A Cluster Curse?

We rarely write about football here on our synchronicity blog. That’s probably because first downs, field goals, and touchdowns don’t usually involve meaningful coincidence. A football game is all pretty much cause and effect plays, one after another,  even when a miraculous play is pulled off. For example, if  a team wins in the last seconds of play because of an 80-yard passing play, skill and timing were probably the major factors, not coincidence.

But now comes Peter King of NBC sports who has compiled a list of oddly related events that we typically would refer to as a cluster synchronicity. However, in this case, it’s probably best to refer to them as a cluster curse. It’s an NFL nightmare that involves the coaches of the hapless Cleveland Brown, widely considered the worst team in football over the past decade.

It seems that every time the Browns play the Steelers and lose by more than 10 points, the coach is fired within 24 hours. The synchronicity involves the entanglement of the Steelers in this series of firings, since the Steelers should have no more effect on the future of the Browns coaching staff than any other team the Browns play. After all,  the Browns have lost by more than 10 points to numerous opponents since 2008. But it’s only after playing the Steelers that the coach gets canned. Interestingly, the firings were made by two different owners.

Writer King describes the unlikely nature of this cluster synchronicity  this way: “That sounds preposterous, which it is. Impossible, which it almost is. But I’ll prove it to you. One decade, six really bad post-Steeler hangovers.”

• Dec. 29, 2008: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 0. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Romeo Crennel after four playoff-less seasons and a 24-40 record. “I would like to think we’re a more compelling organization to be a part of now,” Lerner said (whatever that means) in making the announcement.
• Jan. 2, 2011: Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 9. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Eric Mangini after two playoff-less seasons and a 10-22 record. Mangini said: “Our goal was to build a team for long-term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal.”
• Dec. 30, 2012: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10. The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Pat Shurmur after two playoff-less seasons and a 9-23 record. Shurmur said: “This group of players will achieve success soon, and part of me will feel very good when that happens.”
• Dec. 29, 2013: Pittsburgh 20, Cleveland 7. That night, after word of a coaching change leaked via text messages and solid rumors on the Browns’ bus back from Pittsburgh, owner Jimmy Haslam fired coach Rob Chudzinski after one playoff-less season and a 4-12 record. “One year? One year? C’mon. You don’t fire a coach after one year,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said.
• Jan. 3, 2016: Pittsburgh 29, Cleveland 12. That night, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Mike Pettine after two playoff-less seasons and a 10-22 record. A team statement said: “We don’t believe our team was positioned well for the future.”
• Oct. 28, 2018: Pittsburgh 33, Cleveland 18. The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Hue Jackson after 2.5 playoff-less years and a 3-36-1 record. Jackson told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Cleveland is currently the Mount Everest of the NFL.”

I guess that last comment means that getting the team to win games is a seriously difficult climb for any coach. As of this writing, Nov. 5, the Browns had lost 25 consecutive games on the road, including the last one to the Steelers. That’s a long ride.

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7 Responses to A Cluster Curse?

  1. blah says:

    there is a Great book out,,,, called “Beer and Dirty Jokes”,, written by one “Drew Carey”,,,, blah won’t go into his Little connection,,, but,,, in the book.. Drew and his friends have a lifetime friend by the name of Larry,,,, Larry has a drinking problem… So when Larry and all his fellow AA’ers are being honored (for whatever) on the Cleveland Brown field.. Drew and his other friends are in the stands,,, while “Jim Brown” makes the rounds of shacking the hands of all the wanttabe reforming drunks… upon turning his back and exiting the scene…. Mr. J. Brown is tackled from behind by Larry….,,, and then Larry proceeds to hide from the irate citizens of Cleveland,, where else but Drew’s basement,,,, Drew manages coax Larry upstairs where he proceeds to push him (Larry being drunk) out the window… Larry hits the ground,,, Drew goes down and Larry still oblivious to what happened,,, Drew determines there only one recourse,,, Drive Larry to Pittsburgh.. I don’t write it I just report the stuff….

  2. bh says:

    Not to rain on the synchronicity parade or anything, but it loses a bit of luster if you look at it statistically:

    – The Browns have played the Steelers in the final week of the season 8 of the last 10 years – there are only 4 teams in the Browns’ division, and the NFL schedules most teams to play a division rival in the final week, so there is a 1 in 3 chance that the Browns will play the Steelers in the final game of any given year.

    – With the exception of Hue Jackson, head coaches are rarely fired in mid-season, so when a coach is fired it almost always comes right after the last regular season game.

    The Browns have played the Steelers in the final week of the season 8 of the last 10 years, which is a 0.8 probability, or 1 in 1.25. Any coach has about a 70% chance of being fired after two consecutive losing seasons, and the Browns have had 11 consecutive losing seasons – combining those probabilities you get 0.6, or a 60% chance that the Browns’ head coach will be fired after a game against the Steelers. That has happened in 6 of the last 10 years, which is 60% of the time – exactly as the statistical model predicts.

    That said, Gregg Williams better start updating his resume before the end of next season.

    • Trish and Rob says:

      Statistics can be frustrating to follow. It’s like when I was playing disc golf recently at Okeeheelee Park in my hometown with a guy who keeps close statistics on his play. We reached the fifth hole, which requires a throw over water to a point of land in the shape of lower Florida. He looked at his phone where he keeps his stats and said, “I make this throw 72% of the time so I’m going to do it.” The option was to go around the water, like I did. But he had statistics on his side. He threw it and it landed in the water ten feet from shore. After a few moments of consideration, I asked: “Why don’t you try another one? Statistics should really be on your side now.” He shook his head and went around with his follow-up shot. So much for statistics.

  3. Greg says:

    It sure sounds like a cluster curse. I wonder how many other cluster curses can be found with a little research?