The Browns would be decided underdogs against the New England Patriots even under the best of circumstances.
That's hardly the case. The Browns will be breaking in a new coach and likely a new quarterback when they try to snap a five-game losing streak against New England on Sunday.
Terry Robiskie replaces Butch Davis as coach following Davis' resignation Tuesday. This is the second time Robiskie has played the fill-in role. He did it for the final three games of the 2000 season in Washington.
That's because Jeff Garcia's recovery from a strained rotator cuff continues to go slowly and Kelly Holcomb sustained three crack ribs in last week's loss to Cincinnati.
"My ribs are pretty sore," Holcomb said. "We'll see how it goes the latter part of the week. Right now, I can't even pick my kids up."
Unlike Davis, Robiskie won't insist that a hurting quarterback take practice reps before playing on Sunday.
"If he feels Saturday that his body feels good, I have no problem with his arm and his mind (being ready)," Robiskie said.
Holcomb may have set some sort of dubious record on Sunday. In 13 career NFL starts, he has now broken a bone in four of them.
Holcomb first hurt the ribs when Bengals defensive end Justin Smith nailed him to start the second quarter. Holcomb took another shot in the fourth quarter. That didn't stop him from throwing for 413 yards and five touchdowns.
"The whole left side of my body went numb on one of those hits," Holcomb said. "I knew that I'd probably done something pretty bad."
It's a familiar feeling. In his only start for the Colts as a rookie in 1997, he broke his hand. He fractured his tibia against Baltimore in 2002 and his fibula a year ago in San Francisco. Holcomb kept playing in all four games.
"It's a never-ending saga," Holcomb said. "It's frustrating. It seems like once you get up, something knocks you down. That's the game. You've just got to keep fighting."
The idea of starting McCown against the Patriots isn't all that appealing to Robiskie, even if it gives the Browns a chance to get the quarterback some experience.
"We could say on one hand for the good of the organization, let's play Luke and see how he does," Robiskie said. "But look at it realistically. If you take Luke and throw him out there against the New England Patriots, it might be good to see for the organization, but it might not be good for Luke.
"When people say what do you have to lose, it's like Bill Parcells said, you've got the player to lose. That has happened to a lot of young quarterbacks."
Robiskie may not have an alternative.
SERIES HISTORY: 18th meeting. Cleveland Browns lead 11-7. The last game came last year when the Browns lost 9-3 at
Gillette Stadium. The Browns beat New England 19-11 in 2000 in the teams' last
meeting at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
A NEW LOOK: A team that has lost five straight and is 3-8 and had its coach quit might be expected to pack it in. But the Browns say Terry Robiskie's elevation to head coach gives them a fresh start.
"Butch ran a dictatorship," fullback Terrelle Smith said. "With Terry, we're all in this together. `I'm going to fight for you.' That's the way the NFL should be run."
CLEARING THE DEADTIME: Robiskie's first significant change was to condense the players' daily schedule. Robiskie believed too much dead time had been built in to the previous schedule.
"He's a former player, so he truly understands how players feel in weeks 12 or 13," safety Robert Griffith said. "Terry brings a player's mentality to the head coaching position. It's welcome here. A lot of guys needed a change, for whatever reason."
THE ROAD TO THE SUPER BOWL: The idea of playing an elite team like the Patriots should be familiar to the Browns. Cleveland has played the toughest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents have a 74-47 (.612) record.
The Browns have faced the eventual Super Bowl champion the last five seasons, and it looks like that streak may continue. Cleveland has already played Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and now face New England.
TIGHT ENDS KEEP ROLLING: The loss of Kellen Winslow Jr. has not resulted in lack of production from the tight-end position. Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea combined for 12 catches and 149 yards against Cincinnati. Heiden caught three touchdown passes.
For the season, Heiden and Shea have combined for
eight touchdowns, 42 receptions and 430 yards.
BRYANT BREAKS OUT: Antonio Bryant had a breakout game for the Browns last week, catching eight balls for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He has 19 catches for 262 yards in five games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "To me, that looks like, `OK, I'm taking $12 million, I'll see you guys later.' I mean, battle. Fight to the finish with us." -- FB Terrelle Smith, expressing resentment that Butch Davis didn't forfeit any money when he resigned.