The Cleveland Browns have long been the laughingstock of the NFL, and for good reason. Since returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have made one trip to the playoffs and had just two winning seasons.
The list of quarterbacks that have started for Cleveland over that time period is incredibly long and well-documented on an infamous Browns jersey showing all the various starters that have failed to deliver on the promise of being a franchise savior. There have been veterans signed and highly-touted youngsters drafted, but none of them have been able to bring any prolonged success to Cleveland. Following a slow start last year, top overall pick Baker Mayfield was thrown into the fire hoping to stop that streak after Tyrod Taylor went down in Week 3.
Mayfield won that game and led the Browns to a 7-8-1 record. With some major offseason additions like Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland enters the 2019 season with real playoff expectations for the first time in over a decade. That’s a big deal in Cleveland, and one of the Browns biggest and most famous fans — Cleveland native Mike Mizanin, best known as WWE’s The Miz — is driving the bandwagon.
We got a chance to talk with The Miz this week on behalf of Bud Light, as he’ll be on hand next week when the Browns and Bud Light open a pop-up shop where fans can buy their very own victory fridge. We talked about the suffering that has been our shared Browns fandom, why this season truly feels different, Baker Mayfield actually seeming like a franchise quarterback, the pride Cleveland natives have for their city, and more.
But first, Miz had to make sure I wasn’t a bandwagon Browns fan and actually had been through the fire.
Miz, how are you doing man?
I am doing absolutely awesome, my friend.
That is lovely to hear. As a fellow Browns fan I want to talk a little Browns, past and present, with you. To start, where is your excitement level at for this Browns season?
Now, can I ask you a question first? How long have you been a Browns fan? Are you one of these people that’s jumping on our bandwagon now because it’s a popular thing to do …
No, no no no.
Or have you been with us for a very long time?
I have been through the trials and tribulations. My dad grew up in Cleveland in the Jim Brown era and brought that with him to Atlanta and made me a Browns fan since 1991, sadly.
Wow, so you’re not a Falcons fan. No Matty Ice for you, more of a Baker guy. I like that.
No, Browns through and through, and I want to talk about that with you some. Get on the couch a little bit and take some Browns fan therapy in.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been a Browns fan. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, there’s no bigger sport than football and there’s no bigger team than the Cleveland Browns. I grew up watching Bernie Kosar kind of dominate, and I thought for a couple years there we were going to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but we ended up not doing that and our team went through a whole lot of mess. You know, we lost the team to Baltimore and came back as an expansion team. I feel like ever since Kosar, we’ve had like 25 quarterbacks run through the mill, if you will.
That winless season was one of the most heartbreaking seasons I’ve ever had. One, because, I thought we were actually going to do pretty well. I told everyone before that season that we were going to make the playoffs and had a great team. So, you can only imagine what I’ve been like. If I was doing that during a winless season, you can only imagine what I’m like now when we have a quarterback — a franchise quarterback, in my opinion — in Baker Mayfield. A brand new coach in Freddie Kitchens, who, if you watched last year, it gets you excited. It gets you kind of motivated. He seems like the kind of coach a team can surround and get behind. And now that they have this potent offense with lethal weapons.
Now, Cleveland is the city to go to. It used to be Cleveland was the city that was a career killer. You go there to basically end your career, because you’re going to be done, you’re not going to win and do horrible. Now it’s the place to go. Odell Beckham Jr. made it the cool place to go. He left New York City, the New York Giants, and all the media giants it has, all the popularity that it has, he left to come play for the Cleveland Browns. Not only that, Jarvis Landry, like, watching them on Hard Knocks last year, it made you want to root for this team. It made you want to get behind this team, and I’m just ecstatic we have all the lethal weapons we need to become a threat in NFL football. I think people are seeing that. It’s not just hype.
You watch this defense. Everyone was talking about the offense, you watch this defense in, I believe, the third preseason game and we had how many sacks, five sacks in the first half, against their top offense. This defensive line is going to be absolutely insane. The offense isn’t the only thing to get excited about. Myles Garrett is a beast. He is a lethal weapon, like this guy is absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to watch this team all year round. To be honest, my victory fridge is absolutely stocked, it’s ready to go, I can’t wait to click open my first Bud Light and drink it after our first victory.
For non-Browns fans, especially fans of teams that have been good for stretches over the last two decades, can you explain what it’s been like buying in on the Browns for the last 20 years and what it means to finally have a team that Browns fans aren’t just talking themselves into, but has real reason for optimism?
Yeah, I mean, you don’t understand how many years I’ve been made fun of. This is what it felt like. Every year as a Cleveland Browns fan we’re like, this is the year we turn it around. We’re all looking at all the press conferences, watching every preseason game, thinking, this is going to be the quarterback that turns it around. This is going to be the guy. We’ve gone through how many first round quarterbacks.
Brady Quinn. I’ll never forget me jumping up and down for joy, hi-fiving my friends going, ‘We got Brady Quinn, oh my god.’ Then Brady Quinn not turning out to be the player he was. Then Derek Anderson, I was like, ‘Oh my god, Derek Anderson.’ We actually had a winning season, and then, they took it away from us. Then, you know, we’re getting all these first rounders, Brandon Weeden, oh my god. I’ll never forget when we got Johnny Football, I was so excited, I was ready. I thought this guy was the guy. And that didn’t turn out. Then when we were like, ‘We got Baker Mayfield,’ everyone was like, ‘Okay Mike, we get it. Every year you get a first rounder and every year you say this is the guy.’ And I was like, ‘No, shut up, Baker’s different.’
You heard everyone talking, like Colin Cowherd, about how Baker’s a joke and he’s the next Johnny Manziel, and you can just tell that this guy loves football. He loves football, he loves playing the game, he’s competitive and he’s got a chip on his shoulder. He is what Cleveland needs and what Cleveland needed. To see the way he carries himself, his attitude, his poise, the kind of thing where if he doesn’t like someone he lets you know and if he does like you, he’ll let you know that as well. I love this guy.
He is Cleveland. He is the perfect quarterback for Cleveland.
That’s something I wanted to talk about. Not only is Baker good, but he seems to embrace Cleveland. Cleveland natives have a lot of pride in being from Cleveland, even though it’s constantly the butt of jokes. How important is it to have a star like Baker that embraces the city the way he does and the ethos of the people?
You have to, because, even me … so, I’m from Cleveland. I grew up in Parma, Ohio. I love that city, but every time I tell people, like every time WWE goes to Cleveland people aren’t really excited about going to Cleveland. It’s not like we’re going to L.A. or New York or Miami or some of those big cities. But once people get there and I show them what Cleveland is, people are absolutely amazed at how much pride we take in our city and how much we love our city, whether it’s the Browns or the Indians or the Cavs. People in Cleveland have a sense of pride for their city and we love the city that we’re from, and honestly I don’t think I’d have been as successful if I’d have lived anywhere else other than the city I lived in.
Like, the friends that I’ve made in the city of Cleveland, friends from my high school that I still have to this day, they’re the ones that keep me grounded. They’re the ones I can talk to any time I have a problem or I need something. Like, if I have any questions about my daughter, Monroe, cause she’s a one-and-a-half year old and all my friends from Cleveland have kids — none of my friends in L.A. have kids, maybe one or two of ‘em. Every one of my friends in Cleveland has kids and give me advice. We actually brought Monroe home to Cleveland for the first time and we got to play with two of my buddy’s kids. It’s just funny the generations of friends we have. There’s just a sense of pride in Cleveland, and you can’t really explain it. There’s no other city I’ve been to, and I’ve been all over the world, that has it.
You got to represent the city in the Celeb Softball game at All-Star this year along with J.R. Smith and others, how cool was that experience for you?
You know, there are things in your life that you remember and you take away with you, and being in an All-Star celebrity baseball game is right up there with, you know, the birth of my child, marrying my wife, and there’s also another moment that I’ll bring up: When the chains dropped on my Browns victory fridge in Austin, Texas. That’s another moment that you just never forget, because it’s one of those things where, after 635 days of not winning, and going almost two years without a win, the greatest idea I’ve ever heard was when Bud Light came up with a victory fridge.
Honestly, when I got my Cleveland Browns fridge, I wasn’t even sure if it was going to work. I was living in Austin, Texas. I was setting this thing up and Maryse comes out and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘I’m setting up this victory fridge. I’m stocking the fridge with ice cold Bud Lights.’ And she looked at me and goes, ‘Why are you putting a chain around it?’ And I go, ‘No. Nope. No one will drink out of this Bud Light fridge until the chains drop.’ ‘Well, why?’ ‘Because we haven’t won in 635 days and it’s going to be the best beer you’ve had in your life when you taste that victory.’
She still doesn’t understand that to this day, but when the Jets lost to the Browns on that Thursday night, I was like, ‘Is it going to happen?’ I was with Dolph Ziggler and Ryan Cabrera, and I was like ‘Is this going to happen?’ And within 10 seconds the chains dropped. I was in Austin, Texas! I wasn’t even in Cleveland! My fridge was in Austin, Texas and the chains dropped. You can look at it on my Instagram account. It was one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever had. So, yes, that was a memorable moment, playing in the celebrity All-Star game, but it was a bigger moment when the chains dropped on my Bud Light victory fridge.
You had one of the first ones, but now people can get their own. Let the people in Cleveland know where and when they can get their very fridges, cause like you said, this year there’s supposed to be plenty of victory beers to drink.
Dude, when the Cleveland Browns and Bud Light came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea where we want you to be a sales person. But you’re not selling, like, used cars or some crappy appliances. All you’re selling is Cleveland Browns victory fridges out of B.L. & Browns Appliance Superstore.’ And I said, ‘Sign me up.’ When and where is this Tuesday and Wednesday, you can get your very own Cleveland Browns victory fridge.
Cause, guess what? There’s going to be lots of victory beers to be drank, and they need to be ice crispy cold Bud Lights out of your Cleveland Browns victory fridge. We’re doing a lotta victories this year. I’ve got at least 12 wins in the regular season. Then you got the playoffs. Then you got the Super Bowl. You need a big Browns fridge, or, you need a small Browns fridge, depending on how much you like to drink. There’s both, we’ll have them all at B.L. & Browns Superstore in downtown Cleveland. It’s going to be great, and I can’t wait to break the chains and let people in. I think it’s going to be pandemonium. I think it’s going to be a celebration of not only Cleveland Browns victory fridges and Bud Light, but also the Cleveland Browns and the city of Cleveland.