Monday, October 23, 2006

Regression, Again

Sometimes a single play can define a season. If the Cincinnati Bengals ultimately go deep into the playoffs, everyone will look back at the critical fourth down pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to receiver Chad Johnson in yesterday's game against Carolina as the tipping point. If the Browns end up with the number one pick in next year's college draft, everyone will look back at the critical fourth down pass from fullback Lawrence Vickers to Kellen Winslow in last week's game as the tipping point.

The point, we think, is that to truly understand the true depths to which the Browns have sunk, as evidenced by yesterday's game against Denver, you have to have context. And the difference between these two plays tells you everything you need to know about the difference between these franchises right now.

As the drum beat gets louder for Carthon's ouster, we have no doubt that Crennel will stay the course. But whatever credit Crennel gets for loyalty pales in comparison to the criticism he rightly deserves for the enlarging blind spot he appears to have over exactly what ails his team and, in particular, his offense. Normally, we're not a big fan of letting the inmates run the asylum, but in this case if Crennel would just ask virtually anyone still watching the Browns, they could tell you the problems: Carthon needs to go. Winslow, Joe Jurevicius, Braylon Edwards and Reuben Droughns need to be on the field for virtually every play. The pocket needs to move. The run shouldn't be abandoned.

The most disturbing aspect, of course, of yesterday's game is that the Browns were coming off a bye week. When common sense strongly suggested that Carthon is the problem, Crennel demurred saying that the Browns need to get back to doing what they do best. Exactly how that supposedly transferred to the field yesterday is wildly unclear. If anything, the Browns have to be even less sure about their offense after yesterday than they were prior to kickoff.

We get that the Browns are in a rebuilding mode. We didn't expect even a playoff season. But when you're rebuilding, there should be progress, correct? But what those who remained to witness the debacle saw yesterday was abject regression, on all fronts. The fumbles, the interceptions, the dropped balls, the dropped interceptions, the idiotic penalties, all speak to a larger problem that besets this team. In simple terms, what the fans witnessed was a team that didn't play hard and didn't play with pride. If Crennel doesn't make a change soon, he most assuredly will suck out what little life remains in this team and the fans. And if Crennel can't pull the trigger on the needed changes, then owner Randy Lerner needs to show Crennel the door.

Crennel likes to tell the assembled media that all this team needs is one big win to turn it around. Read the story yourself on the Browns own web site. But there is nothing about the way this team is performing under Crennel's "leadership" that gives anyone any hope that a defining win is close by.

Lerner is lucky that Cleveland will always be a Browns town. The fans stay engaged, whether complaining or celebrating. But that's still no reason to abuse their trust.

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