CHICAGO – OK, Browns fans, if you think you are mad at the way the team is playing, then you should have seen club owner Randy Lerner following Sunday’s 30-6 drubbing administered by the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Now, that was MAD – in capital letters – and it could mean some very interesting – and important – discussions among the Browns’ high-level football people will be carried on as the team enters its bye week. In fact, those discussions could start as soon as Sunday night when everybody returns back home from Chicago, where the Browns fell to 1-7 at the halfway point of the season, matching their worst start since they returned to the field.
The other time came in the expansion year of 1999. That was a decade ago. So what’s the problem now?
That’s what Lerner seems to want to find out – and now.
For what close observers of the team say is the first time they can remember, the owner stood at the end of the runway leading from the field to the locker room and glared at the players and coaches as they walked off at halftime with the score already 16-0 and the Browns with just 61 yards in total offense. That was 101 less yards at that point than the Bears, who were downright awful in their own right but looked like Super Bowl contenders in comparison to the way Cleveland was playing.
“I want those guys to see me,” Lerner said.
He waited right there and glared at the players and coaches again as they came out of the locker room and took the field for the second half.
The owner was clearly fuming, as visibly irate as he’s been since he took over ownership of the club when his father, Al Lerner, passed away on Oct. 23, 2002.
“I’m tired of this (stuff)!” he said.
Later, he confided to an associate of the team, “This is terrible.”
“So what do you do?” the associate asked.
Lerner replied, “I don’t know.”
Not yet, at least.
One observer said head coach Eric Mangini after the game “felt as if the owner was looking over his shoulder.”
And maybe he was.
The observer said Lerner wants to talk specifics with Mangini, including finding out the exact role of general manager George Kokinis, whose hiring he lobbied for strongly with the owner after he was hired as coach. Kokinis keeps a very low profile and has talked publicly only a few times since being hired 10 months ago from the Baltimore Ravens.
Lerner was still extremely upset when he talked with several reporters afterward. Like the fans, he’s quite confused about what’s going on with the quarterback situation. Starting for the fifth straight game since taking over for Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson was just 6-of-17 passing for 76 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of – get this – 10.5.
Bo Derek was a perfect 10 in the movie “10” three decades ago. That was outstanding. Having a passing rating like that is just plain ugly.
For the season, Anderson is 68-of-154 passing (42.9 percent) for two TDs, nine interceptions and a 36.2 rating. If he continues on that pace, then he will set team records for lowest percent of completions and lowest rating for a season. Holding those marks now at 43.8 and 41.6, respectively, is Tommy O’Connell in 1956.
Anderson was visibly upset when he was pulled in favor of Quinn with 3:14 left in the game.
“I’m not happy that I came out. I’m not happy how I played. I’m not happy that we lost,” Anderson said.
“I’m not happy about anything.”
But Anderson isn’t the only problem, not by a long shot. In addition to Anderson’s two interceptions, the Browns fumbled the ball away three times.
“There’s no magic formula for holding on to the football,” Mangini said. “You can’t go into Chicago and play a Lovie Smith team and turn it over five times and expect to win. You have no chance, no opportunity.”
The Browns, who had just 191 yards overall against the 4-3 Bears, went into the game at or near the bottom in the NFL in just about every offensive statistical category. They certainly did not enhance their standing in most of those areas with the way they played on Sunday.
And with 78 points scored, they are on track to score just 156 points, which would be a team record for a full season. The current mark is 161 in 2000, the second year of the expansion era.
The official mark is 140, but that came in the strike-shortened 1982 season, when just nine of scheduled 16 games were played.
In that aforementioned 1956 season in which O’Connell took over for the retired Otto Graham, the Browns scored 167 points. But that was in a 12-game schedule. With four more games than they played in 1956, the Browns could score 11 fewer points.
Following the 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Browns, with the offense being directed by Brian Daboll, in his first job as a coordinator at any level, have been outscored 61-9 the last two games. In back-to-back games against the Denver Broncos and Ravens early in the year, the Browns were outscored 61-9.
Mangini said he will dissect the team from top to bottom.
“We’re going to look at everything – coaching, personnel, everything,” he said. “We’re going to look at everybody across the board – at every single position.”
And maybe the coach will be looked at by the owner as well.
“We’ve got a lot going on right now,” Lerner said to the small group of reporters.
How much, exactly, is yet to be determined, but rest assured, Browns fans, the owner now feels fully your pain – and anger, frustration and disappointment.