I have a solution for the NFL's London problem.
This weekend the Patriots and Buccaneers will play the third annual NFL game across the pond, but the league is talking like there may be more games each year in the near future – say, two games a year, perhaps even four. Internet stories and subsequent reader posts reveal strong discontent with the notion. Americans seem to like their football to be played here in America.
So here’s what you do: Give 'em the Browns.
They're not really the Browns, anyway. That team's in Baltimore, posing as the Ravens. The team that's in Cleveland now? Your guess is as good as mine.
Let's be honest. To this day, when fans speak of "The Browns," the names that roll off their tongues are the names from a storied past: Paul Brown. Otto Graham. Lou Groza. Jim Brown. Bobby Mitchell. Gene Hickerson. Paul Warfield. Leroy Kelly.
Those were the real Browns. Always in the thick of things. The "Yankees of pro football," as they were known. In the 20 years between their arrival in the NFL and the league's merger with the AFL, the Browns were in the championship game 11 times. They won four of those. Before that, they won all four titles in the brief existence of the AAFC.
Even during the '80s and '90s – the Sipe and Kosar years – the Browns were championship contenders. Cleveland was Browns Town. The team reigned supreme. The Indians and Cavaliers were mostly terrible, anyway.
For their first 50 years, the Browns were an unusual phenomenon. They were a dominant team that nobody loved to hate. That's the way it was with the gridiron giants from the Midwest. Teams like the Packers, Bears, Lions, Steelers and Browns played a gritty, hard-nosed brand of football that even the most die-hard, blue-collar fans from rival cities could appreciate.
And the Browns gave you hope every year. Legitimate hope.
Not any more. The hastily assembled roster that took the field in 1999 might as well have had Keanu Reeves at quarterback and Gene Hackman under the fedora. And it’s hardly gotten better in the 11 seasons since. Face it, when your kicker is the best player of an entire era, as Phil Dawson has been since the team’s return, something is very, very wrong.
This year, they're 1-and-5. Their quarterback situation is a mess, and has been for years. The offense is inept. Fans are disgusted, passionate though they may be. This is not the Browns. It's a pale imitation, and it’s getting old.
So send them packing, the whole lot of them – owner, management, coaches and players. Move them across the ocean. Randy Lerner loves England, anyway, and already owns a soccer – excuse me, football – team there. Let fans over there think they're getting a real NFL franchise. We know better.
But take our team, please. I even have the perfect name picked out – one that would pay homage to their new home, and to the way they play.
Just call 'em the London Fog.