Blackout that preseason

This Personal Browns Blackout stuff is serious business.

Would I go out for a half-hour run during a Browns game if I wasn’t serious? Sure, it’s a preseason game and all. But a half-hour is the most I’ve run at one time since Bernie Kosar was the Browns quarterback.

Plus the Indians were playing at the same time. That’s two Cleveland teams for the price of one. And I was running around the block.

Oh, the Personal Browns Blackout is real. All that awful play at the end of last season has to be punished. A couple of preseason wins won’t let the Browns out of their room early. They need to stay in there until they score a regular-season touchdown. On offense. Josh Cribbs’ kick returns don’t count. Interception returns don’t count. (Save that for the regular season, Mr. Hall.) Phil Dawson field goals don’t count. Saw enough of them  in the final six games last season to last a lifetime. No, the Browns need to score an offensive touchdown in the regular season in order for me to start watching their games again. Someone’s going to have to call me up and tell me it’s safe to turn on the TV again, cuz I’ll probably be out running again when Brett Favre makes his latest comeback in the opening game of the season. I’ll be nowhere near a television.

Really, though, a Personal Browns Blackout during the preseason isn’t much of a punishment. It’s kind of like taking the car keys away from your 14-year-old daughter. It might sound good, it might make you feel good, but c’mon, just how effective is it? She can’t drive anyway.

Because really, you don’t need to watch a single minute of the Browns preseason games in order to know that:

* Brady Quinn must absolutely be the Browns starting quarterback. He’s the Matt LaPorta of the Indians. If drafting Quinn three years ago was a mistake, the Browns will be starting over yet again next season. Getting LaPorta for CC Sabathia a year ago was the signature move of the Indians as they head into a new era. Similarly, Quinn is the future for the Browns. Derek Anderson has had plenty of time to prove that he’s as effective as a flyswatter without a handle. Come on, a 54.6 career completion percentage? A career 75.1 passer rating? He’s settled into mediocrity. If Quinn didn’t prove that he’s ready with his 11-for-15, 128-yard, one-touchdown performance in Saturday’s 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans then the jury is rigged.

* Shaun Rogers must be healthy and perform at a Pro Bowl level again for the Browns to have a decent defense. So far he’s stood on the sideline and watched. You don’t need to watch a game to know his 6-foot-4, 350-pound body needs to be in there for the Browns to even pretend they’ll have a decent pass rush. Defensive ends Corey Williams and Kenyon Coleman combined for 103 tackles and one whole sack last year. Rogers contributed 76 tackles and 4½ sacks himself. Rogers’ backup is second-year man Ahtyba Rubin, who is as likely to be driving a cab as making a sack in the NFL at this time next year.

* Braylon Edwards can’t lead the league in drops again. Someone said he caught a touchdown pass from Brady Quinn tonight. Quinn to Edwards. If the Browns are to do anything other than drive even more people from their seats this year, Quinn to Edwards must become as musical a phrase as Kosar to Slaughter or even Montana to Rice. OK, maybe not quite that musical. But it needs to be the theme song of the Browns. Another 55-catch season won’t get it done.

* Head coach Eric Mangini has to go Patti LaBelle on this team and instill a new attitude. Last year the players got a bit too cozy at Camp Crenell. This year reports are that some players are liking their new taskmaster coach too much. This following the banishment of Kellen Winslow and Shaun Smith. Mangini’s in control and while his worries aren’t few, a new attitude can only move this team forward.

* Someone needs to emerge as a legitimate second receiver threat, and it can’t be Joshua Cribbs. The Browns need his spark on the kick return teams. Of 2008’s top return men, only Darren Sproles, Leon Washington, Andre Davis, and Ahmad Bradshaw played any type of notable role on offense. And for all of them it was as a complementary player. Perhaps Washington could be used as a model for Cribbs’ usage. Last year he was the Jets’ second-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver based on number of catches. You know who coached the Jets last year, right? In other words, one of the Browns rookie receivers or perhaps Steve Heiden or even veteran receiver Mike Furrey must make himself into a legitimate threat this season. Cribbs caught two passes and got a touch in the running game. Four others caught more passes, and that sound just about right.

* No pass rush means no chance. The Browns have only two sacks in their three preseason games. After finishing next-to-last in sacks last season, the Browns must find a way to change this. At least Kamerion Wimbley landed Saturday night’s sack. But guess how many sacks two in three games comes out to over a 16-game season? Just 10½, which is only a half-sack more than the Browns had a year ago. If this doesn’t improve, neither do the Browns.

* Phil Dawson is good. Really, does anyone pay attention to kickers in the preseason? Except in the case of injury, they might as well just show up the weekend the regular season starts. Seriously, the Bengals pretty much plan to let Shayne Graham rest his strained groin all preseason. The Saints are going with 45-year-old John Carney. Dawson was 3-for-3 on field goals Saturday night and is 5-for-6 overall. Hey, Phil, let’s go out for a run during the game next week!

So there you have it, all the reasons why everyone should install a Personal Browns Blackout during the preseason. What are you really missing out on? Next week you’ll see Brett Ratliff throw more passes than he will for the rest of his Browns career. (At least we hope so, because his next regular-season pass in the NFL will be his first.) Next Thursday night at 8 p.m., make plans to do something other than watch the Browns. Go out for a run, read a book, watch a movie, heck, take a nap. When you wake up, it will be the regular season and whatever the Browns have to do to win, well, you’ll already have known it.


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