And We Still Won't Stop Watching the Browns

It is one thing to have a home NFL team that makes you want to wear a paper bag over your head. That has happened to any number of teams throughout NFL history. The Arizona Cardinals certainly can qualify as the paper shopping bag type of team. The Bengals also qualified before the last few seasons before they got Marvin Lewis coaching and Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson playing. You see, the Cleveland Browns are different because you have to ask their fans whether they want paper or plastic.

There is something of a perfect storm hanging over Cleveland since the team returned in 1999. They were an expansion team with less advantages than either Jacksonville or Carolina because the NFL changed their policies following the "premature" successes of those teams. Combine that with the two inept management regimes provided by Carmen Policy/Dwight Clark first, and Butch Davis second. Those regimes led to the drafting, departure and decline of players like Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Jeff Faine and the much forgotten Jeremiah Pharms.

Pharms already had his draft day. It came in 2001, when the Cleveland Browns selected him in the fifth round. He never played a down.

Instead, he spent 27 months at Shelton Corrections Center after entering an Alford plea on a robbery charge -- not admitting guilt, but acknowledging there was sufficient evidence for a conviction.

And even now, there is more dysfunction than the law should allow. There was a front-office pissing match between the football guy (Phil Savage) and the marketing guy (John Collins) which resulted in Collins not working for the Browns any more. Then there were problems with offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon that led to Trent Dilfer, the only experienced backup QB on the team, being shipped to San Francisco before Carthon wrote his own ticket out of town with some horrendous looking offensive schemes in the first half of this season.

And yet, this town continues to support the Browns. I think everyone feels like this team has improved over last season, and yet, what does that do for Cleveland Browns fans? They get to feel like they are going to lose every single game of every single season. Ask any Browns fan who watched yesterday's Browns/Steelers game if they thought the Browns would win. Even though the team was leading for over three quarters of football, it was never a surprise that Pittsburgh was in a position to win at the end of the fourth quarter. It was even less of a surprise that Ben Roethlisberger could play one of the worst games of his career and still shovel a three yard pass to Willie Parker to put the winning touchdown on the board with 32 seconds remaining.

And yes, it is debatable which loss hurts more; the one at the last minute with 32 seconds remaining in the game or the 41-point demolition that occurred on Christmas Eve last year. Both games scream of ineptitude.

The real problem for Browns fans is who to blame. And anyone who accuses Browns fans of complaining without justification is plain ignorant. There are so many people who need to have the finger pointed in their direction and all justifiably so.

Art Modell for moving a team and then winning a Superbowl in Baltimore

former Cleveland Mayor Michael White for being corrupt (allegedly) and screwing up enough that Modell left

Paul Tagliabue for allowing a franchise with such great tradition, history and one of the most loyal fan bases to leave Cleveland

Paul Tagliabue again for changing the expansion rules after Jacksonville and Carolina were allowed to come into the league and compete

Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark for putting the team behind the eight ball at the start with Tim Couch and Courtney Brown

Butch Davis for messing up drafts and causing an entire team of players to hate him for being secretive, underhanded and frankly just plain shady

John Collins for trying a power play in the Browns front office that would have resulted in Phil Savage leaving the team

Romeo Crennel for sticking by his friend Maurice Carthon to the detriment of the team

the Lerner family for not getting this thing under control sooner

It is one thing to just have bad luck (and the Browns have had plenty) but it is quite another to have bad luck combined with all these mistakes. Browns fans don't deserve it. I don't come from the school of thought that any team deserves championships or playoff success, but I think Browns fans deserve to have a look at a 500 or better season every now and then.

Until then, there is only one question.