Friday, November 12, 2010
Lingering Items--Transformative Edition
Anyone who wonders why New York Jets receiver Braylon Edwards doesn't just shut up is asking the wrong question. The better question is will he ever shut up and the answer is no.
Edwards, you see, is an attention whore. He craves the spotlight like a Kardashian and has roughly the same level of societal value and accomplishment. He won't shut up because he can't. Everything about Edwards screams "look at me!"
Nothing Edwards said this week about Cleveland, the Browns or the fans should be much of a surprise. He is a wannabe trying to further the brand of the petulant loudmouth receiver that Terell Owens pioneered years ago. Edwards like so many of his colleagues these days thinks that the road to riches is paved with attention.
He's right and he's wrong.
If you're a Hollywood bimbo you can cultivate an increasingly needy entertainment media and get noticed. Eventually it will lead to a reality show where a few people will tune in a few times for the same reason people stop and look at car wrecks. The cable company will be happy because they need just a handful of viewers to survive anyhow.
But every such star burns out eventually and in order to keep it going as long as possible they have to find new ways to be even more outrageous. That’s the trajectory Edwards is on at the moment.
But if you're a professional athlete and not a real housewife of some glamorous city eventually you'll need some real accomplishments or quickly you'll be forgotten among the many others that actually have done something with their lives.
That's where Edwards is right now in his career. His one good season has mostly been forgotten because he hasn't come close to duplicating it since. Indeed, he's far more known for his drops than his catches which is the exact opposite of what a receiver should be known for.
So he's resorted to living large, running his mouth and otherwise being outrageous in order to remain relevant, angling for column inches in New York tabloids. Even Edwards' DUI earlier this season seems calculated in context.
That's why his statements this week in preparation for this week's game against the Browns is so laughable. Maybe he means half of what he said. Maybe he means all of it. But the larger point was to simply call attention to himself; make this game about him and no one else.
Indeed it's probably driving Edwards batty that too much focus is on the Rex Ryan/Rob Ryan dynamic. So he figures that if he can throw a few bricks through a few windows of a few Browns fans, he'll get the headlines he craves.
The best thing to do in this case is to avoid feeding the beast. The worst thing that could happen to Edwards is not a dropped pass or two, which would be typical. It would be walking back to the team bus knowing that the fans in Cleveland could care less about what he does or what he says.
I'm sure a good many fans have already taken the Edwards bait, painted some semi-humorous signs and plan on booing him every time he steps on the field. All that will accomplish is to create a headline for him that doesn't depend on the outcome of the game. It will be mission accomplished.
If you really want to get under Edwards’ skin, then there is no better way then to just yawn and move on. Remember, the opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference.
New York Jets head coach/class clown Rex Ryan opined this week that his twin brother Rob will be a head coach soon, perhaps even next year. It wasn't just a case of brotherly love talking.
Rob Ryan will indeed be a head coach. Unless the Browns' defense falls into the lake during the second half of the season, his work here in Cleveland is approaching Anne Sullivan territory.
With 8 games under their belts there are some conclusions we can draw about the defense. The linebackers are a solid group, the best group in a generation in fact. The defensive line is average. The secondary is average at best.
But the unit is playing better than the sum of its parts and that leads back to Ryan. His combination of brashness, recklessness and hubris has caused this group to play better than they are. That’s always the best measure of a coach.
There's also a bit of mad scientist about Ryan. He takes unadvisable risks repeatedly, which is what makes him dangerous to opposing teams. Yes he is crazy enough to leave Eric Wright on an island again. He tinkers with formations as if he's choreographing an off Broadway show of experimental dance. With Ryan there is no conventional wisdom.
In the process, he’s confused some of the best quarterbacks in the league. That kind of stuff gets a person noticed, in a good way.
But the reason he'll be viewed as more than a crazy uncle has everything to do with his brother. As Rex noted in his press conference, his success will pave the way for Rob. They are both a little off center and that tends to clash with the conservative sensibilities of most owners. But watching it work for Rex in New York will go a long way to convincing some other button-downed owner to take a chance on Rob.
As it looks now, Eric Mangini's job is safe in Cleveland, which means there won’t be room for Rob to move up any further.. And as big of a task as Mangini has in front of him just trying to turn the franchise, one of the keys to his success will be finding an appropriate successor to Ryan. That planning needs to start now.
Tony Grossi of the Plain Dealer is theorizing that a victory over the Jets this weekend could very well be the transformative victory that Mangini needs to essentially cross an important threshold. It begs the question: what, then, was the victory against New England?
Grossi's hypothesis is mostly premised on Mangini's relationship with the Jets both as a former employer and as a person who essentially handed them Edwards and quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The problem with the hypothesis is that those matters are not really baggage that Mangini is carrying, at least when compared to the complex relationship he has with his former mentor, Bill Belichick.
That's why Grossi's analysis is about a week late. Mangini’s transformative victory was over the New England Patriots. Watershed events can’t be easily predicted, they just happen. The way the New England game unfolded a number of things became much clearer. First, the Browns are a much better coached team then most of us were willing to admit. Maybe it was a trap game for the Patriots, but the Browns beat the Patriots not because they were taken lightly but because they were better prepared.
Second, the Browns looked like they may have found a quarterback. Colt McCoy, whose performance thus far has been minimized in some quarters, put together defining drives late in the game that build the kind of confidence that simply can't be manufactured. Third, despite an overall lack of talent, the Browns present a unified front, a kind of us against the world mentality. The players for the most part are on the same page and that kind of cohesion can carry a team to far greater heights then a better talented team that is running in different directions. All you need to do is compare the Browns to the more talented Cincinnati Bengals to see the difference.
All of those elements seemed to coalesce against the Patriots. That doesn't mean the Browns are going to win the rest of their games this season. They could very well lay an egg against the Jets on Sunday. But when the story of this season and the next are written, it won't be the Jets game that people look to as the turning point. It will be the Patriots game.
Watching Wes Welker and then Ndamukong Suh kick extra points last week because the starting kickers were hurt on this team leads to this week's question to ponder: If Phil Dawson got hurt during a game, how likely is it that Josh Cribbs would be called on to kick?