Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Morning After: Tampa Bay

Buccaneers 22, Browns 7
Record: 4-11

It must be that special time of year in Browns Town.

The compression boots are hung by the chimney with care. Athletic tape adorns the tree. Ice packs are stowed in the freezer alongside a turkey with all the trimmings.

The whirlpool is humming, and somewhere, an arthroscopic surgeon is limbering his wrist to get his joint insertion technique just right.

Oh, and every surface is being wiped down with disinfectant to make sure that nobody, under any circumstances, contracts a career-threatening postoperative staph infection.

It's time for Injurymas. The yearly celebration conducted every December, where half the Browns roster gets a jump start on the offseason by suffering some kind of bone, muscle or joint malady.

Romeo Crennel loves Injurymas. It means he can make a case for a mulligan, saving his job for at least one more year, even as his team careens to a likely 4-12 record.

(Silly me, what am I saying? I forgot about the other yearly tradition: Let's-screw-ourselves-out-of-a-high-draft-pick-by-winning-the-last-game-of-the-season-mas. The Browns will almost certainly go 5-11 and drop to about ninth in the draft order.)

I could make the case right along with Crennel, but it's not like the annual avalanche of late-season entries onto injured reserve has really affected the Browns' play much. Prior to December, the Browns were a fractured band of punks, has-beens and never-will-be's. They had blockers who couldn't block, receivers who couldn't receive, quarterbacks who couldn't quarterback, tacklers who couldn't tackle, rushers who couldn't rush and coaches who couldn't coach.

Since the calendar has turned to December, the Browns are still all of the above. The only difference is it's third-stringers playing the fool instead of first-stringers. Healthy or injured, nothing has really changed. And we have to start asking ourselves, what is going to change next year if everything is kept status quo?

And I'm not just talking about Crennel.

Here's my question: Why do football teams seldom have fire sales? When it became apparent that the Indians' 2006 season was going to be a wash, team management set about trading virtually every marketable veteran to slash salary and stock up on young talent.

It's apparent that this current Browns cast of characters just isn't working out. I'd venture to say that by the time this team is good enough to win, not only will Crennel not be here, neither will Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow Jr., Reuben Droughns, Anrda Davis, Brian Russell, or any other semi-useful veteran currently on the roster.

So why not start pawning them off for draft picks? Don't trade every last one of them, but especially with regard to me-first players like Edwards and Winslow, guys who are hurting this team by their sheer attitude and sideshow antics, it might be worthwhile to dangle them if you can get an extra first- or second-rounder in the coming years.

You might cringe at the idea of another roster blowup, but again, ask yourself what is really going to change if everything is kept intact? Next year will be the same as this year. Uninspired play, injuries and losses piling on top of losses.

Who really cares if it's Edwards and Winslow running the routes, or Travis Wilson and Joe Jurevicius? It's all going to equal the same, sorry outcome if multiple high draft picks aren't committed to the offensive line.

The Browns need draft picks, and lots of them. Edwards, Winslow and company provide a valuable resource for the Browns to get those draft picks.

Are you basically grading your previous drafts a bust by trading your former first-rounders? Yes. But you are also saying that you are willing to keep trying until you get this thing right.

The Browns, quite simply, haven't gotten it right yet. All the injury mulligans in the world won't change that.

Up next: At Houston, Sunday, 1 p.m. (season finale)

(P.S. Merry Christmas, everyone. Despite how it looks now, things will get better for the Browns. And it will happen in your lifetime, believe it or not. Have a great holiday.)


Ben said...

Do the Browns purposefully shit on their fans over the holidays? Or is just the Romeo teams? Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and now Tampa freaking Bay?

I'm not too upset at the loss, this gives the Browns a chance for the number 3 pick, which could yield any number of neat options.

Plus, next week we get to see the on field reunion of Ken Dorsey and Kellen Winslow. Who isn't excited for this?

(Kellen Winslow is the best thing to happen to Butch Davis)

Mark said...

Why don't football teams have fire sales?

Because in this high-pressure league, if you let one player go and he revives his career somewhere else, the team that let him go looks really stupid and people get fired.

That's what it comes down to.

Otherwise, it's just that the Browns are a mess of a franchise.