CLEVELAND — Be honest, it entered your mind. After five weeks of the season, it was looking like a possibility.
Well, the Cleveland Browns won a football game Sunday. The last time that happened was Nov. 20, 2011, at home against Jacksonville. The last time it came against an AFC North opponent was Oct. 3, 2010, at home against Cincinnati.
“We play this game so that you can feel the joy of winning,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “So when it happens it’s terrific. Not so much for me, but my family, the players and other coaches.
“Mondays feel a lot better when you win a game.”
In 2008, the Detroit Lions put together a season of mundane Mondays like no other and finished 0-16. This Browns team is extremely young. Rookies and second-year players are placed throughout this roster in key positions. Surely, if the Lions’ could go 0-16 four years ago, these Browns were on the track to repeat the embarrassing achievement.
Instead, the Browns beat the Bengals 34-24 on Sunday. Was that enough to teach these young guys how to win in the NFL or is that a clichéd talking point?
“I don’t think that’s cliché at all,” said Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn, who was one of seven rookie starters Sunday. “We don’t know what it’s like to win yet. This right here is just one example of how things should be done.”
How things should be done will be different starting Tuesday. This was the last game of the Lerner Era. Randy Lerner was nowhere to be found Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Jimmy Haslam III, who takes control Oct. 16, was quite visible after the game.
“(Haslam) was in our locker room after a victory and that says a lot,” Shurmur said. “He was genuinely happy like all the players and coaches.”
Although the Lerner Era finished with a victory, it was defined by losing. Al and Randy Lerner posted a 69-145 record as Browns’ owners. While another single-digit win season is a real possibility, perhaps this team, with its new owner, can ride this momentum. Hey, the first step is now accomplished.
“To get a taste of winning at this level is good for our psyche, for our locker room and our morale,” Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “We’ll have confidence going forward.”
Unlike a lot of the rookies like Weeden and Winn, tight end Ben Watson is in his ninth season in the NFL. He’s experienced winning football during his time in New England from 2004-09. Not so much the last three years in Cleveland.
“For a lot of these guys it’s their first NFL victory,” Watson said. “It’s something not taken lightly. It’s tough to win in this league, it’s what you play for and what you work hard for.
“Now it’s important for us to keep it going.”
No longer is there a “0” hanging out there in front of the Browns record. The joy was evident on the faces of the players and coaches in the locker room Sunday.
What about relief?
“There’s a little bit,” Winn said. “But we know each game can be tough. This division is tough. Now we need to go out and do the same thing we did today game in and game out from here.”