Since the Browns restarted football activities in 1999, they have had 2 seasons with a winning record and 1 playoff appearance. In other words, the Browns suck. In their 17 seasons they have gone through 9 head coaching changes, with only 2 coaches lasting more than 2 seasons, and each coach had a losing record during his time in Cleveland.
Is it the coaches who have made the team the punchline of the NFL? Probably not. Nothing went well with the franchise since day one. They have been the unluckiest team when drafting and have dealt with so many injuries that you can argue they were cursed. We will talk more about the injuries throughout this article, but just keep in mind that they had a ton of them. Also, remember that multiple players have sued the team over the numerous staph infections that should have been avoided.
What’s missing in all of this is the play on the field, which has been atrocious. The Browns seem to have a knack at taking bust-worthy players and signing players who are over-the-hill or not worth a contract.
Here are the 15 worst Browns since the 1999 reboot.
15 Trent Richardson
People can make a case that Trent Richardson belongs much higher on this list. After all, he was the number 3 overall pick and failed to live up to any of the expectations that come along with being taken that high. However, his time in Cleveland was actually not bad compared to the rest of his career. In his 17 games as a Brown (gosh that just sounds dumb), he ran for a respectable 1,055 yards (62 yards per game) and scored 12 total touchdowns. He was shipped to the Colts for a first round pick early in 2013 where he proceeded to hit a wall and become the bust that we all know today. The reason he makes this list was not for his on field performance, but the players that the Browns passed on to take him. The 2012 draft was loaded with talent with players including Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, Doug Martin, and Ty Hilton being taken after Richardson. If they took a great player with the Colts’ first rounder that they received for Trent it may have salvaged the wasted 2012 draft, but unfortunately that player can be found later on this list. Keep reading to find out where!
14 Peyton Hillis
Only with the Browns could you put a player on a list of 15 best players in franchise history, and on the worst 15 players. Peyton Hillis takes that honor. Hillis had one below average year in Denver, and one very bad one. So when the Browns brought him onto the team in 2010, fans oddly had high expectations, cause you know, they’re the Browns. Early in the season Peyton found himself low on the depth chart as the team’s Fullback, but due to early injuries to Jerome Harrison and James Davis made it so Hillis was the featured back in Cleveland. In his 14 starts, Hillis ran for more than 1,000 yards, the only person to have done that for the Browns since 2007. The year was such a good story, that the Internet voted Hillis as the cover man of Madden NFL 12. The Madden curse hit Hillis right in the throat. In 2011, Hillis was only able to play in 10 games gaining a paltry 587 rushing yards (211 came in 2 games) and he scored only 3 touchdowns (he had 11 the previous year). Much of the 2011 season Hillis put himself on the injury list with ailments that ranged from strep throat to pulled hamstrings. His teammates were openly frustrated with the big back and the front office admitted they were going to let him walk in his impending free agency. Hillis never equaled his 2010 season and ended up starting only 3 more games over the next 3 seasons playing for the Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Giants.
13 Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor looked like he was going to be a great draft pick for the Browns following his rookie year. The 21st overall pick had 37 tackles and 4 sacks from the defensive tackle position in 2011 and outperformed Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, and Corey Luiget (the three defensive tackles taken ahead of him). For once, the Browns looked like they made the smart choice and had 2 young pieces on their defenseto build around with Jabaal Sheard. Unfortunately Taylor would never replicate his rookie season and ended up just another bust for the Browns. Taylor tore his left pectoral muscle before the season, and as a result was only able to play in 8 games. It seemed like he had lost much of his strength when he came back to the team and ended the season with 12 total tackles. The next season Taylor was able to start 15 games, but never regained the strength that he had his rookie season. In those 15 games he totaled 14 tackles and 2 sacks. He was hurt again in 2014 managing on 5 games and 6 tackles. Following 2014 the Browns cut their former first-round pick, his Browns career ending with seven sacks and 69 tackles (most of which came in his rookie year). Taylor hasn’t played a game since being cut and recently attempted a comeback with the Broncos, but it’s been derailed when he ended up on IR with a knee injury that he suffered in July.
12 Jeff Garcia
This is the perfect time to ask the question; is it the players or the team? Jeff Garcia had been starting at QB in San Francisco from 1999 through 2003. During that time he made 3 Pro-Bowls and led his team to the playoffs in 2001 and 2002. He had a disappointing 2003 season where Garcia battled some injuries, and the 49ers chose to cut their QB along with many of their better players (T.O., Garrison Hearst). The Browns signed Garcia to a 4-year contract worth $25 million. He was immediately named the starter, but throughout the season Garcia dealt with some injuries and never was able to find his footing with the team. He went 3-7 in his 10 starts with 9 interceptions and a 76.7 passer rating (his career low at the time). The Browns cut Garcia following the poor season. When looking back at the season it’s hard to say that it was Garcia who was so bad, or just the lack of talent on the Browns’ roster. Their top receiver was Dennis Northcut and their leading rusher was Lee Suggs. They had no success with their draft picks and had injuries across the board (only Robert Griffith was able to start all 16 games). Garcia went on to see successful seasons with the Eagles and Buccaneers (including another Pro-Bowl while with Tampa). The Browns still haven’t found a replacement starting QB; so who is really to blame?
11 Donte Stallworth
It wasn’t so much that Donte Stallworth had a bad career with the Browns, just that he was a waste of the team’s time and money. Following a fairly successful career with the Saints and Eagles, the Patriots signed Stallworth to a 6-year deal, that was so incentive heavy that the Pats could easily cut the player after only one season to make room for Randy Moss. In his season in New England the deep threat gained a respectable 697 yards and three touchdowns. Despite being cut by New England, the Browns were impressed with his production and gave the receiver a 7-year, $35 million deal to play with an offense that featured Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow. For the first time in their short history, the Browns looked to have a truly dynamic offense following their surprising 10-6 year in 2007. They ended up going 4-12 and Stallworth was not at all what his contract would imply. Dealing with injuries throughout the season, Stallworth was only able to gain 170 yards and 1 touchdown averaging 15 yards per gain (all career lows at the time). Following the season, Stallworth hit a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida. Stallworth was charged with DUI manslaughter and was suspended for the 2009 season. As soon as Stallworth was allowed back in the NFL the Browns terminated his contract and he went on to have a middling career bouncing from team-to-team and has been out of the NFL since 2013.
10 Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter will forever be known as the corner that knocked Tommy Maddox out of a game and making way for the Ben Roethlisberger era to begin in Pittsburgh. The cornerback had a few good seasons in Baltimore where he was able to collect 5 interceptions in 4 seasons before signing a contract with the Browns worth $40.5 million comics in 2005. In his first season in Cleveland, he missed 11 games due to a torn pectoral muscle. In the 5 games he was able to play in he did force 3 turnovers, but only was able to rack up 18 tackles. In 2006 things got worse for Baxter. After playing in only 3 games, Baxter did something no one else in NFL had done in 13 years when he tore the patella tendons in both of his knees at once. In 2007, Baxter attempted to come back for the Browns in a move that doctors called baffling, and impossible, and stupid (well, that one was not on record).
It was the first time that a player had returned to play after that kind of injury, but the doctors were right and Baxter wasn’t able to make a comeback being placed on Injured Reserve after playing in 0 games. In 2008 the Browns officially released Baxter and he never played again. Baxter’s story is a warning to all players who thought about signing with the Browns in the late 2000s. Something fishy was going on with the training staff, as every free agent could not stay healthy through a season. Baxter’s 2 torn patella tendons was a symptom of a much bigger problem as it seems like the Browns medical staff was rushing players back from one injury, only to have a new much, much worse injury. Who knows what would have become of Baxter’s career if he took the proper amount of time to let his body heal.
9 William Green
William Green was not a good player. Considering that he is on this list, it should be obvious, but there are those who still believe that it was only his off-field antics that led to his eventual exit from the NFL, but there were many more reasons. After having a good rookie year in 2002, rushing for 887 yards, with 6 touchdowns. Then the following year he got off to a very good start, rushing for 559 yards in 7 games, before being suspended for a drunk driving arrest, and ending the year in a hospital when his fiancée stabbed him in the back, literally. In 2004 he attempted to get his career back on track, but the Browns did not trust him with the ball and he saw a significant downturn in his amount of carries and ended the year with 585 total yards in 15 games. Due to injuries he was only able to play 8 games in 2005 while carrying the ball 20 times total. Despite several comeback attempts, he would never play in the NFL after that season. By the end of his career he had more fumbles than he had touchdowns. His off field concerns were bad, but nothing unusual for young NFL players, outside of maybe the stabbing. He made headlines by having a child with a woman who was not his wife and had some on field altercations with rival players. At the end of the day, it was his lack of production on the field that made Green hit this list. He would have been higher, but when he was drafted in 2002 the Browns needs a running back and the only backs who turned out to better picks were Brian Westbrook and Clinton Portis.
8 Barkevious Mingo
The Browns made headlines the other day when they sent their first round pick, Barkevious Mingo, to the New England Patriots for a 5th round 2017 draft pick. Browns fans should be thinking “good riddance.” When the Browns took Mingo in 2013, most pundits were baffled as the team had just signed Paul Kruger to a long term deal and had Jabaal Sheard and D’Qwell Jackson running their linebacking corp. The team was in desperate need of anything other than a linebacker, but wouldn’t you know it, they reached down for Mingo at 6 overall.
To take him they passed on Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson, Kenny Vacarro, and Sharrif Floyd - all current starters at need positions for the Browns. In 46 NFL games, Mingo has a total of 7 sacks. That’s from a player who’s scouting reports read, “Should only be used as a pass rusher.” The Browns already did not pick up the 5th year option for Mingo and shipping him off frees up a roster spot for someone who might actually make an impact on the field. The Browns have messed up so many of their first rounders and Mingo was just another one in a long, long line of busts. It could have been worse however; most people expected them to take Geno Smith with that pick…
7 Greg Little
Greg Little wasn’t expected to be the savior of the Browns’ organization, but he was expected to have more career receiving yards than Julio Jones had in 2015 alone. The Browns had a chance to get Julio in the 2011 NFL draft, but traded their pick to Atlanta because they felt that the wide receiver class was deep. It was, to be fair, but the Browns browned it all up when they chose Greg Little. They used their swapped pick with Atlanta to take Phil Taylor in the first round of the draft (see above) and then used their first second rounder to take Jabaal Sheard, even though they expressed a lot of interest in the receivers. By not pulling the trigger earlier they missed out on Julio Jones and Torrey Smith to end up taking Little. As it turned out, waiting was a good idea because it meant they passed on Titus Young and Jonathan Baldwin, but they still found a way to do it wrong.
When they picked Little, Randal Cobb, Leonard Hankerson, Vincent Brown, Cecil Shorts, and Jeremy Kerley were all still on the board (not to mention Julius Thomas). Greg Little ended up amounting to 1,821 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns for the Browns in 3 seasons. Every year his production level reduced as his total dropped passes went up and up. He started to piss off his coaches as he showed little signs of even attempting to improve and cared more about his end zone celebrations than actually winning the game. His bad attitude and lack of ability made most teams put a hard pass on him and he has only started 1 game since the Browns let him go. As his old coach Pat Shurmer says, “We can't play a guy that's going to drop footballs.”
6 6. Courtney Brown
In 2000, the Browns achieved the very rare feat of having the number 1 overall pick for the second year in a row. The year before they picked up Tim Couch first overall, and had the ability to give him some much needed line protection or one of the dynamic receivers or running backs who could enhance Couch’s ability. Nope, they took Courtney Brown, the only defensive player in the top 20 players drafted that year to not make a pro-bowl. Keep in mind that the Browns passed on Jamal Lewis, Shaun Alexander, Thomas Jones, Plaxico Burress, Brian Urlacher, and John Abraham by choosing Brown. The pick didn’t seem bad at the time, Brown was expected to be a high pick and his play style at Penn State was thought to translate to the NFL seamlessly. In fact his rookie season was very productive as he had 69 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. In his sophomore season everything changed. He started the season hurt, and only managed to stay healthy through 5 games. Fans were excited as he got another 4.5 sacks in those 5 games, but it was a misleading stat as he got 3 of them in one game against a weak Cincinnati offensive line. The rest of his career, Brown rarely could find playing time, as he was often injured or just wasn’t good enough. He was never able to record double-digit sacks in a season, though it was hard for him to play double-digit games in a season. It wasn’t Brown’s fault that he got hurt so often (like we said, there was something wrong with the team’s medical staff), but he will always be remembered as another failed #1 overall pick for Cleveland, and as one of the worst players to have put on the orange helmet.
5 Tim Couch
Tim Couch always finds himself on these kinds of lists, some say deservedly. The former #1 overall pick had one of the most successful careers in Kentucky football history. In 2 full seasons he threw for more than 8,000 yards and had 75 touchdown passes. The 1999 NFL draft was believed at the time to have the greatest crop of QBs in one draft. The Browns had the choice between Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, and Cade McNown. It was supposed to be a “no-miss” position, but it turned out only 1 out of 5 worked out. Couch, as bad as he was, may have been the second best QB to come out of the 1999 draft. Couch was never able to replicate the career he had in Kentucky, but don’t forget he is the only QB to have taken the Browns to the playoffs. In 5 seasons with Cleveland Couch threw for 11,131 yards and had a 64/67 touchdown to interception ratio. Couch’s career was greatly defined by the injuries he suffered due to a pathetic offensive line (and the medical staff). His career with the Browns came to an end in 2003 when he was benched in favor of journeyman Kelly Holcomb. He attempted a number of comeback attempts, but Couch’s otherworldly college seasons will forever be the peak of his football career.
4 Braylon Edwards
Braylon Edwards was a fun player to watch. He was ridiculously fast and he was a brash player who loved to call out rival teams, before Rex Ryan made it cool. However, he really only put up one great season (2007) and was more of a distraction for the team than a help. He got into fights with his teammates, missed team activities, and openly criticized the medical and coaching staff in the media. Over time he became the self-proclaimed “second most hated man in Cleveland.” (He said this not long after LeBron James signed with the Heat).
Much of that hate came from his vomit-educing 2008 campaign. In 2007, Edwards broke the Browns record for most receiving yards in a season and was the first receiver to be named to the Pro-Bowl since the team was recreated. 2008 was the opposite. He led the NFL in dropped passes with 23 (some of which would have been touchdowns) and caught less than 40% of his targets. All of his stats were career lows since his rookie season, and he continued to run his mouth, doing things like openly making bets with Michael Phelps that he would catch more touchdowns than Phelps would get gold medals (Phelps won by a landslide). The team determined that Edwards’ antics were not worth the poor performances and traded him to the Jets for a collection of practice squad level players. Edwards is so high on the list because he was taken 3rd overall in the 2005 NFL draft, which is famous for the amount of busted receivers that came out of it. So at least this time the Browns had company when they messed up the draft process.
3 Brandon Weeden
If you’re gonna take a 28-year-old quarterback in the first round of the draft, he better be the most NFL ready prospect of all time. Brandon Weeden was far from that. Weeden had a great career in college, but much of his greatness was overstated. Much of his appeal were the huge number he put up at Oklahoma State, breaking mot school passing records. However, it’s not as if Oklahoma State has a pedigree of QBs that Weeden had to compete with, and his 4 starting years also happened to be 4 of the worst in Big 12 history as teams were moving conferences and very few NFL level players were committing to play in a collapsing division. When Weeden came to the Browns, there were a lot of high hopes, but when the Browns realized that their first round, 28-year-old quarterback might need to sit a year to learn the game, they threw him in anyway. He wasn’t atrocious his rookie season, but his 17 interceptions were a huge concern and his passer rating of 72.6 was towards the bottom of the league. His second season was worse. The oft-injured Weeden seemed to believe that he should have been handed the job and looked lethargic in practices. He was often benched for inconsistent play and the emergence of Brian Hoyer made Weeden expandable. He was cut after his second season with the Browns and has gone on to be a career back up in Texas. Some believe that the Browns may have cut ties to early with Weeden, but as a 30-year-old QB his best days were behind him, and it begged the question once again, how did anyone think drafting an aging QB was a good idea.
2 Brady Quinn
On April 28th 2007, Brady Quinn’s legendary draft slide ended when the Browns traded with the Cowboys to pick the Notre Dame alumni with the 21st. In hindsight they would have been better to just let it keep going. The team was so close at making this draft the best in team history, after taking Joe Thomas 3rd overall instead of reaching for Quinn, they just had to stand pat and wait until their high second round pick to see if a quarterback fell to them, or take one of the highly touted defensive players, but instead felt the need to take the sliding Quinn. Through his 3 years in Cleveland, Quinn only played in 14 games total, throwing for less than 2,000 yards and only 10 touchdowns. Each year in college was more successful for Quinn than his entire career as a Brown. Quinn could never win the starting job away from Derek Anderson, whom the Browns seemed to think was their long term solution (despite trading up to draft Quinn while Anderson was on the team) and in his few shots to actually start, Quinn was underwhelming to say the least. He was traded to the Broncos at the end of his third season with the Browns, ending what turned into one of the most baffling and confusing QB situations in NFL history, and Quinn was rarely seen or heard from again. Quinn seemed like a stand up guy who had a good head on his shoulders, but he could never catch up to the pace of the NFL and was eventually left in the dust by the Browns organization.
1 Johnny Manziel
Everyone and their grandmother have added their opinion about Johnny Manziel. The Heisman winner’s career in the NFL thus far has been controversial to say the least. If you want to watch us beating this dead horse, go look at other articles. Johnny “Football” came in to Cleveland with the expectation that he would change the sport of football, WRONG! Manziel was absolutely amazing in college, turning heads with jaw dropping athletic plays, and the uncanny ability to fix broken plays by chucking the ball downfield. When he got to the NFL he relied solely on his innate athletic ability (like he did in college), but never seemed to care about getting better for the team. He did something that is unforgivable; he gave Browns fans hope. In his two seasons as Brown, he only started 8 games going 2-6, with 7 touchdowns, and a 4 QB rating. He wasn’t horrifying on the field, but what he did off the field was his undoing. Numerous trips to rehab programs were a front for the alcoholic tendencies of the young man who chose to go to clubs in Vegas wearing a wig instead of reporting to team activities. His parents opened up about their concerns about his drug use, all of his sponsors and agents openly cut ties with him, and he was indicted on domestic violence charges. His life has spiraled out of control and we just hope he finds the help he needs.
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