Hue Who?

November 27, 2018

Gregg Williams may not be the best long-term options as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, but in the short-term, he's perfect. 


He has the team playing with swagger, with speed, and the scant time he's been in charge have been the most fun games the Browns have played in a decade, since Derek Anderson was taking bellyflops through the snow. 



More important than Williams is the attitude he has imparted to the young Browns. Not only did they promise an ass-beating, they went and delivered one, beating the Bengals 35-20 in a game that wasn't that close. In fact, the first half of the game seemed like a video game where they'd set the difficulty at Beginner and then handed the other controller to a dog. 


I will freely admit, I entered the season with the low, low expectations that came from watching this franchise flounder, struggle, and self-destruct since re-entering the league in 1999. From confusing draft picks to confounding coaching and front office hires, the Browns have been more dysfunctional than a Michael Scott-led sales team. The only entertainment value came from watching Bob Wylie's stomach jiggle on Hard Knocks. 


This is where we were as Browns fans: Watching an old man's belly was more fun than the team. 


Suddenly, we're on top of the world again. Not on top of the standings, but this team is fun. They dismantled the Falcons two weeks ago. A team two years removed from a Super Bowl, and they were clearly the inferior squad in every phase of the game. Cleveland's rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield, comes across as everybody's favorite cousin, the one who's cool and cool about it, the one you want to hang with at the family reunion. Their rookie running back, Nick Chubb, has the look of Browns runners of old, like a modern-day Kevin Mack, only with more speed. 


The team rolled out a wishbone package. They attempted the Philly Special against the Falcons, their one play-calling misfire, and even then, the players laughed off the flub. In seasons past, or even in weeks past, that would have started a downward spiral until the team served as yet another punchline. 


Instead, they responded, and they won the game. They took a week off, and became, in Williams' words, "Road Dawgs." 


Even the punter seems to be having fun, jumping around after kicks and pointing to the sky. It's ridiculous - and contagious. 


As someone who spent his formative years standing in the Dawg Pound, watching Bernie and the Boys march up and down the concrete-hard cow pasture the Browns called a field, I dared to dream. I had hope. That hope was usually crushed by a horse-toothed guy wearing his lookalike on his helmet come January, but from September through December, I always had hope. 


I'm older now, jaded and cynical. I've mostly stopped watching the No Fun League, because of how the game has changed, because of how my team has changed. 


Then they changed again. They finally rid themselves of Hue Jackson as head coach, which is a giant leap for Browns-kind. He seemed, from press conferences and Hard Knocks, to believe the job of a head coach was to defer any tactical questions by saying he'd watch tape while reminding everyone that he was the head coach. 


"I'm driving this bus," he said on Hard Knocks. "Straight off a pier," his assistants responded. At least with their expressions. 



Again, Gregg F'in Williams may not be the long term solution. His tenure as head coach in Buffalo, a city with similar makeup to Cleveland in terms of fans and weather, was unsuccessful. He was suspended for posting bounties on players. He's imperfect - but so is this team. They have good players on defense, but still give up a lot of yards. Like, were it not for the historically bad Bengals, they'd give up more yards than anyone in the NFL. They have played better on offense, but are still getting modest returns on the free agent investment in Jarvis Landry. Too many penalties are killing the Browns, like they do all bad teams, although in fairness those have gone down the past two games. 


For now, though, Williams and his team have done something I didn't think was possible - they have me watching games again. I'm even looking forward to them. 


Had you told me in September I'd be enjoying Browns football in December, I would have stared at you with the dead eyes that watched Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel float footballs lovingly into the arms of waiting DB's, and snorted in derision. 


But I'm looking forward to the upcoming game against the division-leading Texans, not only believing the game will be close, but that the Browns have a chance. 


Hue who?

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