November 24, 2014

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Brian Dulik: Time seems wrong for major Browns changes

Browns kicker Phil Dawson bears no resemblance whatsoever to Nostradamus. He might, however, share his knack for predicting the future.

“I caught some heat a couple of months ago for saying I feel like we’re right on the edge (of being successful),” Dawson said, chuckling. “My timing might have been a little off, but I think we’re starting to see what I’ve been feeling for a while. I can get used to this.”

So could every football fan in Cleveland, many of whom spent Sunday afternoon celebrating as the Browns rolled to a 30-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

More photos below.

Not only did Cleveland extend its winning streak to a season-high three games, it posted its largest margin of victory in nine years — and spoiled the homecomings of ex-Browns coach Romeo Crennel, running back Peyton Hillis and quarterback Brady Quinn.

“Look, they did a great job,” Quinn said of his former team. “We have to take our hats off to them because they executed a good game.”

Crennel also had nothing but praise for the Browns, who outscored the Chiefs 30-0 over the final 59:47.

When a Kansas City reporter asked “RAC” what the turning point of the game was, he deadpanned, “Well, in my mind, the second half was a turning point because we couldn’t produce on either side of the ball. That was the difference.”

Yes, Cleveland’s domination was that complete and impressive, which had to make an impression on new owner Jimmy Haslam III and CEO Joe Banner.

So should the way Cleveland has played since Randy Lerner officially sold the team Oct. 25. The Browns are 4-2 with Haslam and Banner in charge, which should give them some pause about making major changes with the franchise.

“I knew two years ago when I got here that there were going to be some tough days,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur admitted. “Fortunately, in the last few weeks, we’ve found a way to have some good stuff happen.

“The resiliency of our team showed up again today.”

Unfortunately, so did more reports that Banner intends to replace general manager Tom Heckert with Mike Lombardi following the season, which would also mean the end for Shurmur.

While one can debate Shurmur’s coaching and Heckert’s personnel skills, there is no question that hiring Lombardi would be a colossal mistake. His track record as an NFL executive is, at best, lousy, while his enormous ego and unwillingness to work with others are even bigger detriments.

While no Browns players would comment about Lombardi’s possible arrival, they unanimously said the status quo is working and pointed to Cleveland’s 4-1 record in its last five home games.

“There is a lot of emotion and excitement with our team, but you really can’t put it into words,” running back Trent Richardson said. “It’s kind of like what happened today, though. When you’ve got a good game plan and you call good plays, you can’t do nothing but win.

“We’ve got a young team, and all of us are out there participating and doing the right things. And the older guys, they are leading us the right way.”

Shurmur also deserves credit for never losing the locker room during the Browns’ season-opening five-game losing streak. Even when Cleveland headed into its bye at 2-7, defensive end Jabaal Sheard stood behind his coach, saying, “We might come back and win it all.”

Though the playoffs remain a long shot for the Browns at 5-8, no one is laughing at Sheard or Dawson anymore. There are plenty of smiles, though, as things are finally moving in the right direction in Browns Town.

“Everyone, including our families back home, worry when we don’t win, but that’s not the case anymore,” Sheard said. “Guys just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing lately because our coaches have been with us the whole way. The crowd has, too.

“We’re going to keep taking it one game at a time, but we know we’re changing things around and it’s great.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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