Passan: More Questions, Some Answers

Rich Passan ponders deep questions while waiting for the return of Cleveland Browns football, such as, "Who the heck is that guy?" and "Why is he back on the pages of the Orange and Brown Report?", and "Do we really want to go through this again?"

More questions looking for answers . . .

At the risk of sounding like a whiner, why is the media shut out of Browns practices during the regular season and minicamps? Why are the conduits between the team and its fans confined to the media room while the team works out?

(To be fair, the Browns aren't the only ones who drop the Iron Curtain on the media, but that doesn't necessarily make it palatable.)

On the one hand, the media is told that opening up practice to them would be counterproductive to what the team is trying to accomplish. The paranoia that runs rampant among the coaching fraternity these days gives birth to the notion that the media will pick up valuable information and make it public knowledge.

Some deep, dark secret play that might help win a game will wind up in someone's story. Like the media would know what's going on.

On the other hand, coaches and football people look down on what the writers write and radio/television guys report, accusing them of not knowing enough about the game to write or speak in intelligent terms.

Let's see now: You can't watch practice because you might pick up something, but you really don't know enough about the game to be perceptive enough to report on it.

You can't have it both ways. It's one or the other.

What are the Browns afraid of? That the media conspires against the team? That they're out to do everything they can to bring the team down?

Nonsense.

The media's job is to report to the fans. Newspaper beat writers give you stories through using their laptops; radio and television guys do it with their cameras and microphones.

Newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts deliver opinions.

And the fans benefit from it all. Some hate it, some love it. But the fans have one thing in common when it comes to the media: They feast on what they read, see and hear about the Browns. They can't get enough.

So why not open practices so the media can give you more of what you're looking for? Just wondering.

Also wondering about . . .

. . . this nagging feeling I've got. It gets worse by the moment.

Tim Couch is lurking out there.

You remember him? He's the lightning rod of a quarterback who could spark an argument among Browns fans by just walking into a room.

He started more arguments since any player since . . . well, since . . .

Hmmm. We'll get back to that one later. Maybe.

Anyway, Couch tried out recently with the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. Apparently, his surgically repaired shoulder is strong enough to give him hope that he can resume his National Football League career.

That nagging feeling I'm getting is the possibility (not probability) that if the Colts or Steelers don't want him, the Browns might consider giving him a look. After all, they could be looking for a veteran backup to Charlie Frye.

As unlikely as that seems, it could happen. And what a firestorm that would cause.

It would be like Couch-Holcomb all over again. Maybe worse.

But think about the upside of a Couch return to the Browns. He has a lot more experience than when he quarterbacked the Browns for the first five years since their return in 1999. He no doubt sees the game in a whole different way.

And if the surgery was, indeed, successful, his arm has to be decidedly stronger.

Couch will be just 29 in July. He'd bring a ton of experience to training camp and could become an invaluable asset to Frye.

The only problem is whether he would accept a backup role. My guess is that he'll accept any kind of a role so long as a paycheck accompanies it.

Does this mean I endorse a Couch return?

Remember that nagging feeling? Does that answer your question?

And another question . . .

Where do Browns fans get all those rose-colored glasses?

A fans poll on the team's Web Site shows that 53% of those voting believe the Browns will win five or six of the eight home games this season. Add another 28% who believe they'll win seven or maybe even all eight. That's more than 80% who believe the club will do something it has never done since returning in 1999 - win more than half its home games.

Since the return, the Browns have played 56 home games. They have won 18. That's a winning percentage of .321. The best they've done at Cleveland Browns Stadium is a 4-4 mark in 2001 and matched this past season.

On the plus side, they have won half of their 36 overall victories at CBS since the return and are a much more respectable 16-24 at home since the first two very forgettable seasons. There is some improvement. Slow but steady.

But to think they will be win at least five games against a schedule that has them playing New Orleans, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, the New York Jets, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Tampa Bay is overly optimistic, if not pie-in-the-sky. Five of those teams finished in double digits in victories last season.

Even more ludicrous are the early returns from a similar poll showing that 54% of the fans believe the Browns will win three or four road games this season and another 30% think they'll win five or six games away from CBS. That's roughly 85% who think the Browns will be significantly better on the road.

Since the return, the Browns have won more than three road games in a season just once. That was the six-victory salvo in 2002. They won just three times at home that season.

Add it up and the bottom line says nearly a third of the fans (on the official Web site) believe the Browns will win at least 12 games this season; seven at home and five on the road.

Phil Savage's off-season moves made the club better than the 2005 version for sure, but that much better?

Let's not deal with unrealistic expectations here because the more unrealistic they are, the harder the fall when those expectations are not realized.

Some day, the good times will return. Sooner most likely rather than later. But now is not that time.

So put down the rose-colored glasses for a bit longer. There will be plenty of time to celebrate and enjoy soon enough.

Just not now.

One final question . . .

How long before training camp begins?

Definitive answer: Too damn long.


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