From the Desk of Joe: A Fourth Quarter Gameplan

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I’m a lifelong, diehard fan of the Cleveland Browns.  I grew up singing all the songs made about the Kardiac Kids and knowing every player's name on the roster.  I cried with my dad in 1981 when Red Right 88 backfired on the Sipe to Newsome pass.  I walked around in a haze for a week in 1987 after Byner coughed it up at the 3-yard line in Denver.  I cursed Belichek in 1993—and every year since—when he dealt our beloved Bernie Kosar.  I vowed revenge against Art Modell in 1995 when he announced moving the team.  And I sat alone most Sundays in my living room watching my beloved team disappoint week after week, only to have to answer to my kids when they asked, "Why do you do this to yourself, Dad?"

I'm a five-year fan of Fed Chair Jerome Powell.  He and I don't have the same emotional history as the Browns and I, which is just to say he hasn't broken my heart yet.  I've quickly gained respect for him and his ways; I like his transparency and his demeanor with the media.  He's a straight shooter and calls it like he sees it, and I believe he sees it all.  He openly dissects the data for us, allowing us a better understanding of what's behind the decisions.  So far so good, JP.

Given a horrendous start to the Browns game last Sunday, and what I believe to be a debacle of the fourth quarter, I can’t help but consider some similarities between these two relationships.

The Cleveland Browns essentially spotted 14 points to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, thanks to a sleeping offense with horrible play calling for the first 2 series, and a defense that was uncharacteristically lax to start the game.  Chairman Powell spotted almost 10 points to inflation before finally deciding to take any interest rate action in March 2022.  By then, inflation was already running at 8.5% and climbing.  One could argue that March of 2022 was the beginning of the Inflation vs Interest Rates game and, just as Mark Stefanski has the Browns' play calling clipboard in his hand, so has Fed Chair Powell had the interest rate clipboard in his.  Both got off to a late start in their respective games and quickly fell behind.

Down 14-0 with momentum working against him, Coach Stefanski soon found wisdom in a ground attack against the Seahawks (a ground attack that was working well through three quarters).  Chairman Powell, quickly realizing he was behind in the score and measly .25% hikes at a time weren't the answer, fought aggressively while unleashing his offense of greater interest rate hikes.

And so both games played on and both made for volatile entertainment, except for anyone with the slightest hint of cardiac issues (neither game was for the weak of heart). By now we know how the Browns' game ended and, in this Browns fan's opinion, the avoidable loss was the result of a play-calling coach abandoning a gameplan that worked for nearly three quarters.  Kareem Hunt was having a great game and averaging nearly 4 yards per carry, yet Stefanski found it necessary to pass the ball all quarter long and keep Kareem on the bench.  Not the first game that play calling failed us, and unfortunately won't be the last (unless there's an offensive equivalent of Jim Schwartz out there).

Now as we sit here in what may be the fourth quarter of Interest Rates vs Inflation, Fed Chairman Powell and his Board of Governors elect to pass for a second consecutive time. However, he was quite clear in his testimony that, if they fall behind on the scoreboard again, the offense will step it back up. Time will tell as this fourth quarter plays on, but I certainly hope Powell doesn't call for a pass as often as Stefanski does when the game clearly calls for a ground attack.  I'm not wishing for rates to go higher, just for inflation to keep heading south.  As this week ends with what appears to be (at the time of this writing) a three-day relief rally in equity markets following Powell's calling of a pass play, keep in mind the game ain't over. Inflation has proven to be a tough opponent for interest rates and certainly has an arsenal of trick plays to be aware of.  Here’s to hoping Powell's late game play calling is better than Stefanski's.

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