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Mike Polk, Jr.: Despite injuries, the Browns pulled off an impressive win against Broncos

They did it with many of their second and third string players!

CLEVELAND — While it may have seemed a little low-octane, I thought that was a sincerely impressive win last night by a team that had their backs against the wall. 

What a thrill it must have been for the National Thursday Night Football audience to get to watch the Browns much-hyped cavalcade of stars in action. They got to see all of their favorite household names contribute to the win, like D’Earnest Johnson, Blake Hance, Backup Fullback Johnny Stanton and, wait, who is that guy? John Kelly? We have a John Kelly? Alright. Well, good job man.

The point is, it wasn’t exactly our A-Team out there last night and that’s what made it so impressive. The fact that they managed to win despite all the injuries is the sign that the Browns are a disciplined, well-coached and deep team. And that’s fantastic.

That said, we obviously also need to keep things in perspective. First and foremost, let's look at who we beat: These are no longer the storied John Elway Broncos of yesteryear.

(Side note: I always hoped that I might one day reach the point of emotional maturity that when the broadcast cuts to John Elway sitting in his suite, I won’t feel a deep, relentless fury from the moment he is on screen until the moment they cut away. I regret to report that not only is that not happening, I’m pretty sure it’s going in the other direction somehow. Which I recognize isn’t remotely rational, but what can I say? The heart wants what it wants.)

Regardless, the Broncos kind of stink now. I like Teddy Bridgewater. He’s a good story and he’s scrappy, but he gets badly injured about six times per game on average and I think it’s starting to affect his performance.

And I’m not saying this merely to ridicule The Broncos, although that’s obviously a pleasant bonus. I’m saying that we should be careful not to assign too much meaning to the performances of anyone yesterday, first and foremost Mr. Case Keenum.

Keenum looked great! He managed the game well, did exactly what he was hired to do and, most importantly, he got the win.   

And unsurprisingly, based on that result, I’ve already seen a decent number of Browns fans suggesting that moving forward it should be Case starting rather than Mayfield, even once Baker is healed up.

I believe that makes this a good time to just tap the breaks a bit and put this in perspective. Yes! Keenum did a solid job, but please remember that there are reasons that Stefanski decided Case would be backing up Baker and not vice versa. And he was more familiar with Keenum’s skill set than anyone, having coached him in Minnesota.

And back then, he saw what we all saw last night: A competent but not spectacular quarterback who can perform well within the right system but lacks whatever that elusive certain something is that truly special quarterbacks have.

And honestly, whether Baker has that “certain something” remains to be seen. But he’s certainly shown flashes of it, and that’s why Stefanski gave him the reins.

The bar is simply lower for quarterbacks. They’re not expected to light it up, and if they just prove to be competent when called upon everyone is overjoyed by their performance.  

I would compare being the backup quarterback to being a fun uncle, like me. I have not yet been blessed with children but I AM a fun uncle. And sometimes, as an uncle, I’ve been called upon to help out. Maybe something comes up and I’m asked to watch my nieces for a couple of hours. When I do that, my family all acts like I’m the greatest guy in the world for watching those kids -- not because I do such a good job -- I don’t. I’m just stuffing them with fast food the whole time, inadvertently teaching them new curse words and generally letting them do whatever the hell they want, which they seem to enjoy.

But because they’re actually not my kids and I’m just temporarily taking over the duties of their rightful guardian, and because my bar is so low as long as those kids are still alive when my sister gets back, I come off looking great.

But we Fun uncles also have lots of limitations. I’m not suitable to be in charge of children long term. I’m in a kickball league. I have no idea how to do fractions and my fridge only has Miller High Life and mustard in it right now.

Like Case Keenum, I’m much better suited as a temporary stopgap fix than I am a long-term, serious solution.

And again, I’m not certain that Baker can be the responsible guardian we need to help our team blossom into maturity either, but I do know that a lot of really smart football minds including our own coach have determined that Keenum is definitely not. And I’ll defer to them on that.

All that said, here’s to you Case Keenum!  Nice job out there buddy, from one fun uncle to another. Thanks for holding it down until Dad gets back. And Go Browns.


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