Browns Diary, Week 3: The Big Unit
Browns 27, Titans 3
In the half-century or so that I have been a Brown fan, I’d say they have had a Super Bowl-caliber unit — which is to say, a Super Bowl-level offense or a Super Bowl-level defense — maybe three or four times. Maybe. I’m judging generously here, because the Browns have not had too many great units.
I’d list the best Browns units of the last 50 years as these:
The 1980 Brian Sipe offense. Being honest, the Kardiac Kids’ offense of Sipe, Ozzie Newsome, Reggie Rucker, Mike Pruitt, Dave Logan and so on was probably NOT Super Bowl-caliber, but they had a thrilling knack for the big play, and they had all sorts of last-minute magic. That is until Red Right 88 broke our hearts.
The 1986-87 Browns balance. Those two Browns teams did not have either a high-flying offense or a dominant defense … but they were, like, top five on both sides of the ball. And in those days, the AFC was just brutal, so that balance could have — and should have — been good enough to get Cleveland to a Super Bowl. Alas, it wasn’t, because of the Drive and the Fumble.
The 1994 Browns defense. With head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Nick Saban working together, that defense gave up the fewest points in pro football. It was a good enough defense to get Cleveland to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Vinny Testaverde-led offense was not nearly good enough, and the Browns got crushed in a division playoff game against Pittsburgh.
I think that’s as far as I can go. Since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 2000, they have finished top 10 in scoring offense just once (2008, when they finished 8th) and in defense only three times (in 2002 they finished 10th, in 2011 they finished fifth and in 2015 they finished 9th). None of those were dominant units, to say the least.
So, having looked back a bit more closely, I can say more about a theme that I brought up last week:
I think this Cleveland Browns defense is the best unit this team has had in my life as a fan.
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