Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Monday, October 25, 2010

Play underdog or rollover

On paper this year’s Cavaliers team seems built for my wheelhouse.

It has all the makings of an underdog sports movie

On the verge of a championship, their superstar teammate quit on them. He took his talents elsewhere and basically called his former teammates a bunch of losers.
What is left in the locker room is collection of role players who are now missing the linchpin. There are a few aging all-stars, some hungry young players with a lot to prove but mostly filler.

They have been written off and disrespected.

Enter a coach who knew what it took to win a ring as a player. As a coach he took his former team to the finals twice before his star player betrayed him and got him fired.

Rather than stand around and watch the hyped chosen one, the new coach is preaching a team concept. Constant movement. Relying on each other as brothers. No one is bigger than the team.

Gone is the flash. No more lighting it up like Las Vegas. It is blue-collar time for a hard knock town.

While Mr. Primadonna is hanging with his new South Beach pals and turning into a complete villain, the team scraps and fights and aims to sneak into the playoffs where they will meet their former foe.

That is the Cleveland sports dream isn’t it?

It is a story that we can certainly buy into.

One national pundit from the largest online sports site has predicted that the Cavs will win 12 games. For a point of reference, the Cavs won 17 games in the 2002-2003 season in a year they tanked in order to get the most ping-pong balls to draft the player formerly believed to “The Chosen One.” Last season the Cavs won 12 or more games in a month three times.

A prediction of 12 wins for a season — never has there been bigger bulletin board material.

This is the type of team Cleveland rallies around.

The truth, however, is I haven’t watched a single second of the Cavs preseason and I watched just about every game of that 2002-2003 season. I spent most of my youth watching really bad basketball.

I am hoping that Wednesday night when the season starts for real, the passion of and grittiness of Byron Scott’s team will spark my enthusiasm.

The 1984-85 Cavs were the favorite team of my youth. They started 2-19 but rallied to make the playoffs where they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle before losing.

The Cavs have no chance to win a championship this season but I think this season could one where fans fall in love with a team. Gone will be the hype, the fancy handshakes and posturing. There will be no chants of MVP but hopefully a deep respect for a team that doesn’t quit.

Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer is the writer who made the prediction of 12 wins and if you read the whole article he shared the reason for his prediction. He really believes the Cavs are a 28 or so win team. He believes the Cavs need to blow it up completely and trade Mo Williams and Antwan Jamison. That the best thing the Cavs can do as an organization is waive the white flag and play like it is 2002-2003.

They don’t make movies about quitters but Dwyer isn’t wrong. In NBA you need to be contending or at the top of the lottery, the mediocre middle is a wasteland.

So what would you prefer? Blow it up, lose as much as possible and pray the this time the ping pong balls produce the real deal and hope the front office can find the right pieces parts for that superstar? Or have a team of Spartans that give everything they have and die on their swords knowing for certain the season will end with a loss and delay even longer any hope for a crown?

I have lived my whole life without a championship. Rolling over and hoping everything breaks right may be smarter but I don’t like the taste.

Lace ’em up and pass the manual for the Princeton Offense.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Browns coaching staff propels team to victory over Saints

How can one tell when the warm glow of the honeymoon between fans and franchise after a Super Bowl win is over?

When the lowly Browns kick their butt.

For the third straight season, the Cleveland Browns took the defending Super Bowl Champions to the woodshed.

Two years ago, the Browns ambushed the Giants on Monday Night Football. Last season, years of frustration were alleviated on a Thursday night when the Browns took it to the hated Steelers ruining their playoff hopes.

Yesterday, the Browns went into the Superdome and made a loud statement with a road win over the Saints.

Why did the Browns win this football game?

Because Eric Mangini and his coaching staff out-coached the Saints coaching staff.

Special teams coach Brad Seely proved why he is one of the best in the business. Teams have keyed on Josh Cribbs all season. He has found return yards tough to get. With his return from a concussion, everyone thought Cribbs would be keyed up to make a big return. So Seely pulled a trick from his bag and had Cribbs throw across the field to Eric Wright. Nearly a touchdown, it set the Browns offense up with great field position and an early lead.

Later deep in their own territory ready to punt yet again, Seely’s video work paid off once more. He called for a fake punt. Reggie Hodges saw I-90 open up in front of him and scampered 68 yards to set up another field goal. Taking that kind of chance only comes after long hours watching film.

Drew Brees is known for being one of the NFL’s most cerebral quarterbacks. He can carve up some of the best defenses in the league. Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his staff came up with a game plan that thoroughly confused Brees.

Ryan took the pieces he had and found ways to hide what the Browns wanted to do. Often standing nearly the entire defense at the line scrimmage, Brees had no idea where the rush was coming from and who was sliding into coverage.

Former Saint Scott Fujita set the tone early with a sack and interception. Fujita led the team with nine tackles and has emerged as the leader the unit has been looking for. David Bowens was in the right place at the right time twice. After watching Browns defensive backs drop interception after interception all season, the grizzled veteran Bowens showed what you do when the ball comes your way and took it to the house twice.

The Saints out-gained the Browns 392 to 210. New Orleans had the ball for 11 more minutes, but the Browns offense did their job.

Rookie Colt McCoy did not have impressive numbers. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 74 yards, but most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over.

Peyton Hillis found the rushing yards difficult. Until the very end it seemed like Hodges would be the Browns leading rusher. The Saints scored their first touchdown to make it 20-10 with 13:29 left in the game. The game was in the balance. Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put the game on Hillis’ shoulders.

Six straight times Hillis blasted into the New Orleans defense gaining 31 yards. After a one-play breather facing third and 6, Hillis took the direct snap and fired a perfect strike to McCoy for a 12-yard gain and a Browns first down. It would lead to another field goal and increase the lead to 13.

I have made no bones about how I like this football team. I like the coaches. I like the team’s character and toughness. The one thing they have been missing is wins, which is all that matters in the National Football League.

The Browns schedule remains the same. Because of their talent limitations, the Browns are going to need to play mistake free football to win every week. This one win doesn’t change that challenge.

But lets end all talk about firing Eric Mangini and his staff. This is a well-coached football team. As Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert continue to gather talent, Mangini and his staff will coach them up.

Rock bottom is over. The climb back up is underway.