Monday, October 09, 2006

Written Off

While perusing the plethora of pre-game talk shows this past Sunday, we were fascinated by the number of fans who already have written off this year’s Browns season. We suppose that if you’re judging the season by the usual, boring barometers of wins vs. losses, we can see how one would arrive at that conclusion. But even in a lost season, there is much intrigue to both distract and fascinate even the casual observer.

For example, it was clear in early June that the Indians were through. They were playing uninspired, sloppy baseball night after night. They were well out of the race early and gave fans no hope that they could ever get back in. But the movements of GM Mark Shapiro still provided intrigue as he sought to divest assets for cash to better position his cheapskate bosses into pulling the wool over the fans yet again with another declaration of how they would spend in the off-season. Although house shill, team apologist and resident troll Mike Trivisonno of Indians flagship station WTAM may not have noticed, most fans with a lick of sense could see what was going on. At the very least, it provided hours of conversation for fans, which is what sports does best.

In turning our attention to the Browns, the intrigue is no less compelling.

Kellen Winslow, Jr. is a classic tragic figure. Undeterred by his modest professional accomplishments to date, he has the talk and swagger of a Super Bowl MVP and the absolute hubris to not realize that this lack of humility will ultimately be his downfall. But until that happens, he continues to entertain. Even his “no comments” resonate.

Exhibit A was the loud “no comment” yesterday when asked about the ludicrous play calling of justifiably beleaguered offensive coordinator, Maurice Carthon. Specifically, K2 was exorcised, rightly, about a ridiculous “halfback” option call on third and inches with the game in the balance. Rookie (that’s right, rookie) fullback Lawrence Vickers lined up with veteran fullback Terrelle Smith. Reuben Droughns, a former fullback, was on the bench as was scatback Jerome Harrison. Showing supreme confidence in his frail offensive line, Carthon decided not to power forward for the crucial real estate but instead tried to trick Julius Peppers and the rest of the Carolina Panthers defense with the halfback pass. Vickers threw poorly, center Hank Fraley held anyway, and the Browns settled for another field goal, blowing their last legitimate chance to get back into the game. Asked about it after the game, a perturbed K2 demurred “no comment on that one.”

So what we know from all this is that head coach Romeo Crennel has effectively stifled public criticism from the players, based on K2’s last outburst about Carthon. And what we also know is that Crennel is fast becoming a tragic figure himself with a dangerous lack situational awareness.

No one could seriously argue Crennel’s lack of effectiveness when it comes to stifling the poor play calling of his hand-picked coordinator, Carthon. Each week Crennel is asked about one poor play after another. Each week Crennel gives the same answer, “it didn’t work so it wasn’t a good play.” Since the pattern keeps repeating, the only conclusion we can draw is that Crennel believes that it’s not the plays but the players.

And this is the second reason why the Browns are still compelling. As this mini reality show plays out each week, the question quickly becomes whether Crennel will save himself by rightly sacrificing Carthon or whether Crennel will fall on his sword instead. Given how long it took Crennel to become a head coach, sacrificing Carthon would be the smart move. Given how long it’s taking for Crennel to recognize a bad coaching job, the latter is more likely. And for Crennel and Browns fans, that’s the real tragedy.

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