Did this really happen? Tell me that the last five months have just been a mirage, and that when we wake up tomorrow, it will actually be July 26 instead of Dec. 26. That the season is actually getting ready to begin, not end.
Those are the thoughts going through most Browns fans right now. As nice a thought as that may be, Browns fans, the reality is that the past five months that were supposed to be great months for the Browns, and of which we all thought by now would be either in the thick of the playoff hunt or already locked up a trip to the playoffs, is what has really been the mirage.
This Sunday, after the Browns walk off the playing field at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the season of dreams gone bad will finally be over, and the Browns, after five months of playing lousy football, will be going home for the winter.
After Sunday, team owner Randy Lerner will be able to finally do the evaluating that he promised the fans of the Browns that he would do back in November.
Before we pack up all of the pieces of our broken hearts and shattered dreams for the Browns from this season let's do out own evaluation of this team. Why wait for Mr. Lerner to do his? The grades from the 2008 Cleveland Browns are in, and, unfortunately (from this fan's prospective at least) they are anything but good.
In fact, speaking of Randy Lerner, let's start right at the top.
Team Owner Randy Lerner
So let's get this straight, he says that he is a fan and that he is just as frustrated as the rest of the fans, yet it seems like he spends quite a bit of money in his other investments, and perhaps this is a stretch to say, not what he should be spending on the Browns? Even his soccer team is better than his football team.
Randy Lerner needs to decide just where exactly his loyalties are. If he has little time for the Browns and would rather spend time in his other commitments, fine, he should sell the team to someone who can be around the team and be involved with it at all times. He's never around unless there are problems, like there are know.
If he wants to own and be loyal to the Browns, then he needs to show that he actually does care, start spending time around his team, and doing more on a day-to-day basis with this team. It's obvious that this is a team that needs to have the attention of it's owner because the right decisions are not being made by the people that run this team.
I really believe that this is Mr. Lerner's teams most desperate hour and it's put up or shut up time for him.
Randy Lerner's Grade: D -
TEAM GENERAL MANAGER PHIL SAVAGE
Look, he may be a gambler, and the gamble that he made when he traded draft picks for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, then bringing Daunte Stallworth in made not have worked out the way that everyone would have liked, but at least he did something that he thought was going to help build upon last years success, something that the last time the team had a season in which they finished with a winning record they failed to follow up with.
Most of you, like me, seemed to be on board with what he did, plus the gambling that he did the year before with the draft picks seemed to work. Those are just risks that you take when you are trying to help a struggling franchise out. Sometimes they work sometimes they do not, but you have to at least try, and that is exactly what Savage did.
That said, the moves and gambles he made did not work out and it looks like this time this situation could be more serious if this team is set back any further from losing draft picks it really needed to have. The e-mail that he sent to the fan in Pittsburgh last month does not score many points with to many people either.
Part of his problem could also be that he has to deal with bad football people because that is all that he has at his disposal, because he has to do things that perhaps that the owner should be doing. Bottom line is, I do not think that this should be the end of Savage, because I do not think he has done that terribly bad of a job.
PHIL SAVAGE'S GRADE: C
TEAM HEAD COACH ROMEO CRENNEL
Quack, Quack, Quack! Do you hear that? That is the sound of a lame duck coach. Crennel really blew this last month and there is absolutely no reason for him to be here next year, the players may like him but he is just not a head coach. No need to say anything more. If you followed this team at all this year, you know what we are getting at.
ROMEO CRENNEL'S GRADE: F
THE ENTIRE COACHING STAFF
If I just gave the head a coach a failing grade, how could I give his staff anything else? This coaching staff really blew it this season and it was pretty much seepage from Crennel all the way down to the very lowest coach on the staff. The play of the team was awful, the team did not perform at all, to be honest, guys where not getting along in the locker room, it was a pathetic mess, and if anyone thinks it is funny, then they should be gone tomorrow.
Hard to say what will happen with guys like Mel Tucker and Rob Chudzinski, but telling them to work for work elsewhere, for precautionary reasons, like Hermon Edwards just told his coaching staff to do, might not be a bad idea.
COACHING STAFF GRADE: F
To say this group was a disappointment would be an understatement. Health issues are one thing and you cannot control those; however, did we maybe find out the real Derek Anderson at the end of last season is more like the real Derek Anderson then the one we saw at the start of the season last year?
It look's like the answer to that question maybe yes. He went all year with terrible ratings, he does not appear to be able to read defenses well enough, he cannot throw the ball with much accuracy, and he cannot move around in the pocket much either, as we found out at the end of the game against the Colts.
The sophomore jinx is a possibility, but it would appear we will never know that answer while he is in a Browns uniform because he made it clear he does not like it here, and it is apparent Brady Quinn will be the starter next season.
Speaking of Brady, he could have been more impressive. Yes, he was injured, but he followed a good performance up with a mediocre one, and then had a very bad performance before he was hurt for the rest of the year. Translation: It is to early to tell what will happen with him.
Bruce Gradikowski and Ken Dorsey are what they are. I do not think either will be here next season, I would expect to see two different if not younger back up's next season. Maybe this is a dumb thought but kind of makes you wonder why they did not go after Byron Leftwich or Daunte Culpepper.
Quarterbacks Grade: C- at best
I would not be surprised if no one know's what the problem was. Jamal Lewis appears to be more at the end of his road then he would like to admit that he is, he is a great competitor and would be the one leader that I would say that this team has, perhaps the best thing for him to do is put this season behind him, and try to once again prove skeptics wrong next season, because he will have them going into next season.
Why was Jerome Harrison not used more. He showed the more improvement than anyone else did this year. In fact, he was extremely useful WHEN HE WAS IN THE GAME!
He was the only back the got the Browns big chunks of yards and kept the chains moving when no one else did their job. He defiantly made a good case for himself this year for more playing time next season. If anyone notices him on the coaching staff that is.
Jason Wright was good, but like most of the backs on this unit, was nothing special.
Running Backs Grade: B
Where should we start with this. How about straightening Braylon Edwards out and making him stay later during mini camp and training camp so he can practice catching the ball. Better yet, why not make the whole unit do the same thing.
Donte Stallworth was brought in to complement Edwards; however, when he was not hurt and playing, he was never even a blip on the radar screen, no one else stepped up and took charge of the position and made plays. Let's not even start with Syndric Steptoe. EVERYONE underperformed. I would expect better next year.
Hopefully, Kellen Winslow will be back next year and healthy. I think that he is too good to just get ride of, although we do not seem to be all that bad off at the tight end position, even with guys like Steve Heiden, Martin Rucker, and Darnell Dinkins.
WIDE RECIEVERS GRADE: C-
They had a little bit of a drop off from last season, even though they were not awful, but they were not great either. Joe Thomas and Eric Stienbauch seem to be rocks on the left side. Hank Fraley is a big asset at center, but the right side needs some work.
Ryan Tucker needs to stay healthy, and maybe we should look to draft some depth on that side, maybe even replace Kevin Schaffer.
Offensive Lines Grade: B
Shuan Rogers is about the only one that has any Worth on this unit. Corey Williams may have just been struggling from having to come to a new system, still not much of an excuse though, and Shaun Smith has proved the only thing he can hit right now is a injured quarterback on his team (no pun intended).
This unit has a lot to prove next season, if the Browns stay in a 3-4 scheme. I hate the idea some have of putting Kamerion Wimbley back down on the line, they have spend so much time trying to make him a linebacker that I am not so sure it would help him any. Let's get some depth at the position.
Or at least strike some fear into these guys hearts.
Offensive Lines Grade: F
Can anyone blame anyone else if they cannot wait for Willie McGinest and Andra Davis to be gone? Neither of them did to much. We need to get younger or better, or better yet both at inside line backer because we are not good. I like what we have with D'Qwell Jackson and even Alex Hall, and Leon Williams but the Browns are not to great other then that at this position, Kamerion Wimbley needs to step up and start making plays.
Definitely one of our weakest spots on the team.
LINEBACKERS GRADE: D-
I really like Eric Wright. He has done a great job proving that he could overcome his adversity, stay out of off the field problems, and let his play do the talking for him. He definitely had a chip on his shoulder and he has done an excellent job.
It was a mistake not to have a veteran brought in to play next to him, they spent to much time trying to get Lito Sheppard from the Eagles, and had to settle for Brandon McDonald. McDonald gets beat and beat badly to much, he could benefit by having a veteran on the team.
Not being able to have Gary Baxter hurt him I think. The rest of the corners leave a lot to be desired.
The combination of Brodney Pool and Shaun Jones is not a bad one, they can both come up with big plays when they are healthy, but having them both healthy is just the thing, their back up's are not real good either.
Secondary's Grade: C+
Well, at least this is one unity we don't have to say anything bad about. Phil Dawson has been the cornerstone of this unit year in and out. Joshua Cribbs is still a threat, and Dave Zastudil is not bad ether.
Special Teams Grade: A
As you can see this team has a lot of work to do—whether it gets a complete makeover or not. Hopefully, the right people will be brought in to fix it.
Now that Carl Peterson has resigned as the GM of Kansas City, it looks as if there is a chance Hermon Edwards could be out as well. I was told that if the Browns do fire Crennel, due to rules, they would have to interview a minority head coach.
That would certainly makes Edwards a candidate if he loses his gig with Kansas City. Whether or not the Browns think he is the right fit, or even if he would come, is a different story.