The last time the Cleveland Browns made the playoffs, coach Kevin Stefanski was in college and Baker Mayfield was in grade school.
Michael Jordan was still in the NBA, and LeBron James wasn’t out of high school.
Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t invented Facebook yet, while Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears had just broken up.
But at home on Sunday, against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns can finally clinch a playoff berth for the first time in 18 years, while mercifully ending the NFL’s longest postseason drought.
A drought that has felt like an eternity to the Browns. In many ways, it has been an eternity.
Just how different was the world the last time the Browns were in the playoffs? Here’s a glimpse of what happened and what life was like in the year 2002 — the last time Cleveland advanced to the postseason:
Jim Thome slugs 52 homers
A backbone of Cleveland’s five consecutive playoff teams in the 1990s, Thome saves his best season in Cleveland for last. He sets a franchise record with 52 home runs while becoming the 21st player in baseball history to surpass the 50-homer threshold. Thome also tops the AL in walks and slugging percentage and wins the Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship and community involvement. Cleveland, however, misses the playoffs, and Thome leaves after the season, signing an $85 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
USA shocks at the World Cup
The United States men’s soccer team opens the World Cup with a 3-2 victory over heavy favorite Portugal, behind the powerful headers of Columbus Crew star Brian McBride (no apparent relation to original Browns owner Arthur McBride). The Americans go on to defeat Mexico in the knockout stage thanks to another McBride goal, before falling 1-0 to Germany in the following round in the USMNT’s best World Cup showing in 72 years (and since).
Kelly Clarkson wins first ‘American Idol’
“American Idol” premieres, with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson judging the reality television singing competition. Out of roughly 10,000 initial contestants in the first season, Clarkson defeats Justin Guarini in the finals, singing “Before Your Love,” “Respect,” and “A Moment Like This,” which becomes the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 and bestselling single of the year. Clarkson inks a record deal with RCA, “American Idol” quickly becomes the top show on television, and Clarkson’s inaugural concert tour includes a stop in Cleveland during the Browns’ Week 10 bye.
Buckeyes win national title
Led by second-year coach Jim Tressel — who played his college ball at Baldwin Wallace, located less than a mile from the Browns’ practice facility — Ohio State goes 13-0 during the regular season, winning six of those games by a touchdown or less. Then, facing Miami in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS National Championship as 12-point underdogs, Ohio State pulls off one of the biggest upsets in college football history. A controversial fourth-down pass interference call against Miami gives the Buckeyes another chance in the first overtime before they win it in the second 31-24 for the school’s first national championship since 1968.
Michael Vick goes to first Pro Bowl
The 2001 No. 1 overall pick is selected to the Pro Bowl a year later after throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and rushing for another 777. In December, Vick sets an NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game, with 173. But in the regular-season finale, the Browns contain Vick and knock off the Falcons to sneak into the playoffs. The Falcons also advance to the playoffs, where they defeat the Packers before losing in the divisional round. Vick later appears on the cover of Madden with a speed rating of 95, making him perhaps the most dominant player in the video game’s history.
European Union adopts the Euro
Euro banknotes and coins officially supplant the currencies in a dozen European Union member states, rendering the German mark, French, Belgian and Luxembourg franc, Dutch guilder, Irish pound, Austrian schilling, Finnish markka, Greek drachma, Italian lira, Portuguese escudo and Spanish peseta all obsolete. The design of the banknotes reflects European architecture, including the €5 (Greek/Roman), €10 (Romanesque), €20 (Gothic), €50 (Renaissance) and €100 (Baroque/Rococo).
Nokia boasts top-selling cell phone
The most popular cellphone of the day doesn’t come from Apple, which is five years away from introducing its first edition of the iPhone. Instead, the Finnish company Nokia continues to dominate the cellphone market and debuts the first color-screened phones to sell over a million units. Nokia also launches its first phone to include a built-in camera, which appears in the science fiction film “Minority Report” as Tom Cruise’s futuristic go-to device.
‘Friends,’ ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ dominate the ratings
The top five box office grossing films of the year are “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Signs” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” On the small screen, the next-to-last season of “Friends,” along with “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” take the top spots on the Nielsen television ratings, while TV Guide includes “24,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Sopranos” on its shows of the year. “Everybody Loves Raymond” is the second-highest rated sitcom, starring Patricia Heaton, a Cleveland-area native whose father, Chuck Heaton, was a longtime sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
LeBron James plays on national TV for first time
Four days after the Browns keep their playoff hopes alive with a Hail Mary touchdown to stun Jacksonville, James makes his national television debut on ESPN. A high school senior for Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, James knocks off the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, Oak Hill, with 31 points and 13 rebounds, immediately turning him into an even bigger star. The following summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers keep James in Northeast Ohio, selecting him with No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
‘Lose Yourself’ goes No. 1
As the Browns make a late surge for the playoffs, “Lose Yourself” becomes rapper Eminem’s first single to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before replacing an injured Tim Couch to quarterback Cleveland to a playoff-clinching victory over Atlanta, Kelly Holcomb barks out the lyrics during warm-ups. “It’s a good song,” he says afterwards. “You only get one shot in life and you better make the most of it. It’s got a good message.” “Lose Yourself,” off the “8 Mile” movie soundtrack, goes on to win an Academy Award for best original song.