By In Stuff

Browns Diary Week 2: Blech

Joe-Thomas.jpg

The temptation when following an NFL team is to think of a football season the same way you would think of a television series over a season. That is to say, you want there to be a plot, or at least the semblance of a plot, to follow each week. These two are beginning to fall in love (or are they?), OK, how did that advance? This one’s life is in danger, what did we learn about that this week? She is searching for her Mom, he is hoping to save his brother, they are on the trail of the murderer — what did we find out on this week’s show?

Trouble is, the NFL — especially for lousy teams like my Browns  — isn’t like that at all.

No, in the NFL, there is no plot that moves from week to week. Major developments might be illusions. Promise and disgust are dealt out haphazardly, signifying nothing. Hope is turned up and snuffed out like a cheap Bic lighter.

Last week, the Cleveland Browns lost to Pittsburgh, but they always lose to Pittsburgh. To be blunt about it, they never really threatened to actually win the game. Still: The takeaway from the game was relatively positive. The Browns rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, looked a bit overmatched at times but showed enough arm and presence to promise better days. The Browns defense looked faster and more focused and that was without No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, who is hurt. Everyone knows that this Browns rebuild will take a lot of time and patience and a few good breaks. With that in mind, Week 1 went into the books in the moral victory column.

Here’s how the standings looked going ito Sunday

AFC North W L W-L% MV
PIT 1 0 1.000 0
BAL 1 0 1.000 0
CLE 0 1 0.000 1
CIN 0 2 0.000 0

So you would think this week would be a pickup from there: Would DeShone Kizer continue his development? Would the Browns defense, led by linebacker Jamie Collins, stuff a Baltimore Ravens offense that in Week 1 wouldn’t even throw the ball? Would one of these young potential playmakers — Corey Coleman or Jabrill Peppers or David Njoku — burst on the scene and give Browns fans a peek at a brighter future?

But these are all the wrong questions because, as mentioned, the NFL is not like a television series. The Browns did not further the storyline in Week 2. They canceled it. They nullifed their moral victory from Week 1. DeShone Kizer looked so out of his depth that you could not help but wonder if all the good signs of Week 1 were simply wishful thinking. The defense was so slow to the ball that you could not help but wonder if the good signs in Week 1 were just because Pittsburgh played lousy. The playmakers were so invisible, you wondered what made any of us think they were playmakers in the first place.

It was an all-around bust of a day.

And my guess is, it doesn’t mean anything more than Week 1’s optimism.

Because of that, I really want to talk about something else. But this is a Browns diary so first, sure, here’s the quick game recap.

Kizer: He has a lot of work to do. Even in his positive Week 1 performance he showed the tendency to hold on to the ball too long and try to make plays, a tactic that might work for Notre Dame against Army (or might not) but is a definite loser in the NFL.

He missed much of the first half with a migraine (his backup Kevin Hogan threw a touchdown and an interception, just enough to get people chanting for him in the weeks to come). In the time Kizer played, though, he threw three interceptions, the first which bounced off a receiver’s hand. The second was in the red zone; Kizer missed his target by 20 feet, probably. But the third, if possible, was even worse. He dropped back, saw no one, and began looking to make a play. This could only end in ruin, and it did as he was baited into throwing a horrific interception by Baltimore’s Brandon Carr. You want to say: It’s a learning process. And it is. But there were no positive signs this week.

The defense: Had it not been for a couple of Ravens turnovers — a bizarre “I give up” interception by Joe Flacco and a fumble by Alex Collins at the end of a long run — the Ravens probably would have scored 30 or 35. This was a major step backward. Busted assignments … poor tackling … lack of pressure … the Browns played some of their greatest hits.

The bright spot: Cleveland receiver Rashard Higgins, just off the practice squad, caught seven passes for 95 yards — and he actually looked pretty good doing it. The other Browns receivers, including last year’s first round pick Corey Coleman, are so invisible right now that I’m thinking Higgins becomes this team’s go-to receiver by default based entirely on this one game.

OK, now let’s talk about the only thing that matters: Joe Thomas. I was on a Cleveland radio station a few days ago, and I told them this — Joe Thomas is now my all-time favorite Cleveland Brown. Over the years, my all time favorites have included Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome, Jerry Sherk, Paul Warfield, Doug Dieken, Calvin Hill, Bernie Kosar, Ernest Byner, Clay Matthews (the old one), Dave Logan, Greg Pruitt and so on. Not surprisingly, none of the new Browns have ever come close to making it on to my 645-head Mount Rushmore.

But now Joe Thomas is No. 1 on the list.

He played his 10,000th consecutive snap on Sunday, which is so ridiculous that the only thing anyone can say about it is that it is PROBABLY a record. Nobody even wants to bother counting.

Think about that for a moment: 10,000 consecutive snaps.

Now think about it for another moment: 10,000 consecutive snaps for the CLEVELAND BROWNS. That means 10,000 consecutive snaps of hopelessness. It is like being in 10,000 consecutive fights as henchman for the Joker on the old Batman television show.  It is like playing 10,000 consecutive innings at third base for Charlie Brown’s baseball team. It is like losing to that Tic-Tac-Toe playing chicken 10,000 consecutive times.

Thomas has played every single down for 114 losses (while walking off the field victorious just 48 times). He has protected 22 different quarterbacks, not one of them good enough to keep his job very long. He has been outscored by almost 1,000 points (3,786-2,847). His team has scored 250 fewer points than any team in the AFC over his decade plus.

And, he’s awesome. He was awesome. Then he was also awesome. And now he’s still awesome. It is beyond belief. By approximate value — Baseball Reference’s effort to “attach a single number to every player since 1960” — he has been the Browns’ best player six of the 10 full seasons he has played. In Week 1 of this season, Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 1 left tackle in the NFL.

Try to think of another player, in any sport, who is so commited to his craft, so dedicated to his constantly changing teammates, so steadfast in his pursuit that he could be this great for this long for this bad a team. Who would even notice if Joe Thomas took off a play or two now and again? Who would even blame the guy if he grew so frustrated that he didn’t prepare with 100 percent effort during the week?

And, for that matter, who pays attention to how good he is? He’s a left tackle for a team that can’t move the football. When quarterbacks throw terrible intercpetions, when wide receivers drop balls off their chest, when running backs miss holes or go down on first, nobody says: Yeah, but wow what a great block by the left tackle.

But Joe Thomas goes on, without credit, surrounded by chaos, frustrating the great pass rushers, mashing the defenders in his path, leading the charge even if no one iollows behind. This is not the work of a great left tackle. This it the work of a superhero.

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19 Responses to Browns Diary Week 2: Blech

  1. MikeN says:

    Joe Thomas hasn’t played every down for 10000 snaps. He didn’t even take every snap in Game 2.

  2. Bryan says:

    “That means 10,000 consecutive snaps of hopelessness.”
    *
    Games started that the Browns are .500+ if they win the game: 66
    2007 – 16, effectively eliminated at 9-6 due to standings that season
    2014 – 16, playoff hopes pretty bleak at 7-7
    2011 – 8, dropping to 3-5
    2013 – 7, dropping to 3-5 except the 0-2 game
    2015 – 5, 0-0, 0-1, 1-1, 1-2 and 2-3
    2008 – 4, 0-0, 0-1, 2-3 and 3-4
    2009, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017 – 2, dropping to 0-2
    *
    Can shave a few games off, the 2007 9-6 Browns are hopeless because of tie-breakers, the 2014 7-7 Browns need to catch breaks even if they finish 9-7, don’t count the 3-4 games in 2008, 2011 and 2013 and you’re down to 60 games. Since it’s already happened you can say for sure the Browns are done before the first game but a 1-4 team turned to their backup QB, got out-scored 250-204 the rest of the season and made the playoffs, there is a reason they play the games, even in theory a reason they play the games in Cleveland.
    *
    4 seasons of hopeful games in 11 seasons even if the Browns don’t get within 1 game of .500 the rest of the season. It’s still terrible, but that’s the stats for those who prefer accuracy over brilliant prose.

  3. Tom says:

    To that pantheon of Browns greats, I would add the somewhat obscure Charlie Hall. And Walter Johnson (because he wrestled bears!)

  4. Tom says:

    Joe, last year I kept replying to these saying don’t worry, the Browns are tanking. I still think they were. This year my mantra will be, all that matters is player development. Peyton Manning’s numbers were horrible his first year, and he started 4 years at Tennessee in the SEC. We will not know until very late this season about any of the Browns’ young players and maybe not for 1-2 more years about Kizer. I know you don’t want to hear that but I suspect that down deep you will agree. To me the number one goal for Browns fans this year is to find out as much about Kizer’s long term prospects as possible.

    Now it is a fair question to ask whether the Browns will be able to identify whether these players are any good to decide who to keep and who to let go. And if you want to talk about how some former Browns are doing, such as Taylor Gabriel, Terrell Prior, Alex Mack, Joe Haden now that would be a column worth being sad about. I mean, they have tons of cap room, can’t they just let guys play out their contracts and sign elsewhere, so they at least get a compensatory pick?

    • Rob Smith says:

      The Falcons thank the Browns for Alex Mack, Taylor Gabriel and for Kyle Shanahan. After watching the Falcons go from NFC Championship game to terrible, to Super Bowl, it really does come down to players. The Browns don’t have enough of them and until they do, no coach or QB can win. Idk if Kizer is the answer, or not. But I can also say you probably won’t find out this year. Matt Ryan is an elite QB, but his play was pretty mediocre with a bad offensive line & limited weapons during the dark days. Then he became the MVP after the team shored up the offensive line and added Sanu, Gabriel and other good wideouts to the team (not to mention adding two high quality running backs). Kizer just can’t be successful with a bad offensive line and a bad receiving corps. Too often, decisions are made on QBs who have no chance of success with a bad team. Get some pieces, then figure out if Kizer is the guy. I know that people and the team probably won’t wait to make up their mind, but they should. They’ve gone through 20 QBs this way. They need to stop the madness. A little patience is warranted.

  5. E.H. says:

    The current Browns are victims of the Art Modell curse. Cleveland wouldn’t build him a new stadium so he moved his Browns to Baltimore and thus they won multiple championships. The replacement Browns are cursed forevermore.

  6. dtslcd says:

    I don’t think there is a true comparison to Joe Thomas, because there is no other sport where someone can be great and so obscure. The first that comes to mine is Ernie Banks, but people could celebrate his home runs and attitude every time he walked to the plate. They sure don’t do that every time Thomas walks up to the line of scrimmage

    • Rob Smith says:

      The faces of the game are the guys that score touchdowns and sometimes defensive players who make big plays. But offensive linemen are usually only noticed when they commit a penalty or allow a sack. If they’re really good, they’re actually less likely to be noticed than someone that’s constantly screwing up. I forget which lineman, maybe Walter Jones?, that almost never allowed a sack and committed a penalty about once every other year. Guys like that don’t draw the eye of the camera at all. Granted, eventually their body of work creates a great reputation. But during the game? They’re invisible.

  7. Brent says:

    “Meh, it is really not that bad. Most of the really hard hit balls are up the middle, so at least it isn’t terribly dangerous”

    Pig Pen

  8. John Corradin says:

    Joe,

    I agree with much of what you said but…… I blame Hue Jackson for too many penalties and putting Kizer back in the 2nd half with post migraine.

    Bay Rum

    • Rob Smith says:

      While the coach is ultimately held accountable for the play of the team, I think it’s also reasonable to assume that a coach who is working with inferior players is going to have a tough time getting them to stop making mistakes. IMO, it’s the players. Until the talent level rises, Jackson is really just polishing turds. I’m sure high level coaches, like Jackson, think they can come in and make positive changes. But you gotta have players. I often wonder why coaches would even take a Cleveland Browns coaching job. They really can’t be successful with the players they have and the team has the tendency to quickly fire coaches before they have a chance to succeed. There are other jobs that have pieces in place that a coach can work with, even if the team has been losing. But I guess some coaches think they have the magic fairy dust to make a difference.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Well, there aren’t that many head coaching jobs available in the NFL. Most guys can’t just wait until something better comes along. And, of course, most of the available jobs are with bad teams.

  9. shagster says:

    Jackson is good coordinator. Remains to be seen JF he is good HFB.

    Cleveland wants to help Joe Thomas? Get him a winner at QB. Not a personality. Not a type. They had one. They gave up on an injured Shaw waaay to soon. Kid’s a Sipe. Not much to look at, but finds ways to win. Consistently. Unlike Sipe. Doesn’t turn ball over. Closest equivalent these days is Smith in KC.

    Maybe Chicago will spit the bit. Even then. Not sure Hue is the guy.

  10. Steve says:

    As a migraine sufferer, I think Kizer’s claims that the migraine didn’t affect his play are nonsense. I’m not quite myself for about a day before my migraine starts, and almost completely worthless for at least a day after it. Everybody’s different, but I find it impossible to believe he was not affected by that migraine while he was on the field. I think it’s laudable that he isn’t leaning on that as an excuse, though.

  11. MikeN says:

    Browns should never have fired Mike Lombardi. He gave them a steal of a trade when he unloaded Trent Richardson on the Colts. They fired Mike and messed up the draft picks.

  12. Scott says:

    D’Brickashaw Furgeuson of the Jets had played in over 9,600 consecutive snaps.

    Rex Ryan decided to sub out his entire line for speedy defensive players for a lateral-fest play on the final play of s game they were losing. Revise checked in at Left Tacklr for this one play.

    D’BF went on to play a few more seasons without missing a snap.

    What Thomas has done is remarkable. Full stop. But much like Ripken’s amazing streak, the streak has ductated playing time.

  13. Mike says:

    I know no one will see this, but between Joe, ESPN, ESPN the magazine, and the NFL network I consistently get at least 2 Joe Thomas full length stories or features a year without fail. For such an anonymous type he gets a lot of ink and airtime.

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