I miss him
I miss Art Modell.
There. Said it. It’s in print. Can’t take it back.
The late ex-Browns owner is remembered for two things in Cleveland: Being a bad businessman when he was there, then moving the team.
Naturally, I don’t miss anything regarding the move, or pretty much anything from 1994 on.
But if I’m to give Modell one thing, it was his desire to win.
He wanted a Super Bowl badly. Not for Cleveland, as we found out, but for himself. This desire caused him to make desperate moves that not only hurt the product on the field, but likely figured in to him moving his organization to Baltimore.
But for all his faults, his primary goal was in step with Browns fans.
Win. Win soon.
The organization that replaced Modell’s in 1999 has gone through numerous coaching and front office changes. It has had two owners.
For years, no matter how bad things got, I could always go back to the refrain.
At least it’s not Modell.
Then came Wednesday.
The Browns, as usual, went into Week 3 with an 0-2 record, and things looked worse than that.
After all, there’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ 0-2 (rough start), and there’s Cleveland Browns’ 0-2 (hopeless).
Quarterback Brandon Weeden is already injured, and coach Rob Chudzinski won’t even say he’d start again when healthy. No matter what one thought of Weeden, he was the starter for a reason.
Nobody else is better. So that’s bad.
But here’s the thing with Browns teams. Not content to just be abysmal, they feel the need to get weird.
In the afternoon, Cleveland announced it would start previously third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer against the Vikings. As in Brian “I’m almost 28 but somehow have played only 15 NFL games in my career” Hoyer. The former Michigan State standout somehow leapfrogged No. 2 signal-caller Jason Campbell, who, while not great, at least has loads of experience as a starter.
And then, the Browns traded running back Trent Richardson to the Colts.
Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, was swapped for a 2014 first-round pick.
And that’s when the head started to spin.
Two games into the season, and the team changes itself. It’s like Alfred Hitchock’s “Psycho,” where the first half hour of the movie gives you a plot about a woman stealing money from her office, then, abruptly, becomes about Norman Bates.
The only differences are the Browns are less exciting, but, oddly, scarier.
Richardson came highly-touted out of Alabama, and while he had yet to really become a dominant back, he’s still just 23.
Plus, he was a No. 3 pick. The Colts made the playoffs last year, and figure to be good again. If they make the playoffs, the Browns will get a pick no higher than the low 20s.
But it’s not the move that bothers me. It’s the message.
In the NFL, teams can quickly go from cellar-dwellers playoff contenders. The Colts had three wins in 2011, and made the postseason the next year. The Chiefs were 2-14 last season, and sit 3-0 right now.
Most front offices work to get as good as possible as fast as possible.
Not the Browns.
Cleveland fans are constantly asked to be patient, to believe in the system, believe in the process.
It’s become a cycle. Someone gets hired, implements a system. That someone gets fired. The new someone comes in, implements a new system, gets fired.
And every time that new someone comes in, they preach patience.
Which brings me back to Modell.
The Browns last won a division in 1989.
Modell was the owner.
They last won a playoff game in 1994.
Modell was the owner.
That, of course was the old Browns.
Modell never preached rebuilding. He preached championships. While they never came (at least here), I never got the sense he was lying or covering.
He really believed the Browns could and should win now.
By trading Richardson, current-Browns CEO Joe Banner is sending a different message.
“Trust us, we can win later.”
As I said, it’s not the move, it’s the message. Keeping Trent Richardson wouldn’t have meant the playoffs in 2013, but it at least would have been a reason to keep watching.
By putting their No. 3 quarterback in to start and trading their top running back, the front office essentially is daring us not to watch.
The last time a team sent us this message was 1995, when the Browns announced their move to Baltimore.
And yes, Modell was the owner.
At least this team isn’t going anywhere.
That was meant to be a positive, but I might change my mind about that after this season.
Zach Baker is the sports editor of The Advertiser-Tribune.
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