Cleveland Browns: The 8 Most Embarrassing Figures in Franchise History
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Cleveland has an infamous sports history full of heartbreak. We've lived through "the drive", "the shot", and "the pitch," and those are just the ones we managed to come up with a one-word tag line for.
Heartbreaking sports moments have solicited all sorts of responses from Cleveland fans: tears, anger, and even the hurling of several thousand plastic bottles in the memorable 2001 game against the Jaguars later dubbed "Bottle Gate".
Another result of some of Cleveland's worst sports moments? Embarrassment. The organization has embarrassed itself plenty of times, as have the fans (case in point: Bottle Gate), but the biggest offenders are usually individuals. Whether it's players, ownership, or coaching staff, the Browns have had their share of characters who we're all a bit mortified by.
Following, in no particular order, are eight of the most notorious embarrassments in the Browns organization since 1980. Feel free to pretend you don't know them.
8. Derek Anderson
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During his tenure with the Browns, Derek Anderson did plenty of embarrassing things on the field that made Browns fans pray that the team would find a new quarterback. But when he took cheap shots at the fans and the city on his way out of town in 2010, it made Browns fans pray for his head on platter.
Anderson's embarrassing final words to Cleveland were: "The fans are ruthless and don't deserve a winner. I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured. I know at times I wasn't great. I hope and pray I'm playing when my team comes to town and (we) roll them." Charming guy.
I'm sure it's rough being a struggling player in a town that reveres football above all else, but at the end of the day, Anderson was no different than anyone else who goes to work and doesn't do their job. His petty, childish finger-pointing on his way out of town only made him look foolish and proved his detractors right, and since he was released from the team, he wound up mostly embarrassing himself.
Postscript: Anderson seemed to have learned nothing from his idiotic moves on his way out of Cleveland: After he and his teammates tanked a game with his new squad in Arizona, cameras caught him laughing on the sidelines. Sheesh, some guys never learn.
7. Dwayne Rudd
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Unlike many of the embarrassing characters on this list, LB Dwayne Rudd wasn't a repeat offender. But he did have one oh-so-memorable moment that not only mortified the Browns and their fans, but cost them a game.
In a 2002 game against the Chiefs, Rudd thought he had sacked Kansas City QB Trent Green just as the clock ran out, giving the Browns a 39-37 win. An overjoyed and apparently stupid Rudd threw his helmet in celebration, thinking the game had ended and not realizing that Green had lateraled the ball to a lineman on his way down.
The game would have been over despite the lateral and the Browns would have won anyway, except for that pesky airborne helmet, which got Rudd flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty allowed the Chiefs to kick a field goal and win the game.
Not only was it embarrassing to watch a player put on such a classless, unsportsmanlike display by throwing his helmet, it was even more so because it cost the Browns a win.
Rudd went on to play one more year in the NFL with Tampa Bay after that in 2003. I can't confirm this, but I believe he learned his lesson and kept his helmet on his head during his time there.
6. Kellen Winslow Jr.
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When the Browns drafted Kellen Winslow Jr in the first round of the 2004 draft, fans were ecstatic. His father was a Hall of Famer as a TE for the Chargers, and Junior looked as though he had big potential during his college career too.
But in 2005, just one year after he joined the Browns, Winslow committed the mother of all boneheaded moves: an off-field accident doing something stupid that put him on the IR for the season.
Winslow was riding his motorcycle around a community college parking lot, crashed into a curb, and sustained multiple injuries including a torn ACL (which, to top it off, later developed a staph infection, his first of two of those during his time with the Browns).
There were other embarrassing incidents involving Winslow and the Browns before they eventually traded him to Tampa Bay in 2009, though to be fair many of those were not entirely his fault. The motorcycle wreck, however, was an embarrassment that Winslow completely brought on himself.
Perhaps the only thing that would later save Winslow some embarrassment was that a Steelers player one-upped him in the category of "dumb things to do on a motorcycle" when Ben Roethlisberger crashed his bike in downtown Pittsburgh, sans helmet (there's a Dwayne Rudd joke in that one somewhere).
5. Bill Belichick
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These days, Bill Belichick is mostly known as the genius coach who turned the Patriots into one of the NFL's elite franchises. But back in 1993 as the head coach of the Browns, Belichick was most often referred to as either "the guy who cut Bernie Kosar" or some string of unprintable names resulting from that move.
There was no one more beloved than Kosar in Cleveland at the time, and Belichick embarrassed himself, the team, and Kosar by unceremoniously kicking him to the curb, citing Kosar's "diminishing skills".
Browns fans were outraged and horrified. Belichick just scowled and thrust Vinny Testaverde at Browns fans as though he was doing them a favor. Poor Testaverde never caught a break from Browns fans after that, as Belichick's move made him the poster boy for Bernie's departure.
The move might have been forgiven (at least a little) had Belichick's brilliant plan worked out, but the Browns never really improved much under the Belichick/Testaverde regime. And to pour salt on the wound, Belichick eventually even ended up subjecting the Cleveland faithful to Todd Philcox.
4. Donte Stallworth
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In 2008, Browns fans had high hopes when WR Donte Stallworth was signed to a seven-year, $35 million dollar deal through free agency.
After a disappointing season in 2008 where he had just 17 catches for 170 yards, Stallworth did something so awful that just calling it embarrassing doesn't do it justice.
Driving his Bentley near Miami, Florida in the wee hours of the morning after a night of club hopping, Stallworth hit and killed a pedestrian who was on his way to work as he crossed the street.
To make matters worse, Stallworth's initial explanation involved him making a statement saying he had "flashed his headlights", as though warning the pedestrian that he was about to run him down with his car made it OK. Stallworth would later apologize, but that didn't matter much.
He was suspended by the league for the 2009 season after being convicted of manslaughter, and the Browns wisely voided his contract immediately after he was reinstated. In a bitter twist of irony, he wound up signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
3. Shaun Rogers
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When the Browns acquired Shaun Rogers from the Detroit Lions in 2008, fans were excited about the shot in the arm he would provide to the defense. But Rogers later embarrassed himself and the Browns in an incident at the Cleveland airport where, well, it's fortunate no one got shot in the arm.
On April Fool's Day (emphasis on the 'fool' part) of 2010, Rogers was arrested at the airport for having a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage. Rogers claimed he had the gun "for protection" and said he "forgot it was loaded". Yikes.
Usually after an off-field faux-pas, players will do their best to make things right with the team and the fans during the next season by putting their head down, staying quiet and doing their best to let their performance atone for their missteps. Not Rogers, who seemed to think the best move after his airport antics was to spend most of his time on an exercise bike on the sidelines rather than paying attention to the game.
Word also got out that he skipped practices and team meetings and displayed a general attitude problem, leaving many of us wishing airport security would pay a visit to the Browns stadium to slap some sense into him.
Rogers was released after the 2010 season, and afterward signed with the New Orleans Saints. Lucky for Clevelanders, he will now be terrorizing airports and failing to terrorize opposing offenses in another state.
2. Braylon Edwards
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One of the most hated and most embarrassing figures in Browns history is Braylon Edwards, who began acting up while he was still with the team and hasn't shut up since.
Edwards had one standout season in 2007, but then absolutely crashed and burned after that. Fans booed him because, well, that's what fans tend to do when you're not only not doing your job, but appear to not even be trying to.
Edwards, however, didn't see it that way. In what was, for all intents and purposes, a hysterical tantrum worthy of a four-year-old, Edwards whined and screeched that Browns fans didn't like him "because he went to Michigan".
It seemed that Edwards forgot that a) he played for an NFL team called the Browns, not an NCAA team called the Buckeyes, and b) that the Browns have had many players on their roster who were beloved by fans despite Michigan being their alma mater.
He also went on to further embarrass himself by punching a friend of LeBron James at a downtown Cleveland nightspot. At the time, James was king in Cleveland, and attacking anyone associated with him was grounds for an angry mob of Clevelanders to hunt you down.
Obviously, no matter who took their talents where, this is never OK, though many Clevelanders are now probably wishing he'd socked LeBron instead. Either way, it was more embarrassing evidence of what a problem Edwards was.
And sadly, Edwards still couldn't let it go after being traded to the Jets. When New York came to town to play the Browns in 2010, Edwards still couldn't shut up, tweeting that he was coming to Cleveland and that the fans should "bring ya damn popcorn". Amazingly, Edwards made it out of Cleveland alive that weekend.
1. Art Modell
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By far the most hated and most embarrassing man ever associated with the Browns or Cleveland sports in general is ex-owner and traitor Art Modell.
Modell announced in 1995 that he was taking Cleveland's beloved Browns and moving them to Baltimore, where he would turn them purple, call them the Ravens, and convert Ozzie Newsome to the dark side.
That Modell is the most horrible man in Cleveland sports history and it's most hated enemy is obvious. But the embarrassment Modell brought on for Cleveland and its fans went well beyond just how embarrassing he and his own actions were to himself.
The move forced Browns fans to defend their team, their city, and their fanbase to outsiders for years (even to this day, in some cases), when they were asked over and over why Modell didn't want to be in Cleveland.
While Modell was the villain in this situation, he forced Browns fans into an embarrassing spot where they had to go on the defensive and explain that no, there was NO good reason for Modell to hijack their team and take it to another city.
Sadly, Modell himself never issued any real apology or showed any remorse or an appropriate sense of embarrassment for what he did to one of the greatest football towns in the country. Luckily, most sided with Cleveland, and the city retained the rights to the team's colors and history, providing some vindication that we weren't the only ones embarrassed by Modell's actions.