Folks, I think this thing has finally bottomed out and is on the rise. In my unfettered optimism, I may overlook a few problems, but regardless, I had more fun watching football on Sunday than I have since about the midpoint of last season. Is it ok to accept a loss, call it a moral victory, and act like everything is ok sitting at 0-4? I say yes.
Ok, maybe it is a little pathetic. I don't know and I really don't care. No one thought this team was playoff bound and they were right. So the only logical goal this season is to get this thing moving in the right direction and to build a team. I for one will take a hard fought overtime loss over last week's sight of Brady Quinn standing on the sidelines with the uncomfortable look of a man that just made doodie in his pants while his backup throws three interceptions and I lay comatose on my couch next to an open bottle of Prozac and an empty bottle of Makers Mark (I also may or may not have had the look of a man that just made doodie in his pants). Now that sir, is pathetic.
So we are building a team. Sounds good right? See you next week… Oh, you want the proof? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE PROOF! Oops, sorry. A Few Good Men was on cable last night. But how about this for proof: Mohamed Massaquoi and Jerome Harrison combined for an entire season's worth of production in one game. Well, at least by recent Browns' standards. Are those two going to the Pro Bowl this year? I say yes. Well fine, no, they probably are not. But, we fans have been pleading for young, unproven players like them to get a chance. It turns out that, yeah, we are geniuses.
Speaking of Massaquoi, his touchdown (at least for the few minutes it stood) and the ensuing reaction was a microcosm of why this was a fun game to watch. The whole team erupted in celebration. I thought Alex Mack was going to send Massaquoi into the stands the way he was sprinting toward the end zone. Mangini even cracked a rare smile and slapped DA on the ass as he came off the field. As Mo Mass received hugs, high fives, and smiles from the whole sideline, it became apparent that this team has not quit.
Not quitting is great and all, but to build a team we need some talent too, right? Good point. Of course we do and luckily Mangini seems to be finding a little on this roster. For starters, we finally have a second receiver that can be more than a JAG (Just A Guy). Harrison is proving each week that he can make plays whether he is a feature back or not. Alex Mack has improved every week and his aggressiveness is beginning to show. And Joe Thomas…. (Actually, hold on a second, Joe deserves his own paragraph.)
Joe Thomas, my man crush on you is growing every week. If Thomas ever goes to prison, I will commit a felony just so I can become his prison bitch. Wait… err… I meant.. Oh screw it, that's where I'm at. While I come to terms with that self revelation, think about this: Jared Allen, Terrell Suggs, and Antwan Odom. Zero sacks (I'm not counting the gift DA gave Odom). If Thomas had a tiny bit of a sophomore slump, he has rebounded in style by absolutely locking down some terrific pass rushers.
On defense, a core of talent also seems to be emerging. D'Qwell continues to rack up tackles, Wimbley is starting to fulfill his rookie promise with three sacks through 4 games, and Brodney Pool absolutely played his ass off this week. Eric Wright is becoming a fantastic cover corner and Mike Adams played himself a solid game while making the start at the other corner. Then there is Shaun Rogers. I would make another uncomfortable, slightly homoerotic pronouncement here except that, frankly, that man scares me. He's a beast. I'll leave it at that.
No discussion of this team being on the rise would be complete without mentioning the coaching staff. No longer do Browns fans have to live in fear of the officials. Gone are the days of bottlegate and the helmet toss. Thank you Rob Ryan. When that third down flag came out for pass interference, Ryan went all scary and threatened to punch that ref in the throat and the penalty disappeared. Ok, I made part of that up, but regardless the flag was waved off and I felt just a little safer.
In all seriousness, the coaching change that can't be ignored was the thawing of Eric Mangini. He was seen talking, yelling, and even smiling throughout this game and the team clearly responded. In discussing the week of practice during the postgame, Braylon Edwards said of Mangini, "He had a different feel about him." Well so did this team and I am finally looking forward to Sunday again.