Just when you think there’s no way the Browns want Peyton Hillis’ autograph on a new contract, he starts running like he did last season and makes you rethink your position.
Which Peyton Hillis is the real Peyton Hillis? The one who surprised everyone last season and emerged as one of the young stud running backs in the National Football League? Good enough to be the Madden 12 cover boy?
Or is he the one who battled numerous injuries and ailments the first three-fourths of the season, got married in the middle of the week during rehab, missed a personal appearance and angered many of his teammates with his antics?
Just which Peyton Hillis exists in the minds of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert Jr. as they turn their attention to next season and try to figure out exactly what holes need to be filled? Is running back one of those holes?
After gaining more than 200 yards the last two games and looking every bit like the ramrod running back he was last season, Holmgren and Heckert now have to decide which Hillis they see now and then make a decision.
Tough call. It could be that the Hillis of the last two games is trying to make a contract run in the final few weeks in hopes of landing a large contract when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season and it really makes no difference where he lands.
Do Holmgren and Heckert take the chance that the current Hillis is the real deal and go hard after him? He says he likes being a Cleveland Brown. Only the naïve buy into that one.
Or do they pass on Hillis, let him go somewhere else and rely on the talents of the returning Chris Ogbonnaya, Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson? Maybe they think about striking draft gold with someone like Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who is certain to be there when they pick in April.
That’s the dilemma. Roll the dice with Hillis or finally be done with him and move on. The guess here is that Hillis will play his last game as a Cleveland Brown Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Too much potential baggage for H&H to gamble on.
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It was interesting to watch his Browns teammates console Phil Taylor after the rookie defensive tackle ruined any chance his team had of winning Sunday in Baltimore when he jumped offside on a fourth and short. It was painfully obvious the Ravens were trying to draw the Browns offside and Taylor accommodated.
But when D’Qwell Jackson patted Taylor on the helmet and said, “Hold your head up,” that in a nutshell should tell you about the culture of the Browns. It’s nowhere close to where it needs to be.
If that had ever happened to the Ravens, can you see Ray Lewis reacting that way? Can you see Lewis consoling a crestfallen teammate? I don’t think so. He would have ripped the offending teammate a new one and in no uncertain terms.
That’s one of the many differences between the Browns and Ravens, between the Browns and Steelers. They don’t stand for silly mistakes like that and just dismiss them. And until the Browns get someone like Lewis or Terrell Suggs or James Harrison on their roster, the situation is not going to change.
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Interesting that Seneca Wallace absolved Pat Shurmur of any blame in the clock management fiasco in the waning seconds of the first half of Sunday’s loss in Baltimore.
But Shurmur declined absolution for Wallace. He said he yelled “clock, clock, clock” in Wallace’s helmet headset after a short completion to Evan Moore with less than 20 seconds remaining and no timeouts. It should have been “spike, spike, spike” in an effort to kill the clock.
Asked why Wallace didn’t spike the ball, the coach said. “I need to communicate it better, OK? Let’s just leave it at that.” In other words, he screwed up, but declined to take responsibility.
That no points resulted in the totally fouled-up situation led to a late-game strategy that ultimately backfired. Facing a fourth-and-5 at his 45 with four minutes left in regulation and needing a touchdown to take the lead, Shurmur gambled and lost when Hillis was smothered for no gain after catching a swing pass in the flat.
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The Cleveland offense seems to flow a lot smoother with Wallace under center. The blocking seems crisper, receivers make themselves available more often and the timing is better all round.
For obvious reasons, Wallace seems much more comfortable in this scheme than Colt McCoy, but make no mistake about it, the kid from Texas is going to be the Browns’ starting quarterback next season barring any unforeseen moves by Holmgren and Heckert.
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Stream of thought: The Browns would be wise to shut down McCoy for the season. It makes no sense for him to suit up against the Steelers Sunday unless he’s ready to play. . . . The Browns’ offensive line did a nice job against the Ravens’ front seven, permitting only two sacks and opening up some nice holes for Hillis. Lewis, Suggs and Ed Reed, who normally bedevil the Browns, were relative non-factors in the game. . . . Shurmur: “We’ve got to play a little smarter in some of those critical situations.” No kidding. And “a little smarter” isn’t going to cut it. It’s got to be a lot smarter. . . . Jackson, with the best remark of the day: “Today told the story of our season.” . . . Nice to see Moore involved in the offense. Seven targets, five catches, 35 yards and a touchdown for the tight end, who has been misused this season. How much playing time does he get if Ben Watson and Alex Smith aren’t on injured reserve? Rhetorical question. . . . Wallace self-examining his performance: “I should have played better and I should have made better decisions.” The quarterback’s post-game lament. . . . Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco on Taylor’s offside: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in position for that to happen. It’s never worked.” Now it has.