CLEVELAND — The Browns take on their toughest competition of the season on Sunday when they travel to New England to face the Patriots. The two franchises haven’t had much in common over the last few decades, in terms of success, but they do share a powerful link—head coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick and the Browns
The Patriots’ prickly coach got his start in Cleveland, coaching the Browns from 1991-95. It didn’t exactly go well.
During his tenure with the Browns, Belichick recorded a 36-44 record. His only winning season coming in 1994 when the Browns defeated the Patriots, of all teams, in the wild card round before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round.
But that’s not what he’s remembered for. His most controversial decision drew the ire of Browns fans when he cut beloved quarterback Bernie Kosar. Kosar went on to win a Super Bowl ring that same season with the Cowboys. The Browns replaced him with Vinny Testaverde, who was decent, but no hometown hero.
Belichick and the Browns got off to a successful start in the 1995 season, and there was Super Bowl talk. After a 3-1 start, however, the Browns began to struggle. After they slid to 4-5, owner Art Modell (remember that guy?) announced in the middle of the season that he signed a deal to move the Browns to Baltimore.
After promising Belichick his job was secure through the move to Baltimore, Modell instead fired him. Belichick went on to become the head coach of the Patriots and win six Super Bowls with the team as a Hall of Fame level coach, thus proving what all Clevelanders already knew about Modell’s always superb football and business judgment.
Browns lead series
The Browns and the Patriots have met just 24 times in the past 48 years. Although they don’t play each other often, Cleveland has won 13 of the 24 games.
One of the most memorable wins over the Patriots was a 2010 upset at home.
Coming into the game with eerily similar records as they have in 2019, the Patriots had the best record in the league at 6-1. The Browns had struggled in the first half of the season and sat at 2-5.
In that stunning upset, the Browns played out of character. They played with high energy. They played with creativity. It was a thing of beauty.
The most memorable play in that game WAS the fumblerooski set by the Browns’ Josh Cribbs. Up 10-7 just before the half, the Browns lined Cribbs up at quarterback. He placed the ball on the field and wide receiver Chansi Stuckey cut across, picked the ball up and ran it in for an 11-yard touchdown.
Cleveland successfully utilized their running game that day as well. Peyton Hillis ran 29 times for 184 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run in a 34-14 win.
You know what they say…
History has been known to repeat itself.
With the Browns sitting on a 2-4 record and the Patriots undefeated (pending the results of Monday night's game against the Jets), the stage has been set, and it looks a lot like it did back in 2010, only this Browns team has Baker Mayfield in place of Colt McCoy, so that’s something.
If head coach Freddie Kitchens can channel his successful but sporadically seen up-tempo, creative offense and can get a good running game going early with Nick Chubb, the Browns might find themselves repeating history as they did nine years ago in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.