Wednesday, August 16, 2006


This is why it's neither healthy nor wise to read signs. In a year in which all the signs seemed to point to better days for the Browns, it's turning out that we may have been through the looking glass at the time. Right is left, up is down, exit is enter and so on.

After surviving last season's palace coup by the nearly forgotten John Collins, GM Phil Savage went about systematically restocking a cupboard that was a few cans of peas from being completely empty. He signed top level free agents, including a pro bowler (LeCharles Bentley) who was just entering his prime. He completed a draft that at this juncture looks to be their best since the Browns returned from their forced hiatus. And to top it off, they basically got all of their players into camp on time and without distraction.

But in other towns, where such signs seem to point to prosperity, in Cleveland they point to despair. Since camp opened the Browns have lost Bentley for the season, seen Bob Hallen, another free agent center signee, abruptly retire, lost another center to the infamous "high ankle sprain" in their first preseason game, and now face the prospect of their most recent center, Alonzo Ephraim, being suspended for four games for violating, again, the league's substance abuse program.

We'll leave for another day why the Browns had no idea when they signed Ephraim that he faced such a suspension (and it may not be their fault) and focus instead on why, suddenly, such an innocuous position has suddenly become the latest in a long string of black holes. Is it just a run Of bad luck or something more ominous?

Before answering, we need to consider a few other signs. In addition to the free agent signings and draft day coups, Phil Savage also quietly acquired much needed depth in the defensive backfield. But since training camp opened, that depth has been all but eliminated with injuries to Daylon McCutcheon and Gary Baxter. Savage tries to do the right thing by using the one area of depth, running back, as leverage to fill other needs, sending oft-injured Lee Suggs to the Jets for Derrick Strait, only to have that blow up in his face as well. Suggs, naturally, fails the Jets' physical and thus finds himself back in Browns camp while Strait is on the 7:38 a.m. Continental flight out of Hopkins back to LaGuardia and on to Jets camp. In his place, Savage signs free agent Jeremy Lesueur, who is notable for two reasons: the really odd spelling of his last name and the fact that he was a third round pick of Denver in 2004. Of course, Maurice Clarett was also a third round pick of Denver, this time in 2005, so history doesn't look too favorable on that front either. At least, to our knowledge, Lasueur didn't show up wearing a bullet proof vest and sporting an arsenal of automatic weapons.

So again we ask: is this a run of bad luck or something more ominous? Clevelanders, most of them anyway, will immediately default to believing something more ominous is afoot. After all, most are still lamenting the curse of Rocky Colavito to explain why the Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948, never mind the nearly unprecedented run of underfinanced owners and bad management. For us and for now, we won't succumb. This is just bad luck which, we suppose, is better then no luck at all.

No comments: