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    With six straight losses to open the year, trailing by at least 16 points in each game and never claiming a lead in the second half, it's fair to wonder if that culture is starting to erode.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the season hoping to build on the championship culture they laid -- with LeBron James' assistance, of course -- over the last four years. It was a big reason for their anti-tanking approach.

    With six losses to open the year, trailing by at least 16 points in each and never claiming a lead in the second half, it's fair to wonder if that culture is starting to erode. 

    It's not, according to head coach Tyronn Lue. 

    "I don't think you define culture off of wins and losses," Lue said. "I think you define culture on how the organization is a class-A organization, and with Dan Gilbert at the helm it's always going to be that way. I think it's about the players you bring in. It's about your coaching staff and who you surround the people with, so, culture is not defined by wins and losses."

    The problem with that statement: Losing can become contagious. It's incredibly tough to crawl out of that sewer.

    The Cavs have seen that before -- the first time James left in free agency and the pile of victories which went with him.

    It was once again clear on Saturday night that the Cavs are re-learning how to win.

    They trimmed the Pacers lead to four at one point early in the third quarter, finally seeing the light at the end of the down-and-out tunnel. Then came a Cedi Osman turnover that ignited at 14-4 Indiana run. Just like that, in the span of three-plus minutes, the Pacers had pulled away, increasing their advantage to 14 points and making the Cavs climb uphill once more.

    To their credit, the Cavs kept battling. They got that lead back down to five before the Pacers pulled away for good in the fourth quarter. Each time the Cavs had a chance, they made a mistake. They would throw the ball away or cap an ugly offensive possession with a low-percentage shot. Other times, they would have a defensive breakdown leading to an open shot or easy attempt in the paint.

    "Our margin for error is slim," Lue said. "We can't turn it over 18 times and give up 30 points when we're doing that. The live turnovers really hurt us tonight.

    "You can't go into a film session and just kill them, talking about the bad things. You've got to show the good things we're doing as well as the bad things. Just got to continue to keep plugging away."

    Time will tell if Lue's stay-positive approach is the right one. Really, what other choice does he have? It's only the sixth game of an 82-game grind. At least for now, some of the players are still buying it.

    A few days after sending out a social media post urging fans to stay with them as they try to overcome this historically bad start, Nance used the same tone when answering questions late Saturday about the morale of the team. 

    "I don't want to say surprisingly good, but it's optimistic," Nance said after recording his first double-double and tying for the team lead in assists with four. "Indiana is a very good team in my opinion. Detroit is a very good team. Minnesota is a very good team. Toronto, obviously, very good team. Teams that we have hung with, gone wire to wire with and couple bounces here or there and it's our game.

    "We've gotten some bad bounces and been hit by the injury bug a little bit with myself, Kevin (Love), but there's tons of promise here. We've still got lots of room to grow and this team is going to be very competitive and very good I believe."

    So what will it take for the Cavs to get there?

    On offense, Nance said the team needs to share. He thought in transition too many guys weren't willing to make the extra pass. The Cavs went 3-of-8 on fastbreak chances. But those mistakes can happen, especially when generating quality offense becomes an arduous task. For years, the Cavs got whatever shot they wanted. The open looks were routine. 

    It's a lot different these days.

    According to stats, the Cavs had an open (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or wide open (closest defender 6 or more feet away) shot 56 percent of the time during the 2017-18 season. That James fella drew plenty of attention, leading to those uncontested looks. 

    The Cavs entered the night getting an open or wide open shot on just 45.6 percent of their offensive possessions. So instead of working tirelessly for great looks, players are too often taking the easy way out, settling for the first good one available.

    "I thought again we were a little bit selfish," Nance said. "Whether it was on the break with guys kind of looking for theirs first or whatever it was, we're just not making the extra pass right now and that's a trend that we kind of keep seeing and it keeps coming back to bite us so obviously we have a day of practice before the next game and that's what I would like to see change."

    On defense, the Cavs entered the night hoping to take away Indiana's 3-point shot. All of the individual percentages were written on the white board inside the locker room hours before tipoff. As a team, the Pacers ranked first in long-distance percentage.

    Well, by taking away the 3, the Cavs created unimpeded paths to the basket. Indiana scored 60 points in the paint, shooting 30-of-40. That goes back to the margin for error problem.

    The Cavs aren't good enough on the defensive end to make opponents uncomfortable. On this night, they had to choose between the 3-ball or interior shots instead of being able to, you know, take away both.

    "We competed, played hard," Lue said. "We had some mistakes, a lot of mistakes we've talked about all season, what we're supposed to do coverage wise. But, other than that I was pretty proud of the guys tonight, the way they competed."

    Perhaps that's Cleveland's new culture. Not a winning one per se, but rather a culture defined by competitiveness.

    "I can't get frustrated," Lue said. "I think once you get that first win, the monkey's off your back and you can play better. Not put so much pressure on yourself.

    "Playing Indiana, Toronto, Minnesota out of the gate, we knew it was going to be tough. So, not hanging our heads, got to continue to keep plugging away and get our first win, I think things will take care of themselves."

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    The Boston Red Sox rallied from a four-run deficit for a 9-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night and a 3-1 World Series lead.

    LOS ANGELES -- An 18-inning loss in Game 3 of the World Series couldn't wear out the Boston Red Sox. A four-run deficit late in Game 4 definitely didn't faze them.

    This plucky powerhouse just kept getting big hits to move to the brink of another championship.

    Steve Pearce hit a tying homer in the eighth inning and a three-run double in the ninth, and the Red Sox emphatically rallied for a 9-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

    Pinch-hitter Rafael Devers singled home Brock Holt with the tiebreaking run in the ninth as Boston roared to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.

    Less than a day after a wrenching, 440-minute defeat ended well past midnight, the Red Sox trailed 4-0 in the seventh inning before they shook off that heartbreak, warmed up their bats and sped away from LA.

    "I've never been on a team where you just get punched in the face and then come back tomorrow and act like they are totally fine," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez said. "It's impressive."

    Game 5 is Sunday at Dodger Stadium, where the Red Sox can close out a spectacular season with their fourth title in 15 years. Boston picked Game 2 winner David Price to start on short rest over Chris Sale against fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw.

    Soon after Yasiel Puig's three-run homer in the sixth put the Dodgers up by four, Boston's incredible surge began with pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland's three-run homerin the seventh. By the time they were done decimating the Dodgers' bullpen, six Red Sox had combined for seven hits -- four for extra bases.

    "It was just a great night, all the way around," Pearce said. "A great team win. A much-needed win, especially after what happened (in Game 3). I just love this team's fight."

    The Red Sox scored just two runs in their first 24 innings at Dodger Stadium, but added nine more in the final three innings of Game 4. Sale's motivational screams in the dugout might have played a role, but whatever the reason, Boston responded splendidly to a perilous situation.

    "Sometimes in October we talk about mechanics, and how you feel at the plate and all that, (but) sometimes it's will," rookie manager Alex Cora said. "You will yourself to do great things. And it started very simple. A few good at-bats, and then the big swing, and we kept rolling and we didn't stop playing."

    The Red Sox overcame a three-run deficit in a World Series game for the second time. Boston also rallied from three down against Cincinnati in 1975 in Game 6, best known for Carlton Fisk's dramatic homer in the 12th after Bernie Carbo tied it with a three-run shot.

    Pearce was an unlikely candidate to join that lineage as the latest postseason hero in Boston's long October history, but the 12-year veteran acquired in June did it twice.

    The 35-year-old journeyman connected off All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for a tying homer in the eighth, and cleared the bases one inning later with a double to the gap. Pearce joined Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and David Ortiz in 2004 as the only Boston players to homer while driving in four runs in a World Series game.

    "(Puig's homer) was a big blow, but everybody was pulling for each other, trying to get each other riled up," Pearce said. "This team has a lot of fight, and it was great to see how we responded. Our offense went silent for about 20-plus innings, so our pitchers did a great job."

    The superlative Boston roster that won 108 regular-season games and then rolled through the 100-win New York Yankees and defending champion Houston Astros to win the AL pennant is now one win from this formerly tormented franchise's ninth World Series crown.

    Enrique Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the ninth for Los Angeles, which could become the first team to lose the World Series on its home field in back-to-back seasons since the New York Giants lost at the Polo Grounds to the Yankees in 1936 and 1937. The Dodgers' bullpen flopped after manager Dave Roberts pulled starter Rich Hill, who dazzled for 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball.

    Los Angeles must overcome a 3-1 deficit to end its 30-year championship drought. Only six teams have accomplished the feat in a best-of-seven World Series, although the Chicago Cubs did it just two years ago.

    "We're not out yet," Roberts said. "Our guys aren't done. We've got our best going tomorrow and we're expecting to win a baseball game."

    Less than 17 hours after Max Muncy's 18th-inning homer for the Dodgers ended the longest game in World Series history at 7 hours, 20 minutes, the teams were back on the field in Chavez Ravine. Game 4 took only 3 hours, 57 minutes, but had at least as many twists and turns.

    After Hill left to a standing ovation, Boston's feast on the Dodgers' relievers began. By the time the Red Sox were done, all five relievers used by Roberts had yielded at least one run.

    Moreland got the comeback started with his three-run shot off Ryan Madson -- only Boston's second hit of the game -- after Xander Bogaerts and Holt walked.

    Pearce then repeated the Game 3 feat of Jackie Bradley Jr., who also hit a tying homer in the eighth off Jansen. The longtime Dodgers closer has three blown saves and an extra-inning loss during the past two World Series.

    Dodger Stadium was already rumbling with tension and fear when Holt doubled in the ninth off losing pitcher Dylan Floro. Devers sent him home with a go-ahead single -- and three batters later, Pearce cleared the bases.

    After Pearce arrived at second and Martinez was intentionally walked, Martinez used his hands to make a heart and mouthed "I love you!" to Pearce. Both players cracked up.

    Pearce even scored Boston's ninth run on Bogaerts' single, celebrating wildly with teammates in somnolent Chavez Ravine.

    Devers added a big defensive play in the ninth when he slid to stop Manny Machado's hard grounder behind third before throwing across the diamond for the second out. Craig Kimbrel retired Cody Bellinger to end it, leaving Puig in the on-deck circle.

    After throwing six pitches in relief the night before, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez largely stymied the Dodgers until giving up Puig's homer in the sixth. Rodriguez slammed his glove on the mound in frustration.

    Los Angeles opened the scoring on a throwing error by catcher Christian Vazquez.

    Joe Kelly was the winner after tossing two shutout innings.


    The stands were packed with iconic Los Angeles athletes from Sandy Koufax and Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, who read the Dodgers' starting lineup before watching from the front row in a Machado jersey. Hollywood luminaries also attended, including Charlize Theron, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, James Franco, Don Johnson and Rob Lowe. For the first pitch, Dennis Eckersley took the mound in an Athletics jersey for a toss to Kirk Gibson, whose game-ending homer off Eck in the 1988 World Series still looms larger than Muncy's drive in Dodgers history.


    Rodriguez, who threw 93 pitches, became the first pitcher to start a World Series game on zero days' rest since Firpo Marberry for the Washington Senators in 1924.


    Red Sox: Price gave up two runs and three hits over six innings in Game 2 for his second consecutive postseason win. He also pitched in relief in Game 3.

    Dodgers: Kershaw makes his fourth World Series start. He was charged with five runs and seven hits over four-plus innings in a Game 1 loss at Boston.

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    Cleveland Browns looking for more offensive first half vs. Pittsburgh Steelers after tying them in OT in season opener

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) play the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) today at Heinz Field. These two teams tied 21-21 in overtime when they met in the season opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    The offense led by offensive coordinator Todd Haley hopes to get out of its own way and get off to a fast start because it has only produced six points in the first quarter all season. The Steelers are notorious slow starters, but even they have scored 19 points in the first quarter so far this season, and that's having played one less game than the Browns.

    The Browns do even worse if you compare second quarter scoring for these two teams. The Steelers again out score the Browns 73-29 in one less game.

    Thanks to its slow starts, the Browns offense generally ranks in the bottom third of the league in most categories. Specifically it is 24th in points per game and 22nd in yards per game.

    Maybe just a little better first half could push the Browns to victory in Pittsburgh.

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on

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    Many fans are still angry that the Cleveland Browns received only a fifth-rounder for Carlos Hyde. What was the thinking behind the deal? Watch video


    QUESTION: If the Browns are really trying to win, why would they trade Carlos Hyde?

    ANSWER: Because they think Nick Chubb is better. And they want more chances for Duke Johnson.

    Q: But doesn't that send the wrong message to the players?

    A: Many players were surprised when Hyde was dealt to Jacksonville for a fifth-round pick 48 hours before the team played in Tampa. Hyde is a respected, 28-year-old veteran who is well-liked by his teammates. That's why many social media posts from his teammates expressed sadness about him leaving.

    Q: A fifth round pick? That's it?

    A: I received an email from a fan who recalled when Joe Banner traded Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first-round pick. That was two games into the 2013 season. The Colts were desperate for running backs. They had Super Bowl aspirations. Richardson was only in his second pro season. Some NFL people still considered him a future star. That trade became one of the reasons the Colts eventually fired some of the people in their front office.

    Q: But a fifth-round pick?

    A: Hyde averaged 3.4 yards per carry with the Browns, 42nd out of 47 running backs. He had only 11 runs of at least 10 yards -- in 114 carries. By contrast, Chubb has carried the ball only 34 times -- and seven have been for at least 10 yards. He is faster and more capable of big plays.

    Q: Why not play both?

    A: Offensive coordinator Todd Haley wasn't able to spread the carries among Hyde, Chubb and Duke Johnson. Haley prefers a workhorse running back, as he proved in Pittsburgh with Le'Veon Bell. The Browns believe Chubb should be the featured back. In his first start, he had 80 yards on 14 carries (4.4 average). The front office wants him on the field, and for good reason.

    Q: Once again, a fifth-round pick?

    A: Remember Banner made the Richardson trade. He was later fired, has been critical of them and has no connection to the organization.  Here is what he tweeted after the Browns dealt Hyde: "The Browns made a good deal to create a path for a better player to play more, save (salary) cap dollars and add a draft pick. Some criticize. Sometimes, there is no winning with people."

    Q: I repeat, a fifth-round pick?

    A: The Giants just traded Eli Apple (No. 10 pick in 2016) to New Orleans for picks in the fourth and seventh rounds. Running backs don't have big trade value -- the Richardson disaster impacted that thinking. Hyde was going to be gone after the season to make room for Chubb.

    Q: Now the Browns don't have much depth at running back, right?

    A: The Browns are approaching one of their goals, which is to be competitive in nearly every game this season and win some of them. But they are still building a team.

    Q: Meaning what?

    A: Meaning the John Dorsey front office wants several of his young players on the field. They opened the year with Denzel Ward starting at cornerback. He looks like a future star. The plan was for Baker Mayfield to wait longer than three games to play, but an injury to Tyrod Taylor opened the door. No going back to Taylor unless Mayfield is hurt.

    Q: What does that have to do with Hyde?

    A: You can see the vision of the front office taking place with some of the young players. Desmond Harrison has not been a disaster at left tackle. He's an undrafted free agent from D-2 West Georgia, and is learning a demanding position. You have Chubb (a second-rounder) now starting with first-rounders Ward and Mayfield.

    Q: Doesn't this sound like Sashi Brown's approach?

    A: To some extent. But the Browns also added several veteran defensive backs. They traded for Jarvis Landry. It's a combination of younger veterans and draft picks.

    Q: Why not trade for Amari Cooper?

    A: If the Browns were in better position to win big, Dorsey would have considered it. But as I wrote last week, the organization can't afford to trade a first-round pick right now. That's what Oakland received from Dallas for Cooper. The Browns talked to Oakland, but had no intention of trading a first-round pick.

    Q: Will the Browns make a trade by Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline?

    A: Dorsey tends to be active. But I don't think it will be anything big.

    Q: How about adding a receiver?

    A: I don't see anything significant. The Browns are intrigued by Damion Ratley, who has caught nine passes in the last two games. He's a sixth-round pick, another young guy the Browns want to see play. They hope to have Rashard Higgins (knee injury) back soon. I've been disappointed with Antonio Callaway, but he's a raw rookie who was suspended all of last season at Florida. They are building young receivers behind Landry.

    Q: Why are you just accepting what the front office is doing?

    A: Because it's easy to see the plan, and to realize many of the moves are working out. Ward was a gutsy pick and he's an impact player. The trade with Green Bay for Damarious Randall (for DeShone Kizer) brought a safety who has also helped out at cornerback, where he's done a decent job while playing on a bad ankle. He is an excellent safety. A lot of little moves look very good right now.


    1. The NFL fired linesman Hugo Cruz, the man who missed the obvious false start call on the Chargers when they played in Cleveland a few weeks ago. Apparently, he had other problems that led to his dismissal.

    2. This is professional football. General managers, coaches and players are all fired when their performance fails to meet set standards. The same should be true for officials. It's why I wrote my first column highly critical of officials in many years.

    3. I heard from a few fans who used the union line of the NFL officials that they aren't prepared and supported enough by the league. Some of that could be true. But the call missed by Cruz was the kind made by officials at all levels of football who are paying attention.

    4. The officials are upset because Cruz is the first to be fired in midseason in about 50 years. Once again, it's the pros. If this happened a lot, the complaints would be different. But I'm glad they are looking hard at the officiating.

    5. The NFL also admitted the officials were wrong when they refused to penalize Tampa safety Jordan Whitehead for an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit on Baker Mayfield. Flags were even thrown, but the officials huddled and decided against a penalty.

    6. In some ways, the missed call on Mayfield was worse because it permitted a dangerous play. It's a blessing Mayfield didn't end up with a concussion.

    7. The NFL needs to do more in terms of training and preparation. It's a very hard sport to officiate. But both of these calls were obvious. Mayfield's happened in the open field, easy to see. So officials should be held accountable when making mistakes like these.

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    Check here for the live final-round leaderboard for the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship 2018 on Sunday, Oct. 28, in Mississippi.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cameron Champ (17-under) led by four shots entering the final round of the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship 2018 on Sunday, Oct. 28, in Mississippi. Kent State product Corey Conners was in second place.

    Among others in the field at the outset: Chris Kirk, Bill Haas, Harold Varner III, Patrick Rodgers, Lucas Glover and defending champion Ryan Amour.

    Site: Jackson, Miss.
    Course: Country Club of Jackson. Yardage: 7,421. Par: 72.
    Purse: $4.4 million. Winner's share: $792,000.
    Television: Thursday-Sunday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. (Golf Channel).
    Defending champion: Ryan Armour.
    FedExCup leader: Marc Leishman.
    Last week: Brooks Koepka won the CJ Cup in South Korea.
    Notes: The winner gets a spot at Kapalua and the PGA Championship, but not the Masters. ... Armour last year had the best world ranking of any winner in Mississippi since it moved to the fall. He was at No. 321. ... Bill Haas in 2010 is the last player to be ranked inside the top 100 when he won the tournament. ... The tournament began in 1986. Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo were runner-up each of the first two years. ... Norman Xiong is playing on a sponsor exemption. He has yet to make the cut in six starts on the PGA Tour and one on the European Tour. ... Retief Goosen is making his first start since he was selected for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
    Next week: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
    (Fact box for Associated Press.)

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    The Cavs were hoping to overachieve this season, wanting to stay competitive following LeBron James' departure. Instead, they lost their sixth straight game against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach Tyronn Lue Sunday, dismissing their only coach who brought a championship to Cleveland after six disappointing games this season.

    The Cavs were hoping to overachieve this season, wanting to stay competitive following LeBron James' departure. Instead, they lost their sixth straight game against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. It's the first time the franchise has started a season at 0-6 since the 1995-96 season. 

    "This was a very difficult decision. It is especially so, considering Coach Lue's time with us over the last four years, including four straight trips to the NBA Finals," said general manager Koby Altman. "We have respect and great admiration for Ty, not only as a coach, but a person. We thank him for the many ways he has contributed to our success, wish him the best and he will always be remembered for leading a very special Cavs team back against the odds to win the title in 2016. This is a different team equation, though, and one that we felt needed a different voice and approach that required this change."

    In all six losses, the Cavs have trailed by at least 16 points. They have yet to lead in the second half of a game. Four of the six losses have been by double figures. Kevin Love, the team's leading scorer, has missed the last two games and has been dealing with soreness in his left foot since early October.

    Lue, 41, went 128-83 over three years as Cavs head coach, taking over for David Blatt on Jan. 22, 2016. A few months after being promoted to head coach, Lue helped guide the team to an NBA championship. He also oversaw three consecutive Finals trips. 

    "My time here in Cleveland was truly special," Lue said in a statement released Sunday afternoon. "I am very grateful for the dedication, sacrifice and support of all the players on our team, the tremendous coaches I've worked with and of course, our incredible fans. Lastly, deep thanks to Dan Gilbert, David Griffin and Koby Altman for the opportunity over the last three years and I only wish the organization success moving forward."

    Larry Drew, a former head coach who briefly filled in for Lue last season, was asked to take over -- the meeting with him took place nearly an hour after letting Lue go -- and is "the voice of the team for now." Drew went 9-1 with the Cavs last season.

    According to a league source, Altman also fired assistant Damon Jones.

    The players were informed of the front office's decision shortly after, and weren't happy about it.

    JR Smith sent out a post on social media expressing his gratitude. 

    "Thank you," Smith wrote with a picture from the championship parade. "From three straight finals and a chip to this. Always love."

    Smith, one of the holdovers from that title team, had a face-palm emoji in his caption. 

    Love also posted his thoughts on Twitter. 

    "You helped me see the big picture," Love wrote. "Life changing experiences and teaching points. Nothing but love and admiration. Know we will work towards something greater together again. THANK YOU." 

    So, too, did Tristan Thompson. 

    "Thank you for always believing in me and being the great leader that you are," Thompson wrote. "Three straight finals appearances in your first three years as a head coach is something special."

    According to a source, the Cavs had been frustrated with the overall lack of competitiveness, believing the roster is more talented than it has displayed. Lue's rotations, including a lack of playing time for some of the youngsters in favor of veterans like Smith and George Hill, has also been a point of contention. That loyalty contributed to Lue's ouster. 

    A natural push-pull was evident the last few games. While both Lue and members of the front office were against tanking, Altman and others wanted Lue to strike a better balance -- with more playing time for rookie Collin Sexton, Sam Dekker and David Nwaba, who had a breakout performance when finally given a chance against Indiana on Saturday night. 

    The Cavs rank 29th in defensive rating for the second straight year despite a change in personnel. Lue, who first made his mark as a defensive assistant, implemented an unproductive switch-everything concept to open the season before shifting the last few games. 

    Cleveland will host Atlanta on Tuesday and Denver Thursday night before heading to Charlotte and Orlando for a two-game road trip.

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    Replacing Tyronn Lue before the season would have saved the Cleveland Cavaliers a lot of grief and helped Larry Drew have a fresh start as head coach.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- I expected Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers to have a basketball divorce.

    I kept thinking that one summer day, word would come out that the Cavs and their head coach "had parted ways." That's a move I would have made long before training camp.

    Instead, the Cavs fired him Sunday after the team's 0-6 start.

    That's because the Cavs have a veteran head coach in Larry Drew on the staff. He has been through tough situations as head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee. He is far better suited for the Cavs in the post-LeBron James world than Lue.

    Drew should be more than an "interim" coach this season, which is what the Cavs announced. He should be given a contract for the next few years so the players know he is really in charge.


    Lue often expressed his desire to coach a younger team and "mold it." That sounded good -- in theory. In reality, he had no clue what was coming.

    How would he handle the losing that was going to come once James went to the Lakers via free agency?

    Lue suffered from significant health issues, missing three weeks (and nine games) during the 2017-18 season. He had anxiety problems, had trouble sleeping and admitted to spitting up blood. The Cavs were 8-1 when Drew took over for Lue last season.

    Lue returned a few weeks before the playoffs and coached through the postseason, which ended with the Cavs being swept by the Warriors.

    Lue was very close to David Griffin, the former Cavaliers general manager. They even share the same agent. When Griffin was fired in the summer of 2017, that bothered Lue, as it did many others in the Cavs organization.

    While new General Manager Koby Altman and Lue seemed to be building a relationship last season, I had a lot of doubts about the head coach. Once this season opened, those doubts were magnified. It's why I wrote a column highly critical of Lue and the Cavs this weekend -- having no idea a firing was coming.

    I just thought the coach was not fully engaged and the team looked overwhelmed. In a league with a lot of close games -- the Cavs were blown out every night.

    That's a warning siren.


    If the Cavs had replaced Lue with Drew during the summer, there would have been a public relations backlash. But it's minor compared to firing a coach who won the 2016 title after six games.

    It looks impulsive. It also denied Drew a chance to shape his own team with his own training camp.

    There will be a lot of talk about how the front office and Lue disagreed about playing veterans. They did. But the division is deeper than that. I sensed Lue wasn't happy about a lot of things with the front office.

    I doubt he had the same respect for the new front office as he did for Griffin & Co. And the front office wasn't thrilled with Lue coaching a team that not only is 0-6, but hasn't led in the second half of any game this season.

    Maybe things won't be any better with Drew. But I'd rather have Drew coaching this team after James.

    In his three years with the Hawks, Drew led them to the playoffs. He has been with the Cavs since the summer of 2014. He was David Blatt's top assistant.

    It was a move made at the wrong time, but it still could be the right thing for the Cavaliers.

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    The Cleveland Browns didn't cash in on some excellent field position. Offense stalled at worst moments.

    PITTSBURGH -- Scribbles in my Browns notebook at halftime as Pittsburgh leads 14-6....

    1. The Browns had great field position in the first half. They started drives on their own 40...44...and the Pittsburgh 46-yard line. They scored just three points despite those excellent starting points.

    2. The Browns actually scored in the first quarter. It was on their first drive. An 11-play, 66-yard drive ended with a Greg Joseph field goal. The bad part was the Browns had a 3rd-and-3 on the Pittsburgh 13. They ran a draw play to Duke Johnson Jr., who was smashed for a 3-yard loss.

    3. After Joseph missed a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter, the Steelers took over and scored a TD. It was a 43-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. Browns rookie Denzel Ward was fooled by a Roethlisberger pump-fake. No safety came to help Ward.

    4. That was one of the few times this season Ward looked like a rookie.

    5. The Steelers ended the half with a long 16-play, 87-yard drive ending with a 1-yard pass to Brown. That chewed up 7:12 of the clock.

    6. This was a game where the Browns haven't played poorly, yet there is a sense they can't make the key plays needed to win.

    7. Baker Mayfield was 10-of-19 passing for 91 yards. But he threw an interception that set up Pittsburgh's last scoring drive. That pass was picked off by former Brown Joe Haden.

    8. Mayfield was just OK in the first half. Rookie running back Nick Chubb had 52 yards on nine carries. But the Browns offense had no big plays needed to win a game like this.

    0 0

    Lue didn't fit this version of the Cavs, and now the Browns must decide if Jackson fits their version.

    PITTSBURGH -- If Dan Gilbert didn't like 0-6, he probably wouldn't have handled 1-31 very well.

    On a day of Cleveland football, it was a Lue, not a Hue, that was fired Sunday morning, but Gilbert and the Cavaliers made their call by asking the same question that Jimmy Haslam and the Browns must ask themselves.

    Does your coach match your team?

    Forget building a team for your coach. Whether the roster is 14 or 53, unless the boss is named Popovich or Belichick, you don't assemble the many to fit the one.

    Now both the Cavaliers and Browns are changing, headed (so the Browns hope) in opposite directions. But the question is the same. Does the guy leading the team fit the direction you seem to be heading?

    The Cavaliers looked at Tyronn Lue and said no. So they made a change.

    The Browns must look at Jackson and make their call.

    For the Cavaliers, with interim Larry Drew in charge for now, this will bring them the first chance to match roster, direction and coach with true purpose in several years.

    Byron Scott was hired when the Cavs were trying to keep LeBron James in Cleveland by bringing in a coach with playing experience. A week after Scott was hired in the summer of 2010, James was gone to Miami, and Scott was suddenly coaching a team in a rebuild.  

    Scott survived all the way through three seasons of 64-166, so maybe Gilbert would have stomached 1-31 (no, we still don't think so).

    We're still not sure what to make of that one year of Mike Brown: The Sequel. But then the Cavs hired David Blatt to lead a young team on the rise -- and then James announced his return. Former Cavs GM David Griffin has said since then that the Cavs never would have hired Blatt if they knew James was coming home. So, like Scott, that was never a plan and never a match.

    And it didn't last.

    When the Cavs admitted that mistake after a season-and-a-half, Lue was the next man up, and five months later he was lifting a trophy. No one would argue with Lue's accomplishments. Would any other coach have done more with the Cavs than a title and two Finals losses to Golden State? No.

    But even then, Lue was the solution in the room. It wasn't an offseason plan with purpose. Right now, Drew is that guy in the room, and all I can think of after firing Lue to promote Drew is that, with Hue on watch, I wish Gregg Williams' first name was Stu.

    Maybe Drew with his experience coaching younger teams is the right man for the job. But the Cavs will also have the opportunity after this season, with just 76 more games ahead, to get the right coach for what they are now and what they want to be.

    Build the team. Match the coach.

    That's what the Browns face.

    Honestly, Jackson, with his past experience with play calling and coaching quarterbacks, is more of a fit now than he was for the Browns when he was hired.

    Then, once again, the team missed the fit, as Jackson has said many times he had no idea the Browns were in for that level of teardown and rebuild. He wasn't built to handle that kind of expected losing, as he's made clear time and again. It wasn't about finding a coach who accepted losing, but one who could handle a plan that might lead to short-term losing in the pursuit of something that coach, ideally, would have believed in.

    As with Scott and Blatt with the Cavs, Jackson with the Browns wasn't a fit for what they were.

    But imagine if Jackson hadn't been hired by the Browns after the 2015 season. Imagine if he were in year five as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals. That Jackson, who had a reputation for offense and quarterbacks, might be at the top of the list for the Browns right now, as they transition to competing with a solid defense, a young quarterback and an offense that needs a kick.

    But Jackson is here, three seasons into the wrong fit. The damage from that may be too great for the Browns to wait for it to someday be right.

    As the Browns figure out who they are, they have to address that fit. The Cavs did, even if firing a championship coach six games into a season was an inelegant handling of the situation.

    The Cavs are who they are and have an idea of where they're headed.

    The Browns are who they are and have an idea of where they're headed.

    When that's the case, you must have a fit between the roster and the plan and the coach. You need to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

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    But in a season that's supposed to be defined by growth, there wasn't enough of it.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When the Cavaliers elevated Tyronn Lue to head coach on Jan. 22, 2016, taking over for embattled David Blatt, Lue was the perfect person for the job.

    That was a veteran group, one with title aspirations. Cleveland needed a player's coach who had earned LeBron James' respect and spent plenty of time around some of the NBA's finest. His resume gave him credibility. It allowed him to challenge James and some of the other vets. He built trust that Blatt lost. The bold stroke by then-GM David Griffin ultimately led to the Cavaliers' first NBA championship a few months later.

    The Cavaliers still feel Lue -- labeled an "incredible coach" by a source that spoke with Sunday afternoon -- would be an ideal fit for a roster loaded with experience, perhaps one capable of competing for a championship immediately.

    Just not the Cavs -- a team that's trying to strike an incredibly difficult balance between the present and future. After an "unacceptable" 0-6 start to the post-LeBron James era, general manager Koby Altman started to wonder whether Lue was the right fit for this particular group, one with a unique blend of vets and youngsters.

    After a tough decision, one the organization knows will be panned given how early it is into the season and Lue's stellar mark as head coach, the Cavs parted ways with him early Sunday morning, one day after another double-digit blowout loss at home. They also fired assistant coach Damon Jones.

    Lue handled the news in a very professional manner, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

    The Cavs know their early underachievement wasn't all on Lue. The front office could've done better retooling the roster after James' departure. Kevin Love is miscast as the go-to option. There's no secondary scorer. Role players have been thrust into bigger roles, ones they aren't capable of thriving in.

    But in a season that's supposed to be defined by growth, there wasn't enough of it.

    The Cavs lost faith that the team could reach that particular goal without a different voice. Without a tweak in priorities. 

    Yes, the Cavs wanted to win this season. They still do. But Lue's vision and the front office's didn't align.

    Instead of meshing the veterans and new core pieces, ones acquired by Altman over the last eight months, Lue stayed loyal to the old guard, going back to JR Smith, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye following an embarrassing loss to the Hawks in the home opener.

    Lue opted to start veteran George Hill over rookie Collin Sexton, believing it would be best to bring the teenager along slowly and not put starting pressure on him.

    Lue continued to find ways to fit 33-year-old swingman Smith, one of the holdovers from the 2016 title team. Never mind that Smith has been one of the league's worst players at any position over the last three years and missed a bulk of training camp and the preseason with hip and elbow injuries. Lue wanted Smith to play, citing the championship equity he earned over the years.

    This is 2018. What Smith did in the past shouldn't carry relevance. Not when the Cavs have better, younger options -- who have more of a chance to be part of Cleveland future -- sitting behind him on the bench.

    Playing the veterans would have been fine if it led to wins. It didn't. Losing by non-competitive margins and stunting growth couldn't continue.

    The Cavs weren't seeing enough development from Sexton, who wasn't getting many plays called for him and didn't have the same freedom as some other players. David Nwaba, added to bring toughness to a defense in desperate need of a boost, received three DNP's in the first six games and didn't earn anything but garbage-time minutes until Saturday night, when he was the team's best player.

    The Cavs outscored Indiana by 13 points with Nwaba on the floor. Teammate Larry Nance Jr., who vouched for Nwaba this summer, spoke about him getting more of a shot.

    "I didn't have to tell him to stay ready or anything like that, because he's always one of the first ones there and one of the last ones to leave - always lifting and doing extra cardio and stuff," Nance said. "I would love to see him more. We need his energy."

    Sam Dekker, added this summer, was benched for Frye and Smith against Detroit. Sure, that had plenty to do with a matchup against the Pistons' imposing frontline, but it was another sign of Lue's favoritism toward the vets.

    According to a source, the Cavs had grown frustrated with the overall lack of competitiveness, believing the roster is more talented than it has displayed. In all six losses, the Cavs have trailed by at least 16 points. They have yet to lead in the second half of a game. Four of the six losses have been by double figures.

    "We have radically underachieved and it was unacceptable," the source said.

    The Cavs rank 29th in defensive rating for the second straight year despite a change in personnel. Lue, who first made his mark as a defensive assistant, implemented an unproductive switch-everything concept to open the season before shifting the last few games. Those continued defensive struggles didn't help with the evaluation.

    Larry Drew, a former head coach who briefly filled in for Lue last season, was asked to take over -- the meeting with him took place nearly an hour after letting Lue go -- and is "the voice of the team for now." Drew went 9-1 with the Cavs last season.

    There's no guarantee the Cavs will have more success, that this coaching swap will yield the same positive results the Blatt-Lue one did nearly three years ago.

    But the Cavs didn't feel Lue was the right fit for this younger group. They are hoping Drew will be.

    0 0

    Even before the Cleveland Browns lost 33-18 in Pittsburgh, there were rumors Coach Hue Jackson would be fired. No reason to do that now.

    PITTSBURGH --  The Browns losing streak is three in a row.

    The offense has scored only six touchdowns in their last four games.

    The defense seems worn by by seeing so few of their turnovers transformed into points by the offense.

    And the Browns still haven't won in Pittsburgh since 2003.

    Final score: Steelers 33, Browns 18.

    I'm so sick of writing stories like this. The Browns lose in Pittsburgh, then the football death watch begins.

    It's been that way most season. The Browns also have usually ended most season with yet another defeat at Heinz Field.

    This team still has eight games to go.

    Yet, rumors whirl and fingers point.

    Will Coach Hue Jackson be fired? Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley?

    It wasn't supposed to be this way when the year opened with a tie against Pittsburgh, and later a victory over Baltimore.


    At this point in the 2-5-1 season, I'm not firing Jackson.

    The only reason to do so would be if the Browns have a real replacement available now, not an interim coach for the rest of the season.

    Otherwise, deal with his future after the season.

    As for Haley?

    I wish I could make a stronger case for him to continue to call plays. The offensive coordinator has a tough task. He's starting four rookies on offense along with a second-year tight end.

    An offense with so many young players is not likely to perform well the defense-driven AFC-North.

    But is Haley helping Baker Mayfield and the other rookies develop?

    Would it make more sense to let Jackson run his own offense?

    I'm going to let the front office sort that out. Neither option seems very appealing.


    The rest of year has to be about nurturing the key young players for 2019.

    Like most young Browns quarterbacks, Mayfield being rushed, hurried and sacked.

    In his first two NFL games, Mayfield put 66 points on the scoreboard --in six quarters.

    Since then, Mayfield has played four games -- and the Browns have scored 67 points.

    Early in the season, Mayfield's No. 6 jersey was among the top 10 selling. Fans were convinced he is the "Franchise Quarterback" this team has desperately needed.

    That still can be true.

    There is no reason to jump to grand conclusions about the rookie from Oklahoma.

    Before the game, I was talking to a top AFC scout. He has watched a lot of Mayfield and believes the Browns finally have "a real quarterback."

    It's far too early to know if Mayfield is going to be a Pro Bowler.

    But the scout's point is Mayfield is a keeper. The Browns don't have to go into the 2019 draft looking for a quarterback in the upper rounds.

    That's important.

    A big part of this season is about Mayfield and what is best for his long-term future.

    Now, it's also finding out if Desmond Harrison can be a legitimate starting left tackle. Very mixed results so far.

    Nick Chubb is a big part of the future. Antonio Callaway showed some life with a nice TD catch with a defender hanging all over him.

    But this game is a reality check for the Browns.

    They are a long way from talking playoffs...or even a .500 record.

    Now the team must decide how best to use these last eight games (and with what coaches) so that some long-term victories come even in the middle of the losses.

    0 0

    The Browns were blown out by the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

    PITTSBURGH -- It doesn't matter when the Browns visit Pittsburgh. This is a place they tend to leave in disarray.

    The rumors were already swirling on Sunday before the team bus arrived at Heinz Field, where the Browns lost, 33-18. Todd Haley's future as offensive coordinator and Hue Jackson's future as head coach were as up in the air as they have been all season. If coaches were on the hot seat following last week's loss to Tampa Bay, those seats were piles of ashes before Sunday's game even kicked off.

    By the time the Steelers used more than seven minutes to drive 87 yards on 16 plays to end the first half -- a half that saw the Browns take all three of their timeouts to the locker room -- this game had the feeling of season finales past. Unfortunately for the Browns, who have fought so hard and been in so many games, it's not even Halloween.

    That drive was something we've seen Pittsburgh do time and again and not just against the Browns. But when they do it to the Browns, it has that big brother/little brother feeling -- Pittsburgh holding their arm firm, palm on the forehead of their division rival as they swing wildly, trying hopelessly to make contact.

    Even when the Steelers did everything in their power to help the Browns -- failing to field a free kick and collecting multiple penalties in the end zone to help the Browns score in the third quarter -- they turned around and marched 75 yards on five plays to restore order.

    There was something on the line here for the Browns today. Contention in the AFC North wasn't likely sustainable, but a win in Pittsburgh could have pushed the inevitable down the road.

    The inevitable might finally be here.

    This time is different. The personnel staff provides hope. There's a potential quarterback in place.

    Thinking about the future is where the Browns are left, though, after this loss.

    That's what happens when the Browns play here. They could be on the road to changing it some day. There are other changes that need made first.

    0 0

    The Browns got blown out 33-18 by the Steelers amid a report that Haley could soon be fired.

    PITTSBURGH -- The Browns got blown out by the Steelers and now they could also soon wipe out their offensive coordinator in Todd Haley.

    The Browns' embarassing 33-12 loss  -- after a 6-0 first-quarter lead -- began amid a report by by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Haley could be fired soon if the dysfunction on offense doesn't get resolved soon.

    It followed a week in which Jackson vowed after the loss to the Bucs to dive in and help revive the struggling unit. But he toned down his remarks the next day, saying he wouldn't take over the play calling.

    Still, tension remained between the two offensive minds as they headed into the game, their third straight loss and fourth in five games, and the pre-game report fanned the flames.

    The loss dropped the Browns to 2-5-1 and marked their first loss in the division. They also lost for the 15th straight time in Pittsburgh and 25th on the road overall. The NFL record for consecutive road losses is 26, set by the Lions from 2007-2010.

    The Steelers, first in the AFC North, improved to 4-2-1, and Ben Roethlisberger (257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 94.3 rating, improved to 22-2-1 against the Browns. He also improved to 12-0 at home against Cleveland. 

    The score wasn't as close as it looked. Baker Mayfield threw a TD pass to Seth DeValve with six seconds left to make it a little more respectable. And it won't get any easier. The high-flying Chiefs are coming to town on Sunday.

    The situation between Jackson and Haley was so bizarre that at one point in the third quarter, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown hugged Haley, his longtime Steelers coordinator, in front of the Browns bench. Before the game, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Jackson spent time chatting on the field, which is not unusual.

    Once again, the Browns offense sputtered and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who came up limping after a fourth-quarter sack, struggled. The Browns managed only 12 points despite two more takeaways by the defense for a league-high total of 22 this season. The Browns converted the two takeaways into only three points.

    They did manage a touchdown, but needed a huge gaffe by the Steelers to pull it off, when they let a free kick skip past them and the Browns recovered at the Steelers' 24. Antonio Callaway caught a 1-yard TD pass, Mayfield's seventh of the season.

    Mayfield completed 22-of-36 attempts for 180 yards with two TDs and 1 interception for a 80.8 rating. He struggled to get the ball to Jarvis Landry, who caught eight passes but for only  39 yards.

    While the defense was busy not scoring, the defense was once again gashed by James Conner, this time for 146 yards yards and two TDs on 24 carries. In the first meeting, he rushed for 135 yards.

    Antonio Brown also caught two TD passes, including a 43-yarder.

    Huge turn of events 

    The Steelers down a punt at the Browns' 4 and the Desmond Harrison was flagged for holding in the end zone, a safety for the Steelers that made it 16-6 with 8:07 left in the third. But the Steelers' Ryan Switzer watched Britton Colquitt's free kick skitter past him, not realizing that the Browns could recover it. Denzel Rice fell on the ball at the Steelers' 24 for a huge swing in field position.

    The Steelers continued to implode on the drive after the big miscue, with Cam Heyward getting flagged for unnecessary roughness on Mayfield, David Njoku drawing a pass interference in the end zone zone, and Joe Haden committing defensive holding at the Steelers' 1. Antonio Callaway caught a 1-yard TD at the left side of the end zone to make it 16-12. Kicker Greg Joseph, who had missed a 41-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter, pushed the extra point wide right.

    But the Steelers marched right back down the field field, behind some long runs by James Conner, including a 12-yarder for a TD that increased the Steelers' lead to 23-12 with 2:42 left in the third.

    They tacked on a 42-yard field goal to make it 26-12 with 13:29 left in the game.

    Derrick Kindred's strip and a 3-and-out

    With the Steelers up 14-6 and threatening to score, Derrick Kindred stripped running back Stevan Ridley of the ball after a 4-yard pass and Denzel Ward recovered. It was the Browns' second takeaway of the afternoon, coming on the heels of Kindred's first-quarter interception. Once again, the offense wasn't able to cash in. The Browns went three-and-out on two Nick Chubb runs, including one for a loss, and a Mayfield overthrow to Jarvis Landry on third down.  On the pick, they managed only a field goal. That made for a league-high 22 takeaways and only 34 points.   

     First-half numbers

    The Browns trailed 14-6 at the half on two touchdown catches by Antonio Brown and two field goals by Greg Joseph. Mayfield completed 10-of-19 attempts for 91 yards in the first half with no touchdowns and one interception for a 44.0 rating. The Browns were hurt by attempting field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. They were 0-1 in the red zone, and got only three points out of Kindred's interception.  

    Joe Haden's pick and AB's 2nd TD

    The former Browns cornerback picked off Mayfield on a deep ball intended for Damion Ratley at the Steelers 13 with 7:20 left in the half. It was Haden's first pick of the season. Roethlisberger then embarked on a 16-play, 87-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown on a bubble screen with eight seconds left in the half to make it 14-6. It was Haden's first pick of the season and Mayfield's sixth interception. Last week, it was former Browns defensive lineman Carl Nassib getting revenge on the Browns for the Bucs, including a third down sack of Mayfield in overtime, and this week it was Haden.

    AB's 43 TD catch

    Brown caught a 43-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger after the receiver got behind Denzel Ward. Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket and hit Brown down the left side to put the Steelers up 7-6 with 11:26 left in the half. Ward thought he was getting safety help from Kindred but it never materialized.    

    The touchdown came after Greg Joseph missed a 41-yard field goal wide right to start Pittsburgh at their 31.  

    Kindred's pick

    Kindred picked off Roethlisberger on a pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster and deflected by Christian Kirksey with 4:54 left in the first quarter. But the Browns could only convert it into a 45-yard field goal by Greg Joseph. Mayfield was almost picked off on third down by linebacker Anthony Chickillo on a short pass over the middle. That made for 21 takeaways and only 34 points.   

    Browns strike first

    The Browns have preached faster starts for weeks, and marched downfield on the opening drive to the 13. But the drive stalled when Duke Johnson was knocked back three yards to the 16. Greg Joseph kicked a 34-yard field goal to put the Browns up 3-0 with 9:10 left in the first quarter. Mayfield completed 6-of-7 attempts on the drive for 57 yards, completing passes to four different receivers. 


    The Browns host the Chiefs Sunday at 1 p.m.

    0 0

    The Browns paid in the offseason to fix a position that clearly isn't fixed.

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison cost the Browns two points Sunday, his holding penalty in the end zone resulting in a safety in the third quarter.

    That's the kind of thing rookie left tackles do, and in their second shot at Harrison, after he made his NFL debut against them in the season opener, the Pittsburgh Steelers took advantage of the new guy all day in their easy 33-18 win.

    That the Browns are having trouble replacing future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas is no shock. If there was one position from an 0-16 team that you figured would be worse this season, it was left tackle.

    The problem is that the Browns also are having trouble replacing Shon Coleman.

    The trouble is right tackle.

    On Sunday, the 2-5-1 Browns were smoked on both sides, Baker Mayfield chased from all angles. But only on the right side did the Browns hand out a five-year, $37.5 million contract as a solution.

    Harrison wasn't even drafted. He's a rookie that cost the Browns nothing at a position of dire need.

    Chris Hubbard cost the Browns some cash, yet if you watched the Steelers live in the Browns backfield and asked which Browns tackle was an undrafted rookie, you may have answered, "Both?"

    In the preseason, I called Hubbard my gauge for this season. Why? Because with all the places where the Browns needed help, they couldn't also fail at the positions where answers were supposed to be in place.

    Hubbard, the former sixth lineman for the Steelers who started in Pittsburgh last season because of injuries, was signed to be an answer.

    To me, Hubbard was the gauge because he wasn't a big-name signing, but he was an important one. If he worked out, he'd play right tackle and no one would notice. If he had worked out, the Browns could have done whatever it took to help the undrafted rookie at left tackle, because they had confidence that the right side was locked down.

    They didn't have that confidence.

    There in the fourth quarter of a two-score game Sunday was Hubbard letting Stephon Tuitt blow past him to sack Mayfield on third down, the rookie QB twisting down to his knee as Tuitt attacked him from behind and Hubbard futilely chased his only responsibility on the play.

    All day, Hubbard was smothered by Tuitt in the run game and abused by TJ Watt in pass protection. That time, Tuitt got him on a rush.

    Among general manager John Dorsey's pickups this offseason, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, acquired for a third-round pick, underperformed before Mayfield replaced him. Running back Carlos Hyde was fine yet decently below-average before he was dealt for a fifth-round pick.

    Safety Damarious Randall, lifted from Green Bay in the DeShone Kizer trade, has proven to be a deft and valuable pickup. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, signed on the cheap, played well before he was hurt. Jarvis Landry, the splashy offseason receiver, is OK, but he's certainly not saving the passing game by himself.

    But Hubbard has been a swing and a miss at a position where the Browns couldn't miss.

    Coleman was given the first crack at left tackle, and Hue Jackson quickly soured on him in camp. Coleman was dealt to San Francisco for a seventh-round pick. The Browns then thought they'd move guard Joel Bitonio to tackle and play rookie Austin Corbett at guard, before deciding at the end of camp to try Harrison and keep Bitonio at guard.

    So Dorsey spent money on Hubbard and spent an early second-round pick on Corbett, and on Sunday, once again, Mayfield barely had time to blink, much less settle in the pocket, before a black and gold jersey was on him.

    On the left side, maybe the Browns should go back to that preseason play, put Bitonio at tackle and play Corbett at guard while giving Harrison time on the bench to find himself.

    At right tackle, there is no solution. The Browns already paid for one. And it's not working.

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    Jackson dismisses a report by NFL Network that Haley could be on his way out if the two don't resolve their differences soon. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH -- Browns coach Hue Jackson dismissed a report by NFL Network report's Ian Rapoport that offensive coordinator Todd Haley could be on his way out soon if the dysfunction on offense doesn't get resolved soon.

    "I don't want to talk about or give [credence] to anything about last week,'' Jackson said after Sunday's 33-18 loss to the Steelers that dropped the Browns to 2-5-1 at the midpoint. "I said what I said out of frustration. That's over and done with. Let's go watch the tape and see how we can get better."

    Asked if there's anything he wants to address about his relationship with Haley, he said no.

    "There's nothing wrong with my relationship with Haley,'' he said. "Guys, I said what I said last week, and obviously, it had legs, but I never said I wanted to take away play calling. I said I wanted to help. That's it.

    "So today, now all of the sudden it's this big ol' thing because sure everyone's going to look and say what's going on? The only thing that's going on is we need to get better. We need to coach better."

    The Browns offense struggled once again in Pittsburgh, converting only one of two takeaways into a field goal. That's now only 34 points off a league-high 22 takeaways. 

    The Browns led 6-0 after the first quarter. They drove to the 13 on their opening drive and came away with only a field goal when running back Duke Johnson, kneed in the back on the second play, was knocked back 3 yards on third and 3 from the 13.

    On the day, the Browns went 3-for-13 on third for 23 percent, and came into the game 29th in the NFL in that category.

    At one point in the third quarter, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown hugged Haley in front of the Browns bench, almost as in a show of support.

    Last week, when Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was asked about Jackson getting more involved in the offense, he said "we don't need to reinvent the wheel" and "we don't need to change much."

    On Sunday, a day in which the pocket collapsed around him a lot, he said the chatter about the head coach and coordinator was a non-factor.

    "No, it wasn't about that,'' he said. "We had a good gameplan, came out hot. We've just got to score touchdowns.'' 

    Does he sense any tug-of-war between Jackson and Haley?

    "I try not to pay attention to that stuff,'' he said. "I'm invested in the gameplan and invested in trying to learn and grow with some of these receivers. Trying to get the timing down, trying to get the trust, so that's above my paygrade. I'm not worried about that. When it comes down to it, we come out here, we have to play the game to win.''

    Haley could be fired if the dysfunction continues, per report

    As for what gives Mayfield hope that things will get better and if he'll lobby for more talent before Tuesday's trade deadline, he said, "We show flashes of a great offense. And it's always one play here or there that stops us, so that's the hope that we have is to find the consistency within that and continue to do those things. I don't know. We'll see what happens but I'm fine with who we have.'' 

    Receiver Jarvis Landry, who's struggled at times with few other weapons on offense, said the coaches were not an issue.

    "All I know is we lost today,'' he said. "Those are not my decisions. Those are not something that I'm wasting my energy on or my time. I just want to win games.''

    Does he have confidence in the staff?

    "Yeah, I have confidence in everybody,'' he said. "The talent's here.''

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    The oversized hope of 2-2-1 has vanished. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Snoop Dogg may not be back.

    Three weeks ago, riding high off their .500 record and overtime 3-point win over the Baltimore Ravens, Hue Jackson sent a warning to his team after the 47-year-old rapper showed up at Browns practice.

    "There are going to be a lot of people that want to come be on this wagon when the wagon gets rolling, and we're going to circle the wagon," Jackson said on Oct. 10.

    Eighteen days and three losses later, the Browns would like everyone to know that the wagon has room for any random YouTube stars, popular karaoke performers or fourth cousins of Snoop who might like to swing by Berea.

    The bandwagon, at 2-5-1, is empty.

    The Browns, it turns out, couldn't handle success.

    This is a new, unexpected wrinkle after 1-31. In the absence of success, you didn't know what the Browns might do if they won.

    Now we know the answer: Go right back to losing.

    Some of the postgame quotes after that 12-9 thrashing of the Ravens haven't aged well, not after a 24-point loss to the Chargers, an overtime loss to Tampa and Sunday's 33-18 loss to Pittsburgh that wasn't that close.

    The players were excited then. It was understandable.

    "You saw a glimpse of everything clicking," defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi said after the Baltimore win. "When the ball started rolling, it started rolling. The pieces are one thing, but when you put it all together, that's when you make something special."

    Sunday, I asked Ogunjobi about that hope from three weeks earlier. 

    "I've always been very positive," he said. "I try to keep everyone's energy up."

    The energy was not as up Sunday. But let's just admit Ogunjobi is an upbeat guy.

    Safety Damarious Randall was saying after 2-2-1 that the Browns knew they should have been 5-0 or at least 4-1. He said the mantra for the second quarter of the season, the four-game stretch that started with the Baltimore win, was go to 4-0.

    "We're preaching go 4-0 in the second quarter, and we'll get our respect that we deserve," he said.

    They went 1-3, outscored 97-55.

    I asked Randall about that post-Baltimore optimism, and if he was questioning anything now.

    "Nah, I'll never question things," Randall said Sunday. "That's just the way the game works."

    Then he launched into a cliche about the 53-man roster, but cliches were as common as gold and black folding chairs in the losing locker room, and the chairs were at every locker. Words about fewer mistakes and making more plays and preparing for the next game.

    I'm not making fun of the Browns for their exuberance after reaching 2-2-1. I'm pointing out that something new was lost here. Two seasons of 1-31 was a slog, a miserable march of loss after loss.

    This season, hope flashed.

    And now, the march is on again.

    "We just didn't play well," linebacker Christian Kirksey said, his frustration palpable. "We played bad football today, that's all I can say about that."

    It has been bad football every way possible. Against San Diego, the Browns were blown off the field at home. On the road at Tampa, they started slow and trailed 16-2 at the half before rallying to force overtime. On the road at Pittsburgh, they jumped ahead 6-0 and Greg Joseph missed a field goal that would have made the lead 9-0 early in the second quarter.

    Pittsburgh then scored 33 of the next 39 points.

    "We've just got to find a way to play well the whole game," left guard Joel Bitonio said. "I thought we came out with good energy today. I thought we practiced well this week. I don't know what happened, we just stalled out for a little bit and it sucked."

    With a winnable game in Tampa, the Browns let the Bucs escape with their only win in the last five games. With a big game in Pittsburgh, Jackson gave his team a pep talk Saturday night, and they came out with a better plan, then withered.

    "It was a chance for us to make a mark in the AFC North," Jackson said. "As I told this team last night, we have a chance. We beat Baltimore already, we've tied this team before, and coming in here and winning a game would be huge. Here was a chance for us to take another step.

    "I thought our guys started to get that. But, as it kept going, we knew it was going to get tougher. It seems like we didn't go grab what I think we had a chance to grab."

    Since that miracle tie the Browns forged on Sept. 10, the Steelers are 4-2 and the Browns are 2-5.

    "Knowing we were toe-to-toe with them the first time we played, it should have been a lot closer," Myles Garrett said Sunday.

    Taken alone, none of the last three losses are inexcusable. Taken together it is a backslide.

    The Browns got run over by their own bandwagon.

    Asked about the way the locker room was up after the Ravens win compared to now, Jackson said the team is, "Still up. Still up. Frustrated, mad, don't like to lose like that, but this team will stick together and keep fighting."

    Up was 2-2-1. Frustrated, mad, still fighting - that sounds like the days of 1-31.

    The defense is clearly missing the injured Joe Schobert and Terrance Mitchell; the offensive line had its worst day among several bad ones this season; and the coaches still refuse to feature Duke Johnson and David Njoku while begging for plays from guys who can't make them.

    I've said the Browns shouldn't bother firing Jackson unless he's harming Baker Mayfield. While Jackson waits for players to grab something, it's becoming more clear this coaching staff isn't showing them how to do it.

    Bob Wylie is a whimsical star of Hard Knocks, but his expensive offensive line can't block.

    Garrett questioned why the defensive gameplan was so different compared to the opener against Pittsburgh, which will be interesting to ask defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. All those missed tackles by the Browns secondary on running back James Conner - they were missing with the tackling form Williams teaches.

    And offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Jackson aren't on the same page.

    For two years, Jackson believed he didn't have enough talent to compete. He has said no coach could have avoided 1-31. 

    What about turning 2-2-1 into 2-5-1? 

    This isn't a call to fire anyone. At this point, we're only debating timing.

    This is reminder.

    For two years, the Browns lost. If you wondered what Jackson's team would do if it started winning, you have your answer.

    Start losing again.

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    The loss dropped the Browns to 2-5-1 and marked their first loss in the AFC North. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Browns fell to the Steelers again on Sunday, 33-18, and the game was not as close as the final score.

    The loss dropped the Browns to 2-5-1 and marked their first loss in the AFC North. They also lost for the 15th straight time in Pittsburgh and 25th on the road overall. The NFL record for consecutive road losses is 26, set by the Lions from 2007-2010.

    Are the Browns preparing to make some changes? Reports on Sunday said offensive coordinator Todd Haley's job may be in danger.

    In the above video, Browns reporters Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe break down Sunday's events and what might happen next.

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    Garrett was critical of the Browns defensive gameplan, saying the Browns should've stuck with what they did in the first meeting. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. --  Defensive end Myles Garrett thinks the Browns got too fancy on defense against the Steelers in their 33-18 loss to them on Sunday.

    "I think we just took the wrong approach this time,'' said Garrett. "I think we should've just stayed with what we did the first time, just go with base calls and punch them in the mouth. I feel like we should've stuck with the same game plan."

    It worked in the first quarter on Sunday, when they shut out the Steelers 6-0 and kept them off the field most of the quarter.

    "It didn't work the rest of the quarters,'' he said.

    In the opener, the Browns tied the Steelers 21-21 -- but the defense had six takeaways that game. Could it be just that? That they had four fewer takeaways this time?

    "It's not always going to be six, but I feel like if we would've stuck with what we did before, then we could've had another game like that or near that,'' said Garrett.

    So what did they do differently this time?

    "That's for me to know,'' he said coyly. "No, I just feel like we were moving around a lot in the front four and we were experimenting with some things, and I think we should've just stayed in our usual calls and just got after that, but we'll go back and look at what we could've done better.''

    Why did they switch things up so much this time? Just to keep them off balance and give them different looks?

    "Probably a little bit of both, just throw something different out there and see how they react,'' said Garrett. "They were able to adjust, and we have to do the same thing.''

    Jackson dismisses report Haley could be gone and 'there's nothing wrong' between them

    Garrett didn't think his criticisms were too bold or that they'd upset defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

    "I don't see it that way,'' he said. "He wants to go with the best plan possible, and if we think what works best would be what we did before, then he's going to take our adjustment into account. He's not going to bash us for having an opinion. He wants us to be able to be on the field and be comfortable.''

    Garrett's strong remarks come on the heels of him blasting the officiating heading into the Bucs game. He didn't get fine for those remarks, but Williams gave him and the rest of the defense a stern lecture on criticizing the officials.

    Garrett was asked if the defense had assignment errors or confusion in Pittsburgh. On Antonio Brown's 43-yard TD, Denzel Ward seemed to be looking for safety help from Derrick Kindred when Brown got behind him in the end zone.

    "Nah, it wasn't a super-complicated plan,'' he said. "They were throwing us different looks, and we were doing the same. We just weren't in the right places at the right times sometimes, and then, we were taken advantage of. That's how James (Conner) was able to get around the edge or just skip through some of those gaps that we created for him.''

    Connor rushed for 146 yards and two TDs, including 113 yards and both TDs in the second half for 12 and 22 yards. That's one thing that was consistent from the first meeting to this one: Conner rushed for 135 yards and two TDs in the opener.

    "Not sure (why) yet,'' said Garrett. "We've got to go back and look at the tape. I think it's more of what we did rather than him just being that explosive. I mean, he's a good player, and he's going to make those plays that we give to him, especially when we open it up for him, but we've just got to look back at the tape.''

    Garrett was also highly critical of his own play. In the first meeting, he had two sacks and two strips on Ben Roethlisberger (257 yards, two TDs, one INT, 94.3 rating), and dominated parts of the game.

    On Sunday, he was held to one sack for a total of a career-high eight on the season and no strips. In the second half, he had no answer for Connor or Big Ben.

    "It's never going to be good enough for me,'' he said.  "Had a sack early, had a tackle, but other than that, I was holding my edge but didn't make enough plays. Just being in the right place at the right time is not enough. We've got to be all over the field and we've just got to dominate and I wasn't there.''

    He was hoping for an Aaron Donald-type highlight reel, monster performance. Instead the Browns lost their third straight game and 15th straight in Pittsburgh to drop to 2-5-1.

    "I wish that on every game I play in, but sometimes it's not in the cards,'' he said. "Sometimes they've got a plan for you and they get paid too, and they executed their plan and for the most part they kept me off the quarterback and kept me off James.''

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    Mayfield doesn't have enough weapons, enough protection or a scheme that showcases his ability enough. Things must change around him in the second half of the season. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- With Sunday's 33-18 loss to the Steelers, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has lost three straight games and has a long, tough road ahead of him unless things change around him.

    By Monday, we might have a better idea if a report by NFL Network that Todd Haley could get fired was on point. If so, Mayfield will have Hue Jackson calling the plays and a retooled scheme to run.

    Jackson wouldn't be able to revert to the offense he ran before here and in Cincinnati, because the players would have to learn a whole new language. But he could design an offense that incorporates more of Mayfield's Air Raid concepts from Oklahoma, and that would help him tremendously. Even if Haley sticks around, the Browns should do more of that to help Mayfield feel comfortable.

    With the 7-1 Chiefs and fellow Air-Raider Patrick Mahomes coming to town on Sunday, it won't get any easier for Mayfield. 

    He doesn't have enough weapons around him, and it will be extremely difficult moving forward to keep pace with high-powered offenses of teams such as the Chiefs and Texans, whom the Browns play in December.

    Jackson dismisses a report that Haley could be fired soon

    With a lack of good receivers around him, Mayfield's holding the ball too long at times and getting hit far too often. He was only sacked twice by the Steelers but hit a total of seven times. After one of those big hits, a 13-yard sack by Stephon Tuitt, Mayfield came up limping.

    The tough player that he is, he came back out on the next drive and finished the game. 

    "One thing I know about Baker, he battles,'' said Jackson. "He battled his tail off. He's tough, he took quite a few hits there. He kept getting up, he kept going back. So, when you look at it, the score is not what you want, and the numbers aren't either. But, I think Baker did some good things. I just think he has to keep working.''

    Afterward, he was asked how he felt coming out of that game.

    "Body's seen better days,'' Mayfield said. "That's the nature of playing that team. They're physical.''

    The final half of the season must be about developing Mayfield (22-of-36, 180 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 80.8 rating) and giving him every chance to be successful. That not only means tweaking the scheme to give him plays he feels comfortable with, but also supplying him with more receivers that he trusts.

    When asked Sunday about the report that Haley could be on the hot seat for the sluggish offense, Mayfield made it known that he's trying to do the best he can with what he has to work with on the field.

    "I try not to pay attention to that stuff,'' he said. "I'm invested in the game plan, invested in trying to learn, and grow with these receivers. I'm trying to get the trust.''

    It will help Mayfield tremendously when trusted target Rashard Higgins returns from his sprained MCL. Higgins has missed the last three games, and Mayfield has lost all three. Higgins isn't a three-time Pro Bowler, but to Mayfield, he's an MVP. They developed a special chemistry throughout training camp, and Mayfield trusts that he'll be in the right place and catch the ball.

    The Browns should also sign free-agent receiver Terrelle Pryor and try to trade for other available receivers by Tuesday's deadline. 

    In the second quarter with the Browns trailing only 7-6, Mayfield fired the ball downfield to Damion Ratley, and it was picked off by Joe Haden at the Steelers' 13. Ratley, the Browns sixth-round pick, has filled in admirably, but he was inactive for three of the first five games because he wasn't ready.

    Fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway is still learning the pro game and having his share of growing pains. Mayfield and Jarvis Landry connected eight times on 12 targets, but for only 39 yards. Teams can still roll too much coverage to Landry and prevent him from making big plays. 

    Under pressure and blitzed much of the afternoon, Mayfield was also off on some of his throws to Landry. He did zip a 1-yard touchdown pass in to Callaway, but the drive started at the Steelers' 24 after the Pittsburgh's Ryan Switzer let the free kick after a safety skip past him and get recovered by the Browns.

    In the first half, the Browns kicked two field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Part of the problem is that Mayfield didn't get any reps with the first-team offense in camp because the Browns thought Tyrod Taylor would still be holding down the fort. 

    Mayfield, who's been sacked 20 times in 5 1/2 games, also doesn't have solid enough protection, and the Browns must find ways to keep him upright, via both scheme and manpower. If they have to trade for a tackle, so be it.

    The second half of the season must be about protecting, developing and fortifying the future of the franchise, no matter what it takes.

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    The Boston Red Sox won their fourth World Series championship in 15 years, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5 Sunday night behind David Price's pitching and Steve Pearce's power.

    LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Red Sox won their fourth World Series championship in 15 years, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5 Sunday night behind David Price's pitching and Steve Pearce's power.

    Alex Cora became the first manager from Puerto Rico to guide a team to the title. He's just the fifth rookie skipper to do it overall.

    After posting a team-record 108 wins during the regular season and romping through the AL playoffs, the Red Sox finished off a one-sided series.

    Price threw three-hit ball into the eighth inning. Pearce hit two home runs, a night after his homer and three-run double spurred a late rally.

    Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez also connected as the Red Sox hit three homers off Clayton Kershaw.

    Los Angeles lost Game 7 of the World Series last year to Houston, also at Dodger Stadium by the same 5-1 score.

    Expo preview

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