Browns-Niners: Report Card

There's no category for "Conduct in the Face of Disappointment", unfortunately. If there was, the Browns would score well. As it is, however, the grades for the team's regular season finale are pretty darn good.

The Browns saw their playoff hopes go by the wayside when Tennessee beat a bunch of Indianapolis backups Sunday night.

The Colts barely gave the Titans a game, which meant the Browns' loss in the next-to-last week of the season ended their playoff hopes.

Despite winning 10 games for the first time since 1994 and matching the record of the AFC North champion, the Browns will sit home and watch. Pittsburgh, also 10-6, swept Cleveland to win the division tiebreaker.

The Browns blamed nobody but themselves for their failure to reach the postseason.

"When you leave it in somebody else's hands and don't have control, that's what happens," coach Romeo Crennel said.


--QB Derek Anderson's future in Cleveland is uncertain despite the fact he threw 29 touchdown passes and won 10 games in 15 starts.

Anderson will be a restricted free agent. He said he wants to return, but everyone knows the market will dictate his future.

"I really enjoy my teammates, and I love these guys in this locker room," Anderson said. "We've done a lot this season. We were 4-12 last season, a lot of work has been done, and I had a lot of fun this season."

Anderson was voted the team's Player of the Year by the local Pro Football Writers.

--RB Jamal Lewis will be a restricted free agent after gaining 1,304 yards.

Lewis joins Jim Brown as the only two backs in Browns history to top 1,300 yards.

The Browns have made re-signing Lewis a priority, and he too wants to stay in Cleveland.

"He fits," coach Romeo Crennel said of Lewis. "You know the issue is money."

--WR Braylon Edwards set a Browns single-season mark with 1,289 receiving yards. Edwards also broke the team's single-season touchdown reception mark with 16.

--QB Derek Anderson's 29 touchdown passes tied him with Brian Sipe for the second-best single-season total in Browns history.

--TE Kellen Winslow finished the season with 1,106 receiving yards, which ranks third in team history.

--PK Phil Dawson broke Lou Groza's single-season scoring mark with 120 points. Dawson quietly had a season worthy of the Pro Bowl.


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Nothing special. Derek Anderson threw one bad interception, but he also stood in the pocket under a strong rush to hit Braylon Edwards with a touchdown pass. Anderson and the Browns played the game as if it did not affect their playoff chances. And it didn't.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Jamal Lewis had another big day, with 128 yards rushing. The game marked his fifth 100-yard day of the season. Lewis far exceeded expectations this season, and the Browns will probably regret the entire offseason that they did not give him the ball more in the second-to-last game in Cincinnati.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- It's not hard to play pass defense when you're facing a quarterback who signed Dec. 12. That's what the Browns faced in Chris Weinke, who threw for just 104 yards and was sacked five times. The only blemish for the secondary was that Weinke was able to throw a touchdown pass.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Browns struggled to stop Frank Gore, but they did hold him under 100 yards. Gore finished with 94. The run defense will be a clear priority this offseason for the Browns, who need to focus on shoring up the front seven in the offseason.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- K Phil Dawson was outstanding (49-yard field goal). So was P Dave Zastudil (42.2-yard net average). But the play of Joshua Cribbs continues to amaze. Cribbs returned one punt 76 yards for a touchdown, and he had a kickoff return for a score negated by a very shaky holding penalty. Cribbs' play was so strong it's surprising he was not named the team's Player of the Year.

COACHING: A -- Romeo Crennel has been questioned on some of his moves, but nobody can question his steadfast loyalty to his team and players. The players recognized that, presenting him with a game ball after the win and saying that Crennel was one of very few people who believed in the team. It's a shame Crennel's 10 wins did not get him in the playoffs, but his work this season set a strong foundation for the Browns for the next two years. It's nice to see a good man win.

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