By In Stuff

Browns Diary: Never Give Up

–“The Browns haven’t given up. You have to credit them for that.”
Announcer Trent Green with 4:58 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.

“I agree with not calling a timeout here. They’re down two touchdowns … just get out of here.”
Announcer Trent Green with 1:12 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.

* * *

Trent Green is an old pal, so I’m not singling him out here. This is what you get when you watch Cleveland Browns football*. One minute, the announcer is overwhelmingly impressed by how the Browns just don’t quit. They next minute, the announcer advising the Browns to, yeah, go ahead and quit before someone else gets hurt. It’s a Browns life.

*Honestly, why would you do that to yourself?

Let’s talk for a minute, though, about this whole no-quit concept, the whole “They never gave up, even when they were down, even when they were out, even when the odds were against them and the boys were up against it, even when the team fell into the moat with the killer shark, even when the entire planet of Alderaan was blown up, even when the British had them surrounded with no visible means of escape, THEY NEVER GAVE UP,” idea.

I feel sure it’s the worst announcer thing in sports at the moment.

There are other contenders for worst announcer thing, lots of them, but the whole “they never gave up,” thing is impossibly stupid. Here’s how you know it’s stupid: Announcers don’t really expect bad teams to give up. And they certainly don’t believe bad teams deserve actual credit for simply continuing to play. It’s nonsensical. Everyone should remember the moment a few years back when Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was prompted to praise his Wildcats for staying with it even while Nebraska piled on.

“Well,” one reporter said. “At least your team never gave up.”

“They don’t let you give up,” Snyder grumped.

They really don’t.

But even more to the point — as a Browns fan, you hear the announcer credit them EVERY SINGLE WEEK for not giving up. It’s a staple of every Browns broadcast. But, truth is, the announcers have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA if the Browns have secretly given up. On Sunday in Twickenham, England.* facing the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns punted twice in the fourth quarter when down two touchdowns. That’s kind of giving up.

*Text from Mike Schur: “Feel legitimately bad for Twickenham that they got a Browns game. Feels like a violation of WW2-era international allied forces agreement or something.

The Browns left Twickenham with two timeouts in Hue Jackson’s pockets. That’s kind of giving up.

The Browns were outscored 21-3 in the second half by a Minnesota team that could not have played more uninspired football in the first half. That’s kind of giving up.

The Browns have won once in their last 27 games (or twice in their last 35 games if you prefer that arbitrary but illustrative cutoff point).

Point being: If they haven’t given up, well, I don’t want to see what giving up would look like.

***

The Browns played at 8:30 a.m. Houston time because of the whole Twickenham thing, and I fully planned to sleep through the bulk of the game. Game 4 of the World Series wasn’t too long, certainly not by Game 5 standards, but but because of various things I didn’t even get out of Minute Maid Park until 2 a.m. I decided: If I wake up, I wake up. But I’m not going to try to get up just to see this Browns team play.

But, clearly, this Browns thing is a sickness. I groggily woke up and wanted to go back to sleep. But I looked at the clock. It was was, no kidding, 8:28 a.m.

I decided to go back to sleep anyway — inner Browns’ clock be damned. I was in bed for 15 minutes when someone knocked on my hotel room door. I tried to ignore it, but they just kept knocking and knocking and knocking. Finally I got up, went to the door, and there was a hotel employee there.

“Here,” she said, and she held out her hand to give me … a corkscrew.

“I’m sorry?” I said groggily.

“You called down to order a bottle opener,” she said quite definitively.

“No, I didn’t,” i said.

“Oh, OK,” she said, and she walked away, and I was so baffled and perturbed that I gave up and realized that the fates will never ever stop haunting me; the fates will make me watch the Browns in not-so-quiet suffering for the rest of my life.

***

I’ll tell you who Trent Green and the rest should be celebrating for having never given up: You and me. Why do we do this to ourselves? There’s an unspoken pact between fan and team. We (fans) stay loyal through the hard times and suffering. They (team) do all they can to get better and provide joy.

Begin here: It isn’t easy to win games at the highest level. Super smart and driven people work around the clock to find good players, to develop them, to coach them up, to put them in positions to succeed. Gigantic sums of money are spent. Scouts meticulously break down the other teams in an impressive effort to find a tiny edge — a flaw in a formation, a tell from one of the players, a weak link in the offensive or defensive line. It is very hard to win in the NFL, so we fans endure the losing years based on the hope that things will get better, we endure knowing that people are working around the clock to make sure  that things get better.

It is that enduring hope —  the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — that at this moment in my life as a Browns fan makes me want to throw up.

It’s bad, I know. Hope should be celebrated. But I can’t help it. I see people saying or tweeting positive things about the Browns — how the plan really IS working, how stockpiling draft picks will so pay off, how well next year’s draft sets up, how passing on Deshaun Watson wasn’t that bad a move — and it sparks this tidal wave of irrational anger inside me.

The Watson thing drives me especially mad. As I’ve written here before, I don’t follow college football anymore (I don’t really follow the NFL either except for the Browns). But even I was well aware of how amazing Deshaun Watson was at Clemson, well aware of his performance, well aware of the way he played against Alabama, well aware of him seeming to be this ideal young man, loved by every coach and teammate and fan and professor and opponent.

The Browns, who have been without a quarterback since, roughly, 1957, were in position to take Watson with the 12th pick in the draft. It wasn’t even their top pick because, as you know, they love stockpiling draft picks. Watson dropped down to them and seemed a pretty logical choice.

Now, let me repeat: I don’t watch college football. So I would not not be the person to know if Deshaun Watson has the skills to be a successful NFL quarterback. I trust the organization I helplessly love to do that kind of scouting. And the Browns brass decided that, no, Deshaun Watson does not have the skill set. It wasn’t personal, as far as I know. They must have decided that Watson lacks, I don’t know, the arm strength or the accuracy or the judgment or the pocket presence or the leadership qualities or something else. They traded out of their slot, basically giving Watson to the Houston Texans for a draft pick.

OK, so you trust that the organization knows something. They must have done all their homework on Watson, right? A little later, the Browns took Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, and he was kind of dreadful at Notre Dame, and scouts seemed to have a lot of questions about his ability to make quick decisions, but again, you trust your organization. They’re trying to win games to bring you joy.

And then the season began, and even though I’m not watching much I do know that Deshaun Watson is LIKE THIS UNBELIEVABLE BLEEPING SUPERSTAR WHO RUNS ALL OVER THE FIELD AND MAKES MIND BOGGLING THROWS AND LEADS THE NFL IN TOUCHDOWN PASSES AND GIVES HIS FIRST PAYCHECK TO HELP REBUILD HOUSTON AFTER THE FLOOD AND ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME WITH THIS???????

“My God, Houston’s so lucky,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said after he played against Watson. “By next year, he’s going to be a Top 5 quarterback in this league, and that includes the two big dogs (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers). He makes you dig into the deepest part of your competitive juices to beat him.”

ARRRRRGHHHHH!!!!!!

OK, but you know what makes me even angrier than the Browns so badly missing on Deshaun Watson? I’ll tell you: It’s that  hopeful theme that is not a catastrophe, not at all, that this is part of a bigger plan, that the Browns actually have a winning plan in place.

You hear it in every, “Well, Deshaun Watson wouldn’t be looking this good if he was playing for the Browns with their lack of weapons.”

You hear it in, “The Browns didn’t want to waste a first-round pick on a quarterback at this stage in their rebuilding process.”

You hear it in, “Next year’s quarterback class is so good that the Browns will get someone even better than Watson and also a great receiver and, oh boy, it will be great then.”

You hear it in, “Let’s see what DeShone Kizer can do when they get him some skill position players.”

All of these thoughts, every one of them, make want to bang my head against a wall. There is no super-secret plan. There is no justification for this kind of incompetence. There is no hope for a team that consistently misses badly in the draft and consistently gets outcoached and outplayed on the field and consistently promises better days without offering one iota of proof that they know what they’re doing. There’s no hope for a team that needs a quarterback the way the Astros need bullpen help and then looks at Deshaun Watson and says, “Eh, no, not for us.”

I believe this: Individually, the people running the team and coaching the team, are very smart. But the team is flat dumb. And stop telling me how many high draft picks they have. When you never win any games, yeah, they give you a lot of high draft picks, and if you never take any good players, yeah, you can turn those draft picks to get more draft picks, and this takes no skill at all. It just takes a lot of gall and a lack of pride. The credit this team gets for accumulating draft picks through sheer awfulness utterly blows my mind.

Anyway, even then, what good are high draft picks if you don’t even take Deshaun Watson?

Give up? Yeah, Trent, I’d love to give up. But I can’t. That’s the hell of it. I can’t.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

32 Responses to Browns Diary: Never Give Up

  1. Will says:

    John,

    This is inspired writing. Your pain is your readers’ pleasure.

    Beginning to think my kids’ high school team could beat the Browns (they are certainly better coached).

  2. Tom says:

    Will: Who’s John?

  3. Marc Schneider says:

    I wish there were still coaches around like John McKay with the famous quote when he was coaching the Bucs: “Q: What do you think about your team’s execution? A: I’m for it.”

    I realize that’s a mean thing to say and would not be acceptable today, but, damn, it’s funny and it fits teams like the Browns (whose players, after all, are making a hell of a lot more money than the Bucs players in 1976).

    I always wonder what people in the front office think when they see the team continuing to lose. Do they still think, hey, I know what I’m doing? Or do they begin to realize, man, I really suck at this. It seems that teams that are mediocre to bad to terrible should at some point realize we have really screwed things up, maybe we aren’t cut out for this (or at least the owner should). Don’t they get tired of being a laughing stock? But it never seems to happen. The Redskins aren’t as bad as the Browns but for 25 years they have kept talking about how they really are good and we just can’t understand why we keep losing. Maybe it’s because you are incompetent.

    And the thing is, especially in the NFL, it really doesn’t matter. They will still sell out the stadium and get their TV money. Maybe, financially, they are better off losing.

  4. Bryan says:

    According to Forbes, Haslam paid $987mil in 2012 for a business with $365mil in annual revenue, $97mil in annual income (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.) and a business valued at just under $2bil in 2017, about 10% more valuable than the Bengals the only less valuable franchise.
    *
    It really doesn’t matter to Haslam.

  5. Brad says:

    Wait until KC starts playing Mahomes then Joe can write a column about how the Chiefs passed on Watson.

    • Zach says:

      It doesn’t matter. The Chiefs looove Mahomes. Right or wrong, they think they got their man.

      It would be one thing if the Browns were totally in love with Kizer. But if you’re not in love with Kizer, why would you let some other team buy you out of your quarterback? Just because someone offers a trade doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

      • Eric says:

        Well, the Browns didn’t let some other team buy them out of their quarterback —
        they just didn’t believe in Watson.

        The Kizer pick is not related to the Watson pick. In Kizer, they were taking a stab at what they thought was an undervalued asset who had been rated as a top-five pick for most of his collegiate career. They were hoping to find a diamond in the rough. If Kizer had not been there, I suspect they would have been perfectly happy not taking a qb at all in that draft.

        • Zach says:

          Yeah, but hear me out:

          Taking somebody just because they’re an undervalued commodity, or trading down in the draft because you don’t think anybody’s worth the slot value, is a form of giving up. You’re letting “the market” make your decisions for you.

          The point of the draft is to spend draft picks and accumulate players. It’s not a market where there are some natural sellers and some natural buyers. Everybody’s a buyer, because everybody gets draft picks for free and needs to exchange them for players.

          The only way to beat the system is to draft good players. Passing on good players to accumulate more draft picks is literally the opposite of what the Browns should be doing.

  6. MikeN says:

    Maybe Haslam cares about the game of football and doesn’t want to see very talented players have their careers ruined by playing for the Browns. Better to stock up on mediocre to average players.

  7. Tom H. says:

    So…they drafted the wrong guy, right? I mean someone got a call and heard “Get Deshaun the quarterback” and they figured it was 50/50 and they could trade down to get one of them so…

  8. Curtis says:

    Here is the thing, though. If Watson were playing in Cleveland, without impact receivers or a running game, he would probably look hopeless and all of the flaws in his game would be exposed by the lesser talent around him. And the front office would look as aimless and clueless as they do now.

    • Mr Fresh says:

      It’s true. The Browns don’t have anyone CLOSE to DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller to make their QB of the day look competent, let alone good.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The issue is the offensive line. You can’t run or pass without good blocking. If your young QB is running for his life, he has no chance to make his reads and get the ball to his athletes. The Browns may have some talent at receiver, but if there is not blocking there is no running game and quality passes happen infrequently. It’s amazing when reading endless articles about how this or that team is underperforming offensively that it doesn’t immediately go to the lack of quality of their offensive line. People go to the QB, the receivers, the offensive coordinator and play calling. If you block well, play calls work better and the QB, receivers and running backs suddenly look great.

  9. E.H. says:

    Joe, find a guy that can help the Browns turn the corner. Deep down you know SOMEBODY, doesn’t have to be a GM, could just be a stat guy. You know, a guy that would show them why Johnny Manziel’s should NEVER be hired. Contact the Browns organization and urge them to hire this guy you strongly believe in.

    • Mr Fresh says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how these “really smart” analytical guys from Harvard, etc. just plain ignore performance in college. It may not be everything.. but it has to count for something, doesn’t it? Kizer may have all the measurables, but there has to be some reason he didn’t win in college.

    • Rob Smith says:

      How about hiring a modern day John Madden or John Robinson to coach the team. Someone that will immediately look to shore up the offensive and defensive lines first. This is how you rebuild. Your QB is useless without good protection. Your defense is going to be bad if your defensive line can’t tackle or rush the passer. Try that & the Browns will be much better.

  10. Jeff says:

    What would’ve happened to Watson had the Browns selected him?
    1) 3 concussions through week 4, sets out remainder of season
    2) Benched after throwing 6 INTs against Pittsburgh
    3) Torn ACL/MCL in game 2, out for season
    4) All of the above

  11. Eric says:

    Joe, I would be interested in a piece about what it’s like to root for a team that’s tanking. You’ve celebrated the Cubs so much, but the first thing Theo did when he got there was tank unapologetically for two years, and they weren’t much better the third. The Astros did the same thing. The Browns are clearly trying to follow that same script. It’s obviously easy to understand from afar, but maybe more difficult when you’re rooting for the team in question? Perhaps the problem is that you’re watching every game, and the key is just to tune out until they’re good again? Or maybe it’s just easier in baseball, where at least your team will win once in a while through sheer luck.

    Anyway, I’m curious what your thoughts on the issue are.

    • Scooter says:

      I second this emotion. Pretty much everything Eric just said.

    • invitro says:

      I don’t know anything about football, but in baseball and in the NBA, it isn’t nearly enough just to tank and get high draft picks — you have to use those picks well, and also make good trades and free agent signings. The Cubs and Astros did all four of those things well. For an NBA example, I think the Lakers have been tanking the last few years (I’m not sure), but they certainly haven’t done the latter three things. From reading Joe’s columns, I take it the Browns haven’t, either.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        This is true. Look at the Patriots. They probably haven’t had a top 10 draft pick in 15 years, and the NFL keeps taking away first round draft picks on top of that. But they somehow manage to make the Super Bowl seemingly every other year.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      There is a difference. The Cubs, despite all the caviling about how bad they had been, have actually been pretty good for the last 30 years or so. At least they had been to the playoffs a few times and nearly the World Series. And, of course, they had Theo Epstein, who had a track record. The Astros had been to the World Series and had been pretty consistent winners during the Biggio/Bagwell years. So, in some sense, their fans could accept tanking for a while because the teams had some credibility. Those teams had some record of competence. The Browns, on the other hand, have been pretty much a laughing stock since they came back into the league. It’s the same thing over and over again. It would be one thing if their fans could say, well, the organization knows what it’s doing. Is there any reason, really, to think the Browns know what they are doing?

      I don’t really have a problem with tanking for a few years if it’s being done right. But (and I’m not a Browns fan) it pisses me off when a team (playing in a stadium built by taxpayers in most cases) seemingly shows no interest in getting it right. And it’s not like they are going out of business for providing a lousy product. There is no reason for a team in a league designed for parity like the NFL to be this incompetent for so long.

  12. Mark Daniel says:

    Are the Browns making steps in the right direction? Were they terrible on offense, defense and special teams in week 1, but by week 8 they are actually respectable on defense and ST? Is the offense making bigger holes for RBs and giving the QB more time to throw, but the QB stinks on ice and keeps blowing it?
    Have turnovers dropped from 3 per game to 1 per game? Have stupid penalties been cut down somewhat, at least?

    In other words, does the team need a massive overhaul still, or could a decent QB immediately turn the team into something mediocre, say a 6-7 win squad?
    I haven’t watched one of their games, but I do feel for you.

  13. Hamster Huey says:

    Psst… hey Joe: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/report-bengals-agreed-to-trade-aj-mccarron-but-browns-fail-to-notify-nfl-on-time/

    So much gold in there. The Browns tried their best to trade more for AJ McCarron than SF just traded for Jimmy Garoppolo… but then notified the league a “few moments” after the 4p deadline. (The Bengals had reported the trade from their end at 3:55p.) They then appealed, pleading to give up a 2nd and 3rd round pick for a guy who has thrown 6 TDs in 9 NFL games…

    This long-suffering Bears fan can relate; we threw down $15m for Glennon the same year we panic-traded to move up one spot for Trubisky. I guess that’s the opposite problem, but still a problem.

  14. Lee Carney says:

    What makes the Watson trade even more infuriating is that they used the Texans pick on Jabril Peppers, the very definition of a risk/reward pick, there were lots of questions about if he even had a position in the NFL.

    I Mean if u r going to take a risk on a player that you’re not certain his college playing style will transfer to the NFL then why not just take the QB?

  15. Crout says:

    Having the Browns play for the English is like revenge for the Battle of Bladensburg.

  16. Scott Nyman says:

    Poor bastard. Somebody get this man a Patriots jersey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *