Let the countdown clock to the Bill Cowher era begin.

On a day when John McCain suspended his Presidential campaign, it seems appropriate that a more local exercise in futility would also give up. Romeo Crennel is a good man who has done a lot to rebuild the Cleveland Browns (along with GM Phil Savage) in the last four years. But staying with Derek Anderson under these circumstances--while also dilly-dallying about whether or not Quinn is "ready" to play-- means he's signaling that his own stubbornness and stay-the-course nature (even if that course is one that leads to a losing season) is more important than trying something new and admitting he might have been wrong. As Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto puts it, it's the worst of all possible worlds: it maintains a deflating status quo, while also keeping both quarterbacks on edge and underconfident. It's the act of a man who doesn't seem to know what to do in the face of trouble, and that's not the quality you want in a head coach.

Here are the important paragraphs from that first linked article:

The Browns (0-3) are last in scoring, last in total offense and last in passing. Anderson is next-to-last in passer rating (43.5) and tied for last in interceptions (five).

One of the truest statistics by which quarterbacks are measured is average gain per pass attempt. That figure this year for Anderson is 4.35 yards -- next-to-last among all quarterbacks. He was 12th a year ago at 7.19.

Not all of that is Anderson's fault. The Browns have been beset with injuries; they've been working new free agents into the system; they have a much tougher schedule than they did last year, when soft opponents allowed Anderson's cannon arm to hide his inability to properly read defenses (a flaw which became apparent in that final, interception-laden Bengals game, and continued into the Pro Bowl and into the pre-season). When they faced a tough Dallas squad in Week One, Anderson-- who'd missed much of the preseason due to a concussion-- seemed shaky and uncertain.

But the team knew the schedule would be difficult when it was announced in the spring. They chose to bring in Stallworth and Rodgers and the other new free agents. And while the injuries suck, the major problem is not lack of players, but lack of any spark in their play. The lighter preseason practices bred a complacency in the team that's been hard to shake, and now that they are losing (and stories of Browns fighting in locker room are making the local sports news rounds), it becomes that much more difficult to turn things around. And it's not injuries that have led to static game plans, and too-cautious in-game decisions. That falls on Crennel and his staff as much as it does the players.

Maybe it's something in the Ohio air: down the road in Columbus, Jim Tressel seems to have some of the same problems with OSU that Crennel does with the Browns: while suffering from injuries, his major problem is one of leadership and changing on the fly. Like Crennel, if Tressel can't establish a major lead early, he seems befuddled: both coaches seem to just stand there as more imaginative teams run all over them. It's ok to break from the game plan, guys! It really is! It's called-- what's the word?-- coaching.

It's precisely this inability to do so that is leading to the Anderson start this week. This is the perfect game for Brady Quinn's first regular-season start: the Bengals are perhaps the worst team in the NFL, and one a second-year, virtually rookie player could do well against; the team is 0-3 and not expected to do much, so there's not a lot of pressure on Quinn to be the savior; and the fans are looking for something, anything to make the season exciting. If Quinn controls the ball, moves the team downfield and makes one or two spectacular plays, he's in like, well, Quinn. And even if this year is lost, at least the Browns know what they have for the future.

Of course, I said much the same thing last year, and was proven wrong. I'd love to be proven wrong this year, to see Anderson rebound and lead the team to the playoffs, but I think that was a one-year miracle that's not going to be repeated anytime soon. And the real frustration is not losing, as bad as that is, but the fact that I could have just recycled last year's blog post with a few name changes, and it still would have been relevant. Nothing changes. When even the Lions know that a change is necessary, it throws the Browns' unearned certainty into even starker relief. A cycle of Charlie Brown-like futility continues because when they face a hard moment, the (Charlie) Browns keep running at the ball in the same way, convinced that this time, there's no way Lucy is gonna pull it away.

"AAUGGH!," indeed.


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