As the Cleveland Browns are getting ready to open the 2004 season, there are many questions that need to be answered.
One has already been answered---will the new management team pay more attention to the history and alumni of the Cleveland Browns than in previous years?
It is clear that the team is making a concerted effort to reach out to former Browns, something that hadn't been done in the past, despite the pride that was shown in keeping the name, colors, and records of the team when the new franchise was awarded for play in 1999.
This weekend, the 1964 team, this city's most recent championship, will be honored with a gala event at Severance Hall. Forty years have gone by, and only one member of that team, Lou Groza, has passed away.
Groza kicked a 42-yard field goal, after a scoreless first half, prior to three Frank Ryan to Gary Collins touchdowns, as the Browns upset Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts 27-0 on December 27, 1964.
But another important member of that team won't be there either.
The owner of that team, Art Modell, is still under a self-imposed exile from Cleveland, and you have to wonder what he will be thinking this weekend, as the championship team will be honored at the same time that his other former team, the Baltimore Ravens, will open the season against the Browns.
If Modell had done the right thing ten years ago, think how different his life would be.
The right thing would have been to sell the team to his minority partner, the late Al Lerner, rather than pick up stakes in this town just so that he could keep the franchise for his son, David.
As it turned out, he even screwed up the ‘sweetheart of sweetheart' deals, and was forced to sell the Ravens at the end of last season.
Had he sold to Lerner, he would have gotten out of debt with plenty to spare, and would, along with David, have been given consultant status with the new ownership. He would have been hailed as one of the greatest citizens in the history of Cleveland, for all of the charitable work that he did.
He would probably have watched over a Super Bowl championship or two, under the guidance of Ozzie Newsome. And, most importantly to him, by now he would have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Try to imagine a less-than-healthy Art Modell, counting his Baltimore millions and one Super Bowl championship, knowing that he is on the outside looking in, as the 1964 team is honored, at the same time his two former teams will be meet at a nearly new stadium on the lakefront. I suppose I should feel sorry for him---but somehow I can't bring myself to do that.
Despite efforts to do better, I have been told, by two people who would know, that the Browns could not have received higher than a sixth or seventh round draft choice for James Jackson.
If Jackson was to be a problem in the locker room, it would have been wise to take whatever they could get, but until the Lee Suggs injury situation is straightened out, it is better that they kept the University of Miami running back.
Hopefully Suggs will be fine and ready to go on Sunday, but the track record of this team in predicting games lost due to injury has not been great.
The one bright spot of the exhibition season has been the running game, and the combination of Suggs and William Green is a good one.
It is never good to have a quarterback controversy, but there is nothing wrong with a running back controversy, especially when the two players involved have distinct differences in the way they play the game. That is the case with Suggs and Green.
Jackson, who ripped Butch Davis a couple of weeks ago, had pre-season opportunities to show his value to other teams, but failed to impress anyone. But unless Suggs comes back to full strength soon, Jackson will get the chance to either help his current team, or show someone else that he can still be an effective running back in this league.