Like their city as a whole, the Browns have a host of experience of being underestimated and misunderstood. Being perceived this way is practically a birthright for Clevelanders, so it only makes sense that our team would follow suit.
Over the years, there have been hundreds of misconceptions and misunderstood situations involving the Browns. Some of them were only righted 20 or 30 years after they happened. Some of them may never be righted at all.
But we die-hard Browns fans often know the truth, even if we have a horrible time convincing others of it. That's OK; we're used to it by now.
Still, there are many notable misconceptions about the Browns throughout their history that are worth at least attempting to correct.
I've chosen here to take an in-depth look at just a few of them rather than give you a whole laundry list of every time the Browns have been misunderstood since their establishment in 1946. But I look forward to seeing other Browns misconceptions you all would like to see corrected in the comments below!
This is a pretty easy one for loyal Cleveland fans. We love Jim Brown. We can confidently say that he was the best running back of all time. But we also know that the success the Browns had with Brown in the backfield wasn't just because of him alone.
I wish to take nothing away from Brown, of course. The fact is he probably could have been a one-man show, if he needed to be. But fortunately, the fact that football is a team sport rang just as true for the Jim Brown era Browns as it does for every other team throughout history.
First, he was rushing from behind a phenomenally good offensive line for the bulk of his career. Gene Hickerson, Mike McCormack, and John Wooten were a formidable group, all contributing on defense at times also.
Another big part of why the Browns offense was so good in Brown's days was that it wasn't a one-dimensional rushing offense. This team could pass as well. They weren't only bulldozing other teams with rushing plays. They were mixing it up and giving opposing defenses fits because they were a threat to pass as well. Guys like Ray Renfro and Bobby Mitchell were excellent ball catchers who drew coverage away from Brown, just as he drew coverage away from them.
And, of course, on the other side of the ball, the Browns were pretty dominant as well. Among Jim Brown's defensive teammates were Browns top-50, all-time players and "Legends" members Dick Schafrath, Bob Gain, Paul Wiggin and Walt Michaels (most of whom also took turns on the offensive side of the ball as well).
We also can't forget that so much of the Browns' success in this era must be credited to the mastermind behind it all: legendary coach Paul Brown. He is the man who found and drafted Brown as well as the standouts at other positions who surrounded him.
Brown had enough talent that you could argue he could be a team in and of himself. But the beauty of the Browns of that era was, he didn't have to.
Ahh, Red Right 88. Look it up in a dictionary written by a Clevelander and you'll no doubt see it listed as synonymous with "failure."
And a failure it was, there's no doubt of that. But that doesn't mean it was the wrong call.
I'll spare you the in-depth explanation of this and direct you to Terry Pluto's beautifully written argument on the subject here.
But in a nutshell (I'm paraphrasing from Pluto here), the bottom line is that nearly every piece of film evidence indicated that Raiders safety Mike Davis always broke in the same direction. Unfortunately, this was the one time Davis chose to drop back a bit rather than come forward on a pass. Sipe threw behind Ozzie Newsome, Davis intercepted the pass and the heartbreak heard 'round Lake Erie ensued.
Afterward, both Sipe and coach Rutigliano tried to take the blame; Sipe for poorly executing the throw and Rutigliano for calling the play in the first place. In a sense, I suppose any call that results in the death of a team's playoff chances is the wrong one, but in this case, it just isn't that simple.
Was there a more "right" call instead? We can sit in our armchairs and play Monday Morning Quarterback 30 years later and say we would have run the ball, or passed to Logan or Pruitt or simply told Sipe to throw the ball away, but we have no idea if any of those things would have worked either.
All we know is that evidence indicated that Red Right 88 made sense for the situation. It may not have wound up being the right call, but it also wasn't the wrong one.
Here's another misconception about the Browns that largely exists only outside of Cleveland. No Browns fan would ever tell you Bernie Kosar was anywhere near mediocre, but that sentiment dies promptly right outside the Cleveland border.
And, in a sense, that's understandable. If all you know of Kosar is his stats, then yes, what shows up on paper looks pretty middle of the pack. But boy, if you watched him in action, mediocre isn't a word that would ever enter your mind.
Our loyal band of Browns fans here on Bleacher Report has had many discussions about how valuable and tremendously underrated Kosar was. The reasoning behind that argument is largely that Kosar just knew how to win. He made things happen that, in theory, shouldn't have. He pulled off plays that no one saw coming. And quite simply, he commanded a football field and translated that into success in a way that just isn't possible to quantify.
It leads those who did not get the pleasure of seeing him play to label him mediocre as they pour over his stats. In an era where Marino, Montana, and Elway were all putting up monster numbers, Kosar's totals just looked plain old forgettable.
But in Cleveland, we know that Kosar is just about the least forgettable person in the world. Any good football fan knows stats don't tell the whole story. But 25 years after the fact, they're often all we have to go on if we weren't there to witness the action at the time.
Thus Kosar remains our little secret. He's our Joe Montana, even if the rest of the world just remembers him as a guy with the lifetime 81.8 rating and no championships in Cleveland.
Now that we've looked at three major misconceptions about the Browns from the distant past, let's take a look at a big one that's taking place right now: that the Browns have no shot to contend by 2012.
The word around the league is that the Browns are improving but they're absolutely not there yet. I suppose it's comforting that the rest of the NFL at least acknowledges that we're on the upswing. But it's also frustrating that most football folks outside Cleveland seem to think the Browns are going nowhere in the next two years.
Certainly I don't think there's even anyone in Cleveland who would claim that the Browns are a Super Bowl threat this season. They're getting better, but they've still got work to do. But to say that they have no shot to even win the division or progress deep into the playoffs by 2012 is just not a fair assessment of the team the Browns are putting together.
There are, of course, no guarantees. It's true; maybe they won't be ready in two years. Or maybe they will be but they'll flame out anyway. But the odds are so much better than most people seem to think.
The record didn't show it, but the Browns made huge strides in 2010. They will make more in 2011. And by 2012, it stands to reason that they'll no longer be playing catchup.
The division will still be tough, as the AFC North always is, but while the bulk of the players on the Browns roster will be coming into their prime, the majority of the Ravens and Steelers standouts will be headed into the downhill stretch of their careers. It might not be enough to unseat them. But then again, it very well could be.
In two years, if all goes to plan, the Browns will have the stuff to compete with what Baltimore and Pittsburgh will likely have, and I don't think anyone will be too concerned about what Cincinnati will bring to the field.
Will the Browns make their first Super Bowl appearance by 2012? I doubt it. But will they make some noise and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs? I'd bet on it.