Another game, another milestone.
And another loss.
That’s the bittersweet situation for Browns kicker Phil Dawson.
With his 37-yard field goal to open the scoring in last Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Dawson reached the milestone of 900 career points, all with Cleveland. He added another field goal of 20 yards and two extra points and now has 905 points as the Browns get ready to play the Denver Broncos on Sunday in their first road game of the year.
Dawson is solidly in third place on the team’s career scoring list, but won’t move up the ladder anymore this year. Don Cockroft, another kicker who played from 1968-80, is in his second place, 175 points ahead of Dawson with 1,080.
Both of them are looking way up at the leader, Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza, who had 1,349 points in a career that generally spanned from the team’s inception in 1946 through his retirement following the 1967 season, with the exception of 1960, when he retired temporarily. So Dawson, who is signed through 2010, would have to play about 3½ years beyond this one to catch Groza, based on the fact he has averaged approximately 103 points over the last five seasons.
The thought of passing the great Groza, for whom the street on which Browns Headquarters sits, is named, makes Dawson blush. But the thing that makes him even more uneasy is the fact he is already well ahead of HOF running back Jim Brown, maybe the greatest player of all-time, who sits in fourth place with 756 points. Kicker Matt Bahr rounds out the top five with 677.
Dawson is seventh in NFL history – and first with the Browns – in field-goal accuracy with an 82.95 percent mark (214-of-258). He is third in career field goals and will pass Cockroft (216) and probably Groza (234) as well this year.
All of this came to light, though, because of Dawson passing the 900-point mark, which he said is “definitely an accomplishment. In the context of all the great Browns players who have come before me, it certainly means something to me.
“But in the context of this team, it doesn’t mean a whole lot because we lost the game.”
And that’s the rub.
Dawson excels, but the team loses, as it did last Sunday when the Vikings, with a huge second half, rolled 34-20. It’s been going on throughout the expansion era.
“There have been a lot of times when something good happened for me and I wanted to celebrate, but I didn’t because the team lost,” said the 34-year-old Dawson, the only player left not just with the Browns, but in the NFL overall, from their 1999 expansion team.
“The No. 1 thing for me is to win, whether I’m making the game-deciding kick or just standing on the sideline watching.”
The Browns are now 54-107 in Dawson’s career. That’s tough to swallow, especially for someone who played at tradition-rich Texas and was part of two teams that finished ranked in the top 10 nationally.
“As a competitor, you want to win,” he said. “All the personal statistics are nice and all that, but I want to win. I want to start by winning this next game.”
In 2002, when the Browns made it to the playoffs for the only time in the expansion era, Dawson was still new enough to the NFL that it didn’t hit him. But five years later, when the 2007 Browns went 10-6, their best record since 1988, and barely missed getting into the postseason, Dawson talked at length about finally being able to attempt kicks that really meant something in games that really meant something.
He desperately wants to get back to that. Dawson has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down – in fact, he seems to be getting better with each year – but with his age and the continued struggles of these new Browns, you have to wonder if time will run out on his career before the team’s ship is righted.
“I can’t think about that,” Dawson said. “I just have to focus on the next game and this season.”
And if that ship is righted, then it would seemingly mean more to Dawson than anyone else in the locker room because his roots with the Browns are the deepest.
“I can’t say it would mean more to me than some of these other guys, but I know it would mean a lot,” he said.
Then Dawson hustled out of the locker room and onto the practice field to keep working while he waits for the Browns’ prowess to catch up to his.