Being a glutton for punishment during the Browns game, I lurked in the shadows on a local sports website forum. To say the natives were restless would be an understatement. They were angry, whiny and full-on tilt mode. They complained about everything including:
- Derek Anderson
- The play calling
- Eric Mangini
- Dropped passes
- How Jamal Lewis is washed up
- How this was the worst game ever
- How Mangini should be fired
- How Daboll should be fired
- Why Anderson can't complete passes
- Why aren't the Browns passing more
- How much this game sucked
- How they didn't want to watch
- What a joke the Browns are
- And rinse repeat
I guess I watched a different game. I did not see one of the worst NFL games of all time. What I saw was a coach taking control of his football team and pointing it in the right direction. Now I am not going to defend Derek Anderson. He was historically bad. He was 2 for 17 for 23 yards. That would be a Browns record for less amount yards passing in a game. But we know Derek Anderson is a not a good starting quarterback and he now has ZERO established receivers. Not a combination for success. Anderson was awful. Royal dropped what could have been very long gain. A few other passes were dropped. The passing game was pathetic and worthy of mocking. But just about everything else the Browns did in the game, they did very well.
Now Buffalo was an embarrassment. The Bills had 13 penalties accepted and handful more declined. The Bills shot themselves in the foot all day. They played stupid. They had no discipline. If I was a Bills fan I would be sick to my stomach.
But as a Browns fan, my hope has been restored. I don't know if the Browns will win very many games this year. In fact I doubt that they exceed 4 or 5. But there was a lot to like about the Browns today. The defense played well. Jamal Lewis ran well. The offensive line was very good. The special teams were outstanding. The Browns had only three penalties. And two were aggressive penalties rather than boneheaded mistakes. Eric Wright got flagged for pass interference and yes he was early but partly because they receiver had gator arms and never got to the ball. And Williams roughing the passer penalty in the end zone was a horrible call. The Browns played poised throughout the game.
Here is the thing about the Browns -- they are not very talented. It appears they have no quarterback. In fact skill players are absent throughout the roster. So in order to compete, they have to be coached up, they have to play smart and they have to play hard. It was obvious Anderson was off his game so offensive coordinator Brian Daboll altered his game plan. He played it safe. He gave the ball to the veteran Jamal Lewis and the old vet came through big. The special teams played smart and alter the outcome of the game. As a coach all you can do is motivate your team and put them in position to succeed. The players need to buy in. And you can see it happening.
You can focus on the ineptitude of the passing game but I see progress. I see the players buying into the system. The talent isn't present to win. However the building blocks are being put into place. But the Browns won today, it was an ugly win but a win nonetheless. I am remind of when Mike Fratello was the coach of the Cavs. They did not have very much talent. They only way they could win was ugly. So Fratello coached the team to slow it. It was not beautiful basketball but he got a less talented team into the playoffs. Mangini will not get this team into the playoffs. But his coaching staff seems to understand what they have to work with and they aren't trying to put a square peg into a a round hole. It may not produce beautiful football but it is narrowing the talent gap. The Browns won today and that was great. It eases some of the pressure. But even if they lost today. I liked what I saw -- passing game aside.
It is going to be a long year. And while I don't understand everything Mangini is doing, I think I am buying into what is happening. This team is on the right track. Even if the causal fan can't see it.