EDITOR'S NOTE: Your narrator has once again subjected himself to the inhumane abuse of a
"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
- Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet (1914-1953)
That putrid stench is the odor of
It's also the reek of my fury and rage at having shelled out $120 for a pair of 50-yard line seats to witness yet another mind-boggling implosion of ineptitude and catastrophic incompetence at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Only a glutton for punishment would watch live the NFL version of the fall of
A truly dreadful second-half performance by the Browns on Sunday revealed that this team is still several seasons away from being a serious post-season contender, and faces significant questions about Tim Couch's abilities - and future as Cleveland's quarterback.
Where does one even begin deconstructing the loss?
The players certainly had a significant hand in the collapse, but Sunday was a case of the sideline brain trust being outfoxed in the chess match of the X's and O's.
The bottom line is that inexcusable bungling by the coaching staff led directly to defeat. Whomever made the decision to leave second-year cornerback Anthony Henry - who's struggled all season - in man-to-man coverage with Marvin Harrison should be fired immediately. Compounding the blunder - besides the abysmal play of the defense in general and Henry's pathetic and appallingly clumsy job - was the inability of the coaching staff to make the proper adjustments to relieve or assist Henry.
How many times was
In the first half, veteran corner Corey Fuller relied on experience and technique to limit
Obviously, the strategy failed miserably, and likely cost the team its then-realistic shot at playing in January.
Instead, a string of failed pass plays from the 5-yard line fell incomplete and
Words almost fail me. Almost.
The loss was tragic. The Browns were on the verge of capturing the city's heart by playing a significant game in December, but a slipshod performance reminded everyone that this team is just another motley collection of second-tier punks who are more bark than bite. That's been the city's football curse since Jim Brown, Frank Ryan and Gary Collins brought home the team's last championship 38 years ago.
Today's Browns boast, strut, flex and mug for the camera, but in prime time they fold like cheap suits. The defense is gaining an ignominious reputation for allowing nobody back-ups like Indy's James Mungro and
Worse, defensive coordinator Foge Fazio in back-to-back games has orchestrated boneheaded decisions that left the defense vulnerable to quick dives up the middle – and paid the price. Mungro and the Jags' Fred Taylor both knifed through the defense almost untouched for long, back-breaking touchdown runs.
In football terms, Fazio's botched playcalling shows he's a senile old hack that should be weighted down with bricks and tossed into the
Besides, it's a stone fact that if all the employees love the boss, he's doing something wrong.
What's the best word to describe the play of the defense in the most important game of the season?
6. All of the above.
Hmm, what might the answer be ... If you have trouble deciding, come back to the quiz next month when you're watching a dozen teams not from Cleveland in the playoffs. You can look back to Sunday's game as much as the season-opening helmet toss or the freak defeat at
While you're rabid, Tim Couch will be sunning himself - along with his piles of undeserved millions and a Bentley - somewhere far from the sound and fury of the disappointed and heartbroken city by the lake.
Can you feel the seething anger in each of these keystrokes?
It's not as if the Browns' general frailty is a sudden development. Sunday's defeat should have been the third consecutive for
What progress has been made in a year? Doesn't seem like much.
As for that game two weeks ago at
Let's get back to the subject of Tim Couch, a somewhat more talented and younger version of the disastrous Mike Phipps.
Couch was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1999 draft and is paid to win games like Sunday's home match against
Evidence continues to mount that Couch doesn't have the mental ability to take his performance to the next level. Even casual fans notice his alarming tendency to lock onto a receiver, often Kevin Johnson, then force the ball despite multiple defenders.
Couch seems confused and unable to handle defensive pressure when his primary receiver is blanketed. He'll stumble around the pocket - when the offensive line performs well enough to create one - until he forces a pass or is sacked. He shows almost no inclination to run the ball, a tendency that cost the Browns Sunday's game.
Trailing 28-23 with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter while on the Colts' 5-yard line, Couch forced a fourth down pass to rookie Andre Davis that fell incomplete. During the play, the pocket and pressure had drifted behind Couch, who had a blocker and open space between him and the goal line.
Instead of doing the smart thing - rumbling ahead for the easy score - he tried to do too much, and ended up costing the Browns a realistic chance at their first postseason berth since 1994.
Couch didn't disgrace himself statistically Sunday, completing 21-of-35 passes for 287 yards with no interceptions.
Some of the blame lies with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who continues to perplex through his impatient play-calling.
When William Green or other running backs have found room, it's opened up passing lanes for Couch and the receivers.
On Sunday, Arians called Green's number just seven times in the second half. The rookie ground out 28 yards on those carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run to put
Green finished with 69 yards rushing on 22 carries.
The high-impact cutback runs and fake end-around dives up the middle were absent Sunday. Arians kept calling long stretch runs around the corner despite the Colts loading up the corners with linebackers and safeties. When Green was finding little or no gain on those play calls, and on other calls, Couch was being dropped for significant losses on first down because of sacks or botched execution.
Then, it was all over.
Now, whatever slender hope remains for the postseason - a place the Browns most assuredly do not deserve - rests on the tender mercies of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hell, after this much mistreatment and cruelty every Sunday, it's not worth my time or yours to divine what could happen over the next two weeks. There's simply no credible reason to believe
Another 7-9 finish is my prediction. I hope it's wrong, but I doubt it I am. It might even do the team good in the end if such a finish forces management and the coaching staff to make the proper changes.
Here's some random thoughts and observations from the crevices of my diseased mind:
· For those of you that play Madden Football 2003 on PlayStation2, look closely at
· For those of us that remember and love truly good 1970s music, Steely Dan is releasing a new studio album sometime in 2003. That follows 2000's "Two Against Nature" – only the band's second new album since 1980. For younger readers, Steely Dan is the duo that won the 2000 Grammy over Eminem.
· Coming in January is a new book by Hunter S. Thompson, whose literary canon gives this column its name.
· Vic Carucci last week called
· It's the rage among sports writers this season to talk about "Cover 2" defenses. Every year there's a buzzword. In other years, it was the "wham" play and the "zone blitz."
Pro football is a complex game once you get inside the X's and O's. Philosophies abound and playbooks can make
Doc Gonzo is a former