Gone are those uncomfortable Sundays of 2007, featuring tense, nerve-wracking, pertinent, playoff-contention football games. Now, we are back to the relaxing Sundays of yesteryear, when the outcome was easily foretold before the first snap was even taken, when the playoffs were a punch line before the leaves changed colors, when we were free to watch the non-Browns-related marquee match-ups of "good" teams, or check out games featuring our fantasy players, or verify that our picks were covering the spread for our parlay.
Instead of annoying discussions about upcoming opponents, we are at leisure to discuss the upcoming draft and upcoming seasons, both of which are so far away that they are decidedly less traumatic than next week's foe.
Any sort of fantastical future can be ours, just provided that we hire so-and-so as our Head Coach and get so-and-so in Free Agency and draft so-and-so from So-And-So State.
Yes, nothing is more stress-reducing than being completely invalid and unimportant to the rest of the world. Whew.
Several teams realize this truth. Why go through all the anxiety and pressure of a winning season when you can just suck year after year after year? Just ask Cincinnati. Or Arizona. Or Houston. Or Detroit.
Or the Browns.
Yep, the Glory Days have returned. We no longer have to worry about the present. All we have to do is plan for a future that will never come.
And, in this future, we will have a legendary Head Coach, one without the initials RAC. I forsee this, because, after this game, Romeo Crennel is done in Cleveland. I gone and bought my boarding pass for the bandwagon. Right here I have it - yep, my ticket for a seat on the Fire Romeo ExpressTM. I just bought it online for $24.99. Normally, they're $30, but they have a discount for AAA.
I can no longer pretend like this man has a shot to be successful with the Browns. And, by successful, I mean more than a flash in the pan like last year. I mean bring the Browns to the upper echelons of the NFL and sustain it. Annually make the short list of teams that will vie for a Championship, such as Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, and - spit! - Pittsburgh.
It's not gonna happen with RAC. It's not even worth prolonging the pipe dream. I had hoped against all logic that what we currently had could somehow be salvaged, and the 3 Year PlanTM could be avoided.
Alas, ‘twas not to be so.
So, if the 3 Year PlanTM under some new Head Coach is inevitable, let it start as soon as possible. Just fire Romeo now. Rob Chudzinski or Mel Tucker couldn't be considerably worse. Whichever gets the gig gets their shot to make a name for their inclusion in the running. And RAC's firing gives the rest of the NFL the knowledge that the Browns job is open and available, so, candidates, start letting Randy & Phil know if you're interested.
It also informs the Browns players that no one - NO ONE - is above retribution for their failures. When the new regime comes in, NONE of them will start as the new Coach's "guys". And NONE of them are irreplaceable. NONE.
I wish it were not the case, but ‘tis unavoidable, I'm afraid. Romeo's failures are too many. He was never a great coach, but he's become a deterrent to victory, and that's just an unacceptable trait in a supposed leader.
Under Crennel, the Cleveland Browns are seldom prepared to play. They are undisciplined. They commit too many penalties. They lack imagination. They fail to make adjustments. They don't use the clock effectively. They don't run the 2 minute drill well. They aren't physical enough. They don't tackle well. Their play-calling has become stale and easily predictable.
Romeo is too indecisive, too conservative. He makes poor personnel and match-up decisions. And he looks like a stoned walrus on the sideline - "How did I get here? What's this on my head? Who's got my fish?"
Some of these issues might be attributable to his Coordinators, Rob Chudzinski and Mel Tucker. But, in the end, the Head Coach is responsible for the performance of the team as a whole - for his assistant coaches, his players, his trainers... right down to the ballboys.
And they ain't be gettin' it done.
To make matters worse, it now appears that the team is downtrodden, that they're starting to give up, that they're complaining, that they're not playing hard any more.
If Romeo's lost the team, that's Argument Number One why he's gotta go.
Certainly, RAC has made some huge errors the last couple weeks. That FG down 21 against Dallas was horrific. And the clock management at the end of the 1st Half of the Steeler game was atrocious.
For me, the straw that broke the llama's back came when Romeo didn't go immediately to Quinn after the pick six made it 28-10. When asked if he considered a switch at that point, he responded thusly:
"No, because the game was still within reach," he said. "If we could've scored, we could've made it a 10-point game. Derek had most of the work during the course of the week and we still had a chance."
That is EXACTLY why you make the change - the game was still within reach. But you had no chance of grabbing it unless you made said change. It wasn't Derek's picks necessarily - one of them really wasn't his fault. It was the fact that he had been playing badly ALL GAME. Hell, ALL SEASON. When DA gets into ruts that bad in a game, he's not getting out of it. His confidence was shot.
The team was tottering at the edge of a cliff, and the only thing that would give them some hope was to make a decision that showed them that you were gutsy enough and intelligent enough to make a move to try and win, no matter what it meant in the long run.
It didn't even have to mean that you were making a permanent change at the position, just that this wasn't Anderson's day, and you wanted to try something different in order to give the team a chance to get back in it. So what if it leads to QB controversy? It's not like you're going to avoid that regardless. DA was killing them at that point, and the team had to be losing confidence in him. Going status quo at that point was as useless as wiping your ass with a Q-Tip.
But that's what you do, isn't it, Romeo? You stick with players and game plans and Q-Tips way past when you should. You have the creative imagination of a paraplegic llama. You're so old school that electricity seems like "New Age Hippy Stuff" to you.
Attention Mr. Lerner: Romeo's done. Off with his head.
Make this season matter at least a little bit by having it start to move in a new direction. The direction we're currently headed in goes straight to Hell.
It is only for you, dear readers, that I bothered at all.
With great field position, the Browns got a 1st with a nice check down to Josh Cribbs. However, the drive was killed on 3rd and 8 when DA threw a bad pass in the general vicinity of Braylon, and they got to punt.
Baltimore was efficient again, moving with decent runs and the short passing game. They converted a 4th and Short, but Joe Flacco got greedy and threw into triple coverage. Just ask DA what happens when you do that. Yep, D'Qwell Jackson got the pick.
The Browns moved the ball well from about midfield with screens to Lawrence Vickers and some good running by Jamal Lewis. But it looked like they might get stymied at the Baltimore 19 as the Quarter ended with 3rd and 9.
End of 1st: Browns 0, Ravens 0.
Somehow, someway, Chud remembered that he had a screen pass to Jerome Harrison in his playbook, and he called it against the Raven blitz. When he caught the ball with all that green grass ahead of him, you knew he was going to score. And so he did. The Browns had the first lead of the season. Let the angels rejoice! Browns 7, Ravens 0.
As he trotted off the field, DA held up the #1 finger in celebration. I remember thinking What the hell are you gloating for? That was only your second TD of the year, and you didn't do shit to make it happen.
It looked like the Browns had the Ravens stopped, but Brandon McDonald was toast on the go pattern, so he held, and his INT was wiped out. Blitzers came at Flacco all day, but they couldn't get there, and he made the right decisions. One decision that he did make incorrectly was heaving a deep ball on an ugly, slow developing flea flicker. No one, not even the Browns, was fooled, and Mike Adams got the pick in the End Zone.
With all that momentum, the Browns went bad pass, Illegal Procedure, run that fooled no one, False Start, incompletion. It was less than inspiring. Throw in a terrible 31 yard punt, and the Ravens had great field position at the CLE 43.
The Browns should've had them stopped on 3rd and 10, but Flacco showed what an accurate QB should do under pressure in a Cam Cameron/Rob Chudzinski offense by throwing a beautiful pass. A couple effective runs later, they were doing TD dances. Browns 7, Ravens 7.
DA finally hit Braylon on a slant (although he had to catch it 3 times), and the Browns converted several 1st Downs, including a bullshit tipped pass on 3rd and 10 that Winslow had the presence of mind to catch. But it stalled around the 20 after some passing miscues/miscommunications, and Phil Dawson came on. Browns 10, Ravens 7.
The Ravens tried to mount a quick drive, but due to some penalties and some nice pressure by Alex Hall, they punted.
After a scary injury to Baltimore's Dawan Landry (who turned out to be OK) and an emotion-driven Personal Foul on Frank Walker, Cleveland looked like it had a shot to get into FG range with 22 seconds left at the 45. But when DA wasn't throwing the ball short to guys that were covered, he was getting his ball batted down and almost picked. The Browns finally just called it a Half.
Halftime: Browns 10, Ravens 7.
The Browns got the ball first, and that was too bad. A Hold on the Kickoff led to bad field position, and, on 3rd and 3, Derek Anderson tried to fulfill his hit contract and get Winslow killed by throwing him a short pass over the middle, leaving him wide open for a brutal hit by Ray Lewis. The ball popped up in the air, Chris McAllister caught it, and BAL had the ball at the CLE 12.
A couple runs later, the Ravens got themselves a TD. Ravens 14, Browns 10.
A bad return pinned the Browns back in bad field position again, and Derek Anderson exploited it by throwing a horrendous pick on 3rd Down. Ed Reed easily read DA/Braylon Edwards/Rob Chudzinski's play call for an INT and an easy return for a score. Ravens 21, Browns 10.
Watching DA melt down, I was eerily and uncomfortably reminded of another game in which he had a plethora of picks in a short time span that effectively killed the Cleveland cause. Anyone remember the 2nd Cincy game last year? Anyone?
The Browns got a bonus 3rd possession, and ran Jamal for 9 on 1st, and 4 on 2nd, but... oh, whoops, Braylon got called for a push in the back. Then there was a DELAY OF GAME coming off that penalty, so Cleveland was nice and backed up. DA overthrew an open Winslow, then got sacked. The punt return went for 21 yards, and Mike Adams rang himself up an Unnecessary Roughness penalty (nominate the team that may or may not be losing their composure), and the Ravens started the drive at the CLE 35.
With the Browns reeling, it was easy from there. Le'Ron McClain took it in from 1. Ravens 28, Browns 10.
Anger and irrationality and booze merging their Wonder Triplet powers, I proclaimed that if Derek Anderson came back in the game, I was turning it off.
I watched as DA threw the ball over Winslow's head. I watched as he got sacked and fumbled. I watched as his pass was batted back into face by Trevor Pryce (the ultimate insult). I watched as he was flushed from the pocket and floated the pass incomplete, and Seth McKinney was called for a Tripping penalty that was mercifully declined.
That's when I stopped watching.
Baltimore got the ball back, but they were unable to do much. Flacco was pressured and threw the ball right to Corey Williams, who needed to make that pick and take it to the house, but... he didn't. Alex Hall put some serious pressure on Flacco on the next play, killing the screen, and the Ravens punted.
Accountants found guilty of tax evasion get treated better in prison than the Browns were in the 3rd Quarter.
End of 3rd: Ravens 28, Browns 10.
On 3rd and 4, DA had Josh Cribbs wide open deep down the right sideline... and missed him. Cribbs almost made a great catch, but you have to be 10 foot tall with the agility of a spider monkey to catch a Derek Anderson pass these days.
The Defense looked pissed as they came out and attacked the Ravens, including Alex Hall's first NFL sack, a nice play where he got chop blocked, then leaped back up and wrapped a scrambling Flacco up from behind.
It was (channel your Hannibal Lecter) inconsequential as DA got another pass batted away, then got sacked again. There are times in the NFL when you see a QB just too shell-shocked to continue. This was one of those times.
Then came the drive that was beyond depressing, even when watching it for the first time 2 days later. The Ravens went from their 45 to the CLE 5 by mainly running, eating up over 9 minutes of clock and completely breaking the Browns spirit. It was depressing to watch a team so beaten down by what was basically a Prevent Offense.
But the Browns stopped them on 4th Down at the 5, which was of extraordinary joy to me. You see, my girlfriend picked the under on the BAL/CLE game, and if she won it, she won her office pool and a couple hundos. The over/under was set at 38 ½. The game was stuck on 38. By going for it and failing, John Harbaugh did our household a huge favor.
Derek Anderson, however, was sleeping with the enemy on this day. He came out and threw an immediate and horrible pick. I was praying for a sniper.
Once again, the Ravens took mercy on the Browns and my girlfriend's pool and knelt on the ball. It's humiliating when the other team takes pity on you, but a couple hundred bucks - and beer - helps ease the pain.
Final: Ravens 28, Browns 10. Offensive MVP: Jerome Harrison. He gets a TD on an exciting catch and run, then spent the rest of the game on the bench. What the hell did he do to anger Chud so?
Defensive MVP(s): Alex Hall. Mainly because no one else stood out. 6 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack for the Rook.
~~~Now for the good news!
The Browns were 1-2 at the same point last year, and went 9-4 in their final 13. So they're only a game off of last year's pace. Refreshing, eh?
The Browns first 3 opponents this year are a combined 7-1. They comprise the number 1, 2, and 9 Defenses in the league. So it hasn't been a cakewalk.
The Browns have suffered more than their fair share of injuries, losing their starting LOLB and RDE (Antwan Peek & Robaire Smith) for the season. Other starters have seen considerable bench time due to boo-boos: Donte Stallworth (3 games), Rex Hadnot (1), Eric Steinbach (1), Josh Cribbs (1), Sean Jones (2), and Brodney Pool (1). You could also throw in Ryan Tucker (3) because he should probably be starting over Shaffer or Hadnot.
And, finally, the Browns are not as bad as St. Louis, Detroit, or Kansas City. I think.
~~~Now for the bad news!
Excuses and $5 will get you a gallon of gas. The Browns are still 0-3.
Every team faces adversity. Good teams weather the storm. This team be sinkin'.
~~~Willie McGinest was hurt, so Alex Hall started in his place. The strange thing wasn't the fact that Hall played - it was that for a lot of the game he took over Kam Wimbley's spot on the Right side, moving Wimbley over to the Left to replace Willie.
The premium pass rusher is almost always placed on the Right side, so the telling thing about this move was that the coaching staff felt that a rookie 7th Rounder from a Division II school was an more effective pass rusher than the overall #13 pick from 2006.
And he proved it too. 2008 Sacks: Alex Hall - 1. Kam Wimbley - 0.
~~~The problem with Wimbley is this - to be an effective edge rusher in the NFL, to beat Pro caliber Tackles, you need to either be strong enough to bull them over, or use a combination of speed and moves to get around them.
Wimbley is not big enough to bull over a Tackle. And he doesn't have the moves to get around them. All he has is speed, which, in the NFL, isn't enough.
At the risk of sounding stupid (which is a risk I take any time I open my mouth), I wonder what would happen if the coaching staff would experiment by moving Wimbley inside here and there.
It's not like the Browns have any Inside Linebackers that we simply cannot take off the field from time to time. Wimbley certainly has the speed (and size) to cover Running Backs and Tight Ends coming out of the backfield. He can tackle just fine. He's definitely smart enough to handle the responsibility of the position. And his brand of straight-line speed rush would be more effective up the gut. Not only would he get there faster than an Andra Davis or D'Qwell Jackson, but his long frame would be more apt to knocking down a pass or two.
So, every once in a while, you line up with Alex Hall at ROLB, Shante Orr at LOLB, and D'Qwell and Wimbley in the middle, rush from the outside and Kam up the center, and just see how that goes.
Mr. Tucker - Mel (if I might call you that) - please reply to me and let me know why this couldn't possibly work, because I'm sure there's some ambiguous reason that my idea is horse kaka. It's just that I hate seeing Kam being a total waste out there, which, right now, he is.
~~~More crap from Romeo: "Last year, (Anderson) got every rep in practice. This year, he hasn't been able to do that. He doesn't have the receivers he had. The offensive line doesn't have as many people as we had last year. That's the challenge of coaching in this league."
Like the Earth does with other manure, let's break this statement down:
"Last year, (Anderson) got every rep in practice."
When did DA get every rep in practice last year? After Week 1? He was in a QB competition in Preseason last year, and lost it. So he was hardly getting "every rep" until he became the starter, which wasn't until the Regular Season. DA got starter reps while he was healthy this Preseason, then missed a couple weeks with a concussion. Last year, he was splitting time 3 ways with Charlie Frye and Quinn.
He became the starter in Week 2 last year. He was starter in Week 1 this year.
So are you trying to tell me that, as the starter this year, he's somehow getting less reps than he did as starter last year? That's about as believable as the Tooth Fairy getting knocked up by Santa Claus.
"He doesn't have the receivers he had."
He doesn't? Well, he had Braylon Edwards last year. Although BE has sucked copious arse so far in 2008, he's still there. Winslow's still there. The only receivers that DA is missing from last season are Joe Jurevicius and Tim Carter. Sure, losing Joe hurts, but it shouldn't hurt as much as it is.
It must be the painful loss of Tim Carter that Romeo is referring to.
"The offensive line doesn't have as many people as we had last year."
This is the biggest clump in the pile of kitty litter. The offensive line doesn't have as many people as they had last year? Let's see, when Anderson started Week 2 of the 2007 season (you know, the game against Cincy where he threw 5 TD's), his starters were Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Seth McKinney, and Kevin Shaffer. Ryan Tucker was not available due to suspension.
At the start of this season, his starters were Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Seth McKinney, and Kevin Shaffer. Ryan Tucker and Rex Hadnot were not available due to injury. Doesn't that O Line sound vaguely familiar to last year's? Please explain to me how the same players aren't "as many people as we had last year."
Truly, none of the players are performing as well as they did in ‘07. But Romeo makes it sound like there was some massive personnel turnover. His weak excuses are irritating. I'd at least appreciate him as a good, honest, incompetent human being if he were just to tell the truth. But when he starts to spin like a hippo stuck on a merry-go-round, I get nasty shivers from the heinous memory of Butch Davis.
To pronounce Romeo's statement phonetically: Rih-dik-yoo-luss Rah-shun-ull-ih-zay-shun.
~~~Randy, while you're dragging Romeo out to the curb, you're going to have start considering tossing Phil Savage as well. If I had to choose only one to go, it would be Romeo over Phil. But the Savage personnel decisions have had enough time to take root, and the plants are frickin' ugly.
Let's look at the Draft Picks from the first 3 Rounds:
2005 - Braylon Edwards, Brodney Pool, & Charlie Frye. I still have hope for Braylon, but he's a headcase in severe need of a parental figure to give him a serious psychological whoopin'. Brodney Pool flashes from time to time, but we all know what become of Frye.
2006 - Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, & Travis Wilson. I have very little hope for Wimbley. Passing on Haloti Ngata, a franchise 3-4 Defensive End (a harder position to fill), for Wimbley, a one-trick "pass rusher", seems like an incredible waste at this point. D'Qwell would be a nice back-up LB on a good team, and add in Wilson, who managed to never take a meaningful Regular Season snap as a Brown.
2007 - Joe Thomas, Brady Quinn, & Eric Wright. Book's still out on these two. Thought Joe was a future Hall of Famer last year. He looks much more mortal this season, but that could be due to many things. Quinn? We haven't seen dick of this guy because we're stuck with Derek Anderson. Wright looks utterly ordinary.
2008 - Corey Williams & Shaun Rogers (via trades). Rogers looks pretty decent, but Williams - at this point - looks lost in the 3-4. Which makes you wonder why a GM would just assume that a 4-3 DT would make the transition to 3-4 DE.
But EASILY the most damnedable mistake made by Mr. Savage so far is not allowing Derek Anderson to sign with someone else as a Restricted Free Agent. Letting DA go would have netted the Browns a 1st and 3rd Round pick, which is WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY more than he should ever be worth. Getting those 2 picks for Anderson is freakin' STEALING.
At that moment of time, DA was at his lifetime peak value. He was never previously worth anything, and he's on a rocket ship to return to that status. But, at that point in time, some sucker was willing to pay a 1st and 3rd Round pick for a mediocre-at-best QB, and Phil Savage instead UPPED HIS OFFER.
Not only was this extremely DUMB, but it was COWARDLY.
Maybe the team reflects its GM. That would explain why the Browns are playing like a bunch of stupid pussies.
And, sure, hindsight is 20/20. But isn't it Phil's job to have foresight? Isn't it his job not to be on the short end of retrospect? Hell, any schmoe can pork up a draft. Just ask Butch Davis, Carmen Policy, and Dwight Clark.
Savage's only hope is to realize that he's going to go down with Romeo, and cuts bait while he still can.
Then secures a viable NFL Head Coach to take RAC's place.
~~~And that should also tell you how I feel about Derek Anderson at this point. I've seen enough of his balls spraying in erratic directions. I'm done with dreading each time he drops back to pass.
I advocated his trade and/or letting him walk in Restricted Free Agency, but Phil thought otherwise, so, resigned to being stuck with DA as starter for another year, I had no choice but to embrace him and hope that I was wrong about him.
I do not have and have never had any rooting interest in who became the '08 QB for the Browns, other than demanding better production out of the position than was seen last year. Thus, I prayed that - as starting Browns' QB - DA would be successful.
It's not worth hoping and praying any more. If we're throwing in the towel on those that just don't have what it takes to help bring the Cleveland Browns to the NFL Ball, then Derek Anderson's gotta be in that mix too.
He's not the guy.
He's never gonna be the guy.
Why keep screwing around with him when we should be finding out if Brady Quinn might be the guy? Especially since this season is already toast.
~~~Teams are obviously no longer afraid of the Derek Anderson to Braylon Edwards deep ball. Therefore, they are not afraid of the deep ball at all. Thus, they stack the line, bring a heavy rush, and dare the QB to make the right decision. That's why DA is getting so much more pressure on him this year.
The cure for that is the screen and the check down. When the Browns ran those against Baltimore, they often worked very well. But they didn't go to it enough, or DA wasn't willing to dictate his drives that way.
Until this Offense is at full strength, Anderson is going to have to learn to take what the Defense gives him. He's proving to be an F- student to this point.
~~~No matter our clamoring, here is what most likely will happen:
Derek Anderson will start against Cincy, and the coaching staff, cognizant of their future employment, will have a much quicker hook this time. Should he falter, that's pretty much it in Cleveland for DA, barring injury. That's a lot of pressure on Derek. And we all know how he handles pressure.
Romeo Crennel will keep his job through the end of the season. Given that he was recently given an extension, he will be afforded more than a fair shot to acquit himself. My fear is that he does just enough to retain his 2009 employment, and we're making the same bitches and gripes next year. But, if he can turn this around significantly, then he does deserve due respect. It had better be in a damn hurry, however.
~~~Hey! Chudzinski! Hey! HEY!!!
Uh, yeah. Name's Hiko... concerned observer. Uhhhhh, what happened to that "Flash" package, eh? Or, for that matter, any kind of play calling which can't easily be predicted by any 8 year old in traction?
And, against Baltimore, you got the ball to Jerome Harrison, you got a TD. So you respond by making sure he gets no more touches for the rest of the game? Do you owe money to the Mafia?
~~~Ed Hochuli, due to his dastardly error in last week's SD-DEN game, was appropriately punished by having to work the CLE-BAL game. "No!" he whined to Mike Pereira, "not the Browns! I'll get carpal tunnel just throwing all the flags!"
"Sorry, Ed," Mike replied. "The public has demanded that you suffer for your sins. Just like everyone else that has to watch that game."
"Christ," muttered Ed, "now I'm the Ian Eagle of officiating."
~~~The Cincinnati Bengals.
Coming into last week, I would've said that Cincy was one of the 1 or 2 worst teams in the league, and, at the very least, the Browns could be counted upon to beat them.
I'm not saying that anymore.
Cincy went into New York and gave the Giants everything they could handle. They played with toughness, with pride, with belief. Everything the Browns lack.
Expect another loss next week.
In this game, the Cleveland Browns' players should at least assume that they are playing for their coach's job. They might love Romeo. They might fight their hearts out for him. But I would be shocked if, due to incompetence, talent deficiencies, unpreparedness, and lack of imagination, they don't lose the game anyway.
And, just like the 2004 loss in Cincy ended the Butch Davis "era", it might come to pass that a 2008 loss in Northern Kentucky ends the Romeo Crennel "error".
Cincinnati - where bad coaching goes to die.