With the Cleveland Browns set to get new “cutting-edge” uniforms in 2015, fans are torn between keeping tradition and embracing a modern-day reboot.
Cleveland, which has both a proud and storied football tradition on par with the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers, is in need of both a revamped look on and off the field in order to distance themselves away for the current brand of mediocrity.
Founded in 1946, the Cleveland Browns—and their uniforms—dominated football in winning eight championships, four in the now-defunct All-American Football Conference (1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949) and four NFL titles (1950, 1954, 1955, 1964).
Future Hall-of-Famers such as Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Lou “The Toe” Groza, Leroy Kelly, Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Paul Warfield and Frank Ryan all helped in establishing the Browns legacy for greatness and tradition in wearing the famed orange-and-brown top.
Too bad that the current generation of players have not be able to wear it so proudly.
Since returning to the league in 1999, the Browns have been the poster child of dysfunction, instability and a modern-day train wreck that has been hard to stomach for the NFL’s most loyal and dedicated fan base.
Some may argue that Green Bay and Pittsburgh have better fans, but none of them have had to solider through such turmoil in seeing 20 different quarterbacks, two winning records since the dawn of the new millennium, numerous front office and head coaching changes and having to get your hopes up every year, only to settle for mediocrity and debate/discuss next year’s mock draft, three games into the season.
While Cleveland has been one of the biggest losers on the gridiron, Browns merchandise has always been a consistent top seller for reasons beyond conventional rhyme and reason.
Bump into any Browns fan and this writer can all but promise you that they have at one point owned a Brady Quinn, Tim Couch, Trent Richardson, Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson or Joe Thomas jersey.
With the selection of Johnny Manziel, Browns merchandise sales have tripled, along with national relevance and expectations.
Which leads to the new jerseys.
Since buying the team in 2012 for more than a billion from former absentee soccer-loving owner, Randy Lerner, Jimmy Haslam has already been more proactive in engaging fans, upgrading the stadium and hiring a competent front office in general manager Ray Farmer and rookie head coach Mike Pettine.
While the jury may still be out on both, thanks to the team’s early 1-1 start and the local fawning over former prep school standout, Brian Hoyer, new jerseys are a no-brainer.
Yet, this is a hotly-debated and heated non-starter amongst in the CLE.
You have your hard-line traditionalists that will fight bitterly tooth and nail that the current jerseys are a classic and should not be touched, the casual fans who wouldn’t mind some modern-day tweaks and the newbies who crave the flashy Oregon-Nike uniforms seen all throughout college football today.
One area where all three camps seem to universally agree on is that the famed orange helmets should not be touched. Period.
As hard and unbreakable as MARVEL’S X-Men mutant Wolverine and his adamantium claws and skeleton, Browns fans will not budge one yard—pardon the pun—and even so much as a minute tweak would call for a “Occupy Berea” protest right outside of team headquarters in Berea.
When rumored mockups of the proposed new Browns helmets surfaced on Friday, via Nike, you’d swear that the internet was ready to implode.
For all the talk of wanting to keep with tradition, it may be time for the Browns to go in a different direction and do a complete overhaul. As the renderings showed, there were various designs, with this writer’s favorite being the orange helmet with a brown airbrush mark on it, which looks visually appealing and gives off a fresh and modern look.
In terms of the uniforms themselves, I stated on Facebook Friday that I would be in favor for a Ohio State “rivalry uniform” style uniform with thicker white-brown-orange shoulder stripes, eight brownie elf marks to symbolize Cleveland’s eight titles, wider brown-white stripes on the helmets and orange-brown-white and grey pants with the brown and white stripes.
What may be a nice touch is the addition of a light or medium dark gray in a drop shadow-like effect on the numbers and name plates. As much as this writer loves his fellow Browns fans, they can be rather stubborn in embracing new concepts.
To change is to grow, to grow is to evolve and to evolve is to grow a new identity. Not many Browns fans seem to grasp this concept as they are both fearful of the unknown, while it is human nature to fear the unknown, even God doesn’t know the borderline sadomasochistic nature of Browns fans.
For all the die-hard resistance to changing the Browns uniforms, Cleveland fans need to look no further than to Columbus and Cincinnati to see that sometimes a change is good.
Prior to changing their uniforms, Ohio State also received some minor backlash for alumni about changing their football uniforms back in 2003.
Now with the current trend of Nike rivalry uniforms and “cutting-edge” uniforms the trend, to attract high school recruits, Ohio State is one of the top sellers in merchandise and one of the most stylish—yet still traditional.
The Cincinnati Bengals, long seen as both a NFL laughingstock—as well as being frugal—changed uniforms in 2004, and have since gone to the playoffs five times, won two AFC North titles and posted a record of 82-77-1 mark after changing both their uniforms and helmets—see where this is going so far, Browns fans?
To further prove my argument look at these teams mentioned below:
New England Patriots: Changed from the “Pat Patriot” uniforms in 1993 to the current “Flying Elvis” tops, the Patriots have appeared in six Super Bowls, won three—lost three and have the best quarterback of our time, Tom Brady certainly helps.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purchased by Malcolm Glazer in 1995, Tampa’s uniforms were changed from the classic “creamsicle” tops to the current orange-red-pewter scheme in 1997, one Super Bowl and Nike wardrobe malfunction later, the Buccaneers prove that a change in ownership and tops bring success.
Seattle Seahawks: After moving back to the NFC in 2002(Seattle was in the NFC as an expansion franchise in 1976, alongside the forementioned Buccaneers) the Seahawks tweaked their current logo—added “Microsoft rave green” to their color scheme, thankfully ditching it with their new Nike tops in 2013, appeared in two Super Bowls—while being a victim of the worst-officiated Super Bowl in history in XL against the Steelers—and utterly humiliate the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history in Peyton Manning.
Arizona Cardinals: The oldest franchise in the NFL, the Cardinals switched from their Jake “The Snake” Plummer-era tops to the current Larry Fitzgerald tops in 2005, updated their Cardinal logo and introduced new red-black and white tops, and if not for a miraculous toe-tap from Pittsburgh Steelers wideout and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, would have a Lombardi to their credit.
Denver Broncos: Flying under the radar, Denver, after changing their fabled “Orange Crush” uniforms and logo in 1997, the Broncos would go on to appear in three Super Bowls, with John Elway winning two and Peyton Manning losing to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Not much of a major tweak, except for rounded the numbers, name plate and adding a Steelers patch in 1997, Pittsburgh unveiled a third alternate throwback jersey in 2007 with a yellow helmet. During this time frame the Steelers won two Super Bowls in 2005 and 2008.
St. Louis Rams: After moving to the Midwest from the West Coast in 1995, the Rams would outlast Steve McNair’s last-gasp rally in Super Bowl XXXIV before losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, changed from their royal blue and yellow colors to a darker blue and Notre Dame-style old gold.
With these examples, I state that for a team in such a perpetual funk as the Browns, a visual re-branding could be the type of jumpstart the moribund franchise desperately needs.
As much as this writer loves his Browns, fans need to get off the “tradition” stance and embrace a modern update, (drop shadows, thicker striping, adding gray accents). Clearly, the helmet will remain the same as both a respectful nod to their rich history and tradition, but Cleveland is in desperate need a re-boot, both on and off the field.
While tradition is part of our Cleveland’s past, the Browns need to let go of some of it and change with the times, as it is now time to be part of the here and now.