Last Friday night the Cleveland Browns 1964 championship team was honored at Severance Hall, with the celebration continuing at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday.
That team defeated the Baltimore Colts 27-0, after a scoreless defensive struggle in the first half to win the title game.
Similarly, the 2004 Browns, against another team from Baltimore, rallied for four scores, three of them in the second half, to put away the favored Ravens.
There is no question that this was a huge win for the Browns, facing two away games after the opener, but the starving fans should guard against getting carried away.
While everyone was thrilled leaving the Stadium on Sunday, many forgot that until the last series of the third quarter they weren't very happy with what they were seeing offensively. At that point it was obvious that the Browns were going to shut down Jamal Lewis and the running game of the Ravens, forcing the inexperienced Kyle Boller to win the game for them. He wasn't up to the task on this day.
But the Browns weren't moving the ball well either at that point. In fact, on the two pass attempts just prior to Jeff Garcia's touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan, he short-armed the ball into the ground, causing a murmur to go through the stands.
But give Garcia credit---he didn't turn over the ball, and he took advantage of defensive lapses when they took place.
In fact, he probably would have had a TD pass earlier in the third quarter when Kellen Winslow, Jr. dropped a wide open pass near the right sideline. Winslow had an angle on DB Ed Reed, and probably would have gotten by him with a clear path to the end zone. In the long run, it might be a good thing for Winslow that he didn't score so easily in his first game as a pro.
But back to Garcia---he should be happy with his performance, even though he was probably right about not getting enough playing time in the exhibition season. The offense was rusty for almost three quarters, and you've got to wonder if the defense hadn't done so well, would the offense have been able to do what they did if they had to play from behind.
In fact, in the next three games, Butch Davis will match wits against three ‘old-school' coaches, Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin, and Gibbs. They should provide interesting tests for the Browns and their head coach.
At the end of that stretch the fans, whose bar for the standard of performance isn't very high, will have a better idea of what they really saw on Sunday.
The most striking aspect of the 1964 reunion was the difference in size of the players then versus the players today. And I'm not talking about the toll that age has taken on the old-timers.
I remember how imposing guys like Bill Glass, Gene Hickerson and Bob Gain were. But stacked up against the modern players like Ryan Tucker and Courtney Brown, it is nearly impossible to see how they could compete.
DBs Bernie Parrish, Walter Beach and Larry Benz were considered brainy, finesse players, but they never looked anything like their counterparts of today.
Doug Dieken, who bridged the gap between the teams of the ‘60's and the new Browns franchise, once told me that he never played with or against anyone who weighed 300 pounds. I remember a Detroit Lion defensive lineman, Les Bingaman, who weighed over 300, but he was laughable, and couldn't move an inch.
As great as Paul Warfield was, I don't know if he would be able to take the hits that wide receivers take today.
One player, for sure, could make the transition, and that is Jim Brown, the greatest running back ever. You can tell me all about Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and the guys today, but you would have a hard time selling me on the point that any are better than Brown.
I saw just about every game Jim Brown played, and it is not just my boyhood enthusiasm or love for the Cleveland Browns that make me feel that way.
This isn't like discussing Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Shoeless Joe Jackson, because I don't know anyone who actually saw them play. I saw him, and I'd like to think I am open-minded enough to judge others, but I don't think I'll ever see anyone else like him again.
|‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen nightly Monday through Friday from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15. ‘More Les' is aired after selected Cleveland Indians games on FSN OHIO. Les can be reached at www.leslevine.com|