Six Points on the Cleveland Browns (Dec. 9)

Christopher MaherCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 06:  Brady Quinn #10 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass against the San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s time for another edition of Six Points , since the last time this column was published, it was written to the tune of the Robert Plant song “Worse Than Detroit .”

Yes, the Browns still are, and despite glimmers of hope from “the process,” mediocrity would still be a massive improvement. But the panic button has been pushed too many times since Cleveland was "awarded" this expansion team, and it's not the time to push it.


1. Staying the Course, Part 1:

Six Points has never been a fan of Brayden Tyler Quinn, but Six Points gives credit where it’s due.

Quinn’s textbook opening drive against San Diego was a thing of beauty, and the fourth-quarter rally against the Chargers gave Browns fans something they have rarely seen from their team in 2009.

Namely, entertainment.

But, optimism has to be tempered by San Diego racking up 27 unanswered points on the Brownies and outgaining Cleveland 208 yards to 10 in the third quarter.

To channel Bob Eucker as Harry Doyle in Major League , “That’s all we got? Ten goddamn yards?”

The late scoring came with the Chargers in a prevent defense, as the Bolts had pretty much clocked out for the evening.

Nonetheless, Quinn appears to be playing looser and with more confidence.

The jury is still out on whether Quinn will be a credible NFL quarterback, but it’s becoming clear that the Browns have bigger problems than Brayden Tyler Quinn.

2. Staying the Course, Part 2:

Six Points has never jumped on the “Cangini” bandwagon, and has yet to buy a boarding pass.

Eric Mangini walked into Salary Cap Hell with only four draft picks, dumped salaries and cancers from a 4-12 squad, and set the Browns up with 11 draft picks in 2010. 

The Browns now have the second-highest cap room in the NFL.

When dumping salaries from a 4-12 team, 1-11 is within the realm of possibility. In fact, “the process” looks to Six Points like “blowing it up and starting over.”

Think of it as excavating a bedroom closet. In the beginning, the floor will be strewn with clothing that no longer fits and other detritus that is no longer relevant to your current life. 

Now, Mangini is dealing with a closet that hasn’t been cleaned correctly for a decade, and ten years of useless crap is all over the floor.

And yes, it does not look good.

But, jettisoning one piece of salary and tumor is appearing to pay dividends.

The New York media, never the kindest lot to the Browns’ coach while he was employed there, are now referring to the Braylon Edwards trade as “Mangini’s Revenge.”

In the NFL, you can get receivers who drop passes for far less money than Edwards commands.

The Mangini decision should rightfully be left to the incoming Grand Poohbah of Football Operations.

Vince Lombardi couldn’t do much better with the talent level on this squad.

3. A Weis Idea?

The latest rumor on the Intertubes has former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis coming to the lakefront as offensive coordinator, to be reunited with one Brayden Tyler Quinn.

Of course, Weis’ arrival may or may not be contingent on the firing of Mangini.

This needs to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt it deserves.

Weis or un-Weis is within the realm of the Grand Poohbah of Football Operations, who is not yet in the building.

4. Blackout Economics 102:

It’s Steelers week, and that means Cleveland Browns Stadium will be half-full of yinzers, thus, no blackout.

The Chargers game was barely televised, only being shown thanks to Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO-TV and a consortium of local bars buying up the remaining tickets and donating them to charity.

The recipients of this largesse included the Cleveland Foodbank, the United Way, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“Sir, that job you had has been outsourced to Sri Lanka, and you need our services. Sorry, we’re tapped out too, but have a few Browns tickets. By the way, parking is $25.”

Uh, thanks.

Since the upcoming Raiders and Jaguars home games have that unfortunate snowball’s chance in Hades of being televised in Greater Cleveland, it’s time for a little basic math.

Many ticketholders are giving their ducats away gratis for the remaining games. Six Points has been offered free tickets, but the vacuum cleaner bag needed to be changed.

Provided the Oreck was fully functional and Six Points decided to take advantage of the generosity, parking would be $25, three beers would run another $24, and gasoline from Six Points ’ undisclosed location to the Muny Lot would cost another $3.53 round trip, for a “free” $52.53 in expenses.

Now, another alternative would be to drive 105 miles to Erie, Pennsylvania and catch the game at a sports bar with NFL Sunday Ticket.

Fuel would cost $18.19 round trip, an entree another $15, three microbrews another $15, and a 20 percent tip another $6, for a total of $54.19.

For a difference of less than $2, Six Points could watch the same football futility, but stay warmer, eat better and drink better.

And the servers and bartenders are at least earning their paychecks.

5. The Fandom Menace:

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and for Six Points , it’s a wonderful holiday, as we take the time to appreciate what we have.

But some dread the holiday, as they have very dysfunctional family members who they are thankful they only break bread with once or twice a year.

From the uncle who’s trashed by noon to the cousin just out of rehab for the third time to the proselytizing aunt, Turkey Day can be stressful, and the dinner table conversations can be quite irrational.

But, there may be no more dysfunctional extended family than Cleveland Browns fans.

This may be a result of the fan equivalent of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as eight of ten years of Browns v2.0 have ranged from disappointing to abysmal.

Before The Move, no less than Mike Ditka called Browns fans “the most knowledgeable and passionate in the NFL” after the Bears were blown out of Municipal Stadium in a 1989 Monday nighter.

Now, the same player can be loved by one fan and reviled by another. Same with the coaching staff.

Cleveland Browns Stadium more often resembles a mausoleum than the “Pandemonium Palace” late play-by-play announcer Nev Chandler once called Municipal Stadium.

Depending on which fan you talk to, and even what day of the week it is, Player X is either a bust or headed for the Pro Bowl.

Fans can come this close to throwing down as each side presents arguments that hold no water.

If Six Points was Randolph Lerner, the fan base would influence his decision making even less than a celebrity endorsement influences his choice of vehicle.

Sir? Randolph? Get the right Grand Poohbah in here, put him in charge, and pay no attention to the fans behind the curtain.

6. Unleashing Hell:

After the Steelers lost their third consecutive game, their head coach Mike Tomlin promised to “unleash Hell” against Pittsburgh’s opponents in December.

In a scene the yinzers must have felt was straight from Dante’s Inferno , the Steelers promptly lost their next game to lowly Oakland at Heinz Field.

In Western culture, the place of eternal damnation is unbearably hot. In Eskimo culture, their Hell is cold.

Mother Nature may have a circle of Eskimo Hell headed for the lakefront Thursday, as the forecast is for 19 degrees with snow and high winds.

The last time the Browns and Steelers clashed on the lakefront, it was another Weather Bowl, as high winds and driving rain dampened the Steeler attack and almost provided the opportunity for Cleveland to pull the upset.

As of this writing, Troy Polamalu is out for the Steelers, and Hines Ward is doubtful. 

Under Bruce Arians, Pittsburgh’s offense has become uncharacteristically pass-happy, but that may not work well in the howling winds coming off of Lake Erie.

The weather may be the equalizer an undermanned Cleveland team needs to compete, and that’s why Six Points is not looking for a blowout.

Prediction? Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 17. And an unlikely upset may have part of the dysfunctional family of Browns fans uttering the term “Mangenius.”

Extra Point: Don’t try to Wake Up the Echoes:

They’re comatose.

And that won’t change.

Notre Dame, having shown Charlie Weis the door, is searching for a new head coach. Again.

The days of Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz are not returning to South Bend, and that’s just reality.

Eleven national titles and the third-winningest football program in NCAA history aside, things have changed in the United States, and those changes do not favor Notre Dame.

In the days of Rockne and Leahy, Notre Dame had a built in pipeline of big Irish, German, Polish and other ethnic Catholic players from parishes who aspired to be Golden Domers from the first snap they took in CYO football.

Now, many of those parishes no longer exist.

The plants those kids’ parents worked in during America’s industrial heyday stopped making steel, cars and refrigerators long ago, and those close-knit ethnic neighborhoods have dissipated into suburbia.

America’s population has also shifted from the midwest and northeast to the south and west, and that trend also contributes to the Big Ten no longer being the powerhouse it once was.

As time went on, Ara Parseghian had another run of success in South Bend, and that coincided with the last heyday of the Big Ten. 

In Parseghian’s early days, southern college programs had yet to integrate, and along with Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State and Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Parseghian welcomed African-American players who could not play for schools close to home.

Both Notre Dame and Big Ten football may have reached their zenith at that time.

Periodically, there have been discussions, some more serious than others, about Notre Dame joining the Big Ten. 

That’s never happened, and Notre Dame’s exclusive TV contract is likely the reason. But if the Fighting Irish were in the Big Ten, they would be around the middle of the pack most years.

That TV contract is no longer the recruiting tool it once was, either. ESPN and other cable outlets now saturate the viewer with games between colleges and universities a previous generation never heard of.

Now, if NFL scouts see a player who they believe can play on that level, they will find him. See “Flacco, Joseph, QB, Delaware Sate.”

To its credit, Notre Dame also has more rigorous admission standards than most BCS programs. Regardless of its record in the future, Notre Dame should never lower those standards.

Not only has America’s population base shifted, its demographics have changed. The United States is less ethnic and Catholic; it’s also more socially moderate.

Despite the academic allure of Notre Dame, a new generation of player with the brains to play under the Golden Dome may be repelled by Catholic dogma, and choose a school of equal academic rigor, such as Cal, Stanford or Northwestern.

The scouts will find him there as easily as they will in South Bend.

This is not the end of Fighting Irish football by any means. Notre Dame will always be able to attract quality players, and every few years, they may be able to visit a BCS bowl in January.

But while Notre Dame football will never become irrelevant, its days of being a perennial powerhouse are as gone as many of the urban parishes that once fed them.

The echoes aren't dead yet. They just take longer naps.



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