The Browns may suck, but at least they're not boring.
Embarking on another season of unimpeded suck, they are not content to go quietly on this Haunted Hayride to Hell. No season, no matter how awful, can escape without some juicy sideshow - perhaps a desperate attempt by the powers that be to distract the masses.
If it's not top-secret staph infections, it's getting stabbed by the wife. Helmet throwing, Linemen punching Quarterbacks, locker room snitches, and Playmate girlfriends getting into fights at bars. And QB carousels galore. Always lots of those to keep us entertained.
In the few short days since the game ended, Braylon Edwards managed to get really drunk at a Cleveland club, talk all kinds of smack (allegedly) about the team and town, punch a midget (oops, sorry, height-challenged individual), piss off LeBron James, apologize half-heartedly via Twitter, and realize his fondest dream by being shipped the hell out of town.
I don't need to go into the clubbing/punching thing. If you want to read about it, there're some interesting tidbits here. The players are young and rich, and they had the next day off. They should be allowed to go out until 2:30 am if they want to, just like the rest of us (well, at least me) did when we were their age.
And, no, they should not be held to higher standard because they are athletes. They are not role models, nor should they be. Along with actors and musicians, professional athletes are amongst the most spoiled, out-of-touch, egotistical, arrogant, and stupid people on earth. It's not all their fault - we do this to them.
We kiss their ass from a crazy-early age, beg for their autograph, wait in line to see them, chant their name, cheer their every move, buy their posters, wear their jerseys, and, in general, treat them like they walk on water. Just like a beautiful blond with big boobs that figures early on that she doesn't need to think because someone will always be there to take care of her, these individuals feel that everyone else was put on earth to serve them because they were born "special".
Yes, we as a society make heroes out of the last people on earth that should be looked upon thusly.
Personally, off the field issues don't interest me because professional athletes don't interest me. My only concern with their individual affairs is how the consequences of said affairs might affect the Cleveland Browns.
And let's make no bones about it - most professional athletes are tools, but Braylon Edwards is one of the Biggest Tools in the History of Cleveland Sports. He's a friggin' 50 foot hacksaw. On a personal level, you'd be hard pressed to find one person sad to see him go, and that includes his family.
In return for Braylon, the Browns received from the NYJ: WR Chansi Stuckey, Special Teams maven Jason Trusnik, a 3rd Round pick, and a 5th Round pick. The 3rd Round pick is conditional and has the potential to move up to a 2nd Round pick depending on how well Braylon does in The Apple.
Particulars aside, the key to this whole issue is this: Are the Browns a better team today than they were yesterday?
Braylon Edwards cons
Let's be honest - Braylon Edwards is not an elite Wide Receiver. Not even close. Even in his breakout 2007 season, I did not feel he was "elite" - just a good Receiver that racked up some gaudy stats against some bad pass Defenses. That's not to say Braylon doesn't have talent - he has a ton. But he's always been that guy with the "million dollar arm and the 10 cent head."
Without self-awareness (and Braylon seems to have none), those wandering down errant paths cannot be dissuaded. Thus, you get what you had last year - basically, a mediocre Wide Receiver with an awful case of dropsies that runs bad routes and pouts and gets False Start and Holding penalties in droves. A middle-of-the-pack contributor with an elite contributor ego and monetary demands.
If you look at his production from every year but 2007, he's replaceable by pretty much any schmoe that comes down the 4th Round pike.
Another fun fact about Braylon - if things aren't going his way, he gets pissy on the sideline and quits on the field. I watched him carefully on Sunday (because he was really screwing somebody's fantasy team) and he stopped trying at a certain point. He'd jog out, then stop and watch the play. So DA stopped looking for him.
When Cincy finally realized that and started rolling their D toward Mo Massaquoi, the Browns O stopped working. So PoutyQuitta kinda screwed his whole team.
And let's not forget that he hates Cleveland. It's not flashy enough for him. He's the kind of guy that won't be happy unless he's in New York, Miami, or LA. And, plus, everyone in Cleveland hated him because he was from Michigan, or at least that was the rationalization that crept into his mind between daydreams of making love to himself.
Braylon Edwards pros
It's easy to forget the 2007 season ever happened, since it seems like 10 years ago now, and Braylon has been pretty much useless since then. But opposing Defensive Coordinators haven't forgotten. It's not that they necessarily think that Braylon is going to go off at an elite WR level, but he does have that potential because, yes, he has done it before.
So they surmise that they'd better double him - just in case.
Who on this team is going to command a double team now? Chansi Stuckey? Mo Massaquoi? How about Josh Cribbs or Mike Furrey? Or even Brian "Zero Career Receptions" Robiskie?
This receiving corps now - pardon my bellicosity - sucks. It wasn't that great before, but at least Braylon would command a double-team while doing nothing, leaving the field open for other players like Mo Mass to take up the slack. Now, without the (at least) perceived threat of Braylon hitting them with the big one, teams will creep the Safeties back up, and the O may very well look just about as effective as it did when Quinn was at the helm. Someone will have to step up big-time in this talent vacuum, and I have my doubts that it will happen.
Plus, any time you take a talent-deficient team like the Browns and make it less talented, it can never be a good thing. Right now, half the Browns roster wouldn't even get a scholarship from USC or Florida.
There's also the idea that keeping Braylon was relatively cheap. With his potential, maybe you remain patient, see if he can finally "get it" and start producing, which both helps the team and raises his trade value. Due to the fact that the CBA has almost zero chance of getting done before 2010, Braylon would be a Restricted Free Agent next year, which means the Browns could tender him at a level anywhere from 1 to 2 million and get at least a 1st Round pick in return if someone tried to steal him.
Now, we all know that no one is dumb enough to give up a 1st Round pick for Braylon the way he's playing now, but keeping him for an extra year at 1 or 2 million ain't that painful.
In the end, I don't really feel one way or the other about this. Like the rest of the country (seemingly), I'm about 50-50 if this was a good move or not. This team sucked plenty before Braylon left, so I really can't work up righteous indignation because the Browns jettisoned that bee-otch. I certainly won't miss looking at him and throwing sno-cones at my television because he just dropped a pass my daughter's fish could catch.
Then again, I don't look forward to the potential for 6 points, 20 minutes of total possession time, and 156 net yards. If you thought this O was bad before, hang on boys and girls.
I'm not gonna sit here and bitch that the Browns didn't get enough. The market is what it is. Mangini's been trying to trade Braylon since before the draft, and I would think that the offers haven't varied very much. No matter what BE did in 2007, he's been sucking copious amounts of gluteus since. It doesn't really matter what YOU think he's worth - it matters what THEY are willing to pay. A little magazine may tell me my Dan Marino rookie card is worth $200, yet I haven't found one damn person willing to pay half that for the stupid thing.
I guess, in the end, I think 2 things:
1. This is a Lost Season anyway, so play the kids and see if their 2nd Round designations were worth a damn thing.
2. Braylon may very well succeed in New York, but there was no way in Hell he was gonna succeed here.
Typical Browns. They allowed two long drives and Cleveland spotted the Mildcats 7 points while holding the ball for all of 77 seconds.
End 1st: Bengals 7, Browns 0.
Immediately, Jerome Harrison fumbled, and it was returned a long, long way for a TD, and the game appeared headed for despicable territory. Bengals 14, Browns 0.
And then everything changed. The Browns had a decent drive, then held Cincy to a 3 and Out, then forced Carson Palmer into a pick (a bad one). Finally, right before Half after a long Josh Cribbs punt return, Derek Anderson hit Mohammed Massaquoi on a long pass to the Umph Line, and Steve Heiden caught the 1 yard TD on the next play. Bengals 14, Browns 7.
Halftime: Bengals 14, Browns 7.
The worm had turned, and the Browns dominated the 3rd Q as well. Anderson drove the team all the way down to the CIN 8, then threw his mandatory Horrible PickTM, but CLE drove again after a 3 and Out under the quality runs of Harrison and tied the game up with an artistic... uh... effective... DA bootleg TD. Browns 14, Bengals 14.
On the following Kickoff, my boy Kaluka Maiava forced a fumble, and it looked like it was to be - finally - the Cleveland Browns' day.
End 3rd: Browns 14, Bengals 14.
Tragically, the Browns could not convert the 3rd and 1 from the CIN 9, and that seemed to spell doom for the porcelain confidence of the Offense. But they had a lead... for now. Browns 17, Bengals 14.
The teams traded ineffectual drives, then Cribbs returned another punt 50 yards to the CIN 14. From there, the Brown roared to life... oh, who am I kidding?... sputtered to another disappointing FG. Browns 20, Bengals 14.
If you refuse to shoot a rabid dog in the head, eventually he's going to bite your ankle. Well, after seemingly a game-full of 3 and Out, the Bengals O suddenly found its sea legs and drove down for a TD, converting on 4th and Goal with a pass to the detestable Chad Johnson.
And just when it seemed that the Browns had blown another close one, Shaun Rogers blew through the line and blocked his second kick of the day. Sans extra point, the score of the game was... Browns 20, Bengals 20.
The Browns had 1:52 to work with, but they ran a piss-poor 2 minute drill (which DA is famous for), and had 4th and 10 at the CIN 40 with 23 seconds left. Instead of trying a 57 yard FG attempt from there, Mangini chose to punt and try his luck in OT. Man, I love Conservatism.
End Regulation: Browns 20, Bengals 20.
Cincy got the ball first in OT, and you (me) thought that would do it, but the Defense nobly rose up and stopped the Bengals 3 times in a row. Unfortunately, the Offense did absolutely nothing with their 3 chances (unless you count punting as "something").
Like true Browns warriors, the Defense politely laid down on the 4th possession, snatching Defeat from the jaws of Victory, giving up a 3rd and 10, a 3rd and 10, and a 4th and 11 en route to allowing Cincy to kick a 31 yard FG (which I thought missed at first) with 7 seconds left.
Still, I'd rather Lose than Tie. Who the F*** Ties? This isn't hockey. Ties suck. Someone fix the NFL Overtime system, please.
Final: Bengals 23, Browns 20.
Joe Thomas - Antwan Odom led the league in sacks. What did Joey T do? Shut him down. Odom did have one sack, but that was when DA didn't know what to do, so he ran out of the pocket directly into the comforting arms of Uncle Antwan. Plus, did you see what Jared Allen did to the Packers on Monday night? And Thomas shut that guy down too. Joe Thomas is actually playing like a Pro Bowler this year.
Mohammed Massaquoi - Rook got his first start and didn't disappoint, showing what can happen when you start a bona-fide WR instead of a Wildcat guy at the # 2. 8 catches, 148 yards, and apparently looked good enough to make a certain someone suddenly expendable.
Shaun Rogers - You block 2 kicks, you get a Gameball.
Josh Cribbs - 212 combined return yards and good coverage as a gunner. This is why, Mr. Cribbs, that you are no longer starting at WR. That, and you shouldn't start at WR.
Jerome Harrison - Fumble aside, he played fairly well, racking up 152 total yards. He may not be Adrian Peterson, but The Ghost can handle starting in this league, if need be, and I can't imagine Jamal Lewis circa 2009 doing better.
Alex Mack - I noticed him making several nice blocks downfield during run plays, and the Browns line was solid up the middle (it was actually pretty solid everywhere).
Derek Anderson - If you make the Browns Offense look somewhat competent, then you get some props. The pick in the End Zone, and, well, being generally DA-ish kicks you out of Gameball zone.
Kam Wimbley - I still don't think Mr. Wimbley is an elite pass rusher or... elite anything, really... but he is much more effective this year as he plays from different positions, and I know I've seen him trying more than one move. His sack in OT would've been huge had the Offense not blown it.
Mike Furrey - For playing both ways, and for playing both decently. One might ask how bad a team this must be if he has to be playing DB, but I think we all know the answer to that.
Brodney Pool - I don't often give props to the Human Disappearing TrickTM, but he had 6 tackles and a key pick. Mr. Pool, when they actually call your name, I notice that you're in there, and I might be apt to bestow this kind of honor more often. Just an FYI.
Eric Mangini - Takes balls of steel to pull the trigger on a trade that makes your Offense weaker than a kitten. I'm not even convinced it was the right move - it might've been horribly wrong - but I give the HM because of the guts it took to do it.
Wall of Shame
Braylon Edwards - He had 0 catches for 0 yards in 75 minutes of play. That, and he just flat-out gave up out there. The only time he showed any life at all was when he picked the fight with the Cincy lineman. And, if it weren't for the luck of the "offsetting penalties", that would've been stupid too.
Robert Royal - Coming soon to a theater near you starring as "The Ball-Dropping Goat Part Deux".
Time of Possession: Cleveland - 31:10, Cincinnati - 28:50
Total Yards: Cleveland - 395, Cincinnati - 375
First Downs: Cleveland - 22, Cincinnati - 21
That would be the first time that Cleveland has owned all 3 major categories this season. It may very well be the last, so enjoy, good folk.
And yet it still resulted in an L. Certain franchises just have that je ne sais quoi...
By the way, Gunga-Ga-Lunga, one of my, er, friend's fantasy teams, wishes Braylon well in New York. Earn that conditional 2nd Round pick, pendejo.
Ah, to be a fly on the wall when Mangini informed Braylon that he was traded.
INT. OFFICE - DAY
Eric Mangini, an expanding man in his 30's, sits at his desk with a stoic expression on his face, smoking a cigarette, blowing smoke rings towards a lamp. A knock comes at the door, and he jumps, quickly opening a drawer and putting out his smoke in an ashtray within.
Mangini (clearing his throat): Who is it?
Voice (from outside door): It's me, coach.
Mangini shuts the drawer and sprays some Lysol that he has resting on his desk, waving his hand about to diffuse the fumes.
Mangini: Come in!
The door opens and Braylon Edwards, a pretty boy prima donna in his mid-20's, enters the room, looking bored. Mangini smiles at him uncomfortably.
Mangini: Have a seat, Braylon.
Braylon sits down, looking disinterestedly out the window.
Mangini: How you doin', Braylon?
Braylon: I'm OK, you know... OK... and stuff...
Mangini (not really listening): That's good! You didn't... hurt your hand punching that guy, did you?
Mangini chuckles like he made a joke.
Braylon: Nah, I was too drunk to feel anything, you know...
Mangini: I hear ya! Been there a million times. But let's keep that between you and me, huh? Don't want the missus finding out, you know what I'm sayin'?
He smiles in what he feels is a friendly way. Braylon glances at him, then looks back out the window, thinking about gold watches.
Mangini (getting down to business): So, you probably are wondering why I asked you here.
Braylon (sighing): You want me to tell my side of the story.
Mangini (holding up a finger): You'd think so, but... no. I've already heard all about it. Massive insecurity does have its perks. I heard about you punching that... man... and I also heard about how you called me a limp-wristed cockwad.
Braylon (horrified): What? How did you find out? Who told you??!!
Mangini laughs and points his finger at Braylon.
Mangini: Gotcha! I was just guessing. Based on... you know... (smile fades) stuff other people have said...
There is a moment of uncomfortable silence.
Mangini: Anyway, the reason why I called you here. I've had some calls... from the owner, and... from someone higher up than him... and, well, I don't know how to say this, but... Braylon, you've been traded.
Braylon stops looking out the window and stares at Mangini in disbelief.
Mangini (sympathetically): I know. This is the hardest job a coach has to do. It's just that we as an organization feel we have to go in a new direction, to explore new horizons...
Braylon (an insane smile slowly creeping over his face): WHERE???!!!
Mangini (confused): Where what?
Braylon: Where am I traded? (suddenly scared) You didn't trade me to Oakland, did you? Say you didn't trade me to Oakland. I'll kill you right where you sit is you tell me you traded me to Oakland!
Mangini (taken aback): We didn't trade you to Oakland.
Braylon (screaming with desperate hope): WHERE THEN? WHERE MUTHAF***A? TELL ME NOW OR I'LL... I'LL... I'LL... PLEASE TELL ME!
Mangini (adjusting his collar, trying to maintain dignity): We traded you to the Jets.
Braylon just stares at Mangini for a moment, then screams in primal joy.
Braylon: NEW YORK! NYC! THE BIG APPLE! HOLY SHIT!
Mangini holds up his hand, slightly confused.
Mangini: Now, I know that being traded can be traumatic, but we're in this with you, we want to help you every step of the way...
Braylon: BROADWAY! 5TH AVENUE! TIMES SQUARE! THAT BITCH WITH THE TORCH!
Mangini: Please remember, we all still appreciate everything you've done here, and we don't want to go out on bad terms...
Braylon walks over to a filing cabinet in the corner and starts gyrating on it like a bulldog in heat.
Braylon: CENTRAL PARK! MADISON SQUARE GARDEN! THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING! BUNKER HILL!
Mangini: Well, that's not in... never mind. You seem to be taking this pretty well.
Braylon runs over to the chair and sits down, leaning forward, staring eagerly at Mangini.
Braylon: When can I leave? Can I leave now? Right now? Like, this second?
Mangini: Well, there's some paperwork that has to be signed...
Braylon (holding up both hands, pleading): But, if I get on a private jet, like, this instant, can this paperwork that you're speaking of be done by the time I land?
Mangini (thinking): It's hard to say, but probably...
Braylon jumps out of his chair and runs out of the room faster than he ever has on a Sunday, laughing maniacally. Mangini stares after him, shaking his head.
LeBron James' head pops around the edge of the open door, and he looks after Braylon.
LeBron: Is it done?
LeBron: How'd it go?
Mangini (smiling in a self-satisfied kind of way): Pretty well, I think, all things considered. He was upset at first, but he came to see that this was the best thing for everyone.
LeBron: Huh... I still think you should've let me fit him for a new pair of cement boots, like we do it in the A-K.
Mangini (looking up and smiling): No worries. If he plays like I think he'll play, I know plenty of guys in New York that'll take care of that themselves.
With all the drama and disappointment, even some imposter out there feels...
After just toweling off from a good swim, he came in for this photo shoot, but apparently got distracted by ESPN's Braylon coverage on the TV to his left.
Yes, you can see that he's thinking, "What a tool." In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what it says in Chinese there.
With 6:34 left in the 4th Quarter, when the Browns kicked a 2nd FG from starting field position inside the Cincy 20, I jotted down in my notebook: "Inability to put Bengals away will kill them."
I was not afraid to write this. I was confident of its validity, and although some small part of me felt like writing it doomed to be true, my logic preaches against hocus-pocus. My prophecy comes solely from the fact that I've watched a lot of Cleveland football over the years and it never changes. It's just so pathetically easy to predict. If my words actually held the kind of power to sway events, I'd be writing "Playing lottery results in $3 million dollars" and watching the Browns at 2 am from my palace in New Zealand.
"All Steelers fans in Northeast Ohio attempt to bungee off a 400 foot bridge with a 500 foot cord." Let's see if that works.
With that results-based familiarity being noted, let us group the typical outcome of Browns games:
Blowout Loss: 50%
Close, excruciating, inexplicable only-in-Cleveland loss: 25%
Lame win against a horrible team: 20%
Unexpected, soul-lifting win against a solid team: 4%
Blowout win: 1%
Let us now admit that Derek Anderson looked MUCH better than Quinn had in the first 3 games. The excuses would be, of course, that DA had the benefit of Mo Mass starting instead of ineffectual Josh Cribbs, and Robert Royal was place on semi-permanent duty helping out semi-useless St. Clair.
Oh, and the Defense came out to play over an entire game in a way they hadn't even come close to previously.
But like I always say, Excuses Be Damned. I don't want to hear excuses. I want to see results. And DA's results were superior to Quinn's. He wasn't necessarily markedly better, but he was noticeably better.
However, he wasn't any better than anyone really expected him to be. He was DA, the same DA we all know and bleh. He made some plays, made some really good throws, threw his obligatory pick in the End Zone, and sputtered in crunch time.
Yet, because DA looked mercurial in comparison to Quinn, tons of people - some even intelligent - have decided to disregard the last 3 years and proclaim that DA is "good enough" for the future, and that the Browns don't need to draft a Franchise QB in 2010.
This is one of the saddest developments I've ever seen. This fan base is so downtrodden that suddenly DA's herky-jerky inconsistency is acceptable because at least we can "make games close".
Holy Imhotep, Sphinxie!
People! Attention please! You are SO beaten down that you have forgotten that the goal is NOT to "make games close". It is to WIN A SUPERBOWL.
Don't support decisions based upon the fact that the Browns might go 8-8. Suffer through Hell - if you feel that the summit is being attempted - to get to a Championship.
Things have been so bad around here that people mythologize THE FREAKIN' PLAYOFFS.
I know a Lombardi Trophy feels light years away, but that's really, truly what the end goal should be. What moves should the Browns make to win us a Superbowl?
Not what moves should the Browns make so that we aren't the worst team in the league anymore?
So, to sum up - yes, DA was much more effective than Quinn. But for all those of you that are suddenly rationalizing that DA might be "sufficient" for the future of this franchise, let me quote Brad Pitt's character (Jeffrey Goines) from 12 Monkeys:
"You are a total nutcase, completely deranged, delusional, paranoid. Your thought process is all [jacked] up. Your information train is jammed, man!"
Please stop calling Cincinnati vs. Cleveland "The Battle of Ohio".
I watched Observe and Report the other night, and Seth Rogan's character in the movie inexplicably reminded me of Eric Mangini. But how? Physically? The over-authoritative manner? The stern look of disapproval for the wrong-doers?
No, it's that they both are huge fans of that magazine.
QB-O-RAMA - Version 2010!
For a sad and seemingly inevitable reason, we are keeping track of the top QB's that will be available for the 2010 draft. Here's what they did this week:
Sam Bradford - Oklahoma (vs. Miami) - Still hurt, he sat there and watched his team lose to Miami, and now I have to hear about how Miami is back, blah, blah, blah. Stupid Sam Bradford.
Tim Tebow - Florida (vs. Concussion State) - Took the week off so that ESPN could spend endless hours discussing his situation.
Colt McCoy - Texas (vs. Bye Week) - Apparently, no one played last week.
Jake Locker - Washington (vs. Notre Dame) - 22 of 40, 281 yds, 1 TD, 33 yds Rushing, 1 Rushing TD.
Hey, who's this new guy? According to all those people that make a living gauging such things, Locker is a Top 10 QB if he comes out this year (he's a Junior). I watched him in the Washington-Notre Dame game, and I'm very impressed by how much he has developed from the run-only QB that I first saw when Ohio State played the Huskies a couple years back.
Good arm, good mobility, good tough runner... basically looks like Tim Tebow with maybe a bit better passing skill. So I'm throwing him in the mix because he's obviously got an above-average skill set.
Another guy that people have been touting (if he comes out) is ND QB Jimmy Clausen. I am not including him, because he bores the crap out of me. I watch him play and I think of 10,000 college QB's I've seen play before. Not that he's bad, but he's - to me - utterly inordinary. If you want to pine after him, that's fine with me. He doesn't go on my list.
From Yanni Doe, Wadsworth: "What do you think of Shaq being a Steelers fan? Do you think he's a traitor?"
No more so than 98% of Northeast Ohio. I can't fire my crossbow without hitting a Steelers fan, and, believe me, I've tried (well, not that hard).
It's not like Shaq is Ohio born and raised. The odds that he's gonna like the same teams we do is slim and bupkiss. Obviously, he's a bandwagon fan like so many other people out there. But if he can help bring a Championship to Cleveland, he could come knocking on my door selling Jehovah's Witness for all I care. And I'll take his little pamphlet about the end of the world with a smile on my damn face.
The Buffalo Bills
Well, here's a team that the Browns can beat.
The Bills have a bad 7th-worst (26) Offense, just a couple spots above Cleveland. Trent Edwards is ineffective, and TO is doing jack-poo. Only Fred Jackson is really to be feared at this point.
And their Defense is actually worse. They're 6th-worst (27) in that category.
But the Browns rank 29 in Offense and, sigh, dead last in Defense (32).
It's true that the combined records of the Browns first 4 opponents is 14-2, and some would argue that has skewed their rankings. I say that Buffalo should've beaten New England in Week 1, and hung with the Saints for a while in Week 3. Only last week did it look they've finally succumbed to suck.
So, in the battle of Awful and Putrid, home field wins.
Bills 20, Browns 16.