By In Stuff

Browns Diary: The Goal Line

It is an odd thing to give up football. For the first 50 or so years of my life (and especially the first 30 or so years of my life as a sportswriter), football governed my autumns. Every fall weekend, I had to go — physically go sometimes, yes, but more often mentally and emotionally go — to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Foxboro, Massachussetts., to Manhattan, Kansas, to Oakland, to Austin, to Cincinnati, to Ann Arbor, to Athens, to East Rutherford, to Pasadena, to wherever the kickoffs mattered most.

All those years, I could not imagine life without football. The sport was as much a part of me as the music I listened to, the books I read, the friends I made, the air I breathed.

And now … it’s gone. I’ll tell you when it hit me. On Sunday, I went to a wonderful event celebrating my friend Tommy Tomlinson’s new podcast, Southbound. It was mainly a Charlotte radio legend named Mike Collins interviewing Tommy; at one point Collins mistakenly said Tommy was from Alabama when he is actually from Georgia. When he did that I wondered if Tommy would correct him becuase Tommy is a supremely nice person who doesn’t like making people feel uncomfortable.

Tommy did correct him but in the nicest way; he said that he had to admit being from Georgia because there were a couple of Alabama friends in the crowd who went to Auburn, and they deserved to gloat after Auburn’s destruction of Georgia over the weekend.

THAT was how I found out that No. 1 Georgia lost to Auburn the day before.

The idea that a No. 1 college team could lose, and I wouldn’t even know about it until it came up in some unrelated conversation (if Tommy hadn’t said it, I don’t think I would know even now) would have been ludicrous even two years ago. But I really have checked out. I don’t know who the new No. 1 team is, and I don’t care. I don’t know who is leading any of the NFL divisions, and I don’t care. I have not seen Tom Brady throw one pass this year.

Yes, I do follow enough NFL people on Twitter to sort of know what’s going on in a larger sense — I have gotten all the major injury updates for instance, and I am up on the Papa John thing — but I basically have trailer knowledge (new JoeWord!) of the NFL now; I know about this year’s NFL roughly what I know about “The Big Bang Theory,” a show I’ve never seen but the trailers have probably taken up 700 hours of my life.*

*I believe I’ve made this point before, but I want to reiterate it: I have trailer knowledge of many television shows. I have never seen a CSI, never seen Survivor, never seen Bull or Scorpion or Empire or Gotham or Bones, but I’ve seen so many trailers that I’m pretty sure I know what those shows are about. If forced to write a paper about any of these shows, I could probably bluff my way through it and get like a C-.

But I have no idea — absolutely no earthly idea — what “Kevin Can Wait” is about. None. I have seen 10,000 trailers, and I have no clue. I don’t CARE what it is about, let me make that clear. If I wanted to know, I could be sedated and watch it — something that will never, ever happen unless something goes horribly wrong. Still, it is disoncerting that I have seen so many of these soul-crushing “Kevin Can Wait” trailers, and I still have no idea what that show is about. Is he an astronaut? A robot? A fun-loving chef? Is that his wife? Was that always his wife? Didn’t he have a different wife? Did he kill the other wife? Does he have kids? With his first wife? Is he paying child support? Is he a deadbeat dad? No idea. I only know that this week he spills cheese dip on the floor and someone slips in it and even this limited knowledge will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Ditto all this for that Matt LeBlanc apocalpse of a show — no idea what that thing is about either. That show, though, does have the added bonus that even though I’ve seen countless trailers, I don’t know the name of it.

Sorry, back to the NFL. My football checkout has been even more complete than I expected when the season began. I believed that, sure, I’d watch a lot less football, but I’d probably end up in front of the television watching snippets of various games just out of habit. And it just hasn’t happened. Maybe I will on Thanksgiving. Maybe when the bowl and playoff season rolls around, I’ll watch some. But I have to be honest: I don’t think so. I’m not watching football. And I don’t MISS football.

That’s the strangest part of all. I don’t miss football one bit.

All of which brings me back to the Cleveland Browns. I still watch the Cleveland Browns religiously. And I write this diary. Why? No idea. I did think about stopping the diary (and stopping to watch). I even did a little Twitter poll in the hopes that people would TELL me to stop.

I could use that poll to say that I should stop since only 43% want me to continue. But realistically that poll tells me that I have to keep it going. Of the people who know what this diary is, 86% say that want to keep it going. These are my people. You are my people. Thank you for being here.

So I’ll watch the Browns, and I’ll write about them, and all of it will be entirely disconnected from the rest of the football. That’s strange. But, I guess anyone who voluntarily would write a diary about this football organization has to be strange.


With that preamble, I really only have time to talk about one thing in the game … but there is really only one thing worth talking about. Sure, if you are young and fullhearted and in desperate need of hope — as I once was with the Browns — I can tell you that DeShone Kizer had his best day as a Browns quarterback, and first pick in the draft Myles Garrett showed that he can dominate when he’s not jumping offside, and Browns scored 10 points in a first quarter for the first time since 2016.

That last statistic is not a joke.

And now, young hopeful one, you can stop reading because the rest of this will be about one of the most amazingly awful things I’ve seen in recent Browns memory. The Browns lost to Detroit 38-24 — this after having a 10-0 and 24-17 lead — but you expected that.

You probably didn’t expect this: With 3:55 left to go in the first half, the Browns got the ball trailing by a touchdown. They still had a timeout too. Now, you know how much time 3:55 is in NFL terms. By the NFL clock, you could see all seven Rocky movies in 3:55. You could read a Russian novel. You could write a Russian novel. Here’s how much time 3:55 is, and let’s see if you can follow this algebraic thought.

You have two teams, A and B.

Team A get the ball with 3:55 left.

Team A is worried about giving Team B the ball back with too much time … not on this possession but on the next one, AFTER the two teams exchange points.

So, tons of time left. The Browns picked up 19 yards on a pass interference penalty. Kizer hit receiver Rashard Higgins on an 18-yard pass. Duke Johnson Jr. ran for nine. The Browns had moved the ball to the Detroit 26 just as the two-minute warning sounded.*

*I guess the two-minute warning doesn’t really “sound.” People say that all the time, but there is no two-minute warning sound, like a horn or whatever. The two-minute warning doesn’t “sound.” It warns. And what does it warn? That there are two minutes left.

So, let’s reset. The Browns are already well in field goal range by the two-minute warning. The Browns are facing a third-and-one. Two minutes is a near-infinite amount of time. Oh yeah, they also have a timeout. I want you to think about this for a second: What’s the worst thing that could happen for the Browns. Think about it.

OK, what is it? Interception, right?

The Browns did not throw an interception.


The Browns did not fumble.

So, let’s see, they went for it on fourth down and didn’t make it?

Nope. No fourth downs.

So, um, OK maybe the drive stalls, and they miss a field goal?

Buzz! The Browns did not miss a field goal.

They got a penalty and a sack and it knocked them out of field goal range?

Nyet. The Browns never left field-goal range.

So, pray tell, none of those things happened: How could the Browns not score a point when they had the ball on the Detroit 26 with two minutes left and a timeout?

It was a work of art. To start, they got the first down; Crowell ran up the middle to the Detroit 24. The Browns at this point did what they should do; they took their sweet time because they really did not want to give the ball back to the Lions with too much time.

With 1:29 left, DeShone Kizer dropped back to throw, could not find anyone open and was sacked for a three-yard loss. Then came the first blunder. A panicky Kiser called the Browns third and final timeout.

Why did he call the timeout? I have absolutely no idea. There was still roughly 1:20 left. Even if they took 25 or 30 seconds to set up the next play — it should be much quicker than that — there would still be almost a minute left, lots and lots of time. You always keep a timeout in case of emergency. Always.

Still, it seemed a relatively minor mistake. He called the timeout with 1:17 left; you can’t blow 1:17 when you are already on the other team’s 27 yard line. Right? Kizer hit Higgins for a seven-yard pass. He stayed in bounds, naturally, and the Browns took forever to get lined up again and this time that made a lot less sense … do they practice this stuff? No, seriously, do they practice this? Because it doesn’t look like they practice this.

The ball was finally snapped with 40 seconds left — sheesh. Still, doesn’t matter: 40 seconds is a long, long time in the NFL. Kizer dropped back and saw no one open — so he took off running. He had a lot of open field. One of the big knocks on Kizer this year has been that while he was supposedly this great athlete coming out of Notre Dame, he had not shown any talent for running the ball.

This time he plowed ahead for 18 huge yards, all the way down to the Detroit 2, a big play. A big run. The clock was ticking, but plenty of time left. Kizer got the Browns lined up quickly for the spike, so quickly that the Lions were forced to call timeout with 19 seconds left because they were so badly offside.

OK! Nineteen seconds left, time for two or three quick throws to the end zone, a field goal if it doesn’t work. And the Browns were getting the ball to start the second half. Like Kate Hudson says in “Almost Famous: “It’s all happening!”

On first down, Kizer throws a fade pass to rookie David Njoku, who catches the ball but cannot quite get his second foot down in bounds. So close. The play took four seconds. Perfect.

Second and goal from the two with 15 seconds left.

I don’t know exactly how to describe what happened next. You would think after watching the Cleveland Browns play week after week — and before that watching the 2000s Kansas City Royals play day after day — I would grow numb to those “Kevin Can Wait” plays that take away just a tiny piece of your lifetime joy supply. But no, you never fully numb yourself to that sort of dopiness.

The Browns’ coach Hue Jackson called ran a quarterback dive.

It was not a quarterback draw, understand, one where the quarterback pretends he’s going to pass and then runs instead. That would have been dumb, but at least it would have been a go-for-broke move, sort of a “we are going to take that hill or die trying” sort of thing. But that wasn’t what happened.

This was not a quarterback sneak either. A quarterback sneak suggests somthing, you know, sneaky. The defense is certainly not expecting a quarterback sneak from the 2 with 15 seconds left and no timeouts so there is the one-in-a-hundred chance that it would work. Dumb, but

No, this was a quarterback dive. You know the play teams call when it is third down and like an inch to go, and the quarterback just pushes behind the center in order to get the necessary inch (and no more than the inch)? That was what the Browns called. From the 2. Kizer took the snap and just just tried to run forward and reach for the end zone. That was it. That was the whole play. It was one of the most staggering things I’ve seen on a professional football field.

The Lions were not ready for this because no sane person could have been ready for it … but the play call was so bad that it didn’t matter what the Lions were expecting. The Browns could run that play 10 million times against any NFL defense — even a sleeping NFL defense — and never once score a touchdown on it. The number of things that would have had to go wrong in the Lions’ defense for that play to work would boggle the world’s greatest mathematicians.

You already know what happened next. Once the shock of the sheer ineptitude of the play wore off, the Browns tried to get lined up for the spike. And the Lions players naturally held down the Browns for as long as they could. And the clock ran out on Cleveland.

And Duke Johnson threw his helmet in fury, getting a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.

Hue Jackson refused to talk about any of it other than to say, “That’s on me.”

That’s on me. This was the Hue Jackson’s full explanation of his crescendo as an NFL coach. That’s on me. The boat hit the iceberg. The ball went through my legs. I am not a crook. I didn’t see the punch coming. I thought the bat was a ball. I apologize to those who were offended. That’s on me.

“Doesn’t matter,” Hue added when asked to expand on his answer. “Doesn’t matter. We didn’t get it done. We had a chance to score points and came away with nothing. That happens. It shouldn’t happen. But it did. That’s on me.”

Update: At first, I thought this was just Hue refusing to talk about it … it’s now clear he didn’t want to throw his quarterback under the bus because, according to tight end Seth DeValve, Kizer apparently audibled to this play.

It’s still on Jackson. He can’t have a rookie quarterback, one who clearly has no idea what’s happening, audible out of to a quarterback dive. I have to say Hue Jackson hurts my heart. I like the guy so much. I like that he doesn’t make excuses. I like that he stays positive even when there’s no reason for it. I like that he has a pretty good history of developing quarterbacks. Maybe more than anything, I like the idea — that dream of an idea — that the Browns could keep the same coach for more than a year or two.

But this team, week after week after week, does the dumbest things imaginable. This game it’s the quarterback dive. Last game, it was declining a 15-yard penalty to give the other team 4th and 1 in field goal range. They get called for more offensive pass interference penalties than any team in the league. They get outsmarted repeatedly, like in the fourth quarter when the Browns ordered up an all-out blitz that left the middle of the field wide open. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford stepped to the line and audibled. I’m not a professional lip-reader but I believe his exact call was “39, 39, um, there’s nobody in the middle of the field, Omaha, Omaha, I’m going to take like one step back and quickly throw the ball to you Golden Tate, 55, 55, and you will run untouched into the end zone.”

The Browns, completely fooled by this code talk, stayed in their stupid defense and Stafford hit Tate for a quick receiver pass, and he ran 40 yards untouched into the end zone. It was the same thing any kid who has ever played 12 seconds of Madden would have done.

Stuff like that happens every single week. The big defense of Hue is that his team doesn’t have any talent — announcer Spero Dedes actually said something to the effect of, “You’d have to say that no coach could have done more than Hue Jackson has,” as if Jackson’s 1-24 record is the pinnacle of coaching excellence.

But even though the Browns DO lack talent, it’s clear: Hue Jackson is doing a spectacularly bad job. Much of this IS, indeed, on him.

Here’s how bad that quarterback dive was: Color commentator Adam Archuleta, who seems like a super nice guy, almost never says anything negative about anybody. When he does criticize, it’s very kind. Like when a quarterback misses a wide open receiver, he will say, “I know he wishes he had that throw back.” Or when someone misses a block, he will say, “He’s much better than that, I know he’s kicking himself.”

And after the quarterback dive, you could hear Archuleta stumbling about trying to figure out the nicest way to say, “THAT WAS THE DUMBEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN ON A FOOTBALL FIELD.”

After enough stumbling, Archuleta finally came up with the right words.

“I don’t love that call,” he said.

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46 Responses to Browns Diary: The Goal Line

  1. Nik says:

    It’s true – Kevin James does murder his wife at the end of the first season of “Kevin Can Wait”. Sickeningly, the show plays it for laughs.

    • Rob Smith says:

      It was a highly touted show. The first 2-3 episodes were decent & maybe they’d catch a rhythm. I always remember that Seinfeld wasn’t all that great in the first year and I totally didn’t get “Friends” right away (who are these lazy, selfish people?). But then the show ran out of ideas. Then it got really stupid. Then they killed off the wife. So, here we are. The show goes on for no other reason than the producers have decided that Leah Remini re-paired with Kevin James will somehow recreate the success of King of Queens. So, in a way, it’s kind of like Browns-logic. Up is down. Black is white kind of stuff.

    • Drew says:

      wait a second, you aren’t joking, are you? they really kill off the s1 wife?

      • mark G says:

        Well, she dies. The KJ character doesn’t kill her the way Nik implied. Nobody does. But she died in between seasons and they just off-handedly refer to it so they could move on with Remini exactly as Rob Smith says. It wasn’t appointment TV but my wife and I found it a decent 30-minute diversion and we seem to lack for sitcoms these days. But we haven’t tuned in since.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          So he now has a different wife? It’s not that they have a different actress playing the same wife?

          • mark G says:

            No new wife AFAIk. Season 1 wife dies. In Season 2 a new-ish female character starts spending a lot of time with him and his family, but no romantic link I think. That’s what I read. As I said, I haven’t watched since they killed off the wife. Not even because she was some great character, but it was handled in a way that turned a lot of people off.

  2. AdamE says:

    For the first time ever your Browns fandom is actually doing you a favor. Being forced to watch Browns football isn’t as bad as being forced to watch “Kevin Can Wait”.

  3. John B. says:

    The new hipster thing from the left: “I don’t watch football anymore, dude. Too violent and, you know, head injuries and stuff.”

    The new overreaction from the right: “I hate the NFL because of the anthem thing. I’m never watching again.”

    Me (disclosure, a Conservative): “I just like football. I’m never going to stop watching.”

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think the millennial thing is that they like football OK, but they like basketball and soccer better. And… they NEVER watch baseball. Baseball is doomed. Football needs to take steps so that they’re not baseball in 10-20 years.

      • Hipsters are at best ~5% of millennials or so, people using millennial as a generalization for such a wide swathe of people tend to be pretty stupid.

      • Willard says:

        Well, I can watch a full soccer game in under two hours and never see one commercial. All I have to do is mute the halftime adds. And it’s much more action during actual game time. Plus, I just like it better. So, since it became readily available to me, I’ve moved on to the EPL.

        Oh, and the announcers aren’t blowhards. That helps a lot too.

        • DjangoZ says:

          Same here.

          Soccer, basketball and MMA have replaced football and baseball for me. I used to be a big football and baseball fan and I haven’t watched either in years. But Joe’s writing about his tortured Brown’s fandom is worth reading no matter what.

    • As a 29 year old lifelong baseball fan: Football is a fine, if largely overrated product. Basketball is straight garbage in the regular season and for most of the playoffs, finals is usually fun to watch; it appeals to specific demographics though. College Football is okay, if your team loses once or twice it’s typically over though. College Basketball is vaguely interesting in the regular season to determine seeding for the fantastic tournament.

      Football grows less and less interesting each year since every game is a 4 hour commitment and I could just watch the highlights later, also my team (Packers) is good almost every year so I can just zone out till the Playoffs typically. Of course not if Aaron Rodgers is injured; then I’m forced to root for the Lions instead (a much more harrowing experience). This year I had a sobering experience realizing the auto-draft is much better for fantasy picks than me (who stopped paying much attention to the NFL ~5 years ago), where previously I did well consistently with my archaic knowledge.

      Baseball is always very relaxing (with minimal commercials and/or the very inexpensive or free MLB TV) and I particularly like the offseason and the focus on statistics/the Hall of Fame actually mattering. My team (White Sox) is in a rebuilding phase just like every other team that didn’t just finish rebuilding; but the GM (Rick Hahn) seems to just be better than practically every other one. Of course the streak of rebuilds wins championships is bound to end at some point but might as well just follow the pattern.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree. I get a bit annoyed at people acting like they should get the Nobel Prize because they don’t watch football anymore. (And I’m not a conservative.) I like football, at least the NFL; the players know what they are getting into. They aren’t being dragooned into being football players. Make the game safer by all means. Who cares if players don’t stand up for the National Anthem? Not watching because of that is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if they stand up, you know a lot of them don’t mean it so it’s pretty much a meaningless spectacle. (And even the ones that do mean it are likely thinking about the game more than the anthem anyway.)

      • John B. says:

        Good take, Marc. Now it is no-win for all sides except for Trump’s long con revenge for USFL lawsuit (just kidding, don’t jump on me).

      • Pete R says:

        Well, I’m not sure that all these players knew what they were getting into: Mike Webster, Kevin Everett, Mike Utley, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Nick Buoniconti, Justin Strzelczyk, Mark Gastineau, Andre Waters, Dennis Byrd, Terry Long. And that’s before we get into players who never made it to the NFL, or all the former players who are in 24/7 severe pain. But maybe there are some former players who say “yes, I knew that it would end like this”?

        I certainly don’t deserve a prize, but I think maybe I should have stopped watching much sooner than I did.

        Never paid much attention to the anthems anyway- why start watching before kickoff?

  4. MarkW says:

    I’m sure you’ve already heard from 100 people that the dive, or sneak according to Yahoo, was a Kizer audible. So kudos, I guess (?), to Hue for falling on the grenade?

  5. Chris Smith says:

    Too. Many. Stoppages. It’s that simple. If there aren’t enough naturally, they’ll just take a TV timeout or call for a replay! Awful product.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The worst one is that they have a long TV timeout after a score. Then a kickoff. Then another TV timeout. And the kickoff is usually a touchback these days. So there is zero action for something approaching 10 minutes. That’s a killer. You can cook dinner, grab a beer AND go to the bathroom after an NFL score and be back in your chair before the next real play.

      • Kenny says:

        They actually stopped doing that this year. It’s noticeably better.

        • Rob Smith says:

          I was thinking that they might have too…. but they did it yesterday during the Falcons/Cowboys game at least a couple of times. I know they don’t do it every time, at least.

          BTW: at the stadium, nothing killed the energy more than these double timeouts. Exciting, thrilling score. Crowd goes while. Extra point, yay!! Timeout. Kickoff. Timeout. Snoooooore!

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I think what they do is front load the commercials in the first half so that if the game is a blowout after halftime and people stop watching, they’ve already gotten most of the commercials in. I notice that there is much less of that in the second halves of games.

    • Bradford says:

      Agreed. I tried watching a game on tv a couple of years ago, Bengals vs. Somebody, and couldn’t even tolerate it as background while I graded papers. The stoppages are interminable and it’s clear the NFL prefers it that way.

      I still watch the CFL since there’s a lot of action, shorter time between plays and I actually care about the teams, since I’m Canadian.

  6. Frank says:

    Much like Joe, I have stopped paying attention to football beyond what I happen to catch while doing other things. However, there is one exception. I make a point every week of checking the Browns score and coming here on Mondays to see Joe’s take.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Yes, when I logged on I was praying for the latest Browns post to be up. I saw a Joe tweet that indicated something really dumb had happened, but I didn’t know what it was. I figured it would be something kind of run of the mill stupid that happens from time to time. But, nope. The Browns do truly keep inventing new stupid things to do during a game. It’s truly amazing. I love these posts.

  7. Rob Smith says:

    So Joe, I do watch some football still. If there’s a game that interests me, I watch it. But I watch less and less and have less and less passion about it. As a kid, I’d write my “what I did this weekend” during grade school about the NFL games I watched. Every week. I was into the players and the game in general. I knew who was leading the league in every category, who the new fantastic rookies were and who were the best teams. I think today I can generally tell you which teams have a shot at the playoffs…. but that’s mainly because they put up a graphic on Fox showing this during the Falcons/Cowboys game yesterday. I don’t know who’s leading the league in any category, though I always suspect that Tom Brady is at, or near the top of QB stats. The Falcons/Cowboy game interested me, but I still didn’t bother to turn it on until almost half time. I did end up watching most of the second half to watch the Cowboys get their faces rubbed into the dirt (always good fun). It’s not just the NFL either. I like sports, but it just doesn’t feel all that important anymore. I don’t think that’s what Joe is saying, but that’s how I feel.

  8. Mark Daniel says:

    I was at the Lions/Browns game. I took my son, who’d never been to an NFL game before.
    On the ride there, I told my son all about how incompetent the Browns were. Many of these stories were based on your Browns diary, Joe.

    Anyway, flash forward to 1:17 left in the half, and the Browns take their last timeout for no apparent reason. It took me a second, but then it hit me. I leaned over to my son and said, “Watch. They’re going to run out of time. Just watch.”
    I was half-joking, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t run out of time.

    You have to hand it to the Browns. They really deliver the goods when it comes to comedic ineptitude.

  9. Paul Schroeder says:

    This is my favorite thing you do, Joe. I love reading about the Browns. Maybe they should just start over. Fire the entire coaching staff, all the trainers, everyone in the front office and release all the players. How much worse can it get? They’ve one one game in the last two seasons, and have a legitimate chance at 0-16. Just go back to expansion mode. Hire the high school coach from the best local team and see what happens. They can only lose 16 games a season.

  10. KHAZAD says:

    My interest in football has waned as well. I always loved football. I loved watching it. When I was younger, I loved playing it. I played in an organized game most Sundays until I was about 30, with 11 on 11 and sometimes guys that played or had played in college. I never played flag when I got older, because really that is just wind sprints and you don’t get to hit anybody, so I left playing behind when I could no longer be competitive.

    Once I stopped playing, I watched ALL the games, religiously. Pre computer fantasy football had me paying attention to all the teams, both for fun and to keep up with who was good.

    That has gone away over the years. I still watch all of my own team’s games (The Chiefs.) Sometimes I wonder if it is more masochistic to watch a team that never wins like Joe, or a team that never wins, like Joe, or a team that at some point in the season will briefly look like the best team in football, (this year at the beginning) make the playoffs, and either lose the first week, or beat someone in the wild card round and lose the second week. Really the only question is which January afternoon that I will watch them play uninspired football against a better team. They are good enough to make me watch and have some championship hope, but the season ends abruptly without fanfare each year anyway.

    The other games? I just don’t pay attention anymore. I can keep up with Fantasy on the computer, (When they first came out, I would follow the score in game while watching the games. Now I just set my lineup, and check to see if I have won when it is over) getting a rundown of who is breaking out or who is injured with a 5 minute read without watching anything.

    I don’t know why I don’t watch the other games anymore. I just know I don’t miss it. I haven’t been affected by concussions (this has always been a reality to me – I had a couple playing, and one playing baseball and another when I was hit with a gun while being mugged)and in fact, it is better now that people playing are aware of the dangers and actually being treated. I don’t care about anthem protests (My somewhat ambivalent feelings are that they do have a free speech right, but that it is a poor choice of when and how to make a statement, and that – if they wanted to – the employer (NFL teams) also has a right to say “Do it my way or else”, just like your employer can do with you.)I don’t care that some football players are bad guys (less than you would think if you watched the news) Some of every profession are bad guys (as the recent hollywood stuff has shown.) Talent and character do not always go together, and in fact are less likely to do so.

    Some of it may be that I have changed, but some of it is the game itself. The idea of replay is a good one at it’s base, but I no longer know what a catch is, (Nor do announcers, players, officials, or even the TV officiating “expert”.) and I used to. Now instead of saying “What a catch!”, the announcer will say “I don’t know. When he fell down after catching the ball and running a few steps and diving, did the ball move?” Then they debate it even if there is no replay review. I don’t know why a runner can poke the ball over the end line, have it knocked away just after, and that is a touchdown, but you can catch a ball in the end zone with two feet in, take two steps, fall, roll over and then have the ball move when you hit the ground, and that is not. Or catch it in the end zone and come down and then have someone knock it away, and that is not. (This happened to my team this year) I don’t like the fact that there are no kickoff returns anymore, and that overtime is reduced to 10 minutes for “player safety” (the average player plays about 23 seconds less per year because of this) but they still insist on having Thursday games, which by all accounts are more dangerous.

    There seem to be more penalties than ever, and more “phantom” penalties, where replay shows it did not actually occur. I don’t mind an official missing a penalty, with the speed of the game that is bound to happen, but there is something fundamentally wrong with throwing a flag because you THINK something might have happened. If you didn’t actually see it, don’t throw the flag. Pretty simple. I don’t like the fact that there is no offensive pass interference anymore. The QB throws the ball short, the defender is in better position to catch the ball, the WR turns around and goes through the defender’s back, and the defender gets a PI. All in the service of propping up “offense”. Receivers have become as bad as soccer floppers, looking for a flag on every play, falling down if they can’t make the catch, miming the flag throwing gesture (this should be a penalty) and sometimes the official will throw that flag, late, as if he was talked into it.

    The bottom line for me is that the game is more herky jerky, has less action, and is more likely than ever to have the outcome be affected by a phantom penalty, or whether a ball moved in what should have been a clear catch. If you watch a game with announcing, they are always questioning what just happened on nearly every play, whether they need to or not, whether the red flag is thrown or not. There is no clarity. You are thinking “Did that actually happen or not?” instead of “Wow, that was a great play!” When you are not emotionally invested in the game (watching your favorite team) you just don’t get the same highs and lows as you used to. While there may be a few people in the fringe that blame social issues, and media will glom onto that, but in truth, they have made the game less compelling.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. It’s amazing how bad some of the play in the NFL is. Some of these games are horrible. Every other play is a penalty or a potential challenge. It’s impossible to play defense. I find the best way to watch is to record the game and then fast forward through the down time, including the challenges.

      But I still watch. And the breaks give me time to read between plays when I’m watching live.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      I know what you mean. I was in attendance at the Lions/Browns game, and at one point a Browns receiver caught a pass, fumbled and the ball was returned by the Lions for a TD.
      The Detroit crowd started wildly cheering. I was thinking, “What are you all cheering for? We don’t yet know if: 1) it was a catch, 2) it was a fumble.”

      Kind of kills the moment, at least for me.

  11. Hardy says:

    There is still very entertaining college football to be watched. Bryce Love, the Stanford running back, is electric (although on the east coast you need some obscure networks late at night to see him).

  12. shagster says:

    Tommy Tomlinson. Joe Words. A Brown’s goof. A perfectly timed wry turn of an American history phrase (‘fooled by this kind of code talk’). Wow. A lot of goodies here.

    Only thing missing is a baseball HoF reference, or

    any chance a move up one spot on Baseball 100 gets thrown in? A ‘cracker jack’ toy of Joe writing goodness?

  13. Matt says:

    A question I have for you Joe:

    Do you want your love of football to come back?

    Are you happy with it being gone and won’t miss enjoying football or do you wish it would return but it just isn’t there?

    My love of Rugby dwindled over the course of 3 years to the point I barely saw any games. Then suddenly and without warning it returned the next season. I was overjoyed.

  14. Flyface says:

    The problem with the Browns is there are too many Negroes involved .Face it.

  15. MikeN says:

    With the anthem protests, I’ve largely stopped watching the NFL. Not entirely, but if the game isn’t stellar, I don’t bother. Really doesn’t matter if they stop the protests, because it looks like Goodell’s solution is to have the NFL engage in activism that will get more people killed. Black Lives Matter protests just caused police to stand down a bit, and crime went up. James Comey called it the Ferguson Effect.
    NBA isn’t any better, with LeBron first showing solidarity with TrayVon Martin, being completely uninformed about the issue and contributing to nearly getting George Zimmermann thrown in jail for the rest of his life. Then he follows up with a fake hate crime at his house in LA.

  16. dtslcd says:

    I’m a Lions fan so first of all I know all about ineptitude. But I did watch the game on and off, and in my opinion if Kizer didn’t get hurt in the 2nd half the Browns might have pulled this one out. He carved up the Lions, which opened up the Browns run game, and it was a dogfight up to 24-24. When he went out the Lions just blitzed the crap out of his replacement Kessler and it was over.
    Actually, this is the Browns so they still probably would have lost, just much later in the game and maybe more painfully….

    • rabidtiger says:

      I’m a Lions fan too and I think you may be on to something about Kizer. He probably has some good days coming soon as an NFL quarterback. The Browns are the team that historically the Lions have most consistently beaten up on. The historical trend continued, yet it need not have.

      Joe, continue the Browns diary. I am on record, in some past year, comparing the Lions miserable history with the Browns, but I yield the palm in the contest of woe. The saga of the Browns needs chronicling in case we grow too complacent with the success of our team, but especially in case we need something perceptive and amusing. I’m a Tigers fans too and need company for my anticipated misery. The odds on the Tigers’ chances for the World Series title in 2018 is 300 to 1. No other team is longer than 80 to 1 (according to ESPN.)

  17. MCD says:

    I am the rare NFL fan that doesn’t even have a favorite team, but still would prefer to watch a game as opposed to just digest real-time highlights via the RedZone.

    While my vote is “Yes” on continuing the Brown diary, I have to admit I occasionally grow a little weary of it only consisting of bleak news. I can only imagine what it must be like if one is actually a Browns fan.

    • shagster says:

      One has to appreciate Brown’s Diary for its genius. Unfailingly mining ‘gold’ in downtown Mudville. Every single weekend. Had Churchill decided instead to write, and cover an American football team, even wit of his caliber could not have produced such dry wry writing.

  18. DSE4AU says:

    “announcer Spero Dedes actually said something to the effect of, “You’d have to say that no coach could have done more than Hue Jackson has…”

    This might be true, but to paraphrase a friend of mine from college, I would only have one less win than Jackson if I had been their coach for the last two years, and I would have done it for a lot less money!

  19. idkers says:

    It’s the extreme amount of commercials in the NFL that kill it for me. A team scores a touchdown, they cut to a series of commercials, come back from commercials and kick the extra point and then cut to a series of commercials, come back and do the kickoff and then cut to a series of commercials, so on, and so forth. There is no flow to the game. Many sports seem to be going this way. I went to a Mariners daytime game years ago – Jamie Moyer pitched and from the opening pitch to the final out was a total of 1 hour and 55 minutes. It was a beautiful thing.

  20. casey bell says:

    So you’re saying you gave up football but still watch the Browns and write very long blog pieces about them because, what? The Browns are so bad they can’t be considered a real football team? Ha ha? Okay, if you say so.

    I myself gave up following the NFL when they accepted Michael Vick back into the league after he completed his prison time for running a dog-fighting operation. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and I haven’t watched an NFL game since.

    I don’t miss it either.

  21. Matthew Clark says:

    Joe: “I’m not watching football…I still watch the Cleveland Browns religiously.” Fantastic.
    I have not watched a minute of football this season or last. As a kid I screamed when Stabler won games with my Raiders and cried when Pastorini and the Oilers beat them. Now I couldn’t care less, except I wish the players would all cash in quick and quit because the brain damage caused by chronic head trauma is real. No one should play football, and if no one should play no one should watch.
    I read your stuff because of the writing. You could write an imaginary Browns diary in which the team goes on an amazing winning streak, or resigns en masse in protest of the gladiator culture that takes joy from watching men debilitate one another, or continues to stink like wet manure. That would be great too.
    Thank you for your work. Of course what I really want is the next installment of Baseball 100.
    All the best.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Matthew Clark, why are you the one to decide that no one should play football? What else are you going to prohibit others from doing?

  22. Bradford says:

    Joe, I love all your writing and greatly enjoy the Browns’ diary. But I think it’s taking too much of a toll. I think you should stop. Best regards,

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