Mon deu! Sacre Orange and Brown!

Doc Gonzo takes stock of the AFC North and the Browns with his usual twisted view...

Las Vegas glam-rock band The Killers released its sophomore album last week, a work entitled Sam's Town that follows 2004's wildly successful Hot Fuss.

Typically, it takes me at least five or six listens to come to grips with an album. I have to navigate the lyrics, stories and music before I can really decide if I enjoy something. With Sam's Town, it's been no different. While not as strong as Hot Fuss, which featured (overplayed) worldwide hits like "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me," this new album has at least three tracks I really like. The rest, I dunno. More listening is required.

The Browns first four tracks off their 2006 release haven't exactly yielded any Top 40 hits. In fact, the first two songs downright sucked. The third was a little better but left me wanting more at the end. The fourth track started off terribly, but finished strong.

Today, I'll be listening to the fifth song on the album. Several of the singers were said to be missing when it was recorded, and that leaves me very nervous about what I'm going to experience. In fact, I'm afraid the 2006 album may produce fewer hits than 2005. That would be a disaster of "The Endless Dream" proportions.

That's the album by both Yanni AND John Tesh.


A loss today leaves Cleveland at 1-4 and staring directly into the face of yet another botched season, a fan revolt and who knows what other sort of catastrophe. The Browns face two premier receivers today in Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson, and do so likely without their top three cornerbacks. This match-up is ominously reminiscent of the 1999 game at St. Louis, when a then-emerging Kurt Warner went 23-of-29 for 203 yards and three scores en route to a 34-3 rout.

The Browns' tactical situation today is only slightly worse than their strategic position within the division.

The Illegitimate Entity™ is undefeated. Who knew? I chalk it up partially to a weak schedule, but Baltiwhore's STDefense continues to be among the league's elite. On the bright side, the team is one shot to the sternum away from having Kyle Boller back under center.

We can take some solace from New England reminding the league that Cincinnati has no defense whatsoever, a fact the Browns should be able to exploit when the Junior Ravens visit Cleveland later this year. That is, if the Bengals have enough players on parole and off house-arrest to field a team. Receiver Chris Henry has been arrested FOUR TIMES IN 11 MONTHS. I'm sure a certain Maryland NFL franchise will lure him one day in free agency.

And over in Pittsburgh, the deeply satisfying public humiliation of the most fraudulent team to even "win" the Super Bowl continues. Ben Roethlisberger, through two games, has a rating of 34.3 with no touchdowns, five interceptions and he's completed less than fifty percent of his passes. More importantly, he's 0-2.

That's regression. That makes me giggle.

Sure, you can pin some of the blame on Bill Cowher's idiotic and downright immoral decision to insert Roethlisberger back in the lineup two weeks after appendectomy surgery and a few months removed from a major, life-threatening accident. The kid simply isn't the same. Maybe he'll bounce back, maybe he wont.

Personally, I have nothing against Roethlisberger, but my preference is that he never regains the solid form he showed as the Steelers' caretaker quarterback in 2004-05. Absent a punishing ground game – let's face it, Willie Parker doesn't have 30 carries a game in him for 16 weeks – and absent a truly stifling defense, Roethlisberger is doomed. The more he plays like Mark Malone than Terry Bradshaw, the better.

How the rest of the division plays means squat if Cleveland itself doesn't improve, and fast.

After a Week 6 bye, the team has a pair of afternoon home games against the Broncos and Jets. Unless Cleveland displays today four quarters of the sort of football it showed in the second half against a wretchedly abysmal Oakland team last week, there's no reason to think the Browns can beat either Denver or New York.

Road trips to San Diego and Atlanta are followed by home divisional games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Based on what I've witnessed over the first four games, there's no convincing evidence to make me think the Browns can beat any team remaining on the schedule.

But this is the NFL, and anything can happen. Today's performance at Carolina will go a long way toward shaping how the remainder of season plays out. A victory will open some eyes. It would come on the heels of beating Oakland and the strong showing against Baltimore. That's enough evidence to think a trend could be mounting.

It may be that Cleveland simply took an extra month to emerge from the preseason, and could hit its stride starting this month. The question is, is it too late to salvage the season?

On paper, it's mystifying why this team remains mired in mediocrity. Injuries are one culprit, along with a lack of playing time among the offensive linemen. But the chief problem is lack of experience among the offense's three primary play-makers. Quarterback Charlie Frye, wide receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow II are rookies. Among them, they have a grand total of 26 starts.

And the best of the three, Winslow, has just six starts under his belt. But he certainly appears to be emerging as Cleveland's first possible home-grown Pro Bowl candidate since Jamir Miller in 2001.

For this team to have any chance of assembling a respectable season that can serve as the foundation for a 2007 playoff run, those three rookies will have to mature into true stars, something Cleveland has lacked on the football field since ... well, a long, long time. The last true football superstar in Cleveland was Jim Brown, who retired 40 years ago.

It could be Winslow that develops into the next true star. To suggest that he'll ever rival Brown is silly because of his position – not even Ozzie Newsome was truly a superstar – and because Brown is someone that transcended sport in an era of racial and social tensions. Oh, and Winslow has yet to learn not to be an adolescent jackass.

But the potential for greatness is there, around which the Browns can build a perennial playoff team.

Of course, that means inscrutable offensive coordinator Mo Carthon will have to build the offense around Winslow's considerable talents, something that hasn't happened yet. That could partially be because KWII is still healing. Or it could be because Carthon calls plays like the French army fights – one moment, brilliant like Napoleon at Austerlitz; the next, humiliated as in every battle after 1815.

Who would have ever thought Cleveland would threaten to become the France of the NFL? We're 37-115 since 1999. That's a lot of losing. That's losing at the old-school Tampa Bay level.

Yeah, I'm tired of being reminded of all the losing, too. But it's getting really old. No one believes me when I try to tell them Cleveland used to be "the Yankees of pro football."

It's even less convincing after the Yankees lost the divisional series to the friggin' Detroit Tigers, whose last playoff victory came three months before The Fumble entered our lexicon.

The Tigers are winning. The Browns are not. Something's just not right with the world.


Former  Ohio newspaper editor and reporter Bill Shea has written the Doc Gonzo column each week for The Orange and Brown Report for six years. He now writes for a business magazine in Detroit and was recently named vice-president of communications for the Port Huron Pirates of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League. You can learn more about his, frankly, disturbing life at or e-mail him at

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