Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 12/24/11

Your Cleveland Browns were ultimately out-classed today.  Seneca Wallace threw an interception. The Browns bungled the clock at the end of the first half worse than anything anyone could possibly imagine.  Phil Taylor ended it with an inexcusable offsides penalty that Joe Flacco shouldn’t even get credit for.  The Browns got beat on some big plays, but ultimately they didn’t play totally horrendously.  They worked hard to the very end and even got within six points with an opportunity to take the lead. Ultimately Pat Shurmur and the Browns fell short 20-14 on Christmas Eve.

The Browns appeared like the effort was there, but even when they found themselves in decent positions, they were unable to make enough plays.  (Josh Cribbs’ 84-yard punt return TD aside, obviously).  You hate to just say “talent deficit,” but at this point in the season with the injuries and the glaring “misses” on talent judgement and acquisition this off-season it is more apparent than ever.

To be fair, this Browns team has a chance, albeit a small one, with all their players.  I’m not even talking about Colt McCoy, so stop the QB stuff right there.  I’m talking about Ben Watson, Jordan Norwood, Scott Fujita, and T.J. Ward for example.  And don’t forget Peyton Hillis who did his best to convince the world that he is worth signing this offseason.  He finished the game with 112 yards on 24 carries.  Isn’t it amazing how much better the offense looks when he is carrying a load?  But even with those guys on the field the Browns have to play their best game and the Ravens can’t play theirs if the team will have any chance of winning.

Maybe at some point in the future if guys like Buster Skrine, Kaluka Maiava, James Dockery, Carlton Mitchell, and Montario Hardesty and others become starters or more experienced backups the Browns won’t be so dangerously thin year-in and year-out.  Right now I know it takes a leap of faith.  For me too.  But this is what happens when you miss on two out of three second rounders two drafts ago, just for one example.  I don’t mean to pile on Mangini either.  That draft is on Lerner as much as Mangini.

Regardless, the Browns are now 4-11 and nobody should escape criticism.  Pat Shurmur, the players, Tom Heckert, Mike Holmgren and everyone else in the Browns organization have earned a fair allotment.  The Browns played their hand this year and it worked out pretty badly for them and even worse for Browns fans.

They now have all the pieces in place organizationally that they said they wanted when they got rid of Mangini.  By mid-season next year there must be a more encouraging storyline coming out of Berea for Browns fans.  I won’t ever put a time limit on a specific achievement like the playoffs (PLAYOFFS??!?!?,) but they absolutely can’t afford another meaningless stretch of football that outweighs the meaningful games by at least double.

Enjoy your holidays though, people.  We knew all we needed to about the deficiencies of this team before the holiday season was even on the radar.  That can’t happen next year, but this year it should have been to your advantage.  Dialed down expectations and caring less is the only way to guard against this team crushing your spirits.  Sad but true.

Now go have a Christmas Ale or something.

(AP Photo / Gail Burton)

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