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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “October, 2010”

Week 8 Picks

Back to back weeks were we made solid fundamental picks but the players didn’t execute have dropped us 5.5 points off the lead in the 2010 Cheddar Bay Invitational over at Cleveland Frowns.

Time to get serious:

Ohio State (-25.5) vs. Minnesota

NY Jets (-6) vs. Green Bay

New England (-5) vs. Minnesota

Money Pick: Miami (+1.5) vs. Cincinnati

It’s All Good For One Night

Nice job by the Cavs in beating the Celtics on opening night.

Nine players saw action for at least 15 minutes, the Cavs overcame an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, Boobie Gibson got hot in the second half with 16 points, and they did it without starting guard Mo Williams and with Antawn Jamison only scoring four points.

Now it’s not going to be like this every night. The team will struggle and there will be games where that 11-point deficit turns into a 25-point deficit. But with Toronto, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey coming up on the schedule, the Cavs have time to find their rhythm.

But for one night at least, the winning Cavs were back and it was all good.

***

We generally don’t put much stock in conspiracy theories, and don’t buy the argument that local media members – at least the print ones – are trying to run coaches or players out of town.

Nor does any media member in the area have the power to do that – Peter Franklin was the last guy to have that kind of juice in this town.

But that doesn’t mean that media members don’t frame questions or selectively use quotes to build an article to fit their predetermined angle.

Take a look at this piece at Cleveland Frowns, especially the video. You’ll see what we mean.

***

Finally, check out this story at Waiting for Next Year about the Indians and the playoffs of the late ’90s. But be warned, you will be depressed.

We still firmly believe if the Indians had been willing to part with Jaret Wright in a trade for Pedro Martinez, or had been able to convince Curt Schilling to come here in ’97, the Tribe would have won World Series in ’97 & ’98 and would have had a great chance in ’99.

Well … Yeah, that’s the Idea

Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace offered his opinion Wednesday regarding who should be the Browns starting quarterback coming out of the bye and for the rest of the season:

“At the end of the day, it comes down to the coaches,” Wallace told The Plain Dealer. “Whoever’s doing the job the best, moving the team, scoring points, making the right decisions, then that should be the guy.”

“This isn’t college,” Wallace also said. “We don’t switch quarterbacks in and out. I think when it comes down to rhythm and gelling together, when you have a quarterback in for one week and then the next week it’s somebody else, that’s not a good situation. You want a guy that’s gonna be in there, be able to move the team and continue to do that week to week.”

Well, obviously you want the player who gives you the best chance to win playing at each position. No argument there. Not really sure why this is becoming an issue, especially during the bye week, but there you go.

The thing is, the person who fits the criteria that Wallace laid out is Wallace himself. Consider that in seven games so far this season:

  • The offense has only scored more than 17 points once – when the Browns put up 23 on Cincinnati with Wallace at quarterback.
  • Wallace has led seven touchdown drives this year; Jake Delhomme and Colt McCoy have led two each; albeit in fewer games.
  • Of Wallace’s seven touchdown drives, five have been longer than 70 yards, a sign that he can keep drives going; Delhomme has no drives longer than 70 yards and McCoy has one.
  • Finally, for what it is worth, Wallace has a quarterback rating of 88.5, McCoy is at 76.5 and Delhomme is at 48.2.

So while it’s been established that the best course of action for the Browns is to return McCoy to the bench once Wallace and/or Delhomme are healthy, it may not be in the team’s best interests to automatically return Delhomme to the starter’s role.

Delhomme looked nice in the preseason, but that was a long time ago and against defenses that more often than not may have not been playing at 100 percent. Plus he’s a 35-year-old player coming off two injuries to his ankle.

But you have to weigh that against the fact that Wallace is a career backup for a reason.

Luckily the Browns have some time as they don’t have a game this week. And, for the most part, the coaching staff has done a much better job this year dealing with personnel decisions.

So, for now, we’re confident that the team will make the right choice when they start preparing next week to face New England.

Basketball time at the Q returns

Just in time to fill the void of a Browns bye week come the Cavaliers, who tip off their season Wednesday night at home against Boston.

After months of nonsense, ranging from LeBron’s elbow, LeBron quitting on the team against the Celtics in the playoffs, the playoff loss to Boston, the Cavs being the first NBA team to have consecutive 60-win seasons and not make the NBA Finals, the firing of coach Mike Brown, the resignation of general manager Danny Ferry, the summer of LeBron, the nationally televised Decision, the hiring of new coach Byron Scott and the endless speculation that this year’s Cavs team will be the worst team in the history of sports, it’s finally basketball time again at the Q.

And while we finally get to focus on the games, we’re left with two questions:

  • How good will this Cavs team be post-LeBron?
  • More importantly, how good do we want them to be?

Scott’s Princeton offense should be fun to watch as it emphasizes ball movement and works to get everyone involved. Gone are the days of dribble, dribble, dribble, stand around and watch, and shoot.

“When you’re talking about the Princeton offense, basically what you’re talking about is motion and cutting and screens and spacing,” Scott told The Plain Dealer. “To me, it’s just talking about basketball … it’s not just two or three guys playing basketball, you’ve got all give guys getting a chance to play.”

That sounds great, and we like that Scott has a system that he is committed to. Maybe after being a star-driven team for the past seven years, switching to a team-oriented offense is the way to go.

“This equal-opportunity offense gives everybody the opportunity to play – from the one to the five,” guard Boobie Gibson, who should see more playing time this year, told The Plain Dealer. “Everybody is capable of doing it. The way we share the ball, that’s a fun style of play.”

The one thing is that the offense asks players to relearn team basketball concepts and that may take a while. It wouldn’t surprise us to see the Cavs struggle early in the season as everyone gets to game speed with the offense, then show improvement as the season moves along and the players get more comfortable with the offense and find their new roles on the team.

Luckily Antawn Jamison is experienced in the offense, having played it in Washington, and it should be fun to see how Jamison, Mo Williams, Gibson and Jamario Moon work in a quick-shot offense (Scott wants a good look at a shot in six seconds).

So that brings us to our first question: how good will this Cavs team be?

Clearly they won’t be a 60-win team, but they also aren’t going to be a 12-win team either. LeBron was good, but there’s no way – barring several major injuries and/or a purging of the team at the trading deadline – that he alone was good for 50 wins. That’s completely absurd.

The problem with trying to gauge how good the Cavs can be is that the national media has spent the past five years or so telling us how everyone on the Cavs is horrible and that they only win because of LeBron. They can’t now admit how ridiculous that notion is, so it’s easier for them to predict the Cavs to be historically bad.

We can see this team being around .500 and battling for the last playoff spot. Terry Pluto – who knows a lot about the NBA – has them at 46 wins and easily making the playoffs.

And that leads us to our second question: how good do we want the Cavs to be?

There’s a reasonable fear among the fans that the Cavs will just become another team, winning around 40 games a year and losing in the first round of the playoffs. In other words, a repeat of the Mike Fratello years.

The flip side is that the front office should gut the team, accept being crappy while they rebuild through the draft, hoping to land the one stud draft pick that will lead the team back to the top of the standings.

But there’s no guarantees that strategy will work. It worked when they drafted LeBron, but what if the ball hadn’t dropped in the right spot during the draft lottery and the Cavs ended up with Darko Milicic? Or they do get the top pick and select Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant?

Then what?

Maybe the Cavs should just be the best team that they can be. What if this year’s 36-win team lays the foundation for next year’s 48-win team and the 55-win team the following season?

What if the front office learns from the mistakes of the past 3-4 years and uses the resources available to them and the second chance offered to build the team the right way?

What if, instead of this being the end of a golden age of Cavalier basketball, this is really the beginning of something special?

Is that really any more improbable that what we’ve witnessed the past two-and-half years with this team?

We’ll start to get answers Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the Cavs tip-off. We’ll be watching to see how this season unfolds.

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Saints

It’s a day later and our head is still spinning from the Browns crazy win over the Saints. We can’t remember the last time the Browns went on the road and left the home team leaving the field with boos ringing in their heads.

We’ve been trying all day to come up with a way to describe Colt McCoy’s first two games and the best we can do is “satisfied.” While not putting up any gaudy stats, McCoy did what you’d want your third-string quarterback to do, plus a little bit more. He didn’t make any major mistakes, never looked in over his head, and left us knowing that if he has to come back into a game this season we won’t be seeing the return of Spergon Wynn, Todd Philcox, Luke McCown, Ken Dorsey or any of the other retreads the Browns have trotted out over the years.

And McCoy was the only rookie quarterback to post a win on Sunday. Sam Bradford only had 126 passing yards in a loss to Tampa Bay, Tim Tebow (Denver) and Jimmy Clausen (Carolina) didn’t even play, and Max Hall (Arizona) was 4-of-16 for 36 yards before leaving the game with an injury.

Having said all that, there’s still no reason for the Browns to deviate from the plan to essentially redshirt McCoy this year. If Seneca Wallace and/or Jake Delhomme are healthy coming out of the bye, or as soon as they are, they should go back to being the top two quarterbacks. The Browns came up with the plan in the preseason after evaluating what’s best for McCoy and the team and we’d hate to see them go away from that in a haste of emotion.

***

Terry Pluto made an interesting point in his Sunday PD column when he pointed out that wide receiver Brian Robiskie was on the field for 48 of 61 snaps against Pittsburgh, but only had two catches for 13 yards. Looking at the tapes, the coaches said Robiskie was not getting open “quick enough.”

Well, that’s what happens when you don’t have NFL-caliber speed. The same can be said for Mohamed Massaquoi. It’s a big part of the reason why the wide receiving group is so poor.

One receiver who does have speed is Carlton Mitchell, but we haven’t seen him yet. He must really be bad in practice if he can’t get on the field with this group, especially when Yamon Figurs can see action – nice trip on his end around – after being picked up during the week.

***

Where was Evan Moore on Sunday?

***

The Browns reportedly released running back James Davis on Monday, replacing him with running back Thomas Clayton off of New England’s practice squad.

If the Browns weren’t going to play Davis it makes sense to release him; no need to have him take up a roster spot. But that leaves the running back position awful thin behind Peyton Hillis and we have to wonder with Hillis’ style of play if he can stay healthy the rest of the way and what it would mean to the running game if he went down.

Maybe Reggie Hodges can be a feature back?

***

For those still wondering why Jerome Harrison’s inability to consistently pick up the blitz was a problem, take a look at the injury to Tony Romo in last night’s Cowboys game. The fullback completely whiffed on the blitz pick up and now Romo’s out 6-8 weeks.

***

Not sure what is going on with the Browns secondary but they are still having communication problems. Could just be growing pains with two rookies seeing significant playing time; could be a bigger problem. Hopefully it’s something the defensive coaches can work out during the extra time with the bye week.

***

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are going to be really tough to beat this year if opposing teams have to beat not only them but also the refs. The call on Ben Rothlisberger’s non-fumble at the goal line was horrible. And in overtime, the Ravens stopped a Buffalo receiver near mid-field and rather than blow the play dead the refs just stood around until the Ravens stripped the ball. If they are not going to call the player down because of forward progress in that spot, what’s the point of having that rule?

***

Finally, while we’d all like it if the Browns record was better than 2-5, it would be very hard for someone to argue that the team is not slowly improving and trending in the right direction.

Since starting 1-11 last year, the Browns have gone 6-5. Compare that to some other teams that the media decided where “up and coming” before the season started:

  • After staring 6-0 last season, Josh McDaniels was hailed as a genius in Denver. Since then the Broncos have gone 4-13, with a 2-9 mark in their last 11 games.
  • Seemingly everyone wanted to crown San Francisco as division champs in the preseason, apparently because Mike Singletary wears a giant cross and has crazy eyes. Yet in their last 11 games the 49ers are only 4-7.
  • The Dolphins were supposed to be challenging for a division crown this year but are only 5-6 over their past 11 games.
  • Even Detroit got some love before the season started despite a 1-10 record through their past 11 games.

So even though it seems like the Browns are sometimes moving at a glacial pace, things are getting turned around.

And come Sunday at 1, there will be a void in NE Ohio with no Browns game because of the bye.

When was the last time we could say that?

Motier foux in the Big Easy

ESPN’s Bill Simmons once described New Orleans as being the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see someone turn into a werewolf on Main Street.

After watching the Browns unexpected, unbelievable and utterly bizarre win over the Saints on Sunday, we know exactly what Simmons means.

What would you have said if before the game we told you that:

  • Punter Reggie Hodges would have the Browns longest run from scrimmage – 68 yards?
  • Defensive back Eric Wright would have the longest pass reception – 62 yards?
  • Linebacker David Bowens would have more yards – 94 – and touchdowns – 2 – than the Browns receivers combined?
  • Quarterback Colt McCoy would have as many receptions as Ben Watson, Josh Cribbs, Peyton Hillis and Lawrence Vickers?
  • Peyton Hillis would have a quarterback rating of 118.8?

The answer certainly would not have included the phrase “Browns win 30-10″ but that’s exactly what happened.

See what we mean about strange things happening in New Orleans? The only way this could have been any better if today was Halloween.

Defense and wacky plays – especially on special teams – carried the Browns to their first road win of the season.

The Browns intercepted Drew Brees four times – and could have had at least two or three more – sacked him three times and confused him all day long, holding him to a 65.8 rating and forcing him to throw the ball 56 times.

Bowens somehow had two of the interceptions, returning both for touchdowns.

For the first time in a long while the defense actually caught a break.

Leading 10-0 as the first quarter drew to a close, the Browns gave up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Lance Moore. But offsetting penalties wiped out the score – when does that ever happen for the Browns? – and two plays later Scott Fujita picked off Brees. No telling how things would have gone if the score had held up.

The special teams got in on the fun as well, with Josh Cribbs throwing a pass across the field to Eric Wright on the Saints first punt of the game. Wright took the play 62 yards and the Browns eventually settled for a field goal to open the scoring.

After the Saints cut the lead to 10-3, the Browns gained only two yards in three plays and lined up for a punt. But Reggie Hodges took off with the ball and, looking like Marion Motley in his prime, rumbled 68 yards to set up another Browns field goal.

On the Saints second play after the field goal Bowens grabbed his first interception and returned it 30 yards for the score, putting the Browns up 20-3 and providing the Brown-and-Orange with a solid grip on the game.

Offensively, the Browns were able to average 4.5 yards per rush, with Hillis leading with way with 69 yards and a TD. More importantly, after the Saints cut the lead to 10 with 13 minutes left, the Browns turned to the running game to build a 13-play drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock and effectively ice the game.

McCoy made his second consecutive start and, just like the Pittsburgh game, didn’t do anything to hurt the Browns but also didn’t do anything to make the Browns want to deviate from the plan to let him sit and watch this year.

McCoy’s numbers weren’t great – 9-of-16 for 74 yards – but he didn’t turn the ball over, he never looked overwhelmed, no wrong formations of delay of games on offense, and he generally left us with a good impression. He made some bad throws but he also had some nice throws – primarily a swing pass to Lawrence Vickers that would have gone for a big gain – dropped by receivers.

Overall in his two games McCoy didn’t do anything that left us shaking our heads or hiding our eyes when he was under center. He came in, did the best he could, got some game experience against two very talented and complex defenses, and didn’t embarrass himself or the team.

And, after the bye, it will be time for him to return to the bench and continue working through the learning curve while Jake Delhomme and/or Seneca Wallace take over the offense.

So the Browns head into the bye off their biggest road win in years. While some will look at their 2-5 record (which, seriously, could be 5-2 with a few breaks) and say “Same Old Browns,” this is a team that, after a 1-11 start last year, has gone 6-5 over its last 11 games.

And while that certainly doesn’t mean we should be booking playoff tickets, it means that it would be very hard for someone to argue that this team isn’t making progress.

Browns vs. Saints – Week 7

The 1-5 Browns head to New Orleans trying to make it to the bye week without any more major injuries hitting the team.

The Opposition

New Orleans: 4-2
Offensive rank: 7th overall/4th passing/17th rushing
Defensive rank: 12th overall/12th passing/18th rushing
All-time record: Browns lead 11-4, with a 7-2 mark in New Orleans
The line: Browns +13

What to Watch For

Clearly how Colt McCoy does in his second game as quarterback. He’s had another full week of practice to work with the first team, study film, digest the playbook and try to build on some of the good things he did last week in Pittsburgh.

While Pittsburgh’s defense is more physical, New Orleans presents just as much of a challenge as they like to bring pressure on the quarterback in a variety of ways. If you were going to pick two teams for a rookie quarterback to learn from, the two that McCoy is facing would probably be at or near the top of the list.

How much the Browns can accomplish on offense may depend on how many healthy bodies they can assemble for the game. Mohamed Massaquoi is out and who knows what lingering effect Josh Cribbs will feel this week.

Peyton Hillis’ leg looked better last week, but you never know. If he aggravates the injury the running game falls to Mike Bell and James Davis, which is not an attractive prospect right now.

After putting right tackle Tony Pashos on IR this week, the Browns will also be without John St. Clair (is that a loss?) so the right side of the line could be Floyd Womack and right tackle and either rookie Shaun Lauvao or Billy Yates at right guard.

So, a rebuilt/inexperienced right side of the line in a dome? Sounds like fun.

Defensively, the Browns are going to have their hands full. Drew Brees is the dogs bollocks and wicked accurate. When the blitz comes – and you know it will – if the Browns can’t get to him he’s going to spread the ball around and really pick the team apart. There’s going to be a ton of pressure on the secondary – even more so than in the past few weeks – to hold up under the pressure and make some plays.

The injury bug is striking the defense as well with Robaire Smith going on IR this week, leaving an already thin defensive front hurting.

The Best Browns vs. New Orleans game I’ve Seen

For a team that the Browns have owned through the years, there really isn’t one game that stands out above the others. We’ll have to go with the 2002 game where Kevin Johnson’s two touchdowns – one receiving and one rushing – helped keep the Browns in playoff contention. Here’s The Plain Dealer’s story from that game. Can’t find any video this week.

The Prediction

This team really needs to get to the bye week to re-energize, re-group and get some of these lingering injuries to heal. The Browns have been competitive every week this season and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue today.

Look for the Browns to keep the game close into the second half but for the Saints to pull away. The Browns are just too inexperienced at key spots and too banged up at others this week to realistically expect them to pull out a win on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL.

We’ll take the Saints and the points.

Record on the year: 1-4-1

$206 million just isn’t what it used to be

Here’s what the Yankees got from their $206 million-plus team during their ALCS loss to the Rangers:

  • A .201 team batting average
  • A team ERA of 6.58
  • A team that was outscored by 19 runs in the series
  • An .091 average from Nick Swisher: he earned $6.8 million this year
  • A .190 average and no homeruns from Alex Rodriguez: $33 million in salary
  • A Blutarski-like .000 average from Mark Teixera: $20.6 million in salary
  • A .250 average from Lance Berkman: $14.5 million
  • A 6.30 ERA and only 10 innings in two starts from CC Sabathia: $24.2 million in salary
  • A 7.50 ERA from A.J. Burnett: $16.5 million in salary

I guess it was too much to ask the Yankees to actually beat the Rangers; after all Texas did have a payroll of $55 million this year.

Just because the Yankees spent $150 million more on players it was apparently too much to expect them to show up.

Sometimes life is sweet.

Week 7 Picks

A simply dreadful week where we made solid picks but the players didn’t execute dropped us a half point off the lead in the 2010 Cheddar Bay Invitational over at Cleveland Frowns.

We jumped out early this week in an attempt to get our mojo back and scored by backing Oregon (-25.5) against UCLA.

The rest of the week goes like this:

Oklahoma (-3) vs. Missouri

LSU (+6) vs. Auburn

Money pick: Baltimore (-13) vs. Buffalo

Don’t the Browns already have a coach?

After a few weeks without anyone taking the temperature of the office furniture in Berea, the nonsense has come back thanks to a line from ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden.

Gruden was on Rich Eisen’s podcast show and Eisen asked Gruden if he would listen if someone wanted him to coach again next year.

“I think I might,” Gruden said.

That’s all. Not, “I’m coaching next year.” Or “I’m already moving my furniture into the coach’s office in Berea.” Just that he would think about it if someone came calling.

That didn’t stop the speculation from the “experts” who quickly drew the conclusion that Gruden will be on the sidelines for the Browns next year:

I guess we should be thankful that no one is trying to sell Gruden as an in-season replacement.

When Mike Holmgren decided to bring Eric Mangini back as coach it was clear he was going to give him the full year. It wouldn’t make any sense to bring Mangini back only to fire him after six or seven games – Holmgren needs a full season to evaluate Mangini and it’s only fair to give him that.

As to Gruden, what is it about him that makes anyone think we’d want him to coach the Browns? People like to point out that he is a “Super Bowl-winning coach*,” but that was in 2002 and with Tony Dungy’s players. Once Gruden started turning the roster over and bringing in his own players the team went downhill.

And Gruden’s inability to settle on a quarterback in Tampa makes the past few years in Cleveland quarterback issues look like a dream.

Finally, since every coach and every player is great, as Gruden tells us each week on Monday Night Football, can we really trust his ability to judge talent?

If some other team wants to take a shot on Gruden, if they fall in love with his bad haircut and goofy faces, good for them.

But there’s no place for him in Cleveland.

Not now and not next year.

*We really need a statute of limitations of about 10 years on the phrase “Super Bowl-winning.” It’s a bit ridiculous when people refer for Mike Shanahan as a “Super Bowl-winning coach” when his last Super Bowl was in 1998; same with Brett Favre who won a Super Bowl in 1996. That’s a long time ago.

***

Oh, and all that talk about James Harrison retiring? Yeah, not so much.

***

I often wish we had more aspects of European soccer crowds in American sports – check out this video from Anfield, how sweet would it be to see that at a Browns game? – then something like this happens and makes me think that maybe we can do with a little less passion.

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