Have you had a slip of the Cleveland Kool-Aid yet? It’s now fully available and has been sampled be yours truly. I said it in my previous review of the AFC North, Cleveland will win their Division. After watching them today, I still feel true to my previous prediction. Yes, the first two slipped away, yet due to injuries the Cleveland Browns have found their Quarterback. Colt McCoy has shown that he can lead this team. The exception of a Chansi Stuckey fumble on a 3rd Punt attempt, Colt might have been 3-0 against 3 of the Elite in the NFL. He has figured out how to manage games. Brian Daboll, Cleveland’s Offensive Coordinator, has taken off the handcuffs and is now fully using all parts of the Cleveland playbook. We haven’t seen it all, but Daboll is giving McCoy a lot to work with, especially given their past young Quarterbacks.
On top of Colt McCoy’s tremendous play comes the little known til this year, Peyton Hillis. Hillis has become the Beast of the AFC. His physical running style is now feared throughout the league. It has given an identity to this young Cleveland Browns’ Offense. Hillis has 644 yards this season on 133 carries through 8 games bringing smash mouth football back to the Browns. Peyton’s success has given the opportunity for Cleveland to develop their young, inexperienced receiving corp into a serviceable group.
The Cleveland Browns true identity lies within Rob Ryan’s Defense, for without them the Browns would not have been in every game this year. Yes, they lost leads in the fourth quarter in the seasons first two games, but with a resurgence of confidence from the Offense, the Browns now have figured out how to close games. Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady all have had problems recognizing the Defensive responsibilities due to Ryan’s creative Amoeba Defense. The additions of Sheldon Brown, Chris Gocong, and Scott Fujita have proven to be more than locker room leaders, they are the ring leaders of this Defensive Chaos first developed by Buddy Ryan, and now redefined by his son Rob. Their knowledge of the game has made the transition for rookies T.J. Ward(S) and Joe Haden(CB) into impactful, positive experiences.
Head coach, Eric Mangini, entered this year riding a four game winning streak, and new football czar, Mike Holmgren, looking over his shoulder. The unfortunate two loss start already had Cleveland fans calling for the likes of Holmgren, Jon Gruden, even Bill Cowher to take over. Mangini has stayed the course, selling his system and now finally seeing the results. A continuation of success will only secure his job and prove once again that a solid group of his type of players can compete at a winning level in the NFL. Eric Mangini built the nucleus of the New York Jets for Rex Ryan, even helping them to secure Mark Sanchez, and gift rapping Braylon Edwards. This upcoming Sunday the Jets will learn just how much they lost when they lost Mangini.
On November 7th, 1995 the Cleveland Browns fans voted to raise $175 million to renovate Cleveland Municipal Stadium for Art Modell. We all remember what happened from then on! Fifteen years to the day later, the Cleveland Browns announced to the NFL that they are back, by whooping the NFL leading New England Patriots 34-14. Thanks to Roger Goodell, the last two games of the season will mean something, with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh coming to Cleveland to finish out the season.
In 2002, the Browns needed their last two games against Baltimore and Atlanta to clinch the Wild Card berth. In 1988, on a snow filled day, the Browns beat the then Houston Oilers to clinch a home Wild Card game against the same Oilers. It’s in our history here in Cleveland, and now the fans once again Believe in Cleveland, as our team has grown to Believe within themselves.