For Cleveland Browns fans, August is a time for excitement; the main free agency period and NFL draft have concluded and training camp is underway. Typically, it’s also a time for the previous season to be forgotten and look forward to the season ahead. Every so often, Browns’ fans will receive a new head coach in the offseason and hope that this guy is “the one” who will bring life to the franchise and create a consistent winner.
Yes, for Cleveland Browns fans, the offseason has been the safest place for optimism. On the field, Cleveland has only two winning seasons — 2002 and 2007 — and a playoff appearance in 2002, since the team’s return in 1999. The same cycle has repeated itself virtually every year: post a losing season, sign one or two big-name free agents, draft high in the first round, potentially hire a new coach, repeat. But for a city that takes pride in its professional sports, a losing season will never do enough to keep the fanbase down.
In the past, you’d never find a bandwagon Cleveland Browns’ fan because they’ve never left (And there hasn’t been a true wagon for which to jump). Even when the team was painstakingly ripped away, no one latched on with the hated Baltimore Ravens, just simply chose to be a fan of the NFL. In 2011, when EA Sports decided to leave the Madden cover athlete up to a vote by the fans, Cleveland strongly supported its team and voted then-running back Peyton Hillis to the top.
The support by Browns fans was once again shown in the first quarter of the NFL’s 2014 fiscal year, when rookie QB Johnny Manziel led the entire league in jersey sales, surpassing the likes of Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III. Manziel’s popularity — both positive and negative — has created a new stage for the Browns and the city of Cleveland. Still not on the radar for most, the city is undergoing a renaissance that begins with the sports’ world; from Manziel to LeBron James, Cleveland has found itself in the middle of the conversation.
The 2014 Cleveland Browns have added significant pieces like Manziel, running back Ben Tate and cornerback Justin Gilbert; they also boast five Pro Bowl players on the roster and a plethora of other young talent. Although a lengthy suspension for WR Josh Gordon seems imminent, the fans and franchise have stood behind the troubled young star, once again proving the closeness of the franchise and the fans.
Seemingly every year, the same cycle repeats itself ,and for fans of the Browns it can be frustrating. But hanging on to hope has proven to be enough year-in and year-out for Browns’ backers. The 2014 edition of the team has the same exciting buzz surrounding it but, as we know the season isn’t determined by offseason hype. Owner Jimmy Haslam, GM Ray Farmer and HC Mike Pettine are in charge of restoring the franchise back to its old self, but until then, Browns fans will continue to feed off the hope that winning seasons are on the horizon.