"I felt bad for that team, the players and the coaches that were working so hard with less than no support. The owner was nowhere to be found; he was in Baltimore. It kind of felt like you were on a deserted island fending for yourself."
That is a quote by Bill Belichick, who was one of many former Cleveland Browns coaches, staff, and players to be interviewed for the "Cleveland '95: A Football Life" documentary that debuted Wednesday night on NFL Network.
The hour-long program focused a lot of attention on the extensive preparation that Belichick had when he first became the head coach of the Browns. For the first half of the documentary, one may have thought that this was nothing more than another piece to glorify Belichick's legacy. Just as the Browns had all of the right guys behind-the-scenes, like an Ozzie Newsome, and all of the players to become a Super Bowl contending team, BAM...the bombshell gets dropped midseason -- Art Modell is moving the team to Baltimore.
The best part of the documentary came from the reactions of the fans, who literally had their hearts ripped out from them. I didn't know if I would tune into the documentary at first, but seeing that final game at Municipal stadium -- with fans ripping the bleacher seats out, the referees making sure the teams reversed field position at midfield to stay away from the Dawg Pound, and the emotional embraces between players and fans following the game -- made it well-worth the viewing for a better understanding of what makes Cleveland...Cleveland.
Head coach Pat Shurmur, drew a lot of criticism from radio shows, fans on Twitter, etc. for saying the following on Wednesday morning to the media when asked if he would watch the documentary:
(On if he will encourage the players to watch the documentary on the 1995 Browns team tonight)- "We’re going to have to catch up on that after the season. I think this time of year, you don’t have much time to read books and watch movies. I’ll be made aware of what goes on in that special this evening. I think the history of the organization is important. I think it’s important that our guys have a feel for who the great players were that played here. As we move forward, I’m more concerned about the 2012 Browns right now. Again, the first part of your question was, ‘I know you’re worried about right now,’ and you’re right."
I think the criticism for Shurmur was way overblown. Here is a prime example of what I am referring to. Saying he doesn't "get it" because he said he wasn't going to watch a one-hour documentary on the team's past? I'm not defending Shurmur's tenure as a head coach, but labeling this as "the final straw" or anything relevant to why he should be fired sounds like someone who is reaching a little too far down into their bag of excuses.
With that said, a lot of current players did take the time to watch the documentary, which I would view as far more important since these are the guys who need to connect with the fans and understand why things are the way they are in the city they play for. With Twitter being the go-to-source these days for instant reactions, here is a look at what was said:
This show really puts things into perspective. Shows why Browns fans are so loyal and passionate. #cleveland95— Brandon Weeden (@bweeden3) October 4, 2012
Watching Cleveland 95 on NFL network.— Phil Taylor (@PhilTaylor98) October 4, 2012
This is crazy.— Phil Taylor (@PhilTaylor98) October 4, 2012
This documentary makes u have respect of the history of this team, makes u want to work harder for this city— Ronnie S Cameron Jr. (@RonSCameron) October 4, 2012
Never knew how bad of a day December 17, 1995 was… The connection with this city is deep and real #Browns— Ronnie S Cameron Jr. (@RonSCameron) October 4, 2012
This Browns 95' documentary is WILD!! The whole coaching staff was Legendary!— L.J. Fort (@i_Serve24) October 4, 2012
Motivating too! Makes you wanna win just for the #DawgPound— L.J. Fort (@i_Serve24) October 4, 2012
That was deep. Got to get thing turned around here. Enough talking getter done— Jabaal Sheard (@jabaalsheard) October 4, 2012
Watching A Football life on @nflnetwork . What a coaching Staff.— T.J. Ward (@BossWard43) October 4, 2012
Another link to check out is "Where Are They Now?" in relation to the documentary.
While you won't get the full effect, you can also watch a few clips from the documentary on the NFL Network's web page. The documentary will be re-shown at 1:00 AM and 3:00 PM on Thursday, October 4th, and at 10:00 PM on Saturday, October 6th, on NFL Network. All times are EDT.
What did you think of the documentary, if you watched it? Did hearing Earnest Byner talk about the final game get to you?