I came out of the womb in 1975 bleeding orange and brown. I can’t remember a day when I wasn’t a Cleveland Browns fan. I was just chatting with a friend on Facebook about those Cleveland teams of the 80’s. I told him that nothing evokes childhood memories quite like those teams. Bernie Kosar, Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Mack, Webster Slaughter, Clay Matthews, Mighty Mini and Top Dawg! I know that probably means nothing to 99% of you, but as I told my friend, I get misty eyed just remembering those days and those teams. Those years were also great bonding times for me and my father and brother. My dad watched us shed a lot of tears in those years. We never saw him cry when they lost, but I think that’s because he held it in until he was alone. You see, it never failed, the Cleveland Browns always, and I mean ALWAYS, broke our hearts. They would get oh so close to the Super Bowl, but in the end some guy named John Elway made sure they never got close enough.
In 1995 Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell packed up the team and moved them to Baltimore. No one ever thought this could happen to such a storied franchise as the Cleveland Browns, but it did. We were heartbroken, but in reality it was the best thing that could ever happen to us. The city got an expansion team in 1999, and they were able to keep their team name and colors. Yet it just wasn’t the same. Those teams of the 80’s were gone. By 1999 my brother and I were grown up and married, starting families of our own. The Browns became less and less important to us as time went on.
With all that said, I still keep up with the team. In no way do I follow them like I did in the 80’s and early 90’s, but when you have Cleveland blood flowing in you, you have to at least check to see if they win from week to week. Those wins, by the way, have been few and far between over the past 13-14 years. They just finished a 5-11 season, and once again the coach has been fired. The head coach position has been a revolving door ever since the expansion team came to Cleveland in 1999.
One of the candidates under serious consideration to take over as new head coach of the Browns is Bill O’Brien.
A lot of people may not know that name, but O’Brien is actually the current head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. Yes, those same Nittany Lions who just recently began enduring one of the biggest, if not the biggest college football scandal in history. I don’t want to go into all the details here, the stories about it are numerous and can be easily accessed by Googling “Penn State scandal.”
I have not read anywhere that Bill O’Brien is interested in leaving Penn State to coach in the NFL. I think it would be a totally classless move if he decided to do so. What he did this season at Penn State was nothing short of remarkable. After the huge offseason scandal, he managed to keep a lot of his players from transferring to other schools when they had the opportunity to do so without sitting out for a year. Normally, when a player transfers schools, per NCAA rules, they have to sit out a year of football, but because of the circumstances surrounding Penn State the NCAA made an exception to any kid that wanted to transfer. Some did, and some didn’t. Nobody really blamed the ones that did transfer, but a stronger bond was built between the ones that stayed together. And O’Brien led those kids that stayed to an 8-4 record this season, while winning several coaching awards.
But putting aside the records and awards for just a moment, I hope that Bill O’Brien understands what he did this season at Happy Valley. He helped heal a school. He helped heal a community. He gave those kids that had nothing to do with the scandal that happened at Penn State but still had to deal with the repercussions, someone that they could believe in. I hope that he is not even considering throwing that all away for the glitz and glitter of the NFL bright lights. What would that say to those kids and that community that has been devastated by what happened under the Paterno regime? How devastating would it be for those kids to lose the leader that helped them through these difficult times? I don’t know if O’Brien is a good guy or not, but I do know that what he did this season at State College was a great story. I just hope that he remembers that when the Cleveland Browns or any other NFL team comes calling in the next few days.
If you told me right now that O’Brien would lead the Browns to the Super Bowl in the next five years, or he would stay at Penn State and continue to have a positive impact on the lives of the youth there, I would hope that he stays at Penn State. I would have never said that twenty years ago. Maturity sure is a funny thing how it changes you. I hope that O’Brien knows that as well. I know he’ll never read this post, but if you’re thinking about leaving those kids behind coach, say it ain’t so, Bill!