Les: A Play Away - From Fooling Ourselves...

Les Levine examines the Browns peers in the standings, and the possible impact of Charlie Frye...


I am not so sure why so many supposedly knowledgeable Browns fans are so upset with the results of the first seven games of the season. Nobody in the local or national media, Las Vegas, as well as a huge majority of fans predicted that the Browns would win more than 4-6 games this year. The over/under in most sports books in Vegas was 4 or 4 and a half, and despite a couple of Browns players who were upset that they were 2-point underdogs to then-winless Houston, that over/under number appears to be right on the money, so to speak.

What is surprising about the Browns 2-5 start this year is that they've got a lot of company. Depending on when teams had their bye week, after seven or eight games, the Browns are one of ten teams with two wins or less. Two of those teams, Baltimore and Houston, have claimed the Browns as victims, while three of them, Tennessee, Minnesota and Baltimore (a second time) remain on the schedule. Only Green Bay, with one win, provided the Browns with a win.

You can look at this a couple of ways. Romeo Crennel chooses to look at it that the Browns have only been one play away from winning a couple of games, which would have turned the record around. Or you can look at it as the Browns can be tossed in a hat with a third of the teams in the NFL, and they all are just bad enough to be a play or two away from winning games.

In reality, if those ‘one or two plays' were made, and the Browns reversed their record, it would be very deceiving. If that happened, would they remind themselves that they were ‘one or two plays' away from being 2-5? Or would they make the mistake of thinking that they were in pretty good shape? I think they are better off, in the long run, by clearly seeing how much work they have to do.

Getting back to the other nine teams with one or two. Last year, the Browns record of 4-12 put them into a tie-breaking situation for the second/third pick in the draft. They got the third pick and took Braylon Edwards. It is possible, based on the potential poor records of a huge number of teams, that a team with only five wins for the season might pick as low as ninth or tenth, which would not allow them to profit from a poor year.

Now that the season is near the halfway point, it is easy to see that the schedule worked in the Browns favor. There were, in the first half, and are, the rest of the way, some winnable games. But with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh so far ahead of the pack, the Browns should know how far away they are, no matter what happens in the next couple of weeks.

It is inevitable that there will be a quarterback change, and, as of this writing, it probably will take place in the home game against Miami in two weeks. It would not be a good idea to let Charlie Frye debut in Pittsburgh on a Sunday night.

There seems to be a prevailing attitude (Crennel included) that the team has been one play away from winning a couple more games. Many fans feel (Crennel apparently not included) that Frye could have made that difference. That, however, is presuming that Frye would have gotten the Browns into the same position that Dilfer put them in---to be one play away. In other words, Dilfer (and the defense) must have done enough right in the first three and a half quarters to keep the games close. While Frye adds another dimension, there is no guarantee that the games would come down to that ‘one play'.

It is easy to point out that Dilfer underthrew Antonio Bryant on the last offensive play of the Houston game (although the DB should get credit for a great play), but fourth-and-seventeen plays need miracles to succeed. The play that should have been made was on second-and-ten, when Dennis Northcutt should have caught the ball near the sideline. It would have been close to a first down, and not worse than third-and-one. Worse case scenario, the Browns would have been in field goal range, which would have tied things up. Instead, on third and ten, Dilfer was sacked, leading to the final play.

I hope Charlie Frye succeeds, but fans need to be patient. I keep hearing people compare the situation to that of Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, who has lost only one regular season game as a starter in a year and a half. That's not fair to Frye. First of all, Roethlisberger was a first round pick; Frye was a third. And you can't compare the talent in Pittsburgh to that in Cleveland. Big Ben isn't called on to make great plays, and he has had a terrific running game around him. The same cannot be said for Frye.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeastern Ohio. Feel free to comment on this story in Les' forum on Bernie's Insiders. You can also e-mail Les at msandll@aol.com or visit his web site at www.leslevine.com

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