had poor Chuck been hired by a Lerner in post-1999 Cleveland, he would never have seen the start of his third season. The Steelers went 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8 in their first three seasons—just barely enough to save Noll's skin.
Coach Noll didn't waste those losses, however. He picked up some talent in the draft. The Steelers added Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount and some guy named Joe Greene with a reputation for poor manners.
I'm not going to make any assumptions about Jimmy Haslam III. Laurie-Reid-McNabb would not be such a terrible triumvirate to emulate. Sadly enough, I'd take four conference-championship losses in a heartbeat, wouldn't you?
But here is what I hope this history lesson demonstrates and two notions of which I hope Mr. Haslam remains cognizant:
- These things take time.
- Outsiders and insiders alike lose faith when they see turnover.
Bill Walsh acolyte and universally respected football man Mike Holmgren is out as team president, and Joe Banner, childhood friend of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, is in as CEO. At least the guy is qualified.
I hope the guys who replace Tom Heckert, who has unequivocally had the best drafts of any post-1999 Browns GM, and Pat Shurmur are just as qualified. Along with the guys who replace our coaching staff, filled with ex-NFL head coaches, some with big-game experience.
We've sunk nearly a decade and a half into the Jason Bourne of NFL franchises. Washed up after three years adrift at sea, we don't even remember who we are anymore. We live a feral, day-to-day, season-to-season, minute-to-minute existence as a franchise. Why? Because our skittish ownership, media and fanbase can't stomach the slight of the same coach on the sidelines, or the same quarterback under center for more than one losing season.
Maybe Browns fans finally have the seat-of-the-pants ownership they deserve.
Additional Pith Available: @StepanekButton