Mark my words, sometime between now and next Sunday's rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, someone from virtually every media outlet that covers the Cleveland Browns, not to mention thousands of fans, will insist that the Browns are a better team without Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Granted, the Browns have been at their best offensively in the two games Winslow missed – the 35-14 Monday Night victory over the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and in Sunday's super thrilling 23-17 victory at Jacksonville.
But by saying that the offensive explosions and defensive efforts were the result of not having arguably the team's best player on the field is akin to saying the Boston Red Sox were a better team without malcontent Manny Ramirez.
No way, Jose!
Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I am not a big fan of Winslow. Never have been, never will be. I haven't been since first exposed to his me-first attitude when he was a rookie.
But to suggest that his attitude is the reason this team is just 3-4 overall and 2-0 without him in the lineup, you have to be thinking with your heart, not your head. The reality of the matter is that last year's 10-6 record was a much better reflection of what Winslow means to this team.
There's no way you take away a player with Winslow's offensive skills and his burning desire to succeed and suddenly become a better team.
For whatever reason, it just seems that offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski this season has done a much better job of game-planning without Winslow.
That's not Winslow's fault.
And, for some unknown reason, Derek Anderson is much more accurate with his passes and does a better job of reading defenses when Winslow is not available.
And that's certainly not Winslow's fault, either.
My theory is that both Chudzinski and Anderson put undo pressure upon themselves to make sure Winslow is a large part of the game plan. By doing so, they limit what the rest of the team can do, either by cutting down on the carries for Jamal Lewis, or possibly by Anderson looking Winslow's way when other opportunities are available.
Also, there's no reason why Steve Heiden, who has done a tremendous job of filling in for Winslow, should be a forgotten man just because Winslow is available. Chudzinski's rollout call on fourth-and-one that resulted in a 51-yard pass from Anderson to Heiden that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis, was a stroke of genius. That type of ingenuity has been missing far too often in games in which Winslow has played.
Somehow, someway Chudzinski must find a way to incorporate Winslow's talent into the overall offensive scheme without limiting other key players. If he does that, then this offense can be even better than last year's potent attack.
The Browns' players and coaching staff deserves a great deal of credit for Sunday's outstanding effort. With all that transpired with Winslow's suspension and the eventual retraction of his one-game fine in the days and hours leading up to the game, it would have been very easy to have their attention diverted.
Instead, they came out and played an all-around excellent game, one that included only one penalty and no turnovers. The easiest way to determine whether a team has its collective head in the game is to look at those two areas. Obviously, those were two big reasons why the Browns were able to stay competitive against a solid Jaguars team.
The first quarter touchdown pass from Anderson to Dante Stallworth took a gorilla off the back of both players. For Stallworth, it was his first touchdown reception for the Browns. And for Anderson, it was the first time this season he led the team to a touchdown in the first quarter.
I loved the way the Browns played in the fourth quarter. Leading by six with less than two minutes to play, the Browns' defense kept the pressure on, including a successful blitz by safety Brodney Pool.
Also, Joshua Cribbs came up with a couple of excellent special teams plays. They weren't the type plays you might assume would be made by one of the best return men in the game. Instead, he recovered a key fumble that set up the Browns' final field goal and also made an outstanding tackle on the final punt return.
None of that had anything to do with Winslow's absence.
As stated earlier, the Cleveland Browns are NOT a better football team without K2. They just seem to play like one.