Sunday, October 16, 2011

Questions, questions, questions

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.


  1. mangini's looking pretty good right now eh rich? could have been the third year in the same system...perhaps tweaked the offense or opened the playbook a bit more...maybe now you'll understand mangini's apprehension toward mccory as a guys in the media that shot your mouth off about mangini need to shut up...mangini's special teams were always amoung the best...he ran the ball with conviction & played physical defense....all he need was time...but nooooo, not in cleveland...disgraceful to put this shit out there to some of the best fans in pro sports...

  2. Hi Mike,

    And all Mangini did was put up consecutive 5-11 seasons. He's a very good defensive coordinator, but lacked the chops as a head coach. You can have him. Cleveland is better off without him and his martinet ways.

    I didn't like the selection of Pat Shurmur as head coach. I think Mike Holmgren fixed one mistake when he fired a man one year too late and created another with his hiring of Shurmur.

    You can ride Mangini's coattails all you want, but he'll never land another head coaching job in the NFL again. If Holmgren had retained him after consecutive 5-11s, the Browns would be no better off today and on their way to another 5-11.

    So I'll offer you a deal. You take your Mangini love somewhere else and I'll stop ragging on his two very long, very sad seasons with the Browns.And let's both hope that Holmgren can right this ship because it's not looking very good right now.


  3. Holmgren was a failure as a GM...he has no business running a football team....Mangini was 4 turnovers away from being a 9-7 football team....& none of those turnovers were his to relive them?

  4. All I know, Mike, is that Mangini was 10-22 in his two seasons with guys he hand selected. And that spells spectacular failure to me. Enough already about this failed head coach. What-iffing someone into a winning record is a gigantic reach.

    As for Holmgren, we might have some common ground. He was a much better coach than GM in Seattle. The club he took to the Super Bowl was inherited. Not impressed thus far with what he's done in Cleveland except when he fired your guy.

    And I'm not exactly thrilled with Heckert, either. He had a chance to shore up this club's biggest weaknesses on offense -- the line and receivers in that order -- and whiffed on the line. The Browns have maybe the worst OL in the division.

    Until this team gets faster and quicker and drafts or trades for better athletes, it ain't gonna get any better. And Holmgren will join the likes of Phil Savage, Butch Davis, Dwight Clark and Mangini.

  5. that's all you media ppl do is point to two years enough to evaluate? grossi thinks so...i don't....mangini had garbage for qb's...who brought them in? 4 turnovers away from 9-7 with crap talent...mangini's team would never allow a punter to throw a 35 yard td pass against his you i'm sick of losing....but the browns keep losing b/c they keep changing every full moon...

  6. Yes, we keep pointing at the 10-22 because it's a prima facie fact. It stands on its own demerit. You can what if all you want, but the bottom line still read 10 and 22 after two seasons. That cannot be argued.

    The fact is Mangini did more harm than good with the Browns and should have been jettisoned when Holmgren came on board. The fact he wasn't and the fact he posted a second 5-11 in a row was proof Holmgren did, indeed, make a mistake by retaining him. Bad move. It stunted the growth of the team Holmgren envisions.

    Now I'm not saying the team he and Heckert are crafting is better than the one Mangini tore apart and re-imaged. That remains to be seen. As a matter of fact, I see very little, if any, improvement., But retaining Mangini for a third season would have been a disaster.

    One more time and then we're done. Mangini is a very good defensive coordinator who was out of his element as a head coach. He tried to be Bill Belichick (his idol) and failed. Badly. That's because there's only one Belichick.