The 1986 Browns Meet Twitter
In a parallel universe, in a place far away. The world of social media erupted much earlier than has been our experience. Alexander Graham Apple gathered the idea when fruit of an unspecified type dropped on his head when he was quite alone. Having no one to blame, he sought an outlet for his frustration. Only two years later, in 1986, to be precise, both the smartphone and Twitter were popular among a high percentage of the population, particularly those interested in politics and sports.
Sports fans followed their favorite teams closer than ever and even became subject matter experts. It was particularly pleasing for the Cleveland Browns fans, for they had gone some 20 years without winning a championship, and their beloved Browns were on the rise.
In fact, news of the team’s new quarterback and native son, Bernie Kosar, being taken in the supplemental draft in July of 1985 was among the first information disseminated on the new platform. Most Browns fans went crazy with excitement, expecting the best from Kosar. Detractors pointed to his lack of mobility as a liability for the team.
By the time the 1986 NFL draft rolled around, Twitter was a hotbed of discussion among sports fans. Browns fans applauded the selection of wide receiver Webster Slaughter in the second round, seeing the need for a weapon for Kosar. A noisy faction insisted a larger-bodied Walter Murray was the correct pick.
Expectations were high for the 1986 Browns, coming off an 8-8 record and a trip to the playoffs. They had a young gun quarterback, two great running backs, and an excellent defense. Fans on Twitter described 1986 as “an important season” for Browns Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer, believing he had great talent to work with and it was time to win.
The death of budding superstar safety Don Rogers in July caught the team and fans off-guard. The sadness was real. The loss was tragic. Leaving a hole in the team and at safety. Fans eventually sought blame for the death and for the hole at safety, questioning the team’s commitment to the welfare of the players and wondering why sufficient depth wasn’t on the roster.
The Browns season started poorly as fans watched them drop two of their first three games. The opener was lost to the Chicago Bears, who would win the title in 1986. Week three saw a tough loss to the rival Bengals. Twitter blew up after the 1-2 start. Fans called it “unacceptable” and wanted Schottenheimer fired. The signs were everywhere that he wasn’t doing a good job. His quarterback was freelancing and out of control. His running game was beginning to sputter. The thing that seemed to bother fans the most was the “misuse” of linebacker Clay Matthews. Fans wanted him to rush the quarterback more often.
Eventually, most of the noise died down as the Browns started to win games more consistently. However, some die-hard critics continued the onslaught claiming the organization was in bad hands and change was needed.
The Brown would only lose two more games in the regular season, finishing 12-4 and winning the AFC Central Division. They went on to win an epic double-overtime playoff game against the New York Jets before dropping a heartbreaker in the AFC Championship game.
After the season, fans looked back and appreciated the winning record but also saw every weakness. Kosar’s 17 TD passes was not enough for many fans despite the success of the offense under his command. Some thought it was time to end the “experiment” and look for another quarterback. The lack of a 1,000-yard rusher in Cleveland really annoyed some people. Blame was spewed everywhere from GM Ernie Accorsi, to the backs, to every single offensive lineman.
Those wanting Schottenheimer fired stayed on their bandwagon even after a successful season, claiming his defense was the reason the Browns didn’t win a title in 1986. They came armed with a list of several names they hoped would be the next head coach in Cleveland.
Many fans fretted about the state of affairs. Some enjoyed having a good team with great players. The Browns didn’t listen to the fans and returned their staff and most of their roster for 1987 when they again won the AFC Central.