Editorial by Adam Schabel
The Browns stared down the barrel of 0-16. An infamous record that only one other team held, the 2008 Detroit Lions.
It was week 17 in the NFL, the Browns were playing at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and taking on their rivals, the Steelers.
The Steelers had already clinched a playoff spot and a division title, their third title in the last four years. However, the Browns, who haven’t won a division title since 1989, were fighting for their first win of the season. This was their last chance to avoid joining the 2008 Lions and claiming a tie for the worst record in NFL history — and they blew it.
Cleveland was trailing 28-24 and put together an impressive drive to march down the field, deep into Pittsburgh territory.
It was fourth down and two at the Pittsburgh 27-yard line with one minute and 54 seconds left in the game.
Browns rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer took the snap, avoided a sack, rolled to his left and floated a pass to wide open receiver Corey Coleman.
And he dropped it.
The ball slipped right through his hands and fell to the ground.
This was just one of many blunders by Browns receivers this season, but this one carried extra weight. It resulted in the Browns finishing 0-16.
“It’ll last forever,” Coleman said after the game.
He’s right. The Browns are now in the history books for something no one wants to be a part of, a winless season.
Fans didn’t try to hide their disappointment.
Chris McNeil, also known as “@Reflog_18” on Twitter, is the longtime Browns fan who organized the “Browns Perfect Season 2.0” parade.
The 2.0 is in reference to the 2016 Browns season, when they nearly went 0-16. Cleveland pulled out a win in their second to last game of the season against the then San Diego Chargers. The Browns lost their last game of the season to finish 1-15. As bad as that record was for the franchise, the embarrassment of 0-16, and a parade chiding the team’s management, was avoided.
Loss after loss piled up for the Browns this season and the fated parade talk returned.
It finally became a shameful reality after the loss to the Steelers on Dec. 31.
McNeil said that the purpose of the parade was to have fun but not to celebrate the Browns losing. He said it was a “shot across the bow” to the team’s ownership, singling out owner Jimmy Haslam.
McNeil raised money to cover the cost of the parade and said that any money not used for expenses, such as medical and security personnel, would be donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. $17,157 was raised for the food bank, which will produce 68,628 meals. Perishable food donations were also collected, which will increase the meal count to over 70,000.
The parade route consisted of a march around FirstEnergy Stadium in a “zero” pattern to represent the Browns’ zero wins. According to Cleveland police, about 2,500 to 3,200 people attended the parade.
There were numerous opinions about the parade. Some people used it to protest ownership, like McNeil, while others saw it as a way to have fun with fellow fans after a disastrous season.
Basil Saadeh, a junior sociology major, thought that the intent of the parade was justified.
“I personally thought that it was a good idea. I know some players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton were not fans of it, but I think even if you were a player, you have to look at it as [the fans] are not mad at you,” Saadeh said. “It was a protest to Jimmy Haslam and the front office.”
Genaro DeMonte, a junior civil engineering major, appreciated the camaraderie that fans shared.
“I thought it was absolutely hilarious,” DeMonte said. “It did a lot of good because they raised so much money for the food bank.”
On the other side, some people, including Browns players, felt the parade was distasteful and unsupportive of the team.
Merlin Hayes, a senior communications major, did not support the parade.
“I disliked the parade but I understood why people did it. There is frustration building up, especially with the older generation,” Hayes said. “I feel as though it was disrespectful. That’s not how you are supposed to treat a team. I do believe it was a bad gesture and it shows Cleveland in a poor light.”
The morning of the parade, Browns linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah tweeted that “the parade is a joke, don’t call yourself a true Browns fan if you go to that thing!” He tweeted, “going 0-16 was embarrassing enough as a player. That is like adding fuel to the fire, and it is completely wrong!”
Browns defensive lineman Danny Shelton also expressed his disdain before the parade. He tweeted that he “can’t wait for things to start rolling the right way for the Browns. Funny how these ‘fans’ will be the ones that say ‘I am a die-hard Browns fan’ but fans don’t disrespect their home team. I know we still have some faithful fans out there, things will get better!”
Browns fans have proven to be passionate and loyal. They have supported the team through a long, unsuccessful stretch since their return.
“I believe [the fans] are loyal because we’ve always been a football town,” Saadeh said. “Even though we go 0-16, with the parade, it just shows how much we care.”
The fans’ passion goes hand in hand with the character of Cleveland’s citizens.
“I feel like it’s rooted in the toughness of the city. What I mean by that is, it’s how we view ourselves,” Hayes said. “We are always laughed at or frowned upon and the Browns, unfortunately, embody that. I feel like that’s why you want to root for them, that’s why we are there.”
And for some, the love for the Browns runs deeper than just the city of Cleveland.
“Ohio is a football state and because [the Browns] were the first pro football team in the state, I feel like they will always have that plus they were the first team [in Ohio] to win a significant championship,” DeMonte said.
Browns fans never give up on their team. They are a prideful group and no matter how bad the team has been since it returned to the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1999, the fans support and stick with the Browns.
Hopefully the team can start to return the favor.