Views expressed in this commentary may not neccessarily reflect those of Bernie Kosar or the staff of BerniesInsiders.com
The Cleveland Browns are in trouble. Major trouble. Not matching the five measly victories of 2004 trouble.
And that's troubling.
For all the sound and fury over the new coach and general manager, the Browns remain desperately short one critical employee: A quarterback. And without an effective quarterback, this team is dead in the water.
More troubling is that the list of free-agent passers is a roster of useless has-beens, cripples, mental defectives and the usual human flotsam we see cast aside every off-season.
Are you comfortable with greenhorn Luke McCown under center next fall? That's akin to the London Philharmonic being conducted by a teenage Weird Al Yankovic -- there'll be plenty of noise, but it won't make much sense.
Certainly, the team will attempt to re-sign the brittle and marginally effective Kelly Holcomb. He won't last half the season, and he's aging fast. Worse, he proved nothing when handed the job two years ago.
What we face is another wasted season. They're not going to the Super Bowl. Not this year. Our investment of time, emotion and money is going to be squandered again. Of course, the argument goes, is that they will be competitive now on the road to an eventual Lombardi Trophy.
Where have we heard that lame snake-oil hucksterism before? How long will these swine keep selling us this garbage? How long will we keep buying it and swallowing it whole?
Forgive me if I don't partake in the unbridled optimism of these historic days. The past is replete with examples of the winds of change morphing into catastrophic storms of despair and embarrassment.
Like the Butch Davis era. Hell, insert any coach's name since Blanton Collier. Every one of them has been a failure in Cleveland since 1964, unless your measure of success doesn't include winning championships. Which is the point of playing the games. Forgive me if I don't settle for the complacent mediocrity of being "pretty good." That sort of loser talk is for the dregs of society, the sort of lame platitudes that the fools in Baltimore and Cincinnati tell themselves at night.
I want the friggin' trophy. In Cleveland. Now. It's sickening to see it in the hands of filthy criminal degenerates like Ray Lewis or the Stepford Patriots, perhaps the least interesting team ever to win a championship in any sport since the dawn of man.
That's not to say the influx of new faces and a new philosophy into Berea won't translate into a string of Super Bowls. There's no reason it shouldn't. But there was no reason four years ago to believe Davis wouldn't have won a title with Cleveland by now.
Instead, we were left with the unrecognizable, charred remains of a franchise bereft of talent. Davis, meanwhile, abandoned his wreckage midseason, fleeing town with boxcars filled with Krugerrands and wads of dirty piasters. In the heyday of the NFL-AFL wars, a monstrous act like that would have seen him beaten to death behind a Winn-Dixie in some sleazy Okie backwater. Pete Rozelle would have looked the other way while Lamar Hunt's Kansas City goons worked Butch over with tire irons.
Not today, however. We have to get serious about nipples at halftime, which might distract the viewers at home from the Levitra commercials. Can't have the Neo-Victorian morality of our nation's fragile psyche damaged by such lewd acts. It also distracts from the steroid- and amphetamine-fueled violence on the field, and from the witless pranks and adolescent displays of boorish behavior by terminally egomaniacal dunces like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
But is there any good news?
Sure. Inking a brute like Joe Andruzzi was an excellent move. He's a destructive force, the sort of savage, heartless beast that Cleveland's offensive line begs for in the unforgiving trenches. Another five like him, we're in business.
But fans delude themselves into thinking the team is just a few players away from serious contention.
The roster is littered with players who do not have the physical, mental and moral capacity to be quality NFL starters. Cleveland suffers from a lack of speed, strength, mental awareness and character. Unless the roster is cleansed of these unworthies, we remain destined for long, ugly Sundays.
Certainly, there is a core of players worth preserving. The rest must be replaced. And it shouldn't be difficult to find better players than these nincompoops who assembled a nine-game losing streak that included some of the most hare-brained, shoddy and embarrassing performances ever witnessed by man or beast.
That sort of talk will get me accused of congenital nihilism. Screw it. The Browns have the worst collective win-loss record dating back to 1999, and that's atrocious for a franchise hellbent on dining out on past glories.
The self-appointed Praetorians who guard the mythical purity of Cleveland's football past, along with the nabobs and grandees of the national sporting press, have built a cult around this team that's a dichotomy of perpetual losing and unreasonable expectations.
Can Romeo Crennell and Phil Savage assuage the Jacobin sensibilities of the Dawg Pound sans culottes? Or will they simply fall victim to the maelstrom of bad fortune that consumes everything on the south coast of Lake Erie?
A good first step is hiring a good quarterback, and soon.
Former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor Bill Shea writes the Doc Gonzo column for Bernies Insiders each Thursday. He remains in mourning for literary muse and godhead Hunter S. Thompson. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.