Once promising season turns back into a pumpkin
I’m sure you remember the moment.
It didn’t last long but it was one of the few seconds of complete joy Browns fans have experienced since the return. For however long it lasted, one, two maybe three seconds, I would argue it was the only moment when I actually believed the Browns had a real future. Sure there have been signs of hope; here in Cleveland we always feign hope. But for those precious seconds, I honestly believed the Browns were for real.
And then of course Chansi Stuckey fumbled the ball.
The win over the Saints was awesome. I felt more shock than joy. A bunch of things went right for the Browns but for most of the game I was waiting for Drew Brees to lead his team to a comeback victory. The win over the Patriots was the most fun I have had during a game as a Browns fan since before Bernie Kosar was unceremoniously sent packing. It was a perfect storm and pasting Belichick and Brady was pretty awesome.
I rationalized the Jets game before it started. I just wanted to be competitive. Winning three weeks in row against the NFL elite seemed to be asking for too much. For most of the game that is exactly how it played it out then Colt McCoy led the Browns down the field for the game-tying touchdown. He even attacked the seemingly unbeatable Darelle Revis during the drive.
In overtime when Stuckey broke free — ever so briefly everything I ever wanted as a Browns fans seemed to be right in front of me. A defense that could stand up to the best the NFL had to offer. A young quarterback unafraid of any challenge who his teammates believed in. A coaching staff that looked to be getting more than was possible out of their team.
Stuckey is not responsible for the free fall that has occurred since then. He was trying to make a play. He stretched past his capabilities and fell short.
But the truth remains that it has been all downhill since then. Even the two Browns wins weren’t a lot of fun. The Browns actually lost the game to Carolina but the Panthers were ever so nice to regift it. The Browns did not play well in Miami but the Dolphins seem to be allergic to winning at home this season. Embarrassing losses to pitiful Buffalo and Cincinnati followed and the season came to a close with our regularly scheduled beatings by Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
A season that at one time seemed to be a road map to a brighter future ended with the same exact record of last season.
A four game winning streak saved the coaching staff last season and it seems only fair a four game losing streak should seal their firings this season.
A Browns fan told me that Browns should have won at least eight games this season and maybe even 10. I would argue that could just easily have won just two or three.
Everything that was once good about this season is now left with a huge dark cloud filled with questions.
Is McCoy the confident quarterback he was against New Orleans and New England or is he the quarterback flinging interceptions against Baltimore and Pittsburgh?
Are our rookie defensive backs the real deal or the two guys that watched Mike Wallace waltz past them?
Is Peyton Hillis the battering ram we all came to love or will his style lead to injuries that will lead to short NFL career?
Ditto for Joshua Cribbs?
Is Scott Fujita really that important to the defense? Can losing one guy destroy a unit like that?
Is Joe Thomas the real pro bowler he was in past seasons or just the sieve that led to three injured quarterbacks? The offensive line was the strength of the team and by the end of the season we saw what happens when a power rushing football team can’t run the ball anymore.
So the Browns season ended just like most of us expected it would back in training camp. The resulting double-digit loss season was no surprise for Browns fans. The way it unfolded however was far from expected.
The Browns started slow losing three straight games they actually led in the second half.
Injuries forced McCoy into the lineup and what followed was probably the most memorable stretch of football since the return. Be honest the year Butch Davis snuck the Browns into the playoffs, they really weren’t worthy and it was readily apparent that Derek Anderson’s miracle season was a house of cards.
That taste of a bright future is what made the beat down from the Steelers even more painful.
For moment, I actually believed in this team. The moment ended quickly and we are back to where we always seem to be in early January — watching other franchises in the playoffs while our Browns are left full of questions and doubts that they will ever be answered correctly.