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Coming off a brutal 2008 season, expectations for the 2009 Browns are not very high. As training camp starts to appproach, a lot of the national websites and blogs are starting to come out with some prognostications on the '09 season. So before celebrating our great country's independence by blowing up a small corner of it, here are some odds and ends that show some love for our revamped Cleveland Browns heading into 2009. Wait, did I say love? Sorry, I meant contemptuous disgust.
Before celebrating our great country's independence by blowing up a small corner of it...or setting your neighbor's lawn on fire, here are some odds and ends that show some love for our revamped Cleveland Browns heading into 2009. Wait, did I say love? Sorry, I meant contemptuous disgust. I often confuse the two, but then again that is my right as an American.
Much like the subtle quirks of our delicate democratic society, which include taxes on everything that makes one happy and a system of law in Florida that allows legally intoxicated drivers to kill clumsy pedestrians, the following are shining examples of our greatest freedom as Americans...the right to be blissfully uninformed, yet forcefully speculative.
5 Worst NFL Franchises
The folks at the always fun
offer a quick glimpse into the musky basement of the NFL, as they rank our beloved football organization as the second worst operation in the league. Take that, Detroit. Although I have been highly critical of the meek and disinterested ownership displayed by Randolph Lerner, I have to question if our team is really this bad.
2. Cleveland Browns:
* Last playoff appearance - 2002
* Last division title - 1989 (Kosar and Metcalf and Slaughter, oh my!)
* Coaches this decade: Four
* Winning seasons this decade: Two
* With the tandem of Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb at QB in 2003, they draft Kellen Winslow over Roethlisberger in the 2004 draft.
* Speaking of Garcia ... they gave him a $25 million deal for four years; he was gone after 10 games.
* Foolishly made Andre Rison the highest paid WR in the league in 1995 ($17 million deal over five years); he was released after one disaster of a season.
* Spent No. 1 overall pick in 2000 draft on Penn State's Courtney Brown; to put it mildly, he underwhelmed.
But then again, this is some damning evidence. However, in having a longer perspective of the team's decade long rebuilding project, several items are strikingly clear:
1. Dwight Clark makes Matt Millen look like an actual evaluator of football talent and a somewhat competent general manager.
2. I truly despise the man...and no, I can't let it go.
3. Although he ultimately helped to further erode the team's development, how exactly did Butch Davis get this team to the playoffs in 2002?
4. Can we just go ahead and count the 2007 season as a playoff appearance? The only thing standing between the Browns and a playoff spot was a weak-kneed Jim Sorgi...oh, and DA's game in Cincinnati.
5. The last division title occurred almost 20 years ago. Wow.
6. I love you
, but it probably doesn't matter that Andre Rison was released after the 2005 season. There weren't many Browns around after the events of that year.
7. Do the Raiders and Bengals actually run better organizations than the Browns? I would at least like to cling to the hope that Randy Lerner is a better owner than Al Davis and Mike Brown.
And the piling up continues...
Sporting News Browns Preview
Eric Mangini is the latest Bill Belichick protégé to take over in Cleveland, following Romeo Crennel, whose biggest sin in four seasons was never - never! - beating the Steelers, something of an unpardonable sin for Browns fans.
Not beating the Steelers was Romeo Crennel's "biggest sin?" I was more offended by Crennel's inability to beat the rest of the teams in the league. Also, his constant use of vanilla, don't take a chance, deep zone coverage schemes, ineffective and boring offense and allowing his players to walk all over him also rank pretty high in Reboot's book of sins.
It is up to Mangini to recapture what was working two years ago and make it happen again. And it will involve more than deciding who should be his quarterback: Quinn or Anderson?
It would be a shock if the 2009 Browns even remotely resembled the 2007 version of the team, both based on total number of wins, as well as coaching philosophy and style of play. Whatever magic existed in 2007 is pretty much gone, along with about half of that season's roster of players. Although Browns fans love to live in the past (what other options do we have?), let's hope Mangini is capable of building a fundamentally strong team for the future.
Offense: With a new coaching staff that includes coordinator Brian Daboll, it remains a mystery just how the Browns might want to employ their offense. After stockpiling receivers in the offseason, maybe the Browns will spread the field and use some of the same concepts employed by the Patriots.
At the least, Mangini says he wants to be game-plan specific, meaning the Browns will try to run against teams they think they can run against and throw against teams they think they can throw against. Either way, the Browns must improve an offense that didn't score a touchdown the final six weeks of last season.
The popular sentiment among Browns fans is that the team is going to employ a physical, grind it out style of offense. However, considering Mangini is another limb of the Belichick coaching tree, I have to agree that the team will be mixing a lot of different styles and looks throughout the season. This is great news for a team that is not stocked with offensive talent...not so great when you consider that the entire offensive unit is in desperate need of finding an identity.
The Browns were too passive in the 3-4 under Crennel, rarely blitzing and always trying to keep the ball from getting behind them. Mangini and Ryan must be more aggressive.
Spoken like a true football prophet. Since the team's return in 1999, the Browns' defense has not scared anyone, with the exception of fans who cringe every time a running back gashes the unit for a six yard gain on first down. Any improvement will cause fans to hail Rob Ryan as a genius. Although this will not be a popular stance for most Browns fans, I feel that the defense could improve to late 1984 levels, which saw the unit begin to blossom under Marty Schottenheimer.
I hope Marla Ridenour doesn't misinterpret the 1984 reference with Mangini's insistence on keeping beat writers in the dark regarding team information. I was merely referring to the Browns' defense of that year, which signalled the dawning of some tough units displayed throughout the late 80's.
Calm down, Marla
. We'll get through this together.
The Browns have a much easier schedule than last season and have a chance to fly under the radar again, especially after collapsing under the weight of all that attention they received in '08. But Mangini has to settle on a quarterback, and he has to settle on one quickly.
I don't think quarterback is the pressing issue with the Browns. It would appear that Brady Quinn is already the man for the job. As for a lingering quarterback controversy, I think this idea only exists to create some buzz for Derek Anderson in terms of a possible trade. The biggest issue in Cleveland is not behind the center, but along both lines and amongst the offensive playmakers.
And finally, speaking of playmakers...
I'm not a big stat fan, as I despise the influence of fantasy football among fans, especially when it comes to determining a player's worth. Stats are overrated and basically, numbers bore me. However, this little gem from
is kind of fun, if you can stand the smell of Ben-Gay and Old Spice.
Running Backs "Football Age"
With 65 being my retirement age, you can see that there are several players very close to being finished. But what does this actually mean? Brian Westbrook is 55.74 "football years" old with .21 left in his gas tank.
Looking at the chart, it appears Jamal Lewis is about to turn 60 years old. Think of any people you know who are 60. Can you envision them waking refreshed on Monday morning after getting hit by huge lineman and speedy linebackers? I'm half this age and I can hear my knees crinkle when I stumble down the steps in the morning.
Anyway, for what it's worth, I've often associated running backs with mileage, but this may be a better comparison, although it is certainly not an exact science. And actually, I should further clarify my thoughts here. Let me state for the record that this chart is simply a projection. I completely understand that Jamal Lewis is not 60 years old.
He doesn't look a day older than 45.
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