Friday, December 16, 2016

What Will It Take For the Cleveland Browns to Ever Win Another Game?

My card from when Browns last won championship.

It's hard being a Cleveland Browns fan these days. Even though I moved away from Cleveland more than 50 years ago I still carry those loyalties in my heart... to the Browns and the Indians. It's hard to imagine diverting my loyalties elsewhere, so I continue to watch the scores and follow the standings. And if you're like me, there's little evidence of hope that we'll ever have a championship football team again.

Not only have the Browns lost every game they've played this year, they lost the last six games of their season last year. We're now on a 19 game losing streak with no end in sight.

I have a few friends and acquaintances back in Cleveland so I asked one of them how they were taking it this year.

Seeing these players laughing on the side line when they are losing just blows my mind. To me it just seems like a fraternity of dudes getting overpaid that care only about their paycheck.

Players are getting soft. No more blood and guts. Now its precautions and time off. Plus I’m sick of astro-turf. Mud and blood are a winning combination.


As a Clevelander, you see what the Cavs and Indians did and you fall in love with it. The passion and drive to give everything for the sake of the team.

The NFL's Ten Worst Teams

If the Browns fail to win a game this season, they will have achieved the ignominious distinction of being listed here in the NFL's ten worst teams ever. The very top of that list is the 1974 Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a record of 0-14. I'm sure it wasn't much fun being on that team. The team was shut out five times and quarterback Steve Spurrier threw only 7 touchdowns all year. When coach John McKay was asked about the execution of the offense he quipped, "I'm in favor of it."

The 1990 New England Patriots weren't much better, losing fifteen games in a 16-game season. The 1973 Houston Oilers were 1-13 as were the 1971 Bills. The '73 Oilers not only had a dismal offense, their defense gave up 447 points.

The 1981 and 1991 Colts weren't much better. But guess what? Even though they set a record in 1991 for fewest points in a 16-game season, there were silver linings on that cloudy season. One year later this team had a winning record! In 1992 they were 9-7.

A look at NFL history reveals that even the worst teams have eventually reach first. How do they achieve this?

Mike Ditka's Story

Ditka by artist Jen Dietrich
Sometime around the year 2000 I had a chance to hear Mike Ditka speak at a conference. His aim was to teach principles of success for small business owners and he did this by means of stories, the most memorable being the story of his first year coaching the Chicago Bears.

I don't believe Mike Ditka had been a head coach before taking the helm of the 1985 Chicago Bears. He had, however, been an assistant with one of the great coaches of all time, the Dallas Cowboy's Tom Landry. In addition to being a 5X Pro Bowl caliber tight end, he also had experience in the the playoffs and knew the special pressures of performing under pressure in the big games.

After retiring as a player he was given the opportunity to coach under head coach Landry, which taught him many new facets of what leadership is all about. And in 1985 he was given the opportunity to become head coach of the Chicago Bears, the team he began his NFL career with more than 25 years earlier.

Mike Ditka had this to say about his first day on the job, the first day of training camp. I can't recall if he'd placed a placard on the wall by the door or simply suggested it be visualized there, but his first statement to the teams was something to this effect: "The only reason I'm here is because I believe we can win the Super Bowl."

Ditka knew the talent that was sitting in that room. Walter Peyton, Jim McMahon, "Refrigerator" Perry and the rest. When he made his opening remark, many players in the room joshed it up and said, "Hey cool, we're gonna win the Super Bowl." They laughed like it was something fun and funny. But Peyton, McMahon and Perry didn't laugh. They had had this same dream many times before. They slowly lifted their heads and looked square into the eyes of Coach Ditka, searching his face to see if this was just a pep talk or something he seriously believed.

During the weeks of training camp Coach Ditka successfully traded off all the players that laughed and made a joke of his opening remarks. He wasn't kidding around. It wasn't just optimistic self-talk to pep up team morale. By the season's end, the players on this team all had their dreams fulfilled and were privileged to own the Super Bowl rings many other players only dream about.

When I read my friend's comment about Browns players laughing on the sidelines while the team was racking up such a pathetic record, this Ditka story came to mind.

* * * *
Earlier this year a friend shared with me a book about how great organizations differ from other teams. The book is called Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. The authors compare different corporate cultures so as to identify what makes some companies or "tribes" confident and others self-defeating? I look at how the Browns have been playing and I can't help but wonder what's going through their heads as they prepare for their next game? In the NFL every team has talent, so how do you create an atmosphere of confidence in which your team enters the arena with absolute confidence that this day is yours? What are the dynamics that produce dynasties?

Vince Lombardi once used to say, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." What will it take for the Browns players to believe again?

1 comment:

Ed Newman said...

Woohoo! Yesterday the Browns proved me wrong.
Thank you for the Christmas gift.
Good luck next week. We're still rooting for you.