Normally in this space, we look at the good and bad of how the Browns
performed in each game. I try to look for positives in each loss to give hope
for the future. It's hard to find much that's positive in the "performance" of
the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve. So, this article will be a departure from
the norm. Like most fans who showed up for the debacle on a beautiful December
day by the lake, I'm pretty angry that the players, coaches, and organization
are so clueless about what this rivalry means to the fans that they'd turn in a
horrible performance like this at home.
Who Showed Up
This is my entirely subjective opinion, but let me start by giving a nod to those players who I felt never quit in this game:
- Reuben Droughns. Made more than one positive play in this game, which
more than can be said for just about everyone else on the team.
- Aaron Shea. Made some nice catches, though didn't get a chance until too
late. A good special teams player, too.
- Frisman Jackson. Made the most of his few opportunities.
- Orpheus Roye. Has played injured all year. This was not his finest hour,
but you can't knock his effort.
- Chris Crocker. In a game where others were mailing it in, he showed me
- Brodney Pool. Had two fumble recoveries. Got toasted at times, but was
- Josh Cribbs. Despite a nearly disastrous fumble early, still gave effort.
It is very hard to evaluate Charlie Frye in a game like this. He made some terrible throws, especially late in the first half. Once it became obvious the Browns were not going to move the ball, Frye was pressing, trying to make a play. Frye did do some good things, though. At times, he was looking to make a play on the run and tried to put the ball along the sideline where a receiver could make a play. Too bad the receivers for the most part seemed to have no interest for making plays.
I have praised the work of Mike Pucillo when pressed into service as a backup. I'm seeing a pattern, though. When he starts, he has enough holes in his game that the opponent can prepare for him and he struggles. While I think Pucillo is a nice sixth or seventh man on the line, he clearly is not starter material, and especially not at center.
For the third game in a row, the linebackers were awful. I really thought they were coming around several weeks ago. The only one who made any kind of a play was Chaun Thompson. Ben Taylor was dragged into the end zone by Jerome Bettis, but this should be no surprise. Taylor has to go. Andra Davis had a bad game. Kenard Lang didn't even look good rushing the passer. Matt Stewart might be an OK backup or rotation player. What a mess the Browns have at this critical position.
After a better than normal game for Jason Fisk in Oakland, he was horrendous in this one. Despite a "sack" by Alvin McKinley, he did not do well. I was not happy to see a sack dance from McKinley when the Browns were getting schooled. Besides that, the sack game by McKinley grabbing Big Ben's leg and he just dragged McKinley before falling down. Pitiful. J'Vonne Parker got in the game at nose tackle late and looked pretty decent. He was pushing the Steeler linemen backward. This guy will be interesting to see come the preseason next year.
While the secondary has done well this year, this game was interesting. The Steelers threw a lot early, and the Browns were generally doing decently against the run. Once the score got lopsided, the Steelers threw more. But, by throwing, it exposed the secondary. Leigh Bodden looked awful for the first time this year. Daylon McCutcheon has had his game fall apart ever since Minnesota. Brian Russell was, well, Brian Russell. Ray Mickens on Hines Ward is a joke to begin with.
The Steelers were moving Hines Ward around, often lining him up in the slot. The Browns seemed utterly unprepared for this. Ward would end up covered by Mickens, a safety, or once, Chaun Thompson! All afternoon, Steeler receivers ran so free it was hard to understand what was going on. The Browns have done very poorly in zone coverage all year. They have seemed to play better man-to-man, but that may be because the only played man against teams they felt secure defending against.
Calling You Out
When The Move was announced, we the fans fought very hard to keep the name and colors of the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. But what has happened over the 10 years since is like a cruel joke. The team has become one of the worst run organizations in football. The team is loaded with players who wouldn't make it on many other teams. Seven years into The Return, the team hasn't seemed to make much progress since a 43-0 pasting by the Steelers in September of 1999. It's time for those associated with the team to look deep in the mirror.
- I'm calling out every player who did not give 100% effort throughout the
game. You don't deserve to wear the proud uniform of the Cleveland Browns,
and hopefully, you won't be for much longer.
- I'm calling out a coaching staff that allowed a game like this to
happen, then says the fans don't deserve an apology. Do you understand the
Browns-Steelers rivalry? Do you know how to motivate? Or have you lost the
respect of your team?
- I'm calling out the ownership and front office for allowing this to
continue. By giving Butch Davis a contract extension, it allowed another
year for this team to totally implode. Randy Lerner, make the commitment to
fix what is wrong with this team.
- I'm calling out every fan who sold their tickets to Steelers fans. I don't care what you paid for your tickets, turning this game into nearly a home game for the black and gold was an utter embarrassment. Shame on every one who did this.
Given the improved play of the Ravens the last few weeks and the collapse of the Browns, despite beating a bad and unmotivated Oakland team, it's hard to see the Browns ending the year with a win. We saw how the team played in what they called their "Super Bowl". I don't expect much better results on Sunday. On the other hand, the Browns have done well in the final game of the season over the last few years. Keep an eye on who is making plays and who is giving it 100%. I have a feeling a lot of guys in uniform Sunday won't be Browns by March.
The season is short, bark hard!