Eight hours before last Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders, I decided to get in the game day mood by dressing my five-day old son, Luca, in a Cleveland Browns onesie. Perhaps it was a bit early, but, hey, it's Sunday.
He soaked it with pee about 30 minutes later. It was a bad omen for things to come.
The Browns lost to the Raiders 24-17 to make it two consecutive disappointing Sundays. It is not disappointing that the Browns lost — heck, we're becoming numb to that feeling — but it's how they lost. For a team with a perceived increase in its talent level, it seems as if the Browns are regressing week-by-week, and there are still 11 games remaining.
So, why is that happening?
It is the fault of the rookie head coach.
It is the fault of the second-year quarterback.
It is the fault of the team owner.
It is the fault of the team president.
It is the fault of the Madden cover jinx.
If it was only that simple.
The desire to pin the problems on one person or one thing — even before the game ends — is certainly the result of the real-time world we live in thanks to social media. Browns fans know nothing comes simple. The team has tried different head coaches, different quarterbacks, different offensive and defensive schemes. Each time, the end result has been the same — losing football. And all that losing football has increased the frustration levels to an all-time high in Cleveland. And rightfully so.
The Detroit Lions can turn it around. The Buffalo Bills can turn it around. When will the Browns turn it around? People are tired of spending their money and wasting valuable Sundays on this team only to be disappointed. Sports should be fun.
Some fault lies at the feet of the head coach, some at the assistant coaches, some at the second-year quarterback, some at the wide receivers, some at the team president and definitely none at some made-up jinx. Still, plenty of blame can be directed toward plenty of people in Berea.
Even the most optimistic of Browns fans like myself knew this team didn't have the overall talent level to compete for an AFC North title, but it had to be better than last couple seasons.
So far, it has. The Browns two wins have come over winless teams, so, well, at least the team is ahead of the Colts or the Dolphins. But last April's draft has resulted in more of an influx of contributing talent like Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little to join last year's successful draft picks of Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Montario "Just-Let-Me-Run-The-Football-And-Don't-Make-Me-Catch-Them" Hardesty.
The Browns are one of the youngest teams in the NFL because in the offseason they jettisoned numerous players over the age of 30. Off the field and through the draft, it appears as if the franchise is once again rebuilding, but heading in the right direction. On the field? Regression. The offense looks lost. McCoy still appears uncomfortable and unsettled. The wide receivers seemed confused. Players are unsure of their roles. Injuries and illnesses to Peyton Hillis have hamstrung this offense. (Sorry. Bad pun intended.) All that ads up to the desire to place the blame on one person or thing.
With 11 games remaining, there is still time to see areas on this team continue to improve, like the defense, McCoy, Little, Taylor, Sheard, Ward and even first-year head coach Pat Shurmur.
It has to get better.
Something Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto wrote a while ago that really stuck with me, as someone who used to become enraged at losses like last Sunday.
"Never let millionaire athletes ruin your day."
OK, that has helped (somewhat), but it doesn't totally rid the frustrations.
I think I'll take a cue from my son, take out a Browns T-shirt and pee on it. Hey, if it makes a week-old happy, it could also work on us long-suffering Browns fans, too.