In their own ways, the Eagles and Browns are setting new standards for their franchises.
In Philadelphia, they’re embracing it: “Fly Eagles Fly.”
In Cleveland, they’re repulsing it: “Why Browns Why?”
Maybe those nicknames of “City of Brotherly Love” for Philly, and “Mistake by the Lake” for Cleveland have some merit — at least in NFL 2017.
There’s a link here that can’t be ignored, of course: Carson Wentz.
The Browns have been searching for a quarterback since the days of Otto Graham. Well, not exactly, but certainly since they returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.
The opportunity was there in ‘99 when the Browns had the first overall draft choice. They used it on Tim Couch.
Selecting second, Philadelphia took Donovan McNabb. He took the Eagles to a Super Bowl.
Here comes the synergy: Cleveland had a chance to select Wentz in last year’s draft, but dealt the second overall choice to the Eagles, who took him. Later on, the Browns took Cody Kessler. This year, they went for DeShone Kizer.
Naturally, as these things seem to go for the Eagles and Browns, Wentz has developed so quickly that he’s in the conversation for league MVP. The Eagles are an NFL-leading 10-1 with nine straight wins. They made the championship game or Super Bowl the last three times they were 10-1.
“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is or what their record is,” Wentz said after Sunday’s 31-3 rout of Chicago in which he threw for three TDs. “It never really matters, it’s just like we’re going to win each day and get better each day. Then we just try to come out and enjoy it on game day.
“We’re playing with a lot of momentum, a lot of energy, and a lot of swagger out there. The defense is playing unbelievable. We feed off of that, and they feed off of us. So it’s a lot of fun right now.”
Ah, fun. Not quite a concept they are grasping in Cleveland — unless we’re talking baseball or hoops.
Things have gotten historically (and, to some, hysterically) bad there. Only the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-77, generally considered the worst team in NFL annals, managed to go 0-11 in successive seasons. Those Bucs lost their first 26 games before winning the final two of their second season.
The Browns beat the Chargers in Game 15 a year ago, their only positive result in a 1-15 record. They take on the Chargers, now in Los Angeles, next week, but there isn’t much hope there. After emulating the Browns and dropping their opening four games, the Chargers are 5-6 and in the wild-card playoff chase.
The Browns are chasing the wrong kind of history, and their 30-16 loss at Cincinnati was only the latest faltering step.
“This is 11 times in this locker room we get a pep talk,” Kizer said. “It’s 11 times when our leaders step up and make some sort of comment. It’s about time for us as a team to reward those leaders by winning a game.”
Perhaps. There’s still struggling Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers and even weaker Chicago on the schedule.
But even if the Browns — don’t throw things at us here — win both of those, the fact is they remain one of the worst franchises in any sport over the last two decades. Certainly the NFL’s worst.
Perhaps they can take inspiration from the Eagles. While Cleveland searches for that elusive one victory, Philly can clinch the NFC East as soon as Thursday night if Dallas loses to Washington. There are many reasons for that, including the Eagles’ choice of Doug Pederson as coach at pretty much the same time the Browns were interviewing and then hiring Hue Jackson.
For the record, Pederson is 17-10 and has perhaps the NFL’s next great franchise quarterback. Jackson is 1-26 and has no answers.
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