Monday, September 10, 2012

So You Had a Bad Day

I'll bet you a good bit of money that Brandon Weeden didn't think getting caught under the giant American flag was going to be the high point of his afternoon, but it sure turned out that way.  The word "catastrophic" is not too strong to apply to Weeden's debut, which may have been the single worst performance that I've ever seen by a professional athlete in any sport.

Of course, he had a lot of help.  Weeden may have been staggeringly inept, but nobody on the offensive side blocked, caught, or ran the ball with distinction, and Pat Shurmur continues to remind me of Henry Winkler in The Waterboy before Bobby Boucher showed up.  In fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that anyone other than D'Qwell Jackson deserved to be named the Browns offensive player of the game.

All of this is a crying shame, of course, because the Browns defense was shockingly good at preventing the Eagles from scoring for most of the contest.  It seemed like on every series, some player that nobody ever heard of was making a spectacular play to stuff an Eagles drive.  While Dick Jauron certainly deserves a lot of credit for his squad's performance, there is the troubling matter of the amount of yardage that the Browns gave up yesterday.  It gets a little bit lost in the glow of all of the big plays they made, but the fact remains that the Browns still gave up more yardage (456 yards) than any other team in the league except the Saints (464 yards).  Still, all things considered, when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, "that'll do, Brownies, that'll do."

The defense yesterday was so stout that even a marginally competent performance from the offense would've resulted in a Cleveland victory.  Colt McCoy is a proven master of marginally competent performances, and a timely substitution of him for Weeden might have been enough to do the trick.  Of course, there was absolutely no chance of that happening.  The moment that the Browns decided to spend a first round pick on Weeden, the die was cast.  Get used to it -- unless his arm falls off or James Harrison gets a piece of him, Weeden's the guy for 60 minutes every week.

A fair amount of the blame for Weeden's performance yesterday can be placed squarely on Pat Shurmur and his staff.  The guy played very little in the preseason, and it showed. Somewhere along the line, the Browns appear to have forgotten that while Weeden may have been anointed the starter in April, he still needed plenty of reps in game conditions, and he plainly didn't get enough of them. That's on Shurmur.

There are also plenty of rookie QBs who've had inauspicious debuts yet have gone on to successful careers.  For example, Troy Aikman was a train wreck his entire rookie season. He went 0-11, and threw for only nine TDs.  He was intercepted 18 times, and threw for only a little more than 1,700 yards.  Terry Bradshaw only started eight games his rookie year, but still managed to throw 24 interceptions and complete less than 39% of his passes.  Both of those guys ended up in the Hall of Fame.  Just sayin'.

So, I guess my point is that we all need to chill out about Weeden, at least for now.  I'll admit that based on yesterday's performance, it is awfully hard to see what made the Browns front office believe that he was any different than Andre Ware, David Klingler or the other spread QBs who've posted big numbers in college and flopped spectacularly in the NFL.  Still it's way to soon to tell whether he'll be a bust or the first decent QB we've had in this town since Bill and Art ran Bernie out of town back in 1993. 

Nevertheless, a lot is going to be at stake for a lot of people as we watch Weeden over the next several weeks.  First round picks usually get a few years to prove themselves, but given Weeden's age, Matt Barkley's potential availability in next year's draft, and another regime change looming in Berea, it wouldn't surprise me at all if a final judgment about Weeden is made based on his performance this season.  Remember, the first question Jimmy Haslam asked Mike Holmgren was "Can Weeden play?"  The careers of Weeden, Heckert and Shurmur all depend on the answer to that question, and I've got a feeling that the new ownership is not inclined to wait a long time for it.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Robert Irsay Day

The passing of Arthur B. Modell, and the debate over whether the fans of Cleveland should honor Mr. Modell's memory with a moment of silence at this weekend's Browns game remind me that the good people of Baltimore -- and all NFL fans for that matter -- have never given the late Robert Irsay his due for all of the wonderful things that he did for them.

I read this morning that Art Modell will lie in state in the stadium bestowed upon him by the grateful people of Maryland.  As the citizens of Charm City pass by his purple draped sarcophagus, they should spare a thought for Irsay.  After all, if it weren't for Irsay's decision to relocate the Colts to Indianapolis, combined with Modell's tireless opposition to awarding an expansion franchise to Baltimore, none of the Ravens' success would have been possible.

I understand that there still may be some bad feelings in Baltimore about the departure of the Colts, but then again, since nobody in Baltimore was going to their games anyway for the two seasons before they left, isn't it time that Baltimore "got over it,"  just like Cleveland is expected to do?

Personally, I think that Art Modell's death and the post-mortem testimonials to his overall wonderfulness should prompt the NFL to set aside a day annually during which fans could show their appreciation for all the excellent things that NFL owners do for their communities.  We should rightly honor not just giants like Art Modell, but those other humble billionaires who quietly do the Lord's work each and every day.

I suggest that the NFL name this annual event after the man who personified everything that the modern NFL owner is about: Robert Irsay.  Who can forget his memorable statement to the Baltimore media when rumors of a possible Colts move first surfaced?  Despite having been by all accounts grossly overserved by some unscrupulous bartender before speaking,  Irsay was still eloquent, and uttered the immortal words that have become the manifesto of an entire generation of NFL owners:


Robert Irsay Day -- there is just no more fitting name for a day set aside to honor the wonderful men who bring us pro football, and who ask nothing in return except brand new publicly funded stadiums, 100% of all luxury box sales and concession revenues, $500 personal seat licenses, and the unrestricted right to pick up and move to greener pastures whenever they still can't figure out how to make a profit despite all these subsidies.