Bengals Failure, Browns Failure

Last night the Cincinnati Bengals gave away a game they basically had won.  After looking lost and overmatched for most of the contest, the team had fought back to take the lead against Pittsburgh, but a fumble and then two inexcusable penalties put the Steelers into position to kick the winning field goal.

This is an old story for the Bengals.  For five straight years, and six years out of seven, they have put together lots of talent, done well in the regular season, and then laid an egg in the playoffs.  The final score of last night’s loss was closer than some of them in that string of failure, but the result was the familiar one:  when the chips were down, the Bengals somehow found a way to lose.

635879849966702883-010916-steelers-bengals-ke-2132-1Cincinnati’s loss and running record of post-season collapse inevitably makes me think of Cleveland — because when you think of losing, you think of the Browns.  And I wonder, which is worse:  an organization so wildly inept that they have become an irrelevancy, or a team that has success in the regular season only to lose, again and again and again, in the playoffs?  Would you rather have your team be a running joke for its absolute incompetence, or the object of scorn because it inevitably chokes in the playoffs?

If I had to choose, as a fan, I would go for the chokers rather than the bungling failures, because fans of the chokers could at least enjoy the regular season and dream of the day when their talented team finally makes it to the playoff mountaintop.  But being fans of the chokers isn’t easy, either.  (As an Ohio State fan who barely survived the Cooper era, I know this deep in my bones.)  Each year you let yourself be convinced that this year’s team is different, and this is the year that the team will take that next step — and then you have your heart ripped out by turnovers and ridiculous penalties and find yourself once again knocked out in week one.

One last point:  last night’s game is an example of how the NFL has become almost unwatchable.  It was a dirty, penalty-filled affair between two teams that obviously hate each other’s guts and didn’t have the discipline to avoid the cheap shots.  The key penalty that let the Steelers get into field goal range was an unforgivable head shot against a defenseless receiver that is a poster child example of why the NFL has a colossal concussion problem.  NFL players are big and fast and amazing athletes, but the thuggish behavior is indefensible and just has to stop — it is ruining the game.

Another Loss To Start The Season In Browns Town

Today the Cleveland Browns started off another season with an opening game loss.

What’s that, you say?  The game hasn’t been played yet?

So what?  The Browns losing their opening game is more predictable than the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.  Since coming back to the NFL, they have lost their first game with brutal, shocking consistency.

IMG_5527_2Does anyone really doubt that it will happen again this year?  After all, the Browns will be starting a quarterback who apparently was born during the Eisenhower Administration and who has played for a number of teams without any distinction.  Their back-up is a rag-armed ex-Heisman Trophy winner who is in the process of proving that the Heisman Jinx is alive and well.  Their exciting offensive players have turned out to be either head cases or juvenile delinquents — or both — and now they’re heading into the season without any significant offensive threats.  While I expect the defense to be reasonably stout, they inevitably will get worn down from being on the field constantly as individual games, and ultimately the long NFL season, progress to another bitter losing campaign for the Orange and Brown.

I try to be positive about the Browns, but this year it’s hard to be anything but harshly and protectively pessimistic.  The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and the Browns really don’t have one.  What has Josh McCown ever done to make the loyal Browns Backers think he will be anything other than the latest entry in the Browns’ revolving door list of QBs?

The only good thing about the inevitable loss today is that it is an away game, so at least the Browns won’t start the season with their perennial home opener loss.