Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Greener pastures: I used to compile a list of former Browns players, coaches and executives who moved on from their time in Cleveland and wound up in the Super Bowl.
It started out as something well-intentioned – a means of experiencing the Super Bowl vicariously through those former Browns who were banished from, or escaped, the Hundred Years War and found greener pastures.
But the list got too long, too depressing, and readers felt I was just rubbing their noses into the dirt by celebrating the joys of departed players.
The reappearance of the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl inspired me to revive the list.
The Panthers were born via expansion in 1995 – just four years before the Browns were reborn. They have played in four NFC Championship Games. This will be their second Super Bowl appearance, so they don’t reduce the number of that list of sad franchises never to play in a Super Bowl.
(Point of clarification: The Browns reached the NFL championship game nine times and the Lions five times before the Super Bowl was invented in 1967 through the merger of the NFL and American Football League.)
And since Houston (two times), Jacksonville (once) and Detroit (two times) all have played host to the Super Bowl, Cleveland remains the only city in the NFL to never have appeared in or hosted a Super Bowl.
But we can celebrate the joy of participating in Super Bowl 50 with the following former Browns:
Quarterback Derek Anderson: His record of 16-18 as Browns starter (2006-09) places him second in wins and second in win percentage among the 24 quarterbacks who have started a game since the expansion era began in 1999.
Anderson’s big arm produced the best offensive season of the Browns expansion era in 2007. He replaced Charlie Frye in the second half of Game 1 and won 10 of the remaining 15 games, throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns, and earning a spot in the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Anderson’s big year resulted in a new contract for him – he was a restricted free agent -- and contract extensions for offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage. Alas, Crennel and Savage were fired after a 4-12 2008 season.
Anderson hung on through 2009. When he was released by new President Mike Holmgren in 2010, he lashed out at Cleveland fans in a vituperative email to Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald of Lake County.
“The fans are ruthless and don’t deserve a winner,” Anderson said in the email. “I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured.
“I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and we roll them.”
Anderson moved on to Arizona for one year, then was reunited with Chudzinski with Carolina in 2011. When Chudzinski returned to Cleveland as head coach in 2013, Anderson longed to join him again, but it was not to be.
He is in his fifth season as Cam Newton’s backup. Anderson won his only two starts in place of Newton, both in 2014.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker: In the 2013 season, he was active with the Browns for 11 games and started two games at running back, running a total of 28 times for 79 yards. He is most noted for mishandling an onside kick in the final 1:01 of a heartbreaking 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots.
The Panthers signed Whittaker in 2014. In two seasons as a backup, he has averaged 4.4 yards a rush attempt (he was at 2.8 with the Browns) and has two touchdowns.
Quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey: Savage acquired him from San Francisco in 2006 when Savage granted Trent Dilfer’s wish to be traded. In 2008, he became the 11th quarterback to start a game for the expansion Browns. He went 0-3 as injuries ravaged the position, as usual.
As a third-string quarterback with the Browns at the age of 26, Dorsey aspired to coaching. After a one-year stint in the CFL, he latched on to Carolina as a pro scout, advancing and writing reports on Panthers’ opponents.
He moved on to IMG as a quarterback tutor. One of his pupils was Cam Newton. The Panthers hired him as Newton’s quarterback coach in 2011 – largely on the recommendation of Chudzinski.
Strong safety T.J. Ward: A second-round pick of the Browns in 2010, he earned a Pro Bowl berth in his fourth season. A new regime led by GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine allowed Ward to leave in free agency in 2014.
As the Browns turned to free agent Donte Whitner, Ward signed a four-year deal with the Broncos for $22.5 million and $14 million guaranteed. He has been a stalwart on the Broncos’ No. 1-ranked defense for two years, and made the Pro Bowl in 2015.
Receiver Jordan Norwood: The lithe slot receiver had 36 catches for the Browns in 2011-12. He signed with the Broncos in 2014 and suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury in training camp. He returned this season and contributed 22 receptions for 207 yards.
Tom Heckert, director of pro personnel: He was Holmgren’s general manager from 2010 until fired after the 2012 season by incoming CEO Joe Banner.
At the end of the 2015 season, the Browns had nine players on the roster who were acquired during Heckert’s tenure. They included cornerback Joe Haden, safety Tashaun Gipson, guard John Greco, receiver Travis Benjamin, tackle Mitchell Schwartz, linebacker Craig Robertson and defensive tackle John Hughes.