No cities in America -- okay, maybe Buffalo, but nowhere else -- have achieved the same level of football-related pessimism as Denver and Cleveland. (OK, maybe Detroit, too, but that's it!). So with the Broncos and Browns set to throw down on Sunday, I channeled all the dismay I could for an exchange with Vince Grzegorek (pronounced "Grzgzgzgzgzgzrk"), a Cleveland blogger and lifelong Browns fan.
Me: So I bet you Cleveland guys think you have the market cornered on doom and gloom and suicide jokes? Well think again, buddy. Because despite a very convincing win over the vaunted Bengals on Sunday, we Denverites are still leading the league in depression and hopelessness. And we're doing it in the sunshine. If Denver had a pancake of gray smothering it like Cleveland does, we'd have lynched Bucky the Bronco by now.
Vince: Four words:
John Elway's horse face. Sorry, wrong four words. I meant: The Drive, The Fumble.
Not only do those plays represent two of the most horrifying, toxic pieces of Cleveland sports detritus, the Browns literally have done nothing since. They're like 14-2,083 since then. I seem to remember some Super Bowls in Denver's recent past. And something about John Elway's face.
Sorry, bud. We suck more now, we've sucked for longer, and as long as we have Kid Quinn throwing passes with the accuracy of a cat lady heaving her brood out of a burning building, we're going to suck harder in the immediate future.
Me: Yes, over time, the Browns have been getting their asses kicked in a manner familiar only to the Detroit Lions and Lindsay Lohan's liver. And sure, your team will probably suck for a good ten more years, or as long as it takes that funny-hat-wearing, woman-beating Jim Brown to stop coming around and ruining all your team's karma.
But you have to stop living in the past, man.
This isn't about the Drive or the Fumble (although those must've really sucked). This isn't about the fact that your city is one LeBron James decision away from folding up and being sold to Buffalo for $37 and a bus ticket to Santa Fe. It's this year, this game, this Sunday. And on this Sunday, I assure you that the two-headed monster of Kyle Orton and Correll Buckhalter will produce an offensive display so anemic, so 2008-Derek-Anderson-esque, the Browns defense could literally show up shit-faced and still hold the Broncos to 74 yards of offense. So unless Quinn loses his arms in a tragic mirror-flexing accident, worry not, my friend. The Browns are 1-1.
Vince: We're selling the town for no less than $37.52, by the way. That's the cost for a pack of smokes, two 40s of King Cobra, a taxi ride to the highest bridge in the county and a Mark Price jersey to wear on the way down. We've already adjusted for projected inflation for July 2010. If we've miscalculated and there's extra dough, we're going to pay Drew Carey to sing "Cleveland Rocks" right before we jump, just in case anyone believes there's anything good left in the world.
Where was I? Right: Sunday.
Are you aware that the team is not made up of 53 guys named Josh Cribbs? And are you also aware that every Browns' offensive play can not involve Bret Kern punting to Cribbs? Pretty sure that's in the rulebook, somewhere next to the "You must honestly and accurately report player injuries" rule
Me: Oh dear Schlereth (that's what we call God out here). I forgot all about Josh Cribbs. Considering that Kyle Orton's finger is falling off, and that his arm was never that well attached in the first place -- and considering that Josh McDaniels' "genius" was, we're just now learning, somewhat related to the really fucking good players on his old team -- the Broncos are going to be punting to Cribbs a lot on Sunday. There is no over/under on this sort of thing, but if Vegas asked me to set one, I would put it somewhere around 146.5 punts, approximately 82 of which will no doubt returned for touchdowns. (I'm taking the over).
I also forgot about Braylon Edwards. He's like Brandon Marshall but with better hands and no rap sheet. (They do both have colossal egos though, don't they? There have been all sorts of complaints here about Marshall's ego taking up several lanes of traffic on his way to the facility in the morning. He had to hire one of those "oversized-load" teams to accompany him everywhere he goes). Our only answer to Edwards is Brandon Stokely, who is admittedly awesome when the ball is tipped directly to him with no defensive backs within 20 yards. But how often does that happen, you know?
By the way, $37.52 sounds like a fair price for Cleveland. You might even be able to charge extra if you throw in some Cuyahoga River water. You know, in case they run out of lighter fluid in Buffalo.
Vince: I'll concede that Josh Cribbs would absolutely return 82 of a possible 146.5 punts back for touchdowns. That, however, would leave 64.5 possessions on which it was up to the Browns' offense to score. What percentage of those possessions would result in points?
Sometimes it's helpful to look at numbers when it comes to such matters, to extrapolate what probable reality might follow. The problem with the numbers for Cleveland's offense is that they are farcical. They've reached the point where you can toss around outlandish stats like "They haven't scored a first half touchdown in 57 straight games" or "They haven't had a running play over 20 yards since 1998" and reasonably educated football fans respond only with "Huh, sounds about right."
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So, in this scenario where the Broncos punt the ball 146.5 times, the Browns still lose.
Me: You are quite convincing, I must admit. But in the end, when your best player is a 5-9 cornerback who peaked three years ago and you don't trust your coach enough to let him in your fantasy league, let alone run your real-life team, you just can't win against a player as pretty as Brady Quinn. So we'll have to agree to disagree.
But that's this year. Next year -- once we get rid of McDaniels and draft Sam Bradford and trade Marshall for Calvin Johnson and bring back Shanny so he can turn Moreno into a 2,000-yard rusher -- we'll whoop your Brownies' asses. Book it.
Vince: If LeBron leaves next summer, it won't much matter, will it?