Doc Gonzo: Last Train to Sucktown

Doc Gonzo has returned with his look at the current state of affairs for the Browns and "Modell's Team" in Baltimore. Nothing, it appears, makes Doc Gonzo happier than the Ravens and their head coach circling the drain.

This team is terrible. Just awful. Grotesque, obscene and generally repulsive.

They can't block. They can't tackle. They look confused and frightened.

All the preseason bluster has dissipated like a deflated balloon.

The free agents look like busts. The running back is a shameful failure. The quarterback is an embarrassment.

The coaching staff is at each other's throats. The franchise is rudderless and adrift in the NFL's sea lanes, ripe to be picked clean by marauders. The local media is choking on its outrage.

For once, we're not talking about the Cleveland Browns.

No, the perfect storm of self-inflicted woe is the Baltimore Ravens.

And doesn't it feel good?

No matter what happens in Cleveland, seeing the Ravens very publicly self-destruct is one of those experiences you pass down through the generations. And it keeps getting better.

How desperate and pathetic does a team have to be to sign the exiled Kordell Stewart — and it's an upgrade?

Baltimore, meet rock bottom. Chat awhile and get to know each other. You're going to be cellmates for a long time.

I've described the deplorable, obnoxious Brian Billick — a boob once outwitted by Charles Nelson Reilly on "Matchgame" — as an "effete toad."

Now, it looks as if I was being charitable. The man's an utter fraud, and the supposed experts of the NFL who anointed him a (cough, cough) "genius" are just now beginning to see through his sham operation. His roster is filled with criminal thug perverts and other sleazy characters. Billick's been running a con for years, and now the jig is up. It's not hard to bamboozle sports writers, but thinking men know better.

Billick and the Ravens are perfect for each other. The worst coach leading the worst team. Smacks of poetic justice to me.

Fringe characters are nothing new in the NFL, from the bizarre (and aptly named) Joe Don Looney to The Tooz and The Stork.

The Oakland Raiders of the 1970s were a collection of gruff-yet-loveable characters straight out of Central Casting. Baltimore, on the other hand, is a disturbing mob of actual felons and other assorted dangerous riff-raff. They scare children and the dwindling pool of Ravens fans — more a rabble of diseased mental defectives who choke kittens for perverse glee — grows restless as the embarrassments mount.

The Ravens' continued existence is a greasy stain on the honor of the NFL. They're a gruesome reminder of the vile, soulless treachery of men, namely the wicked Art "The Quisling Beast" Modell.

We can take solace if the decline and fall of the ignoble, vile Ravens. Their future is grim.

Meanwhile, the Browns are braced for their first real test of the 2005 season. The opener against Cincinnati was a learning experience as the team felt its way along. Last week, the planets aligned and Cleveland played mistake-free at critical points. That, plus an efficient quarterback, translated into victory.

It'll take more than that Sunday at Indianapolis, the Ravens of 1984. The Browns won't have a more potent offense, so the coaching staff will get a good measurement of how far it has to go to construct a consistent defense. It's hard to imagine the Colts' early-season offensive woes continuing at home in Week 3.

What's also unlikely to continue is Indianapolis' tough defensive play. Cleveland may just be the workmanlike unit to unglue them. A solid running game and more efficient play from Trent Dilfer will keep the Browns in the game. The Green Bay game proved they're capable of beating anyone, even on the road. It wasn't a fluke.

On the other hand, a couple of wrong bounces, an untimely turnover or stupid penalty could quickly turn the game into a rout. Cleveland can't afford to make mistakes because it doesn't yet have the talent to get into shoot-outs week to week – especially against the likes of the Colts.

But after two weeks, it's clear that no matter the outcome, Cleveland is a team to be taken seriously. It's showed it's capable of striking from anywhere on the field. The Colts would be unwise to look past the Browns to an upcoming Monday night match up with New England.

If they do, that Monday night game might mean a lot less for Indianapolis, and Cleveland could be the talk of the NFL going into its bye week at 2-1 with a pair of road upsets.

Former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor Bill Shea writes the Doc Gonzo column each week for Bernies Insiders. He has never appeared on Matchgame, but thinks Charles Nelson Reilly would still take down Billick. Write him at 

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