Doug Dieken has probably attended more Browns games than any Browns fan, player or employee in the last five decades.
The former left tackle has witnessed nearly every Browns game since they selected him in the sixth round of the 1971 NFL draft. After a 14-year career and 203 games with the Browns, Dieken moved to the radio booth and has built another storied career as a color commentator alongside Jim Donovan.
Dieken has been absent from just two Browns games in the 48 years since he joined the team. He missed a game in 1989 after his mother died and didn’t travel with the team to a 2017 game in London after a doctor recommended he stay in the U.S. for health precautions. He still watched both games on television.
“I think you kind of base your career on dependability,” Dieken said. “Being able to show up every Sunday and play. The only games I've ever missed have been as a broadcaster. Football was a little tougher, but I've missed a couple as a broadcaster. I’m just somebody — a regular Joe that got lucky.”
The Cleveland Browns Presents: Club 46 - player stories through generations of football
Dieken has been with the Browns through nearly every high and low. He was a part of the 1980 Kardiac Kids and witnessed the triumphs of the Bernie Kosar era. He also watched each of the Browns’ 16 painful losses in 2017.
There’s not many better people to ask about the Browns than Dieken. He knows a good Browns team when he sees one.
It’s still a little early to tell if the hype that surrounds the newest Browns era is too much, or, perhaps, too little.
So, what does Dieken think?
“Well, this group can be real good,” Dieken said. “You have to put wins over stats, and it gets back to the team aspect and everybody does their job. Just to think that in a short period of time, (General manager) John Dorsey has flipped the roster to the point you can see where he's going in the building process.”
Dorsey quickly moved the Browns into “win now” mode. Everyone knew Dorsey wanted to eventually move the Browns to that scenario when he joined the team from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, but no one — not even Dieken — imagined the turnaround would happen so quickly.
“You kept hoping it would,” Dieken said, “but not until you see the pieces and parts that are assembled can you really believe it.”
Dieken loves the core Dorsey has built for the Browns, and that’s no surprise. He’s enamored with quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to command the offense and utilize the playbook to its fullest.
The ceiling appears high for Mayfield, and Dieken believes he can become a top-five quarterback in the league now that Mayfield is surrounded by some of the NFL’s top offensive weapons.
“Baker understands the offense,” Dieken said. “It's one thing if you got to drop back and think where you're going to throw it, as opposed to drop back and throw it where it’s supposed to go; just knowing it. So, the elements are there.”
Dieken appreciates the way new head coach Freddie Kitchens has led the team, too. Kitchens’ demanding coaching style mixed with his signature southern drawl reminds Dieken of a mix of NFL coaching legends Bill Parcells and Bum Phillips.
Is Kitchens someone Dieken would want to play for?
“Hell yes,” he said.
It’s a long road from now until January and the playoffs, but Dieken believes this season will be a positive year of change for the Browns.
“The fans are finally getting what they deserve,” Dieken said. “Good football, and a winning football team.”