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December 03, 2004
Guess Who's Back, Cleveland?
BY: Christopher Price

Most of the time, Bill Belichick takes a page from the Michael Corleone School of Thought: with most jobs, it’s not personal -- it’s strictly business. Emotion never enters the picture.

That all goes out the window when Cleveland is involved.

He would never admit to it, but Belichick relishes the chance to put the smack down on anything and anyone in the 234 area code. With him, dealing with anything related to the Browns isn’t business. It’s personal. After all, Cleveland was the city that ran him out of town after a tumultuous tenure as head coach of the Browns that ran from 1991 to 1995. It was a tenure that began with him telling players he had worked too long and too hard to have them foul it up for him, and included him starting Vinny Testaverde at quarterback over local hero Bernie Kosar -- much to the consternation of fans -- and him telling reporters “I don’t give a damn what the fans think.”

It ended him with him being escorted off the field by police at the end of the 1995 protecting him from a collection of fans who were pissed the team was on the move to Baltimore. Fans blamed Art Modell, but they also took out their frustrations on Belichick. In much the same way a generation of Sox fans have come to see Roger Clemens as the embodiment of all things evil, Cleveland fans have done the same to Belichick. They loved it when he returned in 2000 with New England, gleefully hooting him back to Foxboro after the Browns beat the Patriots, 19-11, something Belichick recalled when he met the media this week.

“They played well,” Belichick said of the Browns’ performance in the 2000 game. “They played better than we did. Everybody was into it.

“We know we have our work cut out for us going into Cleveland,” he added. “It’s always a tough place to play. It certainly didn’t go too well the last time we were there.”

When he was asked about the passion for Browns football this week -- a passion that apparently drove Butch Davis and his family out of town earlier in the week after he started the year 3-8 -- Belichick took the high road, saying Northeast Ohio was where football began, and adding the fans were some of the best in the nation.

“They are very knowledgeable fans,” Belichick said with a smile. “They are into football. They love football. They follow it very passionately and they are emotional about it.”

Ah, yes. Emotion. While it’s likely the Cleveland fans will be expressing their share of “emotion” toward Belichick, the New England head coach won’t be expressing much of it heading into the game, at least outwardly. But it’s a safe bet he’ll be expressing more than his share afterward, as the Patriots look like they will be able to take care of the Brows with ease. Cleveland comes into the game with an interim head coach in Terry Robiskie and a rookie quarterback who will be making his first NFL start in Josh McCown. All in all, it makes for a good formula for Belichick to pick up his third consecutive victory over the Browns. In the end, it appears that, like Clemens in Boston, Belichick will continue to get the last laugh on the city he once called home.

Christopher Price covers the Patriots for Boston Metro and BostonPressBox.com. He can be reached at capeleaguer@hotmail.com.


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