With the end of a National Football League season for the Browns comes the inevitable post-season awards. In the Browns' case, they come way too soon...
Power Play of the Year - Phil Savage. He didn't plan it, but with the cooperation of President & CEO John Collins, Savage came out of the end-of-the-season mess with a stranglehold on the general manager's job. Collins, who thought he had the backing of owner Randy Lerner, thought wrong and is gone.
Savage, meanwhile, can now concentrate on what he was brought to Cleveland to
do - put together a football team that can return the franchise to the glory it
has enjoyed down through the years. It's time to step up and prove his advance
billing was more than lip service. Now go out and get some run stoppers and pass
Clueless Award - Randy Lerner. The owner had to be in the dark to allow the Savage-Collins rift to explode and become a public relations nightmare. There is no other explanation. If he had known, one has to think he had enough business savvy to quash it before it began.
But let's suppose, for the sake of argument, he did know. Let's suppose he gave Collins his blessing to cashier Savage. What sense would that make? He hired Savage a year ago after allowing himself to be convinced the man was a draft guru. Gave him a five-year contract. Why get rid of him now?
Two schools of thought, neither reflecting positively on Lerner. Either way, he gets the award.
Addition by Subtraction/Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass Award - John Collins. No explanation necessary.
Bad Timing Award - Collins. Congratulations to the only double winner (loser?).
Biggest Disappointment - The Kenard Lang experiment. Noble in its thinking, a flop in its implementation. Lang looked as much at home at linebacker as Charlie Frye would have at defensive tackle. From the embryonic stages in minicamps to the final game, he had trouble adjusting. Some guys can make a successful switch from the defensive line to linebacker. Lang isn't one of them.
What needs to be done now, if the Browns keep Lang, is to take the 30 pounds he lost to become a linebacker, put them back on, switch him back to defensive end and move on. At least that way they would have a semblance of something they sorely lacked in 2005 - a pass rush.
Mr. Steady Award - Defensive end Orpheus Roye. Game in and game out, this veteran played smart football. Most of the season, opponents ran away from his side. And when he shifted inside in obvious passing situations, he was able to put decent pressure on the quarterback. Led all defensive linemen with 95 tackles. He also had three sacks and a dozen pressures.
The Browns had trouble against the run throughout the season, but those who
follow the game do not blame Roye. Even though he played the second half of the
season with a balky knee, he did not miss plays. With any kind of help next
season, especially at nose tackle, he should be that much more effective.
Blessing In Disguise Award - Running back Lee Suggs. If Suggs had not gone down with a knee injury in training camp, Reuben Droughns might never have received the opportunity to become the first Browns running back since 1985 to run for more than a 1,000 yards.
Suggs, the front runner for the running back job heading into the season, looked good in training camp. Droughns tweaked a knee early in camp and didn't get the opportunity to show what he could do. So when the injury-prone Suggs went down and William Green did not step up to take the job, Droughns got the nod when he returned to health. A definite blessing in disguise.
Casper the Ghost Award - Tie among Antonio Perkins, David McMillan, Andrew Hoffman and Jonathan Dunn. Didn't hear these names mentioned once during the regular season. Last time we heard them mentioned was last April at the National Football League college draft. They were the Browns' choices in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. (OK, they played in exhibition games, but that doesn't count.)
One would suspect that somewhere along the line, at least one of these guys would be good enough to get into a regular-season game in some capacity. Perkins was supposed to be a great return man. McMillan was supposed to be terrific at rushing the quarterback. And Hoffman was a pretty good nose tackle in college. They're all still around, but no one has seen them.
Best Rookie - Tie between Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs. Edwards, whose contract holdout and lack of trust by the coaches kept him under wraps for too many games, came on strong and showed the flashes of brilliance he displayed at Michigan before tearing up his knee in early December.
Cribbs, a long shot as an undrafted quarterback out of Kent State, made the club as a kick returner/wide receiver and paid dividends all season. Not only was he a force as a return man, returning 45 kicks for a 24.3-yard average and a touchdown, he was a valuable member of the coverage teams and made numerous tackles as a gunner.
Most improved Brown - Cornerback Leigh Bodden. The free agent from Duquesne was nothing more than a special teams contributor in his first two seasons with the club. And he began this season behind Daylon McCutcheon and Gary Baxter. Little did the coaches know what to expect when Baxter went down with a knee injury in game five.
Bodden took over and put together the kind of season Cleveland fans haven't seen from a cornerback since the days of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield 20 years go. His press coverage in man-to-man situations raised eyebrows. Week after week, he took the opponent's stop receiver out of the game. And he was solid in run support with some outstanding open-field tackling.
Quaalude Award - Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Talk about hyper personalities. Grantham works a sideline like Chris Rock works a crowd. There is no letup. He's constantly moving, gesticulating every defensive call with an intensity that was fun to watch.
He took a bunch of players with marginal talent and molded them into a unit that, with a few exceptions, kept games under control. It was Grantham, with his high-strung, energetic level, who kept these guys in the game. And when the team lived up to his expectations, his demonstrative celebrations on the sidelines brought smiles to the faces of Browns fans.
Most overrated - Quarterback Trent Dilfer. He arrived in Cleveland with great fanfare. He was going to be the bridge to the future, caretaking Charlie Frye much like Jon Kitna laid the foundation for Carson Palmer in Cincinnati. Only one problem. Dilfer wasn't that good.
What most fans did not see initially was his propensity to throw interceptions at inappropriate times, fail to hold on to the ball when pressured and generally make the wrong play at the wrong time. And when Crennel gave Frye his NFL baptism against Miami, Dilfer sulked. He backpedaled later, but the damage was done.
Lowest Moment of the Year - The 41-0 loss to Pittsburgh. An easy choice because this embarrassment took place at CBS. It had ugly written all over it, from the ridiculous ease with which the Steelers scored in the first quarter to the final play of the game when Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote drove Aaron Shea into the turf at the Steelers' three-yard line.
I Should Have Retired a Year Ago Award - Nose tackle Jason Fisk. A common sight when the Browns' defense was on the field was the 6-3, 300-pound Fisk being pushed several yards back off the line of scrimmage. Not exactly what you would expect of the nose man. Crennel tried to play him up at the end of the season. Wonder if anyone bought that.
Told You Not to Worry Award - Placekicker Phil Dawson. When Dawson looked ordinary in the exhibition season, many fans fretted. Dawson had just signed a long-term contract and was too content, they reasoned. Twenty-seven field goals in 29 attempts silenced a lot of those critics.
Lack of Imagination Award - Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Who else did you expect?
Blue Cross Award - Center Jeff Faine. Although he elevated his level of play, Faine wound up on injured reserve for the third straight season. He's been a professional for three seasons. For once, it would be nice to see him finish what he starts.
Bombs of the Year - Back-to-back mid-season Losses to Detroit and Houston. If the Browns had won those eminently winnable games against two of the worst teams in the NFL, they would have wound up 8-8.
Got to Get Stronger Award - Inside linebacker Ben Taylor. How many times this season did we see Taylor latch on to a runner and be dragged five or six yards? The correct answer is too many. He might have been second to Andra Davis in total tackles, but that is highly deceiving. If there is an upside, it's that he stayed healthy all season.
Staying Power Award - All Browns fans. To still be with them after this rollercoaster season, you deserve it.