Eric Mangini has a Darth Vader mask hanging in his office. Appropriate perhaps, considering how Browns fans feel about their team these days.
Fan displeasure is running rampant in Cleveland, where a 1-6 start has the Browns headed toward their eighth losing season in 11 years since returning to the NFL. Two longtime season-ticket holders are planning a protest before Cleveland’s Monday night game on Nov. 16, urging fans to stay away from their seats for the opening kickoff to send a message after so many years of losing.
Article continues below ...
At least one Browns coach is firing back.
“That (ticks) me off. This is Cleveland. They’re going to show up and back this damn team,” outspoken defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “This is a town that’s tough and that loves football. Nobody’s happy. I hate me, too. So they hate me. Great. Doesn’t mean you turn your back.
“I’ve got a kid who flunked a class one time and it (ticked) me off. I don’t turn my back on him. I go get a tutor and help him.”
The Browns could use a little tutoring on both sides of the ball, since they rank near the bottom of the NFL in most categories.
The offense is averaging the second-fewest number of yards per game and the defense is allowing the most yards in the league.
The offense has scored four touchdowns in seven games – none by a running back or receiver. The defense was burned on a 71-yard touchdown pass by Green Bay last week after quarterback Aaron Rodgers read the coverage and audibled to Donald Driver.
After the game, Rodgers said he knew what blitz was coming based on film study, and that the Packers‘ scout team ran it better during the week than Browns safety Abe Elam did in the game.
“I respect the guys that talk before the game,” said Ryan, who earlier this season harshly criticized Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards. “The guys who tell you how much they’re going to kick your butts, and then they do it or you can shut them up. He can say whatever he wants. I don’t care about him. I’ve got no time for a guy like that.”
Browns fans, meanwhile, say it’s the team that is testing their patience.
Mike Randall and Tony Schafer, fixtures in Cleveland’s famous Dawg Pound, are hoping the sight of so many empty orange seats on national TV against the Baltimore Ravens will send a strong message to team owner Randy Lerner, who hand-picked Mangini as his new coach earlier this year.
Mangini has traded away most of the stars from an offense that was among the league’s best two years ago. It has left first-year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll searching for playmakers on a unit that has failed to score a touchdown in four of seven games.
“I don’t blame (fans) for wanting a timetable. Losing is not fun for anyone,” Daboll said. “I really believe good things are going to come … I’m convinced the people we have in this building will turn this thing around.”
When that will happen, no one seems to know.
“Nothing is ever given to Cleveland. Hell, their team was taken away one time,” Ryan said. “You think you’re not going to fight for that team? Yeah you are.
“A little adversity happens, you don’t turn your back. You rub your hands together and fight harder. So it doesn’t look like we’ve got Jim Brown back there right now. Well it’s not easy. We’ll fight and get better. Our fans are great fans. They deserve better and we’re going to give them better.”
NOTES: K Phil Dawson is optimistic he can play Sunday against the Bears. Dawson was upgraded from questionable to probable on Friday after missing the last five games with a strained calf. … Ryan is familiar with Bears QB Jay Cutler from the time the two spent in the AFC West. Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders while Cutler was in Denver. “He could throw a strawberry through a battleship,” Ryan said. “He’s got a huge arm.”