Fear & Loathing on the Opinion Desk

The Doctor was a bit like a lot of us last Sunday. He watched the game and sorta concluded "Yep. That's about right". How is one to get hysterical when that happens? It's a quandry...

"Between knowledge of what really exists and ignorance of what does not exist lies the domain of opinion. It is more obscure than knowledge, but clearer than ignorance." -- Plato (dead Greek guy)

Nothing's coming.

Another blown deadline. This column is a day late. Not bad by my own estimation and personal track record, but I'm wracked with guilt and a crazed sense of angst over not really having anything to say.

In the opinion-mongering business, there's heresy.

In today's news media, everyone has an opinion, whether they actually believe it or not. Style trumps substance every time. Shouting down the other guy is the fastest way to the top of the dung heap, where one can lord over used-car salesmen and lawyers in terms of public admiration.

There's no shortage of opinions out there. We all have them, and we all know the variations of the old expression, "Opinions are like (insert bodily part/orifice here). Everyone has one."

Of course, that phrase is tweaked for regional characteristics.

For example, in Baltimore they say, "Opinions are like felony convictions. Everyone has one."

In Pittsburgh, it's "Opinions are like a tooth. Yinz has one."

Down in Cincinnati, the version is "Opinions are like 15-year losing streaks. Everyone has one."

Of course, the veracity of those statements is debatable. Not everyone in Pittsburgh has a tooth.

The reason I don't have much to say this week is that the Cleveland Browns didn't do anything except exactly what I expected them to do. All I can muster is a "Huh. Yep. That's what I thought."

The Browns are not a good team. They are not a bad team.

They remain a work in progress.

No surprise there. We saw lots of positives and negatives. We knew that going into the season. You don't need me to tell you that; you saw it yourself on Sunday.

Naturally, the End-of-Days crowd is poised to leap off the nearest cliff, noose around neck, pills in one hand, pistol in the other. By their count, the team is doomed and likely won't score another point this season.

On the other side is the blinkered-optimist horde. They saw Sunday as an aberration on the way to a 12-4 year and a blitzkrieg to Super Bowl XL. They're growing hoarse from screeching about "San Diego last year! Carolina two years ago!"

Much like the nation at large, the fringes are polarized and enjoy little more than preaching their gospel to sycophantic flocks. The rest of remain in the middle, skeptical until we see a bit more.

My thought going into the season was that the first three preseason games were a collective, accurate snapshot of the 2005 Browns. They did some things right, they did a bunch wrong.

Sunday's effort wasn't good enough to beat Cincinnati. My guess is that the same effort is good enough to beat several other teams. Especially if they eliminate some of the mistakes, both on the field and on the sideline.

Trent Dilfer should never throw the ball 43 times, especially not after the running game showed that it was working.

Patience among the coaches is going to be critical. That's not to say Sunday's game plan, which evolved as the day wore on, was bad. The team was trying to adapt to what was in front of it.

Pass and run blocking, compared to the past six seasons, was pretty good. Especially for a new line playing its first game together. Just think back to the Dallas game last year for proof.

From what I've seen thus far, my guess is that the Browns will be able to move the ball. Not like the Colts, but they're going to be more effective than supposed league experts predict. A smart plan and an effectively managed game by Dilfer will buy the defense time.

And, boy, does the defense need time.

I pray Phil Savage, after watching the opener, wrote in big red letters atop his 2006 draft list: Defensive line.

While I'm no expert on defense, even I could see that the nose tackle and ends were not effectively engaging the offensive line. That meant the offensive linemen were getting to the linebackers, tying them up and preventing them from making plays.

And the entire point of the 3-4 defense is for the linebackers to make plays. The defensive line is there to keep the linebackers free of big, fat guards and tackles. And that didn't happen enough Sunday.

Making matters worse, the Browns linebackers didn't seem especially capable of shedding blockers. That meant Rudi Johnson was scampering into the secondary. Pro Football Rule No. 217: Never let a guy named "Rudi" (with the fey `I' at the end) scamper over your defense. Not cool.

If this doesn't get fixed, whether by a sudden influx of talent or some type of X's and O's scheme, it's going to be a long season. Cleveland doesn't seem like it can stop running backs.

Bad. Very bad. Another nothing new, unfortunately.

But I'm plenty willing to see how this drama plays out. On the weekends in which Dilfer can put up some points and keep the ball away from the other team, Cleveland is going to have a decent chance to win.

But that's just my opinion. And those are like Lombardi Trophies ...

Oh, wait. Never mind.

At least for now.

Former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor Bill Shea writes the Doc Gonzo column each Thursday for Bernies Insiders. Or whatever the heck this site is called. He suggests VicodinOrgy.com. Write him at docgonzo19@aol.com.

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