Former Cleveland Browns' QB Derek Anderson lashed out via e-mail to sportswriter Jeff Schudel of the Willoughby, Oh., News-Herald after his release. Anderson called Browns fans “ruthless,” citing them cheering his injury after he sustained a sprained MCL in his left knee in a home game.
Mr. Anderson, compared to players who have held your position in the past, we were too kind.
Via your agent, you retracted those statements to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but the cat was out of the bag and the horse had left the barn.
If you want to be the most popular man in Cleveland, get a job as the second-string quarterback. That’s the way it’s always been, with few exceptions.
When what is now known as “classic rock” was filed in places called “record stores” under “new releases,” there was a popular T-shirt with the inscription “Cleveland: You’ve Got To Be Tough.”
The word “Cleveland” was in a cloud of pollution billowing from smokestacks.
That’s our heritage, Mr. Anderson. And to play quarterback in Cleveland, you’ve got to be tough.
1. Who Are You?
Despite being a hit from the classic rock era and an almost insulting rhetorical question, that’s also a great philosophical inquiry.
And, who are Browns fans, anyway?
When they love a player, he can do no wrong. When they hate a player, he can do nothing right.
They may have held office jobs all of their lives, but their grandparents may have worked in factories during the second world war. Therefore, on Sundays, even though they may live in suburbs called “Heights” or exurbs called “Hills,” they become honorary citizens of Cleveland, the place their parents fled, every Sunday.
Their only heavy lifting may be at the gym and their only running is in the Metroparks. But on Sunday afternoons, they do their best to embody the blue-collar heart and soul that once defined Cleveland.
It’s not by accident that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an hour’s drive away in Canton, Oh. Old manufacturing towns like Canton and Massillon have high school football rivalries that date back more than a century.
That’s us. Whether running a drill press or running a Macintosh, we work hard, and we play hard.
And we expect the same thing from the men who don those orange helmets. Failure is not an option.
Mr. Anderson, other men who have been behind center for the Browns have been treated far worse than you. And you may be surprised who some of them were.
2. No One Here Gets Out Alive
Six Points has to go back to the well of classic rock references for this take. In the history of the Cleveland Browns, only Otto Graham has been given a total pass at QB, but with seven championships, he definitely earned the unquestioned loyalty.
Even Frank Ryan, the last man to quarterback a championship team on the lakefront, endured his own QB controversy with two guys named Milt Plum and Jim Ninowski.
Bernie Kosar, revered by a generation of Browns fans, had his critics in his first season. After replacing injured mentor Gary Danielson in 1985, the light didn’t come on immediately for Kosar.
Six Points vividly remembers people in the original Dawg Pound in Municipal Stadium calling him “Bernice.”
In that spirit, Six Points has never had a problem referring to an ineffectual Notre Dame product as “Brandy Queen.”
It’s us. It’s our heritage. You’ve got to be tough.
3. In the Beginning
Damn, Six Points has not heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer for ages!
Back in the 1970s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had record albums that shipped platinum.
That’s also when Cleveland first started seriously mistreating its busts at quarterback. In this instance, a third-overall draft choice from Purdue named Mike Phipps.
At that time, luxury condominiums had sprung up on a former drugstore magnate’s estate south of Cleveland. Phipps and his wife, Carole, lived in one of them.
With their his-and-hers Corvettes, the Phippses were easy to spot by neighborhood children and adolescents whose accuracy with eggs thrown at their moving cars were around the accuracy with which Phipps completed his passes (slightly under 50 percent).
Municipal Stadium crowds also cheered injuries to Phipps. You’ve got to be tough.
4. Old McDonald Had An Arm
Paul McDonald, a draftee from USC, had the unenviable task of replacing Brian Sipe after Sipe had fled to the then-extant USFL.
McDonald had some promise, but no leadership or pocket presence.
While McDonald was not around long enough to gain true enmity of Browns fans, having only started one season (1984), he became known as “Candy Ass” in his brief tenure.
5. Vinny Green Head
“Green Head” is the Italian translation of “Testaverde,” and if his play weren’t enough for Browns fans to ridicule him, that was certainly icing on the cake.
Vinny Testaverde may have been the most reviled quarterback in the history of the Cleveland Browns, and not all of it was his fault. Testaverde was originally brought in to back up, and ultimately replace, fan favorite Kosar by the also-reviled Bill Belichick.
One of the nicer names Browns fans had for him at the time was “Interceptaverde.”
Vinny, be glad the Internet was in its infancy when you played here. It could have been much worse.
In the ugliest instance of fan enmity, 80,000 fans in Municipal Stadium let out a deafening roar when Testaverde was injured, paving the way for his replacement by the then-demoted Kosar.
Shortly thereafter, Kosar was released by Belichick despite Testaverde’s injury, and Belichick started the forgettable Todd Philcox against Seattle.
Mr. Philcox, be happy you stopped at one cup of coffee in Cleveland.
6. Timmy Fell Down the Well
And, if Lassie was owned by anyone in Greater Cleveland, she would have rolled over, grabbed her chew toy, and not gone to save him.
That was how Browns fans came to feel about Tim Couch, who played behind a papier-mache offensive line with no weapons, but was still largely reviled.
For much of the fan base, it was as simple as ABC (Anyone But Couch). Spergon Wynn? Luke McCown? They couldn’t be worse, could they be?
Yes, they were, but that was immaterial.
One of the loudest cheers in the history of Cleveland Browns Stadium occurred when Couch was injured, although it did not come close to the decibel level of the Municipal Stadium crowd when Testaverde went down.
And, in perhaps the worst PR move by a total PR professional, then-Browns President Carmen Policy green-lighted a concussed and tearful Couch to face the media.
That, of course, brought further ridicule.
By comparison, the barely-audible cheers for Mr. Anderson’s MCL injury were equivalent to likening a starter’s pistol firing blanks to an M-16.
You’ve got to be tough.
And, Mr. Anderson, some other cities aren’t much better.
Mr. Brayden Tyler Quinn? If your current level of play continues and you have the keys to the car, prepare for chants of “Se-ne-CA!” sooner than later.
In the Municipal Stadium days, you’d have heard “Bran-dy QUEEN!”
If the trade rumors, as posted by Schefter on ESPN and blogged about by James Walker on the same source are true, it may be a blessing in disguise for Brady Quinn.
Cleveland is the city where teams had to switch ends of the field in a 1989 game when John Elway was getting peppered by D-cell batteries and Milk-Bones when backed up to the original Dawg Pound.
If you’re any good at all, we love you. If you suck, we hate you. That’s the way it is.
You’ve got to be tough.
Extra Point: A Minor Re-branding
There have been a number of articles titled “Six Points on the Cleveland Browns (Date,)” and Six Points would like to thank the Bleacher Report community for their success, and the B/R editors for their catches and their plaudits.
Consulting the marketing department in his head, Six Points is losing the date and the Browns reference in the headline, but keeping the format all five of you have come to know and love.
Going forward, Six Points will be able to comment on other subjects while providing a headline with more punch. For example, a future installment might be titled “Six Points: How NASCAR Sold Its Soul.”
Let the games begin.