Moments of Heartbreak: Cleveland Browns – The Move

Who are the Cleveland Browns?

The Browns were a charter member of All American Football League (AAFC) and were founded in 1945 by Arthur B. McBride and then coach Paul Brown. In the four year history of the AAFC (1945-1949), the Browns dominated and won the championship in each of the 4 seasons of the AAFC’s existence. In 1950, The Brown’s joined the National Football League where they won a championship in their first year in the NFL. They also won championships in 1954, 1955, and 1964. More impressive is that they played in the championship game in their league every season for the first 10 seasons of their existence, something no other team has ever done.

In 1961, the Browns had a change in ownership as Art Modell, an American businessman and entrepreneur, bought the Browns franchise. Modell immediately began to put his own touches on the franchise, starting with firing long time successful coach Paul Brown. The same coach that had sent the team to 10 straight championships and won 7 of those. Over the next 30 years, with Modell at the helm, the Browns have not won a league title. They made playoff appearances in just 14 season over those 30 years.

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Problems with Cleveland Municipal Stadium

In 1971, the city of Cleveland was having a tough time coming up with the money necessary to maintain and run the Municipal Stadium. Modell stepped in an offered take over the maintenance and management of the building for $1 in rent a year. Modell then subleased the stadium to the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns. For all intensive purposes, Modell was the new landlord of Municipal Stadium.

To increase revenue, Modell constructed suites in the stadium, however, he did not share this extra revenue with the Indians. This obviously rubbed the Indians organization the wrong way. Modell argued that because he was the one that had financed them and was paying high interest rates, that there was no revenue to share. Because of their dissatisfaction with Modell and not sharing revenue from the suites, the Indians persuade the city of Cleveland to fund a new ball park for them to play in, which became known as Jacobs Field (later renamed to Progressive Field).

In 1994, the Cleveland Indians officially moved to Jacobs Field. Interestingly enough, Modell believed that his revenues would not take a hit with the Indians moving to their own stadium and even participated in the project. His assumptions turned out to be incorrect and lost about 21 million between 1993 and 1994 alone. Despite being very outspoken in the past about teams relocating, including when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis and when the Oakland Raiders moved to LA, Modell seemed ready to move the Browns.

The Move

The Browns, under then coach Bill Belichick, finished the 1994 season with an 11-5 record but had lost in the second round of the playoffs. The Browns were on the rise and had started the 1995 season at 3-1 before losing 3 straight games. In November of 1995, Modell held a press conference where he announced that he would be moving the Browns and returning an NFL team to Baltimore (recently vacated when the Colts left). Modell had recently added a request for 175 million tax dollars to the ballot for stadium renovations. The very next day after the press conference, Cleveland voters approved the request in an attempt to keep the Browns in Cleveland. However, Modell was set in moving the Browns at this point. Modell cited that his reasoning for moving was Cleveland’s did not have the funding to build a new stadium.


The city of Cleveland sued Modell for breach of contract with the lease because the Browns were required to play it’s home games in Cleveland beyond 1995. The city of Cleveland also filed an injunction to try to keep the team in Cleveland until at least 1998. On top of that, many season ticket holders also tried to sue the Browns. Many protests were held in Cleveland, even one by hometown celebrity Drew Carey. In the end, the fans lost this battle. The Browns finished up the season at 5-11 and moved to Baltimore. The one thing the city did win was the rights to the Browns name, keeping it in Cleveland. This required the team to change names upon their move to Baltimore, which would be who we now know as the Baltimore Ravens.

It was a mess. Many Browns fans never forgave Art Modell for his betrayal. Even after the Browns were reactivated 3 years later in 1999, fans would never forget “The Move.” Especially one fan that took to urinating on Art Modell’s grave. The franchise’s success never fully recovered from the move either. Since being reactivated, the Browns have only had 2 winning seasons and just one playoff appearance.

I want to thank the Browns fans over on reddit for their help with this article. Here’s a few more moments of heartbreak Browns fans have experienced

Reddit user PuppyBowl-XI-MVP – The day we found out the Browns were being moved.

Reddit user Redditor5StandingBy – The Ravens FG block and return was kinda the icing on the cake for a shit season. I was devastated but just laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of what just happened. I still blame Austin Davis for that shit and a play I’ll never forget when he slid by the sidelines instead of taking an extra step and running out of bound. Worst QB we’ve had.

I wasn’t around during the move (started watching football around 2005), but my dad completely stopped following the NFL after they left so I didn’t watch football as a kid.

Reddit user cleveland_14 – Nothing tops the Browns move or comes even remotely close. While I was only a few years old it still really impacted me because I had no football team during the first few years where a young kid would start loving football. So many people in my family were die hards and it broke all of them so badly.

Reddit user pissclamatoThe Drive.

AFC Championship Game, 1987.

My dad was a lawyer, and one of his clients got nailed with a DUI over Christmas. So, we got his season tickets. 45-yard-line beauties. I was 13.

The week before the game, the Browns had an amazing game against the Jets, which my dad and I also got to witness. The Browns were down two scores with only a few minutes left in the 4th against the Jets. Since the game was basically over, my dad and I decided to beat the crowd, and headed out of the stadium.

What we missed was one of the greatest comebacks in Browns playoff history. We were listening to it on his little radio as we walked out. We ended up running to his office and watching the end on a little black-and-white TV he had in his office, instead of watching from the 45-yard line. That was the moment that we vowed, no matter the score, we were staying for every second of the next game.

Enter…The Drive.

It was late in the 4th quarter. We had been kicking their asses all over Muni Stadium that day, and the score showed it. The Broncos had rallied late in the 4th, but they ended up still down seven, with five minutes to go, and no timeouts. They were on their own 2. People started to file out of the stadium, to beat the crowds. Not me and pop, though. Nope, we smugly stayed put, determined to see the last few seconds of this one, traffic be damned.

As a result, I witnessed the game that broke my heart. Elway moves the ball 98 yards, ties the game, and they beat us 23-20 in OT. That was the last time the Browns got close to the Superbowl. That, and the following year, when we had the rematch in Denver. Thanks, Byner!

Being a Browns fan is hard work.

Reddit user seemoreseeless – I think aside from the obvious move, right now seems to be the culmination of heartbreak for me. There have been a lot of things that have been building up (to this) for me. Somewhere along the line the browns began to look like they didn’t know what they were doing on the field (I think in one of Pat Shurmers games the Browns weren’t even sure where to line up-they looked lost), the Johnny Manziel immaturity, the five years of waiting to see what our new uniforms and logo would look like-and then the reveal-the childishness of the new dog logo-putting the word browns on the pants-now there’s talk of going to white helmets. The attitude and smugness of ownership and the front office that comes across sometimes when they really haven’t accomplished anything at this point, the constant bashing of the reporters and other people on these boards, and in general the disconnect between the newer generation of fans as opposed to people like myself who have followed this team a long time-(my first browns game was “red right 88). Overall, there is just a lot of things that have built up over time that have just wore me out. At some point you just want the browns to be what they are going to be without every single day being a day where they are still trying to figure it out

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