So many questions in the wake of the Browns’ latest loss.
Let’s start with the obvious one. Why did they look so bad and not ready to play a game of football after their bye week?
Then there’s this one: Why is it that the Browns get outcoached in just about every game?
How about: Why has Peyton Hillis become an afterthought?
Keep going? OK.
Try these two: Is the pro game too much for Colt McCoy to handle? And why has Pat Shurmur abandoned the running game (21 runs vs. 45 passes)?
Sticking with the offense: Is this the Shurmur offense we must put up with the rest of this season?
So many other questions. Let’s try to answer a few in a way that at least would make some sense.
No, the Browns were not ready to play a game Sunday in Oakland and all but handed the Raiders a 24-17 victory. It was obvious they were ill-prepared.
They struggled on offense most of the afternoon. Their special teams play was atrocious. Only the defense approached respectability, but couldn’t overcome the damage the other two phases had caused.
The final score is misleading. Even though they were in a position to tie the game in the final moments and give the diehards hope, you just knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not the way McCoy and his guys played.
Shurmur has put way too much faith in McCoy’s ability to make plays; way too much faith in his receivers’ ability to make plays; way too much faith for anyone on that side of the ball to make plays.
That they were in a position to at least tie in the waning moments was nothing more than a fortunate bounce of the ball on a desperate onside kick that was poorly played by the Raiders. The Browns took advantage of that by reverting to their implosive ways.
As for the coaching, it’s understandable that a rookie head coach will get outcoached on a rare occasion, but it has become nearly a weekly event with Shurmur. Sunday, special teams took center stage.
OK, it’s not unusual for a kickoff to be returned all the way this season. Jacoby Ford of the Raiders just added his name to a growing list of players who have accomplished that feat. It happens.
But when the Raiders used a successful fake field goal attempt to climb to 24-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, that’s a product of bad coaching. Very bad coaching. Not a tip-of-your-hat nod to being outsmarted.
The bewildered look on Shurmur’s face said it all when Oakland punter Shane Lechler hit Kevin Boss with a scoring pass as the Browns gave absolutely no thought to the possibility of a fake.
The fault of special teams coach Chris Tabor? No way. This one belongs to Shurmur, who should make it mandatory for his coaches to always consider a fake in field goal and punt situations and make the opposition kick the ball. He got snookered.
Perhaps the load of being his own offensive coordinator and keeping his head in the game on all levels is too much for Shurmur. Sure he allows defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to run things on that side of the ball. But as head coach, he has to be autonomous.
Everything must run through him. It’s obvious some things are slipping through the cracks and costing the Browns games. And when you play only 16 of them, the mistakes glare brightly.
As for Hillis, why is this man even in uniform? It has become apparent he has become a pariah. Not sure why, but his relative non-use is beyond puzzling. It’s perplexing.
The word is Hillis had a hamstring injury. Forgive me for being a skeptic (that’s my nature), but when it comes to Hillis. I believe nothing these days. If he was hurt, why did he seem to lobby Shurmur to get back into the game in the fourth quarter when the Browns were driving for what turned out to be a touchdown?
The Browns are too fragile a team from a talent standpoint to be victimized by bad coaching. But you can bet Mike Holmgren isn’t too bothered by what he has seen thus far this season. The club president isn’t going to use five games as a barometer to judge his handpicked head coach. At least he won't come out and admit it.
But he certainly has to wonder why his team hasn’t been ready to play in the first five games. And he certainly has to wonder whether the talent on board can effectively run a west coast offense. There have been too few glimpses of west coast success this season and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Holmgren can't be too thrilled with what he's seen. If he is, he's part of the problem.
But at least McCoy aired out the ball on a few occasions against the Raiders. Unfortunately, with one lone exception, it appeared he was throwing the ball to either nobody or one of the Raiders.
He didn’t get much help from his offensive line – again – as he was flushed out of the pocket on numerous occasions. The Raiders racked up only two sacks, but hurried his throws on at least 15 occasions and dropped him six more times after the throw. Not exactly the formula for success.
Maybe Shurmur should take a long, hard look at what McCoy can and cannot do and fit the offense around him, not the other way around. The little guy from Texas is taking a pounding much in the manner of Tim Couch a decade ago.
At the rate he’s being hammered, it’s only a matter of time before he begins to lose that confidence, that swagger that helped him look so promising a year ago.
As for Shurmur, maybe it’s time to hand over the reins of the offense to someone who can devote all his energies to improving what the Browns do when they have the ball. It’s time he became the head coach so he could adequately prepare his team emotionally to prevent games like Sunday’s in Oakland from slipping away.
It’s time to be the head coach and not in name only.