The Browns and Steelers is usually a much-anticipated matchup, but this time it seemed as if the end of the game was the most intriguing part. With the end of the game comes the end of the charade that Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert will keep their jobs. Gone is the last bit of the Mike Holmgren era, but more importantly the Randy Lerner era for all practical purposes.1 In the end, the Browns had a chance to tie it up in the fourth quarter but turnovers caught up with them as they dropped their final game 24-10. The Browns finish the season at 5-11.
Despite my looking ahead to the end, there were still decent enough reasons to watch. Thad Lewis was getting his first start and honestly, even if the team is bad, you only get 16 chances to watch them play meaningful football a year so most people like to try and make the most of it. It’s not exactly fighting for a playoff spot, but most Browns fans barely remember that feeling if they’ve even been alive long enough. So the Browns and Steelers went at it, neither having anything real to play for.
What resulted was a relatively entertaining football game. The Browns and Steelers actually seemed to hate each other. Phil Taylor and Billy Winn received personal fouls for fighting the bad guys. Craig Robertson lost his mind when Legursky threw a cheap shot block at his legs away from meaningful action. The hate seemed almost palpable and that was more than enough to beat my expectations.
Everyone was concentrating on “lasts.” Phil Dawson’s last game with the Browns? Josh Cribbs’ last one too? Pat Shurmur’s? But we ended up with a lot of firsts. Thad Lewis’ first start and first TD pass, a nice job extending it with his feet before finding Greg Little in the back of the end zone. Brandon Jackson’s first real action of the year revealed a fresh and quick including a 25 yard scamper.
And so we go off into the new completely post-Lerner world of Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner. There’ll be news like crazy as the Browns start to make changes and as we start to figure out the new organizational M.O. Will there be free agents? Will there be a new defensive style with the 3-4 coming back?2 Will there be a dome?
We’ll find out soon enough. I’ve said a number of times that I like this roster as much as I’ve loved any roster since 1999. It’s young. It’s got potential. It doesn’t need to be blown up as much as supplemented. Whoever the next coach is has a real opportunity to be the one to turn this long exhaustive project into an “overnight” success next year.
Talk about opportunities. The real opportunity is the fans’.
Lerner will own a small portion of the team for a while still, but it’s really over. [↩]