There are bizarre losses and there are bizarre losses. Sunday’s loss to the Patriots will go down as one of the most amazingly crazy losses I can ever think of. Plain and simple, it was a screw-job. Let’s just call it what it is. But what was amazing about the whole thing is how the Browns were able to really dominate that game for almost three quarters and then only to see it fall apart in such glorious fashion that you might actually be tempted to believe that there was a mass conspiracy behind it all, either spearheaded by Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi in an effort to tank the game or by the NFL to protect their darling Patriots.
The mere fact that the Browns actually found themselves up 19-3 on the road in Foxboro with 1:25 left in the third before the Patriots coaching staff got to the part in the scouting report that reads “Craig Robertson can’t guard running backs in pass coverage to save his life” is truly incredible. Maybe the Patriots were looking past the Browns, but I don’t think so. What I think happened is that after looking past the Jaguars last week, the Browns defense got their butt in gear and realized what a monumental task they had in front of them this week. And they came out ready to rock. It’s tough enough to slow down Tom Brady and Bill Belichick without having to defend the zebras as well, but the Browns did just that for the most part.
It was the perfect confluence of events that led up to the summation of that game. It took a long bomb to a running back to finally get the Pats in position to actually score a TD in the first place. Then, needing two TDs to take the lead they got all the help they needed from the stripes. The targeting penalty on Jordan Poyer was questionable at best. That penalty will get overshadowed by what happened next, but those 15 yards were huge. Even with the Patriots recovering the onside kick, going 40 yards in a minute is a lot easier than going 55. Of course, going 40 yards isn’t too hard when you can just lob the ball out there beyond the reach of your receiver and get what was probably the most bogus pass interference call to decide a game that I’ve ever seen. If anything you could have gotten Leon McFadden for holding or illegal contact before they got to the end zone. But the flag was thrown for was simply nothing. All it was was the Golden Boy getting a gift call when he needed it. Again, it was a screw-job.
But you know what the crazy thing about this might be? I’m not even mad. Maybe confused and a little flummoxed, but not mad. It’s partly the fact that we’ve seen this team lose games in the most glorious of fashions from Dwayne Rudd throwing his helmet, to our long-snapper forgetting to how to long-snap, to this, that when something insane happens it’s almost impossible to be surprised anymore. As that game was winding down I didn’t necessarily expect the Browns to lose, but I’ve got to admit that I did play out some scenarios in my head where it could actually happen. Nothing I could come up with seemed likely—mostly because the chances of recovering an onside kick in that situation are about as likely as getting struck by lightning—but the refs found a way.
The second reason I’m not all that upset is because I had such low expectations coming into this game after the past three weeks that it almost felt like a win that it took an absolute screw-job for us to lose. I wrote going into this game that I really didn’t even care about the outcome. Jason Campbell is a fine quarterback, but you’re not winning a Super Bowl with him. And I’ve reached the point to where if you can’t win a Super Bowl with the QB then I have to time to care about him, short of him filling in as a spot starter for a playoff team that has said championship-level QB already. Campbell isn’t that guy, so I have no time to invest any energy in caring about his play. He doesn’t suck like Weeden…wonderful. But he’s adequately mediocre at best. Any quarterback from high-level high school on up can hit Josh Gordon on a quick slant and let him do all the work. I would have rather seen the experiment of Alex Tanney yesterday than see Jason Campbell play out the string.
Finally, the last reason I’m not upset about screw-jobbed by the refs is that I’ve fallen into the “Suck for Luck” mentality about how to win in football. I hate it, but it’s where I am. I’ve long been the kind of fan that hates losing no matter what and will never root for his team to lose. I still won’t actively root for them to lose, but I’d be lying if I told you the thought “this is going to screw up the draft for us” didn’t cross my mind with the Browns up 19-3. I realize there are other ways to get a franchise QB that don’t involve sucking and drafting one at the top the draft. But the most prevalent and sure-fire way of finding a great QB is by doing just that. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts who have managed to do it twice and hit the jackpot both times. You can try and stack your team then hope that you hit on a middle-round guy like Russell Wilson but your odds of that happening aren’t good. And with most of those guys you need a team that is absolutely amazing around him to be good. Take the Bengals. They have a really good team but are they really winning a Super Bowl with Andy Dalton at QB? Maybe. But it’d be a whole heck of a lot easier if they had, say, Ben Roethlisberger: a guy who lifts up the crap team around him and looks like a Hall of Famer when he’s given talent. I’ll probably write about this after the season leading up to the draft, but the odds are so far in your favor if you’re drafting a QB at the top of the draft of landing something useable than if you try and wait to get someone. I say all that to say again, I’m not exactly crushed that they ended up losing that game, because a loss only puts them in a better spot for the draft. And I’m probably sadder that I just wrote that last sentence than I am that the Browns lost.
Such is the life of a Cleveland sports fan I guess. The guys over at WFNY were pretty smart when they named their website because it truly does feel like we’re “waiting for next year” every year. And it’ll continue to feel that way until they find a franchise, championship-level quarterback. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…the rest of this team is good to go if you can just get that QB right. But as long as you continue to trot out retreads like Campbell or wastes of talent like Weeden then nothing else matters. You have a championship-level defense with an elite receiver, an emerging star at tight end, and a pretty good offensive line. That’s plenty enough if you can just get the quarterback. I’m going to start sounding like a broken record but that’s just the fact. It’ll continue to be tough to get excited about this team until they get a guy behind center that we all believe in. And until that happens, screw-jobs like the one in New England won’t matter and won’t be worth the energy to get upset over.Follow @ClevelandFlack
 Miami Hurricane fans might disagree, but whatever.
 And we’ve tried this already with Colt McCoy and Charlie Frye.