Browns Diary: Never Give Up
--"The Browns haven't given up. You have to credit them for that." Announcer Trent Green with 4:58 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.
"I agree with not calling a timeout here. They're down two touchdowns ... just get out of here." Announcer Trent Green with 1:12 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.
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Trent Green is an old pal, so I'm not singling him out here. This is what you get when you watch Cleveland Browns football*. One minute, the announcer is overwhelmingly impressed by how the Browns just don't quit. They next minute, the announcer advising the Browns to, yeah, go ahead and quit before someone else gets hurt. It's a Browns life.
*Honestly, why would you do that to yourself?
Let's talk for a minute, though, about this whole no-quit concept, the whole "They never gave up, even when they were down, even when they were out, even when the odds were against them and the boys were up against it, even when the team fell into the moat with the killer shark, even when the entire planet of Alderaan was blown up, even when the British had them surrounded with no visible means of escape, THEY NEVER GAVE UP," idea.
I feel sure it's the worst announcer thing in sports at the moment.
There are other contenders for worst announcer thing, lots of them, but the whole "they never gave up," thing is impossibly stupid. Here's how you know it's stupid: Announcers don't really expect bad teams to give up. And they certainly don't believe bad teams deserve actual credit for simply continuing to play. It's nonsensical. Everyone should remember the moment a few years back when Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was prompted to praise his Wildcats for staying with it even while Nebraska piled on.
"Well," one reporter said. "At least your team never gave up."
"They don't let you give up," Snyder grumped.
They really don't.
But even more to the point -- as a Browns fan, you hear the announcer credit them EVERY SINGLE WEEK for not giving up. It's a staple of every Browns broadcast. But, truth is, the announcers have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA if the Browns have secretly given up. On Sunday in Twickenham, England.* facing the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns punted twice in the fourth quarter when down two touchdowns. That's kind of giving up.
*Text from Mike Schur: "Feel legitimately bad for Twickenham that they got a Browns game. Feels like a violation of WW2-era international allied forces agreement or something.
The Browns left Twickenham with two timeouts in Hue Jackson's pockets. That's kind of giving up.
The Browns were outscored 21-3 in the second half by a Minnesota team that could not have played more uninspired football in the first half. That's kind of giving up.
The Browns have won once in their last 27 games (or twice in their last 35 games if you prefer that arbitrary but illustrative cutoff point).
Point being: If they haven't given up, well, I don't want to see what giving up would look like.
The Browns played at 8:30 a.m. Houston time because of the whole Twickenham thing, and I fully planned to sleep through the bulk of the game. Game 4 of the World Series wasn't too long, certainly not by Game 5 standards, but but because of various things I didn't even get out of Minute Maid Park until 2 a.m. I decided: If I wake up, I wake up. But I'm not going to try to get up just to see this Browns team play.
But, clearly, this Browns thing is a sickness. I groggily woke up and wanted to go back to sleep. But I looked at the clock. It was was, no kidding, 8:28 a.m.
I decided to go back to sleep anyway -- inner Browns' clock be damned. I was in bed for 15 minutes when someone knocked on my hotel room door. I tried to ignore it, but they just kept knocking and knocking and knocking. Finally I got up, went to the door, and there was a hotel employee there.
"Here," she said, and she held out her hand to give me ... a corkscrew.
"I'm sorry?" I said groggily.
"You called down to order a bottle opener," she said quite definitively.
"No, I didn't," i said.
"Oh, OK," she said, and she walked away, and I was so baffled and perturbed that I gave up and realized that the fates will never ever stop haunting me; the fates will make me watch the Browns in not-so-quiet suffering for the rest of my life.
I'll tell you who Trent Green and the rest should be celebrating for having never given up: You and me. Why do we do this to ourselves? There's an unspoken pact between fan and team. We (fans) stay loyal through the hard times and suffering. They (team) do all they can to get better and provide joy.
Begin here: It isn't easy to win games at the highest level. Super smart and driven people work around the clock to find good players, to develop them, to coach them up, to put them in positions to succeed. Gigantic sums of money are spent. Scouts meticulously break down the other teams in an impressive effort to find a tiny edge -- a flaw in a formation, a tell from one of the players, a weak link in the offensive or defensive line. It is very hard to win in the NFL, so we fans endure the losing years based on the hope that things will get better, we endure knowing that people are working around the clock to make sure that things get better.
It is that enduring hope -- the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words -- that at this moment in my life as a Browns fan makes me want to throw up.
It's bad, I know. Hope should be celebrated. But I can't help it. I see people saying or tweeting positive things about the Browns -- how the plan really IS working, how stockpiling draft picks will so pay off, how well next year's draft sets up, how passing on Deshaun Watson wasn't that bad a move -- and it sparks this tidal wave of irrational anger inside me.
The Watson thing drives me especially mad. As I've written here before, I don't follow college football anymore (I don't really follow the NFL either except for the Browns). But even I was well aware of how amazing Deshaun Watson was at Clemson, well aware of his performance, well aware of the way he played against Alabama, well aware of him seeming to be this ideal young man, loved by every coach and teammate and fan and professor and opponent.
The Browns, who have been without a quarterback since, roughly, 1957, were in position to take Watson with the 12th pick in the draft. It wasn't even their top pick because, as you know, they love stockpiling draft picks. Watson dropped down to them and seemed a pretty logical choice.
Now, let me repeat: I don't watch college football. So I would not not be the person to know if Deshaun Watson has the skills to be a successful NFL quarterback. I trust the organization I helplessly love to do that kind of scouting. And the Browns brass decided that, no, Deshaun Watson does not have the skill set. It wasn't personal, as far as I know. They must have decided that Watson lacks, I don't know, the arm strength or the accuracy or the judgment or the pocket presence or the leadership qualities or something else. They traded out of their slot, basically giving Watson to the Houston Texans for a draft pick.
OK, so you trust that the organization knows something. They must have done all their homework on Watson, right? A little later, the Browns took Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, and he was kind of dreadful at Notre Dame, and scouts seemed to have a lot of questions about his ability to make quick decisions, but again, you trust your organization. They're trying to win games to bring you joy.
And then the season began, and even though I'm not watching much I do know that Deshaun Watson is LIKE THIS UNBELIEVABLE BLEEPING SUPERSTAR WHO RUNS ALL OVER THE FIELD AND MAKES MIND BOGGLING THROWS AND LEADS THE NFL IN TOUCHDOWN PASSES AND GIVES HIS FIRST PAYCHECK TO HELP REBUILD HOUSTON AFTER THE FLOOD AND ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME WITH THIS???????
"My God, Houston's so lucky," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said after he played against Watson. "By next year, he's going to be a Top 5 quarterback in this league, and that includes the two big dogs (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers). He makes you dig into the deepest part of your competitive juices to beat him."
OK, but you know what makes me even angrier than the Browns so badly missing on Deshaun Watson? I'll tell you: It's that hopeful theme that is not a catastrophe, not at all, that this is part of a bigger plan, that the Browns actually have a winning plan in place.
You hear it in every, "Well, Deshaun Watson wouldn't be looking this good if he was playing for the Browns with their lack of weapons."
You hear it in, "The Browns didn't want to waste a first-round pick on a quarterback at this stage in their rebuilding process."
You hear it in, "Next year's quarterback class is so good that the Browns will get someone even better than Watson and also a great receiver and, oh boy, it will be great then."
You hear it in, "Let's see what DeShone Kizer can do when they get him some skill position players."
All of these thoughts, every one of them, make want to bang my head against a wall. There is no super-secret plan. There is no justification for this kind of incompetence. There is no hope for a team that consistently misses badly in the draft and consistently gets outcoached and outplayed on the field and consistently promises better days without offering one iota of proof that they know what they're doing. There's no hope for a team that needs a quarterback the way the Astros need bullpen help and then looks at Deshaun Watson and says, "Eh, no, not for us."
I believe this: Individually, the people running the team and coaching the team, are very smart. But the team is flat dumb. And stop telling me how many high draft picks they have. When you never win any games, yeah, they give you a lot of high draft picks, and if you never take any good players, yeah, you can turn those draft picks to get more draft picks, and this takes no skill at all. It just takes a lot of gall and a lack of pride. The credit this team gets for accumulating draft picks through sheer awfulness utterly blows my mind.
Anyway, even then, what good are high draft picks if you don't even take Deshaun Watson?
Give up? Yeah, Trent, I'd love to give up. But I can't. That's the hell of it. I can't.