Will futility ever end for Lions and Browns?Written by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to professional football, Toledoans really are blessed. We have two of the worst NFL teams within a short drive of our fair city.
Just about an hour drive to the north, you have the poster team for losing. The Detroit Lions made history two years ago by becoming the first team to lose all of its 16 games in an NFL season.
In fact, the Lions were one of only five teams that fell prey to the league’s blackout rules on TV for not selling out its home games.
Citizens of the Glass City can also drive two hours to our east and visit the Cleveland Browns, who are more known for failures on the big stage than any successes.
Phrases like “The Drive” and “The Fumble” are just as fresh in Browns fans’ minds as anything else.
With both franchises’ historic ineptitude, it is difficult for fans of each respective team to get geared up and be hopeful for another NFL season.
But if you listened to any local sports talk shows, you might assume that there was actually a reason to be excited for this football season.
I had heard some diehard fans of the Lions predict their team might make the playoffs this year. I have heard one Browns fan who legitimately thinks the team might finish with a record of 12-4.
While both of those predictions are never going to happen, there actually appears to be a silver lining in the traditionally dark clouds that surround each team year in and year out.
The Lions have a promising young quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford played well in his first year of professional football, and while his stat line (13 TD, 20 Int.) doesn’t necessarily reflect it, fans saw an immense growth in the Georgia product as last season wore on.
Throw in one of the league’s top receivers in Calvin Johnson and two exciting rookies in Ndamukong Suh, who will help anchor the defense, and running back Jahvid Best, and expectations are running high for the team from the Motor City.
It is entirely plausible that the Lions could win eight games this season. The team has looked good in the preseason and seems to be on the right track under the direction of second year coach Jim Schwartz.
The Browns are in the middle of a fourth rebuilding mode since rejoining the league in 1999 as an expansion team.
The boys by the lake are crueler to their fans than the Lions though. The Browns love to leave fans with a glimmer of hope prior to each season.
I remember countless times where Browns fans have felt their team was just a few players short of making great things happen, only to fall very short of expectations.
The 2010 season is no different.
After a record of 1-11, the Browns reeled off four straight wins to finish last season. With the addition of new general manager, Mike Holmgren, hope springs eternal in Cleveland once again.
Holmgren has led two different teams to the Super Bowl as a coach, and the 62-year-old has a reputation for having an eye for talent.
The Browns also added veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, who is looking to rebound from an abysmal 2009, and some solid players on defense like Scott Fujita, who was a key member of the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
But both have found unique ways to continue torturing their respective fan bases.
The Lions had a lead late into the game versus Chicago, only to yield the advantage late in the fourth quarter. The team was then robbed of a game-tying touchdown due to a controversial rule, which left many wondering whether fate will ever allow the Lions to be successful again.
The Browns had a similar fate. Cleveland had a lead of 14-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Delhomme threw an interception to set up Tampa Bay’s game-winning touchdown. The offense never could muster any more yards. The Browns’ ineptitude reared its head once more.
By January, we’ll know whether any of the optimism for either side was ever justified, but sadly I think the futility will continue for the foreseeable future.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for the Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. He also can be heard every Friday at 11 a.m. on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA.