In a season where new lows
were reached with nearly every single defeat, it’s really hard to
say that a final loss by the Browns in a meaningless game on the last
day of the season was any more humiliating than any number of indignities
suffered along the way. Still, the sight of an embattled Houston
quarterback David Carr taking a knee on the final two plays of the game
inside Cleveland’s 5-yard line to seal a victory for a franchise in
nearly as much trouble has to rank as a low point that will be hard
The popular thought was that
yesterday’s loss symbolized the entire season. Dropped passes,
poor blocking, turnovers, missed tackles, uninspired play and the like.
Even head coach Romeo Crennel embraced that thought, saying “it was
a microcosm of the season.” But that’s too general of a summary.
If you really want to capture the futility that was the Cleveland Browns
in 2006 (and, thanks to great scheduling, every single game was confined
to 2006) look no further than the last Browns series of the game.
To set the stage, remember
that the Browns were down 14-3 when they faced a fourth and 5 at the
Houston 19 with a little over 7 minutes left. Showing the kind
of decision making he’s made famous throughout the year, Crennel wisely
decides to kick a field goal, apparently thinking that a Browns team
that couldn’t stop anyone all year would suddenly find its sea legs,
hold the Texans to a 3-out, score a touchdown and get the two-point
conversion to send the game into overtime. (Why, exactly, anyone would
have wanted to extend the season that much further begs a different
set of questions.)
After the Phil Dawson field
goal, Houston takes over with 7 minutes left and proceeds to hold on
to the ball for just over 5 minutes before finally relinquishing it
with 1:50 left following a punt to the Cleveland 6 yard line.
What followed nearly perfectly
captured the Browns season. From literally the first day of practice
when LeCharles Bentley went down with a season-ending injury, the Browns
were playing on a very extended field with little chance of being successful.
So it was no surprise that the game came down to whether an injured
(but courageous) Charlie Frye could take the team 94 yards.
To say the Browns failed doesn’t
quite do that series justice. A first down pass to tight end Kellen
Winslow was memorable only for the fact that it allowed Winslow to tie
the team record for receptions in a season. But on second down,
the Browns gave the modest 8-yard gain back when Frye was flagged for
intentional grounding after the offensive line was unable to contain
Houston’s ferocious 3-man rush. A pass to team malcontent Braylon
Edwards was incomplete as was Frye’s final throw, a wobbly, under
thrown ball at Edwards feet on fourth down. That set up Carr’s
victory pose at the Cleveland two and a merciful end to one of the worst
seasons in Browns history. The only thing that would have made
that final series even more perfect would have been a Frye interception.
I guess you can’t have everything.
Still, there were some significant
items of notes in the game. As mentioned, Winslow tied the Browns
season reception record by catching 11 passes. True, every one
was of the underneath variety because of Frye’s injury-weakened arm,
but he still had to make the catches. In fact, while Winslow has
been fairly criticized much of the season for his overactive mouth and
his outsized ego, credit goes where credit’s due. Winslow answered
the bell for all 16 games on a severely sore knee. The injury
may have been self-inflicted, but he worked hard to get back to the
field and turned in a record-setting performance. His blocking
may not be all that at this point, but you have to think that will come.
And speaking of Frye, it’s
amazing he is still standing at the end of this season. He clearly
scored in the leadership department by playing yesterday, even if his
arm gave the Browns virtually no chance of completing anything more
than a 10-yard pass. In fact, his line on the day was one of the
strangest you’re likely to ever see. He completed a remarkable
25 passes (out of 34 attempts) but for only 187 yards. We’re
going to have to go back to the record books to figure out when a quarterback
completed that many passes for so few yards.
But perhaps the most positive
developments came after the game. The Browns for once didn’t
squander draft status by winning their last game of the season.
In fact, the Browns secured the third slot in the draft over Tampa Bay
which was as good as could be expected given the fact that the Raiders
and the Lions still play in the league. Contrast this, in fact,
with the luck of the wretched Lions. By beating Dallas they lose
the Brady Quinn stakes to Oakland and are relegated to drafting still
You also had to like the developments
in Cincinnati. The Bengals, chock full of more miscreants than
a state prison, lost again. In doing so, they find themselves,
like the Steelers and the Browns, on the outside looking in while others
play for the big money. In fact, having both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati
miss the playoffs this year at least puts a partial bounce back in the
step. And what of the Denver Browns Broncos?
They, too, missed the playoffs. Maybe having all those ex-Browns
on the roster wasn’t such a good thing after all. Like the smell
in Jerry Seinfeld’s car, sometimes it’s just best to abandon all
hope of rehabilitation and start anew.
All in all, it really wasn’t
such a bad day.