Great season. Couldn't have predicted 10 wins. Exciting times. Future is bright. Yada, yada, yada.
I've written all that before. Right now I want to concentrate on why the Browns are sitting home:
1. They didn't take care of their business like other playoff teams did down the stretch. Washington rolled strong into the postseason. The Redskins won 4 straight including victories over division rivals on the road (New York Giants and Dallas) who are seeded higher than them in the playoffs and a team that was right there with them fighting for the postseason (Minnesota on the road). Tennessee rolled into the home of the defending Super Bowl champs and did enough against their starters to preserve the victory. Jacksonville beat the playoff bound Titans in week 10 on the road and took down AFC North Champ Pittsburgh on the road 5 weeks later. Cleveland? They went down with a whimper to a hated division rival with 5 wins. When you don't step up like the Jaguars, Redskins and Titans did then you get what you deserve. A seat on your couch for the postseason.
2. DA. This is a bit of a catch 22. He made plenty of plays to put them in position to get in the playoffs but when it was really on the line, he couldn't close it out. Watching the Browns spiral at the end of the season reminded me of CC Sabathia's performance in the ALCS. To be sure the Cleveland Indians aren't in the ALCS without him but when the games were the biggest, he came up the smallest. Same with Derek Anderson. The Browns in the last half of the season had 2 chances to deliver knock out blows and didn't. The first time was in the 2nd Pittsburgh game. The second was of course the Cincy game last week. Derek Anderson's performance in both games was eerily similar to Sabathia's performance in games 1 and 5 of the ALCS.
3. Cleveland's defense. They showed signs of life later in the year but let's face it, the unit for lack of a better term, stinks. Teams that are ready to compete in the postseason don't get gouged for the kind of points and yardage they did all year. Enough said.
4. Tendency all year to let opponents hang around. Are the Browns a much superior team to Cincinnati? How about Miami? St. Louis? The Jets? Oakland? Are they at least better than Houston? Arizona? While most of those turned out to be wins, the Miami, St. Louis, Jets and Houston games were much closer than they needed to be and very well could have turned out to be losses. As far as Arizona, Oakland, and the second Cincinnati game the Browns just needed ONE of those wins to assure themselves of a postseason berth. Until the Browns coaching staff and players learn how to take care of the teams that should be taken care of easily then they are always going to be in a position where a lucky bounce or referee call can determine their outcome. That is NOT what teams like the Patroits and Colts do on their way through the season. If the Browns ever want to be considered among the elite they better learn how to do the same.
5. Ticky tack referee calls. Yes, I know what I said above about not having to depend on the judgement of a ref for your postseason outcome but you have to admit that the non-call of the pushout of Kellen Winslow II in the Arizona game and the very questionable call against Braylon Edwards at the end of last week's Cincy game were dubious decisions at best by the refs. I'm by no means suggesting that the reason the Browns are missing the postseason is squarely on the shoulders of NFL officiating crews but I am disheartened by the refs continuing trend of becoming judge, jury and executioner for teams in the last few minutes of a game. The Arizona call could have gone either way, sure, but I do feel Winslow was pushed out and should have been ruled that way. As far as the Edwards call, for shame. The Browns playoff chances were on the line. Unless you saw CLEAR evidence that Edwards did cause pass interference then you should never make that call. Not at that stage of the game. Not at that stage of the season for Cleveland. Again, not excusing the Browns. The put themselves in the position where a referee could derail their season instead of blowing the doors off of the Bengals as they should have.
6. Preventing wins. This kind of goes with #3's and 4 but is more of a coaching thing. Crennel and Grantham just love their prevent defense, don't they? Guys, the Browns don't have enough defensive talent to pull off their base defense, much less the prevent. Talk about tying the hands behind the back of an already handicapped unit.
7. Some really weird decisions by Romeo Crennel during the season. His clock management is generally pretty poor at the end of games. They still show the tendency to pass when they should run, run when they should pass, etc. The capper for me today was when Anderson went down with the injury in the first half. Why Crennel didn't leave Brady Quinn in there is beyond me? He said it was because he didn't want to create a QB controversy. What? First of all if you're still alive for the playoffs and the game you're playing is meaningless then why risk further injury to your STARTER? Second, why not take the opportunity to evaluate what Quinn can do in a real game? Like it or not Romeo you DO have a QB controversy. DA has basically fallen on his sword the last 5 games and Quinn cost you a first rounder in 2008. If he thinks that Phil Savage doesn't want Quinn to have every opportunity to earn the starting job then he's crazy. Also, what has DA done except win 10 games? Yes, exciting. Yes, more than any of us expected. But isn't every job open until the team turns the corner? Can any of you reading this honestly say that Derek Anderson is the Browns version of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? I sure can't. Could he be? Sure. Could Quinn be? Yes he could. The point is until the Browns truly turn the corner and get in the rarified air that the Colts and Patroits currently breathe then EVERY position should come with controversy. We can find any group of guys to miss the playoffs, can't we? I'm worried that Crennel is too much of a players guy when he makes statements like that. Romeo, we need a COACH for these players not a best buddy.
Well, I'm pretty happy with this year. The team certainly looks a lot closer than it has been. I'll be excited to see what they do in the offseason and if Savage can wheel and deal for a round 1 pick. It's disappointing to know that I won't be able to see a meaningful Browns game until September, 2008 but this year has given us something we haven't had for a long time on the North Coast.