Passan: What Have We Learned?

Rich Passan opines on the Browns most recent effort in Denver and the events which followed. Our skeptic from the Southwest is never happy with losing football, but hopes a light has gone on upstairs...

OK, class, what have we learned about the Cleveland Browns in the last two weeks?

You know, that time between the Carolina loss and Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

We learned more, it would appear, than the Browns did during their bye week.

We learned that bad football is still being played on the shores of Lake Erie despite the two-week layoff.

We learned that Charlie Frye still has a very long way to go before he is considered an average National Football League quarterback. He's not even close. His decision making needs a ton of work.

Bernie Kosar once said that Frye had "it." I'm not sure what "it" is, but if what we've seen thus far is "it," I want no part of it. No pun intended.

We also learned the offense still can't run the ball effectively and the defense still can't stop the run. Is this sounding all too familiar?

We learned that the coaching staff of this team loves the color beige, votes Republican and favors non-aggressive treaties. For some reason, they are afraid to unshackle the players. They play it close to the vest, hoping against hope that they can sneak out a victory.

Here's a little advice for Romeo Crennel and his merry band of assistant coaches: Open it up. Go after your opponent. It's obvious that what you're doing now isn't working.

It's time to try something different. It might not win a game, but at least get away from the stodginess your team brings every Sunday. On both sides of the ball.

You don't coach in New England anymore. The talent you have with the Browns is nowhere near the level of the Patriots. So stop coaching as though this is the Midwest version of that team.

Football is a game of aggression. Attack on offense, attack on defense. Attack, attack, attack. Sixty minutes of belligerent football.

Extreme? Probably. But it's time to give this team a personality.

Bye weeks are for resting, getting healthy and putting together a strong game plan against the next opponent. One would think that two weeks is sufficient enough time to put together a solid plan to at least be competitive against the Broncos, maybe even play well enough to beat them.

Crennel always talks about "coaching up" his men. Based on the results, this coaching staff has no clue as to how to maximize the strengths of the talent on board.

So that's we learned.

What did the Browns learn in those 14 days?

Judging from their performance against the Broncos, absolutely nothing. The hole they've dug thus far this season continues unfortunately to be a work in progress.

It was more of the same-old, same-old against Denver, including dropped passes – on offense and defense. Even the usually reliable Joe Jurevicius and Kellen Winslow Jr. have joined the party.

If it wasn't for Jake Plummer's careless passing, the Browns would have been shut out. Their touchdown was a gift.

As a result, the residue of this season is chipping away at the Browns' fiercely loyal fan base. The ineptitude that has firmly attached itself to the franchise shows no signs of letting go and is wearing down the fans. It has become a weight, for some, too great to bear.

Unless things change, and in a hurry, empty seats are going to be the norm at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Sure, they're paid for. Isn't that what it's all about?

All Randy Lerner wants to see is your seat in those seats. He doesn't care about you. He cares about the money you spend on his team.

The coaches don't care about you. The players certainly don't care about you. All they care about are their paychecks.

Fan loyalty is being pushed to the limit by terrible football. This team has become an embarrassment. And while Cleveland sports fans are used to incompetence in their sport teams, there comes a time when it's got to stop.

Something's got to be done.

The cashiering of Maurice Carthon Monday night is just a tiny step. It soothes the fans' mounting anger for the moment. There are still larger problems that go well beyond Carthon and require attention.

Crennel has been the head coach of this team for 22 games. Only seven times has he crossed the field at the end of those games and commiserated with the losing coach.

He has hung his hat on the Browns' performance against the Baltimore Ravens in game three even though they lost. One game. What about the other five stinkers?

It would be one thing if the Browns were competitive. But they're not. Crennel sends out ill-prepared teams Sunday after Sunday.

He brought a winning culture to Cleveland from New England as did Phil Savage from Baltimore. All that means nothing until it translates to the same in Cleveland.

Crennel is in over his head. As it turns out, he's one of those very good coordinators who cannot properly handle head coaching duties. Some guys have it. Some don't. Crennel doesn't.

Many of the fans who jumped on Crennel's bandwagon at first and remained on his side throughout the turmoil have become disenchanted, disillusioned, disheartened. It eventually gives way to frustration.

That frustration eventually morphs into disgust, followed by anger, rage, then the ultimate enemy of all pro sports franchises: Apathy.

Dick Enberg, who worked the Browns-Broncos game on television, remarked at the beginning of the second half Sunday, "It's so quiet (at CBS). The Browns need to do something to excite these fans."

Enberg is not used to seeing this kind of behavior from the Cleveland football fans. He remembers games at the old Stadium where the zealots sometimes were as much the story as the game itself.

Even he noticed what appeared to be the early stages of apathy on the part of those in attendance.

With precious few exceptions, this team is not getting better. It's not even flatlining. It's getting worse.

The same mistakes are being made over and over and over. They added 12 men in the huddle to their growing repertoire of gaffes in the Denver game.

The team is not focused. The coaching staff is to blame.

Clearly, it's not working out. And there doesn't seem to be any immediate solution to the problem.

Someone has to be held accountable. In this case, there is only one desk at which that buck stops. And it doesn't have nameplates that read Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage.

If Lerner truly understands the mounting frustration of the fans, the Carthon firing is just the first shot of what ultimately will be a house cleaning. Yep, another one of those.

Hopefully, the owner realizes that a veteran football man is needed to give the franchise some guidance, some balance, a sense of direction. The sooner, the better.

Too bad it took something like this to turn on the light.


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