The most haunted position in sports

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Pull up a chair by the campfire and I’ll tell you a spooky story this halloween–a chilling story about the most haunted and cursed profession in sport. It starts a very long time ago, when the Internet was still dial-up, in a land far, far away called Cleveland.

The date is April 17, 1999. It’s the first day of this year’s NFL Draft and the Browns are back. Literally.

Prior to the start of the 1996 season, owner Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore to become the Ravens. Modell reportedly said he would never move the Browns and criticized other owners who chose to move their teams, but after several seasons of would have hemorrhaged money, Modell went back on his word. It was a move that would haunt the city forever.

Cleveland was one of the premier organizations in early professional football, playing in a league championship game in each of its first ten years as a franchise. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain that success, and after a championship in 1964, a few years before the Packers won the NFL’s first Super Bowl, the Browns sank into mediocrity for nearly 30 years. But it’s now 1999, and like the cliched ending to a rom-com movie, these two hopeless romantics — the city of Cleveland and the sport of soccer — get a chance to try and fall in love all over again with a clean slate picture. .

That year, the NFL expanded to 31 teams bringing the Cleveland Browns back into the fold. The sounds of the passionate barking fans that make up Cleveland’s beloved Dawg Book echoed in the air. The Browns had the No. 1 draft pick and a 6-foot-4 All-American quarterback from Kentucky who just set the SEC record for passing yards in a season. Tim Couch was the prospect who should lead the Browns for the next decade or more.

Until he isn’t anymore.



Tim Couch: A mistake on the lake

Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport via Getty Images

RELATED: Tim Couch’s NFL Career Was Doomed From The Start, But Where Is He Now?

Couch went 22-40 in his five years with the Browns. He’s only had one 300-yard passing game in his career. Couch was the starting point for more than 20 years of futility and instability at the Cleveland Browns quarterback position that continues today, making it the most haunted and cursed position in professional sports. It’s a race that has been retold in many ways by the infamous “Browns QB Jersey”, displayed in the window of a local Cleveland ad agency.

In the 24 seasons since the Browns’ 1999 revival, the franchise has pitched 34 different quarterbacks, including Couch. Cleveland used five first-round selections on signal callers. They have a playoff win. It’s the embodiment of a haunting level of futility.

The year after choosing Couch, the Browns drafted a quarterback in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft named Spergon Wynn. Wynn started a game for the Browns and lost 48-0. He never threw a single touchdown pass for Cleveland. The next quarterback drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft? Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. You may have heard of him.

One of the other 34 different quarterbacks who started for the Browns was Doug Pederson. You might recognize him as the current coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the head coach who coached Eagles assistant quarterback Nick Foles. to a victory over Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. Yet, with Cleveland, in the cursed role of quarterback for the Browns, Pederson took snaps in 10 games with a 1-9 record. His performances under center for the Browns were absolutely haunting.

There were several times the Browns thought they had acquired someone who would break their quarterback’s curse. In 2007, the Browns traded a second-round and future first-round pick to select Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn in the first round. Quinn would play in just 14 games with the Browns over 3 seasons. In what he would describe as a career marked by injuries and coaching changesQuinn went 4-10 in those games with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Money Manziel goes bankrupt

Johnny Manziel celebrates a Cleveland Browns touchdown

Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

RELATED: Inside Johnny Manziel’s Messy Divorce

Still in 2014, the Browns thought they had found their saviour, trading in the first round for select Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at the end of the first round. But Johnny Football’s career would turn into a scary story of what could have been, after a two-season 3-11 record with the Browns that was more notable for what Manziel did off the field than on it.

The Browns held the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 after a horrible winless season the previous year. Cleveland selected another Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. Mayfield had several highlights during his tenure, including a memorable win in his NFL debut that Bud Lights unlocked fridges free for Cleveland fans. His time with the Browns culminated when he led Cleveland to his first playoff win in over 25 yearsbut ultimately his four-year career with the Browns ended in a trade to Carolina this past offseason.

The Browns decided that Mayfield was not the quarterback they wanted to invest a big second contract in or build their franchise around. After a disappointing start to the season in Carolina, Baker will likely remain on the bench as the Panthers don’t want the conditional choice they traded for him to increase. His best hope of playing again in 2022 would probably be require yet another trade. Looks like a guy finally hit by the Cleveland Curse of QB1s.

So if the Browns didn’t want to invest in Mayfield to run them, who did they choose to take the reins instead? The team decided to trade a set of picks – including 3 first-round picks – to Houston for Deshaun Watson. Although Watson is embroiled in legal troubles, Cleveland opted to sign him for a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract before Watson took a single snap for the team.

Deshaun of the Dead

Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns rests after performing a drill during Cleveland Browns training camp

Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

RELATED: Cleveland Browns Never Cared About Deshaun Watson’s Decision & They Still Don’t

The Browns assured fans they did their due diligence before trading for Watson, who had 24 women brought civil sexual misconduct lawsuits against him, but the legal situation surrounding Watson only worsened afterward. the exchange. Watson has since settled with all but one of the accusers. While Watson’s former team, the Houston Texans, denies any wrongdoing, they have also reached a settlement with 30 of his accusers.

Prior to the start of this season, Watson was suspended by the NFL for the first 11 games of 2022 and has yet to take a regular season shot for Cleveland. It remains to be seen if Watson will ever have a positive impact on the Browns and the city of Cleveland. He hasn’t thrown a significant pass in the NFL since the end of the 2020 season, the week before Mayfield led the Browns to that playoff victory.

That brings us to today, where the Browns are led by journeyman quarterback Jacoby Brissett, as they wait for Watson to serve out the remainder of his suspension. While Brissett completed admirably, the Browns are 2-5 with four of their losses by 3 or less. Cleveland’s chance of making the playoffs sits at just 6% simulations carried out by the New York Times. A dreadful end seems likely to another season that began with optimism and hope.

Is the Cleveland Browns quarterback role cursed by Art Modell’s decision to move the team to Baltimore? Hard to say. But as the Browns prepare for a Monday Night Football game against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, one can’t help but be reminded that Burrow has won 3 times as many playoff games in two full seasons as the Browns. won since this move. over 25 years ago.

It doesn’t look like this haunting story will have one of those “happily ever after” type endings anytime soon. Instead, it remains – a tale as old as time. A song as old as rhyme. Cleveland and the QB.

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