Time flies: Next season will mark 25th for Browns 1999 restart | Jeff Schudel

Jan. 14—Next football season will be the 25th for the Browns since being reborn as an expansion team in 1999. I wonder whether the occasion will be recognized with a patch on the front of the players' jerseys — maybe "25" in silver numerals across an orange helmet. Let's hope it isn't a dawg with "25" stamped under sinister-looking eyes.

The first edition of the Browns played in Cleveland for 50 years, from 1946-95. Including four titles in four years playing in the All-America Conference from 1946-49, that edition of the Browns won eight championships in 19 years and none after 1964.

Let's get this out of the way quickly. Following a team that year after year frustrates its fans because of constant losing is better than having no team at all to root for. The Cleveland fans who were outraged when Art Modell moved the first Browns franchise to Baltimore in 1996 know that feeling of emptiness.

Fans in St. Louis know the feeling, too. They might never get another NFL team. The Cardinals played in St. Louis from 1960-87 (after previously playing in Chicago) and were moved to Arizona in 1988. The Rams were moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995 (after originally moving from Cleveland to L.A. in 1946) and then back to Los Angeles in 2016.

The NFL was so embarrassed by what Modell did to a blindly loyal fan base that on Feb. 9, 1996, just 95 days after Modell announced he was moving the team, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced at a league meeting in Chicago that the Browns would be deactivated for three years and that a different team would start playing in Cleveland in 1999.

The only question unanswered at that historic meeting was whether Cleveland would be awarded an expansion team or a relocated team to Lake Erie's southern shore. Fans did not want a relocated team. They did not want another fan base to feel the anguish they felt when they lost the Browns.

On March 24, 1998, the NFL announced Cleveland would get an expansion team. More league meetings followed to determine an owner. Larry Dolan, who later would buy the Cleveland Indians from Richard Jacobs, was one of the contenders for the expansion Browns. Al Lerner, who was instrumental in helping Modell move the first edition of the Browns out of town, was awarded the expansion Browns.

The Browns have had as many owners since 1999 — Al Lerner, Randy Lerner and now Jimmy and Dee Haslam — as the Steelers have had head coaches since 1969 (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin).

The Browns have recorded three winning seasons in 24 years. They were 9-7 in 2002 under head coach Butch Davis, 10-6 in 2007 under Romeo Crennel and 11-5 in 2020 under Kevin Stefanski. They won one playoff game, beating the Steelers, 48-27, in a wild-card game in the 2020 season. Stefanski did not coach in the game because he was quarantined with COVID-19.

The number of Browns starting quarterbacks since 1999 grew to 34 in 2022 with Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson joining the long list of those that have come and gone: Ty Detmer, Tim Couch, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Josh McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Austin Davis, Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum and Nick Mullens.

But of all the statistics that illustrate the struggles the Browns have experienced for nearly a quarter of a century, this one pointed out by a reader named Marc sums the futility up best:

In 24 seasons, the Browns have outscored their opponents only twice, and it has been 15 years since the last time. The Browns outscored their opponents, 344-320, when they finished 9-7 and made the playoffs in 2002 and again in 2007 (402-382) when they finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs.

Even in the 11-5 season of 2020, the Browns were outscored, 419-408, which might partially explain why they failed to follow up with winning seasons in 2021 and 2022.

But at least we have a team to follow.

I didn't know that

... until I read my Snapple bottle cap.

There is a pink lake in Australia named Lake Hillier. ... When a koala is born it is about the size of a jelly bean. ... Elevenses is a break for light refreshments taken at 11 a.m. in England. ... Penguins at one time could fly. ... Ten million bricks were used in building the Empire State Building. ... Oysters can change from one gender to the other and back again.