New Year’s Eve celebrations were held around the world Monday, but the Browns weren’t in the mood to party. On the other hand, no one in the organization was hanging their head in disgust, either.
Winning 10 games, but missing the postseason on a pair of tiebreakers, predictably brought out plenty of mixed emotions in Berea.
“It doesn’t seem like the season should be over,” Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said. “But it’s over and we’re gonna move forward. I think the guys are leaving here with a pretty good taste in their mouths about what we accomplished.”
And with good reason. When the dust finally cleared late Sunday night, the Browns had finished in a tie for first place with Pittsburgh in the AFC North Division, as well as tied for the final wild-card berth with Tennessee.
Unfortunately, Cleveland wound up on the short end of both playoff scenarios, sending the Steelers and the Titans to the playoffs — and the Browns to their respective homes for the rest of the winter.
“Our hearts are broken, just like the fans’ are today,” admitted punter Dave Zastudil, who grew up in Bay Village. “Cleveland has had a lot of tough breaks through the years, but at the same time, this is a unique situation. Going 4-12 last year and after the Pittsburgh game (a 34-7 opening day disaster), things really turned around for us.
“If you had told me we’d be 10-6 before the season, everyone in the locker room would have been happy. It shows how far we’ve come that we’re disappointed now.”
As Northeast Ohio natives, Zastudil and Joe Jurevicius fully understand how much a playoff berth would have meant to this area.
Not only because it would have marked the first time the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians all made the playoffs in the same year, but because it would have put a cherry on top of a terrific football season.
Jurevicius, though, confidently said this is only the beginning of good things for his favorite boyhood team.
“The big thing is Cleveland fans need to get used to winning,” the Mentor Lake Catholic High graduate said while wearing an Indians cap. “I really believe that things are changing. We finally jelled as a team, and this shows what happens when you do that.
“We did things the right way, and when you do things the right way, you can smile about it, regardless of how everything turns out.”
With 2007 now in the books, the Browns do have several difficult decisions to make.
Tops on the list is offering a long-term contract to quarterback Derek Anderson or promoting rookie Brady Quinn to the starting job. They also must determine how much running back Jamal Lewis is worth to them — financially and otherwise — before he hits the open market. And there is the matter of deciding which defensive linemen and linebackers to go forward with.
Those issues, however, are a far cry from having to fill Grand Canyon-sized holes on the roster, as Cleveland had to do in most recent offseasons.
“Having too many good players is not a problem,” Crennel said, laughing. “We’ve had not enough good players around here for a while, and we saw how that worked out. I’d rather have too many good players than not enough. That’s a good situation to be in.
“We’re excited for the Cleveland Browns, and hopefully the fans are excited for the Cleveland Browns in the new year.”
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059 or BRISports@hotmail.com.