What Makes the Cleveland Brows — Well, the Cleveland Browns

81xogvlrxul._ac_ul320_sr208,320_I bought this book on a whim because I like reading about football.  I am a New England Patriots fan but I do share the misery of losing seasons with bleak prospects for the future.  From 1987 to 1995 the Patriots had a losing record every year except one, including seasons of 1-15 and 2-14.  We also had bad ownership until Robert Kraft bought the team and turned it around.  Much of what happened to the Patriots during that span of time is a lot like what has happened to the Browns.

This book lays out the key themes that have made the Browns the worst team in the NFL for the last decade.  Let’s lay it out here.

Bad ownership. While the three owners during this time are not bad guys like a Victor Kiam or Daniel Snyder, they certainly did not know how to establish a winning team.  They never came up with a structure that was clear on who was running football operations, so internally GMs, Head Coaches, Team Presidents often worked at cross-purposes.  With no structure and no accountability in place, the Browns have churned though coaches and front office personnel with no continuity in place.  A losing formula.

Horrible drafts.  The author goes through just how utterly awful the Browns drafts have been.  Every year the first-round yields busts and before the rookie wage scale, salary cap issues.  Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft???  It doesn’t get much more disastrous than that.  Add to that players they missed out on that they could have drafted like LaDanian Tomlinson and Kalil Mack.

Bad quarterbacks.  I don’t even recall how many bad starting quarterbacks the Browns have gone through in the past decade.  Tim Couch got hurt behind and awful line then Brady Quinn turned out to be a bust.  From Tim Couch to DeShone Kizer it’s been 1st round draft pick busts, perineal back up quality quarterbacks (Doug Pederson, Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy), or has beens (Trent Dilfer, Jeff Garcia, Jason Campbell).  Not a winning formula.

Bad Coaches.  Up through and including Hue Jackson, the Browns have had bad head coaches.  The author has some affinity for a few of them but frankly I just don’t see any of the coaches as quality head coaches.

No culture.  The Browns created a losing culture by having zero stability in leadership positions and not establishing one voice to run football operations.  Mike Lombardi, who was briefly the General Manager of the Browns, said they never established any kind of culture, much less one of winning, which is needed to be a winning franchise.

Hope for the future?  Time will tell.

This book might be painful for Browns fans but it certainly lays out the reasons for its abysmal showing the past two decades.

The Browns Blues: Two Decades of Utter Frustration: Why Everything Kept Going Wrong for the Cleveland Browns

Comprehensive History of the 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns

The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns, Pro Football’s Greatest Dynasty by Andy Piascik
Taylor Trade Publishing 2007

This is an extremely comprehensive history of the Cleveland Browns from 1946-1955.  It is also a very well done argument that the Cleveland Browns team of that era is the greatest dynasty of all time.

Despite playing in the All American Football Conference from 1946-1949, a competitor to the National Football League at the time, Piascik makes a great case for the greatness of the Cleveland Browns.  They won seven championships in ten years, an unbelievable feat.  But four of those championships came as members of the AAFC, which many consider to be an inferior league.  The AAFC folded in 1950 but took in some of the old AAFC teams, with the Cleveland Browns being one of them.

The greatness of the Browns’ however is evident in that they won the 1950 NFL Championship in their first season in the NFL.  They also won it again in 1954 and 1955.  It is pretty clear that despite playing in the AAFC they were a great team, and maybe the best of that time period.

Beyond the argument that the Browns are the greatest dynasty of all time this book chronicles the rise of Paul Brown as the taskmaster head coach who sought perfection and greatness from his players.  And possibly the greatest quarterback of all time, Otto Graham, was at the helm in these winning years.  This book does a fine job of chronicling the team and its players of this era, and also serves as partial history of the AAFC.  This by itself makes the book a worthy read for those who like football history.

The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns–Pro Football’s Greatest Dynasty

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Nine Observations


The Dallas Cowboys

Watching the Sunday night debacle where the Green Bay Packers demolished a Dallas Cowboy’s team that had been thumping their chests about a Super Bowl run at the start of the season was just too much fun to watch. For all those lifelong Cowboy’s haters like me, it’s great to see this team not only buried in mediocrity, but actually be a bad team that quits. I knew after watching that travesty of a game that poor Wade Philips was going to get the proverbial axe. Jerry Jones had to do something to stop the bleeding. I like Philips but never thought he was quite cut out to be a head coach. I am not so sure Jason Garrett is the answer as I see the offense, which he runs, as part of the problem as well. If they really want to make a statement they need to cut Mike Jenkins who has been a horrible cornerback all year long. The Cowboys are providing some good fodder and good entertainment.


GAMES I WATCHED

Cleveland Browns over New England Patriots, 34-14 (On NFL.com Game Rewind)

I had to force myself to watch this game online. What I saw made me sick to my stomach.

The New England Patriots defense has been very soft all year long. We have mostly been winning through special teams and turnovers. And our offense, without Randy Moss stretching the defense, has been extremely inconsistent as teams are able to simply double cover the underneath receivers. Wes Welker is getting a lot of unwanted attention from defenses these days. And when we can’t establish a running game to loosen up the passing attack, the offense is just flat.

But the defense was just absolutely mauled by the Cleveland Browns. The scariest thing about this game is it is either an aberration and just a trap game between contests with the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, or it exposed our defense and weak, undisciplined, and patsies. I hope it was just an aberration.

The Browns did beat the Saints after all and Peyton Hillis, who had a 184 yards rushing in this game, put up 144 yards on the stout Baltimore Ravens defense (okay, I know they are not as stout this year but still). And I thought the Patriots’ defense played very physical and tough against the Minnesota Vikings and the hard running Adrian Peterson. So that gives me hope that defense just had an off day. But you never want to lose this badly and look that soft against any team, much less one with losing record.

Cleveland certainly appears to be better than their 3-5 record. They beat the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots and played very well against the Baltimore Ravens.

MVP: Peyton Hillis, RB

Baltimore Ravens over Miami Dolphins, 26-10

The Baltimore Ravens had little trouble dispatching the Miami Dolphins. I thought they were going to pay for settling for field goals after having the ball in the red zone twice in the first half. Once the Ravens got near the goal line they had comically bad offense series after looking great up that point and had to settle for three points instead of seven. But Miami was never able to take advantage of their breaks. It was only 13-10 Ravens at halftime and it should been much worse for the Dolphins. But the Ravens dominated the second half.

Most impressive was the Ravens ran the ball straight up the middle over and over with guard Ben Grubbs and center Matt Birk just dominating the interior of the Dolphins defense. The Ravens, while giving up a few yards, forced three interceptions and never looked back.

MVP: Ben Grubbs, G

Philadelphia Eagles over Indianapolis Colts, 26-24

I have a lot to say about this game and the horrendous officiating. The officials did every thing they could to give the Indianapolis Colts the win. The officials used zero common sense in call helmet-to-helmet contact. I could care less about the Eagles and despite many who think I hate the Colts, I really don’t. But I have observed over the years just how much the bad, horrendous, game changing calls always seem to go in their favor.

The bottom line is the Eagles completely outplayed the Colts and deserved to win the game.

The biggest mistake the officials made is calling a roughing penalty on defensive back Kurt Coleman late in the second quarter after Austin Collie was knocked out on a hard, legal hit. Collie clearly caught the ball, had possession, moved forward and ducked his head, and was crunched by Coleman in what appeared to be the chest area. Collie drops the ball and the Eagles recover it. The correct call by the officials would have been a fumble by Collie and the Eagles getting the ball wherever they returned it. At the very least it should have been the Eagles ball at the spot Collie fumbled it. Instead the Colts get a 15-yard penalty in the red zone and are able to score a touchdown and pull to a 16-14 deficit against the Eagles.

I know part of the officials’ reaction to the hit was probably that Collie was knocked completely unconscious and had to be taken off on a stretcher. I have a lot of admiration for Collie and thankfully he appears to be fine now. But that doesn’t absolve the officials for practically handing the Colts a touchdown.

But they were not done yet! Down 26-17 with three and half minutes left in the game, the Colts face a 4th down and 18 yards to go from the Philadelphia 41 yard line. The Eagles sack Manning, game over, right? Hold on, defensive end Trent Cole barely grazes the back of Manning’s helmet as he was being blocked. Manning probably didn’t even feel or notice it. But the officials, seeing that the Colts were about to lose, drop the flag, 15 yards, let’s hand the Colts another touchdown refs!

The Eagles were able to survive for a close win but it should have never come to having to get first down and run to run out the clock.

Lost in all this is Michael Vick played an excellent game both passing and running and the Eagles defense played as well as I have seen them play all year.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys, 45-7

There really isn’t much to say about this game other than that Green Bay destroyed Dallas and the Dallas players simply quit. Jerry Jones must have been horribly embarrassed by the lack of effort or will on the part of his team. The Packers played a great game, of course, but they didn’t have a real football team to compete with.

And Clay Matthews, Jr. just terrorized the Dallas offensive line while receiver James Jones had a nice day with 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Cincinnati Bengals, 27-21

The Bengals are an enigma to me. They have great receivers, a good quarterback, and a solid running game but just can’t seem to get it done. Their defense is a bit weak and not at all like the Marvin Lewis defenses of the past, but they are not horrible either. Had the Bengals not given up scores after turnovers and a blocked punt, they might have been able to win this game. But they just seem not to be able to get over the hump.

The Steelers defense, as usual, is solid but they seemed to relax after getting the big lead and let the Bengals back in the game late. And the offense had to resort to a trick play with Antwaan Randle-El throwing a touchdown pass. But despite a speedy receiver, Big Ben, and a good running attack, they don’t tend to produce a lot of points.

While the defense really won this game, they let the Bengals back in it so I’m going with the speed receiver Mike Wallace as the MVP who had 110 receiving yards and extended the Steelers lead in the fourth quarter with his touchdown grab from Randle-El.

MVP: Mike Wallace, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Wes Welker, WR/K, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Three Observations

Tom Brady

I realize after the first three weeks of the season that what I thought I knew, I don’t know, but there some things I know that I know, at least I think so this week.

What I Thought I Knew

I was ready to anoint the Green Bay Packers one of the top teams in football going into the week and I thought Mike McCarthy was a good coach. The horribly sloppy play and penalties against the Chicago Bears and questionable decisions by McCarthy lost the game for the Packers.

I thought the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Who would have thought they wouldn’t be able to stop the run, against the Cleveland Browns of all teams? Luckily for them the offense woke out of its slumber for a win.

I thought the San Francisco 49’ers were an up and coming team despite their losses, but they proved me wrong Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I thought the Houston Texans might be the best team in the AFC but they got punked by Dallas’s defense.

And while I knew the St. Louis Rams would be better this year than last, I didn’t expect them to completely handle the Washington Redskins the way they did.

And finally, I have never been a big believer in Michael Vick coming back to be an effective every down quarterback. I guess he has proven me wrong, so far.


What I Think I Know

Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league and they just keep proving it. It is scary that they are 3-0 without Big Ben. Very scary.

The New England Patriots young defense is terrible, mostly in the secondary. I sure hope Bill Belichick gets that squad straightened out, soon.

Clinton Portis has seen his better days.

Philip Rivers is a whiney punk and San Diego has once again started off slowly. I’d love to see them lose the rest of their games. I am tired of Philip Rivers.

Baltimore’s offense could be one of the best in the league once Joe Flacco starts playing well. Even though he played well against the Browns, I still didn’t like his jittery feet and mechanics.

The Super Bowl is totally up for grabs this year. So far, there are no clearly dominant teams in the NFL.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills 38-30 (On NFL Game Rewind)

What is going on with the New England Patriots defense?! Giving up 23 points to the Buffalo Bills is simply not acceptable (I am not counting the kickoff return for a touchdown by C.J. Spiller). The young rookie defensive backs are struggling mightily. Hopefully they will improve over the course the season. Otherwise we are in big trouble.

Thankfully, the offense looked great. Tom Brady had a terrific game and spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. The one huge concern I have is the lack of commitment to the running game. Even without a marquee running back, it is imperative to have a rushing attack to slow down pass rushers and keep defenses a little more off guard. Otherwise teams will just catch up with our passing attack.

Ryan Fitzpatrick obviously had a great day at quarterback as well and you can understand why the Bills jettisoned Trent Edwards who was just not working out. It will be interesting to see what kind of success the Bills can muster when they face tougher defensive backs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns, 24-17

I was absolutely shocked watching the Cleveland Browns and Peyton Hillis run all over the Ravens defense. Hillis ended up with 144 yards against what I thought was one of the toughest run defenses in the league.

Luckily for the Ravens the offense woke up after two disappointing weeks with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin for three touchdowns. Despite having a better game I still though Flacco sometimes looked sketchy in the pocket. No quarterback has a lot of time to throw in the NFL but when Flacco gets what I consider normal pressure, he seems to get happy feet and throw off his back foot or make mental errors. It was less pronounced this week than last but there are still some issues there.

And what can you say about the acquisition of Anquan Boldin? He has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the league and the bright spot on offense for the Ravens the past three weeks.

For Cleveland this should be a game to build on. If they can play that well against this defense, they should be able to notch up a few wins this season. And I wonder if Jake Delhomme will get his starting job back? Seneca Wallace looked awfully good in this game. Of course he was getting a lot of support in the running game.

MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR

St. Louis Ram over Washington Redskins, 30-16

Despite some miscues and not taking full advantage of some of their opportunities, the St. Louis Rams looked like a good football team against the Washington Redskins! I was extremely impressed with the team on both sides of the ball.

I was most impressed that after taking a 14-0 lead, the Washington Redskins came back to take the lead 16-14 early in the third quarter but the Rams didn’t falter. This is when bad teams fall apart and get spanked. Instead, the Rams stayed calm and retook the lead with a nice touchdown drive and never looked back. While I think Sam Bradford has a lot of work to do, his calm leadership and solid play showed that he can eventually be top flight starter in the NFL if he stays healthy. And the defense shut the Redskins out the rest of the game thanks to linebacker Bill Laurinaitis being all over the field and the play of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe before leaving the game with an injury.

On the Redskins side of the ball, they absolutely could not get a running game going. Without a running game they just could not do much in the second half. It would appear Santana Moss is getting too old be a receiver that can carry the load and Joey Galloway is even worse. I am surprised the Redskins didn’t go to tight end Chris Cooley more than they did.

The most bizarre play was when Clinton Portis broke off a long run and then simply fell to the ground himself. Later in the week it was reported he told Coach Shanahan it was because of his wrist injury and concern about ball security. While I think Portis is one of the biggest whiners and malcontents in the league, he has been a tough player so I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

This game reminded me a lot of the Detroit Lions game last year in the third game of the season where the Redskins lost in a poorly played game and Portis got into an argument with Jim Zorn on the sideline after taking himself out of the game. To me, that game marked the day the wheels came off for the Redskins in the 2009 season. Again, in the third week, they lost to a team most would think they should beat, and didn’t look great in the process. Will the wheels come off again or will Shanahan keep this team rolling forward and improving? With a weakened offensive line, no running game, and a questionable corps of receivers, it might be tough. Donovan McNabb can’t do it all on his own.

MVP: Bill Laurinaitis, LB

New York Jets over Miami Dolphins, 31-23

Mark Sanchez had a great game against the Dolphins. Is this his breakout game or will he revert back to the poor play we saw in the first game of the season? Time will tell. But I will say, I am not a believer.

I also think if the off field incidents like Braylon Edwards’ DUI continue, it will become a distraction for this team. He did catch a long touchdown pass to help redeem himself. The key to this game, to me though, was the ability of the Jets to run the ball with LaDanian Tomlinson, helping out the passing game.

Miami hung tough and tried to come back but to no avail, even with Brandon Marshall catching 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Mark Sanchez, QB

Chicago Bears over Green Bay Packers, 20-17

Green Bay outplayed the Bears but their 18 penalties for 152 yards killed them. Holding penalties thwarting the offense and a stupid roughing the passer penalty negating a Green Bay interception really did the Packers in. Punter Tim Masthay was horrible, having the kind of game that should get him cut. A short low kick allowed an easy punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester that put the Bears ahead in the fourth quarter and was really the key play in the game.

And then Mike McCarthy challenged a fumble that was clearly a fumble in the fourth quarter costing the team a timeout. That was a really stupid move on his part. There is no way that play was getting overturned.

The Bears are now 3-0, the only undefeated team in the NFC, and have knocked off two good teams in Dallas and Green Bay. Frankly, they just don’t look like a 3-0 team to me.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Bill Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams
Offensive Lineman: Adam Goldberg, G, St. Louis Rams
Special Teams: Leon Washington, RB/KR, Seattle Seahawks
Rookie of the Week: C.J. Spiller, RB/KR, Buffalo Bills

2008 NFL Football Season: Week 10, Browns Blow it in Quinn’s Debut

Jay Cutler Throws for 447 Yards Against Browns

Jay Cutler Throws for 447 Yards Against Browns

Denver Broncos over Cleveland Browns, 34-30

I can’t remember a year where I have seen so many close games with wild plays that determine the final outcome.  For three quarters the Cleveland Browns dominated the Denver Broncos and took a 23-13 lead into the fourth quarter.  There was nothing to indicate that Denver could get back in the game, but I told my wife “it’s not over by a long shot, it’s only a 10 point lead.”  The very next play was a 93-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Eddie Royal that cut the lead to 23-20.  This was immediately followed by a Kellen Winslow, Jr. fumble on Cleveland’s next possession that Denver turned into another touchdown to take the lead 27-23.  Those were the two pivotal plays of the game as both teams traded touchdowns late in the game. 

Cleveland has now blown two fourth quarter leads in consecutive games, dropping to a 3-6 record that all but ensures they will miss the playoffs this year.  The promise of a breakout year after last year’s surprisingly strong showing is gone, as the Browns now look to salvage their season and pin their hopes on the arm and leadership of Brady Quinn next year. 

 

The storyline going into this game was obviously the first start of Brady Quinn’s career.  Quinn acquitted himself very well and showed great promise.  He stayed poised throughout the game, threw the ball well for the most part, and played smart.  Most impressively, Quinn stayed cool once Denver took the lead late in the game and calmly drove the Browns for a go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a one yard run by Jamal Lewis.  It was for naught as Denver and Jay Cutler answered with a winning touchdown drive of their own.  But even on the final desperation drive, Quinn played well and his fourth down pass to Winslow was right on the money, Winslow just didn’t make the catch.   

 

Granted Denver has a very weak defense, the Browns established a very productive running game, Quinn had excellent protection in the pocket, and the passing game was mostly a short, controlled variety with no long throws.  He also threw some odd low balls that Kellen Winslow dug off the turf bailing Quinn out.  Nonetheless, for a first start in the NFL, not bad.  Only time will tell what Brady Quinn will ultimately do in this league, but he showed enough last night to think he has a bright future.

 

And what’s up with Brandon Marshall dropping ball, after ball, after ball?  What happened to him all of a sudden? 

 

And Kellen Winslow had a great game except he had a silly offensive pass interference penalty that stymied a late drive, fumbled the ball that led to a Denver go ahead score (although it was a great strip by the defense), and he should have caught that last  pass of the game for a first down.  But he seemed to play with a lot of heart and made some nice catches.

 

Jay Cutler, with NO running game, and hurt tight end, and a receiver dropping balls all over the field still pulled out the win.  It was a very impressive outing by Cutler.  What Denver will do with no running backs the rest of the season is a mystery, but this will keep their playoff hopes alive.

 

MVP:  Jay Cutler, QB, Denver Broncos

 

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