Jarvis Landry got a history lesson Thursday afternoon.
“So really,” he asked during a media gaggle, “the Cleveland team became the Baltimore Ravens?”
Yes, Landry was told, the team from Cleveland moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season — then won the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.
“Damn,” Landry said. “That hurt, didn’t it?”
It did indeed hurt.
Cleveland fans protested the move so loudly and so long that the NFL kept the team name and colors in Cleveland and brought the Browns back in 1999. But that expansion season started a stretch of ineptitude that has only ended in 2018 with the emergence of a young team and quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Landry simply wasn’t aware that the Ravens began as the Browns team that Art Modell moved.
Now he and the Browns (7-7-1) find themselves in an unusual position, one that leaves fans at least a bit conflicted.
If the Browns beat the Ravens on Sunday, they knock Baltimore (9-6) out of the playoffs.
But the team they would help would be their other AFC North rival, because if Pittsburgh wins and Baltimore loses, the Steelers (8-6-1) are in the playoffs.
That has led folks in Pittsburgh to wear brown along with black and gold, and the Steelers’ Antonio Brown to alter his jersey:
“I wish we could tie and nobody gets in,” Landry said.
Yes, he was joking.
“We want to win the game,” Landry said. “If it helps Pittsburgh, then so be it. Obviously we want to win the game.”
The Browns’ goal: to win six of their final seven and finish with a winning record for the first time since 2007.
“I’m just going into the game thinking that we’re trying to finish 8-7-1,” safety Damarious Randall said. “Whatever results of that are the results. I don’t really think about, ‘If we win we’re helping Pittsburgh, if we lose we’re helping the Ravens.’ I really don’t care.”
Randall said he would enjoy seeing the Browns end Baltimore’s playoff hopes.
“It seems like we have nothing to lose,” Randall said. “But I feel like that we’re taking this game just like it’s the second, third game of a playoff [run]. We’re going in it to win just like they’re going in it to win.”
The Browns have lost 29 of 39 games to the Ravens, including five of six before an overtime win over Baltimore in October.
In a sense, Browns fans should be happy no matter what happens. If they lose, the Steelers will be out. If they win, they could send the Ravens out. Either way, a rival sees its postseason hopes quashed.
Pittsburgh has been a longtime rival, dating back to the days of Paul Brown and Jim Brown. Time has dimmed some of the feelings about the Ravens, but Cleveland has not forgotten that its team moved to Baltimore. The Browns’ problem is they have struggled for so long that they’ve not really had much of a chance to make a statement for the fans when facing the Ravens. This season, they do.
“The passion, drive and the love of the Browns is so high that anytime anything changes, of course, there are going to be emotions that come into play,” offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens said. “It has, and I am sure it has carried over for 20 years.”