Commentary

It's not easy being a Browns fan

Inept offense causing consternation

Originally Published: October 31, 2009
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

[+] EnlargeDerek Anderson
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBrowns quarterback Derek Anderson probably didn't give the Bears' defense nightmares this week.

CHICAGO -- I'm not going to say the Bears shouldn't be scared of Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, but I'm willing to bet no one on the defense lost any sleep this past week with nightmares of No. 3 under center, considering he's been throwing the ball like Freddy Krueger.

The Browns' offense has been so woeful it makes the Bears seem like a well-oiled machine. True, the Browns have a better rushing offense (21st in Football Outsiders' rankings, compared to -- gulp -- 31st for the Bears), but they've been outscored 179-72 so far, which illustrated how pitiful Cleveland (1-6) has been this year as an all-around team.

The Bears' passing defense showed significant holes in last week's abominable loss to Cincinnati, but Anderson is no Carson Palmer. Heck, he's not even playing like Jordan Palmer, the kid brother and third-string "legacy" quarterback in Cincinnati.

Anderson, supposedly a nice enough guy, has a 40.6 passer rating, which is just slightly less than his completion percentage of 43.8. It's worse than JaMarcus Russell's 47.2.

If they gave him a Segway to move around in the pocket, I think Bernie Kosar could do better. Heck, Richard Bartel, the no-game QB who played against the Bears in the preseason finale, looked more competent.

Anderson apparently hasn't been bad enough to be benched in favor of Brady Quinn, a popular quarterback around these parts during his Notre Dame days, who was benched for Anderson earlier this year. Quinn is likely to lose his $10.95 million bonus based on how much he plays this season.

I know Bears fans are frustrated right now with everyone from the offensive line to coach Lovie Smith to general manager Jerry Angelo. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but take the precious time before the Bears take the field Sunday to give thanks you're not a Browns fan.

I know a lot of Browns fans, and they are a uniformly sad lot on fall Sundays. From their outdated memories of Kosar to their mud-colored jerseys, they are fans of the most ignominious team in the NFL. Since the franchise's rebirth 10 years ago, they have one playoff appearance, a disastrous first-round collapse against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise's most hated rival.

I'm from eastern Ohio, south of Cleveland and west of Pittsburgh, Steelers country. I had friends who were Browns Backers in high school, and in college I got to watch a lot of transplanted Cleveland fans deal with the absence of the Browns and their unfortunate return in 1999. As a Steelers fan, it was the cause of much schadenfreude. (Of course, the Steelers lost to the Browns in the team's "rookie" year in 1999, so I can't brag too much.)

One of my friends is a season-ticket holder. Last year he tried to sell his very good tickets through the team's online secondary market for $10 apiece. He couldn't get a bite. Another friend was grateful, truly grateful, that he couldn't watch the Browns' only win this year, a 6-3 barnburner over Buffalo, because it wasn't being televised in Columbus. Well, televised in his house. He could have watched at a bar, but what was the point?

I asked another Browns-fan friend, who loves Chicago, if he wanted to come in for the game, and he thought for about two seconds. "I've got a big Halloween party the night before," he said.

Hey, we've all got priorities. My Cleveland friends who live here couldn't be less interested in the game.

The Browns have been a perennial disappointment ever since returning, a civic shame, the football equivalent to the burning Cuyahoga River and those "Cleveland tourism videos" that went around the Internet in the spring.

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesFormer Browns coach Romeo Crennel may be funny in a current beer commercial, but his coaching tenure left Cleveland fans with little to smile about.

Romeo Crennel is funny in those Coors Light commercials, but he was a sad joke as coach. The very sight of him, always confused, on the sidelines made Browns fans apoplectic with rage. Eric Mangini took over, the once-vaunted "Mangenius," and he's elicited just as much scorn in only seven games.

The MVPs of the team are punter Dave Zastudil and return man Joshua Cribbs. The Browns are atop Football Outsiders' special-teams rankings. The Browns get 13 percent more points than the league average through the five elements of special teams. (The Bears are third at 6.5 percent.)

Browns fans are so fed up they're planning a walkout next week.

So sure, Matt Forte looks bad and the offensive line makes you want to skinny-dip in Lake Michigan in November. You may have suffered heartburn watching the Bears last week (in comparison, Cleveland only lost 23-20 to Cincinnati), but imagine that every week. (Plus, you have to live in Cleveland.)

Jay Cutler may have thrown 10 interceptions, second-worst in the league, but at least he can move the ball downfield. And you think Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner is having a bad year? How long do you think Cleveland offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will be calling plays in Cleveland for a team averaging 10 points a game?

Have you ever heard of Daboll? No, and you probably never will again. Mangini might not be long for Cleveland himself.

The Bears have a tough road ahead of them and will need to make major personnel improvements to snag a playoff spot. But forget about that on Sunday, Bears fans, and enjoy the game. And if you see a Browns fan at Soldier Field, pat them on the shoulder of their replica Charlie Frye jersey and buy them a beer. They deserve a few for supporting this team.

And I'll tell you what: If the Browns prove me wrong and pull an upset Sunday, I'll take a dip in Lake Michigan wearing nothing but a Charlie Frye jersey.

It's mighty cold in Chicago, but it'll be a colder day somewhere further "south" before that happens.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be reached at jgreenberg@espnchicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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