Cleveland Browns Week 15 Winners and Losers

LeSean McCoy Browns Bills

Fourteen years ago today was one of my most memorable experiences as a Browns fan. On December 19, 2004, the Cleveland Browns played host to the San Diego Chargers. The lightning bolts were coming off a four-win season and had a ton of pundits thinking they could be even worse. They were led by former Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer and had a tight end from Kent State by the name of Antonio Gates—a kid who didn’t play a lick of football during his time in the MAC.

This game was easily one of the coldest tailgating experiences I was ever a part of. It was a game-time temperature in the teens, but as anyone knows, how it feels along the lake is much different than what those silly thermometers say—the wind chill was at minus-10. It was snowing so much that canned beers were almost immediately frozen over upon opening. Tailgate games of catch essentially turned into throwing an all-too-cold football like it was a grenade, merely hoping the person on the other end could haul it in with their skiing gloves. (Hope was fruitless more often than not.)

Upon entering the game, my buddy Dan and I got in touch with a high school friend who was working in the club level. Said friend agreed to leave the door to the south club open, looking the other way just long enough to let the two of us get inside. The Browns were really, really bad, but thinking was that there was a San Diego team playing above their heads who was traveling across the country to play in foreign elements, with an early kick-off, while the Browns were closing out their season at home. If there were a time for the underdog to sneak out a win, despite Butch Davis being relieved of his duties just weeks earlier, this would be it.

The snow continued to swirl and the win continued to blow. Dan and I posted up at one of the bars near the east end of the stadium—this was before all the new renovations. We each had a stool in front of a television, and we ordered coffee and Baileys while watching all the people who dared to actually sit outside come in to warm up before heading back outside. As the game went on, and LaDanian Tomlinson (who was just in his fourth year with the team) racked up yards on the ground while Gates did it through the air, it got to the point where more folks were coming in and not heading back out. We were offered money for our bar stools as if they were court side seats at a Cavs game. In hindsight, it may have been a better idea to take that money and find other seats at another bar, but we were in our early 20s and would have just spent it on beer. It wasn’t worth the hassle.

The Browns converted on just two of 14 third-down plays. Whle the Chargers were penalized just once on the game, the Browns drew seven flags for 55 yards. Gates would haul in a 70-yard touchdown pass, his 12th of the season, ushering in the era of dominant, insanely athletic tight ends. The final score was 21-0 as the Chargers amassed their first shutout since 1993. The half-full stadium was a fraction of such by the time the visitors were handed their divisional championship gear. The Browns’ quarterback at the time was Luke McCown. Terry Robiske, the team’s interim head coach, would go on to say “Sorry. This season turned ugly” following the game.

Yet here we are, still looking for ways to stop dynamic tight ends. The Browns are 6.5-point underdogs heading into their final home game of 2016, just 1.5 points fewer than 12 years prior.

LOSER: Robert Griffin III

After a decent start (in terms of efficiency, anyway), Griffin quickly reminded fans of who he was. He  completed just two of his six passing attempts thrown farther than nine yards downfield and simply dumped the ball off for gains that would fall short of the first down marker due to the Bills playing off the line. He provided nearly 50 yards of rushing, including a touchdown, but the Browns need a quarterback of the future, not a guy who exploits soft coverage to pad his rushing stats.

Hue Jackson, the man who hitched his head coaching wagon to Griffin, has already gone as far as to not name the veteran as his starter for what is easily the Browns’ last gasp at a win in 2016. “I’m going to look at everything,” said Jackson. “I just have to. I owe these guys the best opportunity to win in the locker room. With the effort they’re giving me, I have to give back to them as a leader.”

Now he owes it to them? This “era” has become more frustrating than many of those which have preceded it, and there have been a lot of them.

LOSER: Hue Jackson

Jackson officially sounds like a man who is out of options. It reminds me a lot of the time Byron Scott decided the Cleveland Cavaliers would start to utilize a zone defense—in an NBA game. Once it was recognized, all teams would do is set high screens, draw out the Cavs’ big men, and then pass to a cutter along the baseline or wing for an easy two. It was right out of an intramural playbook. Meanwhile, here’s Jackson saying things like “I have to make sure I’m putting the right people out there.” This is all coming before Week 16 of a winless season.

LOSER: Ray Horton

The Buffalo Bills ran for 280 yards as a team. They did it with draws. They did it with off-tackle plays. They even did it with a bizarre reverse play that almost saw the wide receiver fumble the ball but still have enough time to collect his bearings before he had merely turned up field and gained a chunk of yardage.


Oh, and if last week wasn’t enough of a notice on that whole tight end thing, here’s an idea of what your defense has let happen on the regular this year.


Jimmy Haslam said he’s keeping things in place for next season, but its to the point where it would surprise me more if Horton was retained than if he were let go. I’m a big believer that Chris Tabor shouldn’t even be employed at this point in the season and Horton is that much worse.

WINNER: Jamar Taylor

Taylor was thrown at four times and allowed just two catches for 21 yards. Decent way to capitalize on that shiny, new contract.

LOSERS: Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson (as a runner)

One week after establishing a ground game, both running backs (and Griffin) were out-rushed by Tyrod Taylor. It’s not entirely their fault as there were just 13 carries between them, but in a ground-and-pound game that featured the other team destroying the trenches offensively, you would’ve liked to have seen more from these two.

WINNER: Duke Johnson (as a pass catcher)

While Terrelle Pryor led the team in targets (8), it was Johnson who hauled in a team-high five receptions for a team-high 62 yards. Much of this can be attributed to the Bills simply taking away the deep ball, but if there’s anything that keeps Johnson on this roster next season, it’s his ability to serve as a release valve for a young quarterback.

WINNER: Demario Davis

Eleven total tackles, 10 of which were solo. While I’ll have to re-watch to see what the average depth of the tackles were (there’s a good chance he merely gobbled up volume a la D’Qwell Jackson), that someone—anyone—was able to tackle in this one was a silver lining. Honerable mention to Christian Kirksey (9) and Ed Reynolds (8) for their tackle totals as well.

LOSER: Ibraheim Campbell

His overall numbers were OK from a tackling perspective, but this play is Exhibit No. 4,563 as to why the Browns cannot win football games. On a second down, they went from forcing the Bills into a third-and-long with the game within reach to allowing a fresh set of downs after a half-assed attempt at a safety blitz. You don’t seen contenders doing this shit.


LOSER: Jamie Collins

I really, really want the Browns to re-sign this guy, but they desperately need a coordinator who can put him in positions to succeed. Last week was solid. This week, not so much.

WINNER: Emmanuel Ogbah

Kid is quietly climbing the ranks for rookie Browns defenders, leading the entire team in sacks for 2016. While he’s not exactly forcing people to forget about the team passing on Khalil Mack in 2014, he’s proving to be at least someone worth keeping an eye on for next season. It’s amazing to think of how low the expectations are at this point, but Ogbah is doing everything we wanted Nate Orchard to do a season ago.

LOSER: Nate Orchard

Just because.

  • Sam Gold

    Two things:

    1. The Loser designees are definitely forming a pattern of consistency.
    2. I would not categorize Demario Davis as a winner because he had a lot of tackles. In much the same way that D’Qwell was proficient at tackling the runner three yards past the 1st down marker and racking up “impressive” tackling stats, Davis along with the other LBs were the major contributors to the gaping holes that McCoy ran through. Just awful gap integrity throughout the front seven but the LBs in particular were atrocious. We can blame Horton for his scheme but all the scheme in the world can’t make up for horrible execution.

  • NankirPhelge

    WINNER: Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Mr. Grand Marshall, the streets of BrownsTown will be yours!

  • Pat Leonard

    “Knowledge is good.”

  • RGB

    WINNER: Browns first 1st-round draft pick. still #!.
    WINNER: Browns second 1st-round draft pick. Thanks ratbirds!

    Tonight we need to root for Carolina. If they win, the Philly pick stays at #8. If Carolina loses, they move ahead of Philly based on schedule strength, and the Philly pick becomes #9.

  • Pat Leonard

    Winner: Mario Alford – Did more on kick and punt returns in one game than any other player for the Browns this year. Or at least it seemed that way.

    Loser: Danny Shelton – A rare poor performance, but didn’t have his usual burst in this one, couldn’t get off of blocks. and racked up a dumb penalty.

    Loser: Ed Reynolds II – This guy is the pinnacle of someone who is just trying not to be noticed. He had eight tackles in this game (6 were solo) and I don’t remember a single one of them. Probably because they happened so far downfield that I didn’t realize or care who made the tackle. No passes defensed. I just don’t like this guy… he’s invisible out there.

  • Harv

    Ha, Demario Davis made my loser list. Because accumulated tackles as you chase guys who are already behind you mean nothing when you’re always out of position, never beat your man, never make an impact play.

    Ogbah’s sack was impressive in its speed and strength around his guy, and ripping at the QB and not letting go. And then, like Kruger circa ’15, he vaporized in the last 3 quarters with nary another appearance in the pocket. And his play against the run is abominable. But ok, as you say, he showed physical talent a few times, and damn if that ain’t better than Coleman the wide, Coleman the o-lineman, Nassib, Schoebert, or Higgins.

    Winner: those of us impatiently waiting for the merciful end of convos about Griffin. All year felt like someone slipped me crazy pills, like being forced to listen to Tribe fans in 2010 getting geeked that maybe all Shelley Duncan needed was a chance because remember 2007? He hit 11 homers in 34 games with the Yankees, remember? For goodness sakes, optimism about Johnny’s potential for improvement made more sense – at least he wasn’t a 5 year veteran let go by the team that had invested so much in him. So let’s move on, to anyone else, please.

    The run defense is beyond atrocious. The sad truth that they’re actually trying is evidenced by their weekly vulnerability to reverses and misdirections: like an old hitter cheating on the fastball they have to start their pursuit early because they’re slow, weak, unable to read what’s going on.

    I’m nostalgic for that awful Browns-Bills Freezer Bowl game, where the defensive players took joy in pounding the frozen players. That worked on a gut level. I’m almost nostalgic for the terminally discombobulated Pat Shurmur. who went 9-23. To match that Hue needs to go 9-7 next year. I’m nostalgic for my 2015 dream of watchable mediocrity. Feels light years away. The only path is through Sashi’s drafting acumen. Thinking of writing a book: “Harv Drinks Because Sashi Makes Him Sad.”

  • Pat Leonard

    This seems like a good place to put my weekly reminder that Paul Kruger stinks and the Browns were right to let him go. Still sitting on 1.5 sacks for the season. Zero sacks and zero QB hits against the Cardinals. Still being outproduced by Browns’ spot-starter Cam Johnson. Keep doing you, Paulie.

  • Harv

    [Krueger positives … buffering …] Paul’s hair was ridiculous, the stuff of the paperback cover of a bodice ripper. That kind of mane isn’t easy to replace in a sport with a hard cap.

  • Pat Leonard

    I’m disappointed that no one has produced a “Let it Flow” parody of the song from Frozen with regards to Kruger’s hair. Seems like a huge missed opportunity.

  • Harv

    Yes, Alford! Eureka, Sashi found the guy on every team’s Practice Squad that can return a kick 18 yards and a punt 12. Bonus: he did it before anyone cared enough to ask why Joe Haden, the injury prone starting QB and rare trade bait, was risking life and limb, or why Corey Coleman, who did it in college, wasn’t even asked.

    I’m not going to defend Ed Reynolds. Just going to say that, in my mind, he’s tackling the dudes that have already run past/through Ogbah, Nassib, Davis and Johnson. A kinda substitute maintenance man found by the temp agency who hopes to make it to the end of the week and get paid.

  • nj0

    RG3: Call me crazy- I want Ryan Fitzpatrick as my quarterback. Well, maybe not him, but a QB like him. I want to see some bad decisions that are thrown farther down the field. Yes, I’m pining for the days of Kelly Holcomb and Derek Anderson.

    Horton: He needs to go. The personnel excuse might hold water if he had done anything anywhere. He’s Rob Ryan with dreads. (Side note: The best thing an inexperienced HC can do is hire the Wade Phillips and Norv Turners of the world).

    Crowell/Johnson: I know, I know. We can’t run. Or can we? 13 hand-offs, 59 yards, 4.5 a carry. But, you say, most of that came on a few big runs. True, but that’s how it usually works (against non-Browns defenses). My hypothesis: our run game is adversely affected by our inability to effectively throw down field and a predictable game plan.

    Jackson: Blooms really off the rose with him, isn’t it? I’m okay with giving him another year, but this oh-fer definitely shortens the leash in year two. Hue Jackson hasn’t done one darned thing, either off the field or during a game, that makes me think he can be a head coach in the NFL. What say you, shirtless James Hetfield?

  • Garry_Owen

    Winner: 0-16. Yes, this is what it looks like. What did we think it would look like?

  • Pat Leonard

    I’d be too afraid to let Coleman out there with those tender hammies. We need to mark him “FRAGILE” and keep him stowed away somewhere.

  • nj0

    Yes, wonderfully observed. Shelley Duncan captures a certain kind of Cleveland fan self-delusion.
    Only thing sadder than that is wistfully remembering our past 4-12 train wrecks of a team.

    Happy terrible Browns memory: Craziest I’ve ever gone in recent memory was during that Reggie Hodges fake punt. That whole game was so perfectly game planned. Best I’ve ever seen. Call it rose-colored glasses. I don’t care. Mangini showed us multiple times what a good coach could do with a bad team. 210 total yards of offense, 30 points. Luck? Sure, you have to get lucky to beat Drew Brees with Colt McCoy. You have to coach. Scheme. Run Reggie Hodges. Won’t work every week, but at least it worked some of the time.

  • nj0

    I take solace in the fact that Gilbert and Mingo haven’t done anything for their new teams this year.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Only thing sadder than that is wistfully remembering our past 4-12 train wrecks of a team.”

    This is precisely why this 0-16 season does not bother me in the least bit. Those 4-12 seasons were no fun, and not a single one of them held any more hope for the future than this season.

  • Pat Leonard

    Here’s my problem with the run game. It’s completely boom or bust. It’s either a 10+ yard gain or it’s 0, 1, 2 yards. It basically seems to depend on the other team having poor gap integrity in order to gain yards rather than our offensive line creating enough of a push to gain yards regardless. I think last week was the only game I can remember on the season where I actually wanted to the Browns to try to run the ball more. For yesterday’s game, I think I would have just thrown the ball to Duke Johnson 20 times.

  • tigersbrowns2

    man , this season is really wearing on SCOTT … he printed the “S” word in his column.

  • CB Everett

    Some folks just need a little more time to calibrate. Reality can be tough.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … and you can add Dansby , Whitner , Krueger . K.Williams & Mahle to the list.

  • tigersbrowns2

    adjustments … yes , i believe that’s what we call it … something Hue & his staff should take a beating for this year.

  • Garry_Owen

    Funny. To me, both look like 0-16.

  • CB Everett
  • nj0

    I get what you’re saying, but I disagree a bit. There was *some* fun to be had, like that Saints game. And there were other moments when it seemed like maybe the ship was being turned around. Mostly, it was pretty rough. I guess I’m just skeptical that this time is any different. I haven’t seen much to assure me otherwise.

  • Garry_Owen


  • nj0

    Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s just frustrating that our offense, under an offensive genius coach, is so anemic. The run game is just part of the larger issues of play calling and offensive talent, with the smaller parts being a jumble of catch-22’s. Inaccurate passer who can’t stretch the field leads to more men in the box which leads to not being able to run the ball. Not being able to run the ball leads to 2nd/3rd and long which leads to the defense sending a hard pass rush which leads to inaccurate passes downfield. Etc. etc. etc.

  • tigersbrowns2

    WFNY staff : “no , no , this season hasn’t got to us one bit … nope , not one bit”

  • Garry_Owen

    Sure. In each of those seasons we had 4 fun days, I guess. But to me, that’s the problem with viewing these seasons as individual things. Collectively, they summed up to nothing good whatsoever (and I honestly can’t recall a time when it seemed as if the ship was being turned around – maybe right before Mack got hurt in the Mr. Hero season?). And the problem with viewing this 0-16 season in the context of only itself is that we obviously won’t see anything that gives us an assurance of something different. I know it sounds like the old “patience” argument, but it’s not the same, in my mind. The Browns are, literally, no different today than they were immediately after the draft. They were an 0-16 team then, just like they are now. The beauty of 0-16 to me is that we have absolutely nothing to do now but wait. It’s not “patience” so much as it is “square one.” I hated the perpetual 4-12 seasons because it presented so many false options: Stay the course? Fire the coach? Blow up the FO? Trade up or down for the #2 or #3 best available QB? The only thing that they never tried is the thing they’re doing now.

    I’m just rambling now, and making little sense. Anyway, to me, this just seems vastly different even if there isn’t anything to concretely indicate it.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi GARRY … makes perfect sense to me.

  • tigersbrowns2

    WINNERS : HBT (Eagles loss).

    LOSERS : the fans

    that’s all i got.

  • tsm

    Well said. There are few veterans to decide if we wish to keep them or get younger. We just did that. Now we must draft wisely, and get our youngsters to improve. We had to hit rock bottom before we can begin to turn things around. We are better off than the Jets, Niners or Bears. They have lots of high priced vets to deal with and eventually replace.

  • nj0

    I think I understand what you’re getting at. I’ve made similar “nowhere to go but up” argument to friends. My concern is that eventually we’re going to get to square two. There’s going to be false options (along with real ones) to decide between. I just don’t have faith in this front office and coaching staff.

    Thing is, I completely agree with their approach. Amass picks, trade down when possible, play the long game, don’t waste money, etc. etc. But employing the right strategy doesn’t mean you’ll make the right tactical choices. At the end of the day, the front office has to draft good players and the coaches have to use them in the best way. They haven’t shown me that they can do that. I sure hope they’ve re-evaluated their own assumptions about scouting, roster construction, etc. because I think there’s still a lot to learn. Ah, now I’m rambling….

    I’ll just say: Politico had a piece about the Clinton campaign’s inept efforts in Michigan. Blind faith in metrics, fierce devotion to failed tactics, unwillingness to do the basics, classic example of group think…. It made me think of the Browns.

  • CB Everett

    There were some fun moments…like that time we all got to enjoy that Bohemian style beer.

  • Garry_Owen

    The Steelers even managed to seem magnanimous

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree with all of this, 100%. My issue with the hue and cry (pun intended) during this season is attempting to credit the 0-16 performance to those tactics, which I’m convinced we have only seen very partially implemented.

    Okay, so maybe not 100%. I don’t lack faith in the FO or coaching staff (with the exception of Horton). I also don’t have any faith in FO (but I have a little in Hue). Here is where I am always (perhaps too) willing to give benefit of the doubt. I’ve been burned before doing this, and am fully aware that I might be burned again with this FO/staff, but in my mind there’s simply no other choice. We have to let them play this out; and again, I don’t think the space of a 16-game reset season gives us any evidence of whether faith is warranted. I’m anxious for this draft and the FA season. That will tell me more than the last 14 games have.

  • mgbode

    Though there is a chance Vince Mayle can show off his Super bowl ring to Joe Thomas this offseason

  • maxfnmloans

    For once the Browns didnt let me down. Sure, they’ve been hot garbage for the better art of 17 years, but what really, really astounded me was their ability to come through and throw up a decent performance when I was cometing against them in fatasy football. Normally, when people see anyone on their roster playing the Browns, they get that warm, glow inside, feeling safe in their assumption that big numbers are ahead. I used to fall into that trap as well, and then, over and over again, “my” players would end up somehow getting stymied by the worst defense since the Maginot line, and my stratospheric expectations would be dashed.

    LeSean McCoy has been my bellcow all year in fantasy. Definitely my MVP. I made it to the semi finals. I had my best non-QB going up against the browns in a game which, if I win, Im going to pay off my entire league fee for the year, and have enough left over to get Junior the GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip. Most rational people would have been elated. I….was freaking out

    But, alas, for once, the Browns came through for me. And they kept their chance for #1 alive (if they tie with SF at 1 win, SF wins the tiebreaker, after all)

    God Bless us Everyone. Merry Christmas! (and since my house is multi-Denominational, Happy Hanukkah too)

  • maxfnmloans

    I am certain MgBode is going to post somethig about this, but yesterday on the Twitters, there was another idea floted, and I wholeheartedly agree with: Instead of a parade, we want everyone who would go to the parade to instead make a donation to a charity (we were thinking Coats for Kids or something similar) in the name of Owen Sixteen.

    Lets class this up and not become a punch line people. Its going to be a cold winter. Instead of worrying about our own catharsis, lets help some kids who shouldnt have to suffer because of choices they did not make. Who’s with me?

  • (Repost)

    **** 2016 WFNY PREDICTION GAME ****

    The calm before the storm…

    And the list of players is now down to twelve. Nine players join RGB ON THE VERGE.
    B-bo, Tsm, Anomander, (And From The Washington Post Mark Maske and Neil Greenberg) thanks for playing. Try again next year.

    See who’s safe, ON THE VERGE…, and who lost here:

    See all of the entries here:

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post MAX … you can count me in if help is needed.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MG … i’ve watched a few of his games with the Cowboys … he still is very NOT GOOD.

  • CB Everett

    Or both….people can parade and drink (intoxicate and cleanse the Browns putridity) while also being able to donate to a good cause. But count me in dude.

  • NankirPhelge

    The parade organizer has already teamed up with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to incorporate a food drive into the program. Check it out:

  • maxfnmloans

    Thats fantastic

  • Cherylcabell

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  • jpftribe

    I agree with this nj0, to an extent. We should have beaten the eventual SB champs with Josh McCown at QB. But it just doesn’t matter. When you completely blow four straight years of top draft picks, this is what happens. Which is why losing for better draft picks just drives me mad. Not the angry kind, the bang your head into the padded wall kind.

  • jpftribe

    The vaunted Catch 22 Offense. This has potential.

  • parakeet_petey

    I believe the same about Tabor. How that guy still stays on as a coach is ridiculous. Horrible coach, and he’s proved it consistently over a long stretch of time.

    Horton, man. Has to go. I just can’t imagine how any defense could be worse. They look out so out of position all the time.