One Big Post: For Toughness As A Browns Brand

So, if you’ve read a decent amount of my writings, I hope a couple of things have come through on my philosophy on NFL football. I believe in the importance of a franchise QB.  I believe that great NFL franchises learn to win the Draft. I believe that even in this flashy NFL, a great defense will beat a great offense.

And above all, I value toughness.

Toughness, both the mental and physical kind, is something you can sense and feel in every facet of how a football team plays. Do Receivers run out of bounds, or do they lower their shoulders and push for a couple more yards. Does your Quarterback bounce up after a hit, or does he linger? Does your defense attack and initiate full body contact?  Do they beat on an offense until they get tired of the contact?

Simply, I don’t think that you can understate the value that a brutal, physical team has over one built on finesse. I hear a lot of Browns fans calling for a team built around the pass, around a vertical passing game like Chud wanted to install. While those types of teams can certainly be fun to watch, I still prefer to see a team like Seattle has. One that, ever snap, is going to try and beat you up until you cry Uncle. A team that, every play, is going to hit you in the mouth until you capitulate.  A team that will stand there, man to man, and dare you to hit them back.

Now, a lot of things get associated with this type of play. Some people say these teams have “swag”.  I kind of hate that word (a lot), but the point is valid. That confidence, that sense of pride and toughness is intoxicating.  And as a fan, it’s a great thing to watch your team embody.

One of the reasons I like the Browns decision to hire Mike Pettine is based on this philosophy. Coach Pettine demands toughness, and based on what we know of his past experience, he seems to get it. And, in my opinion, if you’ve got a tough team, you’re never out of contention.

Shawn is the Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer for Dawg Pound Nation.  He’s also an Army Sergeant, married to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three and aspiring Browns Writer.  You can follow him on Twitter @ShawnMStarr or @DawgPoundNews, as well as on the Dawg Pound Nation Facebook Page.

One Big Post: What Is Loyalty?

From time to time, some folks take our brand of humor to mean that we aren’t loyal to our team.  They ask how we can claim to love the Browns when we spend so much time making fun of them.  This is my response.

I’m Not Loyal To The Cleveland Browns Organization

That may sound shocking at first take, but it’s the truth.  The Cleveland Browns football organization, the front office and such, I feel no connection to whatsoever.  They’ve done nothing but lie, mislead, and consistently fail to do justice to our proud history through their inept failures.  My loyalty is to the fans, the community, the history and to an extent, the players and coaches.  I say to an extent, because players like Kellen Winslow Jr and Braylon Edwards I never felt any loyalty to.  Guys like Joe Thomas, Phil Taylor, and D’Qwell Jackson, those guys who bust their asses and put it on the line for this city, THOSE guys I feel loyal to.  Coaches like Chud, who made it their mission in life to coach for this team, those guys I hold loyal to.  Jimmy Haslem, Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi?  Not so much.

I Am Loyal To My Fellow Fans And Our Great Community, The Dawg Pound.

I’ve never pretended like anything but my fellow fans were my number one priority.  And since my loyalty to this community far outweighs any connection I have to the organization, it fires me up when I see my friends and fellows continue to suffer.  I often recount growing up, a young kid who got to sit in the Dawg Pound.  I remember how crazy everyone seemed, but how nice they were to me, even then.  I remember, one of my favorite moments as a child, when I got to meet Michael Dean Perry and his brother, The Fridge.  I was maybe five, and MDP picked a very little me up and put me on his shoulders at the behest of some rowdy Dawg Pound folks.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little spooked, but I felt (and probably was) 10 feet tall.  Over the years, I’ve met so many great fans and great players.  And I’ve watched them all suffer.  And why? It drives me nuts that the organization that we carry the banners for humiliates us and makes us a figure of fun throughout the country.  Because we deserve so much better than this pathetic joke of management.  We are the best, the very best fans in the country.  I can say that objectively, as I’ve been all over this great land of ours.  There is no other place where fans have stayed as faithful, as loyal, and as optimistic as we have in Cleveland.  And how have we been repayed for our stalwart loyalty?  Ask fired Browns Coach Rob Chudzinski how his loyalty was repaid, when he landed his dream job, to coach the team he loved growing up.  He was fired after 11 months for not turning water into wine and winning with no running back (except one they got from a nursing home who managed only 377 yards on 138 attempts), and 14 games of Campbell and Weeden starting.  The defense certainly struggled down the stretch, but this was their first year under a completely new system with all new coaches.  The front offices plan to fix it?  Scrap it all and start over, again!  Brilliant.

The Front Office Will Need To Earn My Trust and Loyalty.

I don’t mean this in a self-important kind of way.  I realize they probably care less than none about earning mine, or any other individual fans, loyalty and trust.  However, the sum of all of us distrusting them, and not giving them our loyalty without their earning it is a powerful thing.  When Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi show they can find “the” head coach, when they show they can do better in the draft, when they show they can not completely fail in free agency, and when they show that they either give a damn or can actually get this right, then maybe I’ll come around.  In the meantime, when they make terrible decisions, I’m going to call them on it.  I’m going to make fun of them, because the fans deserve better.  At the end of the day, that’s it to me.  The Cleveland fans, the Dawg Pound, we just deserve so much more than this.  Period.


Shawn is an Army Sergeant, husband to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three, and lead writer/publisher here at Dawg Pound Nation.  You can follow him on twitter @ShawnMStarr.

One Big Post: Patience And Loyalty

Here we go again.

The “new” Cleveland Browns front office has, in under two years, taken me from “cautiously optimistic” to “increasingly pessimistic”.  It shouldn’t surprise me I suppose, but here we are nevertheless.  It isn’t so much the (in my opinion) premature firing of Chud, or the seemingly endless search for his replacement. It’s the feeling that this, and other, major decisions are being made without much thought to the consequences or with a plan in mind.

Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner are quick to ask for trust and patience from the fans. It comes across to me as they feel we aren’t being patient.  Browns fans, but being patient?  Fuck you, front office.  We’ve shown inhuman patience and loyalty.  Lifetimes of loyalty. Literally, my entire life has been spent being patiently loyal to a failed franchise. Don’t question our patience or our loyalty.

Why the pessimism? Because while we were busy being patient and loyal, other egotistical pricks (the ones before these egotistical pricks) were busy turning our once proud franchise into a running punchline. Failed coaches, failed draft picks, failed free agents. Failure has a distinct smell, and it’s pungent aroma is once again noticeably coming from Browns Headquarters in Berea.

So when you fire the coach you picked after 11 months, and promise change and swear to get it right this time, you’ll have to excuse us if we chose to question everything you do. If we expect to see results before we trust you to make the right call. We’ve been patiently, loyally waiting for a very long time.

One Big Post: Stay Patient, Browns Fans

I feel like we’ve been here before.

It can’t all feel this familiar for no reason, can it?  A new coaching staff, a busted bubble on what we thought our roster was capable of producing, another season at the bottom of the division.  Another season closer to a number one draft position than a playoff position.  Another season come, another season that has slipped past any hope of redemption.

It must be Cleveland in December.

If this all feels like deja vu, like we’ve been here before, it’s because we have.  We’ve been here over and over again, a coaching carousel, a quarterback carousel, a roster that looks to be ready for a break out season that falls painfully short.  Even the verbiage that we hear from the front office sounds exactly the same.  “We’re growing”.  “We’re improving every week”.  “This is a process”.

It must be Cleveland in December.

We’ve been here before, and we’ve run those previous guys out of town in an average of about 2.7 years.  In some cases, they deserved it.  Shurmur should have never been hired, Romeo Crennel couldn’t hack it as a head coach, Chris Palmer deserves to be on that list as well.  But, while hiring the wrong people has been a part of the problem, the other part of the problem is that we, as fans, expect a new coach to equate in to immediate success.  The reality of the situation is that it’s not always going to work out that way, as the Browns since 1999 prove.  Continuity does wonders for an NFL franchise long term.  A front office and staff shouldn’t be judged off of one draft, but the weight of multiple drafts.  They shouldn’t be judged off of one season, but the body of their work.  We don’t ever get that far, because we’re so mad about the weight of total failure all these years, that we’ll be damned if we wait around on these guys to waste another 3 years boobing the whole thing up.

It must be Cleveland in December.

I’m not saying there aren’t things to question.  There are.  This front office missed opportunities for mid-late round value in last years draft for the sake of this draft.  Alonso, Matheiu, Trufant, Bernard, all available with those picks we traded to Pittsburgh, all making an impact on their respective teams.  Some of Chud’s game management (read: times outs, clock utilization, QB rotation, coin toss) leave me thinking that he’s over thinking the game.  Norv’s refusal to try and run, even when that’s exactly what we should do when our QB has a rib injury that makes throwing the ball 50+ times a game in a Cleveland winter, leaves me questioning his judgment.  Ray Horton’s inability to come up with a real answer (other than “LOOK AT THESE STATISTICS”) about why his defense fails to show up on 3rd down and in the 4th quarter, and the at times predictable nature of his unpredictable blitz scheme make me ponder why he hasn’t made adjustments.  Chris Tabor owes us an explanation as to why his special teams unit has cost us at least 3 games by my count.

These things should be questioned.  They should be corrected.  But as Winter is here, and as surely as another Winter will follow next year, remember this:  If we want to see our team Rise, we need to be willing to give this front office and coaching staff time to get the players they want, install the systems they want, and give adequate time to see if it all works.  If once they have had time to draft/sign the guys they say they need for the systems they want to run, and we can clearly see those offensive and defensive schemes in full effect, then we can rightly judge the situation.  The fact is, it’s not this year.  It’s probably not next year.  Probably not even the year after.  That’s life in the NFL.  It can be a tough pill to swallow, because we just want to see our team not be a joke around the league.  God knows that’s what I want.  If that’s what we want though, we have to give these guys the time to see it through.

So remember, if you want to see another coaching change and front office turnover, if you want to start from scratch again in 2.7 years, fine.  But don’t bitch and moan when you get exactly that.

It must be Cleveland in December.


One Big Post: November 15th, 2013

I’ve been a Browns fan for a long time. That’s relative to my existence on this earth, 29 years. I’m old enough to remember some of the good times before The Move, which I remember more fondly now thanks to the past 14 years of incompetence since we “resumed football operations”. In that time, I’ve honestly gotten pretty cynical and unwilling to every buy in to a Browns front office and their grand plans and strategies to turn my beloved Browns around. I feel like I’ve heard the same lines forever. It’s a process. We’re getting better. One more year. We’re confident that.

Blah blah blah. Same bullshit lines, different people telling it. Policy, Savage, Holmgren. Davis, Crenell, Mangini, Shurmur.

Anyhow, we had a few glimpses of relevance. 02, 07 both come to mind. And while they felt good at the time, they were short lived. Somehow though, this recent turnaround feels different. Maybe because it’s built on defense and sensible drafts/free agent signings. Maybe because I like Chud’s style. Maybe I like the vibe I get from these players. Whatever it is, I’m cautiously optimistic that this might just be the time it actually sticks. God knows our fan base deserves it.