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Browns players want what Indians, Cavs have and see 1986 team being honored Sunday as inspiration

Joe Haden attended the Cavaliers opener Tuesday to witness LeBron James and Co. celebrate their championship. Haden went to Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday to see the Indians chase their first title since 1948.
While Haden is “extremely excited” for Cleveland’s other professional teams, the Browns cornerback can’t keep his mind from wandering – and envy from creeping in.
“I want that, we want that here,” he said Friday. “We understand that this is a football town — I don’t really care what anybody says. I know if the Browns were winning, it would be a lot more noise.
“But end of the day, I’m a part of that and it sucks and I know that the city is just waiting to erupt for their football team to finally be good. We haven’t been doing good since I’ve been here and before I’ve been here, so the fan base has a reason to be upset and want a winner right away. So I understand that, and basically all we can do is start winning so we can get everybody on board.”
The Browns will honor the 1986 team Sunday during the game vs. the New York Jets. This is the 30-year anniversary of the team that won 12 games in the regular season — the most since joining the NFL in 1950 — took the AFC Central Division title and reached the AFC championship game. It fell one play short of the Super Bowl, losing in overtime after John Elway led “The Drive” at the end of regulation.
Before the devastation vs. the Broncos, the Browns played perhaps the most exhilarating game in franchise history. Led by sidearming quarterback Bernie Kosar, the Browns scored 10 points in the final two minutes to force overtime, then beat the Jets 23-20 in the second overtime for the first playoff win since 1969.
Celebrating a 30-year-old team while the Indians close in on a championship and the Cavaliers begin their quest for a repeat looks like poor timing for the Browns. But it’s perfect.
Nostalgia is all the Browns have.
The last great era of the once-proud franchise was in the second half of the 1980s. The 19 rookies on the 0-7 team that faces the Jets on Sunday were years from being born.
It’s worth flashing back. The Browns were beloved. The city was crazy for Bernie, Mack and Byner, Webster, Top Dawg and Minnie, and Ozzie.
The relationship between town and team has certainly hit a rocky patch, but quarterback Josh McCown said the fans remain fantastic.
“There is nothing like it,” he said. “Just to have gone through the changes and just the adversity that has been here and for the fans to be the way they are, it is remarkable.
“It is not that way everywhere else. It is really special. We need to get some wins going and do some positive things because they appreciate our team so much.”
McCown, who returns from a broken collarbone to start Sunday after missing six games, has connected with some of the alumni in his two years in town.
“When you talk about wanting to make this place successful, they know what it is like,” he said. “They know what this city can be like. We get to see it right now throughout the last six months with the Cavs and the Indians.
“For me, just listening to them talk about it and how it was, it is very encouraging and inspiring, and you certainly want to see that captured in this locker room for these guys because it is special what they were able to do. We want to be able to do that. We want to be able to look up one day and say, ‘Man, this group of guys that came through here, we were able to turn the corner with this team and to find sustained success with this team and this franchise.’ Anytime those guys come around, it is good to see Bernie and those guys because of what they represent.”
Kosar was the signature player on those teams of the mid-to-late-’80s. The comeback against the Jets, which included a Browns playoff-record 489 passing yards, and the one that fell just short the next year after Earnest Byner’s fumble in Denver showed how a cerebral, accurate, physically limited quarterback could dominate in the NFL.
Kosar remains a cult hero to many. He’s expected to be among more than 25 members of the 1986 team to attend the game Sunday.
“The guy could sling it,” said Browns coach Hue Jackson, who’s invited Kosar and other alumni to speak to the team and have a greater presence within the organization. “Bernie obviously is a household name here, and I have a lot of respect for him.
“We just want some of that magic that he had to rub off on us, because he did it and did it really well.”
Marty Schottenheimer took the Browns to four straight playoffs, and his .597 winning percentage (46-31) ranks third among Cleveland coaches and is by far the best since 1970. He’s in town for the celebration but is dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s, according to ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi, who talked to Marty and his wife.
Schottenheimer gave Jackson his first pro job in 2001 as running backs coach in Washington. Jackson called him one of the greatest influences on his career.
“Marty is my guy,” he said. “My time with him, I watched one of the most passionate football coaches I had ever been around.
“One thing we all know about Marty, it is Marty’s way. Marty does not back down from anybody. He has a belief system. He believes in what he believes. He has won a lot of games, and he knows how to do it. You have to do those things that you trust and have strong passion about in order to get your team where it needs to be.”
Jackson is the primary reason players and assistant coaches believe the Browns aren’t destined to be dismal forever. He’s 0-7 in his first year — a loss today against the 2-5 Jets would make for the second-worst start in franchise history (0-9 in 1975) — but is trying to instill winning habits and establish the proper culture.
“I feel like Coach Hue is the right coach,” Haden said. “I feel like we’re on the right path, it’s just taking a little bit longer than everyone has expected. I’m not down. I’m very, very hopeful.
“We’re a couple snaps away from winning a lot of these games, so it’s tough, but we’ve got to just keep fighting and try to go get this first one vs. the Jets. You’ve got to start with one.”
The Browns had gone 15 years without a playoff win before Schottenheimer and Kosar turned around their fortunes. So a resurgence is possible.
“Anytime I can hear any successful Browns players, man, I want to know exactly what they did, how the vibe was, how the city embraced them,” Haden said.
The Browns want what the Cavs and Indians have.
“That’s the thing, you see the Indians, you see the Cavs, and (Tuesday) night I was glued to the TV and it was awesome,” said offensive lineman John Greco, a Youngstown native. “Was sitting there thinking, ‘Man, I wish we were in this situation to where the whole country was looking at us and talking about us and saying this is our time.’
“This has been such a long time coming. I know we’ll be there one day and we’re in that building process to try to get there.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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