“I’m done with this team.”
“They’re never going to get this figured out.”
“This is the last year I ever watch football.”
All of the above quotes were things I heard from various Cleveland Browns fans as the atrocity that was the 2015 season came to an end. Well, let’s be honest, I hear them at the end of almost every Browns season.
However, this year seemed particularly awful. Nobody really thought Cleveland would do much this season, and the team somehow brutally fell below even those expectations. Once owner Jimmy Haslam fired yet another coach and GM, you couldn’t help but feel like fans really meant it when they said they were finished following this franchise.
One coaching hire later, the mood has suddenly changed in Cleveland.
When word of the Browns hiring Hue Jackson hit social media, it seemed like the first time Cleveland fans had been excited about their football team in forever. During Jackson’s opening press conference, fans were giddily tweeting their favorite quotes. Articles from national commentators were shared solely for the fact they were all overwhelmingly positive about the Browns.
After just one hire, a fanbase so sick and tired of the past decades of failure finally found itself excited about the future ahead.
Jackson was introduced this past Wednesday, but just two days later, the positive vibes still permeate throughout Cleveland. A prime example could be heard today on 92.3 The Fan, a local sports radio station.
Callers on the mid-morning show were asked on a scale of 1-to-10 how they felt about the Browns at the end of the season. Unsurprisingly, many answered “zero.” Asked the same question regarding how they feel after the hiring of Jackson, there were sixes, sevens and eights.
That’s the impact we’re seeing in this hire. Just days after a putrid season came to an end, after fans were claiming they were ready to just wash their hands of this franchise, suddenly everyone seems to be back on board. Granted, this is a fanbase which is known for its undying loyalty, so it’s not too surprising. However, something about this feels different.
No t-shirts were printed upon the hiring of Pat Shurmur. Nobody raved about how Rob Chudzinski won his opening press conference. Radio phone lines weren’t jammed full of callers ready to celebrate Mike Pettine.
However, all of this took place with Jackson.
Maybe it was the fact Cleveland nabbed one of the most popular candidates available. Perhaps it was simply because the Browns didn’t end up forced to hire a man nobody had heard of. Or it could’ve been how Jackson scoffed at all the negative things he heard about the team before he eventually signed on.
Honestly, it was probably a combination of all of these which caused Browns fans to feel positive about their team for once. Again, though, it’s been a long time since a coaching hire brought this much excitement to Cleveland.
Obviously, this is no guarantee things will be different for the 2016 Browns. It’s far more difficult to win on the field than it is to win at a media podium. If Jackson has a rough debut season, people will likely forget about how excited they were upon his hiring.
For now, though, it’s quite impressive to see how quickly this moribund franchise injected life into its downtrodden fanbase. Whether or not Jackson ends up being the man to turn this team around remains to be seen.