CLEVELAND - There’s one man that Browns fans almost universally like.
It’s not the coach, quarterback or general manager. He’s not the glitzy guy who talks at the podium in the media room. When it comes down to it, he usually sees just a few snaps each game.
But after the game, a crowd of reporters gathers around kicker Phil Dawson’s corner locker, tucked away amongst those of his much younger teammates.
Dawson scored all of the Browns’ points in their 25-15 loss to the Ravens Sunday. It’s nothing unfamiliar for the veteran kicker, though he wouldn’t acknowledge it.
"It doesn't really do me any good to play that game," Dawson said. "It stinks losing a game, especially a division game at home, a game that we were in, and I'll just leave it at that."
Here are a couple stats about Phil:
- Four times last season, Dawson accounted for all of the teams points with his right foot
- 27 times in his 14 seasons as Browns kicker, Dawson has been the team's only source of points in a game
Despite his great play, the success of Dawson acts as an overarching symbol, an ironic one at that, of all that’s wrong with the Browns. Having a reliable kicker is a valuable asset at a volatile position where turnover is high. But Dawson’s continual entrances to the field typically come with a sigh, the result of persistent offensive failure.
“I feel like I’m one missed kick from losing my job,” Dawson said.
He really shouldn’t worry, a perfect 17 for 17 on field goal tries this season.
Job security should be a concern for head coach Pat Shurmur. Despite adding a new quarterback, running back and receivers - again - the offensive numbers are not getting better.
In fact, they’re getting worse. Through nine games, the Browns are 31st in the NFL in red zone offense, a category they were fifth worst in last season.
The issues extend back before Shurmur though. For the past four seasons, the Browns have finished 27th or worse in red zone scoring percentage. That means it falls not just on a coach but the people evaluating and bringing in players too. Savage, Heckert, Holmgren - they have all failed to put together an effective unit.
That doesn’t mean Shurmur’s not culpable.
In their seventh loss of 2012 and 19th of Shurmur’s tenure, the Browns looked disorganized and disoriented at times. Timeouts were wasted and penalties came at crucial moments, like when Chris Ogbonnaya’s illegal formation brought back what would have been the Browns' only touchdown.
Shurmur’s decision to go for it on 4th and 2 with more than three minutes on the clock and two timeouts, was head-scratching. It was a much different call than the one Shumur made two weeks ago, when he punted on a 4th down in Colts territory late in the game. This time, in his own territory, he got aggressive when his defense had stymied the Ravens for the bulk of the past three quarters.
"We went for it this time, right? I wanted to get the first down," Shurmur said. "We felt like we had a play we liked and we didn't execute it well. That's all."
Coming up short has happened far too often for the Browns with Shurmur as coach. It rarely happens when the ball lifts off from Dawson’s foot.
"I just wanna win games, whether it's touchdowns, field goals, safeties, their bus doesn't show up," Dawson said.
There hasn't been much winning in Dawson's time here. Quarterbacks and coaches have come and gone like wildfire through the losing that has accompanied the Browns since they returned to town.
Dawson has been a staple of consistency. If only the rest of the team could follow his example.
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