On December 8, the Browns defeated their cross-state rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-19.
The win put the Browns at 6-7 after a tough loss to the Steelers the prior week.
While the win improved the Browns season record, the game itself showcased the glaring inconsistencies of both teams.
Despite a decent effort by Nick Chubb, the Browns frequently displayed why they weren’t playoff material.
Dropped passes, interceptions, fumbles, penalties, missed tackles and opportunities, and poor blocking.
These were the issues that stood out even to a casual fan.
Many were saying that, “A win is a win,” but was that really enough?
The “Battle of Ohio” History
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the “Battle of Ohio” was great viewing.
Especially during the 1980’s, both teams were regular playoff participants and the Bengals reached the Super Bowl twice.
During that decade, the Browns reached the AFC Championship three times, only to lose to the Denver Broncos each time.
The two teams played each other 19 times during that stretch with the Bengals taking ten from the Browns.
The rivalry was great television well into the early 1990’s and was frequently a featured game of the week.
Browns vs. Bengals since ‘99
The fortunes of both teams have swung wildly back and forth since the Browns were re-born in 1999.
In just the past decade, the Bengals have performed better on the field and in the series.
Cincinnati has reached the playoffs in six of those seasons compared to Cleveland’s zero appearances.
Currently, the Bengals lead the Battle of Ohio series 50-42.
No one really wins…
Bengals and Browns fans may rejoice when their team defeats their hated cross-state rival.
However, no team wins when a victory is largely due to an opponent’s lack of ability or talent.
Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed said recently he “loved to play against the best because that brings out the best in you.”
Anyone who has played any sport knows this to be true.
Athletes who thrive on competition bring out the best in each other as well as their opponent.
Unfortunately, some teams consistently play poorly no matter the level of competition.
The Browns-Bengals rivalry has suffered from this issue for years.
The Battle of Ohio is not what it used to be.
In order for it to return to relevancy, both teams need to improve on and off the field.
According to numerous research studies, there are at least four common traits consistent in winning teams.
Traits of Winning Teams
First, the vision of the team needs to be clear and concise.
If a team does not have a vision of what it wants to achieve, it is in trouble.
Winning teams set goals toward their vision and work every day to achieve those goals.
If those goals are met, chances are good that a solid vision is in place.
Second, a winning team has strong leadership.
It has been said that an organization will take on the characteristics of its leader.
If a team frequently displays behavior that is undisciplined, unorganized, and just plain sloppy, the leadership is not strong.
A well-led team is a well-oiled machine.
Third, a winning team has respect for each other.
It is difficult for a team to play well when the culture is toxic.
Healthy teams that communicate openly with one another, and have solid camaraderie, are hard to beat.
Fourth, winning teams are accountable to one another.
There is no finger-pointing and no placing blame on one person’s shoulders.
Mistakes are met head-on and the team deflects criticism toward a single athlete to reflect a unified front.
It is clear that the Browns and the Bengals can use some work in most of these areas.
If there is a commitment by both teams to aspire to these four traits this rivalry will improve.
In order for this to happen, serious changes need to be made in both organizations.
If not, the Battle of Ohio will continue to be a mediocre rivalry for the foreseeable future.