In the 90’s, the Dallas Cowboys earned the title of “America’s Team”. Behind an offense loaded with legends like Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Larry Allen and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys not only won multiple Super Bowls, but also the hearts of millions of football fans across the nation. However, in more recent years, the Cowboys haven’t done much to keep that famous moniker. The disdain for Dallas seems to run more rampant than the love. The headlines that the Cowboys grab aren’t fun or exciting. They’re scandalous or boring. The stories in the news about the Cowboys are about players in legal trouble or their crazy and dislikable old owner or contract holdouts. Those aren’t fun, they’re not endearing and it certainly doesn’t make them lovable in the eyes of those across the nation. The Cowboys reign as “America’s Team” is over. It’s time for a new team to step into the role that the Cowboys have claimed for so many years: the Cleveland Browns.
It’s arguable that the Browns have already taken over the title of America’s Team. Many NFL fans couldn’t resist rooting for the Browns last season on their way to a 7-8-1 record, their best performance since 2007. It’s not much, but it’s a hell of a lot better than their 1-31 record in their previous 2 seasons (the worst record over a 2-year span in NFL history). While Cleveland’s increased success can’t be solely attributed to one player or person, the Browns never would’ve received the same amount of support if it weren't for the drafting of unheralded Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield 1st overall. Between Mayfield’s eccentric personality and the public’s natural love for an underdog, the Browns became a team almost everyone wanted to see win. There were even people in movie theatres across America watching “The Predator” movie who, in the middle of the movie, took out their phones and watched Baker Mayfield’s first game against the Jets instead. (Namely, myself.)
This offseason when the Browns added Odell Beckham Jr. to the mix, their polarizing profile grew even larger. Beckham is perhaps the most popular receiver in the NFL and one of the most popular players over the last decade. Ever since his one handed catch against the Cowboys many years ago, there has been no receiver who has taken the spotlight quite like OBJ. Adding Beckham not only turned the Browns into Super Bowl contenders, but into the most popular team in the county. The numbers bear it out...
In the week after Odell Beckham Jr. was traded, his new Browns jersey was the top selling jersey in the NFL. And in 2nd? The jersey of Browns QB Baker Mayfield. That’s the kind of universal and immense popularity the Browns have accrued this offseason.
The Browns reputation as one of the sorriest franchises in the NFL gives them the sympathy of fans, which can’t go undervalued, and their roster, which features two of the most engaging personalities in the league in Odell Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield, gives them the electricity to reward those fans for their support with highlight reel performances on a weekly basis. With all those factors working in their favor, it’s hard to deny that the Browns have become America’s team. It’s time to recognize them as such.
Most of America will be rooting for the Browns to succeed even if they’re not their favorite team. The Browns are fun, they are exciting and, most importantly, the Browns are really really good. Cleveland has more buzz following them than any team in the NFL has ever had in quite some time. It’s easy to see a shift is coming. It will be similar to what the sports world saw with the Cubs during their 2016 playoff run, only bigger and better. If the Browns make the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2003, expect nearly every NFL fan without a team in the playoffs to be rooting for them to break through.
Move over Cowboys. America loves the Browns.
Photo: (David Richard - AP Photo)