A week ago, another Browns writer put together his game-by-game prediction of how the Browns would do in the upcoming 2010 campaign.
A thought occurred to me that he, along with most prognosticators, didn’t account for a number of factors that derail such educated guesses.
But that made me wonder: Could it be done? Can someone end up adding in these unforeseen factors – just winging it about if/when they’ll happen?
Well, if I can do it, maybe someone else can do it. And besides, if I’m right, I make Nostradamus look like he just threw darts.
So here goes. Invoking my inner Norman Chad, I present: The 2010 Cleveland Browns Season; A Drama in 17 Weekly Episodes
Week 1: We Gotta Open Against Someone
ESPN’s “Fastest Two Minute in Sports” is aided by the absolute boredom of this season opening game, with the only highlight being a nice catch by Kellen Winslow Jr., followed by some showboating.
It wasn’t a touchdown, as the Bucs stay out of the end zone. Our offense keeps the ball for 39 minutes by establishing the old “Montario up the Middle” strategy from Mangini’s old mentor from his days here.
The main accomplishment of this game is that Browns Backers who only go to sports bars for Browns games get to catch up on the last few months.
Browns 10, Bucs 6
Week 2: Chiefs Revenge
Eager to prevent Jerome Harrison from gaining another 286 yards at his team’s expense, new Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennell gets desperate and creates the 3-3-2 Defense: three down linemen, three linebackers and two oversized strong safeties behind them in addition to the cornerbacks and free safeties.
What he doesn’t realize is that he’s not only found a way to shut down the Wildcat/”Cyclone” Offense, and also efficiently cover tight ends.
Brian Daboll is sent back to the drawing board, as the defense, knowing they will play at least 40 minutes, gets disheartened.
The Chiefs end up being the surprise team in the AFC, winning the West.
Chiefs 37, Browns 13
Week 3: Well, it was better than last year
Down 0-2 after losses to the Jets (where Darrelle Revis was injured for the season) and Bengals, the Ravens see this matchup as a must-win to make the playoffs, which reveals more desire than the Browns seeing this as a must-win for respect.
Hard-fought, but it’s another example of the Browns improving but not there yet.
Ravens 24, Browns 14
Week 4: Ocho-Droppo
Daboll looks at the Bengals’ depth chart and see they can’t improvise a version of the “KC 332.” Cribbs and Wallace line up behind center more than Delhomme.
To counter that offensive production, Chad Ochocinco, rips into the Browns current receiving corps, saying our last good receiver is now wearing “Gotham Green.”
He offers to carry the team on his back, but drops seven balls, including a potential late fourth quarter game winner, and the Dawg Pound taunts him with chants of “BRAY-lon.” As usual, both defenses leave their games in their locker rooms.
Browns 34, Bengals 30
Week 5: Ugly Ugly in Tha Durty Durty
We look past this one to the following week, except for Cribbs, who explains why we “Paid the Man!”
He runs back a punt and rushes for triple digits. But, Scott Fujita is injured and misses the next six weeks.
Falcons 40, Browns 15
Week 6: Rogers and Out
Understanding his idea of a football universe crashes down if the Steelers lose two in a row to the Browns, Commissioner Roger Goddell commutes Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension in time to make his debut in front of a friendly Heinz Field crowd.
However, he comes out tight as a drum. His first pass, a simple out-pass to Ward, bruises Ward’s hand. Then he calms down and the Browns are simply outplayed by the Steelers, who have too many weapons.
Controversy ensues at the end of the game. As Ben takes a knee in the Victory Formation, he taunts Shaun Rogers, who blasts through the line and slams Roethlisberger to the ground.
The team suspends Rogers for four games…and reveals which Browns fans are sportsmanlike and which ones are not.
Steelers 30, Browns 20
Week 7: The Voodoo that the Refs Do
Facing the 6-1 Saints on their own artificial turf turns into the biggest challenge of Rob Ryan’s year. And for the most part, he answers it, but the refs are the story in this one.
In the first quarter, Reggie Bush slips, and replay is inconclusive over if his knee hit the ground on his way to the sideline on a 37-yard TD run. Later, Brees has two calls go his way on a possible lost fumble and a TD pass.
The calls overshadow a solid 12-catch day by Jeremy Shockey, as the linebackers find life without Shaun Rogers plugging up the middle sucks.
Saints 29, Browns 16
Week 8: All we do is Talk Talk
The bye week becomes newsworthy with Rogers’ suspension and the two-game coaching circus concerning Mangini.
With a 2-5 record, he now faces his old mentor and his old team consecutively. Will the feud between Belichick and Mangini continue? How well does Mangini still know the team he helped put together? Stay tuned.
Week 9: Standing Pats
Tom Brady leads the 4-2 Pats into Cleveland, calling this game a “must-win,” since “you aren’t worthy of the playoffs if you don’t beat teams like the Browns.”
Bulletin Board Material! Without Rogers, they try to exploit our run defense, but the game is marred by a combined seven turnovers and 19 penalties.
Randy Moss is furious that he only had three catches against a rookie CB, but game film reveals that he was well-covered and that’s why Brady didn’t throw to him.
Mangini and Belichick try to break their own record for quickest handshake ever, but a cameraman bumps Eric and they stay connected a half-second too long.
Patriots 17, Browns 12
Week 10: Takeoff
There are more signs taunting Braylon Edwards at Cleveland Browns Stadium than female fans proposing marriage to John Cena at a WWE pay-per-view.
Jets Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decides to let Braylon Edwards have his shot to stick it to the Browns’ fans.
First Play? A fly pattern down the sidelines…which Edwards drops.
To stop the chants of “BRAY-lon!” the Jets go quickly back to the run game, running right through the hole left by Rogers’ suspension. But Mangini just has his team up for this game, while the Jets are looking past Cleveland.
Carlton Mitchell has his breakout game with 246 yards receiving and the Browns pull out the upset which the NFL Network makes it their Game of the Week.
Browns 41, Jets 37
Week 11: Stylin’ and Profilin’ with the Jaguars
Rogers is back. So is Fujita. The Jaguars have nowhere to run as the Cyclone offense hammers the Jags D, as their O gives away the ball like turnovers are going out of style.
Browns 31, Jaguars 13
Week 12: A Bad Delhomme-coming
With a 4-6 record, a two-game winning streak and a schedule that has Carolina, Miami and Buffalo (three reasonable wins), talk begins about having an outside chance at the playoffs.
The game starts out great for the Browns, as Delhomme starts having a career day. But late in the third quarter, up 37-10, Julius Peppers lays a clean hit on Delhomme, separating his shoulder.
Colt McCoy comes in and mops up, but things are now uneasy as coaches now prepare for McCoy.
Browns 44, Panthers 20
Week 13: Just as Imitated, but Not Quite Duplicated
Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, in the face of Mike Holmgren’s desires to keep Colt McCoy under wraps for the entirety of his rookie year, start McCoy, using Seneca Wallace solely as a “Cyclone” QB when Josh Cribbs isn’t on the field.
However, to further placate Holmgren, he designs the offense around a three-headed running monster of Jerome Harrison, Montario Hardesty and second-year “rookie” James Davis when not using the Wallace-based “Cyclone” offense.
McCoy only throws seven passes in very simple formations, completing five of them.
Defensively, they try to mimick the KC322 defense, but fall short, even with Cribbs on defense as they struggle with unfamiliar formations.
Dolphins 41, Browns 32
Week 14: Riding the Horses
Buffalo prepares for McCoy, but they aren’t prepared for Hardesty, Davis, and Harrison gaining 300 combined yards as Mangini continues to hold McCoy close to the vest by using the run and the Cyclone to allow Colt more time to develop as a starter.
He only throws seven passes from a standard formation, but completes four. The Bills offense stays inept.
Browns 28, Bills 9
Week 15: Southbound in Ohio
In a rematch of his Week 4 debacle, Chad Ochocinco bounces back with nine catches for 150 yards and two TDs.
We stuff Cedric Benson, but Carson Palmer beats us, exposing our secondary’s late-season inexperience and hit that rookie wall.
We are now playing for next year…and to (partially?) spoil the playoffs for the Ravens and Steelers.
Bengals 27, Browns 19
Week 16: What Goes Down Must Stay Down
The Ravens will go into this game needing it to win home-field advantage. With the Browns’ own playoffs hopes fading, we go in as flat as the Ravens go in with their A game.
We accuse them of running up the score, which they claim they need for possible tiebreakers.
Ravens 47, Browns 6
Week 17: The End…is just Another Beginning
Lots of talk going into this one. The Steelers will be “win and in,” but there’s also a possible target on Shaun Rogers.
Coach Mike Tomlin orders against the “Code Red,” but some aren’t sure the General’s orders aren’t always followed. Things are made worse when the crowd cheers noticeably louder when Rogers is introduced.
With nothing to lose, the Browns open every chapter of the playbook...offensively and defensively. The Steelers hit harder, but we hit back smarter.
Unlike his last trip to Browns Town, he stays on his feet, but Rob Ryan’s schemes frustrate him, as Fujita and Roth have career days. Rogers is a non-factor.
However, Pittsburgh gets the help they need to make a one-and-done appearance in post-season.
Browns 24, Steelers 20
There. A dramatic, entertaining season with slight, marked improvement. The Browns finish 7-9, with a 2-4 record in the division and 1-1 against the Steelers. They win a game or two they “shouldn’t.”
They suffer some big defeats, but also blow out a team or two while keeping the rest respectable. And again, Browns Nation spends another year looking up to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
I added injuries that affected games, but I decided against the MASH unit we usually end up as; partially because I was lazy but also because I honestly think this will be one of the new, unseen elements of the Holmgren/Mangini Era.
We suffer some bad calls and end up with a quarterback controversy going into 2011 with more hope.
Lastly, before you comment with your breakdown analyses with matchups and pride, keep in mind there will be games either the Browns or their opponents don’t “show up.”
So before you comment with your educated analyses of matchups, consider the idea that I just simply guessed WHEN the game simply won’t be played on paper.
We’re all taking our best guesses and this is simply mine.
Only more imaginative than some.