Cleveland Browns Play Hard to the End, Drop Season-Ender to Steelers

In all too familiar fashion, the Cleveland Browns wrapped up their season with the stands filled with black and urine-colored clothing.  I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment on the smell, but I have some suspicions.  Ultimately those kinds of verbal barbs are all we as a city can muster because the Steelers won the game 13-9 despite a chance to win it with a hail mary as time expired.  Seneca Wallace put it up and it hit Greg Little in the hands, but with all the activity in the end zone it rolled harmlessly to the turf.  The ball dropping harmlessly to the turf is probably the proper way for a season like this one to end to keep in the stylistic theme and tones set all year.

Seneca Wallace had an O.K. game meaning that he looked like the backup he is.  He made some plays, most notably with his feet, and also made some mistakes.  No mistake was bigger than his horrible interception toward Evan Moore that Troy Polamalu jumped to give the Steelers the ball at the Browns 43 yard line.  That interception eventually led to a 7-yard Isaac Redman TD run that made it Steelers 13, Browns 6.  He had another series in the second half that looked like it could have resulted in multiple interceptions.  If there is a QB controversy with the Browns next season, it should not involve Seneca Wallace unless it is for a backup slot.

If there is anything especially great about this game it is that the Browns were still playing hard.  It might just be coincidence, but it seems to me that the level of energy and hitting that the Browns were bringing probably helped knock Steelers out of the game left and right.  Guys were getting hurt in every quarter for the Steelers.  Most notably, Rashard Mendenhall left the game pretty early in the first half with what appeared to be a clutch of his knee.  In a meaningless game against a rival, all you can ask of your team is to play hard and physical.  The Browns did that, at least.

The highlights of the game belonged mostly to Jabaal Sheard and Joshua Cribbs.  Cribbs said that this was the Browns’ Superbowl and he acted like it.

Cribbs’ day included 7 receptions for 91 yards on 10 targets.  Cribbs’ first down catch on the final drive gave Seneca Wallace a chance to put the ball in the end zone one last time.  Cribbs also appeared to be on nearly every single special teams tackle in kick coverage, including one especially big hit on Antonio Brown.

For Jabaal Sheard it was another sack to bring his season total to 8.5 to lead the team.  Great stuff from the rookie.  Phil Taylor had a more uneven season on the line, but it is worth noting that Sheard and Taylor starting every game is the first time that’s happened since Tampa had two rooks do it in 1992.  That just goes to show how young this Browns defensive line is and how much better they could get if they were able to play this much and this well in their rookie seasons.

Those are the kinds of nuggets we are left to try and make the best of as the Browns fall to 4-12 for the year and disappoint by even some of the more modest expectations.  It isn’t crushing right this second because we’ve known all we needed to know about this team and what they need in the future since much earlier on this season.  Hopefully Tom Heckert and his staff have a good handle on it too as they enter into the most important off-season since the Cleveland Browns drafted Tim Couch first overall in 1999.

Should they get a QB?  Should they trade up?  What about free agency?  At some level it really doesn’t matter what the Browns do this off-season.  They need to get from point A to point B.  I don’t care if they take a car, bike, or drag each other down the freeway in a kayak.  How’s that for a visual?  The Browns need to use all the avenues available to them to fix this team and get it headed in the right direction.

Next year, they won’t be able to hide behind youth, a lockout, a first-time head coach or the previous coaching staff not giving them an adequate look at a wide receiving corps.  The Browns will now get all the blame and credit for what happens to them this upcoming season as they seemingly have all the pieces in place coaching and front-office wise that they wanted.    For now, the Browns can be proud that they played hard all the way to the end despite meaningless contests down the stretch.  That storyline won’t be good enough for anyone this time next year unless the team passes the eye test at minimum.


  • athanasios

    By the way, did anyone else think it was pathetic the way the Steelers got Hines Ward his 1,000th “Catch”. What a joke–if you can’t do it legitimately in the flow of the game then what does it mean.

    I remember when Ozzie’s consecutive reception streak ended him saying that he wanted all of his catches to be ones that helped his team…not catches that his team forced to him to artificially extend his streak.

    It looks like Ward will probably retire given the lengths they went to to get him to 1,000. Man I hate the Steelers.

  • HenryDawg

    “I’ve watched [Griffin],” Shurmur said this week via the Akron Beacon-Journal. “[He’s a] tremendous talent, good player.”

    Asked if Griffin could fit into a West Coast offense, Shurmur was definitive.

    “Good players fit in every offense,” he said.

  • BrownieBob

    As I said before….You need to get a QB….Colt is NOT the guy…he will be an ok career back-up….RG3 will give us a better shot than Matt Flynn….Look at Arizona… Think they wish they didnt have Kolb now??…back ups tend to look good on great/good teams when they perform….get us a QB and speed…Blackmon isnt going to do it for us…just a gut instinct…Crabtree all over…and not even that big….Go QB… first….WR with SPEED and maybe RB in 3rd…( Can you say LaMichael James…plese )…This draft will define us….help D with FAgents…considering how often the other team had the ball and how often we were 3 and out they did a good job and going to get better…..And as I said before….They are very young…and finally for those of you that dont think drafting 4th is better than 8th….Can you say PATRICK PETERSON…ughhh

  • Oribiasi, I’m not sure how you can intimate that anyone here hung their reputation on Pat Shurmur or somehow a mythical argument that exists in your head was solved at the final gun of the Pittsburgh game with you in the right and everyone else in the wrong. Color me confused.

    I find the rumors about Brad Childress interesting. I’m also left with this question in terms of QBs.

    I think RG3 could be a great NFL quarterback. He is an exceptional football player with his arm and athletic ability.

    That being said, I am not sure how you handicap a debate between RG3 and Matt Flynn without giving some benefit of the doubt to Flynn just based on the fact that he has done it in the NFL even on a limited basis. He could be the next Kevin Kolb. Then again, RG3 could be the next Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Vince Young or worst of all Jamarcus Russell. I use those examples because they were top-of-the-draft NFL QB busts not because most of them are African-American by the way.

    Point being that it SHOULD be easier to project a guy who has some NFL film on him than it is to project a guy who played predominantly against Big 12 defenses.

    I’ll be exploring this in greater detail this week, but needless to say the Browns should have a chance to set this franchise up for a generation if they do good work and get a little bit of luck as well.

  • oribiasi

    @ Craig: Who is making a straw man argument now? Did I ever say anyone put their career on the line for Shurmur? Did I ever say I was the only one correct and everyone else was wrong? Truly, someone as intelligent as you are shouldn’t make such silly, trite and sniper-like statements. Or, is it only a problem when I try to snipe Holmgren? I’m so confused…

    I did say that many failed to see the obviousness of his failings multiple times because of a serious side effect of taking too much medicine in the form of Kool-Aid. You don’t need to be Yoda to know when something is wrecked beyond repair.

    Color me happy that the season is over and that we only have one more year of Shurmur’s stupidity to worry about.

  • jimkanicki

    you know how ralphie chokes when he’s with santa? cant remember the b-b gun? ‘how about a football?’ ralphie nods. ‘football.’

    i think we did some of that with shurmur. feels like we’re starting down that road with childress.

    here’s his coaching record if you want a look.

    the important thing of course is that they’re all on the same page. if they hire childress i think holmgren, heckert, shurmur, childress should move into a house together like The Monkees.

  • Shamrock

    I’m very weary of Griffin with so many other areas of need. Obviously not sold on Flynn either but I’d rather see money spent and possibly lost as opposed to another top draft puck. I’d like to see some free agent signings first and foremost.

  • Hetz

    Without an offensive line and options to throw too, it doesn’t matter who is at QB. RGIII would probably be a nice addition to an already-loaded offense, but he’d be left alone to fail on the Browns.

    Draft linemen, receivers, and a cornerback.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    re: Brad Chilress – I checked out jimkanicki’s link, and was reminded that Mike Tomlin was Childress’s defensive coordinator. That may or may not be significant, but if anyone out there understands Mike Tomlin and his defenses, if should be Brad Childress.

    That being said, I would welcome Childress as OC based solely on his work with the Eagles in the early 2000’s. Anything that takes the play calling out of Shurmur’s hands is welcomed at this point…

  • Roosevelt

    I think that McCoy is going to be a good player. I still think that they should try trading up for Luck, or draft RGIII. Colt’s ceiling is as a competent player. You don’t pass up an opportunity to draft a Peyton Manning or a Michael Vick because you have someone who might develop into Matt Hasselbeck.

  • Harv 21

    Must be missing something. Why would Childress want to come here except to be HC-in-Waiting? Assume that Shurmur would no longer call the plays when Childress is so qualified to do it, and that would be an uncomfortable dynamic, having your probable successor standing next to you on the sidelines controlling a lot of your destiny.

    And if Childress wouldn’t call plays, again, why would he accept a position he is overly qualified for? Needs the cash?

  • C-Bus Kevin


    I get what you’re saying about Flynn that “at least we know SOMETHING about him from watching him in the league”, but I don’t think that’s a good argument for taking him over RG3 (which is a false choice, by the way).

    You take players based on potential for success. So let me ask you this. Who has more potential? Keep in mind that you will likely overpay for Flynn, and the cost of RG3 is fixed as a rookie.

    We know Matt Flynn can play some decent quarterback on the defending world champ packers. That’s great, but I’ve seen him play a few mediocre games as well.

    Here’s my point. You don’t get the 4th pick every season (hopefully), and most times when you do pick that high, you don’t have top flight QB talent available. The browns don’t have a top QB. Therefore, it’s time to take the franchise QB. Think of it this way…what if they finish with the 4th pick next year, and no top QB’s are available?

  • Wheel

    I think the question is whether RG3 is a top flight QB. I’ve only seen him in the game vs. Washington, but I am not convinced. He’s 3 inches shorter and 30 lbs. lighter than Cam Newton, and thus will not be as effective a runner. He never seemed to stay in the pocket long enough and didn’t seem to have great mechanics. There’s no doubt he’s a great athlete and seems like a good kid. I’m not sure his skills translate to the pro game like Luck or Barkley.

  • C-Bus Kevin


    Comparing RG3 to Cam Newton doesn’t really tell me much. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, And Tom Brady are all smaller and slower than Cam Newton.

    Plus (and I don’t mean to direct this comment at you alone), I think the necessity in some people’s minds that he be able to run like Newton is a “Larry Bird/Michael Vick” issue in that white basketball players get compared to Bird while black quarterbacks get compared to Vick.

    He has plenty of arm and completes more than 70% of his passes. On top of that, he is faster than the average QB. He is NFL ready.

    As for Barkley, he is as tall or shorter than RG3.

  • Big Z

    I’m down with anyone who’s NOT McCoy. RG3, Flynn, Luck, Bradford, bring ’em on! As long as it’s not another washed up retread like Delhomme.

  • Big Z

    @ C-Bus

    Thank you!

    How can someone possibly not think this kid is better than McCoy!? It boggles the mind.

  • HenryDawg

    Ugh, the argument that you have to have this and that before drafting a QB is so tired. First of all we have a very good O Line, we just started the season with a rookie, a guy with three games and Artis Hicks, all of whom played well the other night, and none of whom are Eric Steinbach who will be back or Tony Pashos who has been injured all year. But even so, are you going to take 2-3 years building a team that’s perfect then throw in a rookie QB to mess up the progress of the other players? No you let them develop together. There are so many Browns fans that act like shell shocked veterans over the mistakes of the past instead of realizing that the modern NFL has slotted rookie salaries that carry much less risk. They also don’t understand that today’s stars have seen the mistakes of those who came before them and aren’t apt to repeat them (see Cam Newton). Browns fans need to stop living in the past, get over the self inflicted misery and start thinking with some aggressiveness and positivity.

  • Chi-Ohioan

    RG3 all dayyyy. Look around the playoffs and you see dynamic qb’s going deep into the postseason, not merely competent ones. Sorry Colt but you’ve had your chance and have been proven to be a gutsy player and a great kid but this here is a business. Flynn scares me (kolb, holcomb, what’s his name in KC?) and trading up for Luck seems costly. RG3 is the real deal and isn’t a prima donna that will demand the world; this city knows how that works out.

  • @kevin I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I also haven’t scouted any of the guys or researched them heavily. Just throwing some thoughts out there. I don’t have a conclusion yet.

    @Oribiasi, you said you didn’t have enough crow for everyone to eat. That means you think you won an argument to me.

  • Wheel

    Kevin, nothing would make me happier if RG3 was the next Brady, Rodgers or Cam Newton. What I was trying to express is that I was not as impressed as hoped in watching him vs. a very porous Washington defense (if that’s what is considered a ‘defense.’

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @ Craig & Wheel

    No worries. I get where you are coming from, and (for the most part) I think the conversation about the future of the QB position has been very constructive on this site.

    I think one thing is becoming clear, though. It sounds like most of us have seen enough of McCoy. As I’ve said before, I’ve got no problem with him coming back as the starter next year. Maybe he’ll prove us all wrong and turn out to be great. I just think the team should strike while the QB iron is hot, so to speak.

    With better receivers and a McCoy/RG3 on the depth chart, I feel more confident heading into next season.

  • Chris

    And where are we getting these better receivers? If we draft RG3 all we will be saying next year is he has no play makers around him. Oh wait but we also have ATLs pick to draft a play maker. If RG3 was on this team this year how many more wins would we have? Would Greg Little suddenly have caught every pass thrown his way? Would that other receiver still be on the team ( I dont remember his name he was that bad )Would Norwood finally have gotten a chance? Would Massaquoi suddenly not be afraid to run across the middle? Would our right side of the line suddenly be able to block a rabbit running at them? People are concerned about RG3 not because of his talent but because its the same argument it is every year. We have no play makers. So not blowing a draft pick on another QB and trying to draft a play maker makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. That doesnt mean those people think RG3 is going to be a bust or has no talent.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @ Chris

    Your argument makes little sense.

    First off, the Browns have plenty of draft picks plus free agency to upgrade at WR. Huge talents like Megatron may be few and far between, but speedy wideouts are everywhere in and out of the draft. The Browns have just been bad at finding them lately.

    Secondly, you say the browns need playmakers more than they need a QB. RG3, or any top QB, WOULD BE a playmaker. Why not draft a playmaker that touches the ball on every single offensive play? QB’s make receivers…not the other way around.

    The current lineup of playoff teams prove that your team isn’t going anywhere without a top flight QB. The Ravens super bowl team is the exception. Nowadays, the Patriots can get a first round bye with a top QB and the WORST DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE.

  • JM

    Mercifully it’s over. Just wondering if you guys are going to recap the season? Things like positives, negatives, and what you think the team needs to do? Great job all year Craig, I know these recaps couldn’t have been easy.

  • pepe

    If the Brad Childress rumors are true, we can rejoice. This just about guarantees Shurmur won’t last 12 months.

  • Chris

    So you think if Brady was on our team we would have first round bye and best record in AFC? Furthermore do you think if Colt was on Green Bay they would be sitting home in 2 weeks? Listen im not saying RG3 isnt the answer, If we draft him lord knows im hoping he is just as much as anyone. I just want play makers, in skill positions including QB. I want to know that when the QB throws it up we have a damn good receiver to get the job done. I just want an awesome RB to run all over the stupid steelers. And I want a damn line to make a block and give whoever the QB is time to throw. Now if we get those people in FA then damn ill be happy and throwing a party on Draft Night when we take RG3.

  • Porkchop xpress

    Awright here’s my Matt Flynn gripe and it sums up pretty much every other gripe I have with persons in the “Fire Shurmur, McCoy has to go now, Holmgren sucks”, group.
    What would you pay Flynn? I’m betting someone panick throws a 40 mil plus contract at him. Would you cripple your ability to sign other free agents to sign Flynn? Not to mention you would probably be cutting Steinbach as well, because his contract is big and he’s coming back from a neck injury so signing Flynn probably means you now have two line positions to fill. Its the same problem with the draft, if you take RG you are passing on another position of need.
    I’m not saying one way or the other is right or wrong, but alot of people have this black and white overly simplistic, instant gratification take on how to fix the Browns and I don’t hear alot of acknowledgement of the ramifications for decisions that are made. I’m just saying that if you want a new QB choosing RG means losing a draft pick, and choosing Flynn (not to mention the assumption that he is “Ours” for the taking) means losing a good chunk of cap space/free agents/current players.

  • Chris

    Anyways people are always going to disagree when it comes to drafting and how to fill the holes. I just hope whatever H&H do it is the right decision. I would do almost anything to be able to watch a winner week in and week out. We have all been waiting so long. My first really strong memories of my mother was when we lost those games to Horse face in the 80s and everyone at the partys were crying. Women crying lol. And Her and I have been waiting ever since. My crazy mother pays 9 billion dollars a year just for NFL package just to watch the Brownies. I think thats why im so passionate about getting more play makers and not just a QB. ughh I wish the draft was tomorrow.

  • Porkchop xpress

    Pepe did you not witness the trainwreck that was the end of Chili in Minnesota? If we trade Shurmur for Childress then we’ll be “rejoicing” when he names his OC so we can plan for that guys hiring as head coach. If we wait long enough Shurmur may end working his way back around till he’s the hot OC and we hire him and can’t wait for him to replace head coach #9.

    Myopia is to Browns fans what crabs are to hookers.

  • Porkchop xpress

    Chris I couldn’t agree more. I came up at the same time and now work at a bar where 9 out of 10 Ohio born and raised servers wear Steeler gear to work on Sundays, and the Steeler fans, even the loser poser guys who just joined up this decade, don’t even talk smack because the rivarly is dead. And its getting hard to even blame them, my 20th high school reunion is comming up in 2 years and we have had 1 meaningful game with Pittsburgh since then. Some of us can hold on forever, but most of the kids I work with have zero ties to the Browns from childhood.

  • The Other Tim

    Wasn’t the pre-draft chatter on Newton that he couldn’t make all the NFL throws. Turns out he sets the rookie throwing record.
    All the analysis and all the mock drafts are meaningless.

  • Pepe

    Porkchop, yeah I almost added to my post that it would be frying pan into the fire but I didn’t want to ruin my Shurmur hate fest with a back handed complement. We’re screwed. Forever apparently

  • ben

    I’m not going to say that QB isn’t a position of need for this team. And I’m not going to say that Robert Griffin is without NFL-caliber talent.

    But, I think McCoy is serviceable in the short term. I don’t think Griffin is a “can’t miss prospect” or a “once in a generation-type talent.” Essentially, I believe that it is possible to draft a “RGIII” every year. It is not possible to draft an Andrew Luck every year.

    There are so many holes on this team, I would prefer that those are shored up before we dive back into the quarterback pool.

    The best argument I have heard for drafting RGIII (or whatever flavor of the week QB is highest ranked behind Luck come draft day) is that our draft position is so excellent that we can afford to miss on a QB at the top and still have a very successful class of incoming rookies.