Detroit's Rustbelt neighbor in Cleveland closed the season on precisely the opposite note. After midseason wins over New Orleans and New England, the Browns were 3-5, and widely seen as a team that would push to .500 and have a load of momentum going into next year. They split their next four and were looking forward to December. But they dropped their final four games, ending with a terrible game yesterday against Pittsburgh. The Browns ceased to be able to run the ball, as Peyton Hillis faded down the stretch. Colt McCoy wasn't the same after he came back from his high ankle sprain the last two weeks--although we should grant the fact he had to face the Baltimore and Pittsburgh defenses didn't help the cause of a rookie quarterback. The collapse and 5-11 finish should end any notions that Eric Mangini should be a head coach in the NFL. He had one good year in 2006 with the Jets and has been terrible ever since. With Mike Holmgren sitting there as team president and rumored to be hungry to coach again, it's fair to say Mangini could be unemployed by the time you read this.
Finally, Seattle's 16-6 win over St. Louis has given the NFL its first sub-.500 playoff team as 7-9 was good enough to win the NFC West and means the Seahawks get to host the 12-4 Saints in Saturday's first-round game. But can we please drop the shocked suggestions that this means the NFL needs to revise its playoff format? If you have divisions of only four teams and play just 6 of 16 games against division rivals, the odds are overwhelming that eventually you'll have one division out of eight deliver four clunkers. This was a situation that could have been easily anticipated when the league went to this format in 2002--if I'd been blogging then, I'd have pointed it out, since I brought it up to friends at the time. So someone in the NFL offices has to be bright enough to figure it out. The league obviously made a decision that the benefits of small divisions and a reduced percentage of intra-divisional games (in the old format, divisions were 5 teams, ensuring half your games were in your own backyard) outweighed the risks. Given that we've had 72 division races since '02 and one has ended with a losing team winning the division, we should just live with the consequences.
Image from mlive.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball. and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.