Cleveland faces Detroit in rare matchup of sad 1-8 teams
Will there be any grocery bags left in the Detroit area after the Browns and Lions get done playing at Ford Field?
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DETROIT -- A Cleveland Browns fan held up a sign that read "No Fun Losing" during their latest loss.
Anyone rooting for the Detroit Lions who saw the forlorn-looking woman delivering the message surely could relate.
The Lions (1-8) have won only once since becoming the first NFL team to have an 0-16 season. If they get upset by Cleveland (1-8) Sunday at home, they will plunge to another league mark of futility.
The Browns have endured a lot of bad football since returning to Cleveland in 1999, winning just .325 percent of their games.
But it has been worse in Detroit, where the Lions have won an NFL-low 29 percent since '99.
Cleveland laments that its football team hasn't won a title since 1964. The Lions, though, have a championship drought that dates to 1957.
Both teams are so bad now that Sunday's matchup at Ford Field provides a rare opportunity for one of them to enjoy a victory.
The Lions found out earlier this month they have no business expecting to win against any team. Detroit fell to the St. Louis Rams, who lost their first seven games this year and 17 straight in a Lions-like streak.
"We can't afford to overlook anybody," Detroit's Jon Jansen said. "To think Cleveland is going to come in here and lay down is inaccurate. We need to approach them as if they're the New England Patriots."
Cleveland longs for the years when the Patriots' current coach, Bill Belichick, was its coach. At least that team was average at worse, and at best an 11-win club in 1994 that beat New England in the playoffs.
Back in those days, current coach Eric Mangini was a ball boy and a PR intern, and Jim Schwartz was getting his start in the NFL.
Schwartz, now Lions coach, started off with an unpaid gig for Belichick, picking up people at the airport as part of his duties, and moved up to land a job with the player personnel department.
"A lot of us were in the same boat," Schwartz said. "Tom Dimitroff was there, the GM for the Falcons (now), and we all thought we were low, but Tom was on the grounds crew. He was cutting grass and pulling tarps and covered in paint.
"There were a lot of young guys who weren't married and didn't have any responsibilities other than learning football and learning from a really good staff, learning from guys like Bill Belichick, Nick Saban and Kirk Ferentz."
Mangini got to know Schwartz when he was a scouting intern, and they both moved on to work for the Baltimore Ravens.
"We were all on the same pay grade, same status in life so we would hang out at that point," Mangini recalled.
Mangini said they had a "pretty low" pay grade.
"My mom always had a tough time with that because I had gone to school, had a bunch of student loans, and I took the job as a ball boy," Mangini said. "She thought I'd lost my mind, but I just wanted to get in the door."
Now, both coaches are paid well and are desperate for a second win of the season.
First Published November 22, 2009 12:00 am