1. Bucs

Cleveland Browns' dysfunction trumps Bucs'

Brandon Weeden will be remembered as the first quarterback in league history to declare his town a bust before it does the same to him.
Brandon Weeden will be remembered as the first quarterback in league history to declare his town a bust before it does the same to him.
Published Feb. 13, 2014

Here, the team majored in malfunction, and the quarterback pouted his way out of town, and after only two seasons, the coach micromanaged his way out of a job.

Ah, but take comfort.

In Cleveland, it is worse.

Here, there was disease on the walls, and the team only won four games, and the general manager was finally stopped before he generally managed again.

It could be worse.

It could be Cleveland.

Here, no one is sure about the new quarterback, and no one has seen a pass rusher for years, and nothing is more offensive than the offensive line.

Ah, but aren't you glad you don't live in Cleveland?

There, they aspire to be Tampa Bay.

Yep, when you live next door to a garbage dump, some days, you just want to look inside and feel superior, however slightly, to the guys who live there. Why, the view there is even uglier. The smell there is even worse. And the franchise there matters even less.

Why, hello, Cleveland.

Fired anyone today?

Ah, yes. Here is an owner that even Danny Snyder can make fun of, that even Jerry Jones can kid, that can make even Joel and Bryan Glazer elbow each other and giggle. Jimmy Haslam is the funniest owner in the NFL, the George Carlin of owners, the Rodney Dangerfield of owners, and just wait until you hear his latest routine.

In Cleveland, where professional football is a comedy, the gags just keep on rolling.

Did you hear that former Bucs coach Greg Schiano may have been the final argument between Haslam and former CEO Joe Banner? Reportedly, Haslam was interested in Schiano and Banner was not, presumably because Banner prefers a different shape of pasta than Schiano. As it turns out, Banner and Schiano are now equally unemployed.

Did you hear the one where Brandon Weeden — yes, that Brandon Weeden — now wants out of Cleveland? As it turns out, Weeden will not be remembered for losing all five of his starts last year or for his 70.3 rating. He'll be remembered as the first quarterback in league history to declare his town a bust before it does the same to him.

Did you hear the one where coach Rob Chudzinski was fired after one year on the job? Get this: The past four coaches to be fired in the AFC North are all from the Cleveland Browns.

Did you hear the one where Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi — two of the Three Stooges, as a reporter referred to them and Haslam in a news conference — were canned as an afterthought 44 days later? They might have been fired earlier, but someone had to take notes from all the coaches who rejected the Browns job.

And so it goes. There is always a new coaching search, and there is always a bad quarterback in place, and there is always a high draft choice to give up on four years later.

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It's a shame because I've been in Cleveland when football matters, and there are few places more passionate. I was on the sideline the day John Elway drove downfield and tore out a city's heart.

Any day now, I expect the residents of Cleveland to get together and petition the NFL for another expansion team, a different expansion team. This one, they would like to trade in, if it's all the same to the league.

Sometimes, franchises cannot get out of their own way. We know a lot about that here in Tampa Bay. Arizona knows it, too. And Detroit. One mistake leads to another, and that one leads to another, and suddenly, the entire franchise is up to its knees in the swamp. One day, you wake up and the uniform includes clown noses.

Cleveland is like that. Since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, the team has won 77 games. It has lost 153. In the past five years, it has won only 23 times. And the quarterback conga line has gone from Tim Couch to Kelly Holcomb to Jeff Garcia to Trent Dilfer to Charlie Frye to Derek Anderson to Brady Quinn to Colt McCoy to Weeden to Jason Campbell. That's a whole lot of bad quarterbacking.

And in the meantime, there is no dysfunction quite like that of the Browns.

Haslam, naturally, blames the media. Of course he does. Every bad owner does. But, hey, we aren't that funny.

Remember two years ago, when the Browns absolutely had to have running back Trent Richardson from Alabama? To move up from the fourth position in the draft to the third, the Browns threw in the 118th pick, and the 139th, and the 211th.

Seventeen games later, they couldn't stand Trent Richardson. So they traded him to the Colts for what turned out to be the 26th pick in this year's draft.

Last year, the Browns were hot on a Miami receiver named Davone Bess, who had a meltdown in the middle of the Cleveland season. Worse, it turns out Bess had had those kinds of episodes while in Miami, too. But Cleveland didn't do its homework before making a trade and giving Bess an extension worth a guaranteed $5.5 million.

It is a franchise whose foundation is built on Silly Putty and Krazy Glue. It will not stand, and it will not hold.

Can someone please explain the hiring of Mike "No, Not That One'' Lombardi? He hadn't worked in the NFL in five years, and his track record of handling drafts for the Raiders and Browns earlier was spotty. Sure enough, Lombardi lasted only one season, and then he was thrown out with the Chud.

And speaking of Chudzinski, there wasn't exactly a stampede to apply for his job, was there?

Let's see. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator, said no. Todd Bowles, the Cardinals defensive coordinator, said no. Adam Gase, the Broncos offensive coordinator, said no. Ken Whisenhunt said he'd rather have the Titans job. Bill O'Brien said he'd rather have the Texans job.

Mike Pettine, a Bills assistant, finally said yes.

Let's hope he has a sense of humor.

That and a Whoopie cushion.


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