It’s been awhile since the Cleveland Browns have made the playoffs.
Dec. 29, 2002: the last time the Cleveland Browns clinched a playoff spot.
Until today. pic.twitter.com/d6A53VnQtq
— Sunday Night Football (@SNFonNBC) January 3, 2021
For young Browns fans, that is their entire lifetime.
In a 24-22 victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns clinched the sixth seed in the AFC which will take them back to Pittsburgh for a 2020 rubber match.
This is a football town
The people of Cleveland share a love affair with the Browns that (arguably) can’t be compared to anywhere else in the country.
Through good and bad years, fans have supported the Browns with a vigor that isn’t found in the support of the Cavs or the soon to be renamed Indians.
This is a football town, after all.
And while Clevelanders will show up and support the other pro teams in town, their first love will always be the Browns.
So what does this mean for the people of Cleveland?
This is a vindication of their support and the team.
The Browns have always had amazing support, even before the original incarnation of the team that left for Baltimore in 1995.
They showed up during that season, even when they knew the team was going to leave.
— Mark Slaughter (@mslaughter63) October 4, 2018
They showed up when they knew they would be watching an expansion franchise level of talent trot out in the 1999 season.
They kept coming back even after all the losing.
The swings and misses on high first-round picks.
The constant turnover in the front office.
Let’s not forget all the countless head coaches and GM’s.
Kevin Stefanski's 11 wins in his first season are more than seven Browns head coaches had in their entire Browns tenure. Since the team resumed play in 1999, only Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel won more games in their entire tenure than Stefanski won this season. Legend.
— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) January 3, 2021
That statistic alone is almost too crazy to fathom.
Things are different now.
Even with a Week 1 loss against the Steelers, Kevin Stefanski kept the ship afloat and didn’t let his team get down on themselves.
It only got better as the season went on.
Nick Chubb missed 4 games and finished the season with 1,067 on the ground and 12 TDs.
Kareem Hunt would add another 841 yards and TDs on the ground of his own.
Baker Mayfield turned it on towards the end of the season and threw for 3,563 yards and 25 TDs.
After OBJ’s injury, the Browns wide receiving corp stepped up to try and replicate his production.
The offensive line, once known as a sieve, is now considered one of the best in the NFL.
Why bring all this up?
Because this team is something to be excited about.
As some realtors will say, this team has good bones.
There is something being built.
For much of the return, Browns fans have been subjected to not just poor records, but also teams that had little or no talent.
It sure isn’t that way anymore.
if you would have told me 3 years ago that Baker Mayfield would be talking about bringing the Cleveland Browns to the mfing playoffs i would have told you to f off
BUT HERE WE ARE BABY, I LOVE YOU ALL
— Mollis (@BurdsIVue) January 3, 2021
This is a team that Browns fans can be proud of.
Stefanski isn’t someone who was in over their head taking the job.
The days of ill-equipped coordinators and college coaches are done, and in his first year coached this team through Covid, injuries, and won 11 games.
So What Does This Mean?
This means after all these years, Browns fans can have a bit of joy in the postseason.
They can talk about the talented squad and their coach of the year candidate in Stefanski.
The people of Northeast Ohio showed up in the millions for the Cavs championship, the city’s first major championship in over 60 years, in 2016.
How many do you think will show up if the Browns win that long awaited Super Bowl?
The number would be absolutely NUTS.
So get out there and talk Browns fans. Gloat. Enjoy the moment. You all have waited for this and deserve it.
As a northeast Ohio native, I’m overjoyed to see the Browns in the playoffs.
The league is better when the Browns are in the mix.
And I’m not the only one to think so.
— Tim Couch (@TimCouchQB) January 3, 2021