I blame Ricky Bobby for some of the stuff we have to contend with today. Not really, but let’s flesh this out because it’s the lede and premise of my thoughts this morning. The NASCAR themed Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby which came out in 2006, was seemingly endless with its stream of quotable lines that live on through most of us today, more than a decade later: “I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence,”1 “Dear eight-pound-six-ounce infant baby Jesus,” “Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!” But honestly, are there any more memorable than, “If you’re not first, you’re last”? The fact that Ricky Bobby’s dad, Reese, played fantastically by Gary Cole, was high on peyote when he told young impressionable Ricky Bobby those immortal words that shaped his mindset for his entire life should all give us pause when we consider those words, but it seems nowadays we live more and more by that mantra. To quote a completely different genre of movie, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker, played woodenly by Hayden Christensen, gravels out to Obi-Wan Kenobi, “If you are not with me, then you are my enemy.” Some think this was written by George Lucas as a jab at former President George W. Bush, who said after 9/11, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” It definitely makes sense for it to be, as it’s almost a direct quote.
Coupling these two quotes together, we see more and more of this sort of divide happening in our world, even with movies and situation from decades past. If you aren’t fully integrated into Trump’s America, you are the enemy, a socialist, trying to allow rapists and murderers into our country so they can kill the babies that we aren’t killing ourselves with abortion and so on and so forth. And to those on the left, if you do support almost any conservative thought patterns, then you are xenophobic, homophobic, corrupt and allowing the upper class to devour the sanctity of life that the middle and lower class citizens are trying to scratch out, all with a truck decal of President Trump riding a bald eagle holding a flag. However, the world is not binary, like most on Twitter and other social media sites see it as. There are shades of gray to everything in this world, including your 2019 Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield.
Ah yes, the reason for this article, I knew we would get here. This Browns season has been as roller coaster-y as it can possibly get: a 30-point loss in Week 1, a 20-point victory in Week 2, then a close-ish game score-wise Week 3, the 15-point win over Baltimore in Week 4 and finally Monday night’s 28-point drubbing at the hands of the 49ers. The highs and lows and the feels those games give us are much more in line with Ricky Bobby’s catchphrase than what the team is actually capable of. We all felt “same old Browns” after Week 1 but by Week 4, we had all talked ourselves into being a Super Bowl team again. “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
Yes, the playcalling is both god awful and creatively fantastic week to week. The offensive line has a Trent Williams-sized hole in it in pass protection but opens holes for Nick Chubb to take it to the house at a moments notice. Baker Mayfield at times looks like the mixture of Drew Brees and Brett Favre we all saw last year, throwing quick slants and deep outs with the best and also the second coming of the dark angel Manziel as he scrambles for his life, trying to do too much with not enough in the next. The defense can hold Todd Gurley and the entire Rams team to 90 yards rushing on Sunday Night Football and just two weeks later get gashed by the likes of Tevin Coleman, Matt Brieda, and Raheem Mostert for 275 yards on the ground. “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
We are unsure what this team is because we have yet to see any type of consistency from game to game. In fact, the most consistent thing we have seen this season is how *inconsistent* they are. We always knew the first half of the schedule would be the toughest, and the later run of games against the intradivision rivalries and bottom feeder team would help make a playoff run possible. However, nobody thought we would look as world-beater as we did against Baltimore then go and more closely resemble a Divison III FCS team on Monday Night Football eight days later.
Where and what this team is has yet to be decided. I refuse to believe they are as bad as they looked this past Monday, but to date, there is more game film of those Browns than the good ones. It’s much more likely that the shade of gray this team actually resembles is closer to the Week 4 Browns than Week 5, as talent wins out more often than not and the roster general manager John Dorsey and to a lesser extent former GM Sashi Brown built2 is loaded with high-end players that will continue to produce more and more consistently. But there have to be changes for that to take place. No, we do not need to trade Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, nor Myles Garrett as radio call-in fans all over northeast Ohio try to push that agenda forward daily, because this is not a tanking team. We need less binary thinking and more consistency going forward. It turns out, second place is not awful.