Passan: Sincerity Amidst the Chaos

Interim head coach Terry Robiskie brought some welcome sincerity to his remarks following the Browns 21-0 loss to the Chargers. Now, writes Rich Passan, comes the time for Randy Lerner and John Collins to join him...<BR><BR>

If nothing else, give Browns interim coach Terry Robiskie style points for saying the politically correct thing after Sunday's 21-0 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

He apologized to Browns fans all over the world for what they have had to endure this very forgettable season.

He sincerely said he was sorry and took some of the blame for what they have gone through as the Browns lost their eighth straight game and slipped to 3-11.

Facing the assembled media and making such a move cannot be easy, but Robiskie appears to be taking this lost season personally. Too bad others in the Browns' organization don't step up and join him.

Where are John Collins and Randy Lerner? They profess to have the fans' interest at heart, not to mention their money. Step up, guys. Join your coach in apologizing for what has been a very tough season. Unless, of course, it's beneath you.

What the Browns have served their fans this season is a team that will go down in the annals as arguably one of the worst in club history. Yes, even worse than the expansion years of 1999 and 2000.

Those teams totaled only five victories, but were not as talented as this one. They were just getting started.

You can use injuries as an excuse this season, but it falls on deaf ears. Other teams around the National Football League have injury problems only to overcome them.

Right now, the Browns are adrift. They have no identity. There are no answers to the many questions that beg for answers.

This team is so skewed psychologically, the same words come automatically after each loss. "We have to quit making the same mistakes; we have to stop giving up big plays; we've got to play smarter." The Browns self-destruct in a variety of ways week after week.

This past Sunday, for example:

  • Quarterback Luke McCown throws an end-zone interception on a first-and-goal at the Chargers' 5 after Dyshod Carter recovers a muffed punt. Why was McCown throwing at that point? There was no hurry to score. Nail this mistake on the coaching staff.
  • Sherrod Coates roughs the kicker to sustain a San Diego drive that winds up as the first touchdown of the game.
  • A pass completion to Dennis Northcutt is wiped out because the Browns have 12 men on the field. Can't they count?
  • Chargers tight end Antonio Gates scores on a 72-yard touchdown pass because linebacker Kevin Bentley blows his coverage.
  • Receiver Antonio Bryant drops a touchdown pass at the goal line midway through the third quarter.

The loss to the Chargers served as a microcosm to the season. The defense, somewhat recovered from the points onslaught of the three previous weeks, actually played reasonably well against the Chargers. But once again, the offense was hopeless and clueless. After scoring 48 points in Butch Davis' last game, it has scored just 22 since Robiskie took over.

Leave it to CBS-TV game analyst Brent Jones to inject a bit of unintended humor regarding the offensive futility. In the fourth quarter, with the Browns trailing, 21-0, and showing absolutely no offensive life, Jones said the Browns "are going to have to go to their quick-strike offense now." He said that. He really did.

He also called the Browns "a dangerous team." Yes he did.

At least the Browns weren't boring. Robiskie and his staff tried some new wrinkles. Finally used some imagination.

How about Joe Echemandu's halfback pass in the early stages of the fourth quarter. OK, so it was thrown into quadruple coverage and wobbled worse than a three-legged chair. But at least it was something different.

Or the direct snap to Northcutt on third-and-four at the San Diego 39 in the opening drive of the game.  It lost a yard, but it showed some creativity.

So did the onside kick to start the second half. If Frisman Jackson blocks his man instead of going for the ball, the Browns have it at the Chargers' 43. They probably would have gone three and out, but it was a daring move.

The season ends mercifully in less than two weeks. The torture rack finally grinds to a stop. Time to ratchet up the speculation on the names of the new general manager and coach.

And then the college draft, the lottery that gives bad teams a chance to become mediocre, mediocre teams a chance to become good and good teams a chance to become great.

The result of this Sunday night's game in Miami against the Dolphins will determine where the Browns will draft in April. Right now, they are a solid No. 3. Beating the Dolphins fortifies that position. Losing puts a stranglehold on No. 2.

Given the way this season has unraveled, the Browns probably will screw that one up, too, and beat the Dolphins.

It figures.

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