Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Inconclusive Evidence

We've noted before and will note again: each Browns victory is generally met with irrational exuberance; each Browns loss is generally met with irrational dread. The truth, as it always does, lies somewhere in the middle, which is why we felt best to wait a bit before commenting on Sunday's victory against the New York Jets.

To the extent there even needs to be a final analysis of Sunday's game, it's this: draw no conclusions. It's easy and convenient, of course, to credit Jeff Davidson's promotion (?) to play caller as critical to the Browns success on Sunday. And if, by promotion, it's meant to imply the firing of Maurice Carthon deserves much of the credit, then we're more in that camp than any other. In reading the missives from the mainstream media this past week we were left with two distinct impressions.

First, Carthon's a jerk. And not just a garden-variety jerk, but the kind that develops as a result of being granted too much power without having earned it. He alienated players and coaches alike. He was cranky and uncommunicative. He was unreceptive to the ideas of others and despite a tough demeanor and penchant for criticizing anyone and everyone he was incredibly thin-skinned himself. His reaction to being criticized was to continue to do the same things in the same way as if only to prove his point.

Second, the fact that all of this, while an open secret to the beat writers following the team on a daily basis, didn't come out until after he was canned should tell you everything you need to know about the reporters covering the team. We understand the difficulty of being a beat writer. Access depends greatly on relationships. And relationships to athletes and coaches alike generally means limiting any negativity. All that being said, we think it just a wee bit disingenuous for the beat writers to now reveal stories that they say took place weeks or months ago.

It was clear that Carthon was a divisive force on this football team. As we've said previously, the fact that he lasted as long as he did is more an indictment of Crennel's leadership ability than anything else. What we get out of Davidson is unknown but we did admire the relative crispness and efficiency with which the offense seemed to perform on Sunday. Players seemed to know when to be on the field and seemed to know their assignments. At every critical juncture, the teams few playmakers were all on the field at the same time, something Carthon couldn't achieve on a consistent basis.

But whether this is a trend or an aberration is a tough call at this point. If it's a trend, then Crennel has a fighting chance to retain his job at season's end. If it's an aberration then the problems are more serious than anyone thought and for which Crennel will ultimately pay the price. But the fact that there was a noticeable change in demeanor does show, at the very least, that there is still some pride simmering among the players at Berea. And that's something we couldn't say last week after the Denver fiasco.

As a final note, we do find it a tad odd that Davidson has not been given the title of offensive coordinator. Apparently he's only been given the added duties of play calling. According to the Browns web site, Davidson continues to retain his titles as Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach. Officially, that brings to two the number of NFL teams without an offensive coordinator at the moment: Cleveland and Baltimore. Fill in your own punch line here.

This week the Browns face the Chargers in San Diego. We think this will give a better gauge on where this team stands than does an emotional win against an equally inferior time such as the Jets. Until then we'll hold off on the conclusions.

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