Many cities who are home to multiple professional sports teams feature multiple championships and teams that compete for the top prize in their respective leagues on a yearly basis. While there are certainly outliers, cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, and (unfortunately) Pittsburgh, among others, are cities that pride themselves on winning it all, across different sports. Competing for– and winning– championships is their normal.
For Cleveland, the same cannot be said. Rather, recent history has the teams along the shores of Lake Erie competing for who can be the most dysfunctional; or who can have the worst owner. Chaos and dysfunction are much more normal than competing for rings. As a fan in The Land, it sucks, but it’s the reality.
The Indians have an outstanding general manager1 and front office2 and manager Terry Francona has held the job since 2013. The Tribe have also competed for the American League Central crown consistently in that time, winning it three times.3
The Browns and Cavs can’t say the same as the year 2020 does not look like it will change Cleveland Normal. Both teams changed head coaches. Both teams hired the coaches they replaced less than one year ago. The Cavs parted ways with John Beilein, a head coach they gave a five-year contract to prior to the season. The Browns also fired their general manager for what seems like 1000th time since 1999.
Bickerstaff is also the Cavs’ sixth coach since 2013. This also keeps the pattern going: When the Cavs or Browns have fired a coach in the last two decades, the other has followed with a firing of their own within eight months in eight out of 10 instances. Eight of 10!
— Kevin Kleps (@KevinKleps) February 19, 2020
The fact that the above post from Kevin Kleps can even be a tweet tells you all you need to know about how awful the Cavs and Browns have been in terms of cycling through head coaches and front offices. It’s a tradition unlike any other.
It’s almost like the Browns and Cavs compete to be the most incompetent franchise in the city. As Crain’s Cleveland’s Kevin Kleps has stated, seven of the last nine times the Browns have fired their head coach, the Cavs have followed suit less than eight months later. Make that eight out of 10 now; with both Freddie Kitchens and John Beilein adding to the list. That’s incredible and insane. Yet, here we are.
The Cavs have had 23 head coaches since their inception in 1970. They've had 13 since 2000.
The Browns have had 18 head coaches since their inception in 1946. They've had 12 since 2000.
The Indians have had 46 managers since their inception in 1901. They've had 6 since 2000.
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) February 19, 2020
The Cavaliers had the greatest basketball player of all-time for 11 seasons, won an NBA championship, and made five trips to the NBA Finals in that time-frame. There’s no way they have gone through that many head coaches, right? Sigh.
The Cavs are about to hire their sixth coach in seven seasons.
In four of those seven seasons, they made the NBA EFFING FINALS
That’s dysfunction baked right into the DNA of a franchise, rain or shine
— Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade) February 17, 2020
I’m not trying to argue that Beilein and/or Kitchens shouldn’t have been let go. I agree that they both should have. It’s just the continuous tailspin, one that both the Browns and Cavs can’t steer out of and seem to both be experts at getting in their own way.
In their last respective offseasons, both teams made outside-the-box hires. The Browns promoted Kitchens to be a first-time head coach even after spending the prior 13 years in the NFL as a positions coach. Jimmy Haslam and company thought it was a good move to give Kitchens the main gig, and I did too, at the time. Meanwhile, the Cavs hired Beilein, a then-66-year-old coach that had never led an NBA team. While he had plenty of success in the college ranks, it was an outside-the-box hire. They didn’t work out. Neither of them was ready for the job. See the pattern?
NBA coaches and continuity don’t matter as much in the NBA as they do in the NFL, but there should be some balance. Collin Sexton just turned 21 last month and is currently in his second NBA season. J.B. Bickerstaff is his fourth head coach already. That’s not ideal for anyone, let alone a kid that’s still trying to maximize and improve his game.
While the Browns have been at or near the bottom of the NFL since their return to the league in 1999, there’s something to be said for the fact that the Cavaliers, despite a far better winning track record, seem to be competing for their level of losing and incompetence. Thank goodness for LeBron James.
What’s amazing (and somewhat scary) to think is that… what if LeBron wasn’t born in northeast Ohio? Imagine how dismal and dreadful this current Cavaliers team would be if June 19, 2016 didn’t happen. If the Golden State Warriors blowing a 3-1 series lead didn’t happen.4 If LeBron didn’t return to Cleveland to deliver a promise that was indeed kept. Being a fan of the wine and gold is rough, but at least we will always have 2016.
The good news is that the Indians are competent and not embarrassing. They are the only major sports franchise in Cleveland that can currently say that. The bad news is that the Indians owner continues to reduce the payroll in a World Series contention window despite one of the best players in the game still under contract. Even when stability and competence is there, Cleveland teams can’t get anything going for them. That’s what sucks the most.
I hope that one day, all three teams will be competitive and competing for championships. Right now, that day doesn’t seem as if it will exist. But maybe, hopefully, that wonderful day will take place sometime in my lifetime. That’s my dream.