Les: Beware Revisionist History

Even Pulitzer Prize winners can get their facts wrong...

I caught an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning author David Halberstam, who has completed his book on Bill Belichick. It coincided with the tenth anniversary of Art Modell's decision to move the Browns franchise to Baltimore. Halbertstam conceded that Belichick was a victim in Cleveland of being in the wrong place at the wrong time under the wrong owner. In addition, after Belichick went back to assistant coaching, and then being named---for a day---coach of the New York Jets, on his way to taking over in New England, Halberstam says he learned from his Cleveland mistakes, and was, in fact, a different coach the second time around.

But Halberstam glossed over a significant part of the story. In retrospect, many members of the media, who were here at the time, would say that, while Modell made the decision based on a lot of factors, the atmosphere created by Belichick with the fans, media and politicians was part of the reason Modell felt he ‘had no choice'. Halberstam points out that Bernie Kosar was a ‘rock star' in the eyes of the fans, and Belichick couldn't recover from the release of the popular quarterback in 1993. Halberstam claims that Kosar ‘had diminishing skills' and the decision was made to go with Vinnie Testeverde.

That's not quite correct. The decision to get rid of Kosar at the time was NOT a decision to go with Testeverde, for which Belichick could have made a valid argument.. The Browns were very much in the race, but Testeverde was out with an injured shoulder, and there was no guarantee as to when he could return to the lineup. The decision was to get rid of Kosar, and go with Todd Philcox.

That part seems to be overlooked in the argument to defend Belichick. Likewise, in the attempt to get Art Modell into the Hall of Fame once again this year, we (and more importantly, the voters) should not overlook reality. And that reality is that nothing has changed since the first year that Plain Dealer Browns beat reporter Tony Grossi laid out the case against Modell. Since then Modell has won a Super Bowl title, and has sold all but one percent of his team, but the reasons that have kept him out since he first became a candidate are no different today than they were back then.

Prior to the win over Tennessee, Romeo Crennel has been telling us that the Browns were ‘just a play away' from winning another game or two. He knows that's not right, and he probably knows it's a good thing those plays didn't happen, enabling the front office and coaching staff to have a reality check.

I didn't hear the coach say they were just ‘a play away' from losing against Tennessee, the game that ended with an interception at the one yard line.

The Browns pressured QB Steve McNair and forced him to make a desperation heave. It never ceases to amaze me that most coaches, in that situation, rush three lineman and drop eight back into coverage. Eventually NFL receivers will get open, no matter how much coverage is used. You've got to make QBs throw before they want to, and the only way to do that is to apply some pressure to them.

Crennel also reminded us that he comes from the defensive side of the ball. When he discussed his goal line offense against Tennessee, he said he waited to see what personnel was in the game for the Titans, and then he made the call adjustments accordingly. That's how defensive coaches think, instead of taking what you do best offensively and run it. Pittsburgh is a power running team and they don't care what defense you use against them. And they continue to pound the ball until the opposition can show they can stop it.

Unfortunately, the Browns don't have that identity yet, and Crennel, down deep, knows it. Which is why the offense reacts to the defense, at least at this point, instead of the other way around.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeastern Ohio. E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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