Friday, September 24, 2010

Lingering Items--Replacements Edition

Twice this week head coach Eric Mangini has called out his own players publicly for the mounting mistakes they’ve been making. He’s done it in the most emphatic way possible, telling them publicly that if you fumble the ball, if you forget the snap count, if you can’t get two feet in bounds on a pass, you’ll find a spot on the bench.

If nothing else, these kinds of mini-tirades certainly appease the fans. It lets them know that the coach sees the same things they do and that he’s taking care of it. It’s a refreshing approach given how former head coach Romeo Crennel would just let these little things linger, holding no one accountable.

But these kinds of public tongue lashings also signal a bit of desperation on Mangini’s part. He knows that what he’s telling his players during the week isn’t sinking in so he’s taking that bit of dirty laundry public in hopes that a little embarrassment goes a long way.

Beyond all that, though, is a much more pragmatic question: who is Mangini going to play instead? If Jerome Harrison is the best running back on the team and Peyton Hillis is second, that leaves basically James Davis left to carry the ball. Maybe Davis can catch Boyce Green-like lighting in a bottle for a season, but I tend to think that if Davis was better than either of the two in front of him, he’d be starting.

Still, for a team that’s been running in place for more than 10 years now, Mangini could start Davis Love III at running back and the fans probably wouldn’t much notice, so used are they to watching a constantly changing carousal of players act exactly the same way that it makes one think that there must be something else in the water in Berea besides staph.

As bad as the situation is at running back, it’s even worse at receiver. Mangini can try to pump up Josh Cribbs as a receiver knowing that Cribbs is a fan favorite, but the more he does that the more it looks like he’s trying to deflect attention away from the fact that the actual professional receivers on the roster, all of which he brought in, aren’t very good at the moment.

There were some veteran receivers available for the Browns to bring in but general manager Tom Heckert and Mangini undoubtedly decided to instead try and develop what they have on the roster. That makes sense, but it’s also the same road that former general manager Phil Savage went down when he decided to start two rookies in the secondary a few seasons ago. Eric Wright developed but Brandon McDonald did not and, not surprisingly, the Browns are not any further ahead. Indeed they ended up having to once again replenish the secondary this last off season.

There is no right answer to any of this. But it is these little things that are the most frustrating part of a team that is still in the early development stage playing against teams far more mature.


To be a member of the Cleveland Browns once is to be a member for all time. Browns fans will celebrate with almost equal passion the greats like Jim Brown or Leroy Kelly as they will revel in the awful players that have passed this way.

That’s why Browns fans can’t get enough news about the failings of those ex-Browns for whom there were previous high hopes. It’s why so many fans have their eyes on Arizona for the moment. They want to see if Derek Anderson is missing open receivers half a continent away. He is.

But distance and a different conference make it tough to keep track of Anderson. Not so with one of the league’s most mercurial, most miserable personalities, Braylon Edwards.

For reasons only Edwards could articulate, he has been wearing what looks to be the recently discarded beard of Joaquin Phoenix. Ok, it’s a personal style choice. It makes him look ridiculous, as if he’s trying to advance his own Amish-chic style, but if he thinks it’s enhancing his rep with the lady folk, then have at it.

That’s the least of his sins. The most, which means the latest, is his recent DWI arrest at approximately 5:16 a.m. Tuesday when he was caught driving around a few of his fellow Jets back from wherever it is that Jets go at 5 a.m on a Tuesday while having about .16 blood alcohol content. Just a guess here, but Edwards may have been acting as the designated driver. Oy vey!

It’s not a surprise that Edwards tried to wrangle his way out of the arrest that was about to come his way. It’s an age-old tradition for boorish celebrities who, when not talking about themselves in the third person are telling those trying to hold them accountable “do you know who I am?”

Maybe the arresting officer was another one of those Michigan haters. Maybe the officer, stuck with the miserable task of riding the streets of Manhattan in the early morning hours for a measly $25 an hour wasn’t impressed with Edwards and his New York flash and attitude. Maybe the officer was just a Giants fan. Whatever it was, Edwards once again finds himself on the wrong side of the law, meaning that he’ll probably run to his mommy once again to get her to defend her misunderstood little boy to the local media.

Believe me, Edwards isn’t a misunderstood anything. He’s a marginally talented football player with an entitlement complex that runs deeper than the Atlantic Ocean. He never accepts responsibility for his own misdeed, blames others for his misfortunes, and has little if any respect for anyone. I’d say he’s a misanthrope but I don’t want to insult the misanthropes among us.

Edwards has given the perfunctory apology to his fans, his team and his current city but as Browns fans know full well, Edwards is as sincere as a Vegas stripper.

The Jets are being rightfully criticized for not taking a much harsher approach to Edwards. They are punishing him in the most symbolic of ways possible. He’ll have to sit out the first series on Sunday. When did Rex Ryan turn into Rich Rodriguez?

It will now be up to the league to send a message to Edwards that the Jets won’t. Edwards has a history and should get a suspension. If the NFL takes a different approach then by proxy they are undercutting the message they tried to send to Donte Stallworth via his suspension when he killed Mario Reyes while driving drunk. Remember, Edwards was drinking with Stallworth a few hours prior to that tragic accident.

And if none of that is reason enough to suspend Edwards, then the NFL should do it simply because that’s the only message the most of these knuckleheads truly understand. They only thing they have in their lives, really, are the games. Give them a taste of what it feels like on the outside looking in and it tends to bring them back into focus, especially when it costs them a game check or two.

On the other hand, what’s the chance it will have any impact on Edwards other than to embolden his “me vs. the world” attitude? Just be glad he’s in a Jets uniform. On this Browns team at this moment, it’s far better that Edwards stays firmly entrenched in the ex-Browns category and that we enjoy watching this car wreck from afar. Just hope that nobody innocent gets hurt in the meantime.

The Browns have lost two very winnable games already this season. If they’re going to reach the even modest expectations that fans had for them going into the season, they’re going to have to now win two games they aren’t supposed to win.

One of those games potential wins is this week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. There’s a pretty good chance that the offense may actually get shut out this weekend and if that happens it’s going to be difficult to win, not impossible. But if the offense can score just a little, there’s a far better chance for the Browns to win than most might think.

The Ravens are once again defense strong and offense weak. Joe Flacco is playing like he’s wearing a Browns uniform and it’s kept the Ravens’ offense as stuck in the mud as the Browns. No surprise.

The Browns also represent a breather on a tough opening schedule for the Ravens, making it more likely that they’ll be overlooked The Ravens had tough games against the Jets and the Bengals to open the season and then next play the Steelers, the Broncos and Patriots before they get another breather against Buffalo. In other words, the Browns appear on the Ravens’ schedule at exactly the right moment for them to be taken lightly.

If the Browns can pull off the win, it will certainly turn brighten the pall over the franchise after the first two weeks. A loss, on the other hand, and it’s a long time until week 12 when the Carolina Panthers come to town.


According to Friday’s Plain Dealer, Jake Delhomme has a high ankle sprain, although the Browns haven’t and won’t confirm as much. Assuming it’s true, it’s likely Delhomme will be out a few more games at least.

It begs the question that will serve as this week’s question to ponder: are the Browns really going to enter into the meat of their schedule with Seneca Wallace as the starter and Colt McCoy as the back up?

1 comment:

m. said...

i saw the joaquin phoenix pseudo-documentary, "i'm still here," exploring the present state of his life and art. ok,both suck at the moment. and so does the narcissism mixed with rampant self-loathing and humiliation of himself and others.then,i saw a philip seymour hoffman interview with tavis smiley and hoffman is eloquent--as luminous and transcendent as phoenix is dark and murky. phoenix says he sees himself as a puppet hitting the marks set out for him in someone else's creative vision.i think of his take on johnny cash and his last role in the film, two lovers, and i see a genius for artistic expression. hoffman loves and respects the entire process,--writing-directing-acting and it shows in his face. he loves making his art and is the happier for it. creator or consumer, all art,like love, really is about what makes the heart sing. ok--sometimes it's the blues--sometimes it's annie lennox singing--fingernail moon. sometimes it's something whispered.
darkness on the edge of town, the promise, will be showing on HBO, thursday, october 7th--on the west coast. enjoy.