Disclaimer: Despite everything that follows, I admit there may be many behind-the-scenes factors relating to Jerome Harrison's playing time that I have no knowledge of. Furthermore, I concede that it is not possible to determine whether his breakout game would still have come to pass had Mangini played him earlier (although it seems unlikely that his talent magically appeared for the first time on Sunday).
All disclaimers aside, while watching Harrison's virtuoso performance against the Chiefs, my emotions oscillated wildly from complete joy, to swear inducing rage, to soul crushing sadness. Having waited for two years, how could any fan pining for The Ghost not feel somewhat conflicted?
Feeling somewhat introspective following the Browns first winning streak since week 6 of last season, I spent some time considering my diverse emotions. The rage seems pretty straightforward, even justified. Yeah, I know it was the Chiefs and I know they aren't very good this year, but we are talking about the third best rushing game ever. EVER.
Harrison is now part of an elite list with the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis (in his prime), Corey Dillon, and Walter Peyton. He broke the Browns single game rushing record held by Jim Brown. 286 yards and 3 touchdowns in a single game! How can a back capable of that be languishing on the bench behind someone averaging 3.5 yards per carry with no touchdowns on the year? That's a serious question. How? ANSWER ME!!!
(..uhhh… sorry about that. I'm ok now.)
Sure, maybe Harrison's bad attitude has kept him on the bench. I can actually get on board with that. Players need to understand they are part of a team. They just can't criticize the coaches for tough practice schedules and refer to being a teammate as "babysitting." Maybe Jerome just had to learn that sometimes….
Wait, what's that? It wasn't him? Are you sure, because I definitely remember that happening… So hold on, that means that it was…. Oh right…. Huh.
So maybe the rage was justified, but after venting the best way I know how (by yelling at the characters in my tv), I finally calmed down. And that is when the sadness set in. I think the sobbing started right around the time that Harrison found the end zone the second time. If one listened closely, between sobs I could be heard softly mumbling, "Jerome, I love you."
The sorrow was rooted in the recognition of what might have been. Not the playoffs and probably not a winning season, but a reasonable running game was attainable this year. Maybe a few more competitive contests, maybe a couple 100 yard rushing days, and maybe even a couple more notches in the win column.
Is Jerome Harrison a better runner than Jamal Lewis? I say yes. And by ‘yes' I mean "of course he is, are you completely insane?" No need to look at the stats. The way you can tell he is better is simply by watching him. Watching him accelerate through the hole and make cuts without losing speed. Watching him slip tackles and get extra yardage by slithering through tiny holes for a few extra yards.
So why hasn't Harrison played more? Apparently, it is some combination of matchups, pass blocking deficiencies and the ability to prove himself on special teams. It is unclear to me which matchups favor less talented backs or what necessitates that a ball carrier knows how to tackle in the kicking game. The blocking issues might ring true if Harrison's role had not been primarily as a third down back this season where his blocking is constantly tested.
Obviously, I have no idea why Harrison has lacked opportunities. What I do know is that watching him run makes me smile. And Sunday was a bona fide smile-gasm. For those that have never heard of the word "smile-gasm" before, it is from the Latin, meaning: the spontaneous joy resulting from the most dominant performance by a Browns player in over a decade.
Unfortunately, that joy accompanies a sadness born of the knowledge that I have been deprived. Deprived the opportunity to watch The Ghost for the last two years and to smile a little more often. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to put in the game tape and induce another smile-gasm.