I suppose that the Browns organization doesn't care about what I'm about to discuss, because every seat is sold once again for the upcoming season, and most of the sponsorships are also sold out, but I came across something rather interesting this week.
Browns fans have had little reason to be excited about since the 1989 season, so it is safe to presume, as we have discussed previously, that the love of the Browns has been passed down from generation to generation from the time the franchise began in 1946. It has been over 15 seasons since the team had a legitimate chance to contend for the Super Bowl, and if something good doesn't happen soon, it is possible that the next generation of potential Browns fans could take their business elsewhere.
I spoke at an elementary school this week, and I asked some questions. Before I asked if any of the students could tell me anything about players for the Cleveland teams, I threw some names out. C.C. Sabathia, Coco Crisp, and Travis Hafner of the Indians got instant recognition, as did LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Cavaliers. The only current (and I use the term loosely) member of the Browns that brought any reaction was Kellen Winslow, and it was not a positive reaction. William Green also got some response, but, again, not a positive response.
It is remarkable that the members of the 1964 championship team can still gather crowds in the area, and the Cardiac Kids of 1980 bring smiles to the faces of Browns fans. And ‘Bernie, Bernie' remains one of the most recognizable songs in town, yet, as we head toward the seventh season of the return of the Browns, there is practically no one that the fans can relate to. I'm not even sure that the average Browns fan could name 20 players on the roster right now, and they certainly wouldn't recognize more than ten of them if the team was paraded in front of them in street clothes on Public Square.
Even nationally, the guys from Vegas who usually know, are putting the over/under on Browns wins at four. The national image of the Browns is that Trent Dilfer, a non-entity, will be leading the offense, and that Kellen Winslow, a legitimate weapon, will not be available to the team. What they know about the defense, is that almost the entire line has moved to Denver, despite the fact we know they weren't very good when they were here. They also know that first-year head coach Romeo Crennel will need some time to install his system with players that he wants.
This was a terrible team last year, with problems on and off the field---and it still won four games. It is hard to imagine that this team won't do better for a variety of reasons. Historically, the NFL lets you get better after a terrible year. Most of the games are close, with both teams having a legitimate shot to win as the fourth quarter begins. At this point, I won't venture to guess the amount of wins the Browns will get, but ‘over four' looks like one of the best bets on the board.
The Browns have been in the news lately, but the names have been Mike Brown and Larry Brown of the Cavaliers. It's just as well, if you are a Browns fan. The recent news out of Berea, after a nice honeymoon period, hasn't been too good. Phil Savage came up with his ‘woe is me' speech, and Kellen Winslow came up with some kind of version of an apology---about three weeks too late. The Browns need to stay out of the headlines, unless they can sign Peter Boulware, or someone else of his stature in the next week or two. If not, it will be fine with me if they just go about their business and get ready for training camp.
There never should be an attempt to put too much emphasis on winning in the exhibition season, but this franchise probably needs at least two wins in the four-game pre-season. That doesn't mean projected starters should play more than normal in an attempt to win against second or third string opponents. But Crennel might need a confidence boost as he heads into his first year as head coach, and the fans might need it, too. It has been a long off season for everyone, and it would be nice to get started in the right direction.