Football is supposed to be a fun game for fans. It is supposed to be a release away from the difficulties of life. For Cleveland Browns fans, football is hardly a fun diversion. Anyone who watched all of the Browns performance on Monday Night Football either was in a coma or a method actor trying to understand suffering. That game was brutal.
The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Browns 16-0. I'm an old school football fan. I like defense. I enjoy a hard-hitting game where defenders fly all over the field and get the best of the quarterbacks and skill players. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. That game had as much to do with Cleveland's ineptitude as it did with Baltimore's defense.
The Browns gained 160 yards. Not good. Quarterback Brady Quinn was 13 of 31 with two interceptions. Not good. Cleveland only crossed midfield twice in the game. The players made mistake after mistake. The good news is that everyone joined in. Why let just a few guys play poorly when it can be a team effort? Togetherness is so much more fun.
The coaching staff is equally to blame. Normally I don't like criticizing assistant coaches. These guys are the football version of non-commissioned officers. They do the grunt work. They're overworked and unappreciated. Brian Daboll is Cleveland's offensive coordinator. He called a lousy game on Monday. That actually might be a generous description. Daboll failed to stretch the field with any kind of a downfield passing attack. He had Quinn throw short pass after short pass. At some point it was almost like a joke between the team, the fans and the viewers.
"He won't really have Quinn throw another short pass will he? Yes, he will."
"Okay, okay. That's it, though. No way he does it again. Oops. Another short pass."
Was that really Daboll running the offense or Andy Kaufman trying to rile up fans with some diabolical scheme? There were times when it sure felt like the theatre of the absurd.
Head coach Eric Mangini had some success with the New York Jets before he was fired following the 2008 season. The Browns quickly hired him, hoping that he was the man to lead their team back to respectability. What's that line about the plans of mice and men? Mangini hasn't won on the field. He's got players mad at him for a variety of reasons. Fans can't be happy with the state of disarray the team is in either. As Captain Willard told Colonel Kurtz, "I don't see any method at all."
Cleveland fans have suffered since the team re-joined the league in 1999. The Browns have only two winning seasons in that span. They have only one playoff appearance. This year's team is especially painful to watch.
The Browns have scored the fewest points in the league. They are on pace to possibly challenge for the NFL record for fewest points scored in a 16-game season. Cleveland has scored just five offensive touchdowns this year. The New Orleans Saints have scored seven touchdowns on defense. Think about that.
I'm not big on calling for coaches to be fired. These guys work hard and quite often have some really tough circumstances to deal with. I do think that owner Randy Lerner should fire Mangini and the offensive coaches after the season. That team needs a leader, a motivator. Mangini is a rule-enforcer. That works well on the right team, but Cleveland isn't that team. A coach's most basic job is to put his players in position to succeed. That isn't happening. At this point Mangini feels more like part of the problem than the solution.
I do have some good news for Browns fans. There are only seven games left until the season is over. Then you get to enjoy the offseason where hope springs eternal. As for the final seven weeks, just think about something relaxing like a long day of work, sitting in traffic court, or having major oral surgery. That should be enough to get you through another miserable performance by the Browns.