Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vox Lox: Open Season


Four seasons ago, the Browns benefitted from one of the easiest schedules in NFL history. They found 10 wins before choking away a playoff spot to a bad Bengals squad, but the chest-beating in Berea started almost immediately. Contract extensions were awarded to Derrick Anderson & Coach Crennel, and Phil Savage proudly preached progress. It was all a mirage, and our mild success in 2007 ended up doing more long-term damage to our beloved franchise. Savage was in way over his head, Crennel was outmatched no matter his counterpart and Derrick Anderson's arm was about as accurate as head-shots from an online dating site.

We beat exactly one team with a winning record that year, the Seahawks-- not even two years removed from their SuperBowl appearance. It was a 4pm start; an OT thriller in early November that I'd witness from club seats at midfield. I was headed to see Bruce Springsteen right after the game, and I distinctly remember the chilly walk, half-drunk, from the Stadium to the Q. High-five with random fan here. 'Here We Go Brownies' chant with friend there. Stop to urintate behind parking garage and shout "SuperBowl" to happy neighbor pissing ten feet away. We were all in denial, of course. The win was as flukish as the season that delivered it.

Sitting nosebleed at the concert, my mind was wandering while the Boss hurried through his unusually eclectic & electric set. How did the Browns pull off this improbable 33-30 shootout against the 'Hawks? Well, for starters, Seattle's coach elected to go for it, in overtime, on 4th down at Cleveland's 44-yard line, knowing we'd only need thirty yards to win the game if we held. And the play call? RB up the middle? Whole stadium was waiting for it. And if Seattle really was playing aggressively for the win, shouldn't they have gone for it just ten minutes earlier-- at the end of regulation when they were on our 2 but decided on a game-tying FG? Didn't their coach know how one dimensional we were? Browns had no running game, no pass rush, couldn't stop the pass (Leigh Bodden was our best hope in the secondary), and relied solely on DA flinging it to Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards-- both having career years. Who was this great football mind trolling Seattle's sideline?

Mike Holmgren.

Ease up, readers. This column was not my indictment of Holmgren, nor am I suggesting he was a shitty coach. This space aspires to much more than that (I'll save my rip-job for the Entourage series finale, which easily rates as the worst thirty minutes in HBO history). I realize Holmgren coached in three SuperBowls and, dear God, I am NOT calling for his removal. His skill with the media alone should be enough to keep him employed in Randy's circus. But hear this: the honeymoon is over. It was over the very second Coach Shurmur dropped that stink bomb last Sunday. When Eric Mangini was canned, Holmgren was effectively communicating to the fanbase that he had an upgrade up his sleeve. What we suffered versus Cincinnati was hardly an improvement. Rather, it was a contest that Mangini probably wins in his 3rd year, with a well-prepared defense and a game plan to exploit Cincy's less talented, inexperienced pair of QBs. Again, I'm not overreacting to one badly-coached game in 2007 or Shurmur's awful debut seven days ago. I'm simply implying that, even when I'm hot and thirsty and coming off a four-mile run, I will be reaching for something other than the Holmgren-flavored Kool Aid (you know, maybe some soda, OJ, purple stuff, or even the dreaded SunnyD). And, if the Browns don't show today, then, Mike Holgren, you are Mr. Myagi, Pat Shurmur is Danielsan, the city of Cleveland is John Kreese...and it's open season on HIM and YOU.

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9/18 Bookie Busters:

Bills (-2.5) over Oakland, 2 dimes
Jags (+9.5) over Jets, 2 dimes
Falcons (+2.5) over Eagles, 1 dime

Last Week: 1-2 (-4 dimes)

(Pucky's Picks: Browns 3 dimes -2.5, Chicago 2 dimes +7.0, Broncos 1 dime -4.0. New England 2 dimes -7.0)

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Who is the Vox?
SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 85-71-8 against the spread with his Vox Lox over three seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at Cleveland Sports Torture.