Monday, December 24, 2007

Changing the Perception

The best thing about the Cleveland Browns 2007 season was that the Browns were starting to change others' perceptions about them. With the NFL Draft in April, Phil Savage made people believe that they actually had someone in charge that knew what they were doing in netting not only OT Joe Thomas but also QB Brady Quinn. His knowledge was questioned again after the Opening Weekend performance and subsequent trade of starting QB Charlie Frye. Once again Savage proved his doubters wrong as that trade changed the direction of the Browns' season.

Many were calling for Romeo Crennel's head after a 4-12 campaign in 2006, but the big guy has led his troops to a 9-6 record. He has even shown some fire on the sidelines and some warmth and comic relief in his interviews. His coaching staff has resurrected an offense that has been dormant since 1994, with Rob Chudzinski paving the way with his aggressive, attacking offense. The Browns actually became a scary team for NFL teams to line-up against.

Jamal Lewis proved he still has some gas left in the tank after being jettisoned by Baltimore. Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards proved they could shut up and make plays after a season of being malcontents. Phil Dawson proved he is one of the game's clutch kickers after a bad effort in 2006. Ryan Tucker and Kevin Shaffer proved that maybe their are not as bad as they looked last year and a position change is all they needed. Derek Anderson proved he could be an effective (yet inconsistent) NFL quarterback after a disastrous 2007 pre-season.

But the one thing that the Browns failed to do again on Sunday is change the perception that a Cleveland sports team can not come through and win a big game when needed. Only the Cavs came close by beating the Pistons in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals but they were then routed in the NBA Finals. The Indians failed to put the nail into the Boston Red Sox' coffin in both Game 5 and Game 7 of the ALCS. And the Browns failed to prove they are finally back to NFL significance but beating a woeful Bengals team to secure the first playoff birth since 2002.

Cleveland has seen Jim Chones' broken foot, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Rick Mahorn's mauling of Mark Price, The Move, Jose Mesa and The Stop Sign. But other cities have had to overcome as well. It took them 86 years but Boston finally overcame 1918. Bill Cowher and the hated Steelers overcame choke jobs in 5 AFC Championship Games. The White Sox put the Black Sox to rest.

Someday the Browns, Indians and Cavs will put their demons to rest. Hopefully sooner than later. Because that is the only way to change the outsiders perception of Cleveland from The Mistake By the Lake to Believeland. And that is what a die hard Cleveland sports fan wants more than anything else.

I beleive in Cleveland. It's about time Cleveland made everyone beleive too.

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