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Terry Pluto Chronicles History of Frustration for Browns Fans

When you’ve spent your career covering sports in Northeast Ohio, you’re going to witness a lot of football heartbreak when it comes to the Browns.

WKSU's Mark Arehart talks with sports commentator Terry Pluto about his new book "The Brown’s Blues: Two decades of utter frustration: Why everything kept going wrong for the Cleveland Browns." 

Since the franchise returned in 1999, the Brownshave had just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance.

Pluto talked with dozens of former players, coaches, general managers and even fans for his new book.

Diehard fans loves their Browns

“One of the things I’ve discovered is the appetite fans have for stuff about the Browns,” Pluto said. “Browns fans like to read about their own misery.”

Part of Pluto's book explores a collection of former injured Browns: Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, Phil Dawson, Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Spergon Wynn.

Wynn was chosen in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, right in front of Tom Brady. Pluto describes him as a footnote in Browns history.

“With the Browns he keeps studying, going to school, finishing his degree, playing in the Canadian League (Canadian Football League), ended up getting his MBA. He’s now making a ton of money in the oil business in Texas,” Pluto said.

The Browns have a history of inconsistent drafts, from the bright spots to the not so bright. They selected Tim Couch with the first pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, their first pick as an expansion team.

Pluto says anybody would’ve been chewed up in their first draft back. Former Browns and Philadelphia Eagles general manager Joe Banner, who picked Donovan McNabb in ’99, called the Browns model a disaster.

“He said yeah, McNabb was better than Tim,” Pluto said. “The way they were doing it there, is where quarterbacks go to die.”

It’s been that way for a longtime, Pluto adds. The Browns have a long history of throwing rookies in too early, a trial by fire.

Too much change

“You’re on 31 quarterbacks, going on 11 coaches. It’s just too much change,” Pluto said. “All the things that went wrong creates an environment of impatience.”

Pluto includes two sections in his book exploring why fans still care about this team, pointing out inheritance by location and new fans hanging on despite no memories of success.

“Unless you’re pretty much over 40, you don’t even have good memories of the Browns in the late ‘80’s when they were good,” Pluto said. “And yet, the Browns TV ratings are still enormously high.”

Pluto says the NFL’s ability to sell hope keeps fans around.

“When you’re drafting in the NFL, you’re drafting players fans have watched for a long time,” Pluto said.

For Browns fans, it’s the Super Bowl. Fans come together to speculate the changes that could turn everything around.

Pluto’s new book sheds light on the Browns long history of inconsistency and erratic change. He realized if a new coach or general manager comes to the Browns, they inherit all the mistakes of the past.

“It creates an environment of panic, pressures the owner to change again,” Pluto said. “When you look back at ’99, only one coach has lasted four years [Romeo Crennel], one GM [Phil Savage] has lasted four years.”

Since then, no coach has lasted more than two plus seasons and only one general manager has lasted three.

“Gee, I wonder why they struggle,” Pluto said.


Copyright 2018 WKSU

Mark has been a host, reporter and producer at several NPR member stations in Delaware, Alaska, Washington and Kansas. His reporting has taken him everywhere from remote islands in the Bering Sea to the tops of skyscrapers overlooking Puget Sound. He is a diehard college basketball fan who enjoys taking walks with his dog, Otis.
Tyler Thompson is currently a senior at Kent State University, focusing on multimedia journalism. He works for Black Squirrel Radio as a writer, article coordinator, DJ and production director. A former graduate at the University of Akron, he has a degree in firefighter protection where he earned his state license and graduated the EMT-Basic program from Akron General Hospital.