Will The Real Braylon Edwards Please Stand Up?
At this point in the Cleveland Browns' "Season of Dreams," the hot topic among fans is just what exactly the most disappointing aspect of our team is.
Some may say it was Derek Anderson's not-so-subtle attempts to make the team regret giving him a contract extension. Others may claim watching every sideline shot of Romeo Crennel looking less like he's coaching and more like he's trying to solve the Da Vinci Code is what has them struggling to keep their food down.
But, gun to my head, I'd have to say the significant downgrade of receiver Braylon Edwards is No. 1 on my Letterman's Top Ten list.
So far, Edwards leads the NFL in dropped passes, has been anything but clutch, and seems way too easily rattled by the slightest mistake.
This would be a letdown for any receiver at any level of the game. However, the glare is bigger for Edwards after the season he put up last year.
Last season, as the Browns shocked the world with ten more wins than anyone thought they could get, Edwards lead the way with 1,289 receiving yards and a team record 16 touchdown catches. Many believed 2007 was the coming out party for No. 17.
I'm willing to bet the majority of those people are scratching their heads as much as I am these days when looking at Edwards' stat sheet.
This year, Braylon has looked less like he did last season and more like Dennis Northcutt. And many people are starting to wonder just what happened.
This can't be the same receiver that broke Gary Collins' franchise touchdown record in almost routine fashion last year. And it can't be the same Braylon Edwards who, throughout 2007, would dive for (and usually catch) any ball within 20 yards, in good weather and in a blizzard.
So, what happened?
Is Braylon bipolar? No, but evidence is certainly piling up on that case if we're basing it on how the Browns perform as a whole.
In 2006, the Browns finished 4-12 and Edwards finished with 61 receptions for 884 yards and six touchdowns. He was also famous for making quite a few sideline displays, rarely running routes through the middle of the field, and showing up late for a team meeting after going to the Ohio State-Michigan game in a helicopter.
While that Braylon reeked of immaturity, last year's Braylon played as if it were his last season. He was one of the key members of a team that surprised the league with a 10-6 record thanks to the aforementioned stats. He also donated $1 million to local schools and paid for the funeral of a sick child he had met just once before.
One season later, Edwards is the poster child for Yahoo! fantasy football and spends time peddling out 5-Hour Energy shots. His crucial drops cost the team touchdowns and were eventually one of the reasons Derek Anderson is riding pine these days.
So I ask again, what happened?
I can't help but think the media attention hurt him.
Last year, he was getting no national attention whatsoever, which is usually common practice every fall in Cleveland. He was a pretty talented receiver on a team no one really cared about. Because of this, I believe he played more with a "we" attitude, instead of "me."
This year, with five nationally broadcast games, you can't help but think he wants to show off his abilities in front of anyone who's watching (please refer to the backflip he conducted during pregame introductions against the Giants).
And because of this, he's pressing.
Last year he had his fair share of drops. Yet, he always seemed to bounce back so quickly that no one really remembered what the mistakes looked like. But this year, one drop seems like it costs him the entire game. When fans boo him, the look on his face causes one to assume he's taking it way too personally.
In order for the Browns to get back on track (I'm thinking less for this season and more "big picture") they need 2007 Braylon Edwards back. He's shown how capable he is at changing the game with one play and, regardless of his stats this year, he can bounce back from a rough series.
That Braylon has made cameos this year. He was brilliant against New York, both in stats and admitting to his previously denied drops on the post-game show. There was also a sighting at the recent Ravens game, as he wrestled a touchdown pass away from a defender who otherwise would've had an interception.
But after those flashes in the pan, Edwards went back to looking aggravated and mentally taking himself out of the game. And while that's one of the many frustrating aspects of this Cleveland Browns team, it's one that shouldn't take too much to fix.
So Braylon, on the off chance that you're reading this page, just know this: We aren't booing you because we don't want you around (although please wait 'til Tuesday, maybe even Wednesday when you ask us, we may still be upset from Sunday).
The reason we boo is because we saw that you're better than this.
We know you will give it your all to try and win for Cleveland. We know you want to continue where you left off in '07. And we know you can, you just have to relax, take the pressure off yourself, and not assume we want to excommunicate you from the city when you make a mistake.
You see Braylon, boos in Cleveland are a bit different than they are in other parts. We don't boo because we hate people on our team. We boo because we've seen the same act over and over again. And when we're given a glimpse of an end to that cycle, we get upset when those chances start to get hampered.
And you could help us get out of these dark days. All you have to do is leave the prima donna days behind and go back to playing less for the love of the camera and more for the love of the game.
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