Don’t blink but there’s something going on in Cleveland.
A quick glance at the AFC North standings shows the Cleveland Browns are rolling along with an impressive 6-3 mark. Cleveland, which will play host to the Eagles (3-5-1) on Sunday, is the only NFL team without a logo. The Browns are threatening to make a run at the playoffs, something that their fans haven’t experienced since 2007.
And the architect behind this sudden surge is an executive that the Philadelphia Eagles let fly away from the nest.
Andrew Berry, a Harvard University grad, is the Browns’ general manager and executive vice president of football operations. When the Browns announced his hiring last Jan. 27, he was the youngest GM in NFL history at 32.
Berry served as the Eagles’ vice president of football operations in 2019. The Eagles swooped him up from the Browns in 2016 where he was the vice president of player personnel for two seasons.
The Browns have a history of making historic moves involving African Americans. From 1946 to 1950, the Browns featured fullback Marion Motley and defensive end Bill Willis, both of whom would become NFL Hall of Famers. During that period, the Browns were 59-6-3, winning four championships in the All-American Football Conference and a fifth in 1950 following the NFL/AAFC merger.
The signing of Motley and Willis by Browns owner/coach Paul Brown made them the first African-Americans to play pro football in what is considered the “modern era.”
Later, stars such as Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, a graduate of North Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High, would become NFL Hall of Famers for the Browns.
Berry is living up to the Browns’ history of developing legendary leaders. Moved by the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, Berry sent out a lengthy email to all Browns employees. The June 5 email became an inspiration and launched Cleveland’s #Be TheSolution campaign.
The email began as a message of empathy and sympathy to those who struggled to focus following the death of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Berry then issued a challenge. He said he would donate $8,460 in honor of George Floyd and other recent victims to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund if at least 50 employees did one of the following:
1. Spend at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items provided in the email and submit a short written or video reflection on what they learned or will do moving forward.
2. Sign up for any social activism initiative
3. Donate anything to a social activism cause
Within 24 hours, more than 50 employees had taken the challenge. Shortly thereafter, the Haslam family, which owns the Browns, pledged to match every dollar raised and contributed to the organizations of the employees’ choice. As a result, the Browns staff has raised more than $185,522.74 for 14 different charities.
Now, those resources are being made available outside of the Browns’ organization to anyone that would like to do their part to Be The Solution.
Within 24 hours, more than 50 employees had taken the challenge. Shortly thereafter, the Haslam family pledged to match every dollar raised and contributed to the organizations of the employees’ choice. The Browns staff has raised more than $185,522.74 for 14 different charities.
Andrew Berry has Cleveland on the move on and off the field. And more importantly, people are beginning to notice.