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The Shot, the Sad Browns and the Injury Bug

Posted: 6:09 AM, Oct 05, 2015
Updated: 2015-10-05 13:09:53Z
It’s been more than 26 years since Cleveland and Craig Ehlo came down on the wrong side of the most iconic moment in American sports history.
 
Since The Shot, things haven’t gone too swimmingly for the Cleveland sports world. After getting together, breaking up and getting back together again, the Cavs are still waiting for an aging Prince LeBron to fulfill his God-given destiny. Thirteen years in, they wait, patiently.
 
The Indians have been cruel. They had the audacity to reach the World Series twice in three years and lose both times.
 
Patience is not a virtue.
 
At least the Cavs and Indians showed glimpses of hope. The best thing to happen to the Browns in the last three decades is when Kevin Costner used their sad franchise as the backdrop for a convoluted story about a GM who gives away the No. 1 overall pick for nothing, then gets praised for it by his owner. Shouldn’t the Browns be insulted by the insinuation?
 
Draft Day was a fitting slap in the face. But only Cleveland would have a low enough self-esteem not to protest. If you build it they will come. For the Browns, if you build nothing, they will still come. They don’t have a choice. Like the nerd who gets asked out by the prom king in every Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie, the Browns and their fans were just grateful to get noticed.
 
Here’s a selection of their starting QBs since 1990: Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Tim Couch, Doug Pederson, Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Brady Quinn, Jason Campbell and Branden Weeden.
 
I’m nauseous. Why did I think a dive bar that serves actual rabbit stew would make for a good lunch spot?
 
Their coaches: Bud Carson, Jim Shofner, Bill Belichick, Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine.
 
What’s that pink stuff called, Pepto something? Pepto Bismol, you say? I need a minute.
 
From 1990 through 2014, the Browns compiled a 123-229 record. That’s a winning percentage of .349. They made it to the postseason twice (1994, 2002) and won a single playoff game: in ’94, ironically, Belichick notched a 20-13 wildcard win over his future employer, New England.
 
How? How can a franchise be so incompetent for so long? In 25 years of drafting, trading and free agency, the Browns have been unable to fall backwards into a single decent quarterback, running back or receiver. Not one. What the $#% is wrong with Cleveland?
 
Truck stop tycoon Jimmy Haslam bought the team in 2012. The following year, Haslam’s company Pilot Flying J was raided by the FBI and IRS over a rebate-cutting fraud scheme known as “jacking the discount”. Is that a real thing or the title of a Stevan Segal movie?
 
Secret recordings captured evidence that jacking the discount was a company-wide procedure that took place for years with Haslam’s knowledge. He denied it, like how Whitey Bulger denied he ever informed for the FBI.
 
Ten of Haslam’s employees plead guilty to federal charges. Flying J eventually shelled out $92 million in fines to make the charges go away.
 
Yes, this is the bloke that owns the Browns.
 
In my season preview with Ben Higgins, I wrote this :
 
Josh Gordon got busted for having a beer, mere months after he completed his 10-game suspension for smoking a joint. He won’t be playing this season. In other news, the NFL rewarded Greg Hardy for doing this by cutting his 10-game suspension down to four. When David Miscavige dies, Goodell can slide right into his job and the church of Scientology won’t miss a beat.
 
They signed a 35-year-old Josh McCown to a three-year contract ($6.25 million guaranteed). This is the same McCown who went 1-10 as a starter for the Bucs last season. The same Bucs who cut McCown after giving him $4.75 million guaranteed. Notice a trend?
 
What part of McCown’s glistening resume stood out to Cleveland GM Ray Farmer? Was it his 17-32 career record, or his 70.5 passer rating last season, second-worst in the league?
 
Speaking of Virtuoso Farmer, he is suspended the first four games of the season for texting his coaches during games. Did his texts read, “If only we had McCown, am I right?”
 
During his time off he can share a joint with Flash Gordon.”
 
Going into Sunday, Cleveland's sole win had come over the Titans, when Johnny Football replaced a concussed McCown. While every living, breathing person within Cleveland city limits calling for Manziel to start, Pettine confidently told reporters there was “no rift” in the locker room over his decision to go with McCown against the Chargers.
 
When the officer asked me if I knew I was going 85 in a 65, I threw up my hands in shocked indignation and responded, “No, sir.” I was lying. When a coach goes out of this way to use the words, “no rift,” he’s lying too.
 
That brings us up to date. If you’re like me at this point, you're wondering what it’ll take for Cleveland to finally boycott its Browns. Like most NFL cities, it’s in an abusive one-way relationship. San Diego can relate to that.
 
So how did things shake out Sunday with the Browns and Chargers? Not well. This was exactly what a game between two 1-2 teams should look like. It was lethargic and it ended how you would expect: an offside penalty by the Browns on a missed field goal that would have forced overtime. Poor Cleveland.
 
The Chargers were a discombobulated mess offensively, thanks to a rash of injuries. They were barely held together with string by Philip Rivers. They entered without the services of three offensive linemen: left guard Orlando Franklin, left tackle King Dunlap and center Chris Watt.
 
Things got worse. During the first quarter they lost Franklin's fill-in, Chris Hairston, to a knee injury. Already without Rivers' favorite weapons, Antonio Gates -- serving the final week of his four-game suspension -- Malcom Floyd left with a concussion in the first half. Then Stevie Johnson went down with a hamstring injury early in the second half. Because the Chargers chose to leave Jacoby Jones inactive, Rivers had only two wide receivers to finish the game: Keenan Allen and Dontrelle Inman.
 
With a pocket that repeatedly collapsed, and with no time to throw, Rivers struggled to keep the Chargers above water. He didn't get his first completion until the 3:30 mark of the first quarter. He finished the first half 12 for 23 with 128 yards, trying to get the likes of Danny Woodhead and Ladarius Green involved. Allen's sole first-half catch was a 28-yard TD. The Chargers were unable to take full advantage of the absence of Browns All-Pro DB Joe Haden.
 
Cleveland's offense took apart a depleted Chargers secondary that came into Sunday without starting right CB Jason Verrett and SS Jahleel Addae. In the fourth quarter, they lost starting left CB Brandon Flowers to a concussion.
 
The Browns must have liked what Lions rookie RB sensation Ameer Abdullah did to the Bolts front seven in Week One, because they turned their offense over to rookie RB Duke Johnson Jr. to similar effect. Playing both out of the backfield and at WR, Johnson sliced and diced the Chargers D to the tune of seven catches for 82 yards in the first half, including a beautiful 34-yard TD haul in the corner of the end zone in which he burned LB Donald Butler.
 
Despite all the Manziel talk, McCown had a respectable showing, going 32-for-41 with 356 yards and two TDs. He frequently missed open receivers, but made up for it with scrambles to extend broken plays; often with dump-offs for big gains to Isaiah Crowell and Travis Benjamin. He was especially effective on Cleveland's final scoring drive to tie the game.
 
Although the Browns moved the ball effectively throughout, but just couldn't find the end zone, having to settle for four field goals. That proved the difference.
 
Meanwhile, it wasn't until Woodhead's 61-yard dunk-and run with under six minutes to go in the third that the Chargers offense finally came alive.
 
“We haven't had one like that, obviously, you've seen so many of those over the years, whether it was Sproles or LT or Tolbert even,” Rivers said.
 
“That particular play, Danny, his guy came to block... I'd already saw the pressure, so he's (Danny) completely not in my thinking. And then they're late and I hear him (Danny) go, 'hey, hey, hey.' Our offensive lineman had overtaken the guy he was blocking. And he had just leaked out, and there's nobody there because the guy that came was covering him... that was one of those deals where you hear him hollering.”
 
After Travis Coons field goal brought the Browns to within one with nine minutes left, Inman's 68-yard catch and run set up a one-yard TD catch for TE John Phillips. When the Browns responded, Rivers' game-winning drive was a thing of beauty.
 
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy did typical McCoyish things. On the Browns final drive of the first half, McCoy called two timeouts that extended the clock and got the Browns in field goal range so they could tie the game at 13. With under a minute to go in the third and facing a 3rd down at midfield, the Chargers just blew a timeout out of confusion. The following play saw Rivers get sacked. That lost timeout could have proved costly in such a close game.
 
Clock management and in-game decision making continues to be McCoy's Achilles heel.
 
With all the injuries, the Chargers were fortunate to escape with a win. Their road now gets much tougher. Their next four opponents are Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Oakland and Baltimore. They'll have to go 2-2 to stay within shouting distance of the undefeated Broncos.
 
As for the Browns, their season is effectively over in a competitive AFC North. Why not find out what you have in Manziel instead of wasting time on substitute QB like McCown? I wasn't kidding about a boycott. Anything's in play when your franchise is this sad.
 
So what the $#% is wrong with the Browns?
 
-- Follow Faris Tanyos on Twitter @OnlyFairchild