The New, Very New, Newest New Coach

Hey, the Browns have a new head coach!  What year is this, anyway?  2014?  2013?  2011? Or, pick just about any year before that?

hue_jackson_web_01_10_2012Look, Hue Jackson seems like a perfectly capable assistant coach.  ESPN thinks he was a good hire, and the fact that he is apparently committed to unload embarrassing butthead Johnny Manziel certainly is a point in his favor.  Some say Jackson is a “perception-changing” hire for the Browns, too.  But let’s face it — we’ve heard the song and dance about how the prior hires, from Mike Pettine going back through all of his predecessors before him, were uniquely trained and qualified and positioned to lead the Browns out of the grim, we’re a laughingstock team that will suck and lose NFL games in impossible ways forever wilderness.  Of course, none of them did.  They all failed miserably, just like the coaches before them did.

Why should I believe Hue Jackson will do any better?  No offense, but it’s not like his prior coaching experience with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders has involved Super Bowl wins.  And every Browns fan remembers how Romeo Crennel, with his New England Patriots Super Bowl rings and defensive know-how, was supposed to turn around the Browns’ fortunes, or how Butch Davis, with his Miami Hurricanes’ national championship fresh in memory, was supposed to do the same.  It didn’t happen for them, or for any of the other would-be Browns saviors, either — and this year, with the NFL playoffs underway, the Browns are on the outside looking in, just like always.

il_214x170-890063290_27m0So I’m going to reserve judgment on Hue Jackson.  What will it take for me to start trusting the hype?  Getting rid of Manziel and his colossal head-case ego, planning and executing a competent draft, and making intelligent free agent acquisitions would be a good start.  But I’m not going to move back to Believeland until the Browns win a few games — in fact, enough to make the playoffs.

If that happens, I’ll gladly admit that, by being skeptical of what might be accomplished by Hue Jackson, I was a Huge Jackass.

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Brown Thoughts After Another Brown Year

Today the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s a dog bites man story, a result that follows the chalk.  The Browns ended the year 3-13, which is their worst record in a while, and I didn’t watch a game after about week six.  I doubt that I’m alone.

So now we’ll go through what has become an almost annual Browns rite.  Where other teams focus on the playoffs, the Browns undoubtedly will be cleaning house, canning their head coach and probably their GM, too.  I’m sorry Mike Pettine was a bust, but I have to laugh when I remember owner Jimmy Haslam saying how the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine when they hired him only two years ago.

1557-mNo doubt the Browns were “thrilled” to hire anyone, because no rational person who wants a future in the NFL would want to be head coach of the Browns.  It’s a death wish writ large, because the Browns have had almost as many head coaches as they have had starting quarterbacks.  Does anybody remember Pat Shurmur?

So the Browns probably will once again hire a nobody, and they’ll get a new GM who will want to remake the team in his own image, and they’ll squander another high draft pick.  We’ll have a wholesale turnover of players, and the new guy will promise that we’ll be “exciting” or “tough” or play nails defense.  It never happens.  The franchise is cursed — cursed with stupidity.  A revolving door of coaches and front-office personnel, an owner who doesn’t know what he is doing and won’t hire somebody who does, and a list of failed first-round draft picks that were complete busts are a recipe for failure for any franchise.  The Browns have made that recipe into an art form.

This year there will be a bunch of really good Ohio State players in the draft.  Joey Bosa.  Ezekiel Elliott.  Normally I’d want them to play for my team — but now when my team is the Browns, because that inevitably means they will be injured or put into a scheme that fails to take advantage of their talents or otherwise converted into marginal players.

What should the Browns do?  I say clean house, top to bottom, and hire Jim Tressel to run the organization.  Why not?  We know he’s competent, he can recognize talent, he’s won at every level he’s tried, and his offensive scheme is pretty close to what the NFL does, anyway.  He knows the Browns tradition of success — unfortunately, only older guys know that anymore — and he resurrected the Buckeye program after the Cooper era.  Browns fans would give him a nice long honeymoon, which means he might actually last longer than the last few Browns coaches, who’ve been there for no more than a cup of coffee.  Maybe he’s not the answer — but does anybody trust this Browns organization to actually find somebody who is?

I say hire Jim Tressel.

Edited to add:  The Browns have, in fact, fired head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer.  According to ESPN, they are interviewing former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.  Romeo Crennel, anyone?

Cleveland Clad

I’ll be leaving in a few minutes to drive up to Cleveland.  I’ve got tickets to watch the Browns today with Russell and two of his buddies.

IMG_7175Here’s an example of how sports fans think:  I’m trying to decide what to wear that might help the Browns win.  And when the opposing team is the Denver Broncos — a franchise that figures prominently in the history of Browns heartbreaks — carefully considered clothing choices are especially important.

I’ve been up to watch a number of Browns games in the new stadium, and for the most part I’ve seen appalling gag jobs and wretched losses.  This means that the Browns haven’t been very good, sure . . . but it also means that most of my Browns gear is now irrevocably tainted.  I’ll give a ball cap or sweatshirt a few shots at bringing home a win, but once they hit multiple losses they obviously can’t be worn again without hurting the team and go into the closet, forever.

As a result of this process, I’ve got no Browns ball cap to wear.  Fortunately, the weather is supposed to be cold, so I can get by with a stocking cap with the Brownie on it.  And my standard sweatshirt has proven to be a dismal failure.  I’ve dug up some vintage stuff that Russell got years ago, reasoning that they not only are weather-appropriate for a chilly day but also are likely to have some good karma still infused into their very fibers.

C’mon Brownies!  I’m running out of licensed gear, here!

Edited to add:  Well, another outfit bites the dust . . . .

Browns Bounce-Back

I wanted to write about the Browns’ improbable — in fact, impossible — come-from-behind overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens today as soon as the game ended, but I was so stunned by the result that my fingers refused to function.

Let’s face it — no one expected the Browns to beat the Ravens in Baltimore.  The last time it happened, George W. Bush was President.  And for the Browns, it was probably 1,000 head coaches and 1,000 starting quarterbacks ago.  But today, they did it.

Russell informs me that the Browns defense has the highest payroll in the NFL.  You couldn’t tell that by today’s game, when the Browns got gashed on the ground and made Joe Flacco and his second-string receivers look like studs.  But the Ravens inexplicably became conservative when they had the chance to score the clinching touchdown in regulation, the Browns D made a stop to get the game to overtime, and then it forced a three-and-out to get the offense the ball and a chance for the winning field goal.  I’ve never seen a defense so soft against the run and so incapable of sacking the quarterback or forcing turnovers — but the Browns won, anyway.

And how about Browns’ quarterback Josh McCown (or, as UJ has called him in moments of weakness, “McClown”)?  He’s put up big numbers in the past three games, he threw for more than 400 yards today, he led the offense on several key drives, he didn’t throw an interception, and he spreads the ball around to skill players who can actually make plays.  The notion that the Browns would score more than 30 against the vaunted Ravens defense is absurd — but with McCown at the helm they did so, anyway.

Of course, Browns fans everywhere are pumped about the victory and are looking forward to more offensive fireworks to come.  I’m going up to the game next weekend, for a matchup against Denver that is perfectly set up to be a horrible disappointment.  Don’t blame me for my pessimisn . . . I’m just a world-weary Browns fan who’s seen the little sparks of hope in seasons past die horrible, soul-crushing deaths before.

So I’m not even going to think about next week’s game.  For now, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Down And Drafty

Hey, is the NFL draft over yet?  It is?  These days, I would have thought the NFL would have expanded the draft to at least a week-long celebration of team logos, ball caps, and windy analyses from football pundits and hair-challenged draft wizards like Mel Kiper.  Thank god they’ve limited it to only a multi-day exercise in wretched excess!

The logical next question is:  which unfortunate college players were drafted by the Cleveland Browns?  We all know that one of two things happen to players drafted by the Browns.  Either they are great players named Joe, and are doomed to play forever for a cursed franchise that will never, ever make the NFL playoffs — like Joe Thomas or Joe Haden — or they are colossal disappointments and contribute even more gloom to a franchise that has been cloud-covered since its return to the League years ago.

This year, the Browns did not draft someone named Joe, so all of the new players mustfall into the second category.  They did draft a guy who will make the “All-Unpronounceable” team — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.  His name sounds like an exercise in Pig Latin.  He’s a cornerback from Oregon who suffered a torn ACL and therefore didn’t have the opportunity to be run over by Ezekiel Elliott in the national championship game like the rest of the Ducks defense.  Of course, he’s a project.  So is Vince Mayle, the wide receiver who has size and speed but struggles to hold on to the ball.  So what?  So are the Browns.

Down And Out

I knew that when the Browns decided to start Johnny Manziel, the season was over.  Sure enough, the Browns got crushed by the Bengals today in a game that was never even competitive.  Manziel was predictably awful.

I’m not saying that Johnny Manziel lost the game single-handedly, because he didn’t.  The whole team didn’t show up.  But when you have to change quarterbacks in the middle of what should be a sprint to the playoffs, and you’re going with a raw rookie whose arm strength is questionable and who made most of the great plays in his college career with his legs, you can’t really expect anything good to happen.  Real playoff teams just don’t do that.  Brian Hoyer’s awful play the past few weeks left the Browns coaches with no choice, because you can’t just let games slip through your fingers through offensive ineptitude — but only rabid fans would expect anything good to happen with Manziel making his first start in a crucial divisional match-up with the Browns’ fading playoff hopes on the line.

And so a season that once seemed promising has spiraled downward into a smelly, urine-soaked, rat-infested dumpster.  It’s the unfortunate lot of the Browns fan.  Now let’s turn our attention to the Buckeyes and that tilt against Alabama on January 1.

A Schizoid Beginning To Michigan Week

Thanks to being a fan of both the Ohio State and Cleveland football teams, I have a split gridiron personality.  The Dr. Buckeye part expects perfection and routine drubbings; the Mr. Brown side knows that disaster and doom will inevitably rear their ugly heads.

IMG_3501Today’s Ohio State win over Indiana fed both halves of my schizoid football fan persona.  The Buckeye Nation part nods approvingly at the fact that Ohio State is undefeated in the Big Ten and has clinched a spot in the conference title game.  The Browns Backer saw a sloppy game in which Ohio State had three first-half turnovers and actually trailed an overmatched team in the second half.  The Buckeyes fan saw Jalin Marshall score four second-half touchdowns and show some of the lightning-in-a-bottle capabilities of the OSU offense.  The Browns fan saw the defense gashed for more than 200 yards and two appallingly long runs by a good running back as well as a ridiculous rumbling, stumbling, fumbling run by a freshman QB that set up Indiana’s first score.

The commentators say that Ohio State needs style points if it hopes to make the college football playoffs.  Maybe, but the Browns fan in me says that I should be happy with a win that followed on the heels of two high-intensity, on-the-road wins and just be pleased that the college kids on the team finally righted the ship in the second half and prevailed.  And the Buckeyes fan says that Ohio State had better have worked all of the turnovers, penalties, and blunders out of their system, because now things begin to get really serious.

It’s Michigan Week!