Brown finds his way back to Cleveland
As announced by the Cleveland Browns, a major announcement will take place today at First Energy Stadium involving Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
It would nice if the announcement was to unveil plans to honor the team for winning last season’s Super Bowl. Heck, I’d be okay with a party to celebrate a winning season.
Browns fans aren’t choosy after what seems to be a lifetime (in some cases it is) of continual losing. Throw them a bone (pardon the pun) that has anything to do with winning, and they’ll eat it up, crumbs and all.
Instead, the fan base is supposed to get excited about the return of the franchise’s prodigal son from a few years of self-imposed emotional detachment after his feelings were hurt by former CEO Mike Holmgren. You might recall that Holmgren cut Brown off from the salary he received as an assistant to former owner Randy Lerner.
If Brown’s return qualifies as a major announcement, then it must be a slow news cycle. It seems that Brown has been in and out of favor with the Browns since he ended his football career to play Sergeant R.T. Jefferson in the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen.”
The late Art Modell wasn’t happy with Brown when he turned in his helmet and pads and headed for Hollywood at age 29 following the 1965 season. Fortunately for the Browns, Modell had a great fall-back plan in a relative unknown out of Morgan State named Leroy Kelly.
Brown remained distant from the Browns until returning for a game in 1984. The relationship grew stronger when Bill Belichick added Brown to the staff during his tenure as coach from 1991-95.
Brown left Cleveland when the organization moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season. He returned for a fan gathering at Hiram College during the three-year absence (1996-98), but he wasn’t part of the expansion Browns in 1999. Then-president Carmen Policy turned off many veterans at that time with an attitude of embracing the future and not the past.
It wasn’t until Lerner assumed ownership after the death of his father Al that Brown was again on the payroll as an assistant to the owner. Among Holmgren’s many obtuse moves was the elimination of Brown’s position.
The Browns have been adding and eliminating jobs on a regular basis since 1999. Just last week Neal Gulkis, director of public relations, was given his termination notice. Others are sure to follow as owner James Haslam and CEO Joe Banner begin spreading their wings.
The addition of Brown to the fold makes news simply because of who he is and what he accomplished as one of the greatest NFL running backs ever. In reality, he will do nothing to help lead the Browns out of their doldrums, unless underneath his sports coat is a 1960-version body and his number 32 is removed from the retirement list.
Brown will probably serve as an ambassador of sorts, attending some public functions and saying all the right things about management. Given the legal troubles facing Haslam, he could use plenty of support these days.
To think that Brown can have any impact on the players is a reach. Now 76, Brown is just another old-timer to today’s athletes. Most need a history course to know who he is, assuming they even care to know.
They should know that Brown played nine seasons, rushing for 12,312 yards and an average of 5.2 per carry. He started each of the team’s 118 regular-season games during his career, a stat which is already out of Trent Richardson’s reach.
Welcome back, Jim. Wish it was 50 years ago.