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 site.
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.
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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 physical.
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.