Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Perception, reality and the Cleveland Browns

browns lose billsEver since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, Browns fans have lived in a perpetual state of “hope for the best but expect the worse.”

That conditioned response isn’t reserved for what happens on the field on Sunday afternoons, but extends to what happens within the walls of team headquarters in Berea.

The latest example comes from a pair of “reports” on Tuesday that got Browns fans fired up.

Jason La Canfora, a CBS Sports NDL “Insider” got the ball rolling when he went on a Cleveland radio station to share his “insider knowledge” about alleged growing problems for the Browns.

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Thumbs up, thumbs down on your 2014 Cleveland Browns

browns beat tampa 1The Cleveland Browns finished the 2014 season in much the same fashion as they have in years past.

The club posted a losing record for the seventh consecutive year, missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year, ran its December losing streak to 12 games and counting, and started its third-string quarterback in the season finale for the third consecutive year.

While the results may be familiar, it doesn’t feel like the “Same Old Browns.”

The five-game losing streak to close out the season notwithstanding, the Browns did some nice things during the recently completed campaign, which should give fans hope that a better tomorrow is finally on the way.

With that in mind, let’s run through a “thumbs up, thumbs down” look at your 2014 Cleveland Browns.

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5 Questions – Liverpool FC edition

Nrendan-Rodgers_AP_2900575bLiverpool opened the 2014-15 Premier League season in August with high hopes for a promising year.

The club was coming off a second-place finish in the previous season’s campaign, had once again made Anfield a site that opposing teams feared, and were returning to Champions League play after a four-year hiatus.

While Luis Suarez had taken his talents to Spain, confidence was high that Daniel Sturridge would slide into the No. 1 goal scoring spot, with Raheem Sterling making a similar progression as Sturridge’s sidekick.

The club was active over the summer, bringing in Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno and Dejan Lovren, adding youth and depth to the squad, and Rickie Lambert for experience. And just after the start of the season, Liverpool added the mercurial Mario Balotelli to bolster the offense.

One of the biggest advantages was the continued guidance of manager Brendan Rodgers, who rarely made a misstep as Liverpool battled Manchester City down to the season’s final game in 2013-14.

As the calendar turns to 2015, however, things are not going as planned at Anfield.

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From the editor’s notebook …

eurofinal-2005-champions-league-uefa-steven-gerrard-captain-liverpool-fc-englandWhen you follow a particular team or player as a fan you know that, eventually, father time will be the ultimate winner.

Such was the case this week with the surprising and disappointing news that Steven Gerrard will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the Premier League season and plans to finish his career with a club in Major League Soccer.

“This has been the toughest decision of my life and one which both me and my family have agonised over for a good deal of time,” Gerrard said in announcing the move. “I am making the announcement now so that the manager and the team are not distracted by stories or speculation about my future.”

While Gerrard is obviously not the player he once was, it will still be strange to see him in another club’s kit after wearing Liverpool red for 17 years.

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Connor Shaw, come on down

connor shaw brownsIt should be a fun afternoon on Sunday in Baltimore as Connor Shaw steps off the practice squad to take over as starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

As we all know by now, Shaw will be the 22nd starting quarterback to take the field for the Browns since they returned in 1999. It also marks the third consecutive year, and fourth in the past five, that the Browns will trot out their third-string quarterback for the season finale.

With any luck, Shaw will be more Jason Campbell (22-of-41 for 240 yards, one touchdown and one interception in 2013) or Thad Lewis (22-of-32 for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception in 2012) than Bruce Gradkowski (five-of-16 for 18 yards and two interceptions in 2008) or Doug Pederson (13-of-30 for 75 yards in 2000).

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Return from Achilles injury far from certain for Varejao

varejao injuryThe good news is that Friday’s surgery on Anderson Varejao’s torn Achilles tendon was reportedly a success.

The bad news is that there is a very real chance that we have seen the last of Varejao in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform (or any NBA uniform for that matter).

Varejao, who was averaging 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, will miss the remainder of this season and based on the history of NBA players returning from Achilles injuries, if he does come back he may not be the same player.

According to a study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine by doctors at Drexel University’s College of Medicine, almost 40 percent of NBA players who suffer an Achilles injury never play again, and those that do make it back tend to see a “significant decrease in playing time and performance.”

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Browns delivering latest in a series of strange seasons

browns quarterback situationEven when you take into account all the strange things we wish we could unsee from the Cleveland Browns since 1999, this season has still been one of the more stranger ones from the guys in Orange and Brown.

Once 6-3 and dreaming of the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2002, the Browns must win on Sunday in Baltimore to avoid posting a losing record for the seventh consecutive season.

And they may be forced to do it with a third-string quarterback starting the season finale for the third year in the row and the fourth time in the past five seasons. (File that one under, “the more things change the more they stay the same.”)

If undrafted rookie Connor Shaw joins Jason Campbell, Thaddeus Lewis, Bruce Gradkowski and Colt McCoy on the list of forgettable quarterbacks it would be a fitting end to a once-promising season.

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Another typical December afternoon for the Browns

browns lose panthersIt was another typical December afternoon for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Charlotte.

We just never thought we’d see it from this team.

The Browns delivered an uninspired effort in losing the Carolina Panthers, the Browns 11th consecutive loss in the month of December. It’s been more than two years since the Browns won a game in the final month of the calendar year and, dating back to the 2010 season, are now 3-20 in the month of December.

The short-term view of the loss means that the Browns, who were once 6-3 this season, can’t post a winning record this year – the best they can do is beat a Baltimore team that is fighting for a playoff spot next week to grab a .500 record. For a team that hasn’t won more than five games since 2007 that’s not an altogether bad outcome, but will still be disappointing based on where the Browns were just a few weeks ago.

The long-term view shows that the Browns have plenty of problems, especially when it comes to the offense.

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Michael Stanley transports audience back in time

michael stanleyOn Friday night we and the missus joined some friends for a concert at the Rocksino in Northfield featuring Michael Stanley and the Resonators along with Donnie Iris and the Cruisers.

This was our first visit to the venue since they added gaming to the old Northfield Park harness track and it was … interesting. When you first walk in the door it sounds and smells exactly like a casino. (Anyone who has ever been to Las Vegas knows what we mean.)

Things get a bit disorienting, however, as you weave your way through a sea of seemingly endless slot machines, complete with people slumped over and staring vacantly at the colorful video screens, because you never come across a sports book or any gaming tables.

Once we entered the concert area things took a turn for the better. The venue is big enough that you feel like you are at an event, but small enough that you have the experience of being at an intimate event.

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It only took Johnny Football one game to break Cleveland

johnny breaks cleveland 1One game.

One historically poor game is all it took for rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel to break a large part of Cleveland.

It started with Kevin Kiley, co-host of the embarrassing Kiley & Booms radio show, going on NFL AM and portraying head coach Mike Pettine as nothing more than a puppet of owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer. Kiley claimed, with no supporting evidence and against everything that we’ve seen from the team this year, that Pettine only turned to Manziel because he was ordered to by the front office.

It continued with Greg Couch, who wrote at RollingStone.com that it was actually Pettine’s decision to start Manziel, but he only did it to prove to Haslam and Farmer that Manziel is not an NFL quarterback. Still somewhat implausible, but at least Couch had the self-awareness and decency to state that he had no proof for his conspiracy theory. (h/t to Cleveland Frowns for pointing out that article.)

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