Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday leftovers

If what we’ve seen of the west coast offense in the first eight games (including exhibitions) is any indication of what we’ve got to look forward to, then it truly will be a long season for the Browns.

Pat Shurmur’s version of the west coast looks nothing like its predecessors. It’s not even close. The results have ranged from mediocre to disastrous.

Maybe it’s the personnel. Then again, maybe it’s the execution. Whatever it is, it carries a stench that is beginning to turn off some Browns fans.

I, for one, am this close (as he holds his index finger and thumb apart just enough to notice a sliver of space between them) to giving up on this new offense. It has become truly offensive and not a serious threat to opponents.

Blame it on the owners’ lockout, which prevented teams from participating in OTAs and minicamps. Blame it on the fact that Shurmur has been dealt a bad hand with a terrible receiving corps and a quarterback struggling to make it in the National Football League.

Colt McCoy played four years at the University of Texas in an offense he said had similarities to the west coast. He even boasted that the switch to that philosophy by Shurmur would help him develop even faster.

Hasn’t worked.

The offense is predicated on the pass setting up the run. But you need a strong receiving corps to do that. And you need a quarterback who makes quick and accurate decisions.

McCoy, thus far, has shown a tendency to hold onto the ball too long. It doesn’t come out of his hand quick enough. As a result, a lot of his throws are either late (resulting in interceptions) or off target.

You can almost tell when something bad is going to happen. Count to four (a thousand one, a thousand two, etc.) after McCoy gets the snap. If the ball isn’t gone by four, expect a negative play. If it’s gone before then, it usually winds up a positive play.

Tim Couch and Charlie Frye had similar problems. They frequently waited (too long) for a receiver to uncover and delivered the ball late. Instead of trusting the receiver to be open and throwing early, they did the opposite.

It appears McCoy is just a smaller version of Couch and Frye.

In order to be effective, a quarterback has to have a large dose of chemistry with his receivers. The kind of chemistry McCoy has with his wideouts would blow up a lab.

* * *

Just because the west coast relies on the pass setting up the run, it doesn’t mean the ground game should be virtually ignored. There is no excuse why Peyton Hillis ran the ball just 10 times in the loss to Tennessee Sunday. He is a weapon and weapons do not watch from the bench, as Hillis did too often against the Titans.

Montario Hardesty is still getting his NFL feet wet and it showed against the Titans when he dropped five very catchable passes. The Browns needed to run against Tennessee and the best man to do that was not in the game.

That’s bad coaching. Shurmur is the offensive coordinator, as well as head coach. To find the culprit for his mismanagement of personnel, all he has to do is look in the mirror. Maybe the load is too much for him. He needs help.

Hillis, for whatever reason, has not been a factor this season. We’re a quarter of the way through the season and he has been a relative non-factor. That’s not how to treat your leading rusher from last season.

* * *

It is said games are won and lost in the trenches. That was illustrated perfectly against the Titans, who had four sacks and a boatload of hits on McCoy, who was forced to scramble far more than he wanted.

And the Cleveland front seven, which had 11 sacks in the first three games, drew a blank against a far superior Tennessee offensive. They managed to hit Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck just once. His uniform after the game looked as though it had just been laundered.

Not protecting your quarterback and not getting to the opposing quarterback is a recipe for failure.

* * *

Why is it that almost every time a Browns receiver catches the football, he’s standing still waiting for the ball to arrive. Rarely do you see a Cleveland receiver in stride upon delivery.

If I recall correctly, the west coast is an offense based on timing and that timing includes movement toward a thrown ball. No stopping. Fluid movement so yards after the catch can be gained.

Haven’t seen much of that this season.

* * *

The Browns’ offensive line is overrated. Vastly overrated. It might be the worst in the division, Yes, even worse than Pittsburgh’s.

It has trouble opening holes in the running game as evidenced by a rushing average of just 86 yards a game. And it must share some of the blame for failure to protect the quarterback.

How often have we seen McCoy roll out after (a) failing to spot an open receiver or (b) encountering pressure before he wants to deliver the ball? That pressure has come from all directions, not just one side.

In other words, everyone is to blame, including the great Joe Thomas, whose play this season has been spotty. And first-year starting guards Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao are playing like first-year starting guards.

* * *

It took four games before the Browns saw a real honest-to-goodness NFL quarterback. In the first three games, they faced a rookie (Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton), a washed-up has-been (Indianapolis’ Kerry Collins) and one of the NFL’s mediocre signal callers (Chad Henne of Miami).

So when they faced Hasselbeck Sunday, it was the first real test of how well they would fare against one of the good ones. Although on the downside of his career, the veteran showed he can still bring it.

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