Fans hold a sign for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Home cookin’: Browns look to build home field advantage at FirstEnergy Stadium

Hue Jackson challenges fans to “be as loud as they have ever been” Sunday

October 12, 2018

Daryl Ruiter-Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns have been so putrid in the modern expansion era that their own stadium was given an unflattering nickname by local comedian Mike Polk Jr.: ‘The Factory of Sadness.’

It was a biting, yet appropriate, rebuke of the suffering the team has put its loyal fans through since returning to the NFL.

For the better part of 20 years the Browns had been unable to win anywhere, especially at home where they are 53-101-1 at FirstEnergy Stadium since it opened in 1999. Their best and only plus-.500 home season was 7-1 in 2007. They’ve gone winless at home twice, 1-7 twice, finished 4-4 four times and were below .500 for the home slate the other 14 times.   

“It’s hard to be a great home crowd when you’re losing games and not really playing for anything late in the season,” guard Joel Bitonio said.

This year, the Browns appear poised to apply for new naming rights and re-branding of 'The Factory.'

“Obviously, the fans want to see us win,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “It is always good to cheer for your team when they are winning. For us, we have to try to find a way to execute at a high level and feed off of the energy from the crowd.”

When John Dorsey took over last December as general manager he said he wanted to re-awaken “the sleeping giant that is the Cleveland Browns,” and after an offseason roster reconstruction, Dorsey is off to a pretty good start.

The Browns are too.

Last Sunday’s dramatic 12-9 win over the Ravens in overtime gave the franchise back-to-back home victories for the first time since 2014 and the 2-0-1 home start this season is their best since beginning the home schedule 3-0 in 2004.

You have to go all the way back to 1963 for a 4-0 start, but a win over the Chargers would keep them undefeated through four home dates.

As the tide seems to be finally changing, the focus on creating the same home field advantage other NFL teams enjoy is becoming just as important to the team as the final score leading head coach Hue Jackson to issue a challenge to fans for this Sunday’s game against Phillip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I would like for them to get in the stands before the game starts, and I want them to be as loud as they have ever been,” Jackson said. “This week our players will need that. We need that assistance for them. They can help us this week by being at their best, as well. They have been outstanding, but boy, we need a little bit more from them this week, too.

“Get in the stands early before this thing starts and be as loud as you can be.”

There was a time when teams feared playing in Cleveland.

Those were the glory days of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and the late 80’s. The days of the dawg pound at old Municipal Stadium are a distant memory that Jackson and the Browns yearn to bring back to the shores of Lake Erie.

Landry already sees it returning.

“We have it here. It is here already – the energy, the excitement level that is in the stadium already that is from the fans,” Landry said. “Obviously, it has been a packed house every time that we have played at home. That is something that we have to use that to our advantage – the crowd noise when we are on defense and as an offense, try to find way to create the momentum form the special teams plays and also the defensive plays, getting turnovers and stuff like that. Feed off of it. It would be a tough place to play.”

A big reason why is rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield’s emergence.

Mayfield sparked the Browns’ 21-17 comeback Sept. 20 against the Jets from 14-0 down and has helped lead the team to wins in two of the last three weeks.

“We feed off of the crowd’s energy. Our defense does, as well,” Mayfield said. “I think that we need to continue that, and this needs to be a place that people need to fear coming to play. It needs to be so loud that they can’t communicate, and it needs to be a harsh place for an offense to come in. It needs to be exciting when our offense goes out there to keep the crowd in it. Keep building momentum. Keep stacking wins.”

Coming from Oklahoma, Mayfield knows all about the importance of having a home field advantage. So does former Buckeye Denzel Ward who played in front of 110,000 regularly at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

“It’s exciting. The fans, they’re lively,” Ward said. “I enjoy playing in front of [Browns] fans, so we’ve just got to go out there and keep trying to win, win games and get the crowd involved.”

Prior to the win over the Jets a video of a fan catching an opossum in the stands went viral on social media and since, the team has embraced the ‘rally possum’ posing a video of a sighting of the animal prior to the Ravens game on social media and plush dolls will be sold in the stadium pro shop this weekend.  

“The crowd has been great, and I think Baker’s been part of that and I think the defense has been part of that,” Bitonio said. “The more we can win, the more that they’re going to be behind us.  

“It’s been loud on some of those defensive possessions and it’s been cool to see.”

If the Browns keep scoring, forcing turnovers and winning, Dorsey, Jackson and the Browns will soon find out just how loud the giant gets. 

They'll need earplugs.