Thursday, September 22, 2016

Woebegone Browns

It’s official. There is no more star-crossed franchise in the National Football League, if not the entire sports world, than the one located in Cleveland, Ohio, known as the Browns.

There is such a dark cloud that seemingly hangs perpetually over the team’s headquarters in Berea, the team’s nickname should be changed to the Curse or the Misfortunes.

A line from Bad Luck Blues, a rhythm and blues song in 1954 by Lightnin’ Slim, aptly describes what has happened to this franchise since its resurrection in 1999: Lord, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.

It’s almost as though this team was, to slightly alter the title of another rhythm and blues song written in 1967: (re)Born Under A Bad Sign.

It wasn’t bad enough the Browns were already working on their third starting quarterback in three games. Or that the rookie defensive lineman who had shown signs of becoming a force has broken a hand. Or that the second-year center has a bruised lung.

Two games in the books and the team is already looking like a unit in a M*A*S*H hospital. What else could go wrong? When will all this nonsense stop? Better yet, will it ever stop?

When news broke late Tuesday that Browns rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman had also broken a bone in his hand – what difference does it make which hand? – in practice earlier in the day, all those R&B thoughts jumped front and center.

Is there a permanent cloud of misfortune hanging over the Browns’ complex? Even when the sun is purportedly beaming down? Why don’t these unfortunate occurrences happen to other NFL teams? Rhetorical question.

Then again, perhaps this team is suffering from the lingering effects of the Joe Bftsplk Syndrome. Bftsplk is a character in the syndicated comic strip Li’l Abner, which ran from 1934 to 1977.

Joe was a walking jinx, hovering at all times under a dark rain cloud. He was a loner who brought bad luck and extreme misfortune to those who encountered or were near him. Maybe he has quietly taken up residence in Berea all these years.

As for Coleman, who didn’t know his hand was broken until X-rays revealed it after practice, the good news is he will not require surgery to repair the injury. The bad news is he will miss at least a month, maybe more. Surgery most likely would have meant missing most of the season.

The club’s No. 1 pick in the last draft was beginning to show signs of adjusting well to the pro game, scoring both of the Browns’ touchdowns on passes from Josh McCown in the loss last Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens, when Bftsplk struck.

Coleman’s ability to stretch the field enabled other receivers to run underneath routes somewhat more successfully.

His absence means everyone else moves up a notch on the wide receiver ladder. Terrelle Pryor, in really his first season as a wideout, becomes the No. 1 target with veteran Andrew Hawkins, a concussion away from probably retiring, on the other side. The 6-4 Pryor and 5-7 Hawkins form an interesting Mutt & Jeff combination.

Rashard Higgins most likely moves up as the slot receiver with either Jordan Payton and/or Ricardo Louis entering the game in a four- and/or five-receiver set for starting quarterback – and rank neophyte – Cody Kessler.

Anyway you shake it, the Browns enter the game down in Miami on Sunday extraordinarily young and inexperienced at the so-called skill positions.

Yet another challenge for Hue Jackson, the Browns’ offensive coordinator/play caller, as if his job as the head coach wasn’t challenging enough.

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