Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Flowers for Andra

When I was in high school, I had to read a book called Flowers for Algernon. It's about this mentally retarded guy who takes an experimental drug to enhance his intelligence. The experiment works so well that he becomes a genius. Tragically, the effects are temporary, and by the end of the book, the guy's back where he started.

Based on Pat McManamon's column in this morning's Beacon Journal, it sounds like some of the Browns are starting to think that they're the NFL's version of Flowers for Algernon, and that they're afraid that the drugs may be starting to wear off. McManamon quotes Andra Davis's comments after the Arizona game, where he apparently said "Now maybe everybody will stop talking about the playoffs and let us just focus on doing what we do, which we were doing from the get-go."

Fat chance, Andra.

At first blush, it's astounding to think that Davis would make a comment like this. I mean, come on, are you really so lacking in mental toughness that you get the heebee jeebees because fans --and even the media -- are excited about your success? If that's the case, then maybe your guidance counselor steered you in the wrong direction when he suggested a career as an NFL linebacker. Personally, I think you'd have been much happier as a Cleveland Indian.

When you think about it, however, maybe Davis's remarks aren't surprising at all. In fact, maybe they're the logical consequence of the way the organization has decided to deal with success. It's one thing to make sure that players focus on one week at a time, but it's another to turn the word "playoffs" into some sort of a taboo. That's what I think the Browns' coaching staff may have done, and by trying to keep the pressure off the players, they may have inadvertently turned up the heat. I mean, when Romeo Crennel -- who has been unfailingly cordial in the most trying of circumstances -- turns frosty whenever somebody in the media asks about the team's playoff possibilities, it's entirely possible that the players are getting a different message than the one he's trying to deliver.

After so many years of frustration, it's natural for the whole organization to be excited about being a playoff contender, and it isn't surprising that the team is feeling some pressure to get to the finish line. It's the coaching staff's job to help the team keep on an even keel, and I can only hope that Romeo Crennel has made loosening his team up a big priority this week at practice. Of course, if he wants to do that, he'd be smart to first allow himself and his coaches to loosen up about the team's playoff prospects. The Browns are good enough to make the playoffs, and the players and coaches shouldn't be afraid to admit that to themselves.

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