Some people are fans of the Cleveland Browns. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Cleveland Browns. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Cleveland Browns.
Your 2020 record: 11-5. Seriously! You still somehow finished third in your own division, but hey! Eleven wins! GOLD STAR FOR YOU, CLEVELAND! This was the best season the New Coke Browns have ever had, and the best season that the full franchise has had since 1994.
But enough of all that goody-goody shit. Everyone else is here for Browns fuckery, so let’s get right to it. They were swept by the Ravens, including a Monday night game where Lamar Jackson heroically came back from a sudden, emergency dump. Like the Rams, the Browns lost to the Jets in a game the Jets had no vested interest in winning. They had some of the least inspiring regular-season victories you’ll ever see, against afterthought teams like the Eagles and Texans, featuring stretches of offensive play so chokeworthy they could kill David Carradine all over again. The Browns also lost five coaches and four players to COVID the week of a goddamn playoff game. Against the Steelers.
Now, the Browns somehow managed to win that game (mostly because the Steelers were frauds), and so maybe you’re about to get all misty-eyed again thinking about how these mangy bastards overcame both their most hated rival AND safety protocols all in one go. Of course, it’s my job to remind you that the Browns’ reward for all of that was another The Fumble:
Yes, I hate that rule. But also: tough titty. Here is where I remind you that the Browns knocked Patrick Mahomes out of this game in the second half. All they had to do was come back against Chad Henne to punch their ticket to the AFC title game, and they failed. Conspicuously.
If you’re a younger fan of this team (idiot), you’re used to the Browns letting you down from training camp onward. You’re not familiar with the more accomplished forms of futility that this franchise mastered under Marty Schottenheimer back in the 1980s. Prepare yourself now for them, because your future is here and it’s going to be an acutely painful one. For the next decade, you’re gonna be knocking on the door only to fumble the knob through the end zone. We will all be witnesses.
Your coach: Dreamy-eyed Kevin Stefanski, who has all the pieces in place to run a dynamic offense and absolutely refuses to do so. Hear me out on this: a play where you let the pass rush go and lob the ball just over them to Nick Chubb, with a platoon of linemen in place to “screen” off the remaining defenders from tackling him. IT COULD WORK.
Your special teams coach is still Mike “Nuke The Gays” Priefer, who took over for Stefanski in the wild card game and still managed to beat Pittsburgh. He still probably wants to nuke the gays. Every heartwarming story with this team has a string attached.
Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff? Indeed. Every NFL team has employed former Bills Guy Alex Van Pelt at some point. He’s the rabbit’s foot of Guys.
Your quarterback: Little engine that could Baker Mayfield, who’s due for a fat contract extension but still can’t throw for 300 yards in a game to save his life. It’s extremely disorienting to watch the otherwise charming Mayfield get lapped by erratic racist shotgun Josh Allen in the span of 12 tidy months, but then again why should anything surprise me about this team’s shortcomings (pun intended) at the most vital position on the field?
Your backup is Case Keenum. Could they not find anyone over 5-foot-4 to play for this team? The only way these guys can see downfield is if they’re standing on a fucking milk crate.
What’s new that sucks: Jadeveon Clowney arrives here from…
[spins big colorful wheel]
TENNESSEE! That’s right. He was in Tennessee last year, played only half the season, and registered exactly zero sacks. In fact, Clowney only has three sacks total since the Texans traded him a couple of years ago. So when some double chin in a leather Dawg Pound apron tells you DURRRRR WE GOT CLOWNEY DURRRRR, go ahead and play along. Let them get their hopes up. The truth would just fly right over their Dodge Neon anyway. Clowney will suit up for every other team in the AFC before his career is officially over two years from now.
What has always sucked: Can I say Odell? I think it’s now safe to say that Odell sucks. I also think it’s safe to say that the Giants somehow got the better end of that trade. Since the Browns acquired Odell from the Giants in 2019, he’s missed a dozen games (including the entire playoff run a year ago), barely cracked 1,000 yards one year, and has devolved into the kind of pithy-yet-ineffective quote machine that Mayfield was right up until 2020.
This team could really use a replacement-level safety. A Jabrill Peppers, if you will. They could also use a top-20 run stuffer, like Dexter Lawrence. Ooh, and what about a promising edge rusher like Oshane Ximines to complement Myles Garrett, huh? He’d be useful. All those guys are Giants now. Dave Gettleman, who has been the main character of these previews all summer, got one over on your sorry asses. Now you’re stuck with an expensive also-ran who saves all his best catches for the pregame warm-up. So, once again, your offense will make everything look much, much harder than it needs to be.
Speaking of making things much harder than they need to be … Ohio.
Ohioans in general are far too entitled given how little they do for the rest of us, but Ohio sports fans are somehow even worse about it. This state never wins anything. It’s not the birthplace of aviation. It still wishes it had been part of the Confederacy even after assisting in its defeat. And Ohio State only wins football games when Urban Meyer and his little black book of assassins is around.
Has that tempered any of the burgeoning arrogance forthcoming from Browns fans? No. Already, I’m prepared for the Dawg Pound—God, what a stupid fucking name—to act like they’ve already won the Super Bowl when they’re gonna end every season this decade getting picked out of Patrick Mahomes’s cleats. I’m sick of them already, and yet they’ve only just begun to morph into a washed-out version of the Steelers fanbase. By the end of this season, they’ll be waving doodoo brown “Pound Towels” and chanting HERE WE GO BROW-NIES HERE WE GO while chasing their best skill position players out of town. It’s as pathetic as it is inevitable.
As for Cleveland itself, a lot of people have tried to convince me that Cleveland is cool when the examples they offer are that it has a downtown, and that there’s a mall, and that “We have a Mexican restaurant now!” Only the worst people consider this a good American city. The rest of us were right to treat Cleveland like a wet dump of a town all along.
So my fondest hope for you on the eve of this 2021 season, Cleveland, is that you die. Go on back to being the derelict pity-eaters you’ve always been, grumbling about an open jumper that Iman Shumpert missed in December 2015 while the rest of us steadily tune you out. It’s so easy to ignore you. To pretend you never existed. You people are good at being nothing.
Everyone here keeps voting for Jim Jordan. Ohio State’s molestation complex is like Penn State’s, only better at cover-ups. Every induction ceremony for the Rock Hall features Dave Grohl jamming with the corpse of Little Richard. Hue Jackson still talks shit about this team and somehow doesn’t look foolish doing it. The Cleveland Guardians will choke just as hard with the new name. Life here is forever trapped in syndication.
Ratto says: Yeah yeah yeah, best new team, Super Bowl dark horse, blah blah blah. Every team in football has been this at least once. The Browns apparently will have new alternate uniforms with a shadowbox actually going up instead of down, which is counter to what we expect of them. You’ll hate the new jerseys because you must. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Cordel Iwuagwu.
What might not suck: I’m pretty sure I’m picking this team to win the AFC, so make of that what you will.
HEAR IT FROM BROWNS FANS!
Boy, it did not take a lot of success to turn Browns fans into pricks.
Chad fucking Henne.
Chad Henne took the snaps that ended our season. Fuck this team for breaking me.
The light at the end of the tunnel is always an oncoming train.
Yo, if you make it thru your browns preview and don’t drag that fuckboi wif- beating piece of shit Pumpkin head along the way. Imma be dissappointed. Dudes fucking trash.
Everyone in Cleveland believes we’re winning the Super Bowl. This will never happen.
I’ve been a fan of this cursed franchise too many years. I know the ledgers must be balanced. And the karmic cost for this team to experience success is always astronomical.
I made my parents buy me a Brady Quinn jersey with fucking stitched-on numbers.
The entirety of our over-45 fan base consists of January 6th DC trip takers, vaccine truthers, thin-blue-line sticker enthusiasts, and 1920s-style racists. Given the trends in Ohio demographics, the Cleveland Browns gameday experience will soon resemble a MAGA rally, only less racially diverse.
The morning the Dolans changed the baseball team’s name to the Guardians, my sister overheard a coworker at the Cleveland Clinic say, “Next thing you know they’re gonna change the Browns name because it’s racist to say a color of people’s skin.”
Leave it to the Browns to break their 18-year playoff drought in a year that nobody was watching football, only to then blow it when everyone started watching football because the Browns broke their 18-year playoff drought.
Just wait until we win. How totally fucking obnoxious we’ll be about it. We’ll be worse than Patriots fans, worse than Yankee fans.
A not-insignificant cohort of knuckle-dragging Browns fans chalked up rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski’s likability and success to his Polish ethnicity. See this tweet from Browns beat reporter/troll Tony Grossi. If/when the team stumbles in Kevin’s second season, those same pierogi heads will turn on him faster than an Okocim OK beer through the digestive tract.
A team that has existed since 1999 and has a 1-1 playoff record doesn’t deserve a throwback uniform. These Browns have as much connection to the likes of Otto Graham and Bernie Kosar as Art Modell had to a balanced checkbook. This team and their history is cosplay. They play in a division with TWO teams that have a closer connection to their namesake than they do. The real Browns are in a city famous for crabcakes, crime, and the ironman baseball player that doesn’t have a disease named after him.
To say this team is hexed is like saying JFK left Dallas with a migraine. Art Modell’s gravesite should feature a drain and a urinal cake.
I have warts older than the GM. Our big brained strategy guy is a dude who was shown the door by the fucking Mets for not being up to the job. Our coach is an anthropomorphic loaf of white bread whose team won its first playoff game in forever when he was barred from attending, then promptly lost the next week when he was prowling the sidelines. The QB has doll hands and the only play he’s guaranteed to execute is putting the ball on the ground with the game on the line. Our lockdown corner is more fragile than a Ming vase and has never played (and will never play) an entire season. The only highlight we see of our #1 wideout is from a play he made while on another team. The fabled DAWG POUND is about to burn through a couple decades of residual good will from the rest of the league by being obnoxious, front running jackasses as bad as any Patriots fan, but without the accomplishments.
The Browns changed their jerseys last year. They’re the same ones they were before they changed them in 2015. They changed them then because all the fans said they were too boring. Now they’ve gone back to the boring ones and the fans think they’re “fire”. Our fans are idiots.
We couldn’t stop Chad fucking Henne from scrambling for 14 yards on 3rd and 15.
They went 11-5 which sounds impressive until you actually look. They beat the entire NFC East (worst division of all time), and AFC South (two terrible teams and two playoff teams that were one-and-done), the Bengals twice, and the Steelers resting their starters. They lost to the goddamn Jets. Next year they look to have a much harder schedule and I firmly expect them to finish below .500. Baker Mayfield is a better commercial actor than a QB. OBJ is never going to have a good season again. Kareem Hunt is still a piece of shit.
I got COVID shortly after that playoff win, from my job working downtown at the casino. I was working during the Steelers game. Based on the timeline of symptoms (started showing 3/4 days later), it’s very likely I got it that day as people were taking their masks off to yell at the televisions. I spent the Chiefs game asleep at home, unable to as I tried to get healthy. I’m writing this at the end of my mandatory isolation period, helping my partner who caught it from me and is sick. She hasn’t left the house in a month, I hadn’t left for anything but work.
We shouldn’t have had football this year. That’s the thing about being a Browns fan. Even the ups are just setups for a more dramatic down.
My great grandma and my two great aunts live together and all got very sick last year in May. It was obviously very scary. I talked to my 95-year-old Granny from what I was CERTAIN would be her death bed. But she recovered. They all did. My mom got to visit them this summer. I’m still pretty young and haven’t really dealt with much loss in my life yet beyond pets and near strangers, and COVID made me realize how fortunate I was. It really reorganized all the little storage folders in my mind.
When I look back through my “Happiest Moments” folder, I realize that the relief I had when my Granny got her second vaccine shot is right next to the moment that ball snapped over Roethlisberger’s big Vaseline jar head.
I was a part of an online training in 2015 for a job where the employer pretended to have a technical issue. The session leader pretended to have connection issues and us five participants were left in the lobby. In an attempt to break the silence a guy says, “So anyone excited for some football tonight?”
It was Thursday, and the hapless Browns were set to play against the boringly competent Marvin Lewis Bengals. In order to fight against the uncomfortable silence I respond, “Yeah, seems like it’ll be good. Got AJ Green on my fantasy team so I’m looking forward to it. Who are you rooting for?”
The guy responds with way less shame than I was expecting, “Oh yeah! I’m a Browns fan, been one for a long time.”
Involuntarily and loudly I come back with “God. You must hate your life. They’ve been bad for so long now. You can pick another team. No one is going to judge you.” He didn’t laugh, he didn’t really say anything. He looked down, nodded his head a few times and shrugged after a long sigh.
The trainer rejoined the session right after that. Everything went on as normal, but I was asked to stay on at the end. “So, we were watching what happened during that disconnection as a test. We just felt that you were too mean to the other people in the training and that’s not the type of person we want representing our company. We are going to have to let you go.”
The Browns being horrible led directly to me getting fired. They lost the Thursday night game 31-10 fwiw.
On December 10th, 2017 I was in a bar watching the Browns. This is not abnormal. What made this day different is that I was in a bar in Cleveland next to the cancer hospital where my dad was being treated. It had been made very clear to us that things weren’t exactly going great and our only hope was one type of treatment that they couldn’t start him on until things got better but things wouldn’t get better until he started that treatment. I was at the bar next door because I needed a break, because I was out of tears, and because the bar had a “jalapeno bomb” sausage and beer.
But on December 10th, 2017 I did the thing that defines Browns fandom for all of us total simps: I believed. The Browns were playing the Packers but Aaron Rodgers was out and surely the Browns could beat Brett Hundley. It had been nearly a calendar year since the Browns had found a way to win and I’ve watched way too many sports movies to not get caught up in the “win one for the Gipper” mentality for my dad. I thought the poetry of it all was too perfect–a win for a winless team during a winless winter of death.
My dad was a lifelong Browns fan and when I was growing up, not in Cleveland, he’s the one who took me to bars at a very young age to watch the Browns fuck up your Sunday. It never occurred to me that it was an option to not watch the Browns on Sunday. Perhaps it was because Browns fans know what the alternative, not having a team at all, is like. My dad cried more when they announced that Art Modell was moving the team to Baltimore than he did at his mother’s funeral, his father’s funeral, and when he was told that he had terminal cancer combined.
The Browns were up on the Packers 21-7 after the 3rd Quarter and I hurried back to the hospital room to watch the Browns first triumph in 351 days. Of course, amidst the incessant hospital beeps, we watched as the Packers tied it and then won it in overtime.
When the Packers scored the winning touchdown my dad wasn’t angry. I think he was too tired at that point to muster up anger about sports. The man who taught me to yell at the TV just sighed and said “I really thought they were going to win that one.” He died 13 days later, one day short of going a full year without a Browns win.
Fuck Art Modell with Lou Groza’s toe.
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