There are a few moments of the first two years expansion era that, for me,
stand out as truly joyous. One was Tim Couch's first touchdown throw against
Tennessee, as he ran down the field pumping his fist in the air. The bomb
against New Orleans is right up there.
There were some moments where an appreciation of dark humor helped. Watching
and chuckling while Chris Palmer fired himself by using Travis Prentice, Dennis
Northcutt, and Kevin Johnson at quarterback is a good one. Friends and family in
the Muni Lot, steeling ourselves for another home loss. Standing up to shout
"MVP!! MVP!!" whenever Chris Gardocki came on was also a lot of fun. Good
memories of bad football.
One of my favorite moments of the expansion era is the day that the Browns
signed Jamir Miller.
Against a backdrop of a disappointing rebirth, as NFL owners ensured by every
means necessary that the Lerner / Policy team would not repeat the early
successes of Carolina and Jacksonville, the day the Browns signed Miller was one
when it seemed like we could be competitive quickly.
Jamir Miller was an outstanding athlete, a linebacker with such closing speed
that he could catch and drag down Barry Sanders in the open field, running him
down from behind. If you have ever been to training camp, or seen him in person,
you know. I don't know what Miller's body fat percentage was, but, um, I'm
guessing I've got a lot more fat in my head than he has in his whole body. At
least, if you believe my wife.
For a day, it seemed like our front office truly had the savvy they were
reputed to have. The Browns carefully waited out Miller, and signed him to a
bargain-basement one-year deal as other teams in the league pulled their offers.
Out there on the Internet, an upstart web site called BrownsTNG was all over
the story. I was briefly between consulting engagements, and was able to have
the time to slam out updates nearly daily about Miller's travels around the
league and his offers. Thanks to a dawg in Arizona (Dan, if I remember right),
we were tipped off that Phoenix radio stations were reporting that the Miller
contract was a done deal. My drinking buddy Qyetzie quickly mocked up a picture
of Miller in Browns gear - I don't know how he did it, and didn't ask - and we
got the information out there on the web about a day and a half before any other
What a buzz.
Our front office looked competent, the Browns had an exciting defensive
player to go with future Hall-of-Famer John Jurkovich (kidding, we loved Jurko)
and it seemed like a bunch a fans who updated a web site between six-packs could
make a mark in the sports media.
I was a big Jamir Miller fan from that moment on. My #95 Jamir Miller jersey
is the only player's jersey I've ever worn, a gift from my friend Traci, when I
helped out her web site that year. While Couch and Spielman jerseys were
everywhere, I wore my Miller jersey as a badge of pride.
My brother-in-law drew a picture of a dawg wearing Miller's jersey with the
tatters of a severely mauled Raven in its mouth. It still sits in my den, next
to the television.
In 1999, and in 2001, Miller justified my status as a beer-fueled fan-boy. He
gave us a lot of things to cheer about.
* * *
I've never pretended to be a real columnist. Those are ones who get paid to
spew their opinions and have real pictures of themselves rather than a 40-year
old picture of Ward Cleaver. Given the freedom that comes from being relatively
anonymous and gloriously uncompensated, I've been able to wear my support of
Miller on my sleeve and, occasionally, as a chip on my shoulder.
I think my only negative column about Miller was done less than two weeks
ago, as I got fed up with both sides inability to reach an agreement.
Now, I know why. Like some of those real columnists who took similar stances,
I'm feeling a little sheepish right now.
Miller wasn't slowly coming to an agreement, he was seeing if he would be
able to play at the level he wanted. Or worried that he wouldn't pass the
As for the Ravens and Browns, who had offered Miller contracts, well, let's
just say that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
I don't think that the NFL in general, and the Cleveland Browns in
particular, ever gave Miller the credit that he deserved publicly, although the
team gave him a nice chunk of change near the end of the 1999 season.
Over these last two years, the team has seemed more focused on talking Miller
down in the press, as if trying to reduce his price or spin public angst if he
went elsewhere. Either way, it was never something that made me happy. I was a
fan, darn it, and hearing the head coach give props to Foge Fazio's scheme
rather than my favorite player wasn't a way to win me over.
But now, it seems that Jamir Miller is on his way out, a career over the
instant that his Achilles tore as he played on the abomination that is
artificial turf.. There was only one Pro Bowl along the way. Only one publicly
recognized flash of that talent which got us so excited back in 1999.
Tim Couch is battling Kelly Holcomb for a quarterback job. Chris Palmer is an
offensive coordinator in the south again. Kevin Johnson is the subject of trade
rumors on a yearly basis. Rahim Abdullah is out of the NFL. BrownsTNG is
BerniesInsiders.com. Jamir Miller is retiring.
The expansion era has genuinely come to a close now. But, if you were
watching closely, you have some good memories to take away with the bad. For me,
Jamir Miller was one of the best.