Week 14 Top 5 Observations: Browns 13, Steelers 6

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Browns’ upset win over the Steelers in Week 14.

1. The Steelers are done.
The defending champs are done, folks. A five-game losing streak, capped off by their ugliest loss of the season, has ensured that Pittsburgh won’t be playing in the postseason come January. One would have thought that the Steelers would be able to get up for a game against the one-win Browns when their backs were against the wall, but then again “one” would be wrong.

2. The Browns didn’t just win – they dominated.
For those that missed the broadcast because it was on the NFL Network, let me assure you that the Steelers didn’t beat themselves: They got their asses handed to them. It’s strange to say, but the better team won tonight. Cleveland came out more focused, more determined and flat out took a victory from the Steelers. The Browns’ defensive effort tonight was absolutely outstanding, as they suffocated Pittsburgh’s running game and sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times. For as much heat as Eric Mangini has taken this season (and deservedly so), the Browns have played hard the past couple weeks and they deserved a win tonight.

3. Cleveland’s young secondary was excellent.
Something that will be lost in the stat sheet was how well the Browns’ secondary played. Cleveland’s defense might have racked up eight sacks, but most of those were because of the outstanding coverage. Big Ben simply didn’t have open receivers to throw to, which resulted in him double and triple clutching to avoid throwing into coverage. Pittsburgh’s offensive line didn’t play as badly as the sacks would indicate, or at least not from a pass protection standpoint. The Browns’ pass defense was just that good.

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Browns to cut Shaun Rogers?

I’m going to preface this post by apologizing for not having a link, but Terry Foster from WXYT Sports Radio in Detroit just reported on his talk show that the Browns could release defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and if they did, he wants to play for the Lions again.

This is a massive rumor and I suggest everyone takes it with a huge grain of salt, but considering Rogers and new Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini didn’t get off on the right foot when they first met, it’s not far-fetched that the Browns would part ways with the defensive tackle. Plus, by dealing Kellen Winslow to the Buccaneers earlier this offseason and nearly trading wideout Braylon Edwards before the draft, it’s clear that Mangini wants his own players and isn’t afraid to part with anyone from the old regime.

But the reality of the situation is that the Browns would take a cap hit of around $9 million in they released Rogers and he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season. The Browns also didn’t address the defensive line position in last week’s draft (second round pick David Veikune played defensive end at Hawaii, but Cleveland views him as an outside linebacker) and they don’t have a viable replacement for Rogers if they did part ways with him. Plus, Rogers reported to the Browns’ offseason workouts in late March, so any ill-will towards Mangini apparently has been settled.

It also doesn’t make much sense that the Lions would want him back after trading him last offeason. While it’s true Matt Millen is the one who dealt him to Cleveland, current GM Martin Mayhew worked under Millen last year and no doubt had a hand in trading Rogers. So outside of adding a talented player to their defensive line, why would the Lions want him back? It’s not like he endeared himself to many people in Detroit with his lazy work ethic and ho-hum demeanor.

I would file this away in the rumor file for now, but I thought it was an interesting rumor so I figured I would post something on it.

Offseason Blueprint: Detroit Lions

Notable Free Agents: Dan Orlovsky, QB, Rudi Johnson, RB; Jason Hanson, K; Shaun Cody, DT; Paris Lenon, LB.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $26,000,000

Draft Order: 1

Top Needs: A team doesn’t go 0-16 by accident. The Lions have major holes to fill at every position although offensive line, quarterback and secondary are arguably their biggest needs.

Offseason Outlook: Where do I start? This team is such an utter mess that it’s going to take new GM Martin Mayhew at least 2-3 years to rebuild the roster. And that’s assuming most of his moves pan out.

Even though it would be a long, slow process, Mayhew’s best approach would be to blow up the entire roster and start over. The two biggest problems with the Matt Millen era is that it lacked direction and he couldn’t spot talent if it fell from the sky and dropped in his lap. What Mayhew needs to do is build from the inside out and it all starts with the offensive line.

Many will argue that the Lions need a franchise starting quarterback first and foremost, but without an offensive line it won’t matter who they have under center. That’s why drafting Virginia’s Eugene Monroe with the first overall pick might be Detroit’s best move. Monroe is the type of player that could anchor the Lions’ offensive line for years to come and considering the team has a decent amount of cap space, Detroit could get a piece or two in free agency to help rebuild the offensive line as well. (Although the top available linemen – Matt Birk, Mike Goff, Mark Tauscher – are all over the age of 30.)

Even though it would pain most Lion fans to watch either Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton take another snap under center, the fact is that the other options aren’t that great either. The Patriots seem content to hang onto Matt Cassel and even if they weren’t, it would take multiple draft picks (multiple draft picks the Lions need to help rebuild the roster) and mucho dinero to acquire him from New England. And unless Jeff Garcia (already a failed experiment in Detroit), Rex Grossman or Kyle Boller gets your motor running, the unrestricted free agent market isn’t too promising either. In fact, the Lions’ best option at quarterback next year might still be on the roster in Jon Kitna. He was too happy with the way the team placed him on IR with a back injury midway through the season last year, but the coaching regime that made that decision isn’t in Detroit anymore. He could essentially be a solid stopgap at quarterback so the Lions could address the offensive line and defense this offseason.

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Did Jason Whitlock just compare Matt Millen to O.J. Simpson?

Newspaper columnist Jason Whitlock is a bit miffed about NBC’s recent hire of former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen as their lead studio analyst for the NFL playoffs. And he wondered if O.J. Simpson was available from his Las Vegas jail cell.

Seriously, O.J. on “Football Night in America” is the only thing that could top Millen’s inclusion. And NBC is promising to foist Millen on its Super Bowl audience. If this happens, I will confront Millen and NBC executives at the Super Bowl and go Rob Parker-Rod Marinelli on the responsible parties.

Look, the Lions haven’t won a NFL championship in over 50 years, and Millen was in charge for only eight seasons. Though under his leadership, the Lions did own the NFL’s worst winning percentage (31-81, .277) and became the first team in league history not to win a road game in three consecutive seasons (2001-2003). And, of course, there was the whole 0-16 thing. At the core of this failure are some pretty bad drafts that included guys like quarterback Joey Harrington, and wide receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.

Lion fans surely grew tired of Millen’s time as the team’s CEO, but I can’t imagine them longing for the Eric Hipple years.

Matt Millen’s explanation not nearly good enough

If you tuned into the NBC pregame show on Saturday, you would have seen a Matt Millen interview. Yes, the Matt Millen who steered the Detroit Lions to a 31-84 record — 31-97 if you count the losses after his dismissal. Dan Patrick asked him a few questions and he took the blame for the team’s performance. He didn’t go into much detail or offer any specifics, so it was kind of a waste of time. He simply looked like a guy who was trying to rehab his image. He knows that a job as an executive in the NFL is probably out of the question, but he could return as an analyst, which is kind of a joke in itself, considering that a big part of a GM’s job is analyzing players and coaches. Really, why should we listen to anything this guy has to say?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press had a few pointed comments about Millen’s appearance…

But when he broke his public silence Saturday during the network’s “Football Night in America” show, he told NBC’s Dan Patrick that it wasn’t as easy as merely blaming himself.

“There’s a lot more to it than that,” Millen told Patrick. “I could give you excuses. I could give you reasons. To me, that’s just an excuse after the fact. You take the hit and move on.”

Millen blew it again. Detroit deserves a detailed explanation for what went so horribly wrong from those who perpetrated the deed. Simply saying that you’re responsible for the disaster doesn’t make you accountable. That requires serving a penance. If Millen truly seeks atonement, he must delve deeper into those additional “reasons” of which he spoke.

Was there a lack of uniformity between Millen and his front office, Millen and his coaches? Was there an even greater lack of organizational confidence within the locker room than what already has been documented? Did ownership interfere even more than what already has been reported?

I’m really tired of the Lions’ “There’s nothing more to say” defense regarding past failures.

I have an idea — Millen should write a book. Imagine this: an insider’s account of the worst franchise in the NFL. He could go into detail about every bad (and good) decision that he made, along with the conflicts he had with players, coaches and ownership. I, for one, find the whole GM game fascinating and would love to read a tell-all about the Lions. It would be a moneymaker for Millen (not that he really needs the dough) and would be cathartic for Lions fans everywhere.

But to promote a book, he’d eventually have to appear in front of (real) members of the media. Patrick probably had his hands tied (and for that, NBC is to blame), but Sharp is right — Millen went into zero detail about what went wrong.

One of Sharp’s lines really stands out…

Simply saying that you’re responsible for the disaster doesn’t make you accountable.

Truer words have never been spoken. The fans in Detroit deserve an explanation — a real one.

Here’s the interview…

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