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The Offseason Has Begun

And...I'm Back.

Last season, I reviewed the finale between the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans on the same night the game occurred. Why was I able to post so quickly after the season had ended? Because I had already been braced for the end of the season. Several weeks prior to that final game of the season, it was confirmed that the Browns were eliminated from postseason contention. That wasn't the case this season.

After winning on Sunday, I was ready to watch the game that had prevented me from sleeping the night before out of anticipation: the Tennessee Titans vs. the Indianapolis Colts. When the kickoff was about to start, I was shaking. Throughout the entire game, I was shaking. When the game ended...everything was over. No, life wasn't over (because after all, it's still "just" a game). However, something I look forward to every Sunday during the regular season, especially in a winning season, felt like it ended prematurely.

I thought to myself, "how can I possibly feel like giving my assessment of the Browns/49ers game when in essence it really didn't mean a damn thing?" There were a lot of other things I could've posted about the following morning.

I could've posted on Monday and blamed Reggie Wayne for fumbling on the Colts' first offensive drive of the game.
I could've posted on Monday and blamed Jim Sorgi for being a terrible backup quarterback.
I could've posted on Monday and blamed the freakish fact that a more pure quarterback, Kerry Collins, was the reason the Titans won.
I could've posted on Monday and blamed the coin toss for going the Titans' way.
I could've posted on Monday and blamed Tony Dungy for not taking a timeout with about 20 seconds left in the game.

Instead, I decided not to post at all.

Was it because I was bitter?

I wanted to wait a few days until I was back in brighter spirits to better collect my thoughts. When I woke up on Monday, I went back to sleep, because the only thing I could think about was the game I just watched before heading to sleep Sunday night. Things were better Tuesday as I brought in the new year, and here I am today, back and ready to bring you all of the Browns coverage you've come to know and love from this site.

I must, however, still address one of the things I "could've posted on Monday", and that involved Dungy. It was inexcusable for him not to use a timeout towards the end of the game. If you don't want to risk injuries to your starters, I understand that. But when you have your backups in the game, you still need to protect the integrity of the game. Did the potential exist for the Colts to block a potential Rob Bironas field goal and return it for a touchdown? Yes. Did the potential exist for the Titans to go for it on fourth down, not make it, and then have Sorgi heave a miracle play? Yes. Instead, Dungy jogged to mid-field with a stupid little grin on his face as he congratulated a division rival for making it into the postseason.

The NFL has a rule saying teams must make a "bona-fide effort" to win, even if the game has no impact on the standings. The Giants surely honored that rule by going all-out against the Patriots, although Jersey/A already had locked into its seeding; the Giants' all-out effort was extremely impressive, and bodes well for their postseason. Most season-finale games don't matter, so no one cares about the bona fide effort rule. But Indianapolis, which also had locked up its seed already, did not make a bona fide effort to defeat Tennessee -- Peyton Manning played two series; starters sat out the second half -- and Tony Dungy's decision to field his practice squad had the effect of keeping Cleveland out of the postseason. There's no conspiracy here since Indianapolis, as the second seed, couldn't play the sixth seed (whether Tennessee or Cleveland) before the AFC championship and the sixth seed reaching the championship is unlikely. Still, the rule stipulates that NFL teams must try to win, and, in a consequential game, Indianapolis did not try to win.

Cleveland has a grievance -- and the football gods might wax wroth against the Colts. (Dallas did not try to beat Washington, either, but as Minnesota and New Orleans both lost, neither can complain about the Cowboys.)
-Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN Page 2

With that said, the Colts have been my favorite team in football besides the Browns the past several years. And, the Colts are still my next favorite team in football. Something did change as a result of Dungy's decision, and it'll come next season, starting when the league releases the schedules for the 2008-2009 season. We already know that the Browns will be facing the Colts in Cleveland. I'm going to circle that date on my calendar. It won't be a large as the circle I draw for the Steelers, but it'll be significant enough to where every time I see it, I'll remember the timeout that Dungy didn't take.

Hopefully the Browns have a tremendous offseason, enough to the point where they win the AFC North and don't have to play the starters in Week 17. Who would be nice to face in Week 17? I don't know; maybe the Colts? Maybe, just maybe, the Colts and Jaguars will be more neck-and-neck for the division lead next season. If the Browns win, the Jaguars get the division. If the Colts win, they get the division. Surely, with the division wrapped up, we could sit Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow after the first quarter, right? Or, take Derek Anderson (or Brady Quinn) out and feed Ken Dorsey to the wolves? Not a chance. I'd want to see our starters go four quarters and upset the Colts. Then, when our quarterback takes a knee when the Colts are all out of timeouts, I'd laugh as I watch Romeo Crennel jog onto the field with a Belichick-like fist-pump.

No, I'm not bitter. I'm just hungry for more.