- Pat McManamon, ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter
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It happened after the 2002 season. Butch Davis was the Browns' coach, and one of his rules was that players could not leave the team hotel during road trips. Safety Earl Little weighed in that he thought players should be allowed a few hours to go out to dinner or see family. It was not an unreasonable request; most teams allow players some free time on the road.
Kicker Phil Dawson was asked whether he thought the road rules should be changed.
His response was epic.
The only thing he wanted to see changed was more wins. Dawson said he was at the point where he'd practice naked if it meant more wins for the Browns.
Not a pleasant image, but the point was clear then and remains so today.
The thing the Cleveland Browns need to do is win. The rest is a sideshow.
Some of it is an enjoyable sideshow because it’s intrinsic to the game. The team's efforts to upgrade a stadium that needed improvements is an example, and it's commendable. Fans will enjoy the game more with the improvements, especially during the seemingly never-ending TV timeouts.
But the fans' true enjoyment comes from the way the team plays. In the Browns' first game back in 1999, they had fireworks, planes and Drew Carey -- then got demolished by the Steelers. They once had the G.E. Smith Band -- a group that used to play on "Saturday Night Live" -- tucked into a cubbyhole on the sideline. They now have dog races at halftime and a drum corps.
None of it has helped them win.
Now a bullmastiff named Swagger (not named by the team) may be on the sideline and lead the Browns out of the tunnel before games.
The one thing that must be said about this is if it doesn't help them win, the animal is irrelevant. The Browns could follow an ostrich onto the field. A Komodo dragon, a kangaroo, a penguin, a Burmese python -- all wearing a Browns scarf or something. Have at it if it means a win. Pack the stadium with thousands of bullmastiffs.
Practice naked or in tutus. At this point, whatever is done doesn't matter -- provided, as Dawson said, it means more wins.
The news that the Cleveland Browns may well have a bullmastiff on the sideline as a mascot this season takes me back to one of my favorite quotes from the post-1999 era.