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Browns Diary Week 3

There’s a fun little game that I’ve started to play in my continuing effort to get into The Good Place by rooting for the Cleveland Browns. I call it: “Can the Browns trick me into thinking they will actually win?”

Here is how it works: I go into every game knowing that the Browns will lose. That’s sensible, right? The Browns have lost 21 of their last 24 games and, as the line in Bull Durham goes, the only mystery is how they won those three games.

“It’s a miracle,” Larry says.

“It’s a miracle,” Skip adds.

And so I don’t go into games looking for a Browns victory. I go into games looking for a moment — even a few seconds — when the Browns can dupe me into THINKING they’re going to win.

Some games it doesn’t come up. Week 1 in Philadelphia, the Browns never even threatened to win. But then in Week 2 against Baltimore, the Browns jumped out to a 20-0 lead, and the Ravens looked miserable, and the game was in Cleveland, and the game was afoot!

Honestly: Did I ever believe the Browns would win?

Sadly: No. No I did not. When the Browns had the extra-point after the third touchdown blocked and returned for two points, I knew it was only a matter of time.

Then came Week 3 in Miami. Let’s pause for a moment here to say that I’m not one of those Cleveland Browns fans who believes that rooting for the Browns is a singular burden. There are numerous teams that are miserable to root for — the Bills, the Lions, the Chargers, etc. I have a real sympathy for those Bills fans. I love Buffalo. And I want a championship there.

Still: There’s a special place on this list for Dolphins fans: Even as a Browns fan, I must admit: I do feel your pain.

If you are not a Dolphins fan you might not realize that this team has made the playoffs once since 2002. That seems really weird — it doesn’t seem THAT long ago that Dan Marino was flinging passes and Don Shula was roaming sidelines and the Dolphins were good every year. But, yeah, it was a long time ago.

But it’s worse than that. Since 2009, the Dolphins every year have gone 6-10, 7-9 or 8-8. That tells you that the Dolphins are never good. But it also tells you the Dolphins are never bad either. They are on the treadmill of blah. And that is a rotten place to be because of two words:



The Dolphins are the Knights of False Hope. With the Browns, you know. You accept doom. But the Dolphins will go out and get a Ndamukong Suh or Mario Williams or Arian Foster. They will get a few nice games from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They will ALMOST win games against a great team. They will hire an exciting young coach like Adam Gase.

And it’s like “Woo hoo! Shula days are here again!”

But then, no, none of it quite works out. If you are not a Miami Dolphins fan, it’s not hard to look at the team and say, “Nah, Ryan Tannehill is not good enough” or “Adam Gase?”

But inside the Miami bubble there’s always just enough to make you believe. That’s the agony of it all.

The Dolphins should have blown away the Browns on Sunday. Everything was lined up for a destruction. The Dolphins were coming off two crushing and close losses to two excellent teams, so they were obviously motivated. It was their first home game which always adds something. Plus the Browns, already a terrible football team, entered the game without:

  1. Their top two quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.
  2. Their best defensive player, cornerback Joe Haden.
  3. Their most promising defensive player, defensive lineman Carl Nassib.
  4. Their most promising offensive player, receiver Corey Coleman.
  5. Their starting center, Cameron Erving.
  6. Their kicker, Patrick Murray.

Repeat: The Browns are a terrible team WITH those players.

But, like I say, being a Dolphins fan is no picnic. And so, even though the Browns had to start someone named Cody Kessler (the 26th different starting quarterback since the new Browns began in 1999), even though Browns right tackle Austin Pasztor had one of those games that haunt dreams (FIVE penalties and various other misdemeanors), even though the Browns defense was basically the cast of “The Longest Yard,” Cleveland STILL outplayed Miami for 60-plus minutes. If it had not been for a kicker named Parkey (a lot more on him in a minute) the Browns win.

It was such a staggeringly bad performance by Miami, that I’m pretty sure LSU alumni got together and tried to fire Adam Gase.

But back to the original question: Did I ever think the Browns would actually win?

And I must admit: Yes. It happened. I have come to pride myself on resisting the usual Browns traps. But the Dolphins were spectacularly awful and the Browns were irresistibly scrappy, and so the temptation was too strong. The Dolphins led by three with eight or so minutes left, and they got the ball back, and I felt sure, absolutely sure, that they would run the ball down Cleveland’s throat and put the game away.

Instead, the Dolphins did something bizarre — they decided to throw the ball three straight times out of a no-huddle shotgun. I suppose this does neatly blend the drawback of confusing the offense with the impediment of not running off clock. I don’t know ANYTHING about the Dolphins specifically or football in general so I’m not second-guessing. I’m just saying that as a Browns fan, yeah, I loved it. It seemed straight out of the ancient text “Ways to Lose Football Games”, and I had thought the Browns had the only surviving copy.

At some point the camera showed a frustrated Tannehill on the sideline, and it sure seemed to me like he mouthed the words, “What are we doing?”

Anyway, the Browns got the ball at their own 6 and then they somehow coughed and wheezed up the field. They used Kessler and Pryor interchangeably at quarterback; Pryor was the best player on the field in this game. He must have thought it was like Ohio State days. During the drive, Kessler connected with Pryor for a 40-yard gain that pushed the ball into field goal range.

That set up the Browns new kicker, Cody Parkey, who had signed with the team about 12 minutes before kickoff. Parkey had already missed two field goals — he seems to have a hook problem — but he made this one to tie the game.

No, that’s now when I believed the Browns would win. I was still sure the Dolphins would right themselves. But I was wrong. The Dolphins offense bumbled to a quick punt that gave the ball back to Cleveland with a little bit more than two minutes left.

The Browns responded with their own gambit — Pryor dropped a pass on third-and-one and the Browns punted the ball back to Miami with 42 seconds left.

Then the Dolphins played their trump card. They decided to use those 42 seconds to try and score, a noble pursuit, but instead Tannehill fumbled the ball after getting sacked. The Browns got the ball at the Miami 27 with 20 seconds left and one timeout remaining.

Yes, this is when I let my guard down and believed the Browns would win.

Well, I looked at it like this: The Browns had the ball on the 27, which meant that if they did NOTHING, Parkey would have a 45-yard kick to win. That’s certainly no gimme for a kicker who was out of a job two days earlier, but Parkey did make the Pro Bowl two years ago and he had attempted five field goals (making three) so he was warm.

But that wasn’t the reason I thought the Browns would win — I wouldn’t count on Parkey making a 45-yard-field goal if a free pizza was on the line. To me the key was this: The Browns had a timeout. That was their golden ticket. That meant that they could run a play or two plays, get a few yards, make this thing a virtual chip shot. I WOULD count on Parkey making a 35-yard field goal. Heck, anything less than 40 would seem promising.

So many possibilities. They could run the ball — Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson had been gashing the Dolphins defense. They could throw a quick pass, even over the middle. They could put Pryor in the Wildcat and let him make a play. I could feel it about to happen …

… and then coach Hue Jackson did something that, even for this Browns fan, boggles the mind. I want to love Hue Jackson. I really do. He seems like a great guy, He says fun things, He has a strong history as a coach. I so want to love Hue Jackson.

Hue had Cody Kessler kneel on the ball to run off the final seconds of the clock and then used that final timeout.

I … uh … well … but … uh .. em .. ah … dah … well … you know … um … uh …

I don’t know what to say. I really don’t. The Miami Dolphins gave the Cleveland Browns a gift they did not deserve. They fumbled the ball on their own 27 with 20 seconds left. “Here,” they said. “Take this gift,” they said. “Pay it forward,” they said.

And Hue Jackson decided to kneel on the ball in the stunning belief that his kicker, a guy he had just signed off the street, definitely would make a 45-yard field goal like it was nothing. Oh, wait, there’s an added bonus: Taking the knee lost a yard, so it was a 46-yard field goal.

Cody Parkey has made exactly one 46-yard field goal since Christmas 2014.

I have no idea what possibly could have been going through the mind of Hue.*

*And, yes, while we’re at it — it has not escaped my attention or anyone else’s that Carson Wentz, the quarterback the Browns traded down to escape in this year’s draft, has decided to basically beat the rush and become Tom Brady right from the start. Now, it is true, many quarterbacks have — Marc Bulger, Jake Locker, Todd Marinovich, RGIII, Marcus Mariota and so on — have gotten off to impressive starts in their careers and it does not always lead to glory. Still: The kid looks awful good. 

Anyway, as soon as I saw Kessler take that knee, I regained my senses and realized that of course the Browns would not win this game. Of course Parkey would miss the field goal. Of course he would not come close to making the field goal.

Of course Hue would promptly choose to kick off in the overtime.

Wait. What?

The Dolphins did make one final stab at taking the loss by stalling on their first overtime drive and punting. But by that point they had to know that resistance was futile. The Browns punted it back, only shorter, the Dolphins got the ball at the Cleveland 44, and they needed just three plays to score the game-winning touchdown. I remain fairly certain that the Browns will win a game this year. They will probably win more than one — that’s how the NFL usually goes. But I won’t believe it until the final whistle.


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15 Responses to Browns Diary Week 3

  1. Jake says:

    I admit I did not watch the game, but I did not know the Browns willingly turned a 45 yard FG into a 46 yard FG, and then kicked off in OT. Does he have instructions to throw games to ensure the #1 pick?

    Also, worry not about Carson Wentz. If Cleveland had drafted him, he would already have been arrested for DUI, or torn his Achilles, or his right shoulder would have spontaneously combusted. Whatever move the Browns make is the wrong one, because they are the ones who made it.

  2. Largebill says:

    That sums up (minus the alcohol) my afternoon yesterday.

    Ya know if I’m a kicker and all my kicks are going to the left I might consider making an adjustment. Somehow despite the Browns firing coaches and GM every other year for a decade, our special teams coach keeps surviving the purge. No one in Cleveland has eny idea how the guy keeps his job, but he survives. Does he have to only key to the coaches locker room? Does he have nude photos of the owner and a dead girl or live boy? WHAT!?!

  3. Marc Schneider says:

    Why, oh why, are there so many bad/mediocre teams in the NFL? The league is set up to insure parity. A squirrel should be able to run these teams and come up with decent teams once in a while. Yet, you have teams like the Browns, Dolphins, Rams, Bills, Lions, Jaguars, that never win. (Admittedly, the Bills used to win but they always lost the Super Bowl.) And then you have teams that are occasionally decent (Redskins, Jets) but mostly mediocre. Meanwhile, the Patriots win with a third-string quarterback. How is it possible to find so much terrible coaching/management talent? Is there a shortage of coaching/management talent in America? Should this be a question for the debate? How can so many teams keep making the same (or different) mistakes year after year after year?

    • David says:

      My favorite stat:
      There have been 50 Super Bowls. The AFC (or AFL) representative has been Pittsburgh, New England, or Denver in 24 of those games. So, basically 50%. Only, it’s actually worse than that, because those teams didn’t make any of the first 8 Super Bowls. Which means that it’s more accurately 24/42. That is horrifying to me.

      • invitro says:

        That’s barely any different from baseball. The AL pennant winner has been the Yankees, A’s, or Red Sox in 23 of the last 50 World Series, and in 21 of the last 42 of them (the Orioles have been in the same number of last 50 WS as the A’s and Red Sox, but were in fewer of the last 42). The NL pennant winner has been the Cards, Dodgers, and Braves (or Phils/Giants/Mets/Reds) in 21 of the last 50.

        I’m too lazy to check the NBA, but I bet well more than half the last 50 Western Conference winners have been the Lakers, Spurs, or Rockets.

        • David says:

          I don’t disagree with any of that. But to the point of the previous post, the NFL prides itself on parity, but hasa demonstrable lack thereof. It’s no better than any other league, but always acts as if it is.

          • invitro says:

            I don’t know why parity is necessarily a good thing. Like most things, you can have too much parity as well as too little. The definition of too much and too little is a personal one, but I don’t think any of the big three leagues have been too extreme in either direction in at least 20 years. I think the key is to make sure that teams with the most skilled personnel get to keep that edge, while also giving teams with unskilled personnel a chance to turn things around if they change their employees.

          • Pat says:

            Parity’s an illusion of scheduling. Teams with good records last year face a lot of out-of-conference teams that had good records last year (the Broncos’ first three: Panthers, Colts, Bengals, e.g.), whereas bad teams get more teams that were bad. That flattens the difference in records between good teams (playing tough schedules) and bad teams (playing cake). The Texans spent a decade bouncing from 10-6 to 6-10 as their schedule reflected the previous record—easy after being lousy, or hard after doing well.

            The Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers pretty obviously have good organizations (and good defenses), but I wonder if you might see a bigger effect in the last 25 years from the effect the rules have had on passing games. That is, more than top programs, you might see a bigger tendency of the conference champions to have an all-time great quarterback.

    • invitro says:

      Maybe the NFL is actually set up to PREVENT parity. It happens all the time in sports that something done with a goal of having an effect actually has the reverse effect. Classic example: the NBA rules that were designed to keep Wilt from dominating. I don’t know the NFL very well, but whatever parity in baseball there is exists mainly due to (a) the enormous luck factor, which isn’t in the NFL or NBA, and (b) free agency. I think free agency isn’t a big factor in the NFL? Coaching is I’ll guess a much bigger factor in the NFL, so if other things are evened out, a great staff like Belichick’s would have their advantage magnified, and a poor staff wouldn’t stand a chance. Anyway, just rambling before watching Trump finally lose his last chance at the presidency.

  4. Tim says:

    How about Terrelle Prior though! That was fun to watch. 35 yards passing, 21 rushing and a td, and 7 for 144. New favorite receiver!

  5. MikeN says:

    Was there a 4th down in the game where Cleveland punted when they probably should have gone for it?

  6. D. Kelly says:

    NFL coaches famously claim to work 80 hour work weeks and to do nothing but eat, drink and sleep football. So why do they make so many mental mistakes.
    *Dirk Koetter having an hour to prepare for a two minute drill because of the rain delay, getting the ball back with 2 timeouts and 1:43 on the clock and still having those 2 timeouts in his pocket with 4 seconds left.
    *Jeff Fisher in the same game ordering his team to try a 2-point conversion in the 4th quarter while up 11 when everyone on planet earth knows an extra point makes it a two touchdown game.
    *Hue Jackson settling for a 46 yd FG when his kicker was unemployed 24 hours prior and had already missed two FGs that were shorter than the one he was about to try.

  7. John M. Corradin says:

    WOW! You guys are certainly on the ball! I watched the game at the Hooter;s that is walking distance from my house. I told the general manager that ever Browns game is a fairy tale. They should pick one at random and re-titled it “How to lose a NFL game!” Deep inside me when I get caught off guard, I think this may be the week. But I am smart enough never to say it out loud! Thanks Joe for your unbiased approach to the Browns football.

    Last week was devastating and this week was as well.

  8. KHAZAD says:

    My favorite part of this whole fiasco, despite any in game gaffes, is the fact that the Browns needed a field goal kicker for the rest of the season, have the most cap space in the NFL, and didn’t sign Robbie Gould.
    Gould was an 11 year veteran who was actually still good and was a surprise cut by the Bears this year to save money. Gould was on a long term deal and was due $2.9 million this year. Having cleared waivers, he would have cost the Browns a little over $400,000 more than Parkey over the rest of the season.
    Gould has never missed 3 field goals in one game in an 11 year career. Gould made more field goals of 40+ yards (14, including 7 over 50) last season than Parkey had attempted in his career. Hell, he made a 43 yarder (along with two other shorter field goals) on September 1st in a pre season game!
    Parkey’s last kick in a regular season game was about 1 year ago. He injured his groin and missed the rest of the season. He lost a battle with Caleb Sturgis (an inferior kicker to Gould) in the pre season.
    Cleveland was quick to come out and say that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that saving money had anything to do with their decision to sign Parkey over Gould, but isn’t it somehow worse if they decided Parkey was the better choice on merit alone? At least if they blamed the money they would have an actual reason, flimsy as it may be. Now they are just kind of admitting their own ineptitude at evaluation and decision making.

  9. Gordon James says:

    Joe, I live in the Pittsburgh area and of course I’m a Steelers fan, but I do feel your pain. I was rooting for the Browns to win the game because I was so happy with what Terrelle Pryor accomplished. Terrelle grew up in a town just down the road from the one where I live. I saw him in action several times when he was in high school, and have been rooting for him ever since. He was an amazing high school player, as you can imagine; he was as dominant in basketball as in football. But given his uneven performance, I began to wonder if he would ever have much success as a pro.

    I am happy that Jackson recognizes what a unique talent he has in Pryor, and that he gave him such a wonderful opportunity to do so many things in that game. I hope the Browns can build on the good things they did last week and play even better this week. And don’t worry, Hue’s in-game management will get better as he gains experience. I hope the Browns give him a chance to prove himself over the next five years or so, because, as the Steelers have learned, continuity is essential to building a winning program.

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