Thoughts, notes, questions, suggestions and random snottiness as the Cleveland Browns attempt to get their season back on track – one final time – against Cincitucky.
- Is it breathless hyperbole to state that this matchup with Cincinnati is the single most important game in the 3+ year reign of head coach Romeo Crennel? Hardly. In fact, it might be an understatement of epic proportion. To start a season that began with so much promise at 0-4 – and 0-3 in the AFC North – will simply not be acceptable to those in the upper echelon of the Berea power structure. Would a close, hard-fought loss today result in Crennel's immediate removal as the Browns' head coach? That's doubtful, but all bets would be off as to Crennel's future on the Cleveland sidelines.
- And what if another game such as the one that transpired in embarrassing fashion last Sunday happens again today? The firing range would be open, and owner Randy Lerner would be on the line adjusting his earplugs and chambering rounds. And for Crennel, it would be BYOB: bring your own blindfold.
- A players-only meeting that ended with a roster full of players determined to turn this season around. "One of the best weeks of practice" in three years according to various sources. Players and management – a certain Hall of Fame running back notwithstanding – rallying around their embattled quarterback and head coach as the media circled the locker room like vultures. If this team goes out and takes a dump all over Paul Brown Stadium, what bullets will they have left? I really shudder to think what a loss today would do to the psyche of this organization, from the owner and general manager on down through the coaching staff and players.
- Derek Anderson couldn't handle the pressure of competing with Charlie Frye in training camp last year. How exactly is he supposed to handle the pressure of his head coach openly questioning his handle on the starting job, with a first-round draft pick and fan-favorite breathing down his neck? This cannot possibly end well, can it? As for the Browns, they had better hope their plan of getting "the other guy" ready by giving him a few more practice reps works out should the trigger need to be pulled on a switch mid-game. If not, it'll be yet another questionable decision-making nail in RAC's coaching coffin.
- If the Browns do not give their collection of running backs at least 25-30 attempts in this game, calling for the head of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will become as requisite as calling for his boss's head. The Bengals' defense has given up in excess of 170 yards rushing per game thus far this season. In layman's terms, that means they blow versus the run. Of course, the way the game plays out will determine in the end the run/pass ratio, but if the Browns are not running early and often – especially with an embattled and shaky QB under center – the "genius" label would need to be ripped from Chud's lapel and tossed away, never to return again.
- Browns-killer Chad Johnson is a shell of his former self, and not simply due to his asinine name change. A lingering shoulder injury has left Johnson as little more than a high-priced decoy. The receiver the Browns cornerback tandem of Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright need to focus on is T.J. Houshmagesundheit. The veteran receiver torched the Giants' vaunted defense last week with 12 receptions for nearly 150 yards and a touchdown. Stop him, and you go a long way in stifling what is still a dangerous Bengals' offense.
- The Browns have not scored a rushing touchdown since Week 14 last season, a streak of 159 straight running plays without finding pay dirt. According to STATS Inc., it's the longest such streak in the National Football League. It's just too bad they don't have a weapon like, oh I don't know, like Jerome Harrison on the roster. If they had somebody like him currently on their squad, he could certainly help reverse that statistic. But they don't, so he can't.
- Have I mentioned yet that the Browns really need to run the football today?
- One more damning piece of evidence that Crennel is slowly losing his grip on this football team: the Browns are the most-penalized team in the league – tied with three others – with 28 in three games. You're going to have a hard time beating the dregs of the league averaging a little over nine penalties a game, let alone downing the quality of competition they've faced the first three weeks of the season. Fortunately, one of the aforementioned dregs is on tap, and a crisp, well-played game could go a long way in righting the storm-battered ship.
- With every snap of the ball, it looks as though Phil Savage & Company found a late-round gem with Alex Hall. Watching the progression he's made from the first pre-season game through his first career start in the NFL last Sunday has been quite stunning. The mental lapses are becoming fewer and further between, and his athletic ability just leaps out at you if you focus your attention on him through a series of plays. On the opposite side of the scouting ledger, and with every snap of the ball, it looks as though the very same Savage & Company crapped-out with a high first-round pick. Kamerion Wimbley talked all off-season of shedding his one-trick pony label, but come game time he reverts to the same Shetland he was his sophomore season. The talent is there; whether he maximizes it is still way up in the air.
- Keep that helmet near you at all times this afternoon, Brady Quinn. There's little doubt in my mind you will need it at some point this afternoon. DA's confidence is shot; the Bengals are brimming with confidence following the close loss to the defending Super Bowl champs last week; and the safety's off and RAC's finger is caressing the trigger.
- RUN JAMAL RUN!!!
LAST CALL: Bengals 27, Browns 17 – I haven't been correct on a prediction all year, so hopefully this reverse psychology will work. Then again, it's really not reverse psychology as I truly believe the Browns have nary a prayer in this one. Maybe that makes it reverse-reverse psychology? Whatever, the impending feeling of doom is crushing. I need a beer…