As Nathan Zegura and Chris Rose stood on stage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, they announced the Cleveland Browns as the winner of the Best Moment in Cleveland Sports for 2023.
Footage rolled of the call from the Browns clinching their first playoff berth since 2020 on Thursday Night Football against the Jets. Then, they showed different moments throughout the 2023 season that encapsulated the Browns mixed in with scenes from that Week 17 win in Cleveland Browns Stadium, and sound bites from DE Myles Garrett on the resiliency of the team and QB Joe Flacco reflecting on last memories from the 2023 season.
As the video ended, "Best Moment in Cleveland Sports" flashed across the screen, and G Joel Bitonio was welcomed onto the stage to accept the award on behalf of the Browns.
"It was special," Bitonio said of their Week 17 win over the Jets. "I think the team itself represents the city of Cleveland – just like hard-working, blue collar. The odds aren't always in your favor, but the guys come to work, and they want to be the best. And our fans got to experience that with us for the first time in a long time, because in 2020 it was COVID and not very many people out there. So, it made it ever more special. And just our home field advantage here. I think that was probably the loudest – it felt like in moments, you could feel the play happening because of the noise building up. So, it was such a cool moment and I think the city of Cleveland loves their football."
The Browns overcame adversity throughout the 2023 season, dealing with a multitude of injuries across all three sides of the ball. Yet, through it all, they finished the regular season 11-6 with a trip to the Wild Card round. They clinched a playoff berth in front of their fans in Week 17 with a 37-20 win over the Jets and celebrated with the city of Cleveland following the game.
While their playoff run was cut short with a 45-14 loss to the Texans in the Wild Card round, players and coaches still see the positive elements of the 2023 season and hold onto the feeling of the atmosphere and electricity of that Thursday night in late December.
The 11 regular season wins tied for the second-most in team history, sitting just behind the 1986 team's 12 wins. It was also the first time since the 2020 season that the Browns were back in the playoffs.
"Again, an incredible honor to receive it from the Sports Commission," Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said. "I think that Thursday night against the Jets was not just special for us organizationally, but really, across the city and our fan base. There was just a level of excitement and electricity in the air that honestly can't be replicated or duplicated. In terms of moving forward, our goal every year will be to win the division. And we really do want to have more of these special moments on a yearly basis to share with our fans."
The Greater Cleveland Sports Awards is an annual fundraiser to support the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, a local non-profit with its goals of improving the economy and the community through hosting major sporting and competitive events. This is the 24th year of the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. Since 2000, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission has brought over 200 sporting and competitive events to Cleveland, providing more than $917 million in economic impact to Northeast Ohio.