Cleveland Browns: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Casey DrottarCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2008

Aug. 7, 2008

The Browns' preseason kicks off.  Cleveland Browns stadium is full of hope and excitement, with fans carrying signs saying "This Is Our Year."

Those same fans attended team practices at Berea chanting "Super Bowl" when the Browns began drills.  The hype appears merited as Cleveland's first drive of preseason is a march down the field, finished off with a great touchdown catch by Braylon Edwards.

The team ends up losing, but the starters looked good, and that's all that matters.  This will be a great season.


Nov. 30, 2008

Derek Anderson's starter-benchwarmer-starter routine ends with him limping off the field with a sprained MCL.  The few fans left in the stadium are cheering at his agony. 

The team is about to become 4-8, 1-6 at home, after another ugly offensive performance even though the defense held Peyton Manning to just three points.  The endzone, for some reason, seems to be a gated community.

The day ends with Romeo Crennel saying, "Ken Dorsey is our starter next week," a phrase that will no doubt be the epitaph on his coaching tombstone.


What happened?

Last year, the Browns had easily their best season since returning to the NFL in 1999, including a 7-1 home record which finally gave the fans something worth watching. 

Snubbed from the playoffs, this year was supposed to be the Browns showing everyone else what they were capable of.

And this is what we get?

We have a quarterback controversy that ended with both our QB of the future and the guy he replaced out for the year with injuries.  We have a receiver who broke team records last season, and now plays with greased hands and shattered confidence.

Also in this circus sideshow comes a coach laced with poor decision-making likely on the way out, a potty-mouthed GM who dodges team issues by going on scouting trips, a reliable tight end soon to be traded due to his beef with said GM, a reclusive owner, and a nation of really angry fans.

To the average supporter, this is business as usual along the shores of Lake Erie.  However, this year, it's worse.  This is because the fans were promised something better, and we're not happy about the results we're getting.

We weren't supposed to spending week 11 of the season begging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to let us forfeit our final four weeks so we can finally get to the offseason we've been planning since mid-October.  We weren't supposed to be the laughing stock of the NFL...again.  No, this year was to be the year the Browns finally earned respect.

The embarrassment this season has caused is crushing, especially to those fans who told their friends, "You better watch out for Cleveland this year, we're comin' for you."  Name one of those fans who plans on talking trash during the final week of the season, where our Ken Dorsey heads into Pittsburgh, surely to be destroyed.

So it leaves many to wonder, where did it all go wrong?

The 0-3 start could be an easy target, but the team followed this with an ugly win at Cincinnati and an all-out drubbing of the New York Giants.  At this point, Derek Anderson seemed locked in and Braylon Edwards' claims that this was a new season seemed to make sense.

What is really unfortunate is how the win against the Giants may have been a major factor to what happened in the weeks since.  The size of this victory seemed to make the entire team assume, "We beat them, can't we beat anyone?"

From here, the Browns have looked lackluster and extremely unmotivated, which has resulted in other teams outplaying them without exhausting too much effort.

Just look at the losses this year.  Barring the Cowboys rocking us in the season opener, not one of the defeats handed to the Browns can be viewed as being an overall beating by a superior team.

They only lost to Pittsburgh by four, Washington gave them every chance to win, the Broncos and Ravens were losing until late, and this week we shut down arguably the best quarterback in the game and still came up short.  It pains me to realize how much better our record should be.

Other than the Giants win, I can only assume the point when things began heading down was when the hype started circulating throughout the league.  Let's face it, this was a team that wasn't prepared to handle the pressures of national attention.

Beyond Willie McGinest and Jamal Lewis, no one on the Browns has really been in this situation before.  And because of this, it was like being rookies all over again.

The wide receiver makes rookie mistakes.  Our original starting quarterback was about as accurate as an untested rookie.  Our head coach made rookie comments after the game, like, "We couldn't find the endzone," or "We made too many mistakes."  Our GM cursed out a fan just like a...well, I think a rookie would be smart enough to avoid that move.

Hype can be dangerous for a team sometimes.  For the Browns, it was lethal.

Randy Lerner was right when he said the team lacked an identity, and if he were smart, he'd take the time to make sure he hires the right people to try and find one.  Right now, he has a team in disarray and fans who only cheered once yesterday, and it was when Anderson got injured.

I won't condone cheering when your own player gets hurt, as it is shameful and brings more embarrassment to Browns fans as a whole.  However, I understand why it happened.

It's because we were supposed to see a great football team this year.  Instead, we got yet another runaway train on the rickety tracks of Cleveland.