UPDATE (3 Mar 16): Hello! This list has now been updated through the end of the dreadful 2015 season. I will continue to update this list until the Browns win a playoff game, which means I will die updating this list.
A friend of mine reached out to me last week, the day after a 26-23 Browns loss to the Broncos where the Browns had been in field goal range in overtime. He wanted to make sure that I was doing okay after another very Brownsy outcome. Undeterred, I told him that this loss likely didn’t even rank as one of the worst 50 Browns losses since they returned to the league in 1999. (Being a child of the ’90s, I have no recollection of the pre-move Browns.) While my friend did not contest this assertion, I of course had to empirically test this to make sure. The result is this monstrosity.
The Cleveland Browns have lost 178 games since their return, which is now officially more than any franchise (the Lions have lost 177 in that same timeframe). While there is no loss with perhaps quite the impact of The Drive or The Fumble or Red Right 88 (or The Shot, or Jose Mesa, or you get the idea), there is still plenty of material here for consumption. I would say I hope you enjoy, out of some sort of self-pity or schadenfreude, but I don’t know that that’s healthy for you, me, or anybody.
A few notes about this list:
- This is entirely subjective. Honestly, a lot of the ones outside the top 60 or so start to blur together, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are similar losses ranked a dozen spots apart, or losses that you might see as wildly different ranked very close together. If this truly pains you, I invite you to make your own ranking.
- I tried to make the primary criterion the emotional impact of the loss. This resulted in an odd hodgepodge of proxies that I used: close losses generally floated to the top of the list, unless they were games against clearly superior teams that we didn’t have much of a chance of winning at any point during the game. At the same time, blowouts usually didn’t register that highly unless they were particularly egregious and/or killed momentum in an otherwise promising start to the season. The problem is that once you start to elevate 30-3 losses, you find a lot more of them than you expect…
- Season situation is definitely a factor here, and I note it where relevant. The 24-6 loss that the Browns suffered this past week is not nearly as bad in my mind as the 24-6 loss that the Browns suffered last season, but you’ll see why in the descriptions below.
- This post is current as of Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at which point the Browns have 178 losses since 1999 (177 regular season, 1 playoff). I currently have no intention of updating this weekly, since changing all of the numbers by one every week would be an ordeal.
So, without further ado:
186-138. EH, THESE AREN’T THAT BAD
186. Jacksonville, 1999 Week 15, 24-14. A perfectly respectable loss to a team that moved to 13-1 as a result of the game, and a sign of progress for a team nearing the end of a very long season. Skip down to #44 to see how the Browns finished the 1999 season.
185. @New England, 2007 Week 5, 34-17. I am cheating a bit and using hindsight where I can, so this loss to the 16-0 New England team looks better in retrospect than it might have when they were 4-0.
184. Denver, 2006 Week 7, 17-7.
183. Philadelphia, 2000 Week 16, 35-24. Another respectable late-season loss after a brutal previous 15 weeks, but Chris Palmer got fired anyway. Considering that Butch Davis, in his four miserable seasons as Browns head coach, averaged more wins (six) than Chris Palmer won in his two seasons as Browns head coach combined (five), and that Butch Davis is Butch Davis, this gives you some sense of how fun it’s been to be a Browns fan over the past 16.5 seasons.
182. @Baltimore, 2014 Week 17, 20-10. Connor Shaw becomes the 22nd quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999, and surpasses expectations by just enough (and when I say he surpasses expectations, he had a 50% completion percentage, 0 TD, and 1 INT) that otherwise reasonable people were clamoring for us to give him a chance to start over McCown and Manziel this season before he got hurt.
181. @Green Bay, 2013 Week 7, 31-13.
180. Buffalo, 2012 Week 3, 24-14.
179. Tennessee, 2000 Week 17, 24-0. Getting shut out in the last game of the season probably didn’t help Chris Palmer. I, at this point, had become numb to the world after watching the Spergon Wynn Game (see #72), so Doug Pederson’s 30 attempts for 75 yards actually felt like a proper ending to this season. (This is clearly all post hoc rationalization.)
178. NY Giants, 2000 Week 10, 24-3. Maybe I don’t remember 1999 and 2000 well enough. Mostly what I remember is running into the house screaming and waking my napping parents after the first Browns win in 1999 (on a Hail Mary) and also a lot of “well they’re only down by twenty-eight now, maybe they can come back in the next 5 minutes”.
177. @Denver, 2012 Week 16, 34-12.
176. @NY Giants, 2004 Week 3, 27-10.
175. @Cincinnati, 1999 Week 14, 44-28. The 1999 Browns, who score a meager 217 points over the course of the season, hit their high-water mark in a game they lose by 16.
174. @Denver, 2009 Week 2, 27-6. Actually, now that I’m writing this, I think the only reason I keep ranking Denver losses so low is because I have The Drive and The Fumble, two sports moments that occurred before I was born, pounded into my subconscious, and every single Denver loss gets “un”-fairly measured against those two. This one probably should be higher, although I kind of want to pretend we were never excited about Eric Mangini.
173. @Kansas City, 2003 Week 10, 41-20.
172. @Seattle, 2015 Week 15, 30-13. Manziel is showing progress! Manziel COULD BE OUR QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE!
171. @Kansas City, 2015 Week 16, 17-13. Manziel CONTINUES TO SHOW PROGRESS! Never mind that there was poor time management on the last drive and that there was just barely not enough time not to be able to spike the ball after a huge gain and run a final play! He is OUR FUTURE!
170. @Baltimore, 1999 Week 3, 17-10.
169. @Pittsburgh, 2008 Week 17, 31-0. I have some Week 17 blowouts ranked much, much, much higher, particularly when they’re against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. However, this was the game where Bruce Gradkowski becomes Post-1999 Browns Starting Quarterback #13, as we had signed him off the street less than a month prior to this game. Sometimes, low expectations are a blessing.
168. Houston, 2008 Week 12, 16-6.
167. Tampa Bay, 2006 Week 16, 22-7.
166. @Tampa Bay, 2002 Week 6, 17-3. I’m cheating twice on this one, because this dropped the Browns to 2-4 and made it look like the 2002 season was going to be another lost season, reducing the leverage of this specific loss. However, it was also a loss to the ultimate Super Bowl champions, who destroyed the league and allowed less than 200 points on the season.
165. @Cincinnati, 2006 Week 2, 34-17.
164. @Jacksonville, 1999 Week 6, 24-7.
163. Arizona, 2015 Week 8, 34-20. Taking a 20-7 lead into halftime against arguably the best team in the NFC was great, and then the second half happened.
162. @San Diego, 1999 Week 13, 23-10.
161. @San Francisco, 2011 Week 8, 20-10.
160. @Tennessee, 2008 Week 14, 28-9.
159. New England, 1999 Week 4, 19-7.
158. Tennessee, 1999 Week 12, 33-21.
157. @Baltimore, 2012 Week 4, 23-16. Phil Dawson, potentially still my favorite player on the post-1999 Browns (other contenders being Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, and wow isn’t it sad when your favorite players from 20 years of your team are a kicker, a kick returner, and an O-lineman?), hits three field goals of 50+ yards in this game. (Hey—better take your moral victories where you can find them, because ish just gets worse from here.)
156. @Houston, 2006 Week 17, 14-6.
155. Carolina, 1999 Week 11, 31-17.
154. @Kansas City, 2013 Week 8, 23-17.
153. @Cincinnati, 2001 Week 5, 24-14.
152. @St. Louis, 1999 Week 7, 34-3.
151. @Indianapolis, 2012 Week 7, 17-13.
150. @Cincinnati, 2009 Week 12, 16-7.
149. @NY Jets, 2013 Week 16, 24-13.
148. @Seattle, 2003 Week 13, 34-7.
147. @Cincinnati, 2012 Week 2, 34-27.
146. @Buffalo, 2010 Week 14, 13-6. Low-scoring games seem to be a thing with Buffalo, although we win as many of those than we lose, including the most ridiculous win and the worst win in post-1999 Browns history.
145. Baltimore, 2011 Week 13, 24-10.
144. @Tennessee, 2000 Week 12, 24-10.
143. Pittsburgh, 2015 Week 17, 28-12. Since 2008, the Browns have ended with the Steelers in five separate seasons. In every single season that this has happened, the Browns have lost and fired their coach afterward. Since 2008, no other AFC North team has had a coaching change. The game itself was not bad, though.
142. @Pittsburgh, 2004 Week 5, 34-23.
141. @Tennessee, 1999 Week 2, 26-9. Judging by the difference in ranking between this loss and 1999 Week 1, you can get a sense of how quickly even eight-year-old me fell into the typical Browns routine.
140. @Pittsburgh, 2009 Week 6, 27-14.
139. @Carolina, 2006 Week 5, 20-12.
138. Tennessee, 2011 Week 4, 31-13.
137-91. OKAY, THAT HURT A DECENT AMOUNT
137. @Pittsburgh, 2011 Week 14, 14-3.
136. Baltimore, 1999 Week 9, 41-9. The 1999 team gave up 40+ points three times and 437 points overall, which was 29th of 31 in the league at the time. That was a stat that would get worse before it would get better…before getting worse again.
135. Oakland, 2000 Week 4, 36-10.
134. @Pittsburgh, 2012 Week 17, 24-10.
133. @Minnesota, 2005 Week 12, 24-12.
132. Arizona, 2000 Week 6, 29-21.
131. Pittsburgh, 2013 Week 12, 27-11. Remember when the Browns had a 237-yard receiver and still only scored twice? Remember how the league suspended Josh Gordon for 16 games for having a drink on a plane, 12 games more than Greg Hardy got after a finding that he “used violence” on his ex-girlfriend on four separate occasions?
130. @Cincinnati, 2010 Week 15, 19-17.
129. @Denver, 2000 Week 7, 44-10.
128. Houston, 2014 Week 11, 23-7. I’m pretty sure people will quibble with me ranking this one so low, especially considering that the only game we won for the rest of the season was gifted to us by one Mike Smith, and especially because Ryan Mallett was making his first start of the season, and all that, but I honestly personally brushed this loss off very quickly, expecting Brian Hoyer to bounce back quickly and post some numbers down the 2014 stretch and attributing this one single bad game to JJ Watt being JJ Watt.
…Welp. Maybe this should be closer to #100 or so.
127. @Oakland, 2011 Week 6, 24-17.
126. @Pittsburgh, 2006 Week 14, 27-7.
125. @Baltimore, 2006 Week 15, 27-17. As a result of this loss, the Browns seal their first and only winless division record.
124. San Diego, 2009 Week 13, 30-23.
123. Minnesota, 2009 Week 1, 34-20. Like I said, if I said I was excited about Eric Mangini, I’d at least say I was lying.
122. Oakland, 2015 Week 3, 27-20. I mean, I did think that the Browns would win this game, but the fact that there was even a comeback from 20-3 down blunts this one perhaps more than it should.
121. Miami, 2013 Week 1, 23-10. As much as Rob Chudzinski was an offensive mastermind during the 2007 season, he didn’t do a lot to inspire confidence as a head coach heading into the 2013 season. Granted, we still had a trigger-happy owner who fired him after a single season, but you know. That coaching search worked out and we got our first guy.
120. Pittsburgh, 2011 Week 17, 13-9. Speaking of random coaches we’ve had in the past, Pat Shurmur, or something.
119. @Pittsburgh, 2010 Week 6, 28-10.
118. Dallas, 2008 Week 1, 28-10.
117. @New England, 2003 Week 8, 9-3. Look, if you had one chance…
116. @St. Louis, 2015 Week 7, 24-6. This loss drops Mike Pettine into second place in winning percentage among Browns head coaches since 1999 (at .391), behind…you guessed it, Butch Davis, at .414. Ladies and gentlemen, the Browns.
115. Cincinnati, 2000 Week 9, 12-3. Sometimes, games look very similar…
114. Cincinnati, 2008 Week 16, 14-0…but usually only one of them is your fifth consecutive game without an offensive touchdown.
113. @Houston, 2011 Week 9, 30-12.
112. Green Bay, 2009 Week 7, 31-3.
111. @Chicago, 2009 Week 8, 30-6.
110. Washington, 2012 Week 15, 38-21.
109. @San Diego, 2006 Week 9, 32-25. Good ol’ Phil Dawson kicks 6 field goals in this one, so Chiefs fans know how we felt.
108. Baltimore, 2000 Week 5, 12-0.
107. Atlanta, 2010 Week 5, 20-10.
106. @Green Bay, 2001 Week 15, 30-7.
105. @Indianapolis, 2005 Week 3, 13-6. The Colts run out the final eight minutes of the game on a single drive, and the Browns never see the ball for a game-tying chance.
104. @Baltimore, 2013 Week 2, 14-6.
103. @NY Giants, 2012 Week 5, 41-27. After the Browns take a 17-7 lead, the Giants score 34 of the next 37 points.
102. @Carolina, 2014 Week 16, 17-13. With a legitimate chance at ensuring only the third .500 season since 1999, the Browns decide to punt on 4th and 11 inside Carolina territory down 4 with three minutes left in the 4th quarter. They never get the ball back again.
101. @Baltimore, 2005 Week 6, 16-3.
100. Pittsburgh, 2004 Week 10, 24-10.
99. Tennessee, 2001 Week 12, 31-15.
98. @Baltimore, 2010 Week 3, 24-17.
97. St. Louis, 2003 Week 14, 26-20. The Rams score both of their touchdowns within 42 seconds as a result of consecutive interceptions.
96. @Baltimore, 2000 Week 13, 44-7.
95. @New England, 2001 Week 13, 27-16.
94. @Cincinnati, 2015 Week 9, 31-10.
93. Jacksonville, 2000 Week 1, 27-7.
92. @Pittsburgh, 2000 Week 8, 22-0.
91. Baltimore, 2012 Week 9, 25-15.
90-68. NOW YOU’RE JUST MESSING WITH US
90. @Pittsburgh, 2001 Week 17, 28-7. All of Pittsburgh’s skill players on offense rest, and they still put up 28 points on the Browns. Also, I used to think that Maddox (the Internet guy) was Tommy Maddox.
89. @Philadelphia, 2008 Week 15, 30-10.
88. @Baltimore, 2011 Week 16, 20-14.
87. Cincinnati, 2005 Week 1, 27-13.
86. @Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 10, 30-9. Johnny Manziel passes for 372 yards and a touchdown…and the Steelers still win by 21.
85. @Houston, 2005 Week 8, 19-16.
84. @Tampa Bay, 2010 Week 1, 17-14. A trio of 2010 games with scoreless second halves…
83. Baltimore, 2010 Week 16, 20-10…where in this one, a failed onside kick coming out of halftime when down 3 leads to the final score…
82. Kansas City, 2010 Week 2, 16-14…and where in the other two, 14-10 leads fail to hold up.
81. Pittsburgh, 2003 Week 12, 13-6. Four red zone trips result in a total of six points. Bend-but-not-break offense: the specialty of Browns teams over the last decade and a half.
80. Detroit, 2005 Week 7, 13-10. Jeff Garcia, the Browns starter the previous year, leads a comeback by Detroit against the Browns in the second half, and gloats about it in the press conference afterward. Because even Detroit looks down on the Browns.
79. San Diego, 2003 Week 7, 26-20. The Chargers come in 0-5, but manage to use an 8-minute drive in the fourth quarter to kick the final field goal.
78. Pittsburgh, 2008 Week 2, 10-6.
77. Cincinnati, 2015 Week 13, 37-3. Ladies and gentlemen, your 24th Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, Austin Davis!
76. San Diego, 2004 Week 15, 21-0.
75. @Buffalo, 2014 Week 13, 26-10. Johnny Manziel’s first game action, in relief of a highly ineffective Brian Hoyer. Manziel comes in and leads a drive where he runs for a touchdown. He also does this:
74. @Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 10, 34-21. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t playing with an injured knee, so of course Charlie Batch starts and runs in a touchdown before suffering a broken hand, bringing 2002 Browns nemesis Tommy Maddox in…but the Steeler passing touchdown for the day goes to Antwaan Randle El, a college QB playing WR in the NFL, on a reverse.
73. @NY Jets, 2015 Week 1, 31-10. McCown leaves the game with a concussion, and five turnovers give the Jets enough short fields that they can’t not capitalize offensively. There are some rumblings before the game that the Browns might be able to replicate their 7-9 record from last season, but the Jets had other plans, and Manziel’s propensity to dance with the ball indicates that he has learned little in camp. Of course, Manziel then won the next week and the Jets are off to a hot start, but that loss was a quick shortcut to the typical sky-is-falling mentality of a Browns season. (Although in Cleveland, the sky often is falling, at least during football season. And through the winter. So much lake effect.)
72. @Jacksonville, 2000 Week 14, 48-0. Only in Browns land could a 48-0 blowout land outside the top 70 losses, but while this game was simply painful to watch, it was a start for the third quarterback of the season, which we have seen above is never a good sign going in. Spergon Wynn, in his first of a total of three career starts, goes 5/16 for 17 yards and an interception. He is pulled in the second quarter, put back in after halftime, and then pulled again in the fourth quarter. At this point, I feel like I cite to low expectations often enough that I need to come up with a jingle. (Not just in this article, but in real life. Sorry, mom.)
71. Baltimore, 2009 Week 10, 16-0. Putting their best foot forward, the Browns are shut out on Monday Night Football.
70. @Baltimore, 2008 Week 3, 28-10. A 10-7 lead at halftime turns into a 28-10 final with three Baltimore touchdowns in six minutes.
69. Baltimore, 2008 Week 9, 37-27.
68. Pittsburgh, 2001 Week 9, 15-12 (OT).
67-38. LEGITIMATELY AWFUL LOSSES
67. @Baltimore, 2004 Week 9, 27-13. In a game that included a 7-yard punt by the Browns, a tip-drill interception by Ed Reed in his own end zone was returned 106 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
66. Denver, 2008 Week 10, 34-30. The Broncos, down 23-10 in the third quarter, score 3 touchdowns in the fourth to come back and win.
65. @Pittsburgh, 2013 Week 17, 20-7. A seventh straight loss to end the season, the only points of the game scored by the Browns are with 2 minutes left in the game.
64. Cincinnati, 2006 Week 12, 30-0. Other than getting shut out by the league’s 32nd-ranked defense and picked off four times, this game is memorable for an incredibly visible argument between “star” WR Braylon Edwards and star…ting QB Charlie Frye on the bench. At one point, Edwards grabs Frye’s jersey, and other players have to actually physically separate them. Of course, Edwards fighting with his own QB was fine, but he is traded immediately, three years later, when he allegedly fights with a friend of Lebron James. Priorities.
63. @Baltimore, 2009 Week 3, 34-3. Brady Quinn is benched for Derek Anderson, and they combine for 126 passing yards and 4 INTs.
62. Cincinnati, 2014 Week 15, 30-0. Huh, this score looks familiar. This is Johnny Manziel’s first start, and boy, what a start. 10/18 for 80 yards and 2 INT, and the team finishes with 107 yards of offense…which is still not even close to the lowest 5 yardage outputs by the Browns since 1999.
61. Detroit, 2013 Week 6, 31-17. Leading 17-7 going into the second half, Cleveland gets outscored 24-0 by Detroit, and Brandon Weeden does this:
60. @Cincinnati, 2005 Week 14, 23-20.
59. NY Jets, 2004 Week 11, 10-7.
58. New England, 2004 Week 13, 42-15. New England is up 42-7 in the third before pumping the brakes.
57. @Denver, 2003 Week 15, 23-20 (OT). The Browns allow Denver to drive for the game-tying field goal in the closing 70 seconds of regulation after going up 20-17.
56. Chicago, 2013 Week 15, 38-31. Chicago scores three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to overcome the Browns’ second-half lead.
55. Cincinnati, 2003 Week 4, 21-14. Marvin Lewis’s first win of his head coaching career. Tim Couch throws an interception on the Browns’ last drive to a cornerback who had crashed his car the previous day and had been rushed to the ER to be treated for his injuries. Or, in other words, how Tim Couch felt behind his O-line most weeks.
54. Denver, 2015 Week 6, 26-23 (OT). I was ultimately right: not quite in the top 50, mostly because this was a game we had no business winning in regulation. Down 10-0 at halftime, the Browns force overtime and then manage to intercept Peyton Manning in his own territory. However, the resulting drive, starting at the Broncos 39, goes TFL-sack-sack-penalty, and the Browns have to punt from their own 43 instead of getting a legitimate field goal try. The Broncos then score on their next possession.
53. Philadelphia, 2004 Week 7, 34-31 (OT). A very similar game to the above. Playing against an undefeated team, the Browns have a chance to jump into the playoff race (a win would have put them at 4-3), and a large comeback forced overtime, but the Browns were unable to muster any offense in the extra period.
52. Jacksonville, 2013 Week 13, 32-28. Jaguars score the winning TD with 40 seconds left, and Brandon Weeden is Brandon Weeden. And to think, Josh Gordon had 261 receiving yards in this game with these kinds of throws being made by his quarterback:
51. @Dallas, 2004 Week 2, 19-12. Sadly, the last time the Browns have won their season opener (and thus have a chance to go 2-0). While the Browns manage to intercept the Cowboys three times in the fourth quarter, those three interceptions turn into three points (and a safety given up). That’s right: three turnovers turned into one (net) point. If this were hockey, that would be pretty good.
50. Jacksonville, 2005 Week 13, 20-14. Jaguars score the last 17 points of the game, with the Browns managing 55 yards and 0 points in the second half. The Jaguars manage to get to kneeldowns by gaining 28 yards on a third-and-19 play.
49. Indianapolis, 2008 Week 13, 10-6. The only touchdown scored in this game is a fumble return TD in the fourth quarter.
48. @Cincinnati, 2011 Week 11, 23-20.
47. Pittsburgh, 2002 Week 9, 23-20. After racing out to a 14-3 lead in a game for first place of the division, the offense cannot stay on the field. (Browns’ time of possession is 17:50.)
46. @Washington, 2008 Week 7, 14-11. Phil Dawson has a 54-yard game-tying field goal attempt as time expired which has the leg but is just wide right.
45. @Arizona, 2011 Week 15, 20-17 (OT). The Cardinals score 10 points in two minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17.
44. Indianapolis, 1999 Week 16, 29-28. The 2-13 Browns lead the game wire-to-wire…that is, until the Colts kick the game-winning field goal as time expires. Coming off a productive Jacksonville loss (#186 on this list), it is a…way to end a season (although not the worst end to a season; that’s #38).
43. New Orleans, 2006 Week 1, 19-14. First play from scrimmage is a 74-yard TD for the Browns…called back for holding. The last play of the game is a tip-drill interception by the Saints.
42. Cincinnati, 1999 Week 5, 18-17. The Bengals score the go-ahead TD with five seconds left, robbing the Browns of their first win in the new era.
41. Indianapolis, 2002 Week 15, 28-23. A 16-0 halftime lead is for naught as a go-ahead TD pass to an open Andra Davis is dropped with 83 seconds remaining in the game.
40. Baltimore, 2006 Week 3, 15-14. After carrying a 14-3 lead into the fourth quarter, Charlie Frye throws an interception with three minutes left that leads to the game-winning field goal.
39. Cincinnati, 2009 Week 4, 23-20 (OT). Browns block a PAT to force overtime, but can’t do anything offensively past that, and Shayne Graham kicks the game-winning field goal as time expires in overtime.
38. Pittsburgh, 2010 Week 17, 41-9. What a way to end the season at home.
37-22. IS THIS REAL LIFE
37. @Miami, 2004 Week 16, 10-7. I’m just going to copy and paste snippets from the AP recap and let them wash over you. “The teams combined for six turnovers and went 3½ quarters without a point after an early 7-all tie with impressive ineptitude.” “The Dolphins faked a field goal, tried a pooch punt instead and netted 2 yards. They had a 6½-minute drive that barely reached midfield. Tight end Randy McMichael, who has lobbied for more passes, dropped two. Feeley drilled a throw 5 yards into the chest of defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban, who was too astounded to make the interception.” “The Browns lost a fumble at the Miami 2 and had a takeaway negated by a penalty.” “But the ugliest moment came in the third quarter, with an interception and two fumbles on the same play. Luke McCown’s deep throw was intercepted by Arturo Freeman, who fumbled. Teammate Patrick Surtain picked up the ball, then lateraled to Sam Madison, who fumbled. The Browns recovered for a net gain of 26 yards.” “Phil Dawson missed a 43-yard field goal when his attempt hit the right upright.” The only reason this game isn’t higher is because the Browns clearly should not even be in position to win this game at any point.
36. NY Jets, 2010 Week 10, 26-20 (OT). Chansi Stuckey fumbles in overtime in Jets territory, and the Jets end up scoring the winning TD with only :16 left in overtime. Who is Chansi Stuckey, you ask? I don’t quite know, but apparently he was our second leading WR that year. I will no longer curse the Browns’ thin WR corps (and I do mean literally thin, between Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin).
35. Philadelphia, 2012 Week 1, 17-16. Browns score a TD when down 10-9, and elect to kick the extra point instead of going for two. The Eagles then score the go-ahead TD with 83 seconds remaining.
34. Pittsburgh, 2005 Week 16, 41-0. ugh
33. Baltimore, 2003 Week 16, 35-0. Jamal Lewis rushes for 205 yards, which gives him 500 yards against the Browns alone in 2003. (More on this later, at #25.)
32. @Cincinnati, 2013 Week 11, 41-20. Trying to climb into the playoff race and jumping out to a 13-0 lead after the first quarter, the Browns promptly give up 31 points in the second quarter to Cincinnati.
31. @Jacksonville, 2014 Week 7, 24-6. After trouncing the Steelers 31-10 and looking like playoff contenders, the right side of the offensive line is pushed around all day by the Jaguars and the Browns commit two turnovers in 51 seconds in the fourth quarter, turning a 10-6 game into a blowout. After this game, the Jaguars, in their most recent 26 non-divisional matchups, were 2-0 against the Browns and 0-24 against the other 27 teams in the league.
30. Baltimore, 2002 Week 5, 26-21. The Tim Couch Cry Game. Couch suffers a concussion when the Browns are down 23-0 and the home crowd cheers, which leads to an emotional and expletive-laden interview where he lashes out at the Cleveland fanbase. In the meantime, Kelly Holcomb mounts a furious fourth-quarter comeback that falls just short. Controversy? What controversy? (Also, can we talk about how even only a dozen years ago, players would get concussions and then be cleared to talk to the media after the game?)
29. Baltimore, 2014 Week 3, 23-21. Playing with the lead all game, the Browns score zero points off of two fourth-quarter field goals (one miss, one blocked), either of which would have forced the Ravens to try for touchdowns.
28. Pittsburgh, 2006 Week 11, 24-20. Roethlisberger throws for 224 yards in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers complete the comeback from 10 down at three different points in the game.
27. @Baltimore, 2003 Week 2, 33-13. Jamal Lewis sets the then-NFL record with 295 yards in a single game. In doing so, Lewis quashes a comeback attempt that had gotten the Browns within 16-13.
26. Carolina, 2002 Week 13, 13-6. Carolina intercepts the ball on a desperation drive, but fumbles it and the Browns return it for a touchdown…except the play is ultimately waved off because the pass is ruled incomplete. The Browns are out of timeouts and thus unable to challenge the play.
25. Pittsburgh, 2007 Week 1, 34-7. The Week 1 beatdown so bad, the Browns became the only team in NFL history to trade their starting quarterback between weeks 1 and 2. The only touchdown came on a pass to our fullback when down 24-0, and he decided it was a good time to break out an outrageous dance. (People started booing, if I remember correctly. Usually people get at least one week in before they start to lose faith in the team…of course, this became the Browns’ best season since their return.)
24. @Dallas, 2012 Week 11, 23-20 (OT). Dallas scores 17 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game in regulation.
23. Indianapolis, 2003 Week 1, 9-6.
22. Seattle, 2001 Week 1, 9-6. Rian Lindell hits a 52-yard field goal into the wind as time expires. The Browns had first and goal with three minutes remaining but failed to convert.
21-13. THIS SIMPLY DID NOT HAPPEN. IT COULD NOT HAVE
21. @Jacksonville, 2010 Week 11, 24-20. Browns force five straight turnovers, but only manage to convert them into 10 points. Jags then score two touchdowns in the final four minutes. The Browns win the turnover battle 6-1…and still lose. (Maybe partially because Colt McCoy was 9 yards away from being the Browns’ leading rusher.)
20. @Buffalo, 2004 Week 14, 37-7. The Browns manage 17 total yards of offense (15 of them on a garbage-time drive after the two-minute warning).
19. @Cincinnati, 2004 Week 12, 58-48. That’s not a misprint (especially considering what the team did two weeks later). Tied an NFL record for highest losing score in league history. Second highest scoring game (combined score) in league history. Browns are driving late in the fourth quarter down 51-48, but Kelly Holcomb throws a pick-six to provide the final margin.
18. Pittsburgh, 1999 Week 1, 43-0. Welcome to the New Browns era! The Browns are outgained by the Steelers 464-40. Being eight years old, I actually thought that Drew Carey, who came out onto the field in a jersey, was part of the team. Honestly, he wouldn’t have done any worse.
17. @Cincinnati, 2007 Week 16, 19-14. With a win guaranteeing a playoff berth (and likely a division crown), Derek Anderson throws five interceptions. Although the Browns beat the 49ers the next week, they lose the division tiebreaker to the Steelers. A Colts win later that evening would be sufficient for the Browns to sneak into the playoffs, but the Colts rest Peyton Manning and lose handily.
16. St. Louis, 2011 Week 10, 13-12. Phil Dawson’s 22-yard field goal attempt after the two-minute warning falls victim to a very very bad snap, and the kick is booted wide right…once again proving that nobody’s perfect (why no, I do not know the choreography to this song from memory).
15. Cincinnati, 2011 Week 1, 27-17. Cincinnati backup QB Bruce Gradkowski (yes, he of the one-start-at-the-end-of-2008 fame) notices that the Cleveland defense is slow out of the huddle, and thus rushes to the line and quick-snaps the ball for an easy go-ahead touchdown. Keep in mind that when Gradkowski started for us, he lost 31-0 (see #169).
14. @Pittsburgh, 2014 Week 1, 30-27. After falling in a 27-3 hole, the Browns score 24 straight points after halftime to tie the game, but then allow the Steelers to march down the field and kick the game-winning field goal as time expires. Of course, this game is far better known for this, which is definitely not particularly fitting because it represents the state of the rivalry over the last 17 years or anything: 13. @Pittsburgh, 2007 Week 10, 31-28. Browns blow a 21-6 lead thanks to 0 offensive points after halftime (a 100-yard absurd kickoff return for TD by Josh Cribbs keeps the Browns in the game—Derek Anderson’s reaction at 0:27, by the way, is emblematic of every single post-1999 Browns quarterback: “yay! I don’t have to worry about being the one who messes up the getting of the points?”). A game-tying 53-yard field goal attempt as time expires from Phil Dawson falls short.
12-1. NOTHING IS REAL ANYMORE, ALL HAIL THE MATRIX
12. @San Diego, 2015 Week 4, 30-27. After tying the game at 27, the Chargers drive down the field for a field goal try as time expires. Josh Lambo, the Chargers kicker, misses the kick, but Tramon Williams is whistled for offsides, which gives the Chargers an untimed down and therefore a second chance to hit the field goal, which he does. This couldn’t even crack the top 10, and that’s partially because we have more untimed down hijinks coming. Hold onto your pants.
11. Indianapolis, 2014 Week 14, 25-24. The Colts come back from 14 down and drive for the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds remaining after converting 4th and 2 on the 3 yard line.
10. Baltimore, 2015 Week 12, 33-27. In a game that features four turnovers in the last two minutes while the game is tied at 27-27, the Browns line up for a 47-yard field goal as time expires. The kick, of course, is blocked and returned for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, this is the first field goal all season that rookie kicker Travis Coons had missed. The kick-six nullifies an incredibly heads-up game-tying drive by Austin Davis(???). I watched this game while hate-eating bagels on an elliptical machine, and in typical Cleveland fashion, I was a little offended that we were going to win the game after all of my self-loathing.
9. @Detroit, 2009 Week 11, 38-37. In a matchup of 1-8 teams, the Browns build a 24-3 lead over the Lions, but lets them back in it over the course of the second half. On the last play of the game, with Detroit trailing 37-31 and with no timeouts remaining, Stafford is injured and the ball is intercepted, but pass interference is called. As a result, Detroit gets an untimed down. Eric Mangini decides to call timeout before this untimed down, which gives Stafford enough time to test out his arm and re-enter the game. He then throws a touchdown to win the game. Mangini’s explanation for calling the timeout was that he wanted to “get his team ready” for the untimed down.
8. @Arizona, 2007 Week 13, 27-21. On the last play of the game, Derek Anderson throws a pass to Kellen Winslow in the end zone. Winslow catches the ball but is pushed out of bounds before he can land with both feet in the end zone. Under the rules at the time, if a player could have stepped in bounds but for the forceout, the catch should be ruled a touchdown. Officials refuse to reverse the call on the field of an incomplete pass, and the Browns lose. As a result of this game, the forceout rule is removed at the end of the 2007 season.
7. @Oakland, 2007 Week 3, 26-24. On the last play of the game, Phil Dawson kicks a 40-yard field goal through the uprights. Unfortunately, Oakland coach Lane Kiffin has called timeout from the sidelines right before the ball is snapped (a new rule as of 2007). On the second try, the kick is blocked. After Week 3, the rule is amended so that this exact circumstance is no longer possible.
6. @New England, 2013 Week 14, 27-26. Patriots, down 26-14, score a touchdown with 61 seconds left, recover the onside kick, and then score another touchdown thirty seconds later.
5. @Pittsburgh, 2002 Wild Card, 36-33. The Steelers, down 24-7, mount an insane rally, with 29 points in the last 19 minutes of the game. The last touchdown goes to fullback Chris Fu’amatu-Ma’afala, who has 127 total yards from scrimmage and 0 touchdowns in the 2002 regular season. (Fu’amatu-Ma’afala only scored ten touchdowns in his NFL career.) The two-point conversion to make it a three-point game is a pass from Antwaan Randle-El, which the Steelers would make use of again three years later in a game against the Browns. (This loss, if it were a regular season loss, would be #13 in this ranking.)
4. @Chicago, 2001 Week 8, 27-21 (OT). The Browns are leading 21-7 with a minute to play, but Chicago scores a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining, recovers the onside kick, and then converts a 34-yard Hail Mary as time expires to tie the game. On the Browns’ first drive of overtime, Chicago intercepts a screen pass and returns it for a touchdown. Video highlights point out the Baylor-style tip-drill touchdown that victimized safety Mike Brown before his hero moment in overtime.
3. @Pittsburgh, 2002 Week 4, 16-13 (OT). The Browns get an interception deep in Steelers territory in overtime, but Phil Dawson misses a 45-yard field goal. On the next drive, the Steelers attempt to kick a field goal on second down. The attempt is blocked, but the Steelers recover. The refs rule that since the ball did not cross the line of scrimmage, the Steelers are entitled to kick another field goal on third down, and that attempt is good.
2. Kansas City, 2002 Week 1, 40-39. Dwayne Rudd’s Helmet Toss. On the last play of the game from the Chiefs’ own 47, trailing 39-37, Trent Green is under pressure, and linebacker Dwayne Rudd gets to him. Right before Green goes down, though, he shovels a lateral to one of his linemen, who then runs to the 26 of the Browns well after time has expired. However, Rudd thinks he has sacked Green cleanly, and expecting that the game was over, immediately removes his helmet and throws it, an automatic 15-yard penalty. Since a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Chiefs get an untimed down and kick the (now a chip shot) 28-yard field goal.
1. Jacksonville, 2001 Week 14, 15-10. Bottlegate. The Browns are 6-6, looking to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Browns are driving, down 15-10, with 68 seconds left in the game. Tim Couch appears to complete a three-yard throw to Quincy Morgan on 4th and 2 from the Jacksonville 12, setting up first and goal. Couch hurries everybody to the line and then spikes the ball. At this point (and only at this point), Terry McAulay, the head official, signals that the Morgan completion is under review. Although the rule is that once another play is run, the play before cannot be reviewed, McAulay’s reasoning is that the replay booth buzzed him before the spike play was run, but that he had to confirm with another official that the buzz had happened before the play was run. The ruling of a catch is then overturned by the officials, and the Jaguars are awarded the ball. At this time, fans start throwing bottles and other debris onto the field, and the referees decide to call a forfeit of the game with 48 seconds still on the clock. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ultimately has to call the referees and force the last 48 seconds of the game to be run, even with a significant amount of debris still remaining on the field.
A couple general thoughts:
- The years with the worst loss luck seem to be 2001, 2002, and 2007…which happen to be three of the four years where the Browns managed a 7-9 or better record (2014 is the fourth). This at least somewhat stands to reason Pythogarean-ically, since you would expect more close games from a team who scores and gives up about the same number of points as opposed to a team who averages a three-score loss every game.
- The Browns have had a lot of really bad offenses. There are really only a handful of shootout losses, and most of those seem to involve the Browns losing from ahead rather than falling just short in a comeback.
- On a related note, the Browns have been shut out 13 times in 16+ years. Many of those were in the first couple of years back, but it’s still been a fun run of offensive ineptitude.
- The Browns have lost to their current division rivals a total of 71 times (PIT: 27, BAL: 24, CIN: 20) for ~40% of their losses; since division games now make up 37.5% of the schedule, their run of ineptitude within the AFC North is particularly notable.
It’s cool, though, the NFL totally has parity, so everything is okay. There’s always next year to bring about heartbreaking losses in ways yet unimagined.