When Sashi Brown, the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns, held a small press conference yesterday, he did what he could to dispel some things from a painful and winless season.
Most importantly, Brown had to deny yet another doom-soaked piece from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who’s once again claiming Cleveland’s team facility is nothing but pure chaos and change could be coming. Brown said coach Hue Jackson won’t be going anywhere despite the 0-10 start, as continuity is a key to this new regime being successful.
Whether or not this is true won’t be determined until season’s end. Regardless, during a year this miserable, it was important for Brown to reassure everyone about this process as much as possible, and he did a decent job at this yesterday.
There is, however, one qualm I have with something Brown said yesterday. When asked about the overwhelming frustration being shown by long-suffering fans of the team, he seemed to believe there wasn’t anything major to worry about.
“I don’t think we’re in danger of losing our fan base.”
It’s a bold claim, one I guess he feels he can safely make considering the city of Cleveland is very passionate about its football. At the same time, nothing seen from the fans this season would imply Brown can take them for granted. If I were him, I’d stop short of assuming the team isn’t having problems holding on to its fan base.
First of all, if you think fans aren’t at a new level of frustration, you haven’t looked in the stands of FirstEnergy Stadium this season. The past two home games had to make the Browns feel like they were playing on the road, as supporters of both the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys took over the entire venue. It’s tough to believe things will be any better when the hated Pittsburgh Steelers come to town this weekend.
Why is it so easy to make Cleveland feel like a visitor on its home field? Well, it could be that demand for tickets has gone so low you can buy seats for as little as $5 right now. It’s tough to ignore how bad this looks.
The reality of how few Cleveland supporters are actually showing up to watch this team lose is one reason why Brown should be a little more concerned about the fan base. Another is the reaction to La Canfora’s article.
Normally, when the Browns’ resident doomsayer publishes his annual “all is not well in Cleveland” piece, fans get outraged. Based on the responses I’ve seen, anger has been replaced with indifference. You could argue this is a much stronger response than anything else.
Instead of the usual disgust conveyed upon hearing Jimmy Haslam is rumored to be interfering once again, to be considering a shakeup, a lot of fans just shrugged. So many Browns supporters are used to the team’s owner cleaning house at such a frequent basis that none of this news rattles them anymore. To me, this is much more significant than nobody showing up to the stadium.
The kind of chaos which comes with cycling through front offices like trading cards is no longer news to Browns fans. They’re content with the fact Haslam could be ready to make major changes after just one year for the second time in his ownership, despite the fact it would set this moribund franchise back decades.
This is incredibly noteworthy, a true sign there is a long list of fans ready to wash their hands of this team. It’s something Brown and the front office need to take seriously.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we’re one 0-16 season from seeing an empty home stadium for the rest of the Browns’ existence. Winning brings fans back, just ask the Cavaliers and Indians. If football saw the same fate, you better believe Browns fans would return in a hurry.
The problem, though, is that we’ve seen zero indication successful football is anywhere in the future. The Browns have had two seasons above .500 since 1999, both of which were followed up with a last place record the following year. There’s nothing which indicates sunny skies are on the horizon for the current roster.
With that in mind, I’d be careful about assuming the fans can remain patient if I were Brown. Patience is a word Cleveland football supporters have heard much too often, continuing to preach it will do nothing to reassure them.
I’m not saying the Browns need to win now at the risk of losing one of the strongest fan-bases in the league. What I am saying is believing there’s no danger in losing support is a lofty assumption, one I’d advise Cleveland’s front office to avoid making,