OK, Mike Holmgren. Time to fess up.
After watching your team get hammered by the Houston Texans Sunday, time to step forward and explain to the fans of this team just what’s wrong. What in the hell is going on?
Here it is game eight of the season and everything is getting worse. Not by just dribs and drabs. Everything is falling apart at an alarming rate.
First, it was the offense. That side of the ball has been embarrassing all season. And you, as a so-called offensive guru, know that. Unless, of course, you have chosen to don your blinders.
It’s quite humorous to watch Pat Shurmur cover the speaking end of his headset so opposing teams won’t be able to tell what play he’s calling when he relays them to Colt McCoy. Makes no difference. They’re not going to work, anyway. Might as well be open for the lip-reading coaches of the opposition. It’ll produce the same results.
And now the defense, which really hasn’t played all that badly this season, except for that blip against the Tennessee Titans when Matt Hasselbeck blew up your secondary, has been exposed.
Sunday in Houston, the Texans blew a hole in the myth of just how good that defense is by rushing through, around and past it for more than 260 yards on the ground, outgaining the entire Cleveland offense by 90 yards en route to a 30-12 victory.
The Texans’ offensive line made the Browns’ front seven look like members of a mediocre college football team. They were a step or three late on just about every running play all afternoon as the Houston offensive line operated with exact precision.
The ease with which Arian Foster and Ben Tate ran the ball was startling. Their quickness and ability to change directions suddenly made the Browns look as though they were playing in a mud bog.
It’s bad enough to surrender a 100-yard rushing afternoon to one running back, but when two accomplish the feat, that’s downright awful. Embarrassing is not a strong enough word.
Houston put on a clinic of how to run the ball, while your guys put on a clinic of how not to stop the run. They displayed two kinds of tackling all afternoon: Missed and no. Foster and Tate gouged holes with relentless determination.
Heading into the game, the Cleveland defense ranked a very misleading fifth overall in the NFL. No doubt that was based on their second-place standing against the pass. That’s probably because opposing teams don’t need to pass that much to be successful against the Browns, who ranked 26th against the run entering the game and proceeded to showed why.
From the beginning, this was an unfair fight between two former expansion teams clearly heading in opposite directions.
The Texans, the National Football League expansion team of 2002, have their sights set on the playoffs for the first time in their short history. The Browns, the NFL expansion team of 1999, are plunging so quickly toward the bottom of the AFC North, all hope for the playoffs has shown up dead on arrival.
This one was decided as early as the game’s opening drive when the Texans marched 81 yards in nine plays with ridiculous ease. One Chris Ogbonnaya fumble and six plays later, it was 14-0 and the rout was on. The Browns never seriously threatened until the latter stages of the game after the Texans had taken a 30-6 lead.
So where does the buck stop, Mike? You? Tom Heckert Jr., your general manager? How about Mr. Unflappable, your head coach? The fans want to know. They demand answers. And they’re damn well angry. They’ve seen this act before. Only the faces have changed.
It’s the mid-point of the season and your team is regressing. It should be the other way around. Teams with new coaches usually get better, even exponentially, as the season unfolds. There hasn’t been a shred of improvement in this offense. And now, the defense shows signs of wear and tear. It was on the field for 35 minutes Sunday.
McCoy, on the other hand, is like a target in a shooting gallery on a weekly basis. The poor guy gets little or no protection from his offensive line on pass plays. It’s got to be frustrating to see the eyes of an opponent up close and personal just when you set your feet to throw. That happened far too often against the Texans after defensive coordinator Wade Phillips unleashed blitz after blitz.
Whoever was supposed to watch Houston linebacker Brooks Reed should be embarrassed in front of his teammates in offensive line meetings this week. Reed nailed McCoy for sacks and knocked him down on three other occasions. Don’t expect Reed to send the Cleveland quarterback a get-well card.
Following the game, Houston coach Gary Kubiak approached McCoy, surprisingly still vertical after the beating he took, and said something as the two exchanged a handshake. Probably went something like this: “Are you all right? Sorry about this afternoon. Nothing personal.”
Sunday’s sad performance against the Texans is only a preview of what’s to come in the final six weeks of the season when the Browns have to play four games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who own two of the NFL’s top defenses.
That is, of course, if you can put your finger on what’s wrong. That shouldn’t be too difficult, considering how pathetic they’ve looked this season on offense. It is a joke and you know it..
When will you and your general manager admit it was a mistake to allow Shurmur to call the shots on offense? When will you and your GM and admit your team needs a lot more speed and quickness on both sides of the ball? And when will you and your GM finally come to the realization that the Colt McCoy experiment is not working?
If and when you come to those conclusions, then games like Sunday’s beating in Houston will become nothing more than just a bad memory.