Passan: We're Still Breathing

Rich Passan isn't a guy who is happy with bad football games. At the same time, he does have a sense of perspective which might be helpful to some of us still down in the dumps after last weekend...

It's not the end of the world as we know it.

Not even close.

OK, so the Browns lost to the Houston Texans Sunday. The winless Houston Texans. The sad-sack Houston Texans. The hapless Houston Texans.

So what.

You got up this morning, didn't you? You were still breathing, right?

Everything worked. No clogged arteries. No hair had fallen out. You were still vertical. This mortal coil still spun on its axis.

You saw yourself in the mirror. Might not have liked what you saw, but at least you could see.

The thought processes might have been a little skewed, given what you witnessed against the incompetent Texans. Recovery from watching such a display of what passes for professional football takes time. Be patient. Your mind will soon clear.

Your wife (husband) or girl (boy) friend or significant other still love you. The car started. Somehow you got through the day after yet another Browns loss.

Thank your lucky stars. Thank them that you weren't Randy Lerner or Phil Savage or Romeo Crennel or, worst of all, a member of the Browns.

If you think you feel bad, imagine how they feel.

Here we are seven weeks into the NFL season and the Browns have totally redefined the word "futile." This, in many ways, is worse than that first expansion season back in '99.

Never mind the fact they are not waking up the echoes of the past with their play. Never mind the fact they have turned Murphy's Law into an art form.

These guys have to report to Berea every day this week knowing they lost to the (formerly) worst team in the NFL, knowing they are to Cleveland now what the Bengals were to Cincinnati for all those years.

The Browns have become the Bungles.

Hard to swallow, isn't it? Never thought it would happen under the Savage-Crennel regime, even in its infant stages.

That honeymoon stage a new coach enjoys for at least a year might have a much shorter life for Crennel in Cleveland. The fans' leash is shortening. Impatience seems to be seeping in.

One would have thought there would be some progress at this point. Truth be told, the Browns did play better against the Texans than they did the week before against Detroit. But they were so abysmally awful against the Lions, anything they did against Houston would have been an improvement.

In a way, you have to feel sorry for this bunch of losers. Why? Because they can't help themselves. Browns fans merely watch them play the game. Think of how it is down on the field, where they have to play it.

They are what they are, a team that is far worse than a lot of fans imagined. Those fans mistakenly believed a new regime automatically translated into a new attitude, a new hope, a new approach to the way the game was played.

No, it will take time. Probably more time than anyone envisioned.

And no, a change at quarterback is not going to change things. If Crennel makes the switch to rookie Charlie Frye, as he most likely will, many fans will rejoice. And when Frye does no better than Trent Dilfer and the team continues to bumble, screams of "draft Matt Leinart" will ring out.

Nine games remain this season and the team is in full-mode retreat. Someone has to slam on the brakes. Crennel has to take responsibility for getting this team turned around.

At the beginning of the season, a lot of players talked of the respect they had for the new head coach because of all the Super Bowl rings he accumulated. They trusted him. They relied on him to bring that type of winning attitude to the team.

Failing to do that in the first seven games – especially the way they have played the last two games – could possibly affect the players' thinking. Crennel has to guard against the players possibly losing some of that faith.

The coach also harps on the notion that making a play can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Like maybe not stopping the Texans on a third-and-20 at their 18 early in the third quarter? The Texans converted and went on to kick the tying field goal. Or Reuben Droughns fumbling deep in Browns territory on the next series, enabling the Texans to kick the winning field goal? How about Antonio Bryant coming within a toenail of catching what would have been a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter?

Plays like that?

Crennel simplistically intimates the Browns would be 4-3 today instead of 2-5 had they made two more plays in two games. "If you don't make the plays," he says, "then you're below average. And that's what we are. Because that's what our record says."

He also talks about dikes and leaks. A hole here, a plug here. A hole there, a plug there. Not enough plugs for all the holes that pop up without warning.

That's the real difference between winning and losing. The teams that plug all the holes in the dike and prevent other leaks from springing up lead divisions, make the playoffs and eventually get to the Super Bowl.

"No one said it was going to be easy," Crennel says. "Even though we won two games early and gave the fans hope, we're not executing well enough to keep that hope alive. But I don't think we need to throw in the towel. I don't think the fans need to throw in the towel. We've still got nine games left. We're going to go out and compete and play hard in those games."

OK, coach, but is it all right to at least reach for that towel?

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