Are we glad to see you, gentlemen! Quite a few of us were really concerned that this season wouldn't end up with the proper amount of cluster freak to where we'd ever see you so soon. We thought that Randy Lerner may be tempted to drag this exercise in futility out one more season for the sake of misguided "continuity". And to think that after 10 - 6 just last season we'd be welcoming you within an 18 month period? Wow. Jerry Glanville was so right when he told the referees what "N.F.L." stood for on NFL Films so many years ago. Now that you're here, can we talk?
We Browns' fans have been getting dissed from all sides lately. The Inbred treat us with an odd mixture of pity and disdain that we can only understand through the prism of also being mostly Buckeye fans that hold Meatchicken fans in similar nonchalant contempt. The network talking heads nod in a manner that is seemingly knowing when Trent Dilfer moans about how we really run the decision making of the franchise, inexplicably only embittered at us when he was also run out on a rail from Tampa, Baltimore after winning a title, and San Francisco, even as Mo Carthon was his real nemesis, not us. The GM and titular leader of the organization literally writes "f&^% you" to a critical fan in an email. Of course there are always the internet warrior whack jobs, telling us who is and is not a real fan, conveniently anointing themselves as "real". As if after years of this futility there are any bandwagon riders left. And now the players masquerading as Browns are allegedly jawing at fans after the game. So taking stock, everyone except the owner says they hate us, and everything is our fault.
Let's think about starting fresh, mmmm kay? Then maybe this thing can start off harmoniously and we don't have to sink back into this petulant blame-the-victim mentality of your predecessor. Let's all take a deep breath and have a chat as we chart what is hopefully a new course to lead us out of the Sinai. Hell, it only took the Hebrews 40 years of wandering in the desert before they reached the Promised Land, and they couldn't have complained more than us. After all, they too were an expansion franchise. We're going on 41 seasons with only the last ten as an expansion experience.
The first thing I want to talk to y'all about is the concept of expectations. No one is expecting a Super Bowl in year one. I don't think we even expect the playoffs, as most of us just stutter like Jim Mora Sr. when that term arises. But here is what we DO expect. Don't sell us the snake oil that there is no talent on the roster and you need a five-year plan like as if y'all was Stalin. Don't whine at us saying we are the ones who have a losing, panic driven mentality only to then throw up your own dang hands at who is on the roster and "run for the hills", to coin a phrase. There is always talent on NFL rosters. There is no perfect NFL roster in the post-1993 Collective Bargaining Agreement era. Don't needlessly create holes just to have to fill them. You need to use who is there, especially the young players who show potential, and then augment the talent by filling the holes. If you are so weak willed and dim witted that you believe the only way to change culture is to have complete roster turnover, you should not have taken the job. Look at Atlanta and Miami this year. Change culture by instilling an atmosphere of accountability and responsibility instead of enablement. Don't even try to sell us on a perceived need to hit a re-boot button.
Let me give some examples. When your pasty petulant predecessor came to town full of piss and hubris in contrast to his humble former boss, he looked at the roster and shook his head. Surely these players were chumps and they all needed to be replaced. It is four years later and this is what I saw in 2008. I saw Jeff Garcia leading Tampa Bay to division contention at age 73 as a far better quarterback than Derrick Anderson will ever aspire to be, let alone, guffaw, Charlie Frye. I saw Cris Crocker in position hitting hard, playing about as well as either of our starting safeties, certainly better than our nickel backs. I see Jeff Faine anchoring what is arguably the best offense in the NFL, as is Shaun O'Hara, who the guy before the guy before you decided couldn't play. I watch young cornerbacks who make me pine for the days of Najee Mustafa, while somehow; some way Anthony Henry is good enough to start for Dallas for the last half-decade. And even as less-than-mediocre as Kevin Bentley is as a linebacker, is he really any worse at his brand of 4 - 3 line-backing than any of the five 3 - 4 jabronies the prior GM managed to draft or sign? It's been four seasons and still I watch Andra Davis even as I listen to your predecessor prattle on and on about how much better the roster of his 4 or 5 win runaway train is compared to the other guy's 5 win runaway train. Luke McCown. Ken "Dorffman" Dorsey. Chaun Thompson. Leon Williams. Five wins. Five wins. Old boss. New boss. Now who is an idiot, Mr. Dilfer?
Lee Bodden for Shaun Rogers. Eric Steinbach. Well done. End of freaking list. Joe Thomas over Adrian Peterson? I don't think so. Mister New GM, you're gonna have to do just a little better after four long years, an eternity in NFL time. If you do, we'll build you a statue on West Third. We'll write songs about you. All you have to be is Ernie Acorsi and we'll anoint you the next John McVay. Be as effective as the previous guy and the nation will continue to hate us; and in the words of John Bender, "Good".
Welcome New Head Coach Guy, we are all really excited you are here. If it's not too much to ask, would you consider holding the tackling drills and intensive remedial pass catching sessions as developmental exercises in July instead of punitive attempts at behavioral correction in, um, late November? Would it be all right if you accepted it as your responsibility to coach up young, rising players to help make them effective and gasp, maybe even good, instead of taking the easy way out and handing jobs to veteran players whose best years have clearly passed them by seasons ago? Would it be too much to ask to get coordinators who are experienced, particularly if this is your first head coaching gig? Could you check your ego at the door and maybe recognize where you need some help? While we're at it, um, could you watch some game film of that team we love to hate but really have to admit we envy from The Confluence in West Virginia? See how their defense attacks savagely and flies to the ball, while the game films of the imposters pretending to be the Browns jog and get pushed around? See how they deal the punishment and intimidate? See how they hit so hard they get unnecessary roughness penalties on clean hits. See how they disrupt and make big plays and refuse to back down? See how they man up?
That would, um, be good.
The sad fact is that you're inheriting quite a few underachievers and even more immaturity. Coach, any idiot poseur could just run them off the team, piss away their talent, and start over. A for real ass Lombardi coach will motivate them and help them reach potential. Who you going to be, Coach? Some need accountability that only taking away playing time can message. Some just need opportunity, as they are working hard and wasting away in need of coaches with imagination that will create a level playing field for both young players and veterans alike. Others need to be left alone. They are the good guys who work hard and are seeing no return on the blood and sweat they invest. You need to keep these good guys motivated - and here. A few just have to recognize that the day of their football mortality has arrived via either age or talent level and will need to go. Best wishes for a more harmonious working relationship than the guy you replaced had with his talent evaluator. But it should be noted that these guys in the last group are the definite minority. You have some talent that is crying out for competent and inspired unity, leadership and motivation. Give it to them.
Lastly, I'm here to tell you that we are not really bad people, or bad fans. We really do love our Cleveland Browns. It's just that we've been pretty darn sorry for most of the last 19 years. Sure, we made the playoffs twice, won once, had our team stolen from us, been the pawn of the NFL to build about a dozen new taxpayer funded stadia, had unreasonable start up rules and restrictions placed on us to set us up to fail, but somehow, we still buy the tickets even as we just stopped caring and showing up at the end of last season. Take the time to bother to get to know us, especially if you grew up playing baseball in a culture that was devoid of professional football, or in a basketball state. Understand our rivalries. Understand what post industrialization means to a rust belt region's mentality before you pop off at our collective unconsciousness and psyche. Maybe go out to dinner and talk to the fans instead of ordering Donatos TM delivered to Stalag Staph in Berea. Go see Glenville play St. Ignatius in a high school game to see what our 16 year olds are capable of who play for nothing but pride and understand what we expect from professionals making millions of dollars. Get to know the history of the guy for whom the address for Stalag Staph was named and visit his home town on a Friday night instead of just telling your driver where to drop you off to work that 18 hour day. Go meet Larry Kehres and ask him how he got from where he started to where his program is dynastically. Go walk through the high school entry way at Washington High School in Massillon and look at the century-old melonesque footballs and the larger than life oil paintings. Go visit that funny shaped building on Fulton Road in Canton and pay close attention to anything that says "Ohio" or "Browns".
Better yet, it'd be great if you knew this intuitively from having played or coached here or at a place very much like here in your past.
Then after you win some meaningful games and experience some success and see what we are really all about you can open your cake hole. The guy you replaced was a pretty good guy in this regard, but he couldn't have been less successful in what he was hired to do. But we the fans don't want to look backward, unless it involves black and white footage. We want to look forward. The vast majority of us will give you a fair shot until you show us a demonstrated lack of progress paired with hubris. Then, just know that after a few years, we're with you win or tie. This is the NFL, gentlemen; professional football. You want something else? There are plenty of small high school and non-scholarship college jobs out there for $ 40K a season, plus you get a teaching load.
Good luck. See you in July.
PS - If you need any help in April, I promise you I can find just about any four idiots like me on The Cleveland Fan forums and they could pick the day one draft choices better than what we've seen here since about .... Ever. There is not a scintilla of hyperbole in this assertion, or at the very least there contains much less hype than boasting how one "scooped" Ozzie Newsome or calling some stiff "the best pure pass rusher in the draft" or "a mad dog in..." you know the rest. Never mind. Day two is another matter. Ryan Pontbriand has been SWEET ! I doubt we could take you.