Friday, October 19th, 2007

Brady Quinn Does Not Have MyspaceWhat To Do With So Much Free Time

So the Browns have a bye week this week. *YAWN*

I suppose it’s ok, though, because I wouldn’t want to overload this week with a Browns game and then Game 7 of the ALCS (oh please, oh please, oh please don’t let there be a Game 7). Regardless, as impressive (relatively) as the Browns’ season has been so far, it’s been hard to get too pumped up about anything going Berea-side while so much postseason action has been taking place at Jacobs Field.

I wouldn’t want to let anyone down, though, so I’ll dutily perform my duty and give you my bye week thoughts about this season so far. First off, we’re 3-3. Looking at the schedule before the season, I would have been content with 2-4. The sick thing is that we’re a blocked FG away from being 4-2….with a winless St Louis team lurking on the otherside, we’d be looking at a potential 5-2 record. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…..we’re not. We’re 3-3 and we kinda are who we think we are at this point.

The offense has been unreal. 4th in the NFL in points per game, 7th in total offense per game. All that despite that pathetic opening week performance against Pissburgh. We know now that Joe Thomas was the absolute correct pick with #3 overall selection in the draft, we know that Eric Steinbach is easily the best free agent signing of the new era Browns. With a decent anchor in Fraley at center and Tucker and Shaffer trading time at RT, we have finally established a sufficient offensive line. We are LOADED with playmakers on offense. Jamal Lewis has been solid enough, if not unspectacular, and Wright and Harrison have had some occasional flashes of mediocrity. Kellen Winslow is, frankly, a soldier. Dude plays hurt every single game, and leaves absolutely everything on the field. I don’t know how anyone could not enjoy watching him play. And at WR, Braylon Edwards has finally become the #3 overall pick-worthy brilliant player we needed him to be. Don’t take my word for it, listen to Scouts, Inc’s Matt Williamson,

 John (Cincinnati): Matt, what do you think of the Browns offense? Are they legit or just overachieving?

SportsNation Matt Williamson: Legit. I want to keep knocking DAnderson, but he is playing very well and improving. The OL is the key and it is a component that Clev has not had since coming back to the NFL. Braylon is a superstar-not a very good player who is emerging, but a superstar. Winslow is exceptional as well. The RBs are good enough. This O will continue to score points.

Not to even mention unheralded guys like Joe Jurevicious and Joshua Cribbs. The bottom line is, this offense is legit, and the absolute turning moment of the season was the Chuck Frye trade with Seattle. It was like giving our offense a much needed enema. After the cleansing, Derek Anderson stepped up, took the reigns, and showed us all why there had been so much hype about his abilities prior to this season.

As good as the offense has been, the defense has been equally pathetic. I’m not going to spend much time on this because, frankly, I don’t know what the answer is. We need an NFL-quality nose tackle, and we need to get younger and more atheltic on the front line. The linebackers are ok, but could probably stand to be a bit more agressive in the pursuit of the run. The secondary is an enigma. Sometimes they look really, really solid, other times they look lost and confused. Last year Sean Jones and Leigh Bodden were being praised as 2 of the best at their position. This year, you don’t hear so much, and the main reason is a true lack of consistency. Brodney Pool has stepped in nicely, for the most part, to his starting role in the secondary, while Eric Wright has struggled mightily at times, but has also shown some real promise. Once this unit gels a little more, I believe they’ll come together and form a solid secondary.

All in all, I think our team is ok. We’re not a playoff team, we’re not one of the worse teams. We’re right in the middle. And that’s a HUGE step up from where we were last year. Looking ahead on our schedule, I see lots of win-able games (@St Louis, Seattle, Houston, @Arizona, @New York Jets, Buffalo, San Fran). If we go 4-3 in those games, we’re looking at a 7-9 season. For the first time since, well, 1999, I feel confident the franchise is moving in the right direction. I’ll continue to be patient as long as results keep trickling down.


Paul ByrdI’ve Got Your Perspective Right Here…

The Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston wrote a nice piece this week about Paul Byrd and his reaction to Eric Wedge’s confidence in him.  The article talks a little bit about how and why Byrd developed his old school windup style. It also talks about Byrd’s fearless approach to facing the Red Sox lineup. One line that really caught my eye was when Byrd said, in reference to Wedge’s decision to pitch him in Game 4 of the ALDS over 19 game winner CC Sabathia:

“The whole world wanted C.C. out on the mound, everybody but my mom, Eric Wedge, and my wife. I’ve always appreciated Eric’s loyalty. It’s not me to try to prove everybody wrong. I’d rather prove a few people right. He was one of them. You really start to get the most out of your players when you have that kind of atmosphere.”

I especially can appreciate the part about not proving everybody wrong, but rather, proving those who believe in you right. I think that’s the kind of perspective we all could use more of in our lives.

ALCSThe End Is The Beginning Is The End

I will not overreact…I will not overreact…I will not overreact. Ok, last night was a little tough to swallow. I had nothing but confidence we were going to take care of business. It didn’t happen. And you know what? That’s ok. Like our buddy Manny being Manny said, “It’s not like the end of the world.” Thanks for the advice Manny.

So where do we go from here? What now? It’s simple. We put our faith into our OTHER 19 game winner….you know, that that actually HAS come up big for us once in the playoffs so far. I’m hoping our coaches are pounding confidence into Fausto’s head, telling him not to be scared of Boston’s lineup. When Fausto pitches with confidence, he is virtually untouchable…every bit as dominant as Beckett was last night. I just worry that what happened to Fausto in Boston in 2006 is in his head a little bit. I would just remind him that no matter how imposing Manny and Ortiz are, keep in mind that even the best hitters in the history of this game only got a hit 30% of the time. The odds are in your favor, young man. Throw strikes, pitch your game, and challenge them to beat you.

In all reality, we knew this Boston team was not going to be scared of a 3-1 deficit against us, especially with Fenway coming for Games 6 and 7 and Beckett pitching Game 5. They’ve been here before. Plus, the Indians have now lost 7 of their last 8 series clinching games. The Red Sox know this. But you know what? Losing 3 straight to Boston in ’99 means nothing to this Indians team. These kids seem unfazed by anything other than that Beckett smirk. To be sure, Game 6 will not be easy, facing a Curt Schilling who is searching for redemption. I look for a tight, close game tomorrow.

I’ll post some more links later this afternoon, and look for an official Game 6 preview and prediction probably tomorrow morning. I’ll tell you one thing….my prediction will not be 11-2 in either direction.