The Cleveland Browns once again showed their weaknesses as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated them 28 -12 in front of an audience that had yellow towels outnumbering Browns jerseys. With this win putting Pittsburgh at 10-6 and the New York Jets losing to Buffalo the Steelers will be going into the playoffs.
It was a typical late season football day with temps in the low 30s and occasional dusting of snow along with a steady wind from off the lake. Time after time the Browns made it to the Red Zone only to be denied seven points and settling for three. Quarterback Austin Davis managed a fair showing as he completed 24-of-46 passes for 240 yards with two interceptions and one fumble. Davis was also sacked seven times. Kicker Travis Coons was 4-out-of-4 bringing his season tally to 28-of-32 with the four misses being blocked kicks.
Gary Barnidge continued to show why he should be Pro Bowl material with eight catches for 66 yards as he ended the season with 79 receptions for 1,043 and nine touchdowns which is the best season finish for a tight end in the history of the franchise.
As for the Dawg Bone Headed Play of the Game for this week, the award needs to go to Quarterback Austin Davis and his merry band of prankster receivers who time and again were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Austin also had a crucial fumble on the ten yard line that ended up with a Pittsburgh touchdown on the next play. On the ensuing kickoff, Raheem Mostert (of the game “who wants to be a special teams kickoff returner”) fumbled resulting in a three point gift to the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger was not in his top form for the game but it was enough for the win as he threw for 349 yards of which 13 of the throws went to Antonio Brown for 187 yards and a touchdown. It was a game that saw opportunity after opportunity slipping by Cleveland as they would gain the momentum due to a Pittsburgh error only not being able to capitalize due to being stalled, a fumble or an interception.
With the loss, word was quickly sent out about the firing of General Manager Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine as the Cleveland Browns try to make sense of the past few months. While this is not the worse season that the Browns have ever had (honors for that go to the 1999 season of 2-14 followed by a tie in 2000 of 3-13) it still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Browns fans everywhere.
In a letter to the fans, Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam stated, “It was important to us that we communicate directly with you regarding our decision to part ways with General Manager Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine. We greatly appreciate Ray’s and Mike’s dedication and hard work while with the Cleveland Browns. We’ve made this difficult decision because we don’t believe our football team and football operations were positioned well for the future.”
The letter further stated, “We are all disappointed with where we are and clearly understand your frustrations. We take full responsibility and understand you expect better from us. Your support and loyalty to the Browns is beyond compare, and as the stewards of this franchise, we take the task of creating success to heart. We are confident we will build a winning football organization.
Our focus as we move forward is on finding strong, smart leaders with high character who are relentlessly driven to improve our football team, willing to look at every resource possible to improve, and who embrace collaboration to ultimately make the best decisions for the Cleveland Browns.”
In closing, the letter stated that “We will approach the search for our next football coach and executives to lead our football operations with a clear vision regarding what we need to do to build a successful organization. Along with strong leaders, we need to build out a strategic plan, stay disciplined to it, and develop the right systems and processes to make better decisions for short and long-term success. We will be methodical in looking at candidates that epitomize the values we have laid out. While we understand the inherent challenges that come with changes, we’ve learned valuable lessons during our past four years as owners that will help us make sure we provide our team the best people, leadership and resources to succeed.”
Lastly, the letter stated, “Our family is deeply committed to bringing you the winning team you deserve while continuing to try and make a difference in the community. We are excited for the new opportunities ahead of us and embrace the hard work that needs to be done. Respectfully and gratefully yours…”
So now the hunt for a new Head Coach, General Manager and whoever else is on the chopping block begins in earnest as the Cleveland Browns once again abandon any semblance to continuity that is at the core of what makes great football franchises successful. Go Browns!