To put Sunday’s events in proper prospective, consider the novel suggestion that the NFL ought to embrace the concept of promotion and demotion featured in many of Europe’s soccer leagues, whereby the worst team gets demoted to a minor league, and the best team in the minors gets promoted. In the NFL, the worst team, the Cleveland Browns, would long since be relegated to the minors, until some other team overcomes the worst team in abject futility.
Or, consider this very simple rule: if you lose to the Cleveland Browns, you get kicked out of the league.
That very calamity is what almost happened Sunday in the Mistake by the Lake to the Green Bay Packers, both literally in one sense and figuratively in another. Repeat these words slowly, enunciating each and every syllable, out loud: The Green Bay Packers almost lost to the Cleveland Browns, a team that will go 0-16 and has now won one game in their last 31 games.
Yes, coach Mike McCarthy and company came back from a 14-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Brett Hundley as quarterback. Yes, there was that — in hindsight — most savvy one-two decision not to challenge a “completed” catch then challenge the next far easier play to overturn, to force the punt. Yes, the Packers have a resurgent running game headed by Jamaal Williams to replace the wasted potential of Eddie Lacy.
But an equally necessary condition for the Packers to escape this embarrassment and disaster was the Cleveland Browns had to be the Browns to make this overtime victory possible. Aside from the dubious special teams and defensive play that allowed the Packers to score in the last 17 seconds, that floating, arm-punt of an interception by DeShone Kizer epitomized how, when you absolutely, positively have to lose a game that was won, only the Cleveland Browns have that uncanny ability to be the Browns, through and through. Accept no substitute. This remarkable, resilient dedication to lose no matter what was the secret spice that allowed the Packers to escape this abject humiliation by the very narrowest of margins. It is no less essential than the flux capacitor is to make time travel possible in Back to the Future.
Ideally, this would allow us the good fortune to have our cake and eat it, too: avoiding getting kicked out of the league (either metaphorically or jokingly) by losing to a winless Browns team, while still in effect facing such dire circumstances that oblige those making decisions to evaluate everything in this team from players to coaches to scouting to general management, top down, no exceptions.
Some of these considerations that need to be made are admittedly a little opaque. Does Dom Capers’ perennially sieve-like, Dr. Jekyl-Mr. Hyde defense make DeShone Kizer look so good (at one point he had a QB rating north of 150) because Capers has long since lost his way, or is it because Ted Thompson has lost his touch or is it a bit of both? Is it all Ted Thompson or is it unknown figures in the scouting department that are leading to a slew of bust defensive picks? Player evaluation, scouting and coaching all probably have something to do with it as well, as all of these factors explain why Casey Hayward underperformed in Green Bay before being let go to become one of the best defensive players in the league. Then again, too many starters are either injured or on injured reserve, providing another right answer before the very best, and thus correct answer: D: All of the Above.
This near calamity should oblige decision makers to consider all of this and finally make some drastic decisions to run a tighter ship around 1265 Lombardi Avenue, and get it back to the precipice of winning multiple Lombardi Trophies before Aaron Rodgers’ time has lapsed into the sunset; to get the Packers back to where we need to be. We Packers fans have been quite fortunate to have two once-in-a-lifetime, hall-of-fame quarterbacks back to back. Absent folks in charge hearing this latest wake-up call, it looks more and more likely we will be so unfortunate to let this good fortune yield only two Super Bowl championships: a most insufferable crime and travesty, indeed. Almost no team is going to be anywhere near as good without Rodgers at quarterback as they are with him, but this near disaster proved the Packers are not much better than the Cleveland Browns without him. And that is why serious and long-overdue changes need to be made day one of the coming offseason.
One last consideration, since I authored these most illustrious and insightful uniform power rankings, the Browns have gone to having one of the better uniforms in the league to the very worst: uniforms even uglier than their remarkable determination to lose no matter what the costs or circumstances. It just comes to show nothing should be immune from change, revision, or examination. Especially not Packers management, coaching, medical staff and players.