Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Browns need personality change

A football team, it has been said numerous times, is a reflection of its coach.

Perhaps that’s why the Browns are one of the most insipid teams in the National Football League. The trickle-down effect from Pat Shurmur to the players is palpable.

The Browns, like Shurmur, lack a personality. They lack a swagger. They are as buttoned-down as an old Bob Newhart routine.

Their imaginative and creative juices have dried up. They have become as predictable as a summer weather forecast in Arizona.

Shurmur and his coaching staff have taken some pretty talented athletes and dumbed them down. They have taken most of the athleticism and systematically removed it surgically.

The Browns’ head coach comes off as a really dull guy with little or no emotion. Watch him on the sidelines. He looks lost in thought as his team continues its downward slide.

Now before you go off and point to Bill Belichick as the original Mr. Dull, watch him on the sidelines. Watch him work the game with an intensity that disappears once the game is over. Unless, of course, he has a beef with the officials.

In his news conferences, it looks as though Belichick cannot get away from the microphone fast enough. He’s not boring. He’s bored.

Maybe Shurmur is bored, too, during his sessions with the media. But he doesn’t own three Super Bowl championship rings and a reputation as one of the best coaches in the NFL.

The biggest difference between the two men, other than the obvious, is the New England coach makes changes when something isn’t working. He’s always been flexible in that way, not afraid to try something different.

As has been written on this blog in the past, Shurmur is trying to shove a square peg into a round hole by insisting rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden work under center and become a pro-set quarterback.

His stubborn approach has led to a lot of wild inconsistency by Weeden, a much more effective quarterback out of the shotgun. No matter how many times his critics point that out, Shurmur will not budge.

While he has shown some progress in stepping out from under center in his three- and five-step drops, there are times when Weeden looks uncomfortable. It’s as though he’s counting to himself as he drops back to pass.

A passing game requires almost exquisite timing to be successful. The finesse required is hard enough for someone who works routinely under center. Imagine how difficult is it for someone who has never operated that way.

This is, in no way, meant to criticize Weeden, who has done everything asked of him. But in so doing, it has dramatically reduced his ability to be effective, to be the leader of the offense.

It has been suggested here that Shurmur and his offensive staff put together an offense with which Weeden is not just familiar, but one with which he was successful enough to be selected as a second-round pick.

If he is going to be successful in the NFL, he has to be comfortable, not force-fed with a system that robs him of what he could be. Right now, his footwork isn’t bad, but it still needs a lot of work.

Those who might object to Weeden becoming a spread formation quarterback most of the time might argue that would take Trent Richardson out of the offensive scheme. He’d be much more of a blocking back, something into which you do not want to turn your No. 1 draft pick.

Not necessarily. Spread formation teams do not throw the ball exclusively. Granted, running backs are more effective from a one-back pro set, but can also be successful running from the spread, especially in the Wildcat.

It’s time the Browns showed some imagination and creativity on offense. The club is 0-4 this season and nursing 10 straight losses over the last two seasons. The last time they won a game was a 14-10 victory over Jacksonville last Nov. 20.

Getting creative might smack of desperation, but when you’re wandering aimlessly again, what harm could it do?

Another loss? Maybe. But at least it shows as though you’re trying. The players are. Now it’s time for the coaches to follow suit.

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