There was a glimmer of hope on New Year’s Eve when the Browns threatened to rally for a win in Pittsburgh, but that ended when Corey Coleman let a fourth-down pass from DeShone Kizer slip through his hands late in the fourth quarter. The Browns lost 28-24.
So there was no holiday miracle this year to dash the chances of an 0-16 parade, unlike last year when the Browns pulled off a late-season win over the San Diego Chargers to finish 1-15.
As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday’s game, Browns fan Chris McNeil, who lives in Granville outside Columbus, sat in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Canton and realized the real work was about to begin.
The whole Perfect Season Parade started out as a joke last year as the Browns fumbled their way through a forgettable season.
He tweeted that the city should throw a parade — a la the Cavaliers victory parade after winning the 2016 NBA championship — should the Browns do the unthinkable and not win a single game in the regular season.
The joke gained momentum, and soon fellow Browns fans were chipping in donations to cover the cost for everything from security to portable toilets to insurance.
When the Browns then won on Christmas Eve, money raised was donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank instead.
Thanks to donations from the Browns and their coaching staff, along with some local radio personalities, McNeil said, the food bank netted some $50,000.
But this time around, there was no comeback, and the Browns joined the dubious ranks of NFL teams that have completed winless seasons.
McNeil is still hoping to make a donation to the food bank this year, but first he has to spend $6,000 on security, another $1,000 on portable toilets and $1,500 on insurance.
To help ease the pain, Excedrin headache relief has donated $7,683 to help cover the costs of the parade.
McNeil admitted he was hoping for a win — just as he has every game this season.
“This game was brutal,” he said. “It was such a microcosm of the whole season — watching Corey Coleman drop a ball most receivers catch.
“I take no joy in [organizing] this parade.”
The reaction from players after the game was mixed when asked about the parade.
Browns running back Isaiah Crowell said “it doesn’t bother me” and the thought of fans gathering to mockingly celebrate a winless season “is what it is.”
“I know we’ve got real loyal fans, and I got a lot of respect for them just because they stick with us when we’re not doing so great,” he said. “So I feel for them, and I feel like it’ll get better.”
Cornerback Jason McCourty said he understands fans are simply frustrated.
“I feel for the fans,” he said. “They’ve had to go through some pretty bad seasons — 1-15 last year, the team was 3-13 the year before — it’s frustrating for them as well.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey said the city has a pretty loyal fan base.
“We have our Cleveland fans who love us regardless,” he said. “Wins or losses, they’re going to have our back. But I’m not [dwelling on] the parade. I’m not thinking about that. They do what they choose to do.
“But I know my mind is fixed on just getting better and winning.”
The Twitterverse has not been kind to McNeil, who once lived in Bath Township and attended Revere schools before his family moved to southern Ohio when he was a teen, as he has had his fair share of detractors.
But there are several thousand fans who say they plan to attend the parade, including some who claim they plan to fly into Cleveland to spend the weekend commiserating with like-minded followers of the Brown and Orange.
Now it is a matter of organizing the 40 or so units that have said they want to march in the parade.
McNeil said the parade will include some notoriously decked-out Browns tailgate vehicles and a band or two.
There is one guy, McNeil said, who creates new tombstones for his annual Halloween display for every starting Browns quarterback dating back to the team’s return to Cleveland.
It seems he has lined up 28 people to march with him in the parade to help carry the tombstones.
McNeil said he is hopeful this is the first and last Perfect 0-16 parade he ever has to organize.
“The Football Gods are out there,” he said. “I don’t want to even think about next season. God willing, we will never talk about another 0-16 parade ever again after Jan. 6.”
©2018 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.