Owl: Defeat a Long Time in the Making

The Owl discusses how faith in key components of their team has helped the Steelers and Ravens. More exclusive commentary for BerniesInsiders.com subscribers!

The mourning period is over for the 41-0 loss to the Steelers. The Browns were outcoached, outplayed, outhoused, out-everythinged.

What has to be remembered, though, is that humiliating defeat did not begin the Monday before the game. It began in 1992 when Dan Rooney hired Bill Cowher as his head coach.

The Rooney family understands how important continuity is to football. Cowher has had some lean years, though not many, in his 14 years as head coach. He has been to the Super Bowl once but never won it, yet the Rooneys stick with Cowher because they believe in him, and because they do the Steelers continue to draft players that suit what Cowher wants.

I'm hoping Randy Lerner shows that same faith in Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage, because more lean years could be ahead. Lerner has to have faith he hired the right people to turn the franchise around.

But I did not come today to lament what happened on Christmas Eve. I came to say what really scares me about the next five or six years. I'm talking about Kyle Boller.

The Browns are doomed if Kyle Boller has suddenly found his stroke. He was always a quarterback Don Rickles could have fun making jokes about - until the last two weeks. Boller looked like the best quarterback in the league while passing against the Packers and the Vikings. Sure, the Packers stink, but the Vikings were fighting for a playoff spot and Boller was 11 of 12 passing on third down.

Think about it. We know the Steelers have a great quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has 32 touchdown passes, the most in the league. He has four more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning.

If Boller plays well against the Browns Sunday and then picks up in September where he left off the Browns will be far, far behind at the most important position on the team. It would give the Browns a lot to think about heading into this offseason. 

"It seems to be clicking for him," Crennel said of Boller. "Sometimes you get to the point where everything slows down for you and the game is not moving as fast. You know what you want to do and where you want to go. It seems like that's happened with him.

"He's throwing the ball down the field and he's avoiding trouble. He looks like a different guy. He's put in the time, he completely knows the system and I think the game has slowed down for him."

Give the genius Brian Billick credit. While everyone was dumping on Boller, Billick stayed loyal to his 2003 first-round draft choice.

Can the Browns afford to wait until the end of 2007 to see if Charlie Frye develops? That's the burning question.

At this point, it does not matter that Boller was a first-round pick from California in 2003 and two years later Frye was a third-round pick from Akron. It is true that Boller might have been cut long ago had he not been a first-round choice, but the fact is Billick saw enough to trade with New England for the first-round pick used on Boller and then he saw enough - when few others did - to stay with him.

This is exactly why I advocated playing Frye this season. It is imperative Crennel and Savage see what he can do. They should not make conclusions after Frye faces the Ravens, but they can make projections.

I love Frye's attitude. He says he's going to study the Steelers defense in the offseason and circle the Steelers games when the schedule comes out in the spring. I'm hoping he plays well against the Ravens and gets back on track.

There are reasons the Browns are 0-5 in the AFC North. Kyle Boller is not one of them, but if the Browns don't win Sunday he could be a reason they would be 0-6.


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