Monday, August 27, 2007

Welcome to the stretch run

All right, Cleveland. It's time to face some cold, hard facts.

The Indians are in a pennant race, whether you want to admit it or not. And after five months of putting this team on the back burner, it's time to realize that this is one of those times that don't come around all that often in these parts.

It's time to drag yourself, kicking and screaming, to the likely conclusion that you are going to develop an emotional attachment to this team over the next two months. You've played it cool since April. You've done a really good job of keeping your emotional distance so far. You've had that "I told you so" on the tip of your tongue since spring training.

You don't trust Larry Dolan. You don't trust Mark Shapiro. You certainly don't trust Eric Wedge. You desperately want to believe that the Indians are just keeping first place warm for the inevitable stretch-run Detroit surge, a belief you hold near like a security blanket so that you can give a dismissive scoff if and when the Indians fall flat on their collective faces like they did in the final week of 2005.

But I have news for you: That resolve is going to melt away. You're like someone who has been on one too many bad dates and vows to completely detach from the opposite sex. How long do you think you can keep that pledge?

You have had built-in excuses all year. The Cavaliers preoccupied you into June. Almost immediately after that, it was the Fourth of July, vacation time, and then the buzz surrounding the arrival of Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn at Browns camp.

Those excuses are gone. The Cavs have been stone-silent all summer, Quinn has found his place behind Charlie Frye on the depth chart and the only federal holiday standing between you and October is Labor Day.

After months and months of waiting for the other shoe to drop before the stretch run arrived, it didn't happen. September starts on Saturday, and the Indians are in first place.

They could have saved you the trouble, like they did last year. They could have saved you the tension of a September push for the playoffs, of an October postseason run where it is statistically probable that your team will end the season with a loss.

They could have saved you all the hassle and just dropped out of contention in June. But they didn't. And now, despite your thick Cleveland psychological callouses, you will soon be compelled to take a front-row seat and watch.

The Indians will soon become the biggest story in town. And the only thing you can do is hang on for the ride. In Cleveland, where every pennant race and postseason run since 1964 has inevitably crash-landed at some point, that's a tall order to fill. But it's too late to stop now.

Welcome to the 2007 American League playoff race. Fasten your seat belts.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This and that

I've been extremely busy of late, which accounts for the lack of posts. But I do have a few items.

* I have made the decision to cut "The Morning After," my weekly Browns game wrap, in order to concetrate on more issue-based columns. I can't guarantee I'm going to be able to deliver a column every Sunday night or Monday morning, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to run a column called "The Morning After" on Tuesday or Wednesday.

*I am in favor of the decision to sit Josh Barfield, even though I think highly of his talent and his poise in the field. But he just wasn't getting it done at the plate. Someone needs to hit the "reset" button with Barfield. The trouble is, he's only the worst symptom in a teamwide disease, and I'm not sure anyone has the cure right now.

*If the Indians keep hitting like this, they aren't going to the playoffs, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona aren't going to win 20 games, and Eric Wedge's job should be on the rocks -- should be. But almost certainly won't be.

*The Indians are run by a bunch of farm system guys. I think that plays into why progress always seems to come in increments and they are always so slow to react when things aren't going well. Expect a column on this in the near future, because it's gnawing at me big time.

*Hanford Dixon brought up a good point in the Monday evening edition of FSN's Browns camp show: In Derek Anderson's goal-line disaster during the first quarter of Saturday's game, where was the coaching staff's culpability? It was the coaching staff who had trouble getting plays in, burned two time outs and basically ground the drive to a halt. Anderson has definitely left something to be desired in the first two preseason games, but let's not throw him under the bus for the coaches' errors.

*Will Brady Quinn start the season opener? I'm going to play the Romeo Crennel noncommittal card and say "Ask me again about five minutes before the team runs out of the tunnel on Sept. 9." But in all seriousness, if Quinn is ready, there is no reason to hold him back, because Ken Dorsey represents the second-best chance the Browns have to score touchdowns, and that is sad.

*Michael Vick will plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges. He's going to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, so the question of "Will Vick go to jail?" has been answered. But now the question is, "Will he ever play in the NFL again?" My answer: Yes. And the fans of that team (it won't be the Falcons) will be salivating. Nothing is off-limits in war and football -- well, I can't say that. War at least has the Geneva Conventions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Handicapping the quarterbacks

Since the four quarterbacks the Browns currently have in camp can't seem to declare a winner among them, leave it to the rest of us.

Who is going to be under center when the Browns open against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9? Who is going to be working on his short game and waiting for a team to call? Let the words show the way.

Charlie Frye

Strengths: Tough as nails, very good huddle presence, gets a lot out of limited athletic ability.

Weaknesses: Suspect decision-making under pressure, the NFL game seems to move too fast for him, positively putrid when it comes to turning red zone appearances into touchdowns.

It's tough to fault Frye for what he isn't. He's not Peyton Manning, and never will be. While he is an adequate passer despite below-average arm strength, he lacks what some sports psychologists refer to as "mental athleticism." The ability to read a situation and react properly, and do it in fractions of a second. Too often, Frye resorts to a "damn the torpedoes" style of play when he gets flustered, and that's when reckless turnovers abound.

Frye is a passable stopgap while Brady Quinn develops, and might be a worthwhile NFL backup. But it looks like the jump from the Mid-American Conference to the NFL has been just a bit too far for the former Akron Zip to achieve professional stardom.

Having said that, the starting job, at least for now, is his to lose.

Probability of Frye starting the season opener: 60 percent

Probability of Frye being released/traded: 10 percent

Derek Anderson

Strengths: Throws hard. Superior athletic ability that, on the rare occasion it is harnessed properly, can turn him into an effective quarterback.

Weaknesses: Seldom is able to harness said athletic ability. As far as touch passes go, his sand wedge is a 3-wood.

The more and more I watch Anderson, the more I get the feeling that he'd fit right in with former Indians pitchers Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera. Like Davis and Cabrera, Anderson has all the physical tools: He has size, a rocket arm, good legs and major-college pedigree ... and an utter inability to put it all together.

Ask Anderson to throw a football through a wooden fence, he might be able to do it. Ask him to feather it into his tight end on an underneath route, he'll probably sail it over his head, bounce it in the dirt or break a couple of fingers.

Finding your receivers as a QB is like finding the strike zone as a pitcher. If you can't do it, no one cares how hard you throw or how much of a physical specimen you are.

Anderson has three more games to prove his worth to Romeo Crennel. Otherwise, he has "odd man out" written all over him.

Probability of Anderson starting the season opener: 5 percent

Probability of Anderson being traded/released: 40 percent

Ken Dorsey

Strengths: A poor man's Bernie Kosar. A smart, fairly good decision-maker with prior experience as an NFL starter.

Weaknesses: Unathletic, immobile, and a below-average throwing arm.

My chief memory of Dorsey is still watching him get stampeded by Ohio State in the 2002 BCS title game. He'd still be a stooge if not for the fact that it makes more sense than any of us realize to give him a shot leading the first team.

Frye and Anderson are gunslingers who both have a nasty tendency to sabotage drives with horrible decision-making. Dorsey, while the least athletic and least impressive of the four Browns quarterbacks, is also a good reader of defenses and an accurate short-yardage passer. With that in mind, he might be the best chance the Browns have to win some games while Brady Quinn develops. He's certainly as good a bet as Frye or Anderson to put the ball in the end zone, which isn't saying much.

It's a long shot, but it just might work.

Probability of Dorsey starting the season opener: 10 percent

Probability of Dorsey being released/traded: 50 percent

Brady Quinn

Strengths: He has all the goods for stardom: Strong arm, mobile feet, Notre Dame pedigree, poster-boy looks and a team in desperate need of a leader.

Weaknesses: Still rough around the edges, doesn't yet fully understand how much faster the NFL game is than college, 11-day holdout robbed him of valuable jelling time with his receivers.

Given the state of the Browns' quarterbacks, if Quinn impresses during the remaining camp and exhibition games, why shouldn't he start the season opener?

The fears of a Tim Couch redux are bogus. Couch was thrown to the wolves armed with an expansion team with a barely professional-level offensive line and Terry Kirby as the feature back. Quinn will have Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach protecting his blind side and will be handing the ball off to Jamal Lewis.

Having said that, if Quinn shows he's not ready, it is imperative Crennel and Phil Savage do not force-feed Quinn into the starting lineup. Quinn has to be the best option, not the least-worst.

If Quinn shows he's not ready to start, it's better that another QB, one who doesn't have the future of the franchise riding on his shoulders, absorb the early-season Pittsburgh-Cincinnati-Baltimore-New England gauntlet.

Probability of Quinn starting the season opener: 25 percent

Probability of Quinn being released/traded: 0 percent (we'd assume, anyway)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Morning After: Kansas City

Welcome back to another season of "The Morning After," my weekly Browns recap. Join me as I chronicle another season of valleys (and maybe even some peaks) for your Cleveland Browns.

Browns 16, Chiefs 12
Preseason record: 1-0

It's time to unveil my first official bold prediction of the 2007 season: Don't be surprised if Ken Dorsey enters the starting quarterback picture before the end of the preseason.

Dorsey is still riding third, and might be bumped to fourth once Brady Quinn gets in the race next weekend, but Dorsey is a definite dark horse candidate to be under center when the Browns play the Steelers in the Sept. 9 season opener.

Dorsey's stat line from Saturday's win looks kind of so-so, but he did complete 6-of-9 passes for 52 yards, which places him second behind Charlie Frye's 12-for-15 for 122 yards.

Frye had statistically the best game of any of the three Browns QBs that saw playing time, but he sabotaged any chance he had of solidifying his standing as the team's starting signal-caller with a couple of bush-league plays that are now famously infamous around Northeast Ohio: The botched lateral to Jerome Harrison that was returned for Kansas City's lone touchdown, and the unsuccessful decision to tuck and run for the end zone as the second half drew to a close.

Those two plays were devastating to Frye's momentum, and once again raised questions about Frye's ability to make sound decisions in pressure situations -- which is really what is going to save or kill Frye's chances of becoming a full-time NFL starter.

Combine Frye's gaffes with the fact that Derek Anderson (7-for-16, 76 yards) looked like a glorified Arena League QB, and it doesn't seem that far-fetched to say Dorsey is going to start climbing the charts in the coming weeks if he has more efforts like he had in holding down the offensive fort in the second half Saturday night -- getting stripped of the ball in the end zone for a safety notwithstanding.

Dorsey is what passes for a veteran quarterback on this roster right now, and might end up being the best combination of leadership and smart decision-making that Romeo Crennel has available to put under center. Think I'm crazy? Wait three weeks and see how many touchdown drives Frye and Anderson have led. If the number is less than two, I rest my case.

Right now, Crennel doesn't have a truly good option at quarterback. It's a shame, because the rest of the team looked like it was actually starting to fall into place, if first blush means anything.

Jamal Lewis looked as new-and-improved as advertised, and if he can stay on the field for most of the Browns' 16 games, might actually give this team its first dominant, tempo-setting rusher since returning to the league. And I write that with Reuben Droughns' 2005 campaign in mind.

The offensive line, even without Eric Steinbach, looked much improved over any previous model the Browns have trucked out. Frye and company had time to find receivers, and running backs had room to run. Linemen were even throwing some blocks downfield.

Granted, it was against Kansas City's defense, not Pittsburgh's or Baltimore's, but by the end of last year, I'm not sure the Browns offensive line could have stopped Mount Union's defense on a blitz.

And let's talk about that defense. This is going to be the manna that sustains the Cleveland Browns from week to week. Todd Grantham's unit is going to keep the Browns in a lot of games, as they did in the first half of last year before injuries started to mount. It's all going to be a matter of whether the offense can take advantage of it, or whether the Browns are going to be losing a lot of 17-9 games because the offense can't get the ball into the end zone.

To that end, the results of the first preseason game were not promising. Despite that fact that Kamerion Wimbley once again showcased his goose-bump-producing ability as a pass rusher, despite the fact that cornerback Eric Wright looked about as good as any player probably can look in his first-ever NFL action, despite the fact that the defense basically controlled the game for 58 minutes, the Browns still fell behind late because the offense couldn't muster a touchdown drive.

Thanks to Chris Barclay's running, and a lot of Chiefs scrubs on the field for the kickoff that followed Kansas City's go-ahead field goal, Cleveland escaped with a win and preserved an overall positive feeling from the night. Of course, it took a goal-line stand on the ensuing drive and a fumble recovery on third down to really put the Chiefs to bed.

There was definitely more good than bad to this game from the Browns' perspective. Every unit was solid with the exception of the quarterbacks, who are under close scrutiny anyway.

But the quarterback troubles loom large. The Browns simply cannot head into the season with the most important position on the roster in a state of limbo. Somebody needs to step up and disarm this grenade before it has a chance to blow up the September portion of the Browns schedule. The solution might not currently be on the roster.

Up next: Detroit, Saturday, 7 p.m. at Cleveland Browns Stadium

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time to get to work, Brady

It has been done.

All the posturing and rooster-strutting is over. All the flying in to Cleveland to sign autographs for $75 a pop, then retreating back down the rabbit hole to Arizona. All the haggling, all the dickering, all the holding out.

Brady Quinn is signed, reportedly for five years and a little under $8 million guaranteed, with an overall contract worth of up to $30 million if he hits all his performance incentives.

Now, he gets to work. Hard.

After 11 days and 15 practices missed, Quinn starts at the absolute bottom of the totem pole, behind all the other quarterbacks he'll need to inevitably pass if he is to make a full return on the large investment in draft picks and money the Browns made to get him.

A case could be made that more is riding on Quinn than was riding on Tim Couch in 1999. Couch stepped onto the field with an unknown quantity of a team in '99. He was starting out, the team was starting out, and if all went right, they'd grow together.

Eight years later, we know that maiden voyage ended only slightly more successfully that that of the R.M.S. Titanic.

Now, Quinn steps onto the field as far more than a building block, which Couch was. Quinn must be the primary savior for a franchise that has been a garbage dump of missed draft picks, catastrophic injuries, off-the-field indiscretions and coaching meltdowns in the eight years since Couch first pulled on an orange helmet.

Quinn steps onto the field with a desperate franchise that is riding a streak of four straight last-place finishes in the AFC North. A team that hasn't had a double-digit-win season since 13 years and a franchise ago. A team that hasn't won a playoff game since that year, and hasn't contended for a Super Bowl since 1989.

You can search far and wide, through all the Notre Dame bowl implosions that you want, and you won't find a team or a fan base more shellshocked, more gun-shy and more flinch-prone than what Quinn will encounter when he arrives in Berea for his first practice.

Quinn might think he's arriving as a conquering hero. He'll soon find out that the football-watching population of Northeast Ohio is going to want him to be something far more: The doctor who makes it all better.

Unfortunately, there is no real way for a player of any caliber to prepare himself for that. In many ways, your success or failure -- and by extension whether you are beloved or reviled in the history of Cleveland sports -- is out of your hands.

This is larger than Quinn could ever imagine. This is a team and a city in a life-or-death chess match with the demons that have plagued them for so many years. Quinn is the king piece.

Couch was greeted like Caesar returning from the battlefields. Five years later, he was crying in front of the cameras after fans cheered his post-concussion exit from a game against Baltimore (or the entrance of Kelly Holcomb, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day). Couch was metaphorically undressed that night, and never totally regained his dignity in Cleveland. Less than a year later, he was gone.

Such is life in a desperate city. If the fans and media get even a whiff of failure from you, they will turn on you in less than a heartbeat. Since the departure of Couch, every Browns quarterback has become a negative figure in Cleveland to a greater or lesser degree.

Jeff Garcia never did fit in here. He whined his way out of Cleveland the way he whined his way out of San Francisco. Trent Dilfer was utterly mediocre, and was eventually phased out in favor of Charlie Frye, who has been nothing special in a little over a season as the starting QB. The only thing that gets him a mulligan is his native town of Willard, Ohio, and a little story about having a Bernie Kosar poster on his wall as a boy.

Frye can be the first to tell Quinn that being a native son and idolizing Kosar as a boy can get you far here in Ohio. Quinn should play up that angle as much as possible. It will make you the ultimate fan favorite, especially if you are riding the bench as the starter struggles.

But once you have to strap on the helmet and live up to Kosar's somewhat-bloated legacy, then the real test begins.

And the test for Quinn is more crucial than what any other Cleveland QB has faced since Kosar. Quinn can't fail. He can't even be passable or decent. He has to be great. He has to be the man that rescues the name of the Cleveland Browns from the lake of fire.

If he doesn't, the fans will turn on Quinn with the type of ferocity usually reserved for cheering Pittsburgh fans.

That's a gamble no sensible person should want to make. But with the ink still wet on his contract, that is exactly what Quinn is facing.

This week, Quinn begins to learn what greatness is all about in this town ... and whether he can make the grade.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tucker's transgression

Sports fans. We're all hypocrites when it suits us.

It's not hard to find a San Francisco Giants fan who thinks Major League Baseball is turning Barry Bonds into a scapegoat in the ongoing steroid abuse witch hunt. The default opinion in the Bay Area is either "He has never taken steroids" or more commonly "He was just doing what baseball would allow him to get away with."

In Atlanta, it's probably a bit harder to find a Michael Vick defender among Falcons fans simply because most people view dog fighting as abhorrent and the evidence against Vick appears to be damning. But public demonstrations in support of Vick have shown that team allegiance, in many cases, is thicker than federal charges.

If Bonds were a Dodger or Vick were a Panther, the shoe would be on the other foot and Giant and Falcon fans would be the first to persecute the chief antagonist from a division rival. But that's the way it goes in sports.

We in Cleveland have been guilty of it, too. When Albert Belle was smashing a thermostat, reportedly throwing a baseball at photographer and allegedly chasing Halloween house-eggers in his SUV, the Cleveland fans and media turned the blindest of blind eyes to his off-the-field antics because he was hitting homers and the Indians were winning.

If Belle had been a member of the White Sox two years earlier, how would we have reacted? Be honest.

Now the spin spotlight falls on Ryan Tucker, the Browns offensive tackle who will miss the first four games of this season after testing positive for a banned substance. The test occurred during the offseason, with the league suspension handed down Friday.

Tucker will be allowed to participate in games and practices during the preseason, but will be completely eliminated from all team events from the end of the preseason until Oct. 1. He'll miss the extremely important September gauntlet against the Steelers, Bengals, Raiders and Ravens, which will almost certainly determine the course of the season, and might slay or save Romeo Crennel's job.

On the surface, it seems like a fairly minor situation, and the fans and media have been quick to play it that way. Tucker took something he shouldn't have as he attempted to rebound from mental-health issues during last season. Based on his comments Friday, he knew what he was doing was wrong, knew he was probably going to get caught, and when he did, he offered a full confession and will take his punishment without a word of complaint.

In an era when Rafael Palmeiro might have perjured himself in front of Congress concerning steroid use, Tucker's candor is refreshing. Right?

If you ignore the whole pesky detail about the crime already having been committed, I suppose.

Tucker is quickly transitioning from a rock at right tackle to one of the most unreliable members of the Browns offensive line. It appears that whatever happened to him last year -- which is still shrouded in mystery by both Tucker and the team -- was not his fault. But he rebounded quickly, told the media the start of camp that "I feel great," and for the first time since returning to the league, it appeared the Browns would have some real depth protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running game.

Now, with this latest stumble -- which was very much his fault and very much avoidable -- he hinders the Browns offensive line yet again, and through what might end up as the most important stretch of the season.

The Browns luckily have a ready-made backup plan in Kevin Shaffer, who might now have a chance to claim a starting job for keeps, even when Tucker comes back. But, as always happens when a player is sidelined, everyone else in the unit moves up a step, creating a domino effect.

The Browns simply cannot absorb another hit, injury or otherwise, to the offensive line between now and the time Tucker returns from suspension. At the rate Browns O-linemen normally fall, who is willing to make that bet?

Tucker can be praised for coming clean and expressing remorse for hurting his team. But it doesn't change the fact that he did hurt his team, at a time when they need to show significant measurable progress early in the season, or run the extremely high risk of watching another season get flushed down the pipes before the first snowflake falls.

For that, Tucker deserves criticism. And he probably deserves a spot on Crennel's bench, even when he returns from suspension.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Training camp '07: And finally...

Today I conclude my 2007 Browns training camp preview series by tying up some loose ends on and off the field.

Special teams

Phil Dawson has been a placekicking rock for the Browns since the franchise returned to action in 1999, so there is no reason to overreact to his shaky second half last year. But there are some definite concerns. After a career-high 93.1 percent of his field goal attempts in 2005, his percentage plummeted to 72.4 percent in '06, the second-lowest percentage of his career behind his rookie year.

Most alarmingly, he made just more than 50 percent (7-of-13) of his field goals from beyond 40 yards. For an offense that had trouble sustaining drives a year ago, it made a bad situation worse.

Kickers, unfortunately, are the most disposable players on NFL rosters. Dawson has to show marked improvement in '07, or the Browns might look elsewhere for a kicker in '08.

Dave Zastudil stepped into the punter's role last year, and was solid, if not Chris-Gardocki-in-his-prime-esque. Eighty-one punts, zero blocks, a 44-yard average with a 38.4-yard net. Sure as heck better than sitting through two years of Derrick Frost and Kyle Richardson.

Josh Cribbs has emerged as arguably the best kickoff returner in the NFL. With blazing linear speed, he amassed 1,494 yards and one touchdown on 61 kickoff returns last season.

The downside? those 61 kickoffs mean the other team was scoring a lot of points on the Browns. If your kickoff returner constitutes a major bright spot on your team, chances are there are other problems that need to be addressed.

The real question mark heading into the dog days of August is who will return punts. Dennis Northcutt, at one point statistically the best punt returner in the league (I still don't know how that happened), is gone to Jacksonville. That leaves a throng of players trying out for the position.

Have legs? Good vision? Able to signal for a fair catch? The Browns might have a job for you.

Right now, receivers Tim Carter and Travis Wilson might get a look as returners, as might Cribbs, who appears to lack the lateral mobility to be a great punt returner if last year's quasi-failure in the role is any indication.

Rookie Syndric Steptoe, a returner in college, could be the long-term solution. But at this point, Vince Papale might be a better kick-returning option than anyone the Browns have in camp.


The biggest story heading into camp is the new-look Browns offense under first-year coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Chud was a former tight ends coach for the Browns under Butch Davis, and returns to Cleveland after spending two seasons coaching Antonio Gates in the same role with the Chargers, one of the best offensive teams in football.

Needless to say, Chudzinski figures to employ a lot of plays that call for tight ends Kellen Winslow Jr. and Steve Heiden to get the ball -- not the worst idea, considering they were the two most reliable receivers for the Browns a year ago. Chudzinski previously coached Winslow at the University of Miami, so the two go way back.

Chudzinski will also attempt to rely heavily on a between-the-tackles running game that utilizes the Browns' revamped offensive line and the horseplow running style of new feature back Jamal Lewis. If Lewis can stay on the field and productive for 16 games, it's a good idea ... if he can, that is.

Romeo Crennel enters the season on one of the hottest hot seats of any NFL coach. Coming off a 4-12 season and facing a brutal September/early October schedule, Crennel is fighting an uphill battle to show any progress. In the span of the first four weeks of the season, Crennel will face all three divisional opponents -- all at home, no less.

Crennel is infamously 1-11 versus the AFC North in two seasons as the Browns coach. If that record drops to 1-14 before the bye week, odds are slim Crennel is going to end the season as the Browns coach.

Already, the vultures are swirling and ready to prematurely name Bill Cowher as the Browns coach in 2008.

Front office/ownership

There is no question Phil Savage has been able to ramp up the talent level on the team in two years, even if the record doesn't show it. Last year, he drafted two potential defensive studs in Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson. In each of the last two years, he's drawn top-flight free agents to Cleveland. This year, he addressed the offensive line through the draft, selecting Joe Thomas third overall.

But there is that little nagging problem of Savage performing the role of a super-scout and not really providing the team with any kind of administrative backbone on the homefront. Most of the season, Savage is off scouting the college ranks in preparation for the following year's draft. That's necessary, but for a team that is still trying to crawl out of the muck of years and years of awful football and off-the-field indiscretions too numerous to count, more on-site leadership is probably needed.

Randy Lerner could try to become a front-office owner like Dallas' Jerry Jones or Oakland's Al Davis, but I just don't think that's in his blood. If this little nugget uncovered by's own Hornless Rhino is true, Lerner might have scones and shepherd's pie in his blood far more than mom and apple pie. Lerner also owns Aston Villa of the English Premiership, and it's becoming painfully obvious that he enjoys English "footie" far more than stars-and-stripes football.

Sooner or later, Lerner might come to the conclusion that he simply can't satisfy two mistresses in the realm of sports. The Browns might be the one he casts adrift.