A comprehensive recap for the Cleveland Browns 0-14 matchup is not something I have the capacity to do. It’s Christmas Eve. My kids are at a fever pitch. There are extended family obligations that involve food, drink, and frivolity. Lastly, the Browns are (were?) a disaster, and it’s the most annoying song in the history of music. It’s a bunch of verses that all sound the same. There’s no chorus or bridge or anything resembling a listenable song. It’s the longest rendition of “16 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” And for this season you need more like 16,000 bottles. So, this will be some recap and some non-sequitur Browns and football thoughts. But first…
THERE WILL BE NO PARADE!
The Cleveland Browns won a football game. They will not go down in history as a team with a winless season. For all the implications that might be coming via the NFL draft, nobody in the Browns organization wanted to go 0-16. The only proof you need is a jubilant Jimmy and Dee Haslam celebrating in the owner’s box as shown on TV. We can talk about whether this potential drop to second pick in the NFL draft is the only thing worse than going 0-16, but right now I’m just really happy for Hue Jackson and those players who have gutted out this awful season despite some questionable “team-building” by the front office. The Browns blocked a field goal and survived another Phil Rivers game-tying field goal drive as Lambo missed wide right. The Browns win their final home game of 2016 by a final score of 20-17. Some of you will celebrate. Some of you won’t. Regardless there’s one thing we know for sure.
The Browns never quit
You can say you were rooting for the Browns to lose all their games. You can accuse the front office of letting down Hue Jackson and the rest of the team that was trying to win, but you can’t accuse the guys who played all year of quitting. Joe Haden played through every injury, despite being maligned and needing groin surgeries after the season. Joe Thomas is Joe Thomas. Newcomers like Jamar Taylor made plays. Cody Kessler stepped in and hit Corey Coleman for a first down with under three minutes to go in the game and a 3-point lead. It would have been so easy for the team to quit, and they didn’t. Hue Jackson may have cried after a game, but he coached this team heroically considering how undermanned they actually were from the very beginning.
Phil Rivers is an interesting NFL QB case…
Phil Rivers is a quarterback. I don’t know what kind of identifier to use to classify him. Is Rivers good, great, underrated or something else entirely? He’s an example of how we get skewed when talking about the QB position. Players are so much a product of their circumstances. Eli Manning was drafted first by the Chargers with Rivers going fourth to the Giants and a draft-day swap ensued. Who won the trade? Which quarterback is better? It’s so much more complicated than just boiling it down to a narrative like that, but we do that all the time, especially in Cleveland where everyone fails at football. As the Browns play the Chargers and as Rivers’ career starts to wind down, I wonder how it all would have turned out for him and for us if he had been in Cleveland. It’s similar to that annual conversation about what would have happened if the Browns drafted Ben Roethlisberger, but we’ll save that for next week, right?
So tired of opposing tight ends…
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Browns got burned by a tight end! Antonio Gates finished off the opening drive of the game for the San Diego Chargers with a touchdown from Phil Rivers on play-action where the former Kent State basketball star “leaked out” uncovered in the end zone. The Browns have been beaten by nearly every tight end all season, let alone one of the most dangerous TE weapons in the past 20 years.
Fairness in the NFL with the refs…
The Browns don’t score a lot in the first quarter, but they answered San Diego’s touchdown drive. They had to convert a 4th-and-6 to do it, but they did what they needed to do. They also got a few penalty calls, including a facemask and a roughing the passer penalty, but it’s the NFL. How many scoring drives have the Browns given up this year that included their opponents getting similar help? More than any other year, because the Browns are awful and “not deserving of the benefit of the doubt,” I’ve never been more aware of the unevenness of the application of the rulebook.
There are superstar calls for quarterbacks and even some wide receivers. The Browns don’t get that, and the result is you feel like even when your bad team is playing well enough to compete, they can’t or don’t for things that are somewhat out of their control. This isn’t so much a “woe is me” Browns fan statement as much as it is a “woe is us” statement as an NFL fan in general. It’s not good enough.
How good a running back is Isaiah Crowell?
There’s real question just how good of a running back Isaiah Crowell truly is, but he’s got some ability. I laughed when Hue Jackson said he thought The Crow could have 1,000 yards in a season, but with 746 yards after 14 games and considering how much harder it became to run the ball after Joel Bitonio got hurt, I’m a believer. Well, I’m a believer that Isaiah Crowell can run for 1,000 yards when the conditions are good. He’s still like a middle of the pack NFL starter at best. When things are going well, however, as they did in the first half against the Chargers, he can feel like something more. It comes down to consistency.
Cleveland Browns social media presence…
I discussed this with Dave on the WFNY podcast recently, but I want to talk about it now that I’ve wiped the flecks of spit away from the corners of my mouth. I don’t know what the team should do with their social media while they play one of the most disastrous seasons in NFL history. It wouldn’t be good to shut it down completely. That’s a bad look. You have to do something as a member of the league and I know they need an employee who does it.
Let’s skip the part where we joke about the intern. Social media management is a serious, professional position in 2016 and beyond. It’s a job that can really sink you when it’s not done properly and credit to the Browns for not getting in trouble this year. I mean that. It’s not easy.
That said, I might be a bit more muted if I was running strategy for them. It’s not a good look for a winless team to be all out there crazy-like on social when your fans are choking on unusable tickets and unwatchable games. Like, maybe tone down the field goal tweets?
Of course the Browns couldn’t keep a QB healthy
I don’t blame RG3 for getting hurt. He’s just the latest in a very long line of quarterbacks that the Browns couldn’t keep healthy. It’s a tiny bit about luck, but mostly about not having institutional knowledge of an offensive system over a long period of time. All the Browns’ turnover in coaching and roster creates a lot of indecision in all phases of playing the game. Please let Hue Jackson and his offensive system stay for three years or more so that whatever style develops becomes second nature to more than a few players on the team.
Bring on the Steelers
The Browns season is mercifully finished after next week. The Browns finish it off against the hated Steelers, but remember, nobody over there cares about playing the Browns. The Browns are the squirmy kid with glasses who gets pushed into the locker every week. James Harrison leads the charge every single year and the Browns actually end up looking intimidated before the end of the first quarter. Yes, I think the Steelers play dirty and get away with stuff, but the Browns allow it. Football is a place where you can blame the victim because it’s everyone’s responsibility to assert their alpha status. No shocker, the Browns aren’t able to show anyone that they’re an alpha.
I don’t expect they will next week either.