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September 30, 2009 7:30 PM

Line of Scrimmage: Week 4 - Browns fans facing a huge test


By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We live in a society that loves to blame.

Rather than looking inward for the cause of our problems, many of us find it expedient to heap all of the responsibilities on a particular political party, or a particular race of people, or a particular religious creed to which some might subscribe.

What do we do to change the things in life that we find detestable? Pretty much nothing. We go see the new Transformers movie and wait for someone else to fix it. Oh, and we complain to those who we're sure will reinforce our own viewpoint. That always helps.

Well, since no one is allowing them to vote for the people who work for their team, fans of the Cleveland Browns can't really do anything but blame. And though the reviews were awful, there's no way the Transformers movie was less entertaining that what they've witnessed over the past decade or so.

The old villains in this play are: Art Modell, who moved the old Browns to Baltimore when the city of Cleveland wouldn't give him a new stadium, despite new facilities for the Indians and Cavs; then-mayor Michael White, who didn't take Modell's threats to leave the city seriously; and the NFL, who gave the city the "new Browns" but didn't give them nearly enough time to build the infrastructure they needed to put a competitive product on the field.

In many ways, the horrible Browns team you've watched (or not watched, if you're lucky) go 0-3 over the season's first three weeks is a by-product of the miserable situation the organization was put in at the end of the 90's, though certainly a rash of questionable coaching hires (Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel), bad GM appointments (Dwight Clark, Carmen Policy, Phil Savage), and worse draft picks (Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green) in subsequent years have helped move the ball along to its current deflated state.

The shame of it all is that Browns fans, some of the most passionate and loyal football fans you'll find anywhere, don't deserve any of what has happened to them. Through all the missteps off the field, and all the losses on it, you'll find a healthy amount of Cleveland fans who still have hope, and who will continue to show up. This isn't Jacksonville...these people understand pro football and they care.

But like a battered spouse who has finally come to the realization that enough is enough, the Cleveland faithful could be forgiven if they stay away in droves from their home stadium for the rest of the season.

The '09 Browns are an uncompetitive 0-3, ranking last in the league in both touchdowns scored (2) and points allowed (95) and looking every bit as bad as those '99 expansion Browns did. The head coach, Eric Mangini, is already reviled by local fans for not only the early losing, but also his shoddy treatment of players and his Belichick-like propensity for saying nothing of interest. You'll remember that Cleveland already had the real Belichick, the one who it turns out could coach after all, and they hated him too.

Mangini might be able to turn this thing around at some point, but it's hard to foresee when or how that might happen. If his players aren't buying in, and all indications are that they're not, the losses are going to continue to pile up. Noting that the team plays half of its home schedule in the month of December, when Cleveland will undoubtedly be playing out the string, are Browns fans really going to be bothered to show up? Would anyone in the world blame them if they didn't?

In the end, staying home might be the only tangible way to present their displeasure.

Browns owner Randy Lerner is a patient sort, and will do his best to support Mangini publicly, but can a pragmatic businessman really support his coach when Youngstown State is out-drawing the Browns in attendance?

Sooner rather than later, it looks like the Browns are going to have to start over again, if only in an effort to mobilize a fan base that could only be mobilized into forming an angry mob at the moment.

And for this, Lerner has no one but himself to blame.


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