Mike Pettine certainly was among the losers in the wake of the Browns' stupefying loss on Monday night.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
By Scott Sargent
Nadir, by definition, is the lowest point in a narrative arc where an individual or group experiences the greatest amount of adversity or despair. The protagonist, be it through fault of his or her own or simply poor luck, is handed a situation which seemed unfathomable while experiencing prior tribulations. The rhetorical question is always “How could it get any worse?” And the non-rhetorical answer, as always, is: Become a Browns fan.
Since our own Andrew Clayman penned his Last-minute Losses pieceearlier this season, our beloved football-playing brethren have managed to add three more pages to the story. Just when you thought Tramon Williams jumping off-sides was bad enough, Barkevious Mingo steps up and drops what would have been a game-breaking interception. But fear not, Sir Mingo: All you had to do was give it a few more weeks because the breakdown of an entire unit would completely remove you from the pantheon of should-have-beens.
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Only one other NFL game has been decided by what has been dubbed a “Kick Six,” a blocked field goal that is taken all the way back for a game-ending score. Alabama technically lost to Auburn on a Kick Six during the 78th running of the Iron Bowl. But even then, that ball wasn’t blocked let alone by a guy playing in his first NFL game. A guy who should have beenpersonally blocked by the team’s two first-round draft selections from this past spring, blocking the ball off of the foot of a kicker who had yet to miss a field goal on the season and was given a record that very night.
You’d like to think that this is the Nadir, that things have truly bottomed out for a franchise in dire need of some upward fortune. Then, you realize that there are still five games left in this season and this franchise manages to invent ways to lose football games. It’s remarkable, really.
Looking back to when Josh McCown was signed by the Browns, I would have never assumed him to be able to slot perfectly into the role of Brian Hoyer Sympathetic Figure. No local connection. No Mr. Hero campaign—that was taken by Brian Hartline. Yet here McCown is, putting his career on the line with almost every snap, diving for first downs, holding on to the ball until the last possible millisecond. Here’s McCown, taking a demotion for no reason other than team-wide struggles and the desire to test the waters with his peer, and then jumping right in to the starting role as if he was never not his.
There’s a good chance that the McCown era is over in Cleveland. There’s Johnny. There’s Austin Davis’ two-year extension. There’s the NFL Draft. And there’s McCown’s whole “almost 40 years old and beaten to a pulp this year” thing. There’s also a good chance that this veteran fill-in was the best quarterback this team has seen since Tim Couch was given the heave-ho from Butch Davis. Kudos to McCown for impersonating Manzielon his way out the door.
LOSER: Mike Pettine
I’m at a loss for words. When you handle the final two minutes of a fourth quarter the way Mike Pettine did on Monday night, you don’t deserve to win the football game and you certainly don’t deserve more than a few lines of a column. Two timeouts and 50 seconds couldn’t buy the team an extra few yards. Travis Coons had to be standing on the sidelines wondering what the hell was going on. The pass up the middle to Hartline was perfect, but no time out was called and there was zero urgency to get the next play off. If we want to blame Austin Davis for sliding in bounds, that’s fine. More on that later. But then, with time for one more play and the ball already on the right hash, you run … to the right?
Dude almost went for two points earlier in the game, and then changed his mind at the last second. Not only did Pettine coach scared, he was outcoached by a guy who was missing five key starters.
WINNER: Austin Davis
Sure, he didn’t exactly look like a man who understood how to handle a two-minute drill, but it’s tough to argue with Austin Davis’ willingness to step in, control the huddle, and put the Cleveland Browns in a position to win a football game.
Now. if we could just do something about that horrible, horrible slide in bounds as the clock was winding down.
LOSER: Chris Tabor
Great Jim O’Neil impersonation, Chris. When your opponent drops two special teams touchdowns on you, you’re not doing it right.
While his run defense has slipped a bit since joining the Browns (this has been known to happen), Dansby has been solid in the passing game, picking off yet another wayward attempt across the middle and returning it for a score. While I don’t necessarily want my middle linebacker being tied for the lead in passes defensed, I’ll certainly take it.
It’s to the point where we can just group these four in together as they appear to be the only stable producers on the team. Benjamin looked great as a possession receiver as well as his game-tying touchdown. That he swapped the braids for the Polamalu-like curls was an added bonus. Barnidge led the team in receptions (seven) and yardage (91), though he didn’t find the end zone. That Erving wasn’t able to flourish in between two Pro Bowlers makes his struggles that much worse.
LOSER: Travis Coons
It’s tough to not feel bad for a guy who set an NFL record for consecutive field goals without a miss, and then had to experience the wrong end of a pursuit block after finally missing an attempt. Yeesh.