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The Student Prints

The Student Prints

The Cleveland Browns, Winners at Last

THERE IS NOWHERE in the world quite like Downtown Cleveland after the Browns have won. It doesn’t happen often, so it is special. However, the fans know that the Browns have won often in the past, so it is not a novelty. Although those who knew the Browns’ most recent golden age are old now (someone in middle school during The Fumble would presumably be at least 42 today), they have done an admirable job passing down the memory of what the team once stood for down through the years.

The Browns famously have been unable to find a quarterback with a metal detector these last two decades. For years, two-sport star Otto Graham was the face of the franchise; he gave way to solid successors in Milt Plum and Frank Ryan. He was followed by Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, still giants of Cleveland lore. But that is where the well runs dry. The number of quarterbacks that have taken a turn starting for the Browns since 1999 is a staggering 30.

Perspective: the Cleveland Browns have had 30 starting quarterbacks since 1999. The Ohio State Buckeyes have had 30 starting quarterbacks since 1953.

Now, however, it appears the revolving door has shut. With the first pick of the NFL Draft in April, the Browns eagerly took Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Heisman winner and the first walk-on ever to win the award. After biding his time behind veteran Tyrod Taylor, he stepped into the role of starter and appeared uncommonly seasoned.

And suddenly the Browns are on a ride better suited to Cedar Point. In Week one, the team fell behind 21-7, somehow erased that deficit in the fourth quarter, and fought the Steelers to a stalemate. Week two saw Cleveland lose to the Saints after missing two critical extra points, succumbing on a field goal on the game’s final play.

Week three saw the arrival of the Browns’ headbanded savior – Mayfield debuted in the fires of a 14-0 deficit on Thursday Night Football in relief of Taylor, and by the time he was finished, he’d piloted the Browns to a 21-17 victory, their first since 2016. Perhaps the squad was afflicted with a hangover the next week, because the Browns’ defense was porous in a loss to Oakland. Mayfield nearly pitched Cleveland to victory, but the Raiders came back and pulled out a 45-42 win – again in overtime.

We have arrive, now, at the events of October 7, undoubtedly the most preposterous and heart-stopping Browns game yet. Mayfield was merely comme ci comme ca, tossing only a sole touchdown against an interception, but for once in the recent annals of the Browns, that did not matter. The defense picked the Browns up all game long. And Mayfield was very solid when he needed to be. A late extra point was not debilitating, as it would have been to teams of the past, and the Browns recovered spectacularly.

With 3:26 left in the overtime period, and the Browns staring down a discouraging second tie, Mayfield overthrew Jarvis Landry on fourth-and-five, giving the ball to Baltimore with very solid field position and just enough time to make magic happen. It was the same old story, many thought. Browns choke again! Yes, general manager John Dorsey had sold the fanbase false hope, and this Raven debacle was the start of a downward slide.

Not so, however: Baltimore methodically went three-and-out and punted. After Mayfield made that most unforgivable of rookie mistakes – taking a sack for an 11 yard loss – he quickly got it all back and more, throwing for a 13-yard gain and then a striking 39-yard gain that brought the Browns into field goal range.

When Greg Joseph’s dead-duck field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, it was a vindication. It didn’t matter the score, the opponent, the phantasms of Ty Detmer and Ken Dorsey and all the obscure quarterbacking names that had come and lost before. Baker Mayfield and friends were here, and the Browns were the better team because of it. Otto Graham and Coach Paul Brown can smile in their graves, and this time not in a false grin, but in a smirking acknowledgement of Cleveland’s new reality. The team is back. And, if not every week, the wins will soon follow.

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