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The Browns Outsider
January 7, 2010 · By Chris Hutchison
A View From The Cheap Seats

 

The bell hath tolled, the twelfth hour hath struck, and another Cleveland Browns season hath come to an unceremonious and untimely end.

Can't say it ain't been interesting.

From the bus rides to the penalty laps to the tackling drills to the QB competition to the losses to the opportunity periods to the water bottle fines to the Quinn benching to the Braylon punching to the Braylon trading to the losses to the Kokinis firing to the DA benching to the practice complaining to the injuries to the losses to the wins... it's been another wild ride.

No matter how bad and painful and excruciating and depressing and foul and loathsome the season has been, I'm always sad to see it go.  Regardless of their awful-ocity, I won't get to see the Browns play another game until August.  That - to use a colloquialism - sucks.

What does the New Year, the New Decade, hold for us?

Change.  If there is any constant in Cleveland, if there is anything consistent, it is change.

Will they ever get it right?  We shall see.  I must admit, however, that I'm actually letting hope grow a little bit on this front.  Usually, by now, I would have stomped it out like a tarantula on my bedroom floor (and I was wearing metal boots).

Not this time.  Not this year. 

Hopefully, not this decade.

_____________________


Game Recap

At this juncture, a recap is really sort of passé, so I will go with this:

The Browns ran the ball a lot (and very effectively).  Derek Anderson didn't look that good, then threw an interception.  Boo, Derek.  Josh Cribbs scored a nice 14 yard TD on a broken Wildcat play.  Mangini went for it on 4th Down a couple times, including one that went for a 6 yard Jerome Harrison TD. 

The Jaguars moved the ball OK, but not well enough to score.  Maurice Jones-Drew got his yards, but not enough to kill Cleveland.  The running game and time of possession heavily favored the Browns, and once they got up 20-3 with about 5 left in the 3rd, they sort of went into a team-wide Prevent.

The Jags scored a 4th Quarter TD, but it was meaningless.

Final:  Browns 23, Jaguars 10. (I refuse to count that last TD)

_____________________


Conclusion

Time of Possession:  Cleveland - 32:58, Jacksonville - 27:02

Total Yards:  Jacksonville - 328, Cleveland - 300

First Downs:  Jacksonville - 18, Cleveland - 18

The Browns certainly improved greatly in a few areas over their final 4 games.  Versus the first 12 games, the Browns got better in these areas:

Average Yards Allowed - 400.25 to 356

Average Yards Gained - 242.4 to 313.5

Average Points Allowed - 25.75 to 16.5

Average Points Scored - 12.1 to 25

Average Time of Possession - 27:19 to 31:45

That's graphic enough a demonstration how they went from 1-11 to 4-0.  That, and they played mediocre competition in inclement weather.  Regardless, you still have to beat the teams on your schedule, and their late season run was quite heartening.

_____________________


Gameballs

Josh Cribbs - He usually gets a Gameball before he even takes the field.

Jerome Harrison - 561 in 3 weeks for The Ghost.  Making a strong argument for a nice fat Free Agent contract.

Rob Ryan - Really pulling the most out of a bunch of scrubs.

Eric Mangini - Winning 4 in a row is nothing to scoff at.

Brian Daboll - With bad QB's and crappy weather conditions, he at least knew enough to run the ball almost every play, and, well, why the hell not throw Daboll a bone?  Let's call it a parting gift.

Ahtyba Rubin - How much better did the Run D look after he took over at NT full time?

Offensive Line - That unit is really looking quite solid.

_____________________


Honorable Mention

Chris Jennings - Cuz that one run was real purdy.

Phil Dawson - Kicking in those elements isn't easy.

Kaluka Maiava - Mighty Mouse had 1.5 sacks, and really played decently for most of the season.

_____________________


Wall of Shame

Derek Anderson - I like how Daboll essentially benched him on the field after the pick.  He played, but he wasn't allowed to do anything but hand off.

Hank Poteat - Gave up the last TD, and no WOS would be complete without him.

Wide Receivers - One reception for all the WR's combined.  And that wasn't an anomaly.  I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'd bet that the 2009 Browns WR's had maybe the worst statistical year of any group of WR's in NFL history.

That last JAX TD - Really rained on my celebration. 

_____________________


First, let's address what Mike Holmgren
press conference as it regards to Eric Mangini:

I met with Eric briefly, but not ‘the' meeting. He was busy. They're getting their year end evaluations completed. I saw a number of the coaches. We have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. What I asked him to do is I asked him to think about a few things this evening. I didn't want to really get any sort of answer or any feeling from him today, but I did give him a list of things to think about for our meeting tomorrow in fairness to Eric, instead of getting blindsided with a bunch of pop questions from me. I was a coach for a long time and it's important that he understands where I'm coming from. It's important that I understand where he's coming from. The only way you win in this league is if the coach and the person in my position and or a general manager are absolutely on the same wave length. That's the only way you have a chance. You've all seen organizations that you kind of scratch your head and [think], ‘Why doesn't it work for them? They should be better or their record should be better or whatever.' It boils down to, you can pinpoint it is that egos get in the way. Everyone establishes their little power base and it destroys the team. At least it doesn't let them accomplish what they should accomplish. My goal is to have that feeling in this building, is to have everyone thinking in a like manner, going in the same direction. Let's put all the egos aside for a second and let's get around the job of winning. That meeting I'm going to have with him tomorrow."

"THE" meeting took place on Wednesday.  No one yet knows what the result was, but I can guess at a couple of the things that were discussed.  Two in particular:

1. Can Mangini take orders?  This is a legitimate question, seeing as Mangini has been running things his way for a while.  Even when Mangini had his hand-picked GM (Kokinis), he guarded his power jealously.  Reports have it that Kokinis didn't even know that Braylon Edwards had been traded until he saw it on the news.  Now, I can understand making the decision yourself, but not even consulting/informing not just your GM, but your friend?  It is not seemly.

2. Brian Daboll is the sacrifice the island demands.  Whether or not Holmgren demands a West Coast Offense is debatable, but I think that - as and Offensive Coach himself - Holmgren is not impressed with Daboll.  You know the Holmgren is going to have his fingerprints all over the Offense.  I'm sure he'd rather have an OC with more experience in his system.

So can Mangini swallow a "fire Daboll" ultimatum?  His job might just depend on it.  Daboll's gone either way, but Mangini might be able to save himself.  Whether he will allow Holmgren to dictate to him - that's the question.

(On if Eric Mangini has a legitimate chance to win him over in their meeting tomorrow)- "Absolutely, otherwise I wouldn't have set the meeting up. When you get to know me a little bit, and some of you in the room know me a little bit, I don't dance too much and I appreciate people that will shoot straight, so I wouldn't do that to him. We're going to have a meeting and maybe a couple of meetings this week, but I hope to have that resolved by the end of the week."

Update!  Per multiple sources, Mangini has sold Holmgren and will stay.

According to a team source with knowledge of the situation, most of Mangini's assistant coaches will also be back.

The Browns have confirmed that Mangini will return. They will issue statements from Holmgren and Mangini shortly. Neither will be available for questions.

I'm ambivalent about Mangini's return, but I'm happy to see Rob Ryan and Brad Seeley stay.  That "most" is the key - let's hope that Mr. Daboll will not be one of those returning.  I'm surprised that Mangini is coming back.  I'd be SHOCKED if Daboll comes too.

But, by the time you read this, likely something new will have come out and this will all be invalidated.  The beauty of the electronic world.

(On if he has contacted any head coaching candidates and if he has a list of candidates)- "That's a little premature. Like I said, I am meeting with Eric tomorrow. Any list? If I spent a lot of time on a list, it might have been a lot of time wasted. Let's see how this thing goes during the week. What I've always done in my position as a head coach in the league, I've always kept lists every year of position coaches, head coaches. I guess an honest answer to your question, I have lists. I have a lot of names. Now, will I ever have to go to that list, we'll see."

My List - by Mike "Big Show" Holmgren

1. John Fox
2. Leslie Frazier
3. Winston Moss (that Green Bay guy)
4. Marty Mornhinweg (why does everyone choke when I mention his name?)
5. Me
6. Eric Mangini*

*Could go higher if he agrees to walk my dog every morning.

(On what Mangini needs to say, do, or agree to in order to stay with the Browns)- "Now Marty (Gitlin), you don't really expect me to answer that question?"

Duh, Marty.  Everyone laugh at Marty now.

_____________________


Many of you seem to be dreading "change".  You don't want things to "change" again.  Aaaaarrrggghhhh!  Here comes Change!  Everyone Run!!!

Even if the Browns retain Mangini, change is coming.  Change is certainly coming the Offensive side of the ball (thank God).  Probably you'll have a new OC, a new QB, a whole new system.

Oh, and there might be an overhaul on the Defensive side as well.  Maybe Mangini & Ryan are allowed to continue running the 3-4, but there will be a lot of new players coming in on that side of the ball because those players currently - no offense intended - are basically a bunch of scrubs.

You can run from change, but it's coming to get you regardless.  No matter what you do.

_____________________


Tom Heckert interviewed for the vacant GM position on Wednesday.

If you're not familiar with Tom Heckert, check out his credentials here.

Suffice it to say, Heckert is one of the top GM's in the NFL.  When Lerner was performing his Czar search, the top 3 on my wish list were Holmgren, Heckert, and Rich McKay... and now it appears that the Browns will get 2 of the 3.

What a coup.

For the Browns to hire Heckert, they would have to give him final say on personnel (something he doesn't have in Philly) or hire him to a position that would be considered a promotion from GM.  Both make sense. 

Heckert is great at personnel.  His drafts have produced both quality early round picks as well as late round gems.  "Final say" is just a formality anyway (ask Kokinis).  In good organizations, personnel decisions are made by committee; in this situation, it would be Holmgren, Heckert, and the Mangini.  Per Holmgren:

"When [I] went to Green Bay and Ron Wolf was my boss. He ran the Packers. He hires me, a first-time head coach. He told me, ‘I will never give you a player you don't want.' I realized, he set up the board, but he involved me in everything. I think that's the best way to do it. These little power groups or little kingdoms in any organization are not healthy. They are not healthy. Part of my job is to make sure that everyone feels that they can contribute and be listened to.

"Very few teams, none that I've been associated with, with high powered personnel people or presidents or whatever you want to call them, does the guy come in, pound the desk and say, ‘We are taking this guy and I don't care what anybody thinks.'"

He followed that up by saying:

"There's one team I can think of that does that, but no one else."

Gee, I wonder whom he's talking about?  (In other news, Al Davis puts a hit out on Holmgren.)

Now, the idea that the Browns are hiring Heckert as sort of a VP of Football Ops to Holmgren's President is very interesting.  It paves the way for the Browns to still hire a Will Lewis or Reggie McKenzie or John Schneider or Lake Dawson as GM, thus further increasing the fold of talented of experience personnel men in Berea.

Either way, it sounds like Heckert has been hired.  First, the PD reported this:

Heckert was also supposed to interview for the Seattle GM position, but a source told The Plain Dealer that Heckert canceled that interview following his visit to Cleveland.

We all know the reason why guys cancel interviews, and isn't because they don't want to miss their Book Club meeting. (Man, Seattle's gotta be hating Holmgren right now.)

So, in 2009, the Browns' Front Office consisted of George Kokinis.  In 2010, it will consist of Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, and possibly someone like Will Lewis.

Ha!  Even writing that cracked me up.  It's hard to believe this is reality.  Someone must've slipped some shrooms in my Cheerios.

_____________________


If Holmgren does make Heckert Czar Jr., and things seem to be running smoothly after a year or two, it frees Mike up to have the option to do other things... like return to Head Coaching.

Keeping Mangini on makes it easy for Holmgren to do that.  If things aren't going smoothly, well Mangini wasn't Holmgren's hire.  He was nice and tried to give him a shot, but things just didn't work out.  He's not married to Mangini for ay period of time, so if he wants to bring in a guy like Gruden in 2011 (or coach the team himself), all his options are open.

They wouldn't be if he fired Mangini and hired a new Head Coach to a 4 or 5 year contract.

_____________________


And now from the Much Ado About Nothing file... The Josh Cribbs contract situation!

Since Mike Holmgren's been in town for all of 3 days now, the time is obviously ripe for Cribbs and his agents to go public with their public displeasure over the contract.  Here's the gist of the article:

The Browns have offered Josh Cribbs an "insulting''  $1.4 million a year and his agents are warning that he'll leave the team for good if they don't pay him what he deserves.

"They need to treat him fairly or he'll never play for the Browns again,'' said agent Peter Schaffer.  "He will demand a trade and he will walk out of there and they won't see him for the off-season -- they won't see him ever again.''

Schaffer said he and Cribbs' other agent, J.R. Rickert, gave the Browns until the end of the business day today to respond to calls before going public with the details of the situation.

Then, according the the NFL Network, Josh himself Tweeted something self-pitying (I'm not going to link it because that would violate my personal credo of never ever ever going to Twitter.com) about "not being on the to-do list."

Yawn.  This is all posturing and positioning strategically placed at Holmgren's arrival in an effort to push the envelope.  Make no mistake at the timing - either this was a planned assault or the agents are just really dumb.

Why?  I understand that they might be frustrated.  They were promised a new contract by Phil Savage, by Romeo Crennel, by Eric Mangini... and nothing has happened.  The fact is that - at the current time - none of those guys that made the promises are in any position to deliver.  Mike Holmgren is in charge, and likely he's not going to want to approach the Cribbs contract until he's got his new GM in the house, so agent-imposed deadlines and the such are just going to have to wait. 

That's just reality.  The Czar has the reins now, and he's only been here a few days.  Naturally, any bargaining done with him will have to start from the beginning, because you can't expect him to honor whatever talks were made with guys that are no longer with the organization.

So this is an effort to try and expedite the process.  Nothing more.  Right now the Browns can claim it's their final offer and Cribbs can express his shock and the media can pound on about how dire the circumstances are, and it's likely nothing more than a pre-commercial cliffhanger in the NFL Soap Opera.

Probably the main reason for this move was to try and levy fan reaction against The Czar, cuz the fans love them some Josh Cribbs.  And that part is working - fans are super-angry all over the place because fans are by nature reactionary.  Yell first, think later.  This is a standard agent tactic, I tells ya people.  Don't get sucked in.

Make no mistake - Josh Cribbs is under contract for 3 more years.  He doesn't have any bargaining chips. 

He can demand a trade.  Likewise, I can demand total consciousness.  Just because we demand these things doesn't mean it will happen.

He might threaten to sit out Training Camp, but Training Camp is way the hell off in the future.  I can't imagine any way that this thing isn't done way before then, and then all the agent griping and all the sad Tweetering will just be dust in the proverbial wind.

Honestly, this isn't so vastly different a stance from what he took before Training Camp this season... and we all know how that went down.

Likewise, I don't believe for one second that Mike Holmgren is going to make dismissing the team's second best player (Joe Thomas is the first) his first act as The Czar.  This is all part of the process, and if you haven't seen it a hundred times before, you haven't been paying attention.

So relax.  I now have total consciousness.  I foresee that this will end up OK.

_____________________


And if it doesn't, this is further proof why you never fall in love with the player.  Players come, players go.  The team is eternal.  Root for the cloth.

I'd be sad to see Cribbs go, because I really like the guy.  But I'm still gonna be a Browns fan long after Josh is retired and part of the CBS Studio show.

_____________________


Jerome Harrison has rushed for 561 yards in the last 3 games.  That's an average of 187 yards per game, which would translate to 2992 yards over a whole season.

But I'm still not convinced he's a Franchise Back.

At least, not in the traditional sense of the term.  When you think Franchise Back, you think of what is a dying breed - a RB that can carry the ball 450+ times in a season and still remain as potent at the end as he was in the beginning.

There are very few of those left, and I just don't think Harrison is one of them.  I don't think he would remain as effective carrying the ball 80% of the time through 16 games.  I think he would get worn down.  I think his explosiveness would get negated.

But he can be a Starting Back in the NFL.  He can be fine if he starts in a 2 or 3 back system, maybe toting the rock 60-65% of the time, switching back and forth with a RB (or two) that brings some different attributes to the table, a bruising back, a power runner.

Is that guy Chris Jennings?  I don't know.  He's bigger than Jerome and he's got some power, but he shows a propensity to bounce it outside way too much.  Harrison's actually the superior inside runner.  Bouncing has worked for CJ several times this season, but it is not a successful method long-term.  For instance, when Jennings had his fantastic run - out wide right, doubling back, crossing the field DEEP in the backfield, and eventually getting enough blocks to gain yardage on the left side - my guess is that the Coaches responded like this:

Laugh, slap Chris on the back, then tell him, "Great run, kid.  Don't ever porkin' do it again."

I still think Jennings is probably a 3rd back, maybe what Ahmad Bradshaw was for the Giants in their Super Bowl season.  It would be more interesting to see Harrison paired with, oh, say, a Toby Gerhart (we're all allowed to dream).

As far as carries are concerned, the coaching staff did a much better job spreading them around this week.  Jerome had 33 (68%), Chris Jennings had 9 (18.75%), and Josh Cribbs had 6 (12.5%).  That's a formula that will be much more effective in the long term.

_____________________


Playoff Picks

NYJ at Cincy - The Jets are not very good, and I'd love to see them lose.  I was desperately hoping they wouldn't get into the Playoffs because I knew that Braylon Edwards would react thusly:

Braylon Edwards received a lot of congratulatory text messages for making the playoffs for the first time in his career, including a surprise text from one Eric Mangini - the same Mangini who shipped him out of Cleveland after the Browns' 0-4 start.

Maybe Edwards owes his former coach (and the Jets' former coach) a thank-you text.

"I was thinking about that debacle unfold this whole season for the guys over there," Edwards said Wednesday, soaking up the playoff atmosphere. "I feel bad for my friends, but at the same time, I'm thankful it wasn't me. Here I am."

Braylon, you're on a 9-7 team whose presence in the Playoffs was only made possible by 2 teams laying down.  Just two years ago, you were on a Browns team that had more wins.  How clueless are you?

I'm stocking up on D batteries for the Jets visit to Cleveland next year.

Sadly, as bad as the Jets are, I think the Bengals are worse, so I'm taking New York in this game.

Baltimore at New England - Many people are making a big deal about the loss of Wes Welker, but the Patriots just don't lose at home in the first round of the Playoffs.  Take New England.

Green Bay at Arizona - The Packers beat the Cards down just last week, and many people think they're the hottest team in the NFL and a Dark Horse to get to the Super Bowl.  How quickly we forget just how good Arizona can be.  Packers come back to earth in a hurry - Cardinals win.

Philly at Dallas - Pretty much the same thing as above.  Winning in December is one thing for Romo, winning in the Playoffs is another.  If this game stays close (and I think it will), Romo will find a way to non-win it.  Philly in the upset.

_____________________


QB Watch

Let's hope that was the last time we've seen Derek Anderson in a Browns uniform.

I don't need to express my opinions about DA - I've done so many times for years now.  You can't teach a frog to bark, you can't teach a cow Latin, and you can't teach Derek Anderson accuracy.

I am similarly predisposed to demote Brady Quinn to the bench as well.  That decision will rest with the powers that be, but if they see what I see, they will be actively pursuing multiple methods of acquiring a new starting QB.

I actually heard a caller on a sports radio show the other day describe Quinn's performances in his last 2 games as "phenomenal".  You know, the games where he didn't pass for 100 yards either time, couldn't hit wide open Receivers, and gakked up a couple of ugly picks.  I think this guy might be misunderstanding the word "phenomenal".  Using his alternate definition, I might say: "Getting castrated by a sledge hammer sounds phenomenal."

Let me be clear - This team BADLY needs a QB.  What we saw at that position throughout the season was the worst display of QB play that I have ever seen on any team ever.  I can't even tell who's worse when they're on the field.  The only thing I know for sure is that Bradek Quinnderson is no damn good.

Some may argue that the QB's improved, that they cut down dramatically on their turnovers over the last 4 games. 

Well, no shit.  They weren't allowed to throw the ball anymore. 

DA throws one pick on Sunday, and the Browns then run the ball 75 straight times after that.  When you're able to rack up yardage on the ground game, why even bother throwing it at all, especially when your QB's are just as likely to throw a pick as complete a pass?

My opinion is that neither one of these guys is anywhere good enough to go forward with.  Both of them are flawed, broken, and unequipped to run a competent NFL Offense.  I obviously could be wrong, but I'm betting a shiny penny that QB guru Mike Holmgren agrees with me, and that there's a new starting QB in Cleveland next year.

_____________________


So if the 2010 Starting QB is not currently on the roster, where is he?  Who will that be? 

Traditionally, the answer is "college".  The draft is chock full of talented QB's, and guys like Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford might be available at # 7 overall, while guys like Colt McCoy, Tony Pike, and (God forbid) Tim Tebow might be available at the top of the 2nd.

However, if you look at Holmgren's history, it is to trade for young veterans.  Steve Young came to SF from TB.  Brett Favre came to GB from ATL.  Matt Hasselbeck came to SEA from GB.

Now, Matt Hasselbeck is the only one that Holmgren personally traded for.  Holmgren knew him from GB, and felt that he had the skills and intelligence to run the same/similar Offense in Seattle.  So, I think it would be prudent to look at the young backups on Holmgren's former teams (and teams with similar systems) for possible QB solutions.

Seneca Wallace (SEA) - One of Holmgren's few QB draft picks, I think that Wallace was more a value selection than anything.  At 5'11, I doubt Holmgren ever saw him as a future starter.  So I doubt that we need to seriously consider him an option.

Charlie Frye (OAK) - Frye stated that he learned about Quarterbacking in 2 years under Holmgren than in all his previous years combined, and... yes, I'm just kidding.  Heh heh.

Matt Flynn (GB) - Matt is in his 2nd year, and he was a 7th Round pick.  I can't see how his rep is strong enough or his play impressive enough to warrant a trade and a starting role.  Not a real option.

Kevin Kolb (PHI) - This is really the best case scenario.  Kolb will entering his 4th season in 2010 (the last of his rookie contract), and has performed very well in his limited playing time, throwing for 718 yards and 4 TD's in his 2 starts this year.  The rub - he won't come cheap.  Philly drafted him as the heir apparent to McNabb, and they may not be excited about trading him away.

Really, the best we can hope for is that Heckert comes to Cleveland and Andy Reid gives him the "Pioli discount" - which would still likely be the Browns' 2nd Round pick.

I found this about Kolb:

Kolb is an avid hunter; it has been reported that he hunts wild hogs with a couple of dogs and a 12-inch bowie knife. He asserts that controlling the hog population is an essential part of protecting his hometown's crops. "One hog can ruin an entire field of crops in just one night. They dig up and eat the roots. They need to be controlled," says Kolb.

He's already great for this team.  He and Kaluka Maiava can hunt together.

Jason Campbell (WAS) - Yeah, I know, he doesn't really excite me either.  But I had to throw his name in there, because he's got experience in the system, and, hey, could he possibly be worse than Quinnderson?

Tavaris Jackson (MIN) - I know that some of you right now are going "Ew....", making a face like you just stepped in something round, brown, and soft in the yard.  Try to keep an open mind on this one.  This is a guy entering his 5th season, has some starting experience, has some success, has all the intangibles, and is well versed in a WC system.  Take a look at his stats:

 

Year

Team

G

GS

Passing

Att

Comp

Pct

Yds

Y/A

Y/G

TD

Int

Rtg

2006

MIN

4

2

81

47

58.1

475

5.86

118.8

2

4

62.5

2007

MIN

12

12

294

171

58.2

1911

6.50

159.3

9

12

70.8

2008

MIN

9

5

149

88

59.1

1056

7.1

117.3

9

2

95.4

2009

MIN

5

0

15

10

66.7

159

10.6

31.2

1

0

124.0

Total

30

19

539

316

58.4

3601

6.7

120.03

21

18

76.5

It's not impressive, but here's what stands out to me - his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and QB rating have gone up every single year.  In his last significant playing time (2008), he has 9 TD to 2 INT.  He'd be starting for the Vikes right now if not for Brett Favre's annual Autumn about-face.  Plus, he's a Restricted Free Agent this offseason. 

Retch if you will, but I think he might be a viable option. 

Then again, some fan of some other team is probably saying the same thing about Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.

_____________________


NFL Bottom 10

Ah, the sweet sorrow of saluting the sad sacks solomente one last time.

1. St. Louis (1-15) - Some rebuilding projects are bigger than others.  This one is the size of Russia.

2. Detroit (2-14) - Poor, poor, poor Lions fans.

3. Seattle (5-11) - Who's mocking Cleveland now?

4. Washington (4-12) - Now let's see how they ruin Mike Shanahan.

5. Kansas City (4-12) - This team has shown a lot of flashes this season, and should be reckoned with in 2010.

6. Oakland (5-11) - Al Davis will find some way to screw even this limited success up.  Maybe he'll draft Tim Tebow at # 6 overall.

7. Buffalo (6-10) - Did it feel good to beat up on the Colts 3rd stringers?  Hey, you can only play whoever's on the field.

8. Tampa Bay (3-13) - Did just well enough to save Raheem Morris' job.  Which may just be a curse because that causes them to pass up the opportunity to hire Bill Cowher.

9. New York Giants (8-8) - Sure, their record is much better than the Browns.  But who would you rather play right now?

10. Cleveland (5-11) - Yeah, baby.  The Homer in me says "Almost out of the worst 10!".  And "D'oh!"  And "Mmmmmmm... beer."

_____________________

Reader E-mail

From Percy Doe, Tiffin, OH:  "I think the one thing that is really important for the Browns to do in the offseason that no one is talking about is re-signing Lawrence Vickers."

I agree.  I would like to up that sum to ALL of the major Restricted Free Agents: Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers, and D'Qwell Jackson (Brodney Pool is also on that list, but he's probably as good as done at this juncture).

I don't know if they can manage to keep all 3, but all are vital cogs in the Browns machine, and that's a machine that just can't afford to be losing what few cogs it has.

No one said this would be easy, Mr. Holmgren.

_____________________


Next Up

The Offseason

The Browns finished 32nd in Offense and 31st in Defense.

That ain't good.

It's all well and fine to point out that the Browns won their last 4 games, but winning 4 games against marginal competition in equalizing weather conditions isn't exactly the foundation of championship organizations.  If you played those 4 games in, say, a dome, I think the talent chasm would've been more prevalent, and the Browns likely would've lost 2 or 3 of those.

I'm not trying to belittle the wins or downplay the progress.  I am saying, however, don't be fooled into thinking that this team is well on its way to success.

There's no way the Browns will win a majority of games against quality opponents when their passing game can't account for 100 yards week-in and week-out.  They can't rank near the bottom of the league in Rush D.  They can't be so ineffective in rushing the QB in non-blitz situations.

There is still a vast talent gulf on this team, and it will still take some time to address.  Don't expect this team to be a contender over night.  If Mangini alone were to remain in control, I'd expect about 5-11 next year.  With a healthy, reputable football structure under Holmgren (with or without Mangini) in place, I still only expect about 7-9.

Can teams turn it around in just one season?  Sure.  Could it be the Browns?  Sure.  But it's folly to EXPECT it, especially when all your logic and all your roster analysis tells you it's just not that likely.

The one good thing that we can look forward to is that - for the first time in the expansion era (hell, for maybe the first time since the 80's) - the Cleveland Browns have put together a legitimate NFL front office and organizational structure with a strong and experienced leadership.  No more fiddle-farkin' around, no more unqualified Head Coach dictators, no more petty ticky-tack GM's, and no more used car salesmen Presidents. 

Finally, the Browns now have a foundation upon which to build.  Finally, it seems like they know what they're doing.

Maybe, finally, they can stop being a national frickin' joke.

Let's all take a moment and pray to whomever or whatever it is we pray to - let this be our Decade of Dominance.


Browns 20, Offseason 7.


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