Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 2009 Cleveland Browns

The 2009 NFL regular season concluded for my beloved Cleveland Browns this past Sunday and the best word that describes the finale has to be mercifully.

The team was absolutely horrible, which is not all that difficult for a hardcore Cleveland fan like myself to stomach. We regularly field bad football teams, and we endure horrible football heartburn. It's fine, it's part of the game.

That said, this might be the worst on field showing of any of the resurrected Browns franchise. In years past, the expectations were non-existent and when the team stunk, the disappointment was minimal. After a decade of languishing at or near the cellar of the AFC Central, the Browns surprised last year by nearly making the playoffs and setting the bar high for this coming season as many key players returned. And then we finished up with a paltry 4 wins.

The season finale was particularly noteworthy in its patheticness. The list of horrific "achievements" is fun to review:

- The Browns had 20 yards passing against the Steelers. Yes, for the entire game.
- Combined with the terrific performance of a week ago, Cleveland finished the final two games with a combined 102 yards passing in the last eight quarters.
- No Browns receiver had more than a single catch.
- The leading receiver was Donte Stallworth who had 1 catch for 12 yards.
- Fourth string quarterback Brad Gradkowski's quarterback rating was 1.0.
- Cleveland hasn't had an offensive touchdown in 6 games (24 quarters) which is an NFL record for futility.
- The Browns were shutout in consecutive games for the first time in their history.
- Coach Romeo Crennel is now 0-8 versus rival Pittsburgh

It's one thing to have a bad season. It's one thing to have an underachieving season. It's one thing to have a disappointing season. But it's a whole other ballgame to have a regularly history shattering embarrassing season. I confess I grow a little tired of the Cubs' fans wallowing in pity, which is sort of what makes this post hard to write without being hypocritical. But that said the Cubbies have had plenty of good seasons that while falling short of the World Series have in fact resulted in regular season titles and recent playoff appearances. The Browns franchise is much maligned, but there has to be a standard of competitiveness that has to exist. We lost that long ago.

Maybe it was the "other" crap that filled the season. The accusations of unsanitary conditions causing staph infections, the quarterback controversy, the defensive player punching out the rookie quarterback, the GM e-mailing profanities to fans. Whatever it was, Cleveland was never in the press for anything positive.

And so with the on the field disaster and the off the field circus, anything short of a complete house cleaning would be baffling to me. Romeo Crennel is almost certainly out as head coach (rightfully so), but there is talk with him inexplicably staying on as a coordinator. How does that work? The GM Phil Savage couldn't do much more to alienate fans than directly swearing at them, but he has also managed to create a team that sucks. He cannot be back either as the players responsible for these low lights are his responsibility. Hell, I'd fire the ball boys at this point. Start over. Again...