The Indians? Sure, there's plenty to talk about after some very good moves at the winter meetings; however, keeping in mind that my goal is to make my first post memorable, waxing poetic about minor league second basemen and 30 something closers doesn't seem like the right thing to do.
So, that leaves me with the Browns. Wait a minute, that can't be right. How can I write a memorable post about the most loathsome, disgusting, vomit-inducing team to hit Cleveland in the last decade? Well, after some thought, I have realized that now is the perfect time to write about the Browns. I think of this post as a time capsule. If I really explore my feelings about the Browns now, one day, long into the future when the Browns are a respectable organization, I will be able to go back to this post and remember just how bad things were and how much the good times shouldn't be taken for granted. So, here goes . . .
The Cleveland Browns are an embarrassing organization. And I'm not even just talking about the players. I'm talking about the entire organization, top to bottom. I'm talking about the entity.
When most people talk about the Browns, the begin by talking about the players or the coaching staff. To me, that's missing the point. When a business is failing, you don't look first to the employees or middle management. You go right to the top. The same rule should apply to the Browns. So, with that in mind, lets look from the top down.
The man at the very top is Randy Lerner. The cliche' thing to do when discussing Lerner would be to prattle on about English Football and spout off a bunch of platitudes about commitment and dedication. Truthfully, however, I'm not sure at this point that there is really that much blame that can be placed at Lerner's feet. He spends tons of money and he lets his football people run the organization. At most, he is guilty of being naive and putting his faith in the wrong people, or perhaps more specifically, the wrong person.
That's a nice transition into a discussion of the man that I view to be the main culprit in the continued atrociousness of the Browns: Mr. Phil Savage. I despise Savage. I think he's a smug little weasel. I think he rode into town on Ozzie Newsome's record and has done nothing but destroy the Browns ever since. But, when I say he's destroyed the Browns, I'm not even really talking about his crappy draft record or mostly disappointing free agent signings. I'm talking about his mismanagement of the people below him and the toxic culture he has fostered within the organization. Honestly, I have too many grievances with Savage to write in detail about all of them so I will just list a few of my favorites:
1. Allowing Romeo to retain Carthon 7 games into the 06 season;
2. Being a condescending little penis to the local media while pretending to be Jesus in front of national writers like Peter King;
3. Purposely antagonizing his tight end in the media because he was too childish to be the bigger man;
4. Mediocre overall drafts;
5. Mediocre overall free agent signings;
6. Extending an overmatched coach after one decent season against a bad schedule;
7. And last but not least, telling a Browns fan to fuck off and then letting his head coach handle the press conference discussing it.
Savage is a cancer. You can't build a great organization when the man running it is a self-aggrandizing unaccountable childish asshole. It just won't work, and that is why even though I don't directly fault Randy Lerner for this shitstorm, he takes some of the blame for Savage. He should've never extended Savage after last season. There is no rule written anywhere that says that coaches and GMs are not allowed to come close to the end of their contracts, especially when their performance has been a mixed bag at best. Then, even after extending Savage, Lerner should have fired him "for cause" the day he sent the now famous fan e-mail. If Lerner retains Savage after this season, my opinion of him will tank. It has been well documented that Lerner is fond of Savage, but if he lets that friendship prevent him from making a change that is absolutely necessary to improve the organization, he will essentially be telling the Cleveland fans to fuck off in his own subtle little way. Ok, enough on those two.
Romeo. Does anything even need to be said? In a way, it's funny that he's managed to coach this team for this long but in truth, it's just an embarrassment. The fans and the rest of the world have known he's a joke for several years. How the Browns have not yet figured this out is just beyond me. Either they're blind or they just don't care. Whatever the reason, it's not worth talking about anymore because he's out.
So, those are the figureheads of the Browns as an organization. It's pathetic. In the NFL, more than any other professional sport, it's the quality of the organization that really determines the number of wins and losses year in and year out. That's why teams like Indy, Pittsburgh, and New England are usually winners while bad organizations like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Oakland are usually terrible despite the fact that the draft should make things cyclical. A quality organization manages to field a quality team. If you have a bunch of hacks on the sidelines and in the front office, the product on the field will almost always bear a striking resemblance.
Last but not least, the players...and oh what a special day it is to talk about the players in light of Braylon's little rant today. Now listen, I'm not stupid enough to believe that you can't win titles with thugs and primadonnas on your team. Teams do it all the time. But, what I do believe is that you can't have these guys in key positions leading your team, and you have to have enough high character guys and a strong enough head coach to negate their impact (See Giants, New York). The Browns have amassed a nice little collection of turds, shitheads, and worst of all, mental midgets on this roster. Yet, that fact alone shouldn't be enough to make this team this bad. The problem is that not only are these people on the team, they actually "leading" it. That is a perfect recipe for the type of disaster that has taken place this year.
A few noteworthy individuals:
Braylon Edwards: The sad thing about Braylon is that he's going to have at least a few more great seasons before it's all said and done. The guy has too much talent to be bad forever. He's got the football version of the shanks right now but it won't always be that way. He's going to have more pro-bowl seasons, but unfortunately, my guess is they will be in another city. It's a shame that Braylon had to put the finishing touches on his master plan to get out of town after a season in which he had Browns fans pining for the sure hands of Dennis Northcutt. His has lost a significant amount of value. With his talent, he's probably still worth a late first rounder (Roy Williams anyone?) but this is just a huge blow to the future of the team. He's a cancer and they have to get rid of him but man, with the right head on his shoulders, he could've been a great piece for the new regime to build around.
Derek Anderson: Savage botched this one. He was scared that if he traded the Browns first "Pro Bowl" quarterback in forever and Quinn flopped, he'd be massacred. The truth is that the handwriting was on the wall last year when Anderson was terrible in the second half of the season. Instead of working out a trade with one of the numerous quarterback desperate teams this summer and giving the team to Quinn, Savage probably just took a first round pick and turned it into a 4th rounder and a nice little accellerated cap charge. Well done sir. As for Anderson himself, the guy can seriously blow me. Anyone who tells Peter King that the team "got its swagger back" after beating the Bengals is obviously a jackass. Worse, in spite of his laser arm, the fact that he's such a mental midget will prevent him from ever being an upper echelon starter. Anderson's favorite pastimes include disappearing from games in which he starts poorly and loses his confidence and crying to the media about being unloved. Ah, just what I'm looking for in my starting quarterback. Get him out of my life.
K2: I'm sorry....I know he plays hard but I want him out of my life too. He was 100% right in his war with Savage this season but I still want him gone. He can't keep his mouth shut, he doesn't block anyone, and he's got the body of a 50 year old. The Browns should move him while he still has value.
Overall, the Browns are just a sad sad organization in a city in which the fans live and die with their football team. The wounds these guys have inflicted on the fanbase this year will take a long time to heal. Its hard to believe that less than 4 months ago, I was thinking about playoff games after watching the team march down the field and score in their first preseason game. What a sad disgusting season. What a sad disgusting team. God, I want them all to disappear.
This completes my Browns time capsule post. I vow not to speak of them again until the draft.
Now, about those Cavs...