It has been so long since we've seen quality football from the Browns that the three years they were gone seem short in comparison.
To think that the Browns have won just one playoff game since 1989, and to think Cleveland Browns Stadium is packed every Sunday anyway, says a lot about the loyalty of their fans. Of course, being forced to buy a PSL for the right to sit in the stadium makes the decision to give up season tickets difficult, but the fact is there is a waiting list to buy PSLs.
Well, it's time for Browns management to pay the fans for their loyalty by producing a winner. No one is expecting a Super Bowl champion immediately, but throw us a bone, and not from the Dawg Pound.
It has been almost a generation since Bernie Kosar made football magical again in Cleveland by taking the Browns to three AFC championship games in four years. Yes, the Browns lost all three, all to the Denver Broncos, but fans did not feel cheated - disappointed, sure, but not cheated. It was almost like a badge of honor to have been so close and lost, like being a Red Sox fan from 1919-2003.
Randy Lerner wants to win as soon as possible, but it is important for him to trust Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel. Wisely, they did not spend gobs of money for one player in free agency, Ty Law for example, but instead spread the money around to improve the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and the secondary. They improved running back and quarterback through trades.
I applaud Savage for not taking shortcuts to make a big splash this season, but the fact remains it is time to deliver. Show us something. Show us the path you're taking fans down, and even if the victories don't come this season, at least show enough so fans can say, 'Yeah, I see where they're going.'
Last September ESPN commentator Sean Salisbury said the Browns are the new Bengals of the NFL. That's a scary thought. The Bengals have not had a winning season since 1990, yet they finished 8-8 each of the last two seasons and now are better than the Browns. That's because team owner Mike Brown has faith in coach/general manager Marvin Lewis.
Salisbury backed off after the Browns beat the Ravens in the season opener, but as we all know, he could have retracted his retraction.
One of Savage's first comments the day he was hired was about asking fans to trust him, while at the same time pointing out that he would not have been hired in the first place if problems did not exist.
As The Owl has pointed out before, Browns fans are among the most knowledgeable in the league. They can see when things are going to work, and they can see when they have no chance. Most fans were down on Tim Couch - rightfully so it turned out, since he cannot get a job. Only the most loyal fans were blind to Jeff Garcia's deficiencies.
More football games are lost than won, meaning winning teams don't jump offsides or get whistled for illegal procedure penalties, throw interceptions with the game on the line as Kelly Holcomb did last season in Cincinnati, fumble or drop passes in critical situations.
If the Browns go 6-10 and show they are a disciplined team, and if there are no embarrassing off-the-field stories, such as police raids, charges of rape, assault or DUI arrests, I believe fans will acknowledge Savage and Crennel have the team heading in the right direction.
Put another way, there was nothing to build on after the 2003 or 2004 seasons. Nothing. That's why 2004 was such a disaster, and that's why there was such a major shakeup after last season.
Just give the fans something to cling to, Romeo and Phil. That would be more than they've had since the fluke playoff season of 2002.