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Jim Ingraham: Ravens’ continued success just more pain for Browns and their fans

There will always be something aggravatingly annoying to Cleveland about the Baltimore Ravens — and Sunday provides still more fuel for that seemingly inextinguishable fire.

In the AFC Championship game Sunday, it’s Kansas City vs. Baltimore, in Baltimore.

Sigh.

Browns fans will be forced to sit at home — some of them, anyway — and watch the Ravens ravage the Chiefs and advance to the Super Bowl for the third time in the last 24 years. For those scoring at home, the Browns have been to the Super Bowl no times in 57 years (soon to be 58).

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The Browns and Ravens are two franchises with, shall we say, a rather testy history. Understandably so.

Once upon a time, Baltimore stole Cleveland’s team, although that is technically not really true.

Art Modell stole Cleveland’s team, took it to Baltimore and Cleveland has been trying to play catch-up ever since. The Modell hijacking in 1996 left Cleveland without an NFL team for the first time in 45 years.

The NFL was so embarrassed by that smash and grab that it quickly hustled another franchise into Cleveland, where the league’s most loyal fans were forced to endure a complete roster rebuild as an expansion franchise.

Five years later, in 2000, Cleveland’s pilfered franchise won the Super Bowl for Baltimore. That same year, the “expansion” Browns lost all but three of their 16 games.

From 2000 to 2012, the Ravens reached the playoffs nine times in 13 years, while winning two Super Bowls (2000 and 2012). The Browns? They reached the playoffs once and were eliminated in the wild card round.

Over that same period, from 2000 to 2012, Baltimore had a winning percentage of .606 (126-82), while the replacement Browns had a winning percentage of .399 (91-137).

In the 28 years since Modell absconded with the franchise that was rightfully Cleveland’s, the Baltimore Ravens have had just three coaches: John Harbaugh, Brian Billick and Ted Marchibroda.

Over that same period the Browns have had 12 coaches.

The Ravens have had two owners: Modell and Steve Bisciotti.

The Browns have had four owners: Al Lerner, Randy Lerner, Jimmy Haslam and Dee Haslam.

It is interesting that although it was Baltimore (through Modell) who shanghaied the Browns franchise to Baltimore, it is the Steelers who remain Cleveland’s most detested rival.

Maybe it’s the geographic proximity between Cleveland and Pittsburgh — as opposed to Cleveland and Baltimore — that’s responsible for that particular dynamic.

Considered separately, however, it would seem more logical that Baltimore, not Pittsburgh, would raise the pilot light of anger much higher in these parts than Cleveland’s Pennsylvania pen pals.

I mean, all the Steelers have done over the last 40 or 50 years is consistently beat the Browns with consistently better teams, better coaching and better drafting.

Baltimore (through Modell) actually took Cleveland’s team away.

Not only that, but the Ravens in recent years have moved decidedly ahead of Pittsburgh and Cleveland when it comes to wins and losses, strength of roster, general overall footballing and drafting.

Especially drafting.

The Browns had the first pick in the 2018 draft. They took Baker Mayfield.

The Ravens had the last pick in the first round of the 2018 draft. They took Lamar Jackson, who is probably going to win his second MVP award this year. Jackson wasn’t even the Ravens’ first pick in the first round of that draft. Seven picks before they took Jackson, they drafted tight end Hayden Hurst.

Four picks before the Ravens took Jackson, the Steelers took safety Terrell Edmunds, which was probably a major break for the Browns. Can you imagine the Steelers today if they had drafted Lamar Jackson?

That would be bad enough. But instead, Jackson tumbled to the final pick in the first round of that draft, and the rest of the AFC North teams have had it even worse ever since.

Especially the Browns, who in that same draft picked Mayfield 31 picks before the Ravens took Jackson.

The Ravens’ drafting of Jackson was a seminal moment, not just for the Browns or the AFC North, but for the entire NFL.

For the Browns, they now have to face, not once, but twice every year, a one-of-a-kind Swiss Army knife of a quarterback who has given them nothing but headaches ever since.

All that is bad enough, but now there are only four teams left in the Super Bowl tournament, and the Browns, who, for a time, thought they could be one of those four finalists, will instead be home watching the two Final Four games.

The Ravens vs. the Chiefs.

Is there any chance that both teams could lose?

Then it’s the Lions vs. the 49ers. That’s right, the Lions — the Lions! — who have never been to the Super Bowl, are now only one win away from playing in the Super Bowl.

The Browns are only six months away from training camp.

Jim Ingraham is a sports columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette. Contact him at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter

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