The Browns Fan From Youngstown Has Got A Point, Doesn't He?
By Steven King
There’s a big Cleveland Browns fan from Youngstown, Ohio, who is convinced that if the Browns headed south at FirstEnergy Stadium, then their inability to win games would head south, too, in so many words.
The unidentified man has called Cleveland radio sports talk shows for years stating that the Browns need to return to the south sideline at the stadium, where the good karma is. That would translate to winning at home again.
The man is serious.
Bur before you shake your head and laugh off the guy as some kind of crackpot, maybe you should stop to consider that he might be on to something.
The original Browns franchise, which operated from 1946-95 at Cleveland Stadium – located on the footprint of FirstEnergy Stadium – won 61 percent of its home games while stationed on the south sideline. That’s an off-the-charts figure.
This new franchise – born in 1999 as an expansion team – has won just 36.3 percent of its games (a 41-72 record) heading into Sunday’s visit by the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s an off-the-charts figure as well.
We hear what you’re saying, that the old Browns had much better teams than the new version. Of course they won more games at home. Why wouldn’t they?
But it’s not that simple. Even when the old Browns had bad teams, they still won at home. Something unforeseen would happen – on many occasions, something totally bizarre – and they would pull off a stunning upset victory.
Bizarre things continue to happen to the team on the north sideline (remember when RT Orlando Brown got hit in the eye with the weighted end of a penalty flag thrown by an official standing 20 yards away, causing fans to wonder why the Browns didn’t try to sign the deadeye, pintpoint-accureate ref as a quarterback, or when LB Dwayne Rudd lost his head and took off his helmet early in a victory celebration on the “final” play of the game, causing the team to get penalized and lose the game?). Only now, it’s Cleveland standing there. The good karma has remained on that south sideline.
Think about it this way, the teams on the south sideline are still winning just over 60 percent of the time (63.7).
Blame the Browns marketing people from way back when. As the new stadium was being planned, they made the decision to put the club on the north sideline. Why? Just as was the case in the old stadium, the TV cameras were always going to be on the south side of the new place. So instead of those cameras getting the back of everyone’s heads on the south sideline, the cameras could now get full frontal shots of the Cleveland coaches and players on the north sideline and allow viewers to see what those men looked like.
Was it worth it to endure all this misery at home just to see the ever-present scowl on the face of former coach Eric Mangini? Or to see the confused look on Reggie Hodges’ face after he shanked another punt?
We think not.
Whatever the case, the Browns – who are already 0-1 at FirstEnergy Stadium this year – need to start winning at home. Until they do that, they will never be a contender. Since time began, all the good teams in pro football have won at home. It’s an absolute necessity. You can’t have one without the other.
Changing that has to be a priority on coach Rob Chudzinski’s list of things to do as he builds the team.
Here’s a look at how bad it has been for the Browns at home in the expansion era:
1999 – 2-14 (overall record), (0-8 home record).
2000 – 3-13, 2-6.
2001 – 7-9, 4-4.
2002 – 9-7, 3-5.
2003 – 5-11, 2-6.
2004 – 4-12, 3-5.
2005 – 6-10, 4-4.
2006 – 4-12, 2-6.
2007 – 10-6, 7-1.
2008 – 4-12, 1-7.
2009 – 5-11, 3-5.
2010 – 5-11, 3-5.
2011 – 4-12, 3-5.
2012 – 5-11, 4-4.
2013 – 1-2, 0-1.
TOTALS – overall record – 74-153 (.326), home record – 41-72 (.363).
As the fan from Youngstown has suggested any number of times, what’s the harm in switching sidelines? After all, it can’t get any worse at home for the Browns, can it?