Their seasons began with hope, and ended some 17 hours apart

When I think of the number 17 one thing comes to mind: Seventeen Mile Drive. It is worth traveling if you are in California. The trip will take you along the Pacific coast on the Monterrey Peninsula. It will take you past Pebble Beach Golf Links and into the town of Carmel.

The vistas are beautiful and you will leave the area reluctantly.

This past weekend, the number popped into my head again, with a decidedly different connotation. Sometime around 11 p.m. last Saturday night the Ohio State Buckeyes lost out on an opportunity to play for the national championship, falling to the Clemson Tigers.

Some 17 hours later, almost to the minute, the Cleveland Browns season came to a somewhat more merciful ending as they lost to the woeful Cincinnati Bengals. Last September, fans of the Browns and Buckeyes were anxious to get those seasons started. Playoff expectations were running rampant for both teams.

And in the space of 17 hours, both teams’ seasons were over.

Let’s start with the Browns. After suffering through a winless 2017 season, the Browns won seven games last year. Adding some talent in the offseason had Browns fans drooling with anticipation. I wasn’t so sure.

Personally, I was not enamored with the choice of Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 pick. But I’m willing to admit he played pretty well. This year, my initial fears returned. I’m still not convinced he’s the right guy to lead this franchise, but I’m not sure that is the biggest problem for Cleveland.

The Browns have had eight head coaches in the last dozen years. Does the word “instability” pop into your head? Now they are looking for another one as well as a new general manager! Not exactly a stable situation, is it?

When Freddie Kitchens was hired as head coach last season, I was very skeptical. I was not sure he was ready for the gig and he proved he wasn’t as the Browns led the league in penalties. That has to fall on the head man, at least to a certain extent.

So the Browns did what they do best. They canned Kitchens. Now we are looking for No. 9 and throw in the fact that Paul DePodesta — the Browns Chief Strategy Officer (whatever that is) — seems to have won a power struggle with general manager John Dorsey. Dorsey resigned and now owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have to get a new coach AND general manager.

Apparently the coaching job will be filled first as Cleveland has interviewed former Packers coach Mike McCarthy for the position. Other names that have been bandied about are Josh McDaniels, Eric Bieniemy, Kevin Stefanski, Robert Saleh, Greg Roman and Urban Meyer.

Once a coach has been hired, then the club will search for a GM. I’d like to tell you that things are looking up, but I can’t.

All I can do is hope, just like the rest of the demoralized Browns fanbase.

As for the Buckeyes, they did not disappoint. Well, at least not until last Saturday. They went through the regular season undefeated for coach Ryan Day. The Clemson game was a classic. Most neutral college football fans had to think it was a good game. Clemson fans might use the word great.

Ohio State fans more than likely had a little bad taste in their mouths. As usually is the case, many people want someone to blame when you lose. More than a few are likely to blame the “call” for the Buckeyes loss. Of course I’m referring to the fumble recovery for an OSU touchdown that was overturned and went into the books as an incomplete pass.

Was it a good call? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not sure if anyone knows what constitutes a catch or an incompletion. I’ve heard the jargon. Taking two steps, making a football move, etc. doesn’t always make sense.

The officials on the field got it right. They let the play proceed knowing that if it was an incompletion it would be overturned. That is how they are taught. The problem came about when knowledgeable people looked at the replay and saw two different things. To me, that suggests that the rule is shaky. I wish I knew what to do about that!

My feelings about the Buckeyes game are that two very good teams went toe to toe and Clemson made one more play than the Buckeyes. It would have been a great national championship game. We may still see one a week from Monday.

Alas, Ohio State and Cleveland Browns fans are a little sad these days. If you are a fan of the Buckeyes, don’t despair. They will be back next year as competitive as ever.

As for the Browns: well, let’s just wait and see.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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