Derry: And Then There Were Six

With the Seattle Seahawks making the Super Bowl this Sunday, the Browns are among six teams (including two expansion franchises) who have never sniffed the big game. Frank Derry, who has been tracking the team for many of those Super Bowl-free years, offers his take as to the reason why the Browns remain on the outside, looking in...

And now there are six!

With the Seattle Seahawks' appearing in Super Bowl XL in Detroit, only a half-dozen teams have never made it to the Super Bowl.

The Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Detroit Lions, the New Orleans Saints, the Arizona Cardinals and, of course, our beloved Cleveland Browns are still without a trip to the Promised Land.

Excuses can be made for teams like the Texans and Jaguars, neither of which franchise is old enough to legally vote, drink alcohol or smoke.

All other teams on that list - the Lions, Saints, Cardinals and, of course, our beloved Cleveland Browns - have only ineptness to blame for their absence.

Here are my Top 4 reasons as to why our beloved Cleveland Browns remain Super Bowl virgins:

4. John Elway - Many people would put old horse face at No. 1 on the list, but in reality, if our beloved Cleveland Browns had done other things correctly, Elway would not have even made the list. Elway led the 98-yard, last-minute scoring drive that sent the 1986 AFC Championship Game (played Jan. 11, 1987) into overtime.

The Broncos eventually won 23-20 in a game that marked the nearest miss for our beloved Cleveland Browns. Considering our beloved Cleveland Browns were very young and very talented, it seemed only a matter of time until the monkey-turned-gorilla was removed from the collective back of our beloved Cleveland Browns.

Unfortunately, the other two times in the 1980s that our beloved Cleveland Browns were just 60 minutes away from entry into their ultimate goal, the Super Bowl, Elway and his Broncos rose to the occasion and slammed the door shut.

3. The Players - While many of the rosters of our beloved Cleveland Browns in the 1980s were filled with Pro Bowl-caliber players, those years were truly the exception to the rule. Most of the rosters of our beloved Cleveland Browns during the past four decades have been filled with below-average talent that realistically had no chance of going the distance.

If not for a tremendous job by player personnel director Bill Davis and his scouting staff during the mid-1980s of landing United States Football League players, our beloved Cleveland Browns would never have been in position to make a run at the Super Bowl.

It seems that quite a few people tend to forget about the fact that many of the talented players on those teams came courtesy of the USFL, that went belly up in the mid 1980s.

Kevin Mack, Gerald `The Ice Cube' McNeil, Mike Johnson and Dan Fike all came courtesy of the USFL, while we all remember how Bernie Kosar outsmarted the NFL and was able to come "home" to his beloved Cleveland Browns via a special supplemental draft in 1985.

Take away those guys and our beloved Cleveland Browns would have had to rely upon high draft picks like Keith `Pure' Baldwin (second round 1982), Ron Brown (second round 1983), Bruce Davis (second round 1984), Greg Allen (second round 1985), Mike Junkin (first round 1987) and Clifford Charlton (first round 1988) to carry the load.

Had just a couple of those guys been productive, they might have made the difference for our beloved Cleveland Browns.

2. The Coaches - Again, we'll concentrate on the staffs who coached our beloved Cleveland Browns during the only era in which the team had a legitimate chance of reaching the Super Bowl on a regular basis - the mid to late 1980s.

Head coach Marty Schottenheimer might be one of the best regular-season coaches in the history of the NFL. Unfortunately, once playoff time arrives, he tends to choke more than a $10 hooker on a busy Saturday night.

Schottenheimer's ultra-conservative offensive approach has knocked him out of the playoffs on a regular basis be it as the head coach of our beloved Cleveland Browns or any of the other teams he has taken to the post-season.

And I'll always believe that if our beloved Cleveland Browns had not gone into a prevent defense on Elway's 98-yard, last-minute march, our beloved Cleveland Browns would have been a participant in Super Bowl XXI and made a much better showing against New York Giants than did the Broncos.

1. The Owners - Art Modell's decision to fire Paul Brown early in his tenure as the team's owner didn't have an immediate impact, evidenced by the fact our beloved Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964 and made it back to the Championship Game in 1965.

But no one will ever convince me that having Blanton Collier, Nick Skorich and Forrest Gregg leading the teams was a better alternative than Brown, who was still spry enough to take the Cininnati Bengals to an 11-3 record in his final year as a head coach in 1975.

In later years, Modell's lack of deep pockets proved a major problem that eventually led to our beloved Cleveland Browns' departure to Baltimore.

The owners of our beloved new Browns, the Lerner family, certainly don't escape criticism. Starting with the decision to hire Carmen Policy as team president and Dwight Clark as personnel director, virtually every move the late Al Lerner and his son, current owner Randy, have made has backfired.

The result has been a return to the inept performances of the 1970s, when the team was rarely in contention.

But somehow, and for some unknown reason, they have remained our beloved Cleveland Browns all this time. And it will likely stay that way even if in 40 more years our beloved Cleveland Browns are the only team that has never lived the Super Bowl experience.

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