On Monday night, new Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and his exciting offense played before the nation and won. A small piece of the nation, the cloudy region of northeast Ohio, felt no excitement. They felt pain. Another football savior had slipped through their fingers.
The Cleveland Browns went into this past off-season needing a head coach. The new brain trust, looking to turn around their new franchise, was hungry.
They wanted a name. They wanted promise. They wanted to hit a home run with the man they would hire to lead the team. The first pitch they swung at was Chip Kelly. And they missed. Kelly turned them down, and would later go on to be named the head coach of the Eagles.
Browns fans entered the season excited not by their new head coach Rob Chudzinski, but by his offensive coordinator Norv Turner. This Browns offense was going to be exciting! They were going to push the ball down the field. QB Brandon Weeden, throwing from the shotgun as he had in college, would be firing missiles to sprinting receivers. Finally, some promise.
Then something terrible happened to that promise: The regular season.
The offense came out looking like every offense this city has seen for years. RB Trent Richardson made some nice runs, but none of this deep passing fans had believed was coming. Most drives ended in typical Browns fashion: a punt or a turnover. The fans were as defeated as their team. They realized that they were in for four months of the same old inept offense. It couldn’t get much worse. Until it did.
On Monday night, The Eagles took on the Washington Redskins, and they wasted no time doing it. At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles had scored 194 points and ran 2148 plays. Something like that. Browns fans, as predictable as the team they cheer for, called sports talk stations to talk about what would have been had the Browns hired Kelly.
Apparently. Browns fans hadn’t read my article about the roster. Those who have and felt the power of my brilliance know better. Had Kelly been hired, we would have seen exactly what we saw on Sunday: another boring opening day loss. Why? Because this roster sucks.
But Browns fans did something else typical: they ignored two men who they had pointed their bitter fingers at last season. The first was Robert Griffin III. For the 2012 draft, the Browns rolled the dice with the St. Louis Rams in hopes of getting the second overall pick, one that they would use to secure RG III.
The Redskins rolled one draft pick better. The Browns called back to up their offer, but the Rams had made their decision: they were giving that pick to Washington.
Brows fans revised that story, saying that the Browns refused to beat the Redskins’ offer. That’s not true. They just got outbid. You have to understand the fans’ need to change history to suit their need to suffer. Meanwhile, the Browns drafted an 82-year old quarterback in Weeden. Double-ouch.
RG III went on to play some really good football — excellent for a rookie — and lead his team to the playoffs. Weeden went on to do his best to get at least three passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage every game. So, back to Monday night, what did RG III do against the porous Eagles defense? Not much. Nothing in the first half. He ended the game with two TDs, two INTs and a 77.7 passer rating. And Philly isn’t exactly the ’85 Bears.
It’s unfair to be so critical of a guy’s first game back from ACL surgery, but had he been great, Browns fans would have pointed it out. But he wasn’t, and so they ignored this. Instead, they pointed to the success of Chip Kelly.
Oh, and that brings us to the second guy they failed to mention: Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the bearer of the fans’ cross the last two years. Did he get any credit from Browns fans for the offensive fireworks? Of course not.
Two things are constant regarding football in Cleveland: an NFL team that finds new and exciting ways to be anything but new and exciting, and an angry and spiteful fan base intent on changing the conversation to suit their need to be angry and spiteful.
But I do feel bad for the fans — only one week played, and they’ve already suffered two devastating losses.