Passan: The Dawgs Deserve Better

On Sunday, the Browns were once again embarrassed by a rival as they careened towards another mediocre (at best) season. Long-time Cleveland sportswriter Rich Passan has had enough, and feels that the dedicated fans of the Cleveland Browns deserve better as well<BR><BR>

The Dawg Pound deserved better. So did the crazies who wear wild dog masks, paint themselves brown and orange and live and die with their Cleveland Browns. And the fathers and sons who pass the tradition of Browns football from generation to generation.

They all deserved better than what they received Sunday at Browns Stadium. They do not deserve to have their pride bashed and put on laughable display by their team.

The Cleveland Browns are a way of life here. This city has a rich history in pro football. Messing with its pride does not sit well. Time to do something about it.

It's time for the owner of the Browns to step up and give those fans something they can be proud of. Something for which they can get genuinely excited.

It is time for Randy Lerner to seriously assess the state of his team and lay down the law. What happened Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer will be tolerated.

It is becoming more apparent that coach Butch Davis doesn't get it. His 24-34 record here screams mediocre. Less than mediocre.

His 1-9 record against the Steelers, including that sorry 24-10 loss Sunday at Browns Stadium, is unforgivable.

A 2-10-1 record against Michigan put John Cooper on unemployment. Davis shouldn't be any safer.

With the exception of a surprising goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, the Browns looked like a team seeking a lifeline all afternoon.

Can't think of one good reason for a performance like that. The Browns played listlessly, almost non-caringly, in just about every phase of the game. The game was rife with mistakes. Totally unacceptable.

The coaching staff, especially the head man, must shoulder the blame for a performance like that. Following the game, Davis did not sound embarrassed. He should have been.

Did the Browns' last two losses to Philadelphia and Baltimore so damage this team's psyche that they belched out a game like Sunday's?

There were many reasons to expect the opposite. The game was at home, where the Browns have played well this season, even in defeat. The Steelers arrived after two emotional games and a letdown would not have surprised. And, for crying out loud, these were the hated Steelers.

The fans' reward? A disgusting display of football.

Four years ago, Davis sauntered into Cleveland as the savior of the new Browns. Now, the snake-oil act is wearing thin. There has been as much progress with this team as there has in Middle East peace talks.

Not many Davis supporters can honestly defend the job he has done since his arrival.  If so, those persons are either not being honest with themselves or are hopeless sycophants.

What has Davis done? His track record in terms of motivation, player personnel, game preparation and game strategy are suspect at best. Twenty-four and thirty-four. Let it sink in. The record speaks volumes.

We hear from the coach all too often that the Browns had "a great week of practice" only to go out on game days and make the same mistakes they've made all season. Watching a Browns game is like watching "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray as Butch Davis.

We have also heard from Davis, as well as the players, "We have to go back and correct those problems. They are correctable." You heard that after six games this season. By now, you know which six.

We still see the same mistakes. Dropped passes, clock mismanagement, missed assignments, fumbles, interceptions, no pass rush, bad tackling, lack of intensity, attention to detail.

Over and over and over again. Ad nauseam.

Davis and his staff apparently find it too difficult to correct those problems. Either that or he coaches a team full of nitwits.

Davis is 3-6 in a season that screamed "Fire him!" if he didn't improve on the 5-11 showing last season. Well, his team is careening toward a similar record with a group of players he and his cronies insist is better.

This team is foundering. It has no direction, no discipline. Yes, the defense has played very well on occasion. And yes, the offense plays well in spurts.

But amazingly, the quarterback still hasn't landed on the same page as his offensive coordinator. Davis outbid himself to bring in Jeff Garcia and solidify the position. The move has failed abysmally.

Garcia can be a very good quarterback with the right team. The Cleveland Browns are not the right team. It was a huge mistake in talent judgment by Davis.

Mistake? Butch Davis? In the same sentence? An oxymoron, to be sure. This man does not make mistakes.

The last time – also the first time in four seasons – you heard him admit to messing up was the Cincinnati game when he got lucky with clock mismanagement and Garcia bailed him out with a touchdown pass on the last play of the first half.

When else? Don't hurt yourself trying to come up with another instance.

This team's record is an accurate reflection of its talent. Only a cynic would call the Browns the best 3-6 team in the NFL.

Normally, I'm not in favor of making a midseason coaching switch. And I'm not now. That would be a mistake.

The last time the Browns made a mid-season switch was the 1990 season when they jettisoned Bud Carson after nine games and handed Jim Shofner the sorry task of finishing the season.

Basically, Shofner auditioned for the permanent job in the final seven games. But the team quit on him and won just one game.

That's probably what would happen if they cashiered Davis right now. If Terry Robiskie or Dave Campo, both with head coaching experience, took over, the Browns most likely would just play out the string. Go through the motions.

Which, come to think of it, is kind of what they're doing now.

Lerner must sit down with his coach/general manager/player personnel guru/master psychologist/absolute authority and let him know that unless things change – and change now – he had better start updating his resume.

If Davis coaches here next season, it will be Randy Lerner thumbing his nose at the fans.


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