November 07, 2008

Cleveland Stoic

Knock wood, I hope the guy doesn't fall on his face.

-- Romeo Crennel
Head Coach, Cleveland Browns
on quarterback Brady Quinn's first start

I HAVE ONLY SEEN Romeo Crennel smile once. This was when Mr Crennel was introduced as a special guest at the Cleveland Gladiators' game in June against the Dallas Desperados. The thousands of fans who had filled the Quicken Loans Arena for the arena football game cheered as their hero, who had led the Browns to a 10-6 season the prior year, smiled broadly as he was introduced.

I was so stunned at seeing Mr Crennel smile that it remains one of my most vivid memories of that game. Normally, Mr Crennel does not smile. Normally, during the NFL season, Mr Crennel stands on the sidelines at Cleveland Browns Stadium and stoically watches as the Browns somehow manage to screw things up. Braylon Edwards drops a pass? Stoic. Derek Anderson throws an interception? Stoic. The defense plays like the defense normally does? Stoic, stoic, stoic.

I daresay Mr Crennel is the most stoic coach in the league. Mike Tomlin, who coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers, is close in this regard, but with Mr Tomlin you can see flashes of anger whenever someone fails. For instance, during a game, you can see Mr Tomlin angrily demand to know just who got called for a penalty, or just who did something else stupid, and you know they're in trouble. But when the television cameras turn to Mr Crennel, there is none of that. Mr Crennel's emotions are kept tightly under wraps.

This is part of the reason why I like him so much. Also, I feel bad for the guy. It's not as if it's his fault the Browns have generally played craptacular this year.

Still, what you see on television is one thing, and reality is another. I do wonder how Mr Crennel privately reacted to the Browns' Incredible Sports Choke against the Denver Broncos. After all, the 34-30 loss is the second Major Choke in all of two weeks for the team. I also don't know, given the quote noted above, how sold he was on the idea of Mr Quinn debuting against the Denver Broncos. For Cleveland hates the Broncos -- not as much as the Steelers, but they're definitely second on the list -- and I can imagine Mr Crennel probably would have preferred Derek Anderson to start.

But I do think it would be unfair to blame this loss on the offense. True, the offense went into the game with a big advantage -- most notably, the fact they were playing Denver, which stinks. But the fact Denver stinks -- on both sides of the ball -- means the defense must bear the brunt of this loss. Consider: Cleveland gave up a 93 yard passing touchdown. Consider: Denver had no running backs in the second half. Consider: it's Denver, which on paper should not have come anywhere close to beating Cleveland at home.

In light of these things, it's worth noting Mr Crennel's statement after the game:

''A 93-yard touchdown pass should never happen, ever. Missed tackles, letting them throw balls over our head, tight ends in the middle of coverage. We didn't make any plays. It's unfortunate, it really is.''

I think one of the mistakes the team made this year was hiring from within in terms of their defensive staff. They fired their defensive coordinator after last year, and they replaced the guy through promoting from the ranks. But the subordinates clearly aren't doing the job. For that matter, the players aren't doing the job. It would probably be wise for the powers that be in Cleveland to start reminding players and coaches that there are plenty of other hungry players and coaches out there who would be glad to take their places. Perhaps they have already done so, but that didn't translate into victory tonight.

Of course, the loss leaves the Browns 3-6. Their season is very much in peril, and the fans aren't happy. As the game ended, one could hear the boos raining down on the field from aggravated Cleveland partisans, and I do wonder how long the fans' patience can last. It is Cleveland, and so they have much more patience than fans of other teams, but this is starting to get ridiculous.

Along those lines, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere condolences to all Cleveland fans everywhere. I am not trying to be condescending, insulting, gleeful or a scoundrel -- I do sincerely hope the Browns, my second team, get better and get better soon. Cleveland needs and deserves a winning team, and I am sorry this did not come to pass tonight.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 7, 2008 02:43 AM | TrackBack
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