June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Browns seeking signs of hope

Safety Mike Adams placed his hands together and looked to the sky. “Dear Lord,” he began.

The request for divine intervention came Monday in response to a reporter’s question: Where will the Browns find hope? That’s not easy for a mere mortal to answer right now.

Joshua Cribbs, who’s played better this year than any Brown except Joe Thomas, was distraught Sunday fol­lowing the latest lopsided loss. He was hurt by the fans’ early departure and another weekend with nothing to show for a week’s worth of hard work.

Cribbs is in his fifth year with the Browns. He knows what the team means to the city. He knows how much it craves a winner.

He knows better than anyone what it’s like to lose every Sunday and feel like there’s no end in sight.

“We have to find hope,” he said.

Cribbs then suggested it could be found on the practice field. At least the coaches and players have some­where to look. For fans, finding hope in this sea­son— and within the organization— gets tougher by the game.

I’m not one to get melodramatic over a Browns loss. After all, I’ve seen 113 in the 10½ years they’ve been back.

But something felt different about the debacle Sunday on the lakefront.

Not only did very little go right— Dave Zastudil landed four more punts inside the 20-yard line —the stadium steadily emptied from half­time until the merciful ending. Those who stayed barely made any noise, giving an October Sunday the feel of an August Saturday during the pre­season.

The fans remain extremely pas­sionate about their favorite Cleve­land team, but they’re fed up. We’re not even out of October, and the playoffs are out of the question. No one was planning a trip to the Super Bowl when the season started, but a 1-6 record and irrelevance after seven weeks is a harsh reality.

Where’s the hope?

No matter how bad the previous years were, Browns fans always greet the new season with the over-the-top optimism usually reserved for first dates. Annually there are new play­ers, new schemes and a new sched­ule to generate excitement.

This season was no different. The Browns had a new coach in Eric Mangini, and quarterback Brady Quinn was set to begin his first year as the starter. Nothing brings more fresh promise than a new coach and quarterback.

Where’s the hope now?

Don’t look to Quinn. He can’t get off the bench, even though Derek Anderson is the league’s lowest-rated quarterback. Mangini soured on Quinn quickly and may never give him another chance.

Mangini might be right, Quinn might be a bust. But seven weeks ago, he was the fans’ brightest hope.

If Quinn had been the real deal, the franchise would finally have had the biggest piece needed for sustainable success.

Instead, desperate fans are left to cling to the notion that Anderson may one day find the touch, accuracy and decision-making to rival his rocket arm. It would take a real opti­mist (read: delusional Dawg Pounder) to believe that’s possible after the past three weeks.

With the long-term answer at quarterback likely not on the roster, Mangini must be the source for inspiration. It’s his plan, his players, his organization.

Some fans and media members are ready to give up on Mangini. They say owner Randy Lerner should admit his mistake and move on. I’m not ready to go that far.

But Mangini needs to provide evi­dence that his master plan can work, he can find and coach talent and he knows how to pick a quarterback.

“I think there’s been times where we’ve done things very well,” he said.

“It’s week in and week out being able to do that.”

A few wins down the stretch, ide­ally over opponents not destined for top-five picks in the draft, would fos­ter faith in the frustrated fan base.

They would also ease the pressure on the players.

When Adams was done looking to the heavens, he returned to the ques­tion at hand: Where will the Browns find hope?

“Someone has to dig down and say, ‘OK, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to make this play,’” he said.

“We’re just one play away.

“It’s the little things. We have to get those right collectively. As a team, just step up and somebody make that play.”

And give everyone hope again.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.