10 Orbservations is a regular Saturday piece at Everybody Hates Cleveland where EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek offers 10 quick sports takes, both on Cleveland topics and national ones.
1. The Cleveland Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow. Doesn’t it seem like this just happened? If it does, it’s because — well — it did. As we all know, in week one of the NFL season, the Steelers narrowly defeated the Browns 30-27 in a game that saw the Browns rally for 24-straight second-half points to knot the game at 27. I hate the term “must-win,” yet I’m pretty big hypocrite because I can’t seem to stop using it. When I look at tomorrow’s game, I see the definition of a must-win. Over the past few seasons, we’ve noticed that the Browns have slowly closed the gap in regard to competition with the Steelers. That seems to suggest that the Browns are slowly getting better while the Steelers are slowly getting worse. Nonetheless, the Browns should and need to win this game. If they do, I really think we could see this team make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. That’s an outlandish statement for a team that is just 2-2, but I think it’s accurate as well. The importance of tomorrow’s contest cannot be denied.
2. In case you missed it, my latest edition of “Orbiting Cleveland,” touched on the Browns’ 29-28 win over the Tennessee Titans last week. As you know, it was the biggest road comeback in the history of the NFL and the biggest comeback in the history of the Browns franchise. I’ve seen hundreds of Browns games in my life, but none have ever resonated with me like this. If it feels different, it’s because it is different, and no game is more indicative of that than last Sunday’s. The Browns had no business ever winning that game, but they did. That would never have been the case in previous seasons. How calm did Brian Hoyer look in the pocket during that contest? He simply does not get rattled, and he was able to deliver spot-on passes with relative ease. My opinion on Hoyer fluctuates regularly, but one thing cannot be denied: very few quarterbacks in the NFL would have been capable of completing that comeback. That’s a fact. After all, a road team had NEVER completed a comeback of that magnitude until last Sunday.
3. Speaking of Hoyer, here’s a stat that is worth throwing out. Since last season, Hoyer has the second-best passer rating in the red zone among NFL quarterbacks. As you might expect, he trails only Peyton Manning in that category. This season, Hoyer’s red zone passer rating is 119.6, trailing only Manning, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson. I don’t need to continue listing names, but consider all of the elite quarterbacks that he is above of on that list. Granted, this is only a sample size of four games, but this statistic is further proof of the strong pocket presence that Hoyer possesses.
4. One more final note on tomorrow’s contest against the Steelers. My prediction: 35-24, Browns. That’s a reach, and I realize that, especially since Las Vegas only has the Browns as one-point favorites at the moment. However, I cannot understate the importance of this contest. The Browns know they already left two games on the field this season, against both the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. What makes that worse is the fact that both of those games were divisional contests, so now the Browns are in an 0-2 hole in the AFC North. That only makes tomorrow’s game all the more important. It would be nearly impossible to expect the Browns to somehow recover from an 0-2 deficit in the division. Yes, it could be done, but it would be a challenge. Furthermore, this city, its fans and this team are hungry. They realize that the tide is turning and can tell this team is not like the Browns of past years. Now is the time to go out and prove that by delivering the knockout punch to the Steelers. Who’s excited for tomorrow?
5. If you have not done so yet, I highly suggest picking up the October 13 edition of ESPN The Magazine. The issue features the subtitle of “The Cleveland Issue,” and it includes many great stories on Cleveland and its professional sports teams. One of the most interesting features included in the issue is the Bittersweet Sixteen, which is a tournament bracket of the most heartbreaking memories in Cleveland sports history. ESPN placed the poll on its website a few weeks ago and asked visitors to vote. The sixteen choices were as follows: The Move (1995), The Quit (2010 NBA Conference Semifinals), Chief Wahoo (1947-present), The Shot (1989), Game 7 (1997 World Series), Stepien’s Rules (1980-83), The Shot II (1993), The Drive (1987 AFC Championship Game), The Decision (2010), Jim Brown Retires Prematurely (1966), 10-Cent Beer Night (1974), Red Right 88 (1981), The Catch (1954 World Series), Paul Brown Fired (1963), Indians Blow 3-1 Lead to Boston (2007 ALCS) and The Fumble (1988). As you might expect, the final four consisted of The Move, The Drive, The Decision and The Fumble. What surprised me most was the winner: The Decision.
6. Don’t get me wrong, I will never forget where I was, who I was with and how I felt on July 8, 2010, when LeBron James announced on national television that he was taking his talents to South Beach. I was working as a sports journalist at the time, and I remember walking into work the next day, and my sports editor saying, “That was a Watergate moment in the history of sports journalism.” I thought that statement was quite apropos from my editor, who’s a longtime pro and has worked in many major U.S. markets. However, I still find it hard to believe that one man leaving a city can hurt as much an entire team leaving. Granted, we all know it was because of how James chose to leave, but I still found this interesting. It’s further proof of how NBA stars often become bigger than the very teams that they play on. So, I ask you, what is more popular right now in Cleveland? The Cleveland Browns, the team? Or LeBron James, the individual? Also, let’s remember that a handful of non-Cleveland fans likely participated in this survey. So, did they get it right? What was the most painful Cleveland sports memory for you? Please consider posting in the comments, and perhaps we could get a decent dialogue going on this topic.
7. Today the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat will face off in a highly-anticipated preseason matchup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Much of the talk this week has centered around James’ decision to return to the Cavaliers, and how there may or may not be some hard feelings with his former Miami teammates. In the case of Chris Bosh, that certainly seems to be the case. This past week, Bosh said he had not talked to James since he made his decision, only to later retract that statement and say they spoke at Dwayne Wade’s wedding in August. Bosh later then touched on how Kevin Love will struggle to adjust to playing with James and said, “It’s going to be very difficult for him. You still have to go through things, you still have to figure out things on your own. It’s extremely difficult and extremely frustrating. He’s going to have to deal with that.” Since making these comments, Bosh has gotten a lot of criticism from Cleveland fans on Twitter. I think that’s unfair, and I actually understand Bosh’s position. Breaking up is not an easy thing to do. As I mentioned earlier, think back to how you felt in July of 2010. Bosh’s feelings are no different. They’re very human and very normal. I’m as happy as anyone to have King James back, but I also can see where Bosh is coming from. The one constant with James is that he will do whatever possible to put himself in the best position to win. He proved that in 2010, and he proved that again this summer. He also does not seem to care whose feelings are hurt in the process. In the past, that was us — Cleveland fans. Now it seems as if Bosh occupies our previous position. While I understand what he’s feeling, I stop short of feeling any sympathy, as he certainly didn’t have any sympathy for us four years ago.
8. It irks me to see the Kansas City Royals in this position. I understand that winning is somewhat foreign to them, and I should be happy for their success, but I can’t stop thinking, “This could have been the Indians.” What do the Royals have that the Indians don’t? Better defense, obviously, but I would take the Tribe’s starting rotation and offense over Kansas City’s on any day. I just can’t seem to fathom that the Royals are this good of a team. I certainly know that Ned Yost is not this good of a manager. But here we are, on Saturday, October 11, and the Royals have a 1-0 lead in the ALCS. Writing that makes me cringe. Clearly, you can tell my allegiance this October will be the Cardinals, Giants and Orioles.
9. I’m really disappointed in TNA Wrestling. That’s often a hard thing for me to admit. Every year, since 2010, I have ordered Bound for Glory, the company’s largest pay-per-view of the year. Tomorrow, I will not be making that purchase. For those unaware, tomorrow’s show is taking place in Tokyo, Japan. A number of circumstances have led to this being less conventional than a typical BFG. For starters, TNA has programming already taped for more than a month ahead of tomorrow’s show. This was done to keep costs down as the company searches for a new television partner. Secondly, the show lacks many of TNA’s biggest stars as there have been several title changes on the previously-taped programming, and the Japanese audience is opposed to seeing these title changes not recognized. Finally, tomorrow’s show will air on 12-hour tape delay. Now, to be fair, I can get past all of those issues, and I would still be willing to shell out $50 for the show. However, I cannot get past the fact that there was simply no buildup for any of these matches. None. Zilch. Notta. There has been no incentive for me to order this show, and that pains me because I really, really want to have that incentive. I’m not hard to please either. I am about as loyal of a TNA Wrestling supporter as you’ll find, but I just cannot bring myself to spend $50 on a card filled with matches that lack any semblance of relevance. Perhaps if this show were $15 it would be different, but it’s not, so that’s a moot point.
10. Time for my regular pitch of the week. As always, please consider giving us a follow at @EvrybdyHatesCLE. We’re a growing Cleveland sports site, and I really think you’ll like what you see if you give us a chance. Also, give a follow to fellow Managing Editor Jim Pete at @JimPeteEHC. Jim is a dynamic voice in the Cleveland sports world, and I am sure you will not be disappointed. Also, give a follow to fellow founders Mike Hattery (@HatmanEHC) and John Grimm (@JHGrimm). Both are well versed in regard to sports analytics and offer many insightful tweets. Finally, consider following our regular Browns writer Rich Primo (@rjprimo), our pop culture aficionado Kevin Fiorenzo (@Kevfio716) and our latest additions Jonathan Mead (@Jon_Mead1) and Matt Kasznel (@mkasznel). I assure you that your time will not be wasted.