It is a favorite pastime of Dolphin fans to imagine scenarios that could have netted Dan Marino’s most elusive accolade: a Super Bowl victory. Although Miami fans were happy to have Marino, it was the team that always let him down. In the late early 90’s, it was the running game, run defense, and a division foe that they could never beat, in the mid-90’s, it was the same, and in the late 90’s, Dan was running out of gas. But the years that hurt the most are the late 80’s. Marino was at his peak during the decade, throwing for more touchdowns than anyone else despite not playing until 1983, and the only reason the Dolphins had losing records from 1986-1989 were because of one reason: their defense.
The 1985 defense was unspectacular and eventually caved in to allow the Patriots to rush for 255 yards in the AFC Championship game – more importantly, in the Orange Bowl, a place where New England hadn’t won since 1969.
The 1986 defense, however, was pathetic. Although the team topped the league with 430 points on offense, the defense couldn’t lay claim to such honors. Remember, at this time, there were only 28 teams in the league.
- Yards Allowed – 26th
- Points Allowed – 26th
- First Downs Allowed – 26th
- Turnovers forced – 26th
- Rushing touchdowns allowed – 26th
- Passing yards allowed – 22nd
- Passing touchdowns allowed – 21st
- Interceptions – 25th
- Net yards allowed per pass attempt – 25th
- Rushing yards allowed – 27th
- Average yards allowed per rush – 27th
Indeed, this was a tragic group. Dan Marino’s 44 touchdown passes were the second-most all time at the time, finishing only below his 1984 season in which he had 48. Football Outsiders calculates that the 1986 Dolphins not only had the 12th worst defense in NFL history, one that allowed 196 points in their first five games, but the 9th worst rushing defense in NFL history.
The 1986 Eagles were another flawed team. Unlike Miami, they didn’t have a lot of trouble stopping opponents (they ranked 12th in the league in total defense), but their troubles resided on offense, where the Philadelphia offensive line was pureed for 104 sacks – still the most ever in a 16-game season. The reason for such an imbalance came in the form of a hefty horse farmer from Kentucky – head coach Buddy Ryan.
As defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, Ryan helped turn one of the league’s worst teams during the 70’s into a powerhouse during the mid-80’s. His 1984 team set an NFL record for defensive sacks in a 16-game season that still stands (72.0), and although he departed from Chicago after 1985, the 1986 Bears set the record for the fewest points given up in a 16-game season with 187 (since broken by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens).
But Buddy’s fiercest bunch came in 1985, one that instilled absolute terror in opposing quarterbacks. Although the 46 would be shredded today with more complex offenses, nobody in 1985 could figure it out. The pressure was coming from everywhere: the team ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd in eleven defensive categories, racking up 64.0 sacks and countless hits in the process. 49ers head coach Bill Walsh called them “the best team” he had ever seen. The ’85 Bears are still the only team in NFL history with back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs: the only points they yielded during post-season play came in the Super Bowl, where they allowed a whopping 10 to the previously mentioned Patriots.
So where does all of this come together?
Many Dolphins fans seem to think that if Buddy Ryan had come to Miami after his dismissal from the Bears’ organization in 1985 (caused by disagreements with management), the Dolphins would have easily won the Super Bowl with his brash, intimidating 46 defense. This is a biggie, but here we go.
Chuck Studley is fired after the 1985 AFC Championship debacle
This is required to happen, as it’s not possible for a team to have two defensive coordinators. After the awful performance by his defense in the 1985 AFC title game (and really, mediocre play for the past two seasons), head coach Don Shula becomes fed up with his middling defense, one that consistently ranked near the bottom against the run, and fires Studley, the team’s defensive coordinator since Bill Arnsparger in 1983.
Without a defensive coordinator, the team now begins looking for one. With Buddy Ryan on the market, Don Shula takes advantage of it and decides he wants to win immediately. He hires Ryan before the 1986 season, and Ryan implements his system.
The Eagles promote interim man Fred Bruney to head coach
Without an option in Ryan as their head coach, the Eagles hire Fred Bruney as their new head man based off a 1-0 finish to 1985. Bruney’s only coaching experience before this was as the defensive coordinator for some mid-70’s Falcon teams that were either mediocre (1975) or flat-out bad (1976) on defense. The team also hires Ted Plumb and Wade Phillips to be their coordinators, as they did in real life.
Armed with no coaching experience and bad staff, Bruney lasts two years on the job as Philadelphia unleashes a sack-prominent offense (although perhaps not as bad as their real life counterparts) and a poor defense. After his firing, the Eagles hire defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in 1988. He guides the team to several 8-8 seasons before his firing in 1990. Consequently, the Eagles do not make the playoffs in 1988, 1989, or 1990. Rich Kotite, the team’s offensive coordinator by this time, takes over. The Eagles, although with several defensive stars, never reach the defensive level that they did in reality. With Randall Cunningham, the Eagles do not have the identity of a defensive, bruising team, but one with a better offense, thanks to Kotite’s offensive pedigree. They reach the playoffs in 1991 and 1992.
The Dolphins unleash the terror of the 46
The 46 under Ryan in Chicago was most effective thanks to numerous Hall of Fame players on defense. The Dolphins were nowhere near as talented, but thanks to standout LB John Offerdahl, the only Pro Bowler on defense, the Dolphins improve greatly.
Buddy Ryan was a defensive coordinator or head coach from 1978-1990, then again from 1993-1995. If you take every one of those team’s defensive points allowed (excluding the 1982 Bears, they only played 9 games) and then divide them by how many teams it was (15), you get 291.26, an average of 18.2 per game in a 16-game season. That average included a porous 422-point banger with the Cardinals in 1995 and some tepid early years with the Eagles. With that, we can rather soundly assume that the Dolphins would average that amount on defense, which is a whole 114 points better than what they actually did. That equates to a point differential of 139, compared to their actual 25. This would be good for 2nd in the league, even better than the Super Bowl champion Giants.
The process of calculating Pythagorean wins based on points is ridiculously complicated, so I will spare the formula, but the Dolphins’ estimated win-loss record based on their PD would be 11.7 – 4.3. With a record of 12-4, they would be the No. 2 seeded team in the AFC – second to the Browns, whom they lost to in head-to-head play. With the Dolphins now in the playoff mix, the top-4 seeding would be as follows:
- No. 1 – Cleveland Browns (Central Winner)
- No. 2 – Miami Dolphins (East Winner)
- No. 3 – Denver Broncos (West Winner)
- No. 4 – New England Patriots (East runner-up)
Until 1990, each conference sent only 5 teams to the playoffs, instead of 6. Things now get tougher, as the Jets and Chiefs are now vying for the final spot. The two didn’t face each other head-to-head, which means that their record within the division is now in question. The Chiefs were 5-3 against theirs, and while the Jets were 6-2, if we assume the Dolphins win their infamous early-season shootout with New York, that simultaneously punches their division record down to an identical 5-3 while (more importantly) making their record 9-7, a game behind Kansas City. This means that the Chiefs go on to the playoffs and the Jets stay at home after beginning their season 9-2.
The 1986 Playoffs change drastically
The 1986 playoffs had a bunch of memorable games. The Giants crushed the 49ers 49-3, the Redskins upset the bears in their own house, and of course, there was “The Drive”, but more on that later. The AFC Wild Card game was played between the Chiefs and Jets, where New York ended their five-game losing skid by holding Kansas City to 15 points and negative 2nd quarter yardage. The Jets then went on to Cleveland, where they lost.
With the Jets now out of the playoffs, the Wild Card game is between the Chiefs and Patriots. The game would be held at Foxboro Stadium, as the Patriots held the better record by a game and the AFC’s second best point differential. Thanks to whatifsports.com, I managed to run the simulation ten times to formulate a result. The Patriots won 7 out of 10 times in games that were mysteriously low scoring (in 10 games, only five times did teams cross 20 points). With the average result being a 15-13 New England win, the Chiefs go home just as they did in 1986 and the Patriots advance to play the No. 1 seed – the Browns.
Meanwhile, the Broncos arrive in Miami, and because the Dolphins have a hypothetically good defense here, whatifsports isn’t a reliable help. However, with Dan Marino at his peak and Buddy Ryan’s defense wreaking havoc against the young, scrambly John Elway, it’s a safe assumption that the Broncos do not have enough to pull themselves past the Dolphins, despite Elway’s heroics. This shakes things up badly.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Browns lay down the hammer on the Patriots, beating them 8 times out of 10 (on average, based on 10 whatifsports simulations) 28-17. Cleveland and Miami now play for the AFC Championship game.
“The Drive” doesn’t happen, but the Browns are still the Browns
Up 20-13 with just over five and a half minutes remaining, the Browns allowed Broncos quarterback John Elway to go 98 and a half yards for the game-tying touchdown. The Broncos then kicked a field goal in overtime and advanced to the Super Bowl.
John Elway’s Broncos lost in the divisional round to the Dolphins and their souped-up defense. This means that the Browns don’t have a mystic moment in NFL history to deny them a trip to Pasadena, only Dan Marino and his rather untalented supporting cast.
According to Browns’ quarterback Bernie Kosar, the game “shouldn’t have even been close [in ’86]…we had spent time practicing down in Florida, you get used to the warmth. The ball feels different. We spent a half trying to get ourselves going.”
The offense did indeed seem sluggish early on, which would have been even worse considering that Denver’s defense (327 points allowed) wouldn’t have been as good as Miami’s supposed 46 group (291). However, the Browns’ passing game was set up to go against the 46: quick passes that allow the quarterback to get out of trouble quickly. With this, I think the Browns enter halftime with 3 points instead of their actual 10, as the 46 tees off against a sluggish Browns unit that relied heavily on the run early.
This proves to be the difference, as Miami overcomes the Browns in bouncing Cleveland Stadium by the score of 23-13.
The Dolphins go to Super Bowl XXI
Super Bowl XXI featured the heavily favored 14-2 New York Giants against the 11-5 Denver Broncos, a game that saw the Broncos lead 10-9 for a while and then completely collapse, losing 39-20. Giants quarterback Phil Simms had a game for the ages, completing 22 of 25 passes, a Super Bowl record for completion percentage.
A game between the high-flying, 44-passing touchdown Dolphins against the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” defense would have made unbelievable headlines, but not a good game. I believe it could swing one of two ways – either the Dolphins roll on both sides, or the Giants beat Miami just as they did the Broncos. One thing is for sure – the game would be all about defense. The 46 against Lawrence Taylor and company would make a great defensive standoff, and even though the Dolphins came a long way to Super Bowl XXI, it’s hard to see the Giants losing it.
New York wins Super Bowl XXI just as they did in reality, and the Dolphins are left to lick their wounds.
In 1987, the Dolphins are even better
The Dolphin defense, now without the devastating effects of injuries and with the addition of new wrinkles into the 46 system, becomes one of the league’s best. Although the team loses 3 games during the strike, Miami finishes 11-4 thanks to another great season by Marino and no other competition within the AFC East. A win over the Colts also pushes Indianapolis to 8-7, pushing them out of the playoffs.
The 1987 playoffs change (sort of) drastically, “The Fumble” doesn’t happen
The playoff landscape changes, as the Giants, Patriots and Chiefs don’t even make it back. In are the Oilers, Seahawks, Saints, Vikings, and Colts. The AFC playoff seeding is now as such:
- No. 1 Seed – Miami Dolphins (East Winner)
- No. 2 Seed – Denver Broncos (West Winner)
- No. 3 Seed – Cleveland Browns (Central Winner)
- No. 4 Seed – Houston Oilers (Central runner-up)
- No. 5 Seed – Seattle Seahawks (West runner-up)
Since the Oilers and Seahawks don’t change what they do, we can still assume the Oilers beat them at home 23-20 just as they did. But instead of advancing to Denver, like they did, Houston has to go to play Miami on the road. Without a doubt, the Dolphins would have kicked the crap out of Houston, a team that lost 34-10 to the Broncos and didn’t even have a positive point differential.
Here’s where things get interesting. Denver, now the 2 seed, has to host the 3 seed: Cleveland. In reality, these two faced off in the AFC Title Game in what is known as “The Fumble”. On Cleveland’s final possession, RB Ernest Byner fumbled on the 1-yard line on what would have been the tying score. Denver then committed an intentional safety for better field position and ran the clock out, causing another wound for Browns fans.
Now, however, there is no revenge factor for the Browns, nor is there any suspense for the predetermined match-up, and the two are playing for lower stakes. Amazingly, whatifsports has Cleveland beating the Broncos 10 times out of 10 in their own backyard by an average score of 28-14. With this, it’s Bernie vs. Dan in the AFC Championship once again.
This time around, the two are playing in Miami, a place where the Browns had struggled in recent years (they blew a 21-3 lead in the 1985 divisional round). Kosar and the Browns committed mistakes and turnovers early on in the Denver game, something they wouldn’t do to quite an extent against Miami, to make the score 21-3. Cleveland never recovered from that, but one can believe the Browns would commit some of the same errors and never really control the game. With this, the Dolphins advance to yet another Super Bowl, their third of the decade.
The Dolphins win Super Bowl XXII
Immediately, some will think of this as unrealistic. The Redskins rolled up 35 points in the second quarter en route to a 42-10 blasting of the Broncos, thanks to quarterback Doug Williams and one-shot wonder RB Timmy Smith. But that was all thanks to Denver’s supposedly complex 3-4 defense breaking down almost every play. With the 46 at their disposal, the Redskins don’t get their running game started, and Doug Williams doesn’t throw 4 touchdowns in 10 minutes thanks to the lack of a play-action pass game. Instead, the Dolphins play a good enough game on offense against a tough Washington defense while bottling up the Redskins’ offense to win.
Dan Marino is regarded as the greatest quarterback ever to play
At the time of his retirement, Dan Marino held over 40 passing records, 12 of which still stand and 9 of which have been tied. With even a single Super Bowl ring on his belt, there is no argument against Joe Montana, Tom Brady, or even Peyton Manning. Combining statistics with rings, Marino becomes the standard by which quarterbacks are measured.
The Eagles see an entire era disappear
The “Gang Green” Eagles, as they were known under Buddy Ryan’s tutelage, were an outstanding defensive team. They had great success between 1988-1990, but they never won a playoff game. Because Ryan was absent for this entire period, Wade Phillips would have been hired as head coach (based off his experience from his father, Bum) and the Eagles would have never reached their defensive capabilities or playoffs under him.
1990 – Buddy wears out his welcome
Buddy Ryan, a man famous for calling Norman Braman (the Eagles owner from 1985-1993) “the guy in France”, punching offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride during his time in Houston and harassing the Dallas Cowboys as a Cardinal, was notorious for getting on the nerves of management. Eventually, after the 1988 and 1989 seasons aren’t as successful, Don Shula finally gets sick of Ryan and fires him before the 1991 season. After this, the Dolphin defense plays very well, but not the way they did under Ryan, much like the Eagles after his departure.
1990 – John Elway wears out his welcome
1990 was a tumultuous year for the Denver Broncos. After their 1989 season in which they won the AFC and were promptly hammered 55-10 in the Super Bowl by San Francisco, Elway and head coach Dan Reeves notoriously feuded, distracting the media from injuries, defensive lapses and Rich Goins, a guy who camped out on a billboard for 33 days during a Denver losing streak. After the problems of 1986 and 1987, Elway is now 0-4 in playoff games, and without the luster of two Lamar Hunt trophies. Fans and Reeves become increasingly frustrated with him, until they finally cannot coexist with each other. After losing a power struggle with Reeves, Elway is released after the 1990 season
Elway ends up on a quarterback-needy team
Going into 1991, there were only 7 teams that qualified as “quarterback needy”. These were the teams without a good quarterback, and with one that was not only bad, but inexpensive. These teams were:
- Chicago – The duct-tape solution of Jim Harbaugh and Mike Tomczak only worked for so long.
- Pittsburgh – You cannot win with Bubby Brister. It’s just not possible.
- San Diego – Jon Friesz and Billy Joe Tolliver are not viable solutions.
- Phoenix – Although Timm Rosenbach played reasonably well in 1990, the Cardinals were forced to rely on Tom Tupa (who ended up as a better punter than quarterback) when Rosenbach went down for the year in pre-season.
- Detroit – Although Rodney Peete was pretty bad, the Lions actually found their temporary quarterback in Erik Kramer in 1991.
- Green Bay – Don Majkowski can no longer play, and neither can Anthony Dilweg and Blair Kiel.
- New England – The Patriots went 1-15 when forced to rely on the miserable merry-go-round of Tommy Hodson, Marc Wilson and the decrepit Steve Grogan. Both Grogan and Wilson retired after 1990.
Actual: Elway goes to Green Bay
The Packers had been starved since the days of Bart Starr for good, consistent quarterback play, and Packer management would have likely signed Elway to a hefty deal after outcry from the fans.
With this, the Broncos are now in the ditch. Dan Reeves did not have the foresight to think that his team would have actually gone 12-4 in 1991 and reached the AFC Championship game. Instead, he now has to rely on quarterback Gary Kubiak – now the head coach of the Broncos – and that doesn’t translate to wins.
After an unspectacular 8-8 season in 1991, the Packers suddenly explode under new head coach Mike Holmgren. With 10 wins or more, the revitalized Packers kick the Redskins out of the playoff seeding, meaning that the Vikings don’t get ploughed and Washington doesn’t set the playoff record for time of possession.
Denver misses the playoffs in ’91
Thanks to the absence of Elway, the Broncos struggle mightily in 1991. As a result, they don’t get a bye in the playoffs and then face the Houston Oilers – perhaps the second-best team in the AFC that year.
In reality, the Oilers raced out to a 21-6 lead but blew it to lose 26-24, the first in a series of playoff chokes that would cause them to leave Houston. The game is known as “The Drive Part II”.
Thanks to Denver’s slip-up, the Dolphins are now in the 1991 playoffs, had they finished with an 8-8 record. However, assuming the team is still playing at a higher level after Ryan’s departure, such as the Bears in the early 90’s, we can assume that they would have had a better record and thus would be in the playoffs anyways. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that they were 8-8 regardless.
The 1991 AFC playoff seeding would now look like this:
- No. 1 Seed – Buffalo Bills (East Winner)
- No. 2 Seed – Houston Oilers (Central Winner)
- No. 3 Seed – Kansas City Chiefs (West Winner)
- No. 4 Seed – Los Angeles Raiders (West runner-up)
- No. 5 Seed – New York Jets (East runner-up)
- No. 6 Seed – Miami Dolphins (East runner-up)
With that, two 8-8 teams would go to the playoffs in the AFC – the Jets and Dolphins. The Wild Card games would have been the Dolphins @ Chiefs and Jets @ Raiders.
Although many think the Jets had no business being in the playoffs, they handled the Raiders in the L.A. Coliseum with ease, according to whatifsports. The Jets beat the Raiders 8 times out of 10 by the average score of 24-19.
The other 8-8 team would fare well, according to the simulations. Despite a 7-3 record across 10 simulations, the Chiefs kept it alarmingly close, losing (on average) by three points per game.
With these playoff games played, the 5 and 6 seed survive. The Dolphins go to play the Bills, the No. 1 seed, and get hammered. Meanwhile, the 5 seeded Jets go to play Houston in the first ever divisional playoff game held in the Houston Astrodome – and get hammered as well.
The AFC Championship game is now between the two most exciting offenses in football – Warren Moon’s run-and-shoot Oilers against Jim Kelly’s K-Gun Buffalo Bills. According to whatifsports, the Run and Shoot Oilers – in the midst of bad Buffalo weather – would have prevailed over the team with the fastest offense in history, interrupting Buffalo’s four-year Super Bowl run. The Oilers won 7 out of 10 times by the average score of 28-23.
The Oilers go to Super Bowl XXVI / Buffalo doesn’t go to four straight Super Bowls
Super Bowl XXVI is now between the Houston Oilers and the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately for the Oilers, there isn’t any way they could have gotten past the Redskins – a team with an extremely strong pass defense and passing offense, neutralising the Oilers’ strengths and targeting their weaknesses. Although the Bills aren’t losing this one 37-24, the Oilers will lose it by something similar.
Houston fans fund another stadium, no relocation to Tennessee
Now remember here, these are all consequences of Buddy Ryan signing with the Dolphins. That’s where we started.
John Elway ruining the Oilers’ best chance to get to a Super Bowl (despite the 1993 team having a better record) began a long string of chokes and collapses for the Houston Oilers – something that eventually deterred both the fans and tempestuous owner Bud Adams. After the team’s 1992 playoff collapse, Adams warned that the team was likely to be disbanded and have its marquee players scattered around the league if the team couldn’t deliver a Super Bowl. Yet another collapse followed, and Adams was true to his word, at the same time fuming over the fact that his fans wouldn’t fund a new stadium. Afterwards, the Oilers were not a very good team, and after some of the lowest attendance figures in league history, the team left for Tennessee after the 1996 season.
Instead, fans would have been very glad to see actual progress being made – instead of 7 years of playoffs without a single trip to the conference title game – and would have funded a new stadium for Adams. The team would have played better football, not collapsed, and the team would not have moved out of town.
The Broncos draft David Klingler, the Bengals draft Tommy Maddox
Meanwhile, looping back around, the Broncos are relegated to the AFC’s cellar, where teams like the Colts, Bengals and Chargers hung out at that time. Dan Reeves, already on the hot seat, is desperate to find a new quarterback after Gary Kubiak doesn’t cut it and steers the team to a 5 ~ 6 win season. In the 1992 NFL draft, two quarterbacks stuck out – David Klingler from the University of Houston, and Tommy Maddox from UCLA. Armed with the 9th pick in the draft, the Broncos bet it all on David Klingler at pick No. 6, exchanging with the Bengals.
Cincinnati, also desperate for a young quarterback, would have likely taken the next best prospect – Tommy Maddox, who had only just finished his sophomore year of college. The two franchises would suffer for it throughout the decade, as neither panned out.
The 1992 Playoff seeding changes
The Broncos, thanks to their declining defense and dreary quarterback situation, win only one game against divison foes (against pathetic Seattle). The three games they lose help bump up the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs’ records – the Chiefs are now 11-5 and the Chargers are now 12-4, making them the AFC’s top seeded team. The playoffs now look like this:
- No. 1 Seed – San Diego Chargers (West winner)
- No. 2 Seed – Pittsburgh Steelers (Central winner)
- No. 3 Seed – Miami Dolphins (East winner)
- No. 4 Seed – Kansas City Chiefs (West runner-up)
- No. 5 Seed – Houston Oilers (Central runner-up)
- No. 6 Seed – Buffalo Bills (East runner-up)
The Chiefs, armed with an identical 11-5 record as the Bills, finish ahead in the seeding thanks to a 6-2 divisional record. The Oilers, having made the Super Bowl, win a close game they’d been losing (at Denver), bumping up their record to 11-5 and pushing Buffalo down to the 6th seed thanks to a Week 17 win over them.
“The Comeback” doesn’t happen
The Oilers, now the 5th seed, travel to Kansas City instead of Buffalo to take on the Chiefs, while the Bills travel to Miami for their Wild Card game. The Oilers won 7 of their 10 match-ups against Kansas City, while the Dolphins barely nudged by, winning 6 of 10 against Buffalo. The Oilers and Bills now never play each other in the 1992 playoffs, meaning that the infamous 35-3 comeback doesn’t even occur.
Meanwhile, John Elway’s Green Bay Packers blow by the Vikings, but are suddenly halted by Steve Young’s 49ers.
The Broncos are the worst team in the league in 1994; don’t win Super Bowls in ’97/’98
The Broncos were not a good team in 1994. Extremely sloppy defense and total lack of a pass rush punctuated a meaningless 7-9 season under head coach Wade Phillips – their 25th ranked defense was only saved by a Pro Bowl season from John Elway. Without Elway, the Broncos are left with the quarterback tandem of Hugh Millen and David Klingler. If you transplant Klingler’s ’94 numbers – 1,327 yards, 6 touchdowns, 9 interceptions in 7 starts – and pair it with a rushing attack that ranked 23rd in the league, that has the making of a truly awful team. With a 1-15 record, the Broncos wouldn’t even own a first round pick in 1995 – they’d already used that pick to trade up to get Klingler.
Without Elway, the Broncos don’t make it to the Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, even if they had Terrell Davis. In 1997, John Elway’s Green Bay Packers would go on and win a Super Bowl while the Broncos thought about what once was. As for 1998, nothing really changes, aside from the fact that Elway hangs it up after ’97 – either that, or he doesn’t have enough to get past the Falcons and Vikings in the playoffs that year, one of which he didn’t even have to deal with while he was a Bronco.
The Browns don’t leave Cleveland
Yes, you read it right. Art Modell’s main problem was that the Browns couldn’t win anything – and they didn’t, really – and the team moved so that they had “better opportunities”. With a possible Super Bowl crown in 1988, Cleveland fans would finally be satisfied with their team, as would Modell, and the team wouldn’t move and become the Ravens. Thus, an entire (painful) chapter of Browns history is erased – no expansion team in 1999 and subsequent problems.
So there we have it. There are endless possibilities that arise from this supposed “alternate storyline”. Feel free to comment with what else could arise out of this, or whether or not I’ve made a complete hash of everything and should just restart.