Cleveland don’t think I forgot about you. Don’t think I can ever forget about you. Because I was this close to opening the show with what happened on Sunday. Not Buffalo punching their first postseason ticket in 17 years. Not Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners finishing the season on a 5-game heater. No, I’m talking about the final gift of 2017: PERFECTION.
I’ll be honest, I was gripping. I thought the Browns were going to do it to me again. That they’d chase 1-and-15 with 1-and-15. That DeShone Kizer and Josh Gordon and Hue Jackson would go out against Landry Jones and the Steelers scout team and choke away their shot at immortality. That they’d rob ME of what I deserve. Another perfect season. And even after getting off to that incredible start — Pittsburgh scoring the first 14 points, then an easy 21-7 lead, you could feel history start to wrap its hands around the Browns necks as the moment got closer and closer to reality.
21-7 became 21-14 when Kizer hit Rashad Higgins for a 56-yard touchdown. 21-14 became 21-21 when Kizer hit Higgins for another touchdown. And even after JuJu Smith Schuster gave us some breathing room with a 96-yard house call, it all came down to one last drive for the Browns.
Kizer got it started with an easy throw to Duke Johnson. He converted 3rd-and-3 to that freak show Josh Gordon who turned nothing into 33 yards. And then history was on the line: 4th-and-2. One final bullet to dodge. Kizer, with the Steelers pass rush bearing down on him, spun out of trouble, rolled to his left. Looked down field to see Corey Coleman wide open. And Coleman went legend and MANNED FREAKING DOWN, by dropping a fourth down pass!!!
I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. To get THAT CLOSE last year and see it all collapse in Week 16, and then never blink this year with the chips in the middle and the Steelers openly tanking with their starters in bubble-wrap and nothing to play for. And when there was a chance to do something stupid, to go completely brain dead and make a play — to ruin EVERYTHING that I’ve been hoping for — Coleman made DAMN SURE that there would be no mistakes this season. That we’d roll into 2018 the right way. With the Cry-stal popping and the Browns just the second team in the history of the NFL to run the table in reverse.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure how it’d feel the second time. If I could love this team like I loved that Lions team in 2008. The crew that will never have to buy a drink in the Jungle again. The one that had Rod Marinelli out front — his shovel sharp, his will outstanding — a true leader of men who guided Dan Orlovsky and Chaz Batch to the promise land.
But seeing Coleman drop a ball that could’ve jammed into his facemask if his hands didn’t get in the way, brought back all the feelings. It didn’t feel like the first time. It felt BETTER.
I know that brighter days are ahead for Cleveland. That they’ve got a real GM now in John Dorsey. That they’ve got 2 of the first 4 picks in the draft, and 4 of the first 35. That they’ve got a dump truck of cash available for free agents and one of the best salary cap situations in the NFL. But know this Cleveland: No matter how good it gets, I’ll never forget 2017. I’ll never forget perfection. And even if Hue Jackson’s running from this season — I’m not. There’s a banner going up right now in the new studio. And the 2nd time feels even better than the first.