Red Right 88

Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Archive for the month “December, 2010”

A Look Back at 2010

It was certainly interesting around here in 2010.

After earning the top seed in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the Cavs became the first team in NBA history to post back-to-back 60-win seasons and not win an NBA title.

The early exit led to major changes, as owner Dan Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown and GM Danny Ferry decided not to remain with the team.

The biggest change, of course, was LeBron James’ decision to leave the team in free agency, which left the Cavs scrambling to decide how to rebuild the franchise.

The Indians have become the Indians of the 1970s again, and there seems to be little hope that they will be able to fix things.

The World Cup helped take our mind off the Cavs and filled in the gap until the Browns started training camp. Judging by the TV ratings, we weren’t the only ones entertained.

The U.S. team provided some great moments, starting with its opening tie against England, to its last-minute win on Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. The fun came to an end, though, in extra time against Ghana. And Spain came through in the end, just as we predicted.

We learned Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is the anti-LeBron and finally saw Tom Hicks and George Gillett exit Anfield, leaving the team in pieces.

Then there were the Browns.

Owner Randy Lerner finally put together a qualified management team in president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Eric Mangini. With all three having clearly defined roles, the team is finally set up for success.

After nailing their first draft, the Browns prepared for a season that would ultimately have them playing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.

That schedule has certainly contributed to the team’s struggles this year, but clear progress has been made as wins against the Saints and Patriots show.

Now we’re just left to wait out stupid time until Holmgren makes the announcement that Mangini is obviously returning next season.

One more thing: we finally learned the real reason Brady Quinn failed as quarterback of the Browns.

Finally, we launched this site in 2010.

While we had to deal with a few bumps at first with some people who think the Internet is run like a playground and they can call “firsties,” things have gone pretty well.

The guys at Waiting for Next Year have been good to us, as has Cleveland Frowns. And we are grateful for that.

We’ve also had the opportunity to meet a few new fans online, including jimkanicki, chris from Two One Six Sports, Malcolm Mathers, Believelander and others who have all helped expand our knowledge base and made us think before we post.

We’re still working to find our voice and figure out exactly what we want to be as a site, but overall it has been a positive experience. We’re looking forward to what 2011 has in store for us and for Cleveland fans everywhere.

Happy New Year everyone.

That will show them!

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel apparently consulted The First Grader’s Guide to Playground Etiquette when he made the six players suspended for five games next season pinkie-swear that they will return to the Buckeyes if they are allowed to play next week in the Sugar Bowl.

Yeah, that will teach the players.

In addition Tressel won’t bench any of the players or punish the players in any way for the Sugar Bowl.

“We told them they would have to make the decision on the NFL prior to leaving for the bowl game,” Tressel said at his first Sugar Bowl news conference. “It wouldn’t be fair to not face the consequences down the road.”

What a joke.

How will Tressel enforce the promise if any of the players decide to leave? That’s right, he can’t.

It was silly enough that the NCAA penalized the players in the first place; the items they sold belonged to them, they should be able to do what they want. But Tressel’s comments made him sound as clueless as Joe Paterno.

“A number of people reached out as we’ve been dealing with this thing maybe to calm my thinking or whatever, and one thing said was, ‘Keep in mind, Coach, you’re dealing with a different generation,” Tressel said. “Back when you were growing up one guy got a trophy, maybe, and now you’re dealing with a generation that if you were on the team and you were 7 years old, everyone got a trophy. Maybe this generation doesn’t understand the value of awards like we did,’ “

Sorry to break it to you coach, but players don’t go out to the Malt Shop with their high school sweethearts after the game anymore.

If Tressel was serious about wanting to punish the players, he would suspend them for the game. But that would just increase the odds of the Buckeyes being embarrassed again by an SEC team, so you know he never even considered that.

Suspensions aren’t realistic, we get that. There’s too much money involved for that. But for a school and a coach that thinks they are better than everyone else, and for the apologists who believe Tressel can do no wrong just because he beats Michigan, this just shows that OSU is like everyone else in big-time college football.

We’re just surprised OSU president Gordon Gee didn’t find a way to blame all this on Boise State.

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Is Mike Holmgren ready to coach the Browns? Doubtful.

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Are the Steelers worried about Sunday’s game with the Browns? Certainly.

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Scott Rabb weighs in on Eric Magnini at Cleveland Frowns

Should the Browns have more Pro Bowlers?

We know it is hard to think of a 5- (possibly 6-) win team having multiple Pro Bowl players, but it’s worth asking: are the Browns are under-represented this year?

Winning teams are always going to have more players, which makes sense, and you’ll always have players like Ed Reed or Ray Lewis making it on reputation, but it seems as if the Browns should have received a little more love on the offensive side.

Peyton Hillis easily could have taken the place of Maurice Jones-Drew. Hillis only trails Jones-Drew by 160 rushing yards, but has scored 11 rushing touchdowns to five for the Jacksonville back. When you put in the receiving numbers, Jones-Drew only has three more yards from scrimmage than Hillis, while Hillis also doubles Jones-Drew in touchdowns – 13 to seven.

We think Lawrence Vickers should have made the team over Houston’s Vonta Leach. While the Texans’ Arian Foster leads the league in rushing, Houston has only gained less than 200 yards more on the season than the Browns rushing attack. And with an offense that includes wide receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub, it is certainly easier to run the ball as the defense has to worry about the passing game.

Can’t say the same about the Browns’ attack.

Finally, it’s irrelevant how good Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey may be, there’s no way he’s better than Alex Mack as a center; Mack should have been the back-up to Nick Mangold.

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Here is someone else who gets it in regards to the Browns and coach Eric Mangini.

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No love for the Cavs new court design.

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Marla Ridenour at The Beacon-Journal ponders some questions while waiting for the inevitable return of Eric Mangini as Browns coach.

No need to wait for Holmgren to answer these next week, we can figure this one out no sweat:

1. Can Holmgren foster the kind of atmosphere he wants in his organization when he and Mangini seem to be such different personalities? Of course.

2. Will Mangini eventually come around to Holmgren’s pass-first mentality and give up on a Neanderthal running attack when the Browns have more offensive weapons? Why wouldn’t he?

3. Would Mangini accept an ultimatum from Holmgren on Daboll, possibly with Holmgren picking the next offensive coordinator? See No. 2.

4. Can the Browns get an experienced offensive coordinator to work with Mangini other than Gil Haskell, already on the payroll as Holmgren’s senior advisor? Would that pairing work? What would stop them?

5. Is the fact that the Browns lost seven games by seven points or less and three games by three points or less a sign of progress or a sign of the staff’s weak game-day adjustments? A clear sign of progress, especially in light of question No. 7

6. How will losses to two-win teams Cincinnati and Buffalo and a near-loss to one-win Carolina be weighed? The same as wins against New England & New Orleans, as well as a “near-loss” to the Jets.

7. How hamstrung were the Browns by a lack of talent? There are many holes to fill, including right tackle, defensive end, backup running back, No. 1 receiver and pass-rushing outside linebacker. You just answered your own question: if there are “many holes to fill” how can the team be expected to win consistently?

8. Can Mangini succeed next year if the front seven is upgraded? No, better talent does not equal better results.

9. Can Mangini be given a pass for his 2009 second-round draft picks — Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi and David Veikune? Veikune is no longer on the team. Irrelevant as Mangini doesn’t make the draft picks any more.

10. Is Mangini still growing into the job? He turns 40 on Jan. 19. Yes

See how easy that was?

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Ravens

After a day of reflection, we feel a bit better about the Browns even after their latest loss to the Ravens.

Disappointed? Of course. Discouraged? Not really.

In some ways, beating New Orleans and New England earlier in the year hurt the Browns. Those wins made it hard for some fans to understand the team is still in a rebuilding process; those fans struggled with the idea that the Browns could beat two of the best teams in the NFL, but also lose to the Bills and the Bengals.

While we would certainly like it if the record was reversed, the reality is this team doesn’t yet have the talent to win consistently, especially when they turn the ball over four times against a team that will probably end the season at 12-4. But what they can do is compete, which they have done every week.

”I’ve seen [teams] get beat by 20 and 30 points, and that’s losing bad,” fullback Lawrence Vickers told The Beacon-Journal. ”A loss is a loss, but the way you lose sometimes plays a part in it. . . .The way we lost this year, not saying it was good, but three points here, a touchdown there. . . .That tells you something: that we’re on the verge of doing something great. I can feel it even with whatever’s going on. We [went through] three quarterbacks and kept ticking and kept fighting. That just tells you what kind of group we are.”

What the Browns are building toward, and what is hard for some fans to see, is a team that enters each season with a realistic chance to win 10+ games each season, not rollercoaster up and down depending on the yearly schedule (think 2007 Browns).

“I think what you have to do, philosophically, when you’re discussing it, it’s how do you want to build the winner? You can look at it from a short-term perspective where you are going to do everything that you can to just win that year, or you’re going to look to build a team and an organization that can compete year in and year out, and that’s what I believe in,” coach Eric Mangini said in his Monday press conference. “I’ve been a part of that and there are a lot of things that go into that. Ideally what you have is you create something that each year is at a high level, like a lot of teams in our division are.”

Specifically Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The biggest hurdle the Browns have to get over is being in the same division as the Steelers and the Ravens because that means there are no easy games on the schedule.

Look at Kansas City for example. The Chiefs are getting a lot of love this year from the media, but what happens next year when they play a tougher schedule? They won’t have teams like Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco on the schedule next year; instead they will get Indy, New England and Pittsburgh, among others, thanks to their first-place finish. You don’t think that will impact on their record?

Thankfully the players understand what’s going on.

“I think we’ve had a big improvement from this year to last,” center Alex Mack told The Plain Dealer. “I think we’ve been a lot closer in a lot of games and I think we’ve played a lot better. We have a lot of great guys on this team. It’s sad to see the season go.”

“To me, there’s a sense of community in this team and there’s a sense of purpose in this team,” Mangini said. “That doesn’t happen by accident. We all want to win every single week and there’s tremendous respect for each other from the players and the coaches and you can’t share this long period of time of working together and having the positives and negatives throughout the course of the season and the emotional highs and lows throughout the course of the season without forming that bond. That’s going to continue to be here and it’s going to continue to propel us forward. It’s meaningful when players say that because I think it’s indicative of the mutual respect and feelings that we have for each other.”

We’re confident that team president Mike Holmgren will weigh what the players say, and what he has seen this year, more heavily than what the media manufactures as they busy themselves with the temperature of the office furniture in Berea. And there is certainly a lot of hoo-haa flying around.

”People are digging, trying to find a reason for us not having success this year,” cornerback Sheldon Brown told The Beacon-Journal. “And at the end of the day, it’s us as players not making enough plays. That’s what the story is.”

The latest anti-Mangini argument centers on the premise that Holmgren absolutely must have the Browns run a West Coast offense. Of course, Holmgren has never said this; but why let that get in the way?

First off is The PD‘s Bill Livingston, who writes that because Colt McCoy may actually be an NFL-caliber quarterback, then Mangini must go:

“A clash seemed inevitable over time between the defensive-minded philosophy of Mangini and the offense-oriented approach of Browns president Mike Holmgren. McCoy’s rise accelerates it.”

And Bud Shaw:

“How could Mike Holmgren think this head coach and this manage-the-game-and-keep-it-close offensive philosophy is the best available custodian for McCoy’s development, let alone offer fertile ground for McCoy’s West Coast skills to blossom?”

And Peter King:

“Eric Mangini had to be great this year to survive the shotgun marriage with Mike Holmgren, but a three-game losing streak puts him on the firing line — if Holmgren can get one of his type of guys (Jon Gruden, maybe Marty Mornhinweg) to coach.”

And ESPN’s James Walker:

“What was Holmgren thinking as he watched rookie Colt McCoy — Holmgren’s personal choice at quarterback — run a porous offense with questionable play calling? … Mangini had to demonstrate progress after last season’s 5-11 record. But despite wins against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on the road and the heavily favored New England Patriots at home, the Browns have not shown enough improvement in 2010.”

So with everyone speculating about what Mike Holmgren is thinking and plans to do, let’s review what he has actually said this year about the team and the coaching staff:

  • Does he want to coach again?: “No, I’m doing okay. Does it sound like I want to coach? No, I’m doing okay. The challenge of this is really something for me and I’m enjoying the challenge. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I get fired up watching the games, I mean I did that for too long not to react sometimes the way I do, but I also recognize what I was hired to do and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
  • How will he evaluate the coaching staff?: “The important point there I think is any coach, any staff where I am in the position I’m in, will be judged at the end of the season. It will take thoughtful thinking and I’ve said this before and I said it when I first came here, it think it’s important that you take some of the emotion out of it if you can. At the end of the year, everyone catches their breath a little bit, think about it and hopefully make an intelligent decision. I also said this, wins and losses are not the only criteria.”
  • Will he force the Browns to run the West Coast offense?: “Any coach that thinks he has the only way to do something is nuts. I feel very strongly on how I did things. I believed for me and my staff and my personality, that was the exact way to do it. But heck, there are a lot of ways to do it. I watch and I give that speech to myself on occasion. I think it’s the right thing to do though. I kind of knew that, whether it was Eric or anyone else. They are going to do things differently than the way I did it. I had better be prepared to handle that or I shouldn’t have taken the job.”

If we can see things clearly, why can’t everyone else?

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Also check out:

Mangini, Truth Death and Taxes at Waiting for Next Year

Monday Morning Browns Derpfest at Two One Six Sports

Too Careful, Not Careful Enough at Cleveland Frowns

In Cervesio Felicitas*

Let’s drink the liquid of amber so bright;
Let’s drink the liquid with foam snowy white;

Let’s drink the liquid that brings all good cheer;

Oh, where is the drink like old-fashioned beer?
– A toast to beer

We’ve always known and appreciated that Cleveland is a shot-and-a-beer kind of town.

But what we didn’t realize until recently is that the beer portion is apparently increasingly becoming a craft beer.

We haven’t seen a bottle of Great Lakes’ Christmas Ale in the stores since before Thanksgiving. Goose Island Christmas Ale? Nope. When we were in the grocery store over the weekend just about every type of holiday-themed beer was sold out.

It’s good to know the hometown is branching out from the days of Miller, Budweiser and Rolling Rock.

Of course, this new found thirst for beer that actually tastes like beer – and not sour water – sometimes makes it harder to fill our tankard, but that’s the price you pay for progress, we suppose.

We’ll leave you with an Irish toast in case you are lucky enough to be enjoying your favorite beverage right now:

Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.

A pretty girl and an honest one.

A cold beer and another one!

*In beer there is joy.

What is there left to say?

We’ve pretty much run out of things to write about the Browns following Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Ravens.

The team just doesn’t have enough talent yet to overcome four turnovers against a team headed to the playoffs.

“What killed us were the turnovers and the mistakes,” coach Eric Mangini said. “The Ravens are very difficult to beat when you play flawless football. When you turn the ball over as many times as we did, it makes it really, really difficult.”

Colt McCoy threw three interceptions, all on passes intended for Mohamed Massaquoi. It was nice to see McCoy throwing deep but he picked a bad day to have his worst game of the year.

“Turnovers killed us today and most of it is on me,” McCoy told The Plain Dealer. “I’ve got to fix that. I’ve got to take care of the ball and I’ve got to know where Ed Reed is. He read my eyes the whole game and made plays. As a quarterback, you have to go back and watch it. I’m going to play these guys for a long time.”

Even with the turnovers the Browns had chances in the game, but questionable play calling at the end of the first half and some bad luck at the start of the second half derailed them.

Trailing 13-7 the Browns had a first down at the Baltimore 13-yard line and holding two timeouts. But the coaches decided to play it safe, at one point letting 45 seconds run off the clock between plays, and eventually settled for a field goal. The Browns were hoping to score but not leave any time on the clock for the Ravens.

“Get the points that are available from our perspective and not give their offense, which is a really good offense, a chance to go down and score,” Mangini said in explaining the decision.

That seems pretty questionable. The Browns have trouble scoring points, any time they are in the red zone they should only be worrying about getting into the end zone; they can focus on the other team’s offense after they pull that off.

The Browns opened the second half by trying an onside kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds after about eight yards and the Ravens took over at the Cleveland 38-yard line. The coaches are being criticized for calling the play, but it was a good call as Joe Haden was in position to recover the kick, but unluckily the ball rolled out of bounds.

“It was a great call,” Dawson said. “When you’re playing to win, that’s the kind of call you make. The ball just didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to, that’s bad execution on my part.”

Sometimes even when you make the right call the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. It happens. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good call at the right time.

After failing behind 20-10 the Browns kept fighting. McCoy had the team moving with about nine minutes left in the third quarter but the drive stalled when the Browns were called for the two penalties the Ravens accepted on the game.

First, McCoy hit Brian Robiskie with a 42-yard pass down to the Ravens’ 19-yard line, but Robiskie was called for a pass interference penalty that was dubious at best. John St. Clair followed with a holding call on the next play and suddenly the Browns faced 3rd-and-17 on their own 29.

And that was pretty much it for the game.

There were a few bright spots. Joe Haden grabbed his sixth interception, made five tackles, and recorded his first career sack and forced fumble. He also limited Anquan Boldin to two catches for 15 yards.

“My mission is every time I go out to try to lock down receivers no matter who it is or what they did to us before,” Haden said. “I just want to go out and don’t let people catch passes on me. When I’m in man-to-man coverage, don’t let them catch it. I knew he had a good game on us last game, so I came out with the whole mindset to lock him down or lock down whoever was in front of me.”

The Browns also were 7-of-11 on third down, after going 6-of-32 in their last three games.

And has happened all season, the winning team had praise for the Browns effort.

“This team over the last two years just keeps getting better and better,” said Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh. “This is a legitimate football team. How many close games have they played in? You just go down and look at the scores and you’re like, ‘oh my goodness.’ Then they dominate two of the best teams in the league — the Patriots and the Saints. We haven’t been able to do that this year against that kind of competition. This football team is really, really good. They may have their quarterback. I think they’re really well-coached on both sides of the ball and special teams. We knew what we were in for coming in.”

That has to count for something, yes?

Browns vs. Ravens – Week 16

After three weeks on the road – and coming off back-to-back losses that have sucked some of the positive energy out of an otherwise encouraging season – the Browns finally have come back to Cleveland.

The Browns close out the 2010 season with consecutive home games, starting today against Baltimore.

The Opposition

Baltimore: 10-4
Offensive rank: 19th overall/16th passing/16th rushing
Defensive rank: 10th overall/14th passing/5th rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 7-16, with a 3-9 mark at home. The Browns have lost three of the last four at home against Baltimore.
The line: Browns +4

What to Watch For

How the Browns defense handles the Ravens passing game. In the first meeting Anquan Bolden torched the secondary, pulling in eight catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. This match-up will be a good opportunity to see the progress rookies Joe Haden and T.J. Ward have made in the passing game.

While the Baltimore defense gets all the national hype, if you look closer at some key numbers the Browns aren’t that much behind the Ravens:

  • The teams are tied for 14th against the pass
  • The Ravens are giving up 4.0 yards per rush; the Browns 4.1
  • The Ravens have given up 20 touchdown passes; the Browns 21
  • The Ravens are giving up 18 points per game; the Browns 19
  • The teams are tied, with Pittsburgh, for fewest rushing touchdowns allowed, with five.

So while the new penny shine has reportedly come off defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he still has the defense playing pretty well.

But that last stat shows just how hard it is going to be for the Browns to compete as they are in a division with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They don’t get the cupcakes in the AFC West and NFC West every year.

Offensively, we know what the Browns are going to try and do: run the ball with Peyton Hillis and let Colt McCoy make a few plays to keep drives going and hope for the best.

After ripping the Ravens for 144 yards in the first meeting, Hillis will be a marked man today. And we have to wonder just how much he has left after 14 games, considering he has accounted for:

  • 68 percent of the Browns rushing attempts
  • 75 percent of the Browns rushing yards
  • 22 percent of the Browns receptions
  • 17 percent of the Browns receiving yards
  • 37 percent of the Browns total offensive output

If you look at his last four games, Hillis may be ready for a solid day today. He’s been up-and-down the last few weeks, alternating good games (131 vs. Carolina, 108 vs. Buffalo) with weaker games (57 vs. Miami, 59 vs. Cincinnati) so if that trend continues he should break the 100-yard mark today. Which would certainly help the Browns efforts to pull out a win.

The Browns will have little chance if they can’t get their problems on third down fixed. Over the past three games the offense is only 6-of-32 on third down, a shockingly bad 18 percent conversion rate. Clearly that’s not going to get it done today against Baltimore.

The Best Browns vs. Ravens Game I’ve Seen

Nothing really stands out from the 11 times the Browns have played the Ravens at home. Forced to choose, we’ll go with the season-opening win in 2004. It was the first time the Browns won a season-opening game since returning in 1999 and was probably the high point of Jeff Garcia’s time as quarterback. The PD‘s game story is here.

The Prediction

It’s hard to see a way for the Browns to win this week.

We’re not buying into the national story that the team is playing for coach Eric Mangini’s job. As frustrating as the past two weeks have been, it doesn’t outweigh all the good that has gone on this season.

Baltimore is a better team and has more to play for today. But we don’t expect the Browns to just roll over; this team isn’t built or coached that way.

So we’re expecting more of the same, a tough, close game, but one where the Ravens grind out a close win, covering the spread in the meantime.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 2-11-1.

Week 16 Picks

We’re coming down to the end of the 2010 Cheddar Bay Invitational at Cleveland Frowns and we’re holding a 1.5-point lead.

After some much needed r-and-r in Cancun, we’re refreshed and ready to go. This week we like:

Dallas (-7) vs. Arizona

Philly (-14.5) vs. Minnesota

New England (-9) vs. Buffalo

Money pick: Indianapolis (-3) vs. Oakland

Holiday Hiatus

Red Right 88 is going on hiatus for a few days to take care of some last-minute holiday obligations.

We’ll be back in time for the Browns Week 16 tilt with Baltimore ready to go.

Hopefully nothing hits the fan in the meantime.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Week 15 Picks

Back on top and loving it in the 2010 Cheddar Bay Invitational at Cleveland Frowns.

This week, we like:

Dallas (-6) vs. Washington

New Orleans (+1) vs. Baltimore

Arizona (+2.5) vs. Carolina

Money: Oakland (-6.5) vs. Denver

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