Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/5/11
BEREA -- Trying to make sense of the Cleveland Browns is much like trying to explain the attraction of Dancing With the Stars. Some things simply do not make sense. With the Browns, the bottom line coming off Sundays embarrassing loss to the Ravens is this reality: Baltimore is a team that has been built for years to a style, system and approach. The Browns keep re-creating their style, system and approach. Baltimore should be better. Baltimore is better. And, again, Josh Cribbs is right there is a big gap between the top teams in the AFC North and the Browns. A big gap. That the Browns are (again) trying to close the gap does not mean the gap does not exist. It does. The Browns reward? A Thursday night trip to Pittsburgh, where further humiliation is not merely possible, but likely. Because Pittsburgh, like Baltimore, is a team built for years to a style, system and approach -- and the Steelers are playing for first place in the AFC North. Pittsburgh is better than the Browns. And they should beat the Browns, badly. Especially because the Browns also are beat up. Running back Peyton Hillis has a hip strain, quarterback Colt McCoy a knee sprain and right tackle Tony Pashos an elbow strain. All are day to day. Somehow coach Pat Shurmur has to explain this mess. His explanations fell back on the usual and predictable comments. We need to find a way to be more productive and consistent, he said. We just need to do a better job, he said. If this were an easy thing then everybody could do it, he said. Just keep pushing. Keep pushing. At least Shurmur hasnt done something ridiculous like put a tree stump with an axe in the locker room, something ex-Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio did one year to remind his team to keep, as he said, chopping wood. That move led to his kicker cutting himself with the axe when he missed the tree. So Shurmur hasnt done that, which is something. Shurmur did, though, refer to some rolled eyes from the media when he said the Browns situation will turn when you least expect it. Which was said with a bit of a lighthearted tone, but still was an interesting thing to notice. The Browns and Shurmur are going through a brutal season. Fans have actually started taking notice and are not showing up or are leaving early. And when they listen to the comments following the game, they hear Colt McCoy talk about a touchdown drive late in the game being the touchstone they take to Pittsburgh. McCoy was sincere, as is Shurmur, but the words smack of the desperation that oozes from the field. The Browns have some players -- Jabaal Sheard, Joe Thomas and DQwell Jackson come to mind -- but they are a long way from a good team, and some of what happens prompts head-scratching, starting with the constant emphasis on the six-to-eight yard pass that seems to be the staple of the offense. Colt McCoy seems to be playing with little confidence, and with almost no help. Some might question the Browns play-calling after a long pass to Hillis gave the Browns first-and-goal at the 5. But on second down, Shurmur called a touchdown, McCoy threw a touchdown. Except Evan Moore dropped it. A huge chance to cut a 10-0 deficit to three was blown, because of a dropped pass. Shurmur has been criticized for not using Moore more (write that three times real fast), and he uses him and he drops a critical throw. McCoy now is a quarterback on an island. His running backs have let him down, with Hillis the hugest letdown this side of Heavens Gate. The highlight of his season was flying to Arkansas on an off day to get married. Sunday he caught a 52-yard pass and wound up hurting his hip. Add in receivers who are dropping the ball with regularity and McCoy has nobody to look to. Shurmur can call any play he likes, but its chances of success are, at best, a coin flip. Add McCoys limitations in arm strength and seeing the field and a good defense salivates. Baltimore jumped a half dozen out routes and came close to several interceptions -- some of which could have been a touchdown.The Steelers are salivating. And Pittsburgh will not wallow Thursday night, as theyve proven over and over when they play the Browns. If the Browns dont compete, the Christmas Eve massacre or the Thursday night freezeout in Pittsburgh the next season will be repeated. The Ravens also exposed the Browns defense for the mirage that it is. No team that cannot stop the run wins games, and the Browns are giving up 151 yards per game rushing. Thats more than half the total the Browns are gaining as an entire offense (290.7). Joe Flacco has never lost to the Browns (7-0). Ben Roethlisberger has gone 13-1. Even rookie Andy Dalton is 2-0 with Cincinnati. Colt McCoy? Hes 0-7 against the AFC North. Shurmur had nothing to do with the previous 12 seasons, but when a fan base has dealt with a team that has had two winning seasons since 1999 and has won five, five and four games the past three seasons its not going to be patient when change was supposed to produce a better offense and a better team. The Browns have four games left to salvage something. The rolled eyes following that statement belong to the long-suffering fan base.
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