Welcome to “Keepin’ It Real (and sometimes funny),” our new weekly column highlighting relevant events in Cleveland sports, and how we might feel about them; the brainchild of the man behind Twitter’s @NotSCCleveland. We will take a dive in to the good, the bad and the downright head-scratching moments that have been the last week in Cleveland sports. Do enjoy, and please do not hesitate to provide feedback.
If you’re a Browns fan, you understand that each preseason brings its share of hope. But over the last decade, as fans, we’ve been looking for something (ANYTHING) to be positive about going into the regular season. This preseason is much, much different. There are several things to be excited about. What are they, specifically? Well, just about everything.
Through two games, the Browns’ first teams have DOMINATED the competition. They left the field with a 17-0 lead over St. Louis in the opener (the Rams’ first TD came with St. Louis’ first-team offense against the Browns’ second-team defense), and last Thursday, against Detroit, finished ahead 17-3. The offense has looked better than anything we’ve seen in a long time. The defense looks vastly improved, and its somewhat-vanilla approach to the preseason is already far more aggressive than at any point of the Dick Jauron era. Special teams have been above average as well. All three phases look good … and regardless of whether this is preseason or not, that’s something that we haven’t been able to experience very much here in Cleveland.
I could spend time dissecting last week’s win over the Lions, but there’s really only one play that sticks in my mind. It’s a play that I think accurately describes the approach of this new regime – from Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner at the top to Rob Chudzinski and the entire coaching staff. The Browns, already leading 10-0, were facing 3rd-and-11 from their own 8-yard line, with 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter. In years past, that’s almost always been a situation where the team takes its medicine, runs the ball up the middle, and turns things over to the punter. Pat Shurmur might have even considered just taking a knee. But instead of going the conservative route, Brandon Weeden completed a 23-yard pass up the middle to Josh Gordon, giving the Browns an easy first down, and keeping a drive alive in which the Browns would ultimately score a touchdown.
That play is the type of aggressiveness that we haven’t seen here in a while. Sure, it’s just the preseason, and sure the game won’t matter at all come September. But if these things translate when the games begin to count, this is going to be an exciting team to watch.
Browns Quote of the Week:
“It was important for me and for us to go through the process. This plan that we followed throughout the offseason started in April and carried out into OTAs, the multiple mini camps, and training camp. We (wanted) to see (players) react to a lot of different situations that come up (to see how) they can handle them. Based on this process, Brandon has earned this job. That’s extremely important to me. He’s gained my complete trust, and he’s gained his teammates’ complete trust.” – Browns Coach Rob Chudzinski on waiting to name Brandon Weeden the starting QB.
I, for one, have no issue with Chud waiting as long as he did to formally announce Weeden as the starter. For one, it shows that he’s not going to change his plan, which was obviously well thought out, because of pressure from the media and/or fans. Some former Browns coaches wouldn’t have been able to do that. Secondly, it proves that he wanted Brandon to earn the role. He wasn’t just going to throw him into the position. He wanted everyone to be behind it, from his teammates, to his coaches, to the fans, to the vendor in section 535. After his performance on the field through two games of the preseason, mission accomplished.
Browns Tweet of the Week:
Browns name Teddy Bridgewater starting QB. Correction: that's a tweet scheduled for Aug. 20, 2014. Meant to say "Brandon Weeden" today.
— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) August 20, 2013
ESPN, The Magazine …. Keeping it professional since, well, never.
ON THE REST OF THE AFC NORTH…
Just a quick peek around the rest of the division two games into the preseason:
Baltimore (2-0): The Ravens have wins at Tampa Bay and vs. Atlanta. The Falcons victory, though, is a little deceiving, since the Ravens first-team units were outscored 20-7. Baltimore looks much different from last year, but they’re still the defending Super Bowl champions, which means they’ll still be a force in the AFC North, which means that was a sentence in which I just told you a ton of information you already knew. You’re welcome.
Cincinnati (2-0): The Bengals have wins at Atlanta and vs. Tennessee. They’ve got a +32 point differential, which means they’ve looked solid under the lights thus far. In case you live under a rock, they’re the team currently being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Main takeaway from the first three episodes: Jay Gruden is the best coach on the Bengals, and it’s not even close. He’ll be a fine head coach someday.
Pittsburgh (0-2): So, I’ll just go ahead and be honest: Pittsburgh is the only reason I’m doing this divisional roundup. Mainly because, after watching Pittsburgh play, I’m pretty excited about the fact that I truly believe they will struggle this year. Their offensive line is a borderline joke, and they’re dealing with plenty of turnover on D. To get you excited for the season, here are two of my thoughts from Pittsburgh’s loss on Monday to Washington:
Behind that offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger is going to be running faster than a woman alone in a bar with Ben Roethlisberger.
— NOTSCCleveland (@NOTSCCleveland) August 20, 2013
Congratulations Steeler fans. You have six Super Bowls. You're also about to have six wins this year, so have fun with that.
— NOTSCCleveland (@NOTSCCleveland) August 20, 2013
ON THE CLEVELAND INDIANS (JUST STAYIN’ ALIVE!)…
I was pretty tough on the Tribe in this space last week. Then again, how could I not be after that awful four game sweep to Detroit and subsequent series loss to the Angels? We finally had some meaningful baseball games in August, and the Indians laid a giant egg in front of the home crowd.
Leave it to the Tribe, though, to bounce back with a pretty impressive road trip. Minus the series loss at Oakland, which had obvious Wild Card implications, the Indians won two of three series and proved that they were able to bounce back from a pretty serious blow the week before.
There are so many questions about this team as we head into the future, and most are impossible to answer. Their long-term success, in my opinion, depends largely on the Dolans’ upcoming decision on whether or not they’d like to stay aggressive in free agency/the trade market and supplement a team that’s pretty close, or cut back on payroll due to another hugely disappointing season in terms of attendance. I won’t pretend like I know the answer to that question.
As for this season … I still don’t see them making the playoffs. Even if they do, how will they be expected to beat the kind of teams who have been devouring them all season? I honestly believe the team is a few key pieces away from contention. I told you last week that some players themselves believed that, too. Many of you took rather strong issue to that statement, but if you look up the transcript from Ryan Raburn’s press conference when he signed his extension, he basically says it himself. Either way, the road to winning a World Series – which is really all that matters, right? – will be solidified (or rebuilt, again) this offseason. We’ll see if ownership allows the front office to add the necessary talent to get them there.
Indians Quote of the Week:
“I’ve got no problem with our team and where we are. We know ourselves pretty well. When we play the game right, we win. When we don’t we lose.” – Manager Terry Francona
Fantastic. I think it’s safe to say that we’d all like you to “play the game right” from here on out.
Indians Tweet of the Week:
When we’re ready to expect the playoffs, the Indians won’t let us. Then when we’re ready to write them off, won’t let us do that either.
— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) August 14, 2013
This is about the most accurate description of the Indians that I could find on twitter.
The validity of this story has yet to be confirmed. For now, it’s just a post on social media from an apparently frustrated fan.
First, since some people will surely ask, the post does not say that the alleged incident between Indians closer Chris Perez and the 7-year-old child occurred in the 14th inning … only that the post was actually written in that inning. Just thought we should clear that up ahead of time.
Whether or not this is true, it’s undeniable that Perez has had a troubled last few years in Cleveland. Whether he was calling out ownership, calling out the fans, calling out his teammates, showing up on YouTube, allegedly purchasing marijuana online and delivering it to his home in the name of his dog, or now allegedly taking part in this new altercation … there are some serious issues.
The majority of Indians fans are fed up. Some still defend him. The bottom line is this: If Perez converts on his save opportunities, almost no one will care what he does or says off the field. But the minute he blows a save (as we’ve seen), people get more upset than they normally would, because they know that Chris Perez is far from a nice guy.
READER QUESTIONS (submitted via Twitter):
@NOTSCCleveland what are your thoughts on moffitt trade? I think it's an absolute steal
— Michael Podolsky (@MFP31) August 20, 2013
FUN FACT: This question was sent before the John Moffitt trade was voided. Here was my answer at the time: My thought is that this is a trade Mike Holmgren never would have made, citing his five-year plan. Thank goodness for Joe Banner, who I’m assuming doesn’t mind if you call him for playoff tickets.
So, now that the trade has been voided and Moffitt is headed to Denver … my answer is, ummmm, Go Browns.
@NOTSCCleveland do you believe that Weeden will be the guy to lead the Browns back to the the playoffs.
— Blake Saathoff (@blake_saathoff) August 20, 2013
The only thing I believe is if he can’t do it in this offense, he can’t do it anywhere. I’m glad we’re giving him the chance to find out.
— Max Rumizen (@Max_Rum) August 20, 2013
I don’t know how they could possibly be any more focused than they already have been.
Until next week…
Adam is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan who has witnessed his share of heartbreak along with the rest of Northeastern Ohio. A Browns season ticket holder who also attends several Indians and Cavs games each year, Adam has developed a mentality that it’s better to laugh about it than cry. It’s in that spirit, and through his love and devotion to Cleveland, that he’s developed a comedic outlook toward our sports teams. Adam is a journalism/mass communications graduate of St. Bonaventure University. You can follow him on Twtter at @NotSCCleveland.