AIRING IT OUT: I am not fooled. Keep trying, Cleveland Browns, I ain't buying.
You ditched the dissembling despot and hired an experienced, honorable man whose time for a head coaching job was overdue.
Pretty tricky. But I am not fooled by all this so-called straight talk. It's a clever ruse. Reverse psychology, I'm thinking.
What's this you're feeding me? That players have to actually earn their way onto the team and up the depth chart? You must think I'm a sucker for meritocracy. I can see how the world really works. I am not fooled.
You turned an overpaid, otiose narcissist into a humble championship starting quarterback. And you drafted a local guy to grow behind him. By all appearances, both are doing well. Yeah, you know what they say about appearances. I am not deceived by Dilfer nor faked out by Frye. Try it on some other guy.
You covered the spread at Peyton's place, but we all know it wasn't that close. They sliced through us with an edge rusher and Edge the rusher. They were toying with us, throwing Dawg Daylon a bone like that, taking a knee like it was church. The Colts didn't need to run up the score; they just ran out the clock.
Yet you didn't peddle a rosy scenario, spit-shine silver lining, nor blast the officiating, which even the league conceded was uneven. You left all that for us gawkers and squawkers. You went back to work. Just trying to get better. Need to improve ourselves.
Nice try. Almost had me there. That self-made team schtick has a Horatio Alger quality that's hard to hiss at.
But I am not fooled. You're pulling a brown and orange wool sweater over my eyes. The football-shaped =B= logo is not on it. You're toying with me, I can tell.
But I'm not a bit fooled.
Not even when you slap a 34 on a system back and set him loose to seem like some hybrid of Kevin Mack and Greg Pruitt. All those whiz-bang TV production tricks are pretty convincing. But he's sure to morph into Madre-Hill-meets-Ben-Gay any day now, right?
Nope. I'm not fooled by any of this. Keep trying.
Please keep trying.
CONJURING IT UP: The Browns are actually favored to beat Chicago this Sunday. A fairly healthy and rested team will host the Bears. These dynamics suggest that this game will serve as a special indicator of how the 2005 season will progress.
Never mind how well they play. That's too mushy. This is the NFL. It's about whether they win, and, secondarily, whether they avoid injuries. If the Browns do both, they could go on a roll through the soft midsection of their schedule. A season of upside surprise – perhaps even a winning record -- is conceivable.
If they lose this game or lose key players -- think Dilfer or any offensive lineman -- Browns fans may need to seek solace with extra (circle one: patience/ prescription painkillers/poppy seed pretzels/Potent Potables for $2,000 please, Alex).
So I'll invoke the spirit of a Browns/Bears tilt from the past which also proved a special indicator for that season. No, not the last-minute collapse of 2001, when a 4-2 Browns team began to unravel.
I'm talking 1989. The Browns had a veteran defensive-minded coach getting his first chance at the helm. Week 7, the Stadium, Monday Night Football. The 3-3 Browns had just lost to a Steeler team they had demolished 51-0 to start the season. So this 27-7 win over Mike Ditka's Bears felt reassuring.
Rookie Eric Metcalf scored twice; Michael Dean Perry outplayed his very big brother, The Fridge; and a fourth-quarter goal-line stand set up the longest pass play in Browns history to that point, a 97-yard touchdown from Bernie Kosar to Webster Slaughter.
The Bears benched their ineffective Buckeye quarterback, Mike Tomczak, in favor of a Wolverine, Jim Harbaugh, who salvaged a garbage-time score to spoil the shutout.
The victory was the first of four straight, and the Browns made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. Let's just leave it at that.
EXTRA CREDIT: In honor of Fox's first Browns telecast of the season, here's a Business Week article about Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy. It's inside baseball, I know, but aficionados of this site might appreciate it, since Scout.com – one of his recent acquisitions -- is mentioned. Key excerpt:
"Fox has to make sure users aren't alienated by a Big Media footprint on the hip new acquisitions. ‘The trick is to give these folks content without them thinking it comes from Big Fox,' says [Fox Interactive Media honcho Ross] Levinsohn."
You'll know this site remains certified organic so long as you keep finding babble from the rabble – including yours truly – turning up in spades.