Before tying this into our favorite offseason pastime of answering that time tested question: "Do the Browns still suck?", I want to give the folks a little detail on that 1980 clash of the USA Olympic hockey team and the Soviet Red Army hockey team. First of all, at that time, the Olympic committee did not allow professionals to play in the Olympics. So sorry Lebron, no college, no gold medal. Because the Soviet Union was a purely communistic country, their hockey team were members of their "national army" and were therefore considered "amateurs" by the Olympic committee. But what amateurs! The year leading up to the Olympics the NHL took their all star team, actually took a break in their season to prepare and train that all star team to meet the soviets. They got their butts absolutely kicked. Not even close. Coach Herb Brooks took 22 college hockey players, of which there were approximately 5-6 future NHLers, and as far as I know, only D Ken Morrow played in an NHL all star game. So to put this into perspective, it was if a college all-star team beat the Ravens. So to tie this into the Browns – don’t tell me that it is not possible for the Browns to do great things in 2013 – I believe in miracles, I have seen miracles, I am witness.
So what comprises a miracle? Is luck involved? Certainly it is. For that USA team there was significant luck. The greatest goalie in the world, by far, had a bad day. A great hockey coach was so used to dominating his opponents, he did not know how to play from behind. He did not even know how and when to pull a goalie! While luck is a necessary factor – it is not the key.
Key Number 1 – You need a catalyst
The "Miracle on Ice" starting happening more than 2 years earlier when Herb Brooks was hired. As a player, Herb was the last cut from the 1960 Olympic team that won the gold medal. To say he was pathologically driven is like saying Mother Theresa is a caring person. Do the Browns have this catalyst? I think the combination of Joe Banner, Chud, Ray, and Norv Turner may just be able to provide the catalyst for the Browns. Joe provides the pressure and the accountability. Chad the drive, and Norv and Ray the practice for detailed perfection. I am not sure you caught this, but someone asked Tony Grossi to describe Chud in 5 words. His reply? He wants it bad. Really bad. Many DBN folks think Tony is an idiot, perhaps even an orange idiot, and it is obvious he cannot count to 5. However, I still value his comment as a small glimpse into psyche of Chud.
Key Number 2 – The catalyst needs a plus one (or 2 in football)
So is it enough to have a leader as catalyst? Nope. You need to that special player to drink the Kool Aid, to become the leader of his peers. He needs to bond with them, communicate the vision, hold everyone accountable as if they were family members - and I mean "La Cosa Nostra" type family. For the USA Olympians – that guy was Mike Eruzione. Herb Brooks added him to the team solely for his leadership, as Herb knew that he was going to try to break and destroy the wills of his players, and he felt only Eruzione could keep him from succeeding. So one of the least talented players, kept those guys from rebelling, and oh buy the way, scored the biggest goal in the history of hockey. He could not cut it in the NHL – but he was just what Herb Brooks needed to succeed. After watching that show on travel channel, I do think DQ can be that guy for Horton. In addition, he may just have enough young talent to tutor to make the defense play at a very high level. Feel good about this.
In hockey they only needed one Mike Euruzione, but Chud needs 2. The offensive side of the ball is more problematic, and I do have my doubts. I do not think the obvious position of QB is the answer. I do not think BWs leadership is off the charts. In addition, he is learning another offense, and he has the most complicated mental assignments to focus on. JT will help, but the OL tends to be a group that tends to run in a pack. Enter Trent Richardson. Fiery? Check. Tough? Double Check. Bad enough to jump in your face and make you understand that if you do that again you will be going to the hospital to have a size 11 cleat removed from your arse? Triple check. For a complete turnaround of the Browns to happen, TR needs to be front and center.
Key number 3 – You have to outwork your competition
No one has ever worked hard enough to skate with the Russians, gentlemen, you will!" Herb Brooks
Now comes the hard part. Sounds easy. Work harder than the competition - duh. But the reality is that this is the NFL. Only the best organization will be the one to accomplish this. All the players get paid millions, all of them know they are fighting both father time and their depth chart. Over 90% are driven but you have to separate. Here is where the detail comes in. You have to know what your players are eating, their progress on muscle mass and body fat, their strength, their explosive power. You have to know what Herb Brooks did, that even though the talent varied, every player shared the heart of a champion. Hopefully the leadership is there, and Banner helps here as well He seems like a paranoid little guy, and in this area, that is a good thing. For this to work though – you need to move to key number 4.
Key number 4 – Play your best players no matter what
Everyone does that right? No – precious few do that. It was a key for Seattle’s turnaround. Oh, we gave you $10 million – tough, go beat out that 6 foot nothing QB. 2nd round draft pick not producing? Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. I truly believe one of Pat’s et al weakness was talent identification and competition. Owen Marecic – gifted the job as only FB on roster. Greco as best guard – hey I’m developing a couple of young guys there. BW 29? Tough go earn a job against quality competition. Robo goes from the starting lineup to cut? Eric Hagg your starting safety? Greg Little drops everything and yet you don’t bring a WR? You have to create competition, and then play the winner no matter what. IMHO – it seems like this area has been addressed, but we will see.
Final Key – Act Like a Miracle can happen and allow it to happen
"If we played them 10 times, they would win 9, but not tonight. This is your time, their time is over" Herb Brooks
This one I think the Browns are a little weak on. To have the miracle, we need BW to be an above average QB. I feel the Browns are supporting this with the Bess acquisition, by bringing in 2 new QBs, and having a fantastic offensive coaching staff. I do not see these players everyday, but does it seem obvious that we really do not have the quality starters and depth in the secondary and ILB? If these are indeed holes, and if there are players available on a 1 yr deal, the Browns must add those players or fail this test.
So to summarize the 2013 Browns:
Can a miracle happen – yes.
Overstating the obvious – it will not happen without TR and BW large and in charge.
The coaches have to want it more than their colleagues