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Just not very interesting
November 14, 2011 - Ed Puskas
I received an interesting text Sunday from a lifelong friend who is perhaps the most passionate Cleveland Browns fan I know. In his younger days, he was one of those fans whose mood for the entire day and most of the ensuing week was largely determined by how the Browns played on Sunday.
But now, after 13 seasons since the Browns returned to the NFL and one playoff appearance, Brad is ready to call it quits on the team he loves.
As he has just about each Sunday since he can remember, Brad woke up Sunday in time for the kickoff against the St. Louis Rams. But for the first time in his life, he said, he simply rolled over and decided there was no need to get up and watch.
Later, after waking for good and going to work, he clicked on a TV just in time to see Rams quarterback Sam Bradford take a knee and run the clock on a 13-12 St. Louis victory.
"Pretty much what I thought," Brad said.
If this guy, who has lived and died with the Browns his entire life -- he is 43 now -- is giving up on the Browns, the franchise is in trouble. The announced crowd Sunday was 64,900 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. But I'm here to tell you a lot of them came dressed as orange seats. That figure seems inflated to me.
It isn't just the losing. If that was the case, Browns fans would have bailed on the team long ago. There have been many, many defeats since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. The Browns seem stuck in a pattern of one step forward, two steps back. Look at the expectations generated last season, when Peyton Hillis was one of the top running backs in the NFL and Colt McCoy played well enough -- despite a lack of quality receivers -- to give the team sincere hope at the quarterback position for the first time since Brady Quinn was drafted out of Notre Dame. Maybe since the selection of Tim Couch as a No. 1 pick out of Kentucky.
Now, my money says Hillis may not play another down this season and surely will be elsewhere in 2012. And the Browns suddenly seem lukewarm -- at best -- about McCoy for some reason. I know, I know. He didn't get the Browns in the end zone Sunday against one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL. But if you don't think he is better than Quinn or Derek Anderson, you're not watching the same games I am. The point is, it looks like the Browns braintrust -- president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur -- might be ready to blow the team up again and start over with new players at some key positions. I'm not sure how that is going to go over with some fans.
But it's not about impatience, really. Fans like Brad aren't walking away because of the losing. They're turning away from the Browns because they're bored. They've lost interest. They're finding other things to do on Sunday. Raking leaves, going shopping, spending time with significant others, brooding ... all these and more seem like better ways to spend three or four hours than watching the Browns.
That's going to become more of a problem for Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur than botched snaps, fumbled punts and unimaginitive play calls.
"Embarrassment, anger or lack of patience will not be the Browns' downfall," Brad said. "Fan indifference will."
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