The term "a lot of" can be found everywhere in the 1993 Browns season.
It began with a lot of hope and ended with a lot of disappointment, and in between there was a lot of controversy and turmoil.
In short, it's a season that will never be forgotten by anyone who lived through it.
The Browns came into the year trying to make a marked improvement after virtually running in place in 1992. That club finished 7-9, improving only slightly over a 6-10 mark in 1991.
An 8-8 finish would have been OK -- it would have meant the Browns were getting better, and it would have represented their first non-losing record since 1989 -- but they wanted more.
To help increase the chances of that happening, the Browns went out in the offseason and signed middle linebacker Pepper Johnson, the ex-Ohio Stater by way of the New York Giants, massive -- for that time -- defensive tackle Jerry Ball, a 315-pounder, and quarterback Vinny Testaverde, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft (1987) who had been stuck on bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers teams for six years.
They also used their first-pound pick in the NFL Draft, at No. 14 overall, to select center Steve Everitt.
Browns head coach Bill Belichick was a firm believer in the old adage that a team should be built up the middle, and this was a perfect example of that.
The moves paid off immediately when the team began 3-0, its best start since 1979. The last two victories were significant -- for a variety of reasons.
In Week 2, the Browns got their first Monday Night Football triumph since 1990 with a 23-13 decision over the San Francisco 49ers 23-13. The 49ers were one of the top teams in the league and had been to the NFC Championship Game the previous year, and the fact the Browns beat them far more decisively than the final score might seem to indicate, boded well for what the club might be able to do as the season continued to unfold.
A big MNF win at home followed by a road game the following Sunday is many times the recipe for a major letdown in the NFL, and the Browns were certainly flat and lethargic when they went all the way across the country to play the Los Angeles Raiders. Their offense was going nowhere and the situation seemed hopeless when they trailed 16-3 with just 4:58 left.
Testaverde had replaced the popular Bernie Kosar at the start of the fourth quarter and had directed the Browns to their lone score, a 41-yard Matt Stover field goal. But in those final minutes of the game, he really went to work, leading the Browns to two touchdowns. Those scores, with the help of a safety, gave the Browns one of their most dramatic come-from-behind wins ever, 19-16.
The game-winning score came on Eric Metcalf's one-yard run with two seconds remaining.
Kosar was not happy about being replaced by his former Miami Hurricanes teammate, but that emotion was left simmering because of the win and the team's great start.
It became more of an issue the following week at Indianapolis when Testaverde went in for Kosar at the start of the second half with the Browns behind 6-0. After directing the club to a TD in four plays on his first possession for a 7-6 lead, he couldn't sustain the momentum, as he had done against the Raiders. The result was the Browns' first loss of the year, 23-10.
For a third straight game, Testaverde replaced Kosar, this time early in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins the next week. But it didn't help in a 24-14 defeat. The Browns had led 14-10 at halftime after Dan Marino exited with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but got shut down after that.
However, Belichick had seen enough in Testaverde's play over the three-game stretch to convince him that the quarterback should start the following week at Cincinnati. Testaverde responded, leading the Browns to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and an eventual 28-17 win to give them a season series sweep of the Bengals.
The plot thickened seven days later at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle for first place in the AFC Central. The Browns blew a 14-0 lead, fell behind 23-21 midway through the fourth quarter and then won 28-23.
Testaverde, who had thrown two TD passes, left the game with a separated shoulder early in the fourth quarter, and Kosar was greeted by a thunderous roar when he trotted onto the field.
However, the game was won not on Kosar's arm -- or even the offense as a whole but rather on Eric Metcalf's 75-yard punt return with 2:05 remaining. Early in the game, he had had a 91-yarder for a score, becoming the first player in NFL history to return two punts of 75 yards or more for TDs in the same game.
With the thrilling win, the Browns went into their second -- and final -- bye week in a great frame of mind, as they were 5-2 and in first place, a game ahead of the Steelers (4-3).
Then came a series of events over a 24-hour period two weeks later that would change the course of so many people for so long.
The Kosar-led offense struggled again as the Browns lost 29-14 to their old nemesis, John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The score would have been worse, but the Browns tallied with nine seconds left on a 38-yard Kosar-to-Michael Jackson TD pass on a play that, as was learned later, was drawn up in the dirt in the huddle.
The loss dropped the Browns back into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh at 5-3.
It would be Kosar's last game as a Brown, for the next day, the Browns announced that they had cut the Cleveland icon, saying his skills had deteriorated. With Testaverde still out, the starting job would be filled by young, inexperienced Todd Philcox.
The fans were up in arms.
It also signaled the beginning of the end of the season for the Browns, for they lost their next three games, starting with a 22-5 decision at Seattle in which they committed seven turnovers, and six of their last eight to finish 7-9 for a second straight season. Meanwhile, Kosar signed with Dallas and played a key role in helping the Cowboys win their second straight Super Bowl that season.
Testaverde returned late in the year and set an NFL record for completion percentage when he hit on 21-of-23 passes (91.3 percent) for two TDs in a 42-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The Browns had not scored more points in a game since 1989.
But by that point, all of that meant relatively little.
The Browns insisted that the release of Kosar and the promotion of Testaverde -- even if Philcox had to keep the seat warm for a while -- was done for the long-term good of the team. But a lot of the fans, upset over Kosar's departure and the way the season fell apart after that, were skeptical, to say the least.
|9/13||W23-13||San Francisco 49ers||78,218|
|9/19||W19-16||at Los Angeles Raiders||48,617|
|9/26||L10-23||at Indianapolis Colts||59,654|
|10/17||W28-17||at Cincinnati Bengals||55,647|
|11/14||L5-22||at Seattle Seahawks||54,622|
|11/28||L14-17||at Atlanta Falcons||54,510|
|12/5||W17-13||New Orleans Saints||60,388|
|12/12||L17-19||at Houston Oilers||58,720|
|12/19||L17-20||New England Patriots||48,618|
|12/26||W42-14||at Los Angeles Rams||34,155|
|1/2||L9-16||at Pittsburgh Steelers||49,208|
|Score By Periods|
|Total First Downs||264||290|
|3rd Down: Made/Att||66/201||88/231|
|3rd Down Pct.||0.328||0.381|
|4th Down: Made/Att||11/14||6/13|
|4th Down Pct.||0.786||0.462|
|Total Net Yards||4740||4778|
|Avg. Per Game||296.3||298.6|
|Avg. Per Play||5||4.6|
|Net Yards Rushing||1701||1654|
|Avg. Per Game||106.3||103.4|
|Net Yards Passing||3039||3124|
|Avg. Per Game||189.9||195.3|
|Net Punting Avg.||84/38.0||85/35.8|
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