Updated: Oct 21
Last Sunday, the NFL world was taken aback when the lowly Browns defeated the mighty 49ers. As the network cameras gazed upon Cleveland's loyal fanbase, a smattering of dog masks filled the screen. It appeared that Cleveland's Dawg Pound was back in action. In reality, they never left. Despite their years of mediocrity, Cleveland has featured one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports. But how were they founded?
The Year Before the Pound
The Browns were hopeless in 1984. Starting at 1-7, team owner Art Modell felt that he had no other choice but to fire coach Sam Rutigliano. In his place stepped defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer. Over the course of the season's final eight weeks, the Browns went 4-4 as the interim coach won over the affections of his entire team.
But something else happened that year that would come to have a much greater impact on the team and the city at large. In those days, Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield were among the best cornerback tandems in the NFL, striking fear in the hearts of quarterbacks all across the league.
As the team began to find its footing late in 1984, Dixon started to refer to his defensive line as "dogs" and opposing quarterbacks as "cats". Soon, he began to refer to himself and the rest of his defensive teammates as dogs. as the sun set on an unimpressive 5-11 season, Dixon and Minnifield could see good things in store for their team.
The Dawg Pound
Before the new season could commence, even before the first preseason game kicked off, Dixon and Minnifield were hyping up their team for Clevelanders everywhere. Inspired by their always boisterous fanbase, they set up a sign in front of the bleacher section of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. Soon, the fans began barking along with the players after
The season itself, though it was a turnaround from the past couple of years, was unremarkable, ending at 8-8 and losing to the Dolphins in the Divisional Round. However, the season proved to be a harbinger of things to come. In the next few years, the recently named Dawg Pound would live and die through their team. A year later, their hearts were shattered when John Elway led the Broncos on "the Drive" in the AFC Championship Game.
Still, they remained faithful. They even remained faithful long after the the Browns did the unthinkable and moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season. When the NFL expanded back to Cleveland in 1999, the Dawg Pound was there waiting with opened arms. They've been waiting for a winner ever since.