I’m sitting in my living room shocked. “All I do is win win win no matter what,” DJ Khaled screamed through my tinny iPhone speakers in celebration. The impossible had happened. My favorite team, the Cleveland Browns, had just beaten the New York Jets. I immediately thought that Baker Mayfield is the messiah. After I settled down I looked at my phone. It had been 639 days since their last win on Dec. 24, 2016.
When people ask me who my favorite football team is, I instantly say “the Browns.” I usually get responses such as: “Oh I’m so sorry,” or “how could you root for that team?”
My path towards the Browns was complex, and some of my friends consider me a bandwagon, but once I started rooting for them I instantly felt at home. I was originally a Colts fan because my favorite player was Peyton Manning, but he got hurt, missed a year and then signed with the Broncos. I felt betrayed by the organization when they let him go. After that, I bounced around from the Chargers, to the Bills, and thought I’d finally settle down and root for the Rams when they announced that they were moving to Los Angeles in 2015. Things did not go as planned; during that same 2015 season, I fell in love with watching a young, loose cannon of a quarterback, Johnny Manziel.
I first followed the Texas A&M quarterback watching his 2012 season, when he became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. He could scramble and create big plays out of nothing, as if he were playing a video game. This combined with his larger than life personality off the field made him one of the most electrifying players in all of college sports. When he fell to the late first-round in the 2014 draft and the Browns took him, I thought it would be interesting to see if a misfit like Manziel could turn around an organization that had 20 starting quarterbacks over the last 15 seasons.
At times, Manziel showed promise that he might have what it took to turn the Browns around, but in reality, the Brown’s poor management put him in situations he wasn’t prepared for in his first two years in the NFL. Manziel won four games in his two years with the Browns. While this record may seem unimpressive, after Manziel was cut following issues off the field, the Browns won just three games in the two and a half seasons that followed.
This was definitely the hardest time for me to root for the Browns. When I first became a Browns fan I didn’t know what I was getting into. I watched every game with the hope of a win, and simply disappointed myself every week. I soon learned how to appreciate the rare bright moments and laugh at the bad ones.
Many who knew me assumed that after Manziel’s departure, I’d find a new team to root for. On the contrary, the rebuilding process excited me to root for the team to reach the light at the end of the tunnel that they have been yearning for since 1994.
Over the past three years or so, I have learned that the life of a Browns fan is miserable. Most teams consider it reasonable to celebrate when they win the division or make the playoffs, but for Browns fans , they celebrate smaller things like successful PATs or our rare wins.
The win over the Jets was huge for Browns fans. It signified the start of a new era with Baker Mayfield at the helm. When we won, Bud Light even offered a free beer for every person in Cleveland.
Finally, after two and a half seasons as head coach, the Browns finally fired Hue Jackson. During his tenure with the Browns, he posted a 3-36-1 record, which leaves him as the second least winning coach in NFL history according to FootballReference.com. In his last game with the Browns, the team lost 33-18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many will remember Jackson for his forgetting to use timeouts at the end of the first half that could’ve given the team opportunities to tie the game.
In addition, the Browns fired Todd Haley, their offensive coordinator, on the same day. He was hired to revamp their offense, but during his eight games as the team’s coordinator, they ranked 24th in total offense.
Jackson and Haley were succeeded by Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator and now interim head coach. This new chapter seems promising for the Browns fanbase. Williams is the man behind the Browns’ amazing defense that ranks first in forced turnovers. With its young rising stars, Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers, the Browns defense could be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
Once the Browns get their offensive coaching on the same page, they’ll have the pieces in place to be a contender. Baker Mayfield has shown that under the right system, and with protection from the offensive line, that he can be an elite quarterback. In addition, Nick Chubb and Antonio Callaway both have shown signs of greatness in their rookie seasons, and Jarvis Landry is already a first class receiver.
In Gregg Williams second game as the Browns interim head coach, they beat the Falcons 28-16, Baker Mayfield completed 17/20 passes and threw three touchdowns, and Nick Chubb ran for 176 yards and a touchdown. In only two weeks since the firing of Jackson, the team has improved enough to beat a perennial playoff team.
Being a Browns fan is bigger than just rooting for a team on Sundays. Yes, we deal with constant mockery and are frequently faced with defeat, but rooting for the Browns signifies hope. When we finally reach the end of the tunnel, the satisfaction of victory will be indescribable.