Welcome to “Keepin’ It Real (and sometimes funny),” our new weekly column highlighting relevant events in Cleveland sports, and how we might feel about them; the brainchild of the man behind Twitter’s @NotSCCleveland. We will take a dive in to the good, the bad and the downright head-scratching moments that have been the last week in Cleveland sports. Do enjoy, and please do not hesitate to provide feedback.
Attacking. Relentless. Those are the adjectives used throughout the offseason by the Browns’ new brass to describe their mentality on and off the field.
Aggressive. Determined. More adjectives promised to Browns fans in the months leading up to the 2013 football season.
On Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns had their first opportunity to showcase a new style of football in front of their fans and the rest of the NFL. By Sunday evening, fans were left questioning what was different from the awful version on display here over the last two seasons.
It wasn’t just that the Browns lost another opener – this time to an average Miami team that isn’t projected to do anything special this season. It wasn’t just that 71,000+ fans came to the game with an excitement unmatched in recent years, and left with an equally unmatched level of disappointment. The result of the game was troubling, but the way in which the team reached that result was maddening and frustrating.
Opposite Joe Haden, the Browns struggled in the secondary last season. What happened Sunday? Opposite Joe Haden, the Browns struggled in the secondary.
Last season, the Browns receiving corps was generally slow, unable to make big plays, and anything but sure-handed. Sunday? They were slow, dropped their fair-share of passes, and made zero big plays.
Last year, the Browns offensive line was generally unable to run block for Trent Richardson. Sunday? Richardson gained just 47 yards – 37 of which came after contact, meaning open lanes were almost non-existent for the team’s second-year RB.
Last season, the coaching and play calling was horrid. Sunday? It was almost worse.
It’s hard to explain how Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski thought it would be a good idea to throw the ball 53 times with an unproven, developing quarterback and a shorthanded receiving corps. It’s hard to explain how an athletic running back with sure hands and an ability to make plays in the passing game wasn’t featured. It’s hard to explain the numerous instances of throwing the football short of the yardage-to-gain on third downs.
Why was Sunday so maddening? It’s because the Browns didn’t lose by being aggressive or relentless. It’s because they didn’t show their willingness to take risks and chances. They were almost the same version of a very bad team from a year ago.
Consider the fact that – other than upgrading the front seven – the new front office did very little to improve the talent at critical positions which have been hampering this team for years. Minus Tori Gurley, the receivers are the same as last year. Minus Chris Owens – who was seriously exposed against Miami – and Leon McFadden, who looks like Buster Skrine 2.0, there was no change at the corner position. Brandon Weeden is still the quarterback, and he’s still making the same mistakes he made last season. Chris Ogbonnaya is now being asked to block 270-pound linebackers, which Browns radio man Jim Donovan called “embarrassing” after the game.
Most alarming, ZERO members of the Browns 2013 draft class took the field in the 2013 opener. And that’s on a rebuilding team that is the second youngest in the National Football League. Barkevious Mingo was lost to an injury, and the rest of the draft was either cut or riding the pine.
If you were to create a “worst nightmare” scenario for the season opener, Sunday came pretty close. How did fans feel about Joe Banner’s pledge to display an attacking team on both sides of the ball?
@NOTSCCleveland – It attacked my eyes
— Shaun Troup (@onlyincleve23) September 9, 2013
@NOTSCCleveland it made me relentlessly throw up
— Drew Turner (@thedrew_turner) September 9, 2013
It would be unfair to say there weren’t some positives. The front seven was fantastic, and did an incredible job of stopping the run. Jordan Cameron was a bright spot. Billy Cundiff didn’t whiff on his field goal attempt. Joe Haden completely shut down Mike Wallace. But we’ve reached the point where positives aren’t good enough. This team needs to change the culture. This team needs to focus on winning, and winning alone. It shouldn’t be good enough anymore to make “progress.” Right, Coach Chud?
3rd sentence out of Chud's mouth post game — "I think the guys battled extremely hard" #cringe
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) September 8, 2013
Of all my concerns with the game on Sunday – and, believe me, I have a pretty long list – the above is the largest.
A coach who wants to change a decade-long culture of losing doesn’t meet the media after a disappointing loss and praise his players’ ability to battle. This is the NFL. Battling is expected. Players are paid to battle. If the players don’t battle, cut them.
The 71,000 people who paid good money to attend Sunday’s game didn’t do so to watch the battle. They did it to watch a win. That win didn’t happen. Why can’t the Browns find a coach with the ability to own up to that after the fact?
BROWNS QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“I felt like I did some good things.” – Browns QB Brandon Weeden after completing less than 50 percent of his passes, throwing three interceptions, and guiding his offense to a total of 10 points.
Loser mentality. Plain and simple.
BROWNS TWEET OF THE WEEK:
This is how much the #Browns care about the fan experience. I texted the fan misconduct line…. pic.twitter.com/5RMTnpRAWM
— Ben Woodcock (@woodykicker9) September 8, 2013
Cleveland Browns Football … if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry.
@NOTSCCleveland Wouldnt you think Oniel Cousins would be better since his first name is an anagram of "O Line?" #Destiny
— Adam Gannon (@adamgannon) September 11, 2013
That’s about the only thing that qualifies Oneil Cousins to be an offensive lineman at this point.
@NOTSCCleveland Do they win a game this year? I don't see it.
— JoJo Leen (@JoJoLeen21) September 11, 2013
And it’s only September 12. New record!
@NOTSCCleveland odds of getting Johnny Football?
— Robbie Hayes (@GoldLeopard2014) September 11, 2013
Timeline of a Cleveland Browns season:
Play the season opener.
Walk away from the season opener focusing on the next season’s draft.
@NOTSCCleveland What do you think about trent getting hardly any carries
— Matt Jackman (@Matt_Jackmann) September 11, 2013
I think it’s incredibly concerning, especially since the Browns were trailing by only one possession throughout most of the second half.
@NOTSCCleveland do they have a chance of finishing better than 8-8 this year?
— Ryan (@TheGreatLago) September 11, 2013
I remember people saying I wasn’t a “true fan” because I thought they’d only finish 7-9. After what I saw Sunday, I’d throw a parade down Euclid for 7-9.
Until next week………..