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?

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The Agony, And Occasional Ecstacy

The Browns were playing like crap and down 21-3 when I snapped off the TV in frustration this afternoon and suggested that Kish and I walk to the library — which we did.  It was a way to get away from another situation where I could feel myself beginning to lose my temper and yell incoherently at the lousy tackling and poor play.

We had a nice walk, and when we got back from the library I offered to take Kasey, Mighty Kasey, for a walk around the Yantis Loop.  Why not?  It would keep me away from the TV and make me feel less like I had wasted my Sunday on the Browns.  So Kasey and I took a nice walk, too.  But during the walk I thought well, I should just check to see if anything is happening in the game.  What could it hurt?  I checked, and it was 28-13.  Well, at least the Browns had cut the deficit and hadn’t quit.  A little later I couldn’t resist checking again, and now it was 28-15.  Hmm . . . a safety?  And the Browns were within two scores?

When Kasey and I got back, I decided to turn on the TV, despite the Steelers debacle earlier this year.  Hey . . . it was now 28-22!  Well, what the hell — why not watch?  So I did.  And I saw Head Coach Mike Pettine make a smart challenge on the spot of the ball, and the Browns D make a huge, goal-line stand-type play on fourth and inches — a decision that the Tennessee coach would like to do over — and then Brian Hoyer calmly drive the team down the field for the winning score.

Hey, who are these guys?  A Browns miracle comeback never happens.  I know that Tennessee isn’t one of the best teams in the NFL, but the fact that the Browns were able to turn it around and didn’t quit says a lot to me.  Their coach stays in the game, and his players do, too.  What’s not to like?  Now if only the Browns could actually play full games like they played the second half today and against the Steelers.

And by the way — I know it is stupid that a 57-year-old guy can find his mood change completely depending on whether a football team wins a game, but I just can’t help it.

Liking Mike Pettine

Okay, I know it is just the second week of the NFL, and I know the thrilling last-minute win over the Saints today is just one win. I know that it is a long season and, the Browns being the Browns, many bad things — horrible things, unspeakable things, impossible things — can and inevitably will happen.  I haven’t totally lost touch with reality (I think).

But, I’m willing to declare this:  I’m liking what I’m seeing of Mike Pettine, the Browns’ new head coach, so far.

I liked the way Pettine handled last week’s first half debacle against the Steelers, and the way the and his staff got the team turned around and ready to play the second half.  When the Browns came roaring back he kept his cool, and he maintained his composure even when the team lost a heartbreaker.  That’s not easy, but it’s essential in pro football.  The coach has to keep a level head, and Pettine looks like he has that ability.  Today we saw more of that.

We also saw one other crucial thing:  players making key plays at critical moments.  In pro football, the margin for error is so slim that one play can be dispositive.  Today the key play was a third down sack that kept the Saints out of field goal position and gave the Browns a chance to come back.  In past years, for whatever reason, that play doesn’t get made.  This year it did, and the Browns then didn’t implode in the two-minute offense.  I credit the coaches for the team’s ability to execute when the chips were down.

Pettine not only keeps his cool, he looks cool, with the shaved head and shades.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he might finally be the head coach we’ve needed.

A Weirdly Desperate Ad Campaign

IMG_5926Yesterday I was minding my own business, driving north on Route 315, when I saw this billboard. It stopped my in my tracks, and reminded me — as if I or any Browns Backer needed reminding — of just how lost and pathetic the Cleveland Browns franchise seems to be right now.

What are the Browns trying to accomplish with this ad campaign? It’s February, months away from the start of NFL training camps. No one in Columbus knows Mike Pettine, so why would we trust any assurance he provided? It would be another thing if the Browns had decided to hire Jim Tressel and were running ads featuring him, and it might even be different if the Browns hadn’t changed head coaches as often as Miley Cyrus changes into another raunchy outfit. But neither of those things is true, and a picture of a random guy with a shaved head and beard looking like a hard ass isn’t going to change that.

I also don’t remember anyone questioning the Browns’ toughness. Instead, it was all about talent — which the Browns sorely lack. Get some good players in free agency, have a high-quality draft, and tell me I won’t ever again have to watch Brandon Weedon on a football field wearing a Browns uniform, and maybe I’ll pay attention.

I’m guessing that the Browns are worried that their frustrated and embarrassed fans won’t renew their season tickets, and they are trying to build a little positive momentum. They’re as a needy and desperate as a high school geek searching desperately for someone, anyone, who will go to the prom with him.

Theodoric of Cleveland

Today the Cleveland Browns announced that they were hiring Mike Pettine to be their new head coach. He’ll be their third head coach in three years, and his resume sounds a lot like the resumes of their last two coaches. He’s a guy who has had decent experience as an NFL assistant coach but has never been the head guy — just like Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski. Shurmur was overwhelmed by the job and got fired after two uninspired seasons and Chud got the boot, unfairly, in my view, after only one season at the helm.

Who’s Pettine? He’s been an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and the Buffalo Bills. These aren’t exactly the elite franchises in the NFL — Buffalo won just six games this past season. Pettine is a defensive guy, which could be a good fit because the Browns have some defensive talent. But who knows? He’s got a limited track record and limited experience.

I listened to some of the press conference for Pettine today and had to laugh when Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine, who would be “tough, aggressive and innovative” and bring “a blue-collar, team-first mentality.” Who does Haslam think he’s kidding? Cleveland Browns fans may be ridiculously devoted, but we’re not blithering idiots. The Browns clearly hired Pettine because their coaching search had become an embarrassment. Cleveland was jilted and rebuffed by all of the hot coaches, who no doubt wanted to avoid a franchise that looks more like a clown show with each passing season. The Browns’ decision to can Chudzinski after only one season in which the Browns played without an NFL-caliber quarterback obviously limited the pool of people who would even consider a job.

I don’t wish Pettine ill. I hope that, against all odds and notwithstanding the obvious incompetence of the Browns organization, they found a diamond in the rough who succeeds famously. But the Browns have no credibility with me any more. Their front office is like a collective Theodoric of York, the medieval barber played by Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live in the ’70s. After Theodoric would kill or maim his patients with his quackery, Jane Curtin would confront him and say: “Why don’t you just admit it! You don’t know what you’re doing!” At the Browns’ press conference today, I was hoping Jane would make an appearance.