It may have been one measly win in Week Three of the NFL calendar, but the Detroit Lions' 19-14 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday did even more than snap their 19-game losing streak.
That win helped the Lions pass the torch as the NFL's doormat and laughingstock to the Cleveland Browns.
Sure, the Browns are one of seven winless squads following Sunday's action and pending the Carolina Panthers' quest for victory on Monday night in Dallas. But there are "bad" 0-3's and "good" 0-3's.
The Browns are neither. They are just flat out atrocious.
While Detroit ended a 19-game losing streak by beating Washington, the Browns' slide extended to nine straight dating back to last season. It would be one thing to chalk it to bad luck and facing superior teams, but this is a Cleveland offense that is challenging the depths of ineptitude and futility.
If you don't count a garbage touchdown in the last minute of a 34-20 waxing against Minnesota in Week One, this is a squad that hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in all nine of those losses. Closing last season with six straight games without an offensive touchdown was an NFL record.
Even if you want to go ahead and count the meaningless score against the Vikings two weeks ago, the Browns have scored that one touchdown in their last 525 offensive plays from scrimmage.
If Herm Edwards thinks that "you play to win the game," then you play offense to score touchdowns. And there are Pop Warner teams that do a much better job at that than the Browns can ever dream of at this point.
In fact, the Browns have been beaten by an average score of 24.9 to 6.7, or a total of 224-60, in that nine-game span. The only thing amazing about this offense in 2009 is that it has somehow managed to pass the eyesore of last year in ineptitude, scoring 29 points in the first three games.
The woeful Rams have somehow managed to be the one team to score less than that, but hey, at least the Rams have scored offensive touchdowns (plural) this season.
But the sad thing about this historic franchise and rabid fanbase is that they had it coming. And even worse, they deserve it in light of what the organization has undergone the last 18 months.
First was the fans' treatment of 2007 Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson, a guy who rewrote the franchise's offensive record books during his jaw-dropping campaign. Anderson threw for 3,787 yards with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in '07, anchoring a Browns offense that was suddenly legit and exciting for the first time since the franchise's rebirth in 1999.
In fact, those numbers destroyed anything put up by a Browns quarterback since the franchise's return, and Anderson became the first quarterback to represent the franchise in Hawaii since Bernie Kosar in 1988. And he had accomplished this at the young age of 24, leaving an entire career ahead of him to top those feats.
But Browns fans seemingly didn't want him to.
That's because local Ohioan and 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn was waiting in the wings. He was supposed to be the franchise's savior, and the team had supposedly lucked into drafting him with the 22nd pick that year. Many thought he was a top-three pick, for sure. And after years of fumbling around, the Browns had found their young franchise quarterback for the future.
Except it wasn't Quinn. It was Anderson.
One would think that the season Anderson came off of would afford him a longer leash, but that line of thinking would inexplicably be incorrect. What followed was a season that saw Anderson marred by dropped passes from Braylon Edwards and a porous defense that hasn't been able to defend the run or the pass decently since coming back into the league.
Anderson's last game as the fulltime starter was against the Baltimore Ravens at home in 2008 when he helped the Browns jump out to a 27-13 lead on the Ravens' vaunted defense. Not only could the defense not stop a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco, but Edwards let a chance at a home run go to waste when he let what could have been a sure touchdown pass from Anderson slip right through his fingers.
Then there's the treatment of former General Manager Phil Savage. And that may be the worst of all.
You see, when the Browns hired Savage in January of 2005, the team was as inept in its talent evaluation as its offense is today. In the six years of the franchise's rebirth since before Savage's arrival, the team had only one Pro Bowler (linebacker Jamir Miller in 2001). You read that right. One Pro Bowler in six years. Even teams like the Raiders and Lions sent at least one guy to Hawaii every year or maybe every two to three years.
Not only that, but the team had not had a 1,000 yard rusher for a season since 1985. If you don't count the three-year hiatus from '96 to '98, that's 16 seasons without a guy averaging 62.5 yards a game over a 16-game season.
Savage changed all that. Instead of spending first round picks on running backs like previous regimes, he brought in Reuben Droughns from Denver via trade, and Droughns proceeded to shatter that barrier in '05 with 1,232 yards.
Savage's first draft pick as a GM—Braylon Edwards in 2005—ended up becoming a Pro Bowler. His first-rounder in 2007, Joe Thomas, was a Pro Bowler his rookie season and is on his way to becoming the best left tackle in football. It was Savage who scoured the dregs of the league for guys like Anderson and Joshua Cribbs, both Pro Bowlers in '07.
When the team lacked a big time defensive stopper during their 10-6 campaign in '07, Savage went out and got tackle Shaun Rogers from Detroit. Rogers also became a Pro Bowler in '08 despite a poor 4-12 season.
If you wanted Pro Bowlers for what used to be a talent-starved roster, then Phil Savage gave you Pro Bowlers by the bundle.
Yet, it was his fault apparently for the team's lackluster performance in 2008. Instead of firing head coach Romeo Crennel (which was appropriate) and being done with it, the Browns fired Savage as well and made sure they fired him first before firing Crennel.
An incident that involved Savage using profanity with a discouraged fan was a big reason for Savage's dismissal, but keeping good public relations wasn't Savage's job. And when you're a team that is as devoid of talent as the Browns were before Savage and now are after him, then public relations should be the last thing on your mind.
Phil Savage was supposed to inject a horrible roster with talent. And he did just that. He was a part of the solution, not the problem.
So don't be surprised if this 0-3 start is just the beginning of the Browns' problems for 2009.
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