COMMENTARY | The Seattle Seahawks had, heading into Super Bowl Sunday evening, twice achieved a feat never earned by the Cleveland Browns. Seattle now possesses something that fans of the Browns can only dream of at the official start of the NFL offseason.
The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, winning 43-8 and bringing the first professional sports title to Seattle in over three decades. In stopping Peyton Manning and the best regular season offense in the history of the league, Seattle also erased the club from the list of franchises to never hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Plenty of teams have never won a Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings have famously lost the Big Game on four occasions. Being one of the best teams in the league in the 1980s wasn't good enough for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Philadelphia Eagles are the only NFC East team to have never won the final contest of the season.
Then there are the Cleveland Browns. Not only have the Browns never won a Super Bowl. They've never even been to one. Cleveland came close a few times in the 80s, but John Elway and the Denver Broncos broke the hearts of those within the fan base of the Browns multiple times. The Browns have played in just one playoff game since returning to the league in 1999.
Only the Detroit Lions truly know the pain felt by the Cleveland faithful. Detroit, who went winless in 2008, has also never participated in a Super Bowl despite being a cornerstone NFL franchise. The 20-year old Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans (born in 2002) have also never played in a Super Bowl.
While the list of NFL clubs to never win a title shrinking by one stings a bit for fans of the Browns, the Seahawks completing their journey to glory should provide a bit of hope to Cleveland supporters. It was only a few years ago that Seattle was coming off a fourth consecutive losing campaign, and the Seahawks were then team without a punishing defense and with no legitimate starting quarterback.
In other words, they were where the Browns are right now.
Much has and will be made about the defense of the Seahawks that held Manning and the Broncos in check on Sunday. While you can't overstate the importance of the league's best defense, the fact remains that Seattle's fortunes took a turn two draft classes ago when the team grabbed quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round. Defense may win championships, but having a franchise quarterback is an absolute must.
Who knows more about that than Cleveland fans?
The Browns do have several pieces of what could soon become a championship defense. Cornerback Joe Haden is one of the best in the business, but losing safety T.J. Ward to free agency, if that occurs, could set Cleveland back a few years. That said, new head coach Mike Pettine, believed by many knowledgeable football people to be a brilliant defensive mind, seemingly has the goods to mold his side's defense into a top unit.
Finding their own version of Seattle's Wilson will have the Browns take that step that the team hasn't taken in over 20 years. There will, over the next several months, be plenty of debates among fans and analysts about the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and even Brian Hoyer. I believe that the majority of Cleveland fans don't care who is under center next September so long as he wins and wins consistently.
One person helped change the culture in Seattle. It's on the Browns to locate such a savior between now and the summer.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
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