Rock Bottom Redefined

As attention turns to 2013, could it really get any worse than to be a Browns fan today?

One more football game remains in the 2012 NFL season. Like so many seasons before, it flat-out sucked to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

The good news is that on Monday, Feb. 4, the Browns will once again return to 0-0. As with so many offseason's past, again it features a new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive philosophies and, probably, a new starting quarterback.

Actually, this is how Browns fans expect an offseason to behave.

Chaos is the status quo.

Before the attention turns to 2013, could it really get any worse than to be a Browns fan today?

It is easy to pick on another team's misery and laugh. The Jets? They are a mess. The Cardinals? Terrible. The Jaguars? They are wondering if black-and-teal looks good underneath the California sun.

As much as that helps ease the frustration that comes with rooting for the Browns, the fact remains: it may not get any worse for Browns fans than right now.

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will be playing in its second Super Bowl since the franchise began. And we all know how it began. The Ravens won a championship in 2000 under then owner Art Modell. On Saturday, we find out if Modell will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously. The Ravens' GM, considered one of the league's best, is in that Hall of Fame as a Cleveland Brown.

This only scratches the surface.

Let's just look at what has happened since the last time the Browns won a playoff game – Jan. 1, 1995. That fall, Modell announced the team would move to Baltimore. Also that fall, two expansion teams entered the NFL. A season later, both teams were in the conference championship games. Heck, in the 2003 season, the Panthers reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Patriots by three points.

Closer to home, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reached four Super Bowls since 1995, winning two.

The Browns rejoined the league in 1999 as an expansion team like the Jaguars and Panthers. No conference championship appearances for the Browns. No, they have lost 151 games since 1999 and made the playoffs only once.

Finally, there have been countless embarrassing on-field incidents, bungled draft picks and free agency signings, bad front office and coaching hires, former players and coaches finding success elsewhere, etc.

Is this, right now, rock bottom? Where rock bottom is located continues to be redefined. We might be there now, but add a Modell Hall of Fame induction and second Ravens Super Bowl win and we fall deeper into despair.

Among Browns fans, it is OK to wallow in self-pity at times. It is part of what brands Cleveland Browns fans. It is worn as a badge of honor.

But it is also an honor to call oneself a Browns fan. The rich tradition is ever present. The Browns remain only professional sports team to move while the city retained those traditions. The reasons the fan community is so strong goes well beyond the football games.

It is the tailgaters in the Muni Lot. It is the Browns Backers gatherings in places far from the North Shore. It is today's dads telling their kids about those great Kosar-era teams just like their dads told them about those great Jim Brown-era teams.

Right now, we're allowed to feel sorry for ourselves.

It is bad, but that feeling and mindset has got to pass as we look toward free agency and the draft. There is talent on this team and another opportunity is at hand for the Browns to improve. That's the beauty of the NFL, which really does not have an offseason.

We have once again arrived at the portion of the NFL season in which all teams face a clean slate. Hope returns. Now, the Browns have consistently failed spectacularly in this portion in the past, but that was then. It is now Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Rob Chudzinski's opportunity to get this thing fixed.

One day this thing will get righted and the Browns will return to winning football. And because of times like this, those wins will feel even sweeter.

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