At first, the notion of the Cleveland Browns' quarterback job being advertised on Craigslist is kind of comical, in a snarky sort of way.
But then listen to Aaron Rodgers’ voice go still when he’s told about it, and hear him say that it wouldn’t be at all humorous if it happened in Green Bay, and the snarkiness fades.
It’s hard to think, though, that a 22-year-old grad student in classical music had mean intentions. Seth Pae sounded anything but mean when he talked about the prank. In fact, he said he was just frustrated at the Browns' constant search and revolving door of quarterbacks. He even dropped references to Ted Mosby and “How I Met Your Mother”; anyone who does that has to be solid.
But Pae -- and all the other factory-of-sadness inductees before him -- reflect the frustration a loyal fan base feels about a team that has done little to reward that loyalty.
The Browns have had two winning seasons and one playoff game since 1999, and they’ve started 19 quarterbacks. They’ve lost games because a linebacker took off his helmet before time ran out, and they’ve lost because they were just plain lousy.
Brian Hoyer offered brief relief this season, but when he hurt his knee it was back to Brandon Weeden, who provided the you-had-to-see-it-to-even-grasp-it play that put Pae -- and a lot of other Browns fans -- over the edge.
It’s hard to blame them. They get slapped, come back, and get slapped harder.
Weeden wasn’t asked directly about the Craigslist ad, but he did say he had bought good earmuffs to block out criticism, and that he no longer looked at social media.
Which is all well and good. But he also said he knows few other quarterbacks being judged so harshly after 18 starts, and he did not lose any sleep over a backhand, underhand interception for the ages.
In his defense, his teammates are correct that everyone makes a bad play and that the quarterback’s are magnified.
But that’s why guys play quarterback. To be part of the big plays, and to successfully complete them. The quarterbacks get the glory and the money; they also get the spotlight and the blame when they fail.
Weeden is being judged by a regime that didn’t draft him, a coach who didn’t select him. Just like he’s in the cross hairs of the frustrations of 14 years, he’s in the cross hairs of the new regime running the Browns. He feels it, and he’s not helping himself the way he’s playing.
The fans? They just want to see wins. Heck, they’d probably be happy with competitive, entertaining, smart football.
Pae’s joke was a joke. Nothing more, or less. Like all jokes, it bothers some and makes others laugh. He simply had seen enough.
But when he was interviewed he interjected two words before he hung up: “Go Browns.”