Even with a down year from Pro Bowl returner Joshua Cribbs, the Browns took third in the annual special teams rankings of Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
Gosselin examines 22 categories and assigns points, 1 to 32 (1 for the best, 32 for the worst), then gives each team a total score. First was New England (269), followed by Tennessee (274) and Cleveland (277).
Most stunning about the Browns' high ranking was that it came despite finishing worst in kickoff returns (17.0 average). But that was offset by finishing first in kickoff coverage (17.8 allowed). They also finished eighth in the league in net punting, fifth in punt coverage and tied for fifth in field goal percentage allowed.
Two players with area ties -- rookie punter Zoltan Mesko of Twinsburg and kickoff returner Julian Edelman of Kent State -- helped the Patriots claim the top spot. Mesko finished with a 38.4 net and only five touchbacks. Edelman combined with Brandon Tate to return three kickoffs for touchdowns.
"Shoutout to everybody that is giving me fuel to the fire I have inside," he wrote on Twitter, according to the Dispatch. "Its only a matter of time until it explodes."
Ohio State hosts Michigan State on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ESPN).
** Ohio State's Jesse Owens, a product of Cleveland's East Tech High School, was named No. 3 on the Big Ten's list of icons and will be celebrated in a special on the Big Ten Network at 9 p.m. Sunday. The episode will include interviews with Owens’ daughters, Marlene and Gloria.
But in its press release, the conference practically second-guessed its placing of Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in front of Adolph Hitler. Red Grange and Magic Johnson have yet to be included on the network's list, with its specials running into March.
Former Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath said of Owens in an essay for the network, included on the annoucement, ''Thousands of athletes have distinguished themselves and earned acclaim for their schools in the storied 114-year history of the Big Ten Conference, but no individual’s accomplishments cast a larger shadow than those of Jesse Owens. In 1936, three years before the world went back to war, his fleet feet and indomitable spirit stood in stark contrast to Adolph Hitler’s plans for worldwide Nazi domination.
“The 1936 Olympics would take place in Berlin, and Hitler intended to use them to promote the Nazi movement and his theory of an Aryan ‘master race.’ But Jesse Owens proved to be a gloriously stubborn obstacle to those plans. He won four gold medals in a storybook performance that established the humble sharecropper’s son as the world’s greatest athlete beyond question.”
Owens won gold in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 4x100-meter relay.
** I loved Sullinger's comments on Cleveland.com after the Buckeyes suffered their first loss in 25 games, which dropped them to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.