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.