From Arrowhead Stadium
Jim Brown was in the house Sunday afternoon. One of the greatest players in the history of football watched his Cleveland Browns beat the Chiefs.
Brown was a superstar coming out of Syracuse in 1957. He was a first-round draft choice and he became one of the icons of the game. He works as an adviser these days with the Browns. He was thrilled by the Browns victory.
“I’m for winning football games,” Brown said. “To not play well, then stick in there and then come back and win it β¦ it’s exciting because at this time of year they could be giving up.”
Talents like Brown do not come around that often for football franchises trying to win games and championships. But that doesn’t mean a team can’t have good players and can’t win football games. Contributors don’t come only in the first round or with big signings in unrestricted free agency.
On this Sunday, Brown watched his team win thanks to a player who was not drafted five years ago when he came out of college, and another that was a fifth-round draft choice four years ago, who in his first three seasons with the Browns had a total of 77 carries for 448 yards.
The undrafted Joshua Cribbs and the fifth-rounder Jerome Harrison were the difference between the Browns and Chiefs on this Sunday afternoon. Everybody in the league knows about Cribbs, but Harrison was largely a Mr. Nobody; a backup guy for Jamal Lewis who is done for the season because of a head injury.
Both Cribbs and Harrison ran their way into the NFL record books against the Chiefs. Cribbs had two kickoff returns for touchdowns that give him eight for his career, more than any player in league history. Harrison ran for 286 yards, the third best rushing day in NFL history and a team record for the Browns, a mark previously held by the greatest Brown of all.
The Cleveland Browns are not a very good football team. They now have a record that matches that of the Chiefs at 3-10. The franchise has been struggling for the last seven years under three different head coaches: Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini. Reportedly, Mike Holmgren is about to become the czar of all football with the Browns, where he may be President-GM-head coach, or just President-GM, or maybe just head coach, with his own hand-picked GM in place.
No, the guys from the Dawg Pound are not among the NFL’s best. But they were doing something right along the way when they found Cribbs and Harrison. Surround some talents like that with guys who can help them get their job done every Sunday, and there’s a chance to win some games.
The Browns needed Cribbs and Harrison because their defense is below average and their quarterback situation is one of the league’s worst. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn have not been candidates for a trip to the Pro Bowl. Coming into the game, Cleveland had a team passer rating of 56.3.
Quinn was not going to be able to win this game for the Browns. More than likely, he was going to be a factor in losing, and he certainly showed that with a pair of interceptions and some poorly thrown balls. That’s when the Cleveland coaching staff allowed him to throw; Quinn fired it just 17 times, completing 10 for 66 yards. His passer rating was 27.7.
With many problems and another change at the top looming over the franchise, the Browns went on the road and found a way to win. It had been 21 years since they came to Kansas City and left with a victory. As Mangini said after the game, the last time it happened he was just three years old.
They were able to get it done with guys that are hardly household names. They don’t have any T.O.’s in Cleveland. They won with the best kick returner in the history of the game, who five years ago was a college quarterback at Kent State and wasn’t considered by any of the 32 teams as good enough to use a draft pick on. And they did it with a 5-9, 205-pound back who was the 145th player selected in the ’06 NFL Draft, after a two-year career at Washington State.
Last year, Harrison ran 34 times for 246 yards and a touchdown. That was for the whole season. On Sunday, he ran 34 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a single game.
Give the Browns credit for finding and nurturing a couple of guys like Cribbs and Harrison. It’s something that Scott Pioli/Todd Haley can learn from, although right now there isn’t much the Chiefs duo in charge can’t learn from just about anybody in the league.
Everyone knew this season was going to be a tough one for the Chiefs. But I can’t imagine that many people thought it would be this bad. Losing to the Browns at home, with good performances from Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and Chris Chambers is maybe the biggest stinker of what has been a smelly 2009 season.
The Chiefs need help in every area and from every avenue. They need some glamour draft picks. They need some good free agents and they need what few players they have to get better. They don’t necessarily have to find a Jim Brown-like talent, although that wouldn’t hurt.
They need to make sure they can identify guys like Joshua Cribbs and Jerome Harrison.