It hasn’t been easy to be a fan of the Cleveland Browns, especially in 2023. They’ve never been to a Super Bowl, they haven’t won a title of any kind in 60 years, and the year began as they were burying Jim Brown and being asked to cheer for DeShaun Watson.
But amidst all of this, and even as the reality of a winter in the “mistake by the lake” looms, there is reason to bark a little louder if you count yourself among the “dawg pound” loyalists.
As Logan Reardon and Sanjesh Singh of NBC4NewYork observed (and after the twin dumpster fires produced by the Jets and Giants officially killed whatever false hopes of a playoff push for either of those teams, they need to look elsewhere):
Joe Flacco continued his renaissance in his third start for the Browns. Though he did have three interceptions, the 38-year-old quarterback had 374 passing yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The Browns, now 9-5, are in prime position to claim an AFC playoff spot after Flacco’s 26th career game-winning drive. He made play after play in the clutch, including a 51-yard game-tying touchdown to Amari Cooper and a 34-yard third down completion to David Njoku to set up the go-ahead kick.
And as CBS Sports’ John Breech added:
The Browns got the full Joe Flacco experience on Sunday. Flacco almost gave the game away with three interceptions, including a pick-six in the second half, but the Browns QB also came up with some fourth-quarter magic. This is a Browns team that has perfected the art of winning ugly, but they’re winning and that’s all that matters.
And this is a true feel-good story, which given the mixed feelings that any fan who was grudgingly trying to dust aside Watson’s past transgressions while he was leading Cleveland to earlier victories amidst a sea of injuries that ultimately derailed his season completely is more that welcomed.
We last saw Flacco as a fill-in for the Jets last year, completing a three-year stint as a frequently called upon backup for the likes of Sam Darnold and Zack Wilson. With their successful quest for the great white whale named Aaron Rodgers, even the Jets cast him aside. Cleveland was the only team to even give him a practice squad gig. At age 38, but with desire still burning for one more shot at the brass ring, Flacco was languishing in relative obscurity.
But just this week, Flacco was at least restored to full NFL citizenship, as Newsweek’s Robert Read reported:
The Cleveland Browns officially signed Joe Flacco to their active roster on Thursday, ending his time on the team’s practice squad. And the veteran quarterback’s new one-year contract comes with several financial incentives.
Flacco will earn a base salary of $370,800 over the rest of the season with the Browns, according to Cleveland.com. Much more will be in store, though, if the former Super Bowl MVP can lead the Browns on a lengthy postseason run. Flacco can earn up to $4.05 million in incentives based on how many victories to which he leads the Browns, per ESPN. The 38-year-old is set to make $75,000 for each of the remaining four regular-season games he wins.
Well, now we know what acts as the equivalent of meat tenderizer on a crotch for this Dawg. And as Read continued, with the Browns now at nine wins and the likelihood of a playoff berth increasingly strong, there’s a lot more potential reward ahead:
If Cleveland makes the postseason, Flacco would also make $250,000 for a Wild Card win, $500,000 for a divisional round win, $1 million for a victory in the AFC Championship Game and $2 million for winning the Super Bowl.
Not that Flacco needs any financial motivation to get the Browns to the playoffs.
“I have no idea,” Flacco said with a smile to reporters on Thursday when asked how much money he’s earning with the Browns. “I haven’t looked at my bank account yet. I don’t even know if I’ve gotten a check yet.”
I have a hunch that Lebron James and Drew Carey will be willing to kick in a few shekels of their own. And, as the rate his team is going, possibly even Fireman Ed would join them.
It’s definitely been a wacko NFL season so far. It wouldn’t be all that much of a reach for Wacco to end one of the longest championship droughts around.