The big picture

jared 11-7

It seems as though every year the Cleveland Browns are labeled one of the “sexy picks” prior to the start of the NFL season, and anticipation in Cleveland soars higher than the city’s crime rate. It also seems like year after year, they fall victim to mediocrity.

Why?

If you ask their 2005 quarterback-turned-commentator Trent Dilfer, he’ll tell you it’s because the organization is “dysfunctional.” I heard it said on ESPN several years ago that if Jesus himself came down to play quarterback for the Browns, he would throw one pass and say, “I can’t save them.”

For a team that has had 16 starting quarterbacks since its return in 1999, I’d say that’s about right.

At least ESPN was still talking about them; sports networks now don’t even waste their time covering a team with a 60-122 record and little to no potential. For a team with some of the most unforgiving and cynical fans around, why can’t anyone seem to pinpoint why the Browns never get any better?

Jeff Tyus, assistant professor of communication, is a diehard Browns fan who believes their problem has always been consistency within the organization.

“I always tell Browns fans to be patient,” he said. “Seems like every year, it’s new players, new systems, new coaches. It’s nice to see that the Browns have some players they can revolve the team around now.”

That’s a nice thought, but who is he referring to? Colt McCoy?

You know how people used to wrongly believe that the sun revolved around the Earth?

Well, I think many Browns fans wrongly believe that their team could revolve around McCoy.

For instance, senior Chris Dozier is one of McCoy’s blind followers. He said he feels McCoy is the quarterback of the future, but what he lacks is evidence as to why.

The Bengals have evidence: Their rookie quarterback Andy Dalton hasn’t thrown a red-zone interception all season on his way to a 6-2 record that puts them atop the toughest division in football.

Rookie Cam Newton has produced one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history with the Panthers, and, even though his team isn’t winning, he is still finding ways to shine.

And what can you say about McCoy’s sophomore season? His pickup truck commercials are pretty cool? Come on. He is just another Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson waiting to happen.

Of the six teams with the longest playoff droughts, all of them — the Raiders, the Lions, the Bills, the Texans and the 49ers — are poised for the playoffs this year except the Browns. That means next year, the Browns will officially be a pathetic NFL pariah still waiting to see the postseason.

No thanks to you, Peyton Hillis. For a guy who hobbled off the field at least once in almost every game last year and always came back a few plays later, you wouldn’t play because you had strep throat?

You let your manager and your thirst for money take the toughness out of you. I bet if you woke up with the sniffles, you’d skip practice unless Browns owner Randy Lerner personally agreed to wipe your nose with ticket money.

People talk about the Madden curse that predicts a bogus season for whoever is on the cover of the newest NFL Madden video game.

Players like Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and Shaun Alexander all graced the cover of Madden, and each one missed a big chunk of the subsequent season due to injury.

Interestingly enough, Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders started the curse in 2000 when, after being picked for the Madden cover, he faxed his team a week before training camp to announce his retirement.

Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe Hillis is just a typical selfish athlete. But he gave up on a team and a city that just doesn’t deserve any more heartbreak. If he’s lucky, the Dolphins will pick him up and he can hang out with LeBron James.

As much as I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers, they seem so much more capable than the Browns of recruiting players and developing talent.

They took a failed XFL quarterback named Tommy Maddox and made him a playoff quarterback. They took an undrafted and undersized linebacker named James Harrison and made him 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.

Former Steelers running back Willie Parker was undrafted as well; he broke the Steelers’ rushing record for a single game — with 223 yards — against the Browns. They found their superstar quarterback Ben Roethisberger in Miami, Ohio, for Pete’s sake!

The Browns have squandered more young talent than Simon Cowell. They put unbelievable amounts of pressure on high draft picks and young coaches, and it never pans out the way it should.

McCoy has lost more games now than he did in all of high school and college combined; I can only imagine how shaken his pride must be, especially when Cleveland fans are asking him to produce and win games with receivers and running backs around him that wouldn’t even start on most other teams in the NFL.

I don’t know if he’ll cry at a press conference like Couch did, but watch what happens.

Cleveland fans will break McCoy’s spirit. We are hungry for a decent season, and when we can’t sink our teeth into the playoffs, we eat underachieving quarterbacks instead.

In my past columns, I’ve talked about faith. The Browns do have a top-10 defense; they just have no offense whatsoever to alleviate some of the pressure.

I guess I can have faith in their performance on one side of the ball, and maybe next year will be the year they turn things around. But it better happen soon before the Browns become the laughing stock of professional football.

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