Monday, October 15, 2012

This Has Been Driving Me Crazy All Season

When I first saw Brandon Weeden, I knew he reminded me of somebody, but for the life of me, I couldn't place him.  Today, it finally hit me:  he's Garth from Wayne's World without the glasses and with a corporate haircut.  Check it out if you don't believe me.  Here's Weeden, and here's Garth.

Sorry if you were expecting an analysis of the Browns victory instead of this silliness.  Frankly, I'm just enjoying it.  Life's too short and Mondays like this have been way too few and far between for the last 20 years or so.

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.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Cross is Bending

"Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning."  -  Eugene Debs, Cleveland, September 18, 1918

This is a good day, Browns fans.  We don't know what tomorrow will bring, but today brings reason to hope that at last, as the ol' leftie Gene Debs put it, the cross is bending.  After more than a decade of diffident ownership, a parade of incompetent and paranoid front office and coaching regimes, and on-field performances that were so consistently awful and so stupefyingly boring that the bye-week became our favorite weekend of the season, the Lerner era is finally, mercifully, coming to an end.

What will the new Haslam regime bring?  Who knows? But let's face it, it's almost impossible that it will be worse than what we've experienced since 1999, so let's indulge in a little hope.

Let's hope that the Haslams believe that the first, last, and only job of ownership and the front office is to build a Super Bowl contender.  During the Lerner era, the various front office regimes mostly paid lip service to this objective, and instead placed more emphasis on public relations spin and palace intrigue.

Let's hope that the Haslams took good notes during their tenure as minority owners of the Steelers.  God, how I hate that team, but the simple fact is that from the top down, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been the best organization in football since the early 1970s.  I can think of few things that give me more hope than the fact that the Haslams had a chance to watch that organization up close for several years before buying the Browns.

Let's hope that the Haslams recognize that despite their failings, some good draft decisions have been made by the Holmgren regime, and that means some folks in the current front office just may be worth saving.  I have my own thoughts on who one of those persons might be.  I don't want to name names, but I can say that his initials are T-o-m  H-e-c-k-e-r-t. 

On the other hand, let's hope that the Haslams also know their Shakespeare: "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well  It were done quickly."  If they want to clean house, do it now.  Don't make Holmgren's mistake and keep a coaching or front office staff that they aren't comfortable with around out of a sense of fairness.  Life in the NFL is unfair: That's what the guaranteed contracts are for.

Finally, let's hope that Browns fans will give the new owners a chance.  Yeah, they own a chunk of the Steelers and by now everybody's heard the quote about Jimmy Haslam being a 1000% Steeler fan.  Well guess what?  He's now got a billion reasons to be a Browns fan.  Sure, he's not from here, but this team isn't heading to LA, Toronto, London or anywhere else, and Haslam knew that when he agreed to buy them.

Wake up and smell the coffee, folks.  We may each have pissed away thousands of our dollars on this crappy team over the past decade, but this loon's just plunked down a cool billion to buy them!  And that's why I know that Jimmy and his daddy aren't going to be spending Sundays in the fall sitting in the terraces at Aston Villa watching a bunch of Eurotrash play footie.  It's a cinch that they'll be on the lakefront barking themselves hoarse like the rest of us, and that may be the biggest reason of all to take heart of hope.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


My alma mater, Ohio University, just won its first round game by spanking Georgetown 97-83. The last time the Bobcats won an NCAA game was while I was in college in
1983. That was great. Tonight was simply unbelievable.

Ohio was a 14 seed. Georgetown was a 3.

Georgetown was rattled from almost the beginning of the game and never recovered. Even though the Hoyas outscored Ohio in the paint, OU rained in three-pointers throughout the game. OU's guards, junior Armon Bassett and true freshman D.J. Cooper, controlled the game, and the Hoyas couldn't stop them. I couldn't stop watching---not even for an instant.

Great win. I can't write anything more.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Happy Birthday Bambino

I just toasted the ever-lovin' Babe with a chilly one in honor of his 115th, which officially ended about an hour ago. For me, his name still means the excitement of baseball when I was young. I think it always will.

George Will, in comparing him to others who played the game, referred to him as
"an Everest in Kansas." I think that's about right.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Hey Jim Caldwell, up until the time you pulled all your starters, your team was undefeated and chasing history. I understand what you were doing, but that takes some stones.

In related news, even though the Jets got the win, Braylon Edwards did damn little. For those keeping track at home, he didn't get anywhere near catching 55 passes this year, which is rumored to be what it takes to transform the pick the Browns will get into a second.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'll Believe It When I See It

Holmgren, huh? Sorry to be cynical about this, but I'm not buying that this is anything beyond a negotiating ploy to get the Seahawks to move more quickly.

Mike Holmgren is exactly the kind of guy that the Browns need as their football czar. He's experienced, he's a winner, and his unsuccessful effort to wear two hats in Seattle probably has given him an appreciation for just how much is involved in a general manager's role. His draft record is a mixed bag, but it does include Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson, both of whom are better than anyone who's worn a Browns uniform in a generation.

Perhaps best of all, Holmgren's got zero ties to Belichick and his coaching progeny, and has a reputation for not suffering fools. Based on Eric Mangini's statements in this morning's paper, the prospect of Holmgren showing up in Cleveland is already making the Mangenius extremely uncomfortable. In fact, I think it's fair to say that when you read his quotes, you can almost see the beads of sweat on his upper lip.

If the Browns do sign Holmgren, then I really think a celebration is in order. I just can't convince myself that this is actually going to happen. Here's why: if I'm Mike Holmgren, why do I want any part of this mess? Aside from the fact that the team has 11 picks in next year's draft, there's nothing to recommend this job. The organization is a laughingstock with a deeply ingrained culture of losing. The owner has proven to be eccentric, impulsive, and erratic, and seems to be much more interested in his Premier League soccer team than his NFL franchise. Besides all of that, the idea of relocating to Northeast Ohio just isn't likely to hold much attraction to a West Coast guy like Holmgren.

If you've got no better alternatives, then maybe you sign up for this trainwreck, since Randy Lerner does have that billionaire thing going for him and his checks will definitely clear. But it's unlikely that Cleveland will end up being Holmgren's only alternative. In addition to the Seahawks and the perennially open positions in Washington and Oakland (which are every bit as unattractive as the Browns' spot), several other teams, including perhaps Tampa Bay and Chicago, may be in the czar market this offseason. That means Mike Holmgren is likely to have plenty of alternatives in the near future, and if so, why on earth does his take this one?

I guess the answer to that question is that if Holmgren figures out a way to turn around a franchise as far gone as Cleveland, then he goes from borderline Hall of Famer to an absolute lock. I really hope Holmgren decides to take the job. In fact, it's all I want for Christmas, but I'm afraid that I'm much more likely to wake up to find the usual lump of coal in my stocking.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I watched last night's game with really mixed emotions. On one hand, like any true son of Ohio, I hate the Steelers. Every single time Rothliesberger got sacked, I kept wishing that Joe Turkey Jones would have finished it off. Every time Cribbs stiff-armed someone, I was thrilled. Stopping Rothliesberger's consecutive win streak against Cleveland and dimming any chances for a trip to the playoffs was, as they say, priceless.

But, as loyal readers know, the Rhino and I love the NFL draft. We love gearing up for it and inflicting our opinions upon you here. This year, the biggest defensive stud in years is coming out, but a team's gonna need the very first pick to get him---Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska. He's a 6'4", 300 lb monster, who tears up offensive lines. He'd look damn fine in an orange helmet lining up next to Shaun Rogers, but that's not going to happen now due to the big win.

I can't help but thinking that some toothless bastard in Pittsburgh is laughing his ass off in his trailer and that Mangini and Daboll are somewhere singing alleluia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas, Pittsburgh!!!


You just had your season ended by a team that won one game all year.

Deal with it, yinzers.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Evan Moore

On a day when the Browns didn't suck nearly as much as fans thought they would, perhaps the biggest question on everyone's mind was "who the hell is this Evan Moore guy?"

Until Saturday, Moore was a member of the Browns practice squad. However, after his performance yesterday, it's very unlikely he'll be back there anytime soon. Moore caught six passes for a team leading 80 yards, and with the exception of a fourth quarter ball that hit him in the helmet, pretty much snagged anything that was remotely catchable. In fact, he probably made more tough catches in a single afternoon than Braylon Edwards made during his entire career with the Browns.

So who is this guy? Well, according to the Stanford media guide, he was a high school All-American in football and basketball, played basketball on Stanford's #1 ranked team during his freshman year, was voted the Stanford football team's most outstanding sophomore, and was an honorable mention All-Pac 10 that season.

So how does a guy like that end up on the NFL's Island of Misfit Toys? Well, Moore dislocated his hip during the first game of his junior year. That hip injury was very serious (one media report used the word "horrific"), and cost Moore his entire junior season. He returned the following season, but the hip injury was just the first in a series of injuries that have plagued Moore ever since. After returning to the team in 2006, Moore suffered a stress fracture in his foot that limited his playing time that season.

Moore had a good, but not outstanding senior season in 2007. His size, athleticism and the flashes of brilliance that he'd shown during his playing career at Stanford still managed to put him on the NFL's radar screen. However, he didn't have the speed to play WR at the professional level and he'd never played a down at TE, so Moore went undrafted. The Saints signed him as a free agent, but quickly released him. The Packers picked him up, but the injury bug bit again, and Green Bay put him on injured reserve after he suffered a pre-season knee injury. Green Bay waived him prior to the start of the 2009 season, and he was signed to the Browns' practice squad in early November.

This morning's Plain Dealer pointed out that yesterday was Moore's first professional game. What's more impressive is that yesterday's game was the first football game of any kind that Moore has participated in since 2007. Based on Moore's performance, it's highly unlikely that it will be his last game.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jamal and The Hall

Shortly after the news broke about the likelihood that Jamal Lewis sustained a career-ending injury last weekend, speculation began about whether he's got Hall of Fame credentials. Although this year, we've come to know him as Grumpy the Aging Tailback, Jamal Lewis has been a terrific football player over his career and there's an awful lot to like about his approach to the game. When it comes to the Hall though, my guess is that the answer is going to be "close, but no cigar."

Lewis has always been a hard nosed, old-school running back who played the game with a great deal of intensity, and he had some of the most spectacular individual performances in the history of the game. Unfortunately, I think the case for him on rushing yardage alone isn't real strong, and that's a problem, because that's the only category in which Lewis ranks among the NFL's top 25 performers all-time. He ranks 30th in rushing touchdowns, barely cracks the top 50 in yards from scrimmage, and ranks 70th in all-purpose yards.

But a bigger problem for Lewis may be the peers he's up against. He'll be considered along with guys like Edgerrin James, Ladanian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Fred Taylor, and that's going to be really a tough bunch to be competing with when it comes time for the voters to decide.

Those who advocate for Lewis point to the fact that he's one of only five players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, his record shattering 295 yard performance against the Browns in 2003, and his selection as the league's MVP that same year. If you're a fan of Lewis, you might also argue that voters should factor in some of the time he lost. After a spectacular rookie season during which he rushed for over 1,300 yards and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl, Lewis blew out his ACL and missed the entire 2001 season. (His legal problems also led to him missing four games during the 2004 season). That missed time may well have cost Lewis 1,500 yards or more, and if you add that to his total, he's over 12,000 career rushing yards and probably a shoe-in. My own guess is that this argument isn't going to count for much. The only guy whose injuries I think voters really took into account when they voted on him was Gale Sayers, and to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Jamal, you're no Gale Sayers."

If you're a fan of more delusional arguments in favor of Jamal Lewis, you might want to check out the guy in Baltimore who points to Jamal's Christ-like humility as the quality that tips him over the edge and makes him a first ballot selection. According to this writer, the one thing that Hall of Fame voters really groove on is a humble player. Seriously? How do you suppose they feel about drug convictions?

At this point, it looks like most of Hall of Fame voters think that Lewis is a long-shot. For what it's worth, I think the bottom line on Jamal Lewis is that he will be remembered as one of the decade's great backs, but not quite a Hall of Fame caliber player. I'll tell you what though, anybody who loves to watch a guy play football the way it's supposed to be played will definitely miss Jamal Lewis.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Nice way to end the holiday weekend, wasn't it? I kind of knew that it was going to be a bad day when I opened The Plain Dealer and read Mary Kay Cabot's interview of Eric Mangini. I know I complained about him giving interviews to the national media, so I suppose that I should give him his due for sitting down with Cabot, but jeezes -- the guy just comes across so badly.

Unfortunately, whenever he opens his mouth, Coach Mangini consistently manages to create the impression that he's got the integrity of a Cuyahoga County politician and the sincerity of Eddie Haskell. I actually kind of feel bad for the guy -- he's obviously sensitive to the criticism he's received, and even told Cabot that he wanted his critics to "at least give me the opportunity to express the other side."

Okay, fair enough. But then Mangini follows that up with a statement that he's got no idea where the perception that players hate playing for him comes from, because after all, "all of those guys from New York came here and they know exactly how I am..." C'mon coach -- is that the best you can do? Half of those guys came here in trades, and the other half were free agents who didn't exactly have 31 other teams pounding on their doors. The fact that they came here doesn't mean that they like playing for you, it just means that they like getting an NFL paycheck.

Mangini may be unconvincing, but at least he provides some entertainment value, which is more than I can say for his football team. After last week's head fake, the Berea Turds offense returned to form against the Bengals. Yesterday's game featured Brian Daboll's "Screens Gone WILD!" game plan, Grumpy the Aging Tailback, extremely offensive offensive line play, receivers who are so disoriented that they make a compelling argument for in-game drug testing and, last but not least, a noodle-armed QB who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. In short, it had everything you've come to love about this season's edition of the Turds' offense.

The defense also didn't disappoint. The Bengals may not have passed the ball real well, but you don't have to when you're racking up 210 yards on the ground. As LB David Bowens put it, "They came out and ran the ball, what, 75 times?" It turns out that the Bengals ran the ball 45 times, but it must have seemed like much more than that to the Turds defense, which spent 38:11 on the field yesterday afternoon.

Of course, the Bengals didn't just grind out yardage -- they also ground up defenders. While the apparent season-ending injury to Shaun Rogers is the biggest piece of bad injury news to come out of yesterday's game, a total of four defensive starters left the game with injuries. The Browns have already been hammered by injuries this season, and you got a sense for just how bare the cupboard is when receiver Mike Furrey was brought in to play defensive back after Pool went down. So if you don't think things can possibly get worse, well, stay tuned.

Another week, another hopeless loss. Sunday, bloody Sunday. Like Bono says, I'm so sick of it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Would Be Nice If They Knew the Rules

This morning's Plain Dealer carried a story detailing the whining that the Browns engaged in after Hank Poteat was called for pass interference. I understand how frustrating it is to lose a game like that, but I've watched the reply several times, and the refs absolutely got it right.

Hey, mistakes happen, and sometimes they cost you games, but what really boggles my mind is that both Eric Mangini and Hank Poteat appear to think they've got a legitimate beef with the call on that play. Both of these guys complained that the QB was outside of the pocket, which according to their interpretation of the rules, allowed Hank Poteat to knock the receiver out of bounds while the ball was in the air.

Sorry guys, but that ain't the rule. Mangini and Poteat are confusing an exception to the illegal contact rule with a non-existent exception to the prohibition on pass interference. Generally, a defender engages in illegal contact if he makes contact with a receiver -- before the ball is thrown -- that impedes him in any way more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

This rule was put in place back in 1978 (and amped up in 2004) to open up the passing game. The illegal contact rule is probably the stupidest rule in the entire rulebook other than the Brady Rule, but that's not what's relevant to the Browns' situation. What is relevant is an exception to the illegal contact rule that applies if the QB is out of the pocket. The reason for that exception is that when the QB's scrambling, he's a potential runner, and any receiver can justifiably be regarded as a potential blocker. The NFL adopted this exception before the 2007 season.

That exception doesn't apply to pass interference. According to the NFL rule book: "It is pass interference by either team when any player movement beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible player of such player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Offensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is touched. Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched."

One of the things that the rule specifically says constitutes pass interference is "cutting off the path of a receiver by making contact with him without playing the ball." Check out Poteat's play (if you can stand to look at it again) and tell me if it wasn't a textbook example of pass interference.

Like I said, textbook. It doesn't matter that Stafford was out of the pocket. Once he threw the ball, the Browns couldn't have been penalized for illegal contact, and the scrambling QB exception to that penalty no longer applied. Unfortunately, the moment that the ball left Stafford's hand, the pass interference rule did apply --and the fact that Bryant Johnson wasn't the intended receiver does not matter. He was an eligible receiver, and Poteat's contact cut off his path to a ball that was not clearly uncatchable. Read the rule for yourself if you don't believe me.