The Cleveland Browns have not been to a Super Bowl.
But they will be represented in this year's game.
Elias reports the Browns have set a Super Bowl standard before the game is even played. Five of their former players are on the 53-man rosters of Atlanta and New England, which is tied for the highest in the league (with the Redskins).
Yes, this ex-player thing has been reported and discussed before.
But it's still pretty amazing.
And sad as it is to say, it really is so Browns.
Because it doesn't stop with the players.
It goes to Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who spent one season in Cleveland before the Browns let him out of the final two years of his contract. The Browns didn't seek compensation when he left. The line at the time was that it's not wise to force a guy to stay who doesn't want to stay. The question at this time is: What in the world did Shanahan say? Shanahan has never discussed it; it will be interesting to see if it comes up at Super Bowl interviews.
Since leaving Cleveland, Shanahan has only grown as an assistant coach. He'll be hired to coach the 49ers after the Super Bowl.
That's not the only ex-Browns connection. Going way back, Bill Belichick was the coach of the Browns from 1991-95. He was done in by Art Modell's move. Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli worked under Belichick, and interviewed to join the Browns in 2009. But Randy Lerner chose Eric Mangini as coach, and Mangini was not giving up say in anything, so Pioli wasn't hired. Yes, that was the same year Bruce Arians was going to interview with the Browns only to learn via the media that Mangini had been hired.
The presence of Belichick in the Super Bowl is an old thorn to Cleveland types. It was more difficult when Pioli and Belichick worked together in New England, but now has an interesting twist given they represent both teams playing.
Lewis is the biggest ex-Browns stretch. He was in Cleveland for one year, which he spent on injured reserve. However, Joe Banner had big plans for him before he was hurt.
Sheard and Mingo are former second- and first-round picks, respectively. Sheard left as a free agent for reasons still head-scratching. Mingo never worked out and was released.
Mack was a first-round pick. He also left as a free agent, driven away by constant change and losing. He wanted a winning organization, and he found one.
Gabriel was an undrafted receiver Ray Farmer discovered, then fell victim to a regime change and the drafting of four receivers. He's produced much more in Atlanta than he did in Cleveland, but he also was reunited with Shanahan and given more opportunity.
In some cases, there are valid reasons these people are not in Cleveland.
But in others, the players and coaches who are gone are emblematic of the team's failures and follies of the past few seasons (bad drafting, constant change, not keeping young players the team drafted and developed).
There's one more Browns/Super Bowl connection, which isn't direct, but is valid. Atlanta's Julio Jones was the player the Falcons drafted when the Browns traded out of that slot in 2011. The Browns touted the deal as one that would help build the team with numbers of players. They wound up with defensive tackle Phil Taylor, receiver Greg Little, fullback Owen Marecic, quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trend Richardson.
None of the five are with the Browns today.
Jones had 1,409 yards and six touchdowns this season, and has averaged 1,268 yard and seven touchdowns in his six seasons.
It's all just really pretty Browns.