Fans Frustrated After Loss to Ravens

There are no fans more fanatical and better informed than fans of the Cleveland Browns. Not incredibly well informed, but too stupid to know when to shut up, is webmaster Art Bietz. AB reflects on how he and his fellow Browns fans are reacting to today's embarrassing loss, and offers some of his own opinions for the non-discrimating reader.

The Bietz household is quiet and moody tonight, as we always are after a bad game by the good guys.

The carnage is over, and the only thing I'm really happy about is that our boards can hold up under the strain of 200 angry Browns fans venting simultaneously.

It's horrible to watch your team lose, and lose badly... but to those guys? That makes it a lot worse.

There's a lot of frustration and anger out there right now, and a lot of it is directed inward. Anger is focused on Kelly Holcomb, Butch Davis, Dave Campo... any target unlucky enough to present itself after the Browns get off to an 0-2 start.

HollywoodDawg in the Watercooler seems to capture the general karma, asking "Has anyone seen a more pitiful Browns game?".

I'd say that the answer is "Yes", but only because the Ravens passing game, under the tutelage of "Quarterback Guru" Brian Billick is pitiful. Without Kyle Boller and Chris Redman's ineptitude, this game could have been a lot worse.

Even in the aftermath of this disastrous display of football, I have a couple of opinions to voice. 

You've been warned that you're going to hear the opinions of a webmaster, not a football analyst who actually knows what he's talking about. A guy who works in a home office and not one who played professional football.

You've been warned. Continuing to read is entirely your decision.

OK. Here goes:

1. I am proud to be a Cleveland Browns fan

I could never root for a guy like Ray Lewis, ever. Brian Billick is self-important and irritating. My opinion on Art Modell is evident from the handle I've been using on the 'net since 1996.

Even after being on the losing side of this one, I still am glad I follow the Cleveland Browns and not the Baltimore Ratbirds. There aren't better fans than Browns fans anywhere, and I'm proud to call myself one of them.

2. Jamal Lewis is a heck of a running back

It starts with tackling and line play. Jamal Lewis doesn't gain over 100 yards if the center of the Ravens offensive line doesn't blow open holes between expensive tackles Orpheus Roye and Gerard Warren. He doesn't get over 150 yards if the linebackers fill the gaps and wrap him up. He doesn't get over 200 if the defense secondary makes tackles in the open field.

As upset as we are, we shouldn't take anything away from Jamal Lewis. He was awe-inspiring on a day when William Green was only average. Lewis demonstrated impressive speed and an innate ability to wait for a gap to open up ahead of him and explode through it. Beginning physics students that force equals mass times acceleration. Lewis had both and blew through tackles.

As good a runner as Lewis can be, a record-setting day like we saw doesn't happen due to the effort of just one person. It comes because one side played exceptionally well, and the other side played exceptionally poorly. Every unit on the Browns under-performed on Sunday, and the result was an embarrassing loss.

We got on Lewis for saying he would have a record day. Pretty stupid thing to say. But he went out and did it, and has to get the credit for backing up his words.

3. Focusing on Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb is a waste of time

I hate seeing Browns fans turn on each other over this type of issue, as they are doing in the forums right now. Neither quarterback is either exceptional or supremely lacking. I've always been a "Couch Guy" but I see why  Holcomb proponents were were so excited after what he did to the Steelers and during the pre-season. Coming to the conclusion that he was the man for the job is understandable.

Switching quarterbacks might change the current atmosphere, but it's a distraction. The fundamental problems this team faces, in my opinion, are based on poor decision-making between 1999 and 2001.

The Browns chose to focus on skill players in the first draft rather than focusing on building up the core of the team: Offensive and Defensive lines. The team's lack of attention to the offensive line until recently is one reason that the Browns haven't been more successful.

Kelly Holcomb wasn't the reason why we couldn't tackle, or why William Green couldn't get into the Ravens defensive secondary. He wasn't responsible for all those penalties on special teams.

4. Butch Davis should get a pass, for now

While hanging in the chat room during the game, a number of Browns fans vented their frustration by calling for the head of the Head Coach. Butch Davis is in Year 3 of his tenure, and each of the two years he has been here, he has improved the play of the team. He took the team from 3-13 to 7-9, and then to the playoffs. This is not a record of ineptitude. I have confidence in Butch Davis.

As bad as the team has looked during the first two games, a large part of it is due to drastic cuts the team needed to make due to the salary cap. Which brings me to point four...

5. Randy Lerner made a mistake

While watching Policy explain away the treatment of Orlando Brown on the CBS pre-game show, it struck me that the team doesn't have the player and fan-friendly image which they have tried to foster since they returned. The five-years-or-sit contract approach, the Rat-Out-a-Fan Hotline in CBS... These are steps in the wrong direction, in my opinion, and they come from the man in charge.

I disagree strongly with Lerner's decision to allow Carmen Policy to write himself a new contract for as long as he wanted. In viewing the team's step back in 2003, fingers can be pointed to poor decisions made largely by Policy's hand-picked guy, Dwight Clark, and to the team's poor management of the salary cap to date. I can't help but notice that Policy's previous team, the 49ers, also found themselves deep in cap hell and were forced to rebuild.

I also can't help but think that Ozzie Newsome would be the Browns general manager if Policy had wanted him to be. We've seen the job Newsome has done in Baltimore, despite the financial and image handicaps that burdened Art Modell's team. But Policy chose instead to import someone from San Francisco.

The result was plain to see on Sunday afternoon.

- AB

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