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The Browns and Garoppolo

Seth Wickersham’s excellent piece about the building feud between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady is one of the hotter things on the Internet now, for good reason. It offers great insight into how people wear on each other — it’s like one of those great VH1 “Behind the Music” Documentaries that way — and also how success blows up ego.

Of course, the only takeaway I got out of it was: “Oh, so THAT is why the Browns didn’t get Jimmy Garoppolo.”

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The Hall of Fame Ballot

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The Unwinnables

First, we bow to the achievement: It is really, really, really hard to go 0-16. The 1980 New Orleans Saints couldn’t do it and, apparently, that entire team was coked up. The 1989 Dallas Cowboys couldn’t do it even with all the bad mojo that came from Jerry Jones firing Tom Landry. The 1990 New England Patriots — who played eleven games that they NEVER LED — couldn’t do it. The 1991 Indianapolis Colts couldn’t do it even with Jeff George as their quarterback.

The 1996 Jets of Rich Kotite — when he was fired at the end of the season the New York Post ran a backpage headline that said “End of an Error” — couldn’t do it. The 2000 San Diego Chargers with Ryan Leaf couldn’t do it. George Seifert’s dreadful 2001 Carolina Panthers could not help but beat Minnesota to kick off their lost season. The 2007 Miami Dolphins started quarterbacks named Cleo Lemon and John Beck and had an atrocious defense but couldn’t do it. The 2009 St. Louis Rams under the watchful eye of Steve Spagnuolo seemed to have a great chance to lose them all, but then they faced the Lions.

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Browns 0-15

I had this scary moment late in the third quarter of the Browns’ typically humiliating 20-3 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday. The Browns were down by 17 and were driving. On third and 3 from the Bears’ 20, quarterback DeShone Kizer dropped back to throw, faced down the pressure, and threw a little pass to Browns receiver Rashard Higgins who caught the ball for the first down as he fell to his knees.

Thing is, Higgins was not touched while he was on the ground — probably because nobody on the Bears figured he was worth covering. Higgins has already been waived and placed on the practice squad and brought back to the team this year; in his first game back he caught seven passes for 95 yards and flashed some real talent. It goes without saying this proved to be an illusion and he has been invisible ever since. Anyway, Higgins had the presence of mind to get back to his feet and start running toward the end zone.

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To Vote Tactically

I started voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame more than 10 years ago, and all the while I’ve had a core philosophy to always vote for the 10 BEST players (assuming there are at least 10 Hall of Fame worthy players on the ballot). As you no doubt know, the Hall of Fame limits voters to 10 players. This was not an especially big problem when I started voting because in, say, 2006, there were not more than 10 fully qualified Hall of Fame candidates on the ballot.

By Jay Jaffe’s JAWS — which measures a player career/peak WAR against that of the average Hall of Famer — the Top 10 candidates in 2006 were (in parentheses I put the player’s JAWS and what I call JAWS+, which works like OPS+ and shows how he compares with the average Hall of Famer):

1. Bert Blyleven (73 JAWS, 118 JAWS+)

2. Goose Gossage (37 JAWS, 108 JAWS+)

3. Alan Trammell (57.5 JAWS, 105 JAWS+)

4. Andre Dawson (53.5 JAWS, 93 JAWS+)

5. Will Clark (46 JAWS, 84 JAWS+)

6. Jim Rice (41.8 JAWS, 78 JAWS+)

7. Orel Hershiser (48.4, 78 JAWS+)

8. Tommy John (48.4, 78 JAWS+)

9. Dale Murphy (43.6 JAWS, 75 JAWS+)

10. Dwight Gooden (46.1 JAWS, 74 JAWS+)

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RIP Dick Enberg

Dick Enberg: “Draw to Byner … Ernest Byner … fumbled the ball and Denver has recovered. Oh, my!”

Here’s how good Dick Enberg was: He brought me the worst sports news of my life. Repeatedly. And I loved him anyway. He always seemed to be there when my world came crashing down, there to call the John Elway drive against the Cleveland Browns, there to call the Byner fumble the next year as you see above, there every year it seemed to deliver that devastating news that, no, the Browns were not going to make it to the Super Bowl again, sorry about that.

Maybe it was the “sorry about that,” part of Dick Enberg’s broadcasting style that made me and so many love him. He didn’t want your team or my team to lose. You could tell. He didn’t want to bring you bad news. You could hear it in his voice. Enberg was, first and foremost, a sports fan. There was comfort in that. Dick Enberg knew how you felt.

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The Browns and the 1962 Mets

Most people would consider the 1962 Mets to be the worst team in baseball history. Sure, you can talk about the 1899 Cleveland Spiders who lost 134 games, but that was a whole different time, a whole different era. Those Spiders were so bad and drew so poorly that teams simply stopped coming to Cleveland. No, seriously, they just stopped coming. They said that the revenue from Cleveland games didn’t even cover their expenses.

Wonder if NFL teams can do that now.

As a result, the Spiders played eight of their last 93 games at home. In all, that team played 112 out of 154 games on the road … and lost 101 road games. The Spiders were their own thing.

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Browns 0-14

This has been a fantastic year to give up the NFL. All year long, I’ve only heard whispers about what I assume are major NFL storylines — some Ryan Shazier hit (or was he hit?), some quarterback (Tom Savage?) who went into convulsions at being crunched and was soon put back into the game, the continuing insistence that a warm English muffin could play quarterback better than Colin Kaepernick — and I don’t care. At all. There is so much else to care about. Giving up the NFL and all of its trappings and nonsense has been nothing less than wonderful.

Sunday, though, I briefly got caught back up in the NFL web. I didn’t like it one bit.

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Browns to 0-13

I guess we will begin this epic recap of an epic week in the epic Cleveland Browns history with a common refrain: I knew the Browns were going to lose to Green Bay Sunday. I knew it. People kept texting me that they were going to win. The announcers seemed to think they were going to win. Logic suggested they were going to win.

I knew they were going to lose.

I’m not bragging. Why would anyone brag about such a thing? It is our curse as Browns fans. We are like Salieri; we are the only ones who can hear and understand the true genius of Mozart.The  Browns were up 14 in the fourth quarter. The Packers looked eager to lose. The Browns even seemed to complete a first-down pass late that would have all but iced the game.

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Browns go to 0-12

I had this weird feeling on Sunday that the Cleveland Browns were going to win. I almost never have this feeling, for obvious reasons, so it was noticeable. Things just seemed lined up. The Browns were playing the Los Angeles Chargers in LA where nobody cares about them. The Chargers needed to win the game in order to pull into an improbable three-way tie in the AFC West and such pressure often plays havoc with a mediocre team’s mindset. The Chargers had to scoop up a kicker off their practice squad this week, and he missed a 38-yard field goal right off the bat. so that seemed like it would play a part in the story too.

And, mostly, the Chargers are just the sort of team that loses to the Browns. That’s what they did last year. The Chargers just seem perpetually doomed.The Browns have not beaten a non-Chargers team since December 13, 2015 when they beat a terrible 49ers team. The Browns have not beaten a non-California team since October 11, 2015 when they toppled a terrible Baltimore team in overtime.

Just to keep this going: The Browns have not beaten a team with a winning record since — are you ready for this — they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on November 6, 2014, more than three years ago. The Browns quarterback was, no kidding, Brian Hoyer. The Browns have started EIGHT DIFFERENT QUARTERBACKS since their last victory over a team a with a winning record.

Yeah, I have no idea WHY I thought the Browns were going to beat the Chargers on Sunday.

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