The Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl, even though very few people expected that at the beginning of the year. As a matter of fact, when the 2016 season kicked off, more people had bet on the Cleveland Browns to win Super Bowl LI season than the Falcons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum.
Atlanta opened the season with 40 to 1 odds of making it to the big game, so it’s not surprising that bettors weren’t terribly confident in its chances. The Falcons finished the 2015 season, Dan Quinn’s first at the helm, with an 8-8 record. Six of those losses came consecutively during an abysmal skid after a hot 6-1 start.
But the Browns? Cleveland didn’t exactly have a stellar 2015. The Browns finished wth a 3-13 record and fired head coach Mike Pettine after the season. Perhaps bettors’ confidence in the Browns grew with the hiring of Hue Jackson and the departure of quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Not only didn’t the Browns not sniff the Super Bowl, they came furthest from winning the Lombardi Trophy. They were the first team eliminated from postseason contention and their 1-15 record vaulted the Browns to the top of the 2017 NFL Draft order.
Still, a few former Browns do have an opportunity to win a Super Bowl this February.
The Falcons have former Browns center Alex Mack, who joined the team as a free agent prior to the 2016 season, and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who was waived by the Browns during final roster cuts and added to Atlanta’s roster. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was with the Browns for the 2014 season, and he worked with both Mack and Gabriel during that year.
The Patriots have linebacker Barkevious Mingo, acquired from the Browns via trade during this season. Running back Dion Lewis, a dynamic playmaker when healthy, was cut by the Browns in favor of Isaiah Crowell. Of course, Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Browns before then-owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996.
Browns left tackle Joe Thomas thinks bettors would be wise to take a chance on the Browns again next season.
Maybe next season will finally be the Browns’ year.