Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Year in Review
Part 1

We began the year watching Bill Cowher hold the Super Bowl trophy high over his head. We'll most likely end 2006 watching the Browns finish with the third-worst record in the NFL. In between we watched ...

  • ... Coco Crisp get traded to the Boston Red Sox.
  • ... Larry Hughes get injured in two different seasons.
  • ... No Browns make the Pro Bowl -- twice.
  • ... the Cavs blow a chance to make the Eastern Conference finals.
  • ... Brandon Phillips hit 17 homers and steal 25 bases for the Indians, errrrrr, Cincinnati Reds.
  • ... Jim Thome hit a home run on opening day. And in the second game of the season. For the White Sox. AGAINST the Indians.
  • ... Jason Johnson waaaaay too much.
  • ... Fausto Carmona try to be a closer waaaaay too much.
  • ... Another division rival (the Tigers) win another championship (the World Series).
  • ... Browns would-be center LeCharles Bentley tear his patellar tendon on the first day of training camp.
  • ... Maurice Carthon's man crush on Lawrence Vickers.
  • ... Browns defensive back Gary Baxter tear BOTH his patellar tendons in a game.
  • ... staph infection, 4, Cleveland Browns, zero.
  • ... the Baltimore Ravens close in on a BETTER record than when they won the Super Bowl.
  • ... Carlos Boozer and the Utah Jazz put together one of the NBA's best records.
And guess what? This wasn't the worst year in Cleveland sports history. Not even close!

Let's put it this way. If 2006 were the Titanic and Cleveland sports were the iceberg, the Titanic would have been sailing across the Pacific Ocean, Leonardo DiCaprio would be acting in porn under the name Leo the Cap, and Kate Winslet would be asking, "Paper or plastic?" This past year not only wasn't the worst in Cleveland sports history, in terms of wins and losses, it was one of the BEST!

Yes, chew on that. One of the best.

Since Jan. 1, our teams' collective record is 137-134. If the Cavs win one of their final two games or the Browns beat the Texans on New Year's Eve, we'll have actually enjoyed a winning year of sports. Sure the Indians had a lousy year, but they finished just a few games under .500 at 78-84. The awful Browns are 3-12. But the Cavs have saved us, with a 16-11 mark this season and a 39-28 mark (including playoffs) for the 2006 portion of the 2005-2006 season.

The current .506 winning percentage ranks 11th best among years since 1970, when our three-team sporting era began. It just feels worse since we're well off the pace of last year's 142-118 mark -- the fourth-best since 1970.

Which begs the question: What exactly were the best and worst years for Cleveland sports since the Cavs were born in 1970? GHCS has devised a not-so-scientific formula to figure it out.

We simply added up each of our team's record in each calendar year, playoffs included. A good season by the Indians or Cavs can skew the total since they play so many games, so we put a qualifier on the worst seasons. To meet the criteria for worst seasons, each of our teams must have finished .500 or worse, and there could be no playoff games played by our teams that calendar year. Simple as that.

So here are your Five Worst Years in Cleveland Sports History, Three-Team Era:

1. 1982, (95-157 .377 winning percentage)
-- A totally forgettable year, and not just for Cleveland sports. Can you remember ANYTHING that happened in 1982? Heck, even The A-Team wouldn't debut on NBC for another year and Len Barker's perfect game came the year before. The NFL would rather forget -- a strike wiped out half the season. The Browns finished 4-5 and made the playoffs because half the league made the playoffs. But 1982 still qualifies because the playoff game wasn't until 1983! And neither was the Browns last game; they actually went 4-4 in games played in calendar year 2002. Meanwhile, the Indians went 78-84 while the Cavs were 13-69 in 1982, which spanned two unforgettable seasons in which the Cavs lost a combined 126 games.

The skinny: Browns 4-4 (Brian Sipe 4 TD, 8 INT); Indians 78-84 (Andre Thornton 32 HRs; Len Barker 15-11); Cavs 15-67 in 1981-82, 23-59 in 1982-83 (World B. Free 24.2 ppg in 1982-83).

2. 1991 (104-155, .402)
-- The opposite of 1982 in that it was memorable for so much more than wins and losses. And there were a lot of losses! The Indians suffered their worst season ever, finishing 57-105. The Browns began the Bill Belichick era with a 6-10 mark. And the Cavs would up one season with a 33-49 mark. They began the 1991-92 season with much more hope, finishing with a team-record 57 wins before bowing out to Michael Jordan on The Shot in the playoffs. Hey, at least Jordan proclaimed the Cavs, "The Team of the '90s!"

The skinny: Browns 6-10 (Bernie Kosar 18 TD, 9 INT; Kevin Mack 726 rushing yards); Indians 57-105 (Albert Belle 28 HRs, 95 RBI); Cavs 41-40 (OK, so we cheated a bit, since the Cavs did finish the calendar year over .500) in midst of 33-49 and 57-25 campaigns (the foundation for The Team of the '90s is laid).

2. 1984 (105-152, .409)
-- The Cavs were in the midst of nine straight losing seasons, the Browns were still living off the glory of the Kardiac Kids lucky 1980 seasons, and the Indians hadn't finished higher than fourth place since 1968. The early 1980s were truly the dark days of Cleveland sports. In fact, 1983 and 1981 would be on this list as well if not for the Browns playoff games played in each of those calendar years. (Two games the team lost, of course). In 1984, the Indians went 75-87, the Browns 5-11, and the Cavs 25-54. Though the collective record was better than in 1982, you could make a case that 1984 was a worse year because all the teams were so lousy. At least in 1982 the Browns were basically a .500 team. But the strike pushes 1982 to the top of the list of bad worst Cleveland sports years.

The skinny: Browns 5-11 (Paul McDonald 14 TD, 23 INT; Boyce Green (???) 673 yards rushing); Indians 75-87 (Andre Thornton 33 HR, 99 RBI; Bert Blyleven 19-7); Cavs 25-54 in midst of 28-54 and 36-46 seasons (World B. Free 22.5 ppg in both seasons).

3 & 4. 1974-1975 (combined 236-269, .467)
-- The 1970s were to Cleveland what a black hole is to the universe, just a giant cosmic force sucking the life and light out of everything around it. By the middle of the decade our teams had succumbed. Our beloved Browns, dominant in the 1950s and 1960s, won just seven games in 1974 and 1975 combined. The Cavs and Indians weren't horrible, generally hanging around the .500 mark, but their mediocrity presaged a decade which saw the city slide into bankruptcy and become the butt of jokes on nightly talk shows.

The skinny: Browns 4-10/3-11 (the Mike Phipps era -- 13 TD, 36 INT); Indians 77-85/79-80 (George Hendrick 43 HRs, Gaylord Perry 27 wins); Cavs 73-83 while going 29-53 in 1973-74, 40-42 in 1974-75 and 49-33 in 1975-76 (Austin Carr, Bingo Smith, Lenny Wilkens, and Jim Chones among the team's scoring leaders).

5. 1970 (93-121, .434)
-- They talk about the curse of Rocky Colavito. They talk about God hating Cleveland sports. But was the city really cursed by the birth of the Cavs? Were the Cavs a Damian-like force, as outlined in The Omen later in the decade? We had good teams throughout the 1950s and '60s. The Browns won championships, the Indians made World Series and battled for first place many times. But then came 1970, the Cavs, and the downfall of a once great city sportscape. It's only fifth among worst years in Cleveland sports history, but it might very well be where it all began. After all, the Browns had enjoyed 13 straight winning seasons before going .500 when the Cavs joined the scene.

The skinny: Browns 7-7 (Bill Nelsen 16 TD, 16 INT; Leroy Kelly 656 rushing yards); Indians 76-86 (Graig Nettles 26 HRs, Sam McDowell 20-12); Cavs 10-28 in first half of inaugural season (Walt Wesley 17.7 pgg).

6. 1995
-- OK, it doesn't meet the criteria. The Indians were good -- waaaaaaaaaaaaaay good -- and at the beginning of a run that felt like a teenager discovering sex. A 109-50 season and World Series berth? The Cavs were pretty good, too, with winning years in both 1994-95 and 1995-96. Ah, but the Browns. Art Modell announced that the team was moving to Baltimore and all hell broke lose. On one hand you've got one of the greatest Indians seasons in 100-plus years. On the other hand you've got the worst Browns season ever. Charles Dickens was right, it really was the best of times and the worst of times.

2002 -- 106-157 (.403) combined mark, with Indians going 74-88 and Cavs 23-62, but Browns' 9-7 mark which earned them a playoff spot kept this year from being among the worst ever.

2003 -- 95-166 (.364) combined mark. This is actually the second-worst yearly winning percentage since 1970, but that Browns-Steelers playoff game eased the pain, right???

So what were the best records? 1994, 1995, and 1996. Thanks to the Indians boon and The Team of the '90s, Cleveland teams posted a collective .614 mark in 1994, .599 mark in 1996, and .588 in 1995.

1994 looks farther away every year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pro Bowl = No Bowl

The NFL has announced its Pro Bowl rosters, and once again not a single Cleveland Brown heard his name called.

In other news, everyone in the country has had premarital sex, scientists still have not found life on Mars, anti-tobacco ads have subliminal messages encouraging kids to smoke, and the Cavs can't can't win on the road. Or against the Pistons. Or in the second of back-to-back games.

But really, pick a Brown for the Pro Bowl and you're likely to end up with the tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Save Kellen Winslow, who leads all tight ends with 76 catches, Browns players deserve to go to the Pro Bowl as much as Santa Claus deserves to go to jail.

No one's complaining though. The Browns offer Pro Bowl selectors about as nutrition as a McDonald's menu. Charlie Frye's 23rd in passer rating and has a broken wrist. Reuben Droughns isn't even among the top 30 in rushing yards. Winslow, despite his 76 catches, doesn't crack the top 30 in receiving yards. Braylon Edwards is 23rd in receiving yards, but out of the top 30 in receptions. Phil Dawson has more field goals than just eight other regular kickers. Dave Zastudil is just average, ranking 13th in punting. Even the once-great Joshua Cribbs has dropped to 11th in kick returns.

And on defense? Kamerion Wimbley and Andra Davis crack the top 20 in sacks and tackles, respectively, while Sean Jones is top 10 in interceptions. But being merely good for a bad team won't cut it.

This year's exclusion makes eight years back for the Browns and one Pro Bowler. That was Jamir Miller in 2001. Then again, why would Browns fans want anyone else to go to the Pro Bowl when Jamir blew out his Achilles' the following preseason and never played another down in the regular season.

Even sadder, each of the Browns' final two opponents has a Pro Bowler despite records no better than the Browns. At least we'll get to see Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber this week and Houston's Andre Johnson next week. Johnson leads the league in receptions and is sixth in receive yards. Barber's been there three straight years and four out of the last five.

Us, we'll stick with the streaks that God's saddled us with. Forty-two years since a championship. Four straight years without a Pro Bowler. And what looks like a long road ahead.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What would Troy do?

By mayoral decree, Wednesday is Troy Smith Day in Cleveland.

If your name is Troy or your name is Smith, you can do whatever you want to do in Cleveland today. And if your name is Troy Smith, and you went to Glenville High School, and you just won the Heisman Trophy, well, line up the photographers and news crews.

On Troy Smith's agenda is a return to Glenville at 3 p.m., where he'll celebrate his Heisman victory and Ohio State's unbeaten season and national championship shot with his neighbors and friends. He'll be feted, he'll be photographed, he'll be filmed.

Most likely, there will be many other things Troy Smith will be doing around Cleveland on Troy Smith Day. You can expect to see a report on Troy Smith Day leading the 11 o'clock news, with pictures of everything Troy Smith did on Troy Smith Day in Cleveland.

Here's the early odds on what you can expect to see Troy Smith doing on the 11 o'clock news:

-- Lebron is Cleveland's sports ambassador. The Cavs play a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday. Perhaps Troy Smith is Cleveland's next sports ambassador. The twain should meet.

-- Some want Troy Smith to take Charlie Frye's job. Heck, some want Derek Anderson to take Charlie Frye's job. Charlie Frye probably isn't too interested in meeting his possible future competition.

-- Doesn't the hero son always ride a fire truck during his festivities?

-- We all know Troy Smith can't afford Cavaliers courtside seats. Heck, he can probably barely afford the $10 seats that would put him three rows from the sun. Since he already paid his penance for accepting money from a booster, Troy's certainly loathe to be seen on the 11 o'clock news sitting right behind Lebron James during the Cavs game ... right?

-- Paying Maurice's cell-phone bill got Troy in enough trouble already!

-- At least wear a helmet if you do, Troy.

-- Although he's from Cleveland, Troy Smith's team isn't hated by God because it plays in Columbus. But if the Browns select Troy Smith in the draft next April, he'll find out all about what God thinks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who WERE these guys?

Perhaps Thursday night about midnight, Derek Anderson will leave Heinz Stadium and turn back into a pumpkin. Perhaps Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter will welcome Derek Anderson to the NFL by turning Anderson's next 33-yard run into a 7-yard loss. Perhaps the Browns won't score a touchdown while dropping their seventh straight game to the Steelers, wiping the smiles that the win over Kansas City provided right off our faces.

Or perhaps not.

What we're all hoping for is that Derek Anderson turns into the next Tom Brady or Tony Romo, the guy who no one ever heard of but everyone loved after a few weeks. Of course, if Derek Anderson were replacing Drew Bledsoe that might be easier to believe.

Since God is watching the Browns, there's a different list that Derek Anderson is likely to join -- the most irrelevent starting quarterback in the Browns/Steelers rivalry.

There's been some great starting quarterbacks in the 50-plus years of Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh, Hall of Famers like Otto Graham and Terry Bradshaw, legends like Bernie Kosar and, phenoms like Ben Roethlisberger, MVPs like Brian Sipe. And there have been some real dogs, guys whose mothers barely even remember that they started a Browns/Steelers game.

Is Derek Anderson the next folk hero? Or is he destined to be less than a footnote in Cleveland/Pittsburgh history, especially if Charlie Frye comes back quickly from what head coach Romeo Crennell is saying isn't a broken wrist? After all, here's a guy who before last Sunday against the Chiefs never threw a pass in the NFL in his life. What chance does he have against the Steeler defense, even if he only gets three days to prepare?

So prepare yourselves. With the way things go in Cleveland, Derek Anderson has a pretty good chance of joining this, the list of Most Irrelevent Starting Quarterbacks in Browns/Steelers History:


He's not irrelevent in the grand scheme of things -- after all, he did lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title -- but in Browns/Steelers history he barely merits a paragraph. Before riding off into the sunset after his one year with the Browns, Dilfer started one game against the Steelers. It was, of course, a loss, 34-21. Dilfer was just 17-of-34 for 253 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Sure, everyone's been throwing a fit because the Browns have gone without an experienced backup after shipping Dilfer to the San Francisco 49ers for Ken Dorsey. But guess what? Dilfer has yet to get into a game this year while "tutoring" Alex Smith to a 76.3 QB rating. That's barely ahead of Charlie's 72 rating.

Dilfer's forgettable start against the Steelers last year, his overall blah year with the Browns in 2005, and his lack of a resume post-Cleveland land him on this list.


The beginning of the end of the Butch Davis era came with the signing of Jeff Garcia. Garcia brought more Playboy storylines to Cleveland than wins. First, he began dating Playboy Playmate and Avon Lake native Carmella DeCesare. Then there was the catfight between Carmella and a former Garcia paramour. Then there was the Playboy interview where Terrell Owens insinuated that Garcia is gay. With all that, who even remembers that Garcia started two games against the Steelers in 2004? He went a combined 23-of-50 for 320 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception while suffering 7 sacks. The Browns lost both games of course, holding only one 3-0 lead. The Steelers led by double digits for the entire second half of both games.

Garcia started just one more game for the Browns after his second Steelers loss. Then, until the Philadelphia Eagles' Monday night win over the Carolina Panthers, Garcia had just won one game in eight tries as a starting quarterback since leaving Cleveland. It of course was AGAINST the Browns while Garcia was with the Detroit Lions in 2005.


You wouldn't have known it, but Ty Detmer is finally out of football at the beginning of the 2006 season. You wouldn't have known it because not only is Ty Detmer the fifth most irrelevent starting quarterback in the Browns/Steelers rivalry, but also one of the most irrelevent NFL players of all time. He has 15 years of NFL experience but threw only 946 passes. That's just 63 per year! Derek Anderson made it a third of the way there in one half Sunday. Not only is Detmer one of the most irrelevent starting quarterbacks in the rivalry, his start was also one of the most ignominious. He started the Browns very first game in their return to the NFL in 1999, a 43-0 whitewashing by the Steelers. Detmer went 6-for-13 for 52 yards with 1 interception and 2 sacks.

Head coach Chris Palmer deemed Detmer so bad that despite the fact that the new Browns had never played a game, Detmer needed to be benched. Enter Tim Couch. Ty Detmer wasn't seen again until the final three games of the season, and barely at all after leaving Cleveland.


For some reason the Steelers thought Kent Graham would make a good quarterback in 2000, after the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals already decided he wouldn't. And the Giants had decided it twice. But there was Graham under center for the Steelers in Week 3 of 2000, taking a sack inside the 10-yard line with his team out of timeouts and down by three points. The clock ran out before the Steelers could attempt a game-tying field goal, and the Browns had a 23-20 victory.

Graham is saved from a higher place on the irrelevency list by Kordell Stewart. Graham got another start against the Browns in Week 8, but was yanked after going 3-of-12 for 46 yards. Stewart finished the game, which Pittsburgh won 22-0. So even though Graham was pathetic in two starts, he actually gets credited for starting a victory. But he was totally irrelevent to the rest of the league after that second Browns game; he threw just 24 more passes for the rest of his career.


And here's another reason Graham is saved from a higher spot on the irrelevancy list. Remember this guy? In the runaway train season of 2000, Doug Pederson actually played more games than any other Browns quarterback. He was predictably awful, throwing 2 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions.

But while here, he put up a forgettable performance. And it just happened to be in the most irrelevent game in Browns/Steelers history -- that Week 8 game where Kent Graham saw his Steelers career shoot up in flames. Kent Graham vs. Doug Pederson? No one would even turn out to watch that in a high school game. But where Graham was bad, Pederson was worse. He was replaced by Spergon Wynn! In that 22-0 Steelers victory, Pederson went just 9-of-20 for 61 yards with 3 interceptions.

As soon as the season was over Pederson went back to carrying Brett Favre's clipboard, throwing just 54 irrelevent passes over his final four years.


Ortman played just one year for the Steelers and two in the NFL. He played 12 games in 1951, the second year of the Browns/Steelers rivalry. One of those games was against the Browns, a 28-0 loss. Ortman's irrelevent stats: 13-of-27 for 136 yards.

Ortman moved on to the Dallas Texans in 1952 and played just three more irrelevent games before fading into obscurity.


Former nongreat Don Gault started a 1970 game for the Browns that goes down as one of the most irrelevent in the rivalry's history. The Browns won the game 15-7, but it had nothing to do with Gault. He etched his place in the record books by going 1-for-16, setting a record that still stands for most pass attempts in a game with just one completion. But while Gault is long forgotten, the game is remembered as Mike Phipps' first appearance for the Browns and Terry Bradshaw's first start in the storied rivalry.

There's a few other quarterbacks who just missed the list. There's Dr. Dave Mays, who went on to become a dentist. He led the Browns to victory in the famous 1976 game where Turkey Joe Jones dumped Terry Bradshaw on his head. But Mays didn't start that game; he replaced an injured Brian Sipe midway through. And you've got Cliff Stoudt who quarterbacked the Steelers in 1983, but they (A) made the playoffs and (B) split with the Browns.

And maybe, just maybe, after Thursday night, you'll have Derek Anderson. If God's making out the list, you should bet on it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We've had our eye on you, Mr. Anderson

The last time a Derek Anderson made headlines in Cleveland, Mike Fratello was his coach, Shawn Kemp was his best teammate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a rookie, Danny Ferry wasn't a GM, Lebron James wasn't yet a teenager, and Cleveland Browns Stadium wasn't even built.

This time, THAT Derek Anderson's hanging on with the Charlotte Bobcats -- with former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Brevin Knight -- while THIS Derek Anderson is stepping into the role of improbable folk hero.

Browns 31, Chiefs 28 in overtime. With this Derek Anderson as leading man. Apparently Mr. Anderson took the red pill before the fourth quarter. How else to explain the Neo-like move he put on Ty Law during his 33-yard overtime run that allowed Phil Dawson a chip-shot field goal to give the Browns their first OT victory since 2002? And no helmetless Dwayne Rudd in sight.

After a week of As Braylon Edwards Turns in which the Browns prima donna wide receiver took a helicopter to Columbus without permission from the team to watch his Michigan Wolverines lose to Ohio State, called out teammate Brian Russell for a perceived cheap shot on Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, then fought with quarterback Charlie Frye on the sidelines during last week's game (because Braylon has so much passion for the game, we came to discover), then found out it was actually his long-lost evil twin behind everything, the Browns wrote a new character into the script against the Chiefs.

Kelly Holcomb. Errrrrrrrrrrrr, Derek Anderson.

Until yesterday, Mr. Anderson didn't even have a bit part in the Browns' drama. He basically was living in the matrix, fantasizing about a world in which he entered a game with the Browns down by 14 in the fourth quarter, brought the team back with seconds remaining in regulation, then led the game-winning drive in overtime. He was as relevant as the water boys. Even Romeo Crennell thought this Derek Anderson should keep taking the blue pills: "If we're ahead by 30, then I would like to see some of (Anderson)," he said the other day. Who even knew Mr. Anderson was the backup quarterback? Before yesterday, ask a dozen Browns fans that question, and all would tell you that was Ken Dorsey's role.

After never throwing a pass in the NFL while standing on the sidelines for two-plus seasons, this Derek Anderson threw 21 of them against the Chiefs, almost all in the fourth quarter. Twelve of them were complete, two for touchdowns, one with 35 seconds to go. Then his 33-yard scramble in overtime set up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal and the Browns' first overtime victory since 2002.

Now, it looks like this Derek Anderson's going to be leading the Browns into Pittsburgh week. Watch out, Steelers! You remember what Kelly Holcomb did to you in the playoffs a few years ago right? Something like 429 yards, the third-highest passing total in NFL playoff history. Heck, the NEW Kelly Holcomb might do that with his arm AND his feet.

As for THAT Derek Anderson, stay tuned for a week from Wednesday, when he returns to The Q with the Charlotte Bobcats.