The Owl: Predictions from a Lofty Perch

The mysterious Owl offers some thoughts on what the rest of the season may hold following last Sunday's game. The result is a relaxing tonic is a sea of chaos. Breathe slowly... relax... there is peace... aahhh...

Everybody take a deep breath and then repeat three times: "It was only one game. It was only one game. It was only one game."

I'm not sure if technically that means you should say "it was only one game" three times or nine, but there has been enough of a backlash over what went wrong in the opener ("no-blitzing", "no-Charlie- Frye") that it's a shame the bye week isn't this weekend instead of two weeks from now.

Didn't we tell you to be patient? Didn't we say this squad needs time to grow?

From this perch, the Browns look like a 5-11 team. Some might say that's a lofty projection after the way they played against the Bengals.

Before they lost the opener, I thought about goosing the prediction to 6-10. Unfortunately, achieving that would almost require a win over the Packers in Green Bay Sunday because otherwise they would have to go 6-7 after the bye. They have a very difficult road schedule, starting Sunday in Lambeau Field - Green Bay, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Oakland and Cincinnati.  They play all but the first two after getting the first weekend in October off.

The team has 28 new players. That is a remarkable turnover, even considering the Browns were 9-23 the last two years.

Trent Dilfer is a fine leader, but his passing skills are suspect, as he showed against the Bengals. Braylon Edwards has unlimited potential, but he is still behind because he held out the first two weeks of training camp.

The secondary will be picked on all year if what Carson Palmer did to them is an indication of what to expect. Gary Baxter is supposed to be back for Sunday, but we won't be 100 percent after a concussion forced him to miss three games, two of them in preseason. The run defense looks like it could stop three plays for three one-yard gains and then give up a 30-yard run. With starting linebacker Matt Stewart out with a knee injury, teams are going to run until the Browns force them to pass.

"Everybody on this team is a question mark," Coach Romeo Crennel said in his typically blunt fashion. "This is a brand new team. It's new to me, they're new to each other…We have to find out what kind of team we're going to be and really who we are. The only way you find that out is in the heat of the battle. You find out who will give a little bit and who will charge the hill.

"I'm concerned about every guy on this team. I'm concerned about every position. We'll find out what they're going to do."

If losses pile up, players will look to Crennel for answers. They believe he has them because he was on the coaching staff of five Super Bowl champions. He talks about correcting mistakes and moving on, and that is exactly what the Browns tried to do in practice this week. Players like him so much because he is honest with them and he does not play favorites. That is very rare at this level.

Part of that honesty is Crennel saying the success or failure of the team is up to the players.

"One guy doesn't make a difference because this is a team sport," he said. "Romeo Crennel is not going to play one snap, not one. What I'm going to do is coach my players, teach them the best I can and try to prepare them the best I can. Hopefully, when they play the game that's good enough for us to win."

Fans no doubt will be frustrated again if the Browns do not blitz Brett Favre Sunday. Forget it. If Crennel thought gambling against Palmer was a mistake there is no way he is going to blitz the crafty Favre.

Crennel is asking his players to stay the course. Fans should do the same thing.

The Browns should get better as the season progresses. Judge this team by what it does in December with an eye toward 2006. Don't judge it by what happens in the first four games.

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