Derry: No One-a to Root For....

Frank ponders the past while watching the Browns defensive line of yesterday took on the Browns head coach of long ago... Is it possible to root for any of the teams in the AFC playoffs?

It was a dilemma of historic proportions. Not since Hulk Hogan battled Andre the Giant for the World Wrestling title many moons ago did I have such a tough time deciding who to root for.

Only this time, all participants wore black hats and represented evil, at least in the minds of Browns fans everywhere.

Do you cheer for someone, or against everyone? Do you pray that the NFL will change its rules and allow both teams to lose? Or do you simply turn the channel and try to find a Lawrence Welk rerun on PBS?

A onea and a twoa and a threea … and a off we go into the land of "gee, I hate this guy, but I hate those guys even more."

Yes, it was the battle of no-good vs. evil.

It was that dastardly Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots against the legion of gloom, the Denver Broncos and their four ex-Browns defensive linemen, including two of the Browns' all-time draft busts, Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown.

This was the Saturday night prime time game that, unless you happened to have a few bucks bet on the outcome, only was worth watching if the defensive backs inflicted bone-crunching hits on unsuspecting wide receivers. Or if Warren got called for numerous offside penalties. Or if Brown pulled a hamstring and had to miss the final 59 minutes of the game.

Yes, folks, this was the AFC divisional playoff game being staged in Denver to find a winner to meet the victor in the Steelers-Colts game.

Even if you like Warren, Brown, Michael Myers and Ebenezer Ekuban, the four ex-Browns who found the Fountain of Youth in the Mile High City, it was impossible to root for the Broncos.

How can you ever pull for the team that denied the Browns entry into the Super Bowl, not a oncea, not a twicea, but a threea times in the mid to late 1980s.

This was Browns-killer John Elway disguised as some mountain man named Jake "The Snake" Plummer. This was Champ Bailey playing the role of Jeremiah Castille, who recovered Earnest Byner's fumble in the 1987 AFC Championship Game, piercing New England's bubble with his clutch interception and 100 yard return in the fourth quarter.

It would have been a game-clinching touchdown had Bailey not decided to walk the final five yards into the end zone, only to have the ball knocked out of his hands at the one yard line.

Was I upset when Bailey intercepted Tom Brady?

I didn't know how to feel. Part of me said, "Damn. Those lucky son-of-a-bucks. They did it again."

But then part of me was overjoyed. I couldn't wait until the camera caught Bill Belichick's reaction. (Not surprisingly, he had almost the same expression that he wears when the Patriots score a game-winning touchdown. Is this man alive? Does he know how to spell the word "Emotion"? I think not.)

There was a lot of pre-game hype about how, if the Patriots were able to win their third straight Super Bowl title and fourth in five years, they should be proclaimed as the greatest team in NFL history.

The hype reminded me of the chatter that existed before the USC Trojans played the Texas Longhorns for the BCS title less than two week earlier. Football geniuses everywhere were ready to label USC the all-time greatest team.

Unfortunately for both the Trojans and the Patriots, you've got to prove yourself on the field. And neither of these all-time greats was able to live up to their billings.

And speaking of all-time great teams, why aren't the Cleveland Browns of the early to mid-1950s ever mentioned when people talk about the league's premier teams?

I mean six straight Championship Game appearances, including not just a onea, not just a twoa, but a THREEA titles in those half-dozen years certainly were impressive, especially when you consider the Browns were an expansion team when they joined the powerful NFL in 1950.

I'm not saying those Browns teams would even be able to stay on the same field as today's top teams. In fact, considering the size and speed of today's players, any game matching today's teams against those from the 1950s would likely be blowouts of historic proportions. But for their era, those Browns teams were the best in the business, yet never get the credit they deserve.

Like it or not, we have to give Belichick, who became a villain in northeast Ohio when he not only "fired" Bernie Kosar midway through the 1993 but also questioned his athletic skills, credit for being the best coach in this century.

If you truly hate Belichick, you'd better quit reading this column right now. I'll give you a onea, a twoa, a threea seconds to click away.

For those of you who remained, I must say that if the truth be known, I believe Belichick is now the best coach in the NFL. He gets more out of his talent than anyone I have seen since Paul Brown.

Give Belichick a couple of premier defensive players, surround them with guys named Joe, and he can magically put together a defense that somehow always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

It certainly wasn't Belichick's defense that lost Saturday night's game to the Broncos. It was the onea, a twoa, a threea, a foura, a fivea turnovers that cost the Patriots a shot at immortality.

Because of those turnovers, it won't be a onea, a twoa and a threea straight Super Bowl titles for the Patriots.

But I'm still not sure if I'm happy or not, just as I'm still not sure whether I'm happy that Hulk Hogan beat Andre the Giant.

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