At 12:55pm EST Sunday, my sports weekend had sucked. Big time. I looked at the Cavs' starting five for the first time. Ohio State lost in horrific fashion. The cherry to this bullsh*t sundae was the Browns were trotting out a rookie QB for his first ever start. On the road, against the team I hate most.
Did I mention that one of my closest friends is a Steelers fan, and he loves to text during games? After a 31-3 beatdown I would rather get a text from Favre on a bender.
I had read all week how Colt McCoy was going to be lucky to get out of Pittsburgh in one piece, let alone alive. Maybe they were right. We are talking about a Steelers pass defense that had only given up one passing TD to opposing starting QB's. My God, what are we sending McCoy into?
This isn't a slam on Colt (Yeah, I know him well enough to go first name with him now). I had been stoked about rookie performances before. I convinced myself that Luke McCown was possibly the future of the Browns. Yes, we are talking about this Luke McCown. It wasn't just him. I did it with Holcomb, Couch, Frye and of course Quinn.
Not this time. This time I wouldn't get sucked in. Nope. Covering my ass. Let some other sucker buy the jersey. He was a third round pick after all. Jimmy Clausen went before him, and that dude looks like he sucks.
So you can understand my mentality as we teed it up Sunday. I am sure that many of you shared the same feelings. Deep down you were expecting the worst. Sure we were hoping for the best, but we assumed that this day was going to end with Reggie Hodges taking shotgun snaps and running for his life. Good times.
Best case scenario was maybe 175 yards passing, couple of turnovers, and hopefully a couple of throws that I could be excited about going forward. That's not asking too much right?
You know what they say about assuming things right?
McCoy got sacked on his first drive. I expected him to fall apart after the INT. He didn't. Next drive, he hung in the pocket, stared down a rush, stepped up in the pocket and delivered a frozen rope to Watson for a first down. Third and ten, rush collapses the pocket, he tucks it and keeps us in FG range. To hell with what Soloman Wilcots thinks, that is a damn fine play. How many times have we seen a Browns QB try and force something or take a sack in that spot?
3-0 Browns. Baby steps.
It wasn't pretty, it wasn't Peyton Manning-esqe. But we had taken the bullies punch and we punched back. Our young players were the reason we were able to take that punch. Haden's INT was a thing of beauty. Watch the replay of it, he had to focus through numerous hands and arms to make that grab. Baby steps.
He returned it and we got points out of it. Not a TD, but points. That's progress.
Fast forward to the end of the game.
23-33, 281 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Doesn't look like much more than what I expected, but when I watched the game, I saw something that I haven't seen in a long time. I saw a leader, an athlete, someone who wasn't afraid of the rush. I saw someone who wasn't afraid of the moment. I saw the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns. It's only one start, I know. Yes, I probably said something like this after a good Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn start. But this felt different.
Everyone knows that I haven't been the biggest Mangini fan. In fact, he is the only reason I break out the pitchfork anymore. But it is now time for me to own up. I was wrong. For everyone who told me that I would be wrong, my bad. You were right.
I have no doubt in my mind that a Romeo Crennel team gets housed by 20+. Same for Butch. This Browns team isn't the most talented. Not the most athletic. Hell I'm not sure we have a starting WR on the roster right now. But damn it this team fights. This team will make you pay for every yard. I guarantee you the Steelers spend some extra time in the tub Monday. That doesn't mean much now, but that is what we have lacked for so long. Call it toughness, backbone, whatever. All I know is that it is something that we haven't had for years.
We keep hearing Mangini talking about how close this team is to turning the corner. He references the Patriot teams he coached. Sometime's all you need is a domino to fall in the right direction. Something to set off that chain reaction.
I know we lost, but Sunday's game made my weekend. In fact, this was better than the win over Cincy.
It's coming fellas. Soon these baby steps are going to turn into steps, then to leaps and bounds. We may not win another game for a few weeks, but I know we will be getting better those weeks. Don't give up yet. We're rounding the corner, and when we do, the NFL is gonna have hell to pay.