Monday, August 17, 2009

Give me one reason to stay here

The New Browns have become the gridiron version of “Groundhog Day.” While Bill Murray comically deadpanning his way through the same depressing day over and over again was vastly entertaining, there’s nothing fun about watching this pale, limp-wristed football franchise get thoroughly outplayed season after aggravating season.

I hate to base a good rant on two quarters of a preseason game, but the first 30 minutes of Saturday night’s stultifyingly dull 17-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers were reflective of everything that has ailed this team since its return in 1999. You had your “micro” variety problems -dropped passes, dumb penalties, sieve-like run defense, zero pass rush – to go with your “macro” issues that have plagued the Browns for a dawg’s age, i.e. a lack of playmakers and a tendency to get pushed around at the line of scrimmage.

That brief sketch is all you really need to know about last weekend’s contest. I’ll leave the detailed film study to Coach Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the latter or whom has beautiful wavy silver hair and looks a little like Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments.” (Neither a headset nor a humid Green Bay night could muss that impressive pompadour. So we’ve got that going for us at least.)

Indeed, my concern is much larger than two bad preseason quarters. It entails this football club extricating itself from the lightless void of perpetual suck that has consumed three management regimes in a decade’s span. Ever see that episode of “Seinfeld” where George is lamenting his lousy love life? He tells Jerry, “I cannot envision any circumstance in which I'll ever have the opportunity to have sex again. How’s it gonna happen?”

In a way, that’s how I feel about these Browns. What’s it going to take for this broken organization to play even in the same universe as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, two well-run franchises with solid organizational philosophies from which they do not waver? How’s it gonna happen?

With Randy Lerner as owner, I believe it will simply take a massive dose of luck for the toxic cycle of losing to finally end. I have no idea who Lerner was consulting with when he quickly paired Messrs Mangini and Kokinis this offseason. I don’t know if it’s going to work, and I don’t think Lerner knows either. I’m just hoping that Lerner’s seemingly half-assed due diligence works out somehow, and by some miracle of modern science ManKok becomes pro football’s new superpowered management team. But such blue-skying is not much to hang one’s hat on, is it?

Which brings me to the crux of my dilemma approaching this NFL season: Put simply(and blasphemously perhaps), I’m finding it very difficult to care about the Browns. The stone fact that they’re not going to make the playoffs is not even the biggest issue. A losing year in 2009 is almost a certainty. What will drain my reserves is a continued lack of perceptible progress; some sign that this plodding, boring brontosaurus of a franchise is pulling itself from the tar pit.

So, after such a long-winded treatise, what I’m saying is this: If the Browns are playing non-competitive football by Week 11 or 12, I’m checking out on the season. That’s it...I’m just not going to put forth the effort anymore to watch lousy football out of some misguided sense of loyalty. Call me a fairweather fan if you must, but rest assured I'm damned sick of the rain.

There’s an adage that says a bad team may be bad for a couple of seasons, while a bad franchise may stay that way for decades. I hope the latter is not the case with our Browns, but until they show fans that they’re not the sad-eyed football version of Punxsutawney Phil, I will find it hard to believe otherwise.