The Browns' preseason begins tonight against the Saints of New Orleans. Brock Osweiler, the latest name to bounce around the front office spin cycle, will take the helm at QB. You can almost write the rest of the season from there.
But before all of that begins, we'd like to take you on a trip into the past. Before we abandon all rationality and dive into a season of numbing pain, we, as Browns fans, must take a moment to remember from whence we came.
Here, after 18 seasons, are the 18 stories that best encapsulate the modern Browns era.
18. Trading Our Opening Day Starting QB After One Game - Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson? Derek Anderson or Charlie Frye? Or maybe Brady Quinn? That was the question throughout training camp, leading up to the 2007 season. Charlie Frye won the job in camp. The hometown kid was tapped to start the opener. The whole town rallied behind him against the Steelers, the old rivals from across the border. Frye played less than one half of that season. He was benched before halftime, the team lost 41-7 and, the next day, the Browns traded him to Seattle. (This one was embarrassing at the time, but this move actually helped, as the Browns went 10-6 this year behind a career season from Derek Anderson.)
17. Draft Day - A movie being made about your hometown team should be exciting. But this fictional film wasn't about playing football, it was about the NFL Draft. And because of how awful they've been as a franchise, the Browns are now so synonymous with the NFL Draft that of course they were the subject of this film, an extremely unrealistic portrayal of what it's like in an NFL war room on the day of the draft. (Cleveland notoriously got the nod after Ohio's film tax credits beat the bottom line on what the studio would have to spend on the original subject, the Buffalo Bills.)
16. Two Bad Endings in 2015 - 2015 was another bad year for the Browns. Go figure. In the grand scheme of things, losses are actually helpful to the organization, always improving their draft position. But these two losses were just so bad that they had to be included.
The first loss was in October to the San Diego Chargers. The Browns moved the ball all the way down the field in a last-minute drive, scored a touchdown and converted for two points to tie the game up. San Diego then drove the ball back down to set up a last-second 39-yard field goal. Kicker Josh Lambo kicked the ball wide right, and it seemed like the Browns would get a chance to win the game in overtime. However, seconds after the miss, it was revealed that cornerback Tramon Williams was offsides. Lambo got another chance, made the field goal, and the Chargers won the game. However, replays clearly showed that Williams actually wasn't offsides; he said that the NFL told the Browns that they made the wrong call, the NFL denied they said anything.
The other loss was to the Ravens on Monday Night Football toward the end of the season. With the clock running down, quarterback Austin Davis scrambled to set up a potentially game-winning 51-yard field goal. Browns rookie kicker Travis Coons had connected on all 18 of his field goals up to that point. With time expiring, Coons attempted kick was blocked, the Ravens Will Hill picked it up, and ran 64 yards for the winning touchdown.
15. The Motorcycle Accident - The Browns had high hopes for tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., drafted with the sixth overall pick in 2004. Winslow broke his leg after two games of his rookie season. Then, after rehabbing his leg injury, he decided to get on a motorcycle a few months before the 2005 season. He got in an accident, tore his ACL, and missed the entire 2005 season. Winslow did have a couple of good years for the Browns, including an excellent 2007, but his career never reached the level that many had hoped.
14. Four Picks and No Playoffs - Derek Anderson was a gunslinger in the midst of a career year during the 2007 season. After the benching and trading of Charlie Frye, Anderson went on to throw for 29 touchdowns and over 3,700 yards. He was even named to the Pro Bowl! Yet with the season on the line, and the team needing a win to make the playoffs, Anderson led the Browns into Cincinnati in Week 17, and threw not one, not two, not three, but four interceptions. The Browns didn't make the playoffs, haven't since, and Anderson was never very good after that.
13. Braylon Allegedly Punches LeBron's Friend - Speaking of the 2007 team, wide receiver and former University of Michigan star Braylon Edwards was a bit of a lightning rod during his time in Cleveland. Like Winslow and Anderson, Edwards had an excellent 2007 season, and also like Winslow and Anderson, he failed to reach that Pro Bowl level again. In October 2009, after being out in the Warehouse District, Edwards allegedly punched Eddie Givens, a close friend of LeBron's, in the face. James was, and still is the most popular man in town, and to start something with one of his friends might not have been wise. LeBron said this about the incident, "I've never said anything to Braylon at all. But for him to do that is very childish. My friend is 130 pounds. Seriously. It's like hitting one of my kids. It doesn't make sense."
12. General Manager Suspended - In 2015, then general manager Ray Farmer was suspended four games by the NFL for a pretty odd reason - he was sending text messages. Farmer was reportedly texting an assistant coach or two during a game, which is banned by the NFL under the league's electronic device policy. The rule is in place to keep teams from gaining some sort of competitive advantage during a game.
11. The 2011 Draft Day Trade - The Browns have made some unbelievably bad decisions in all aspects of their franchise. One of the worst was in 2011. They owned the sixth pick in the draft and the consensus from fans and experts alike was to take standout Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Instead, the Browns traded the pick to the Atlanta Falcons for five picks. What did those five picks turn into? Phil Taylor, who had a couple of decent seasons and then couldn't stay healthy; Greg Little, a receiver who couldn't catch; Owen Marecic; Brandon Weeden; and Trent Richardson. None of these five players became average starters, save for Taylor, who was average at best. Julio Jones is still starring in Atlanta as one of the best receivers in NFL history and is well on his way to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. The 0-16 Parade - Last season, the Browns reached a level of futility that they'd rarely seen. They were 0-14 before finally beating the San Diego Chargers in week 16, to barely avoid becoming just the second team in NFL history to go winless over a 16-game season. One of the most embarrassing aspects of last season was that there was actually a parade being planned by a Browns fan that was going to take place if the team finished the season without a win. The potential 0-16 parade made national news, reported on by national outlets like the Washington Post, USA Today and ESPN. Luckily, the team won a game and the parade of futility was cancelled.
9. Josh Gordon - The NFL has draconian drug rules, especially when it comes to marijuana. The medical use of marijuana is legal in 30 states, and recreational pot use is legal in eight states and Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, for the Browns and wide receiver Josh Gordon, the NFL has yet to catch up with the national trend. In 2013, Gordon had the best season of any wide receiver in Browns history - he lead the NFL with 1,646 yards despite being suspended for the first two games. But because of numerous drug-related suspensions, Gordon has only played in five games in the three seasons since his breakout 2013 season. He could have been a contender for tops in the NFL for a time.
8. Staph - As previously covered on this list, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. tore his ACL in a motorcycle accident and had to miss all of the 2005 season. But the ACL tear wasn't the end of his problems. When Winslow Jr. went into the hospital, he contracted a staph infection. Winslow wasn't the only player to be infected with staph - in fact, five other players contracted the infection from 2005-2008: center LeCharles Bentley, wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius, linebacker Ben Taylor and safety Brian Russell. Bentley, a Shaker Heights native, and Jurevicius, who attended Lake Catholic High School, went on to sue the Browns because of their infections. Bentley, who almost lost his leg from the infection, was one of the biggest offseason signings in the league in 2006. The former Ohio State star said, "I can die happy now," when he signed with the team. Unfortunately, he blew out his knee on the first 11-on-11 drill of training camp and never played a single down for the team.
7. 'GPODAWUND' - If this was just one isolated mistake - a couple of signs being held in the wrong order - who cares, not a big deal. But because it's the Browns, every incident becomes magnified. Last season, during arguably the worst season since returning, instead of saying 'DAWG POUND', the banners were held up in the wrong order, and now 'GPODAWUND' will live on in infamy. Just another example of the franchise as a laughingstock.
6. The Flag - It was opening day of 2012, and the team and the city were excited about new rookie starting quarterback Brandon Weeden. The National Anthem begins. And then, well, Weeden got trapped under the giant American flag. Huh? That's right, he got stuck under the flag during the anthem and the replay was shown on national television during the game, and on ESPN and every other outlet and newsfeed after the game.
4. That QB Jersey - We're all sick of seeing it, but if there is one image that represents the futile nature of the franchise since 1999, it's that stupid jersey with the list of all the quarterbacks who have started for the Browns since 1999. Tim Brokaw of Brokaw Inc., a local advertising agency, created the jersey, but he actually retired it after the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals. Here's the list, for nostalgia's sake: Couch, Detmer, Wynn, Pederson, Holcomb, McCown (Luke), Garcia, Dilfer, Frye, Dorsey, Gradkowski, Anderson, Quinn, Delhomme, Wallace, McCoy, Lewis, Hoyer, Weeden, Campbell, Manziel, Shaw, McCown (Josh), Davis, Griffin III and Kessler. Coming soon: either Osweiler or Kizer, and probably both, given the Browns history.
3. The 2014 Draft - The prize of the previously mentioned Julio Jones trade debacle was getting the number three pick in the 2013 draft, which the Browns turned into running back Trent Richardson. Richardson was a bust, but luckily, then general manager Mike Lombardi seemed to salvage the Jones trade a bit by flipping Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for another first round pick. Unfortunately, the Browns used that pick on Johnny Manziel. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner played in just 14 games for the Browns before being released for an endless list of incidents off the field. Johnny Football is no longer in the NFL, lasting just two seasons with the Browns. Manziel was actually the Browns' second pick in the first round of the 2014 draft. With the 8th overall pick, the Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State. Gilbert's on-field production was even worse than Manziel's. He lasted two seasons with the Browns before being released. Even though he isn't currently on an NFL roster, Gilbert is suspended for the entirety of the 2017 season due to a substance abuse violation.
2. The Helmet Toss - The 2002 season opener will live on in infamy. On what should have been the last play of the game, linebacker Dwayne Rudd thought that he had sacked Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green and given the Browns a 39-37 victory to start the year. What Rudd didn't see was that Green had flipped the ball at the last second to offensive tackle John Tait, who ran 28 yards with the ball before ending up at the Browns' 25-yard line. Should've been game over, right? Not so fast. Because Rudd thought he had sacked Green, he took his helmet off and tossed it in celebration of the victory. Unfortunately, because the play was still ongoing, Rudd was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which gave the Chiefs one last play, enough for kicker Morten Andersen to nail a game-winning 30-yard field goal to defeat the Browns.
1. Bottlegate - In 2001, the season prior to Rudd's helmet toss, the Browns playoff hopes were still alive, with a 6-6 record heading into Week 14. They were hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars. With just over a minute to play, trailing 15-10, quarterback Tim Couch appeared to complete a 3-yard pass to wide receiver Quincy Morgan, good enough for a first down. Couch then went up to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock. Not so fast - after spiking the ball, the head official signaled that the Morgan play was under review, even though reviews aren't allowed after the next play is started, which appeared to be the case with the Couch spike.
The official said he was buzzed before the snap, he just didn't stop the game in time. He then reviewed the play, said Morgan didn't catch the ball, which meant the Jaguars took over on downs and the Browns basically lost the game. It's still unclear whether Morgan caught the ball or not, but what is clear is that the play should've never been reviewed. Browns fans did not appreciate the call being overturned. Fans began throwing all sorts of debris, including beer bottles, soda, food and any other items they could get their hands on onto the field of play. Unable to control the crowd and stop the debris from being thrown, officials decided to cancel the rest of the game, and with 48 seconds remaining, the clock was run down to zero. The incident has had a long-lasting effect - to this day, many stadiums around the country take the cap of the bottle on drinks purchased at events in order to mitigate the impact of throwing something.