Finding meaning in Browns' season-finale

Posted Dec 26, 2013

On Thursday’s edition of “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” co-hosts Vic Carucci and Nathan Zegura discussed the importance of Sunday’s game and the impact both winning and losing could have for the Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nate Ulrich, from the Akron Beacon Journal, spoke with Vic and Nathan about the seemingly endless debate as to whether the Browns should lose to the Steelers and obtain the higher draft pick, or win and end the season on a high note.
Jamir Howerton, from, went inside the locker room with cornerback Joe Haden, who spoke on the importance of finishing the season with a win. Mike Prisuta, sports director for WDVE-FM in Pittsburgh, gave us a Steelers perspective on the last game of the regular season and their potential playoff run.

Je’rod Cherry rounded out the show by questioning the mental state of the Browns coming off of Christmas and entering the last game of the season.

Here are some highlights:

Nathan Zegura: “One of the things certainly at stake is a little jockeying in the draft order. As of now, the Browns are at the fifth overall pick. If they lose to the Steelers, they will have the fourth, maybe even third overall pick. A win will end the season for the Steelers, but could put them at the eighth or ninth pick. It’s a situation where this offseason is going to be key for the direction of this franchise for the next three-to-five years. It is an intense search and the main focus of this organization, so if you’re a Browns fan, take comfort in knowing that the people in charge are more focused on this than you even know. At this point, I think winning one game could do more bad than good. Obviously, it would be a great win for the confidence of this team, but that may affect who they will be able to pick in the draft.”

Vic Carucci: ““Here’s the thing: come Monday, offseason begins. So, what does this game mean for the Browns? We can mess things up for the Steelers, which I think is a great plan for the Browns. There’s a part of me that dreads saying that this team will end with seven straight losses, but I think I am at the point where the final record is a lot less important than what the future holds. We know the areas that have to be addressed and improved on, and it’s a lot. But I think, when all of these components come together, if all the right pieces fall in to place, then all those defensive problems that we have recently seen will be less of an issue. In more ways than not, the Browns’ offense has shown effectiveness, and that’s a huge credit towards Norv Turner and the rest of the coaching staff. There aren’t a lot of additions that need to be made, but we need to see better play from certain individuals. (Paul) Kruger and (Barkevious) Mingo need to have an outstanding 2014 season. I’m just so hung up on how nice having that third or fourth overall (draft) pick would be.”

Nate Ulrich: “The NFL Draft is obviously something where you will always have a debate and it’s something people are always fired-up and passionate about. The draft is going to have such an impact on this team’s future and whether this regime can be different than other ones before it. Obviously, in the first few rounds with the seven picks, two being in the first round, the importance can’t be understated from the fans and the front office. When you get a higher pick, you are going to be in that group of teams who have a shot at the best quarterback in this year’s draft. I think fans, media, and outsiders want the higher draft pick, but the players and the coaches have a totally different view. They want to end this on a high note, they want to play spoiler against the Steelers and want to get this bad taste out of their mouth. ...The path to victory this weekend is going to be the defense and getting their act together. They haven’t been able to bounce back after giving up those late leads in the fourth quarter, and with not getting much pressure on the quarterback, especially last week, I think the defense is in a little bit of redemption mode. It’s all about them stopping the run and getting after the quarterback. They have to play better than they did last week if they want to pull off this upset.”

Mike Prisuta: “This Steelers’ offense is going to go into the offseason feeling pretty good about how they are playing. They have been able to run the ball in the no-huddle enough to make them dominate and letting Ben (Roethlisberger) call the plays is allowing him to play with more confidence. When he calls the plays he knows what he wants to do and he knows how to get it done. (Mike) Tomlin is just as responsible for the 0-4 start as everyone else is. That is what buried them, but I think he was able to keep his team focused on playing from week to week. It’s more about the process for this team. They are pretty big on that here; judging the entire season, not just potions of it. He has kept these guys focused on preparing and getting ready to play. The bottom line is their process and operations still work. I don’t think you are going to see major changes in the offseason like people were speculating in October.”

Je'Rod Cherry: “(Ray) Horton doesn’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but I struggle with the fact that he doesn’t think that the defense doesn’t have all the pieces. We put so much (investment) on the defensive side of the ball. And, yes, they have had their good and bad moments, but when I look at this team as a collective whole, especially the defense, I see that it’s a mental struggle, not a physical struggle. Does that mental struggle play a huge part on the physical aspect? Yes, but I don’t think this team is far away from having a solid overall team. Ultimately, if you don’t have the mindset that you are going to pay the price and sacrifice your body to win a football game on a consistent basis, then that is just as bad as not having the physical prowess. …One of my biggest concerns for this weekend is having Christmas in the middle of the week with a team that is already struggling. It’s so hard to get your mind right to play again on Sunday knowing that it is the last game of the season. Pittsburgh is going to be an ugly performance if these guys are just counting down the minutes until they can pack their bags and escape Cleveland.”

Joe Haden:“It’s important to finish the season off strong, but it’s more important for us to get a win. It’s been a long time since we felt that winning feeling. Everyone wants that good taste in their mouth going into the offseason. What gives me hope about the future is having the guys in the locker room with me. We have some really good guys and that gives me hope for the future. We have a solid core group and just need a couple more additions to make this team really, really good. We’re so amped for Sunday. It’s the Steelers and we just need to get a win, and why not against Pittsburgh?”


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