When I was a kid, “Made in Japan” meant the product was cheap and the Cleveland Browns were a championship caliber team with the often mentioned best runningback ever, Jim Brown, and a winning coach that the team was named after.
But, the days of the Browns in Cleveland with Jim and Paul, have long ago been left for history books and products from Japan are now often the most technologically advanced. In fact, the franchise that once made its home off Lake Erie moved to Baltimore 22 years ago, and were renamed the Ravens.
Now, the fact that the Ravens have won two Super Bowls in Baltimore and are one of the best teams in the league today, is just salt in the wounds of the loyal fans that when allowed fill the dog pound. The Browns allowed their team to slip away, but didn’t let then owner Art Modell take their team history or name.
The National Football League also supported the great football fans in Cleveland while offering them an expansion team just four seasons after Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore.
But the Browns reincarnation in 1999 couldn’t have had worse timing. The league had noted that expansion teams, beginning with the New Orleans Saints in 1967, were forced to spend a decade or more catching up talentwise. So, when the NFL expanded with two new teams in 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, they set rules that allowed those expansion franchises more draft picks and better selections off the rosters of established teams.
It was an overcorrection to the previous problem, and in fact the Jaguars and Panthers got too good too quick. In only their second season, the Panthers won the Western Division and a year later, 1997, the Jaguars were already a playoff team.
So, in 1999, when the Browns reincarnated team with the old squad’s name was an expansion franchise, the allotment of players was not so generous. And, coupled with personnel mistakes by Cleveland management, they were back to standards more akin to the Saints than either the Jaguars or Panthers.
The Browns finished in the cellar in nine of their first 11 seasons, and in 2017 became only the third team in NFL modern history to lose all their games. That 0-16 season followed a 2016 campaign in which they were 1-15.
One thing those horrible seasons did provide the Browns were high draft choices year after year, and as one knows, you can’t miss on every draft pick. In fact, over the past few seasons the Browns have done very well on draft day, and now have man-for-man as much talent on their roster as any team in the league.
That is not to say they are the best team, but rather that Cleveland simply has a solid stable of outstanding talent.
This year, under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns are developing into a very good football team. This season, after a one sided loss to the Ravens to open 2020, the Browns won four straight games before last Sunday’s drubbing to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
This week, the Browns have their return meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals, who they beat in second week action in Cleveland. That win by the Browns, following their opening day loss to the talented Ravens, 38-6, is now matched when they battle the Bengals again this season following another lopsided loss, 38-7, at Heinz Field
The best time to bet on an up-and-coming team is following a loss, and the wider the margin in defeat the week before, the better the chances of that young team bouncing back with a convincing win.
The Bengals have a lot of hype this year with the addition of first pick in the draft Joe Burrow, for good reason. This rookie quarterback seems to have all the tools to have a very successful NFL career, but he is a rookie, and on Sunday meets a Cleveland team a couple years ahead of Cincinnati in development.
For once, it is not dumb luck that is going to foil the Browns. This week, timing hurts the Bengals chances, who have to challenge Baker Mayfield and company for the second time this season the week after Cleveland got shellacked.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (-3) over Cincinnati Bengals