Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday leftovers

It’s time for Pat Shurmur to admit being a head coach and play caller for the offense is not working.

It’s time to be the Browns’ head coach only and bring offensive coordinator Brad Childress down from the press box to call the games.

How much longer do we have to hear from Shurmur in post-game and day-after-the-game interviews admit that, yet again, something else had gone wrong to cost his team a shot at winning?

It’s time to take responsibility for the position he was hired. It’s time to separate himself from the two jobs. It detracts from whatever effectiveness he has and it does his team a disservice.

Last season, head coaching and coordinating the offense proved way too much for Shurmur, so he brought in Childress, but zealously – and foolishly – held on to the play-calling duties.

Bringing Childress down close to the action is not out of the question. It’s not as though he is a neophyte at calling plays. He built his coaching reputation in the National Football League on his prowess as a strong offensive mind.

What does Shurmur have to lose? Another game? The Browns are just 2-7 this season doing it this way. Why not try something different?

Even Romeo Crennel in Kansas City gets it. The former Browns coach found that being the head coach and defensive coordinator in Kansas City was too much, so he stepped down as the DC Monday.

Too late, of course. Crennel’s Chiefs are already 1-7 and surrender 30 points a game. All he’s doing is trying to save his No. 1 job, but that probably won’t work.

Shurmur’s dual role is clouding whatever sound judgment he has remaining as a head coach. For example, here’s his take on why he elected to gamble on a fourth-and-2 at his 28-yard line instead of punting with four minutes to go in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore.

“I’d consider something different if I can guarantee getting the ball back,” he told the media. Well, no kidding. Brilliant thinking. Negative thinking. A genuine back-of-the-hand swipe at the defense.

Then came a startling confession, one quite out of character. “I (also) need to give (quarterback Brandon) Weeden a better play there,” he said.

Whoa! An admission of guilt for having literally and figuratively tossed away any chance the Browns had of coming back and at least tying the Baltimore game.

And now, Shurmur is talking about streamlining the offense, something he should have considered a long time ago considering the problem he, as the play caller, has in getting the plays to his rookie quarterback in time. “We need to be better at that,” he said. “I’ll take full responsibility for all of it.”

Asked about the situation, Weeden had a polite, “No comment.” Read between that line.

Sunday against the Ravens, the Browns had to burn three timeouts due to communication problems. The most dumbfounding TO was at the tail end of the third quarter when the Browns, trailing, 14-12, began a drive at their 46. It wasn’t bad enough that guards Shawn Lauvao and John Greco were flagged for false starts before the first snap.

On first-and-20 from the 36, a furious Shurmur called a timeout when communications again broke down. Two pre-snap penalties and a timeout even before the ball was snapped. How much more hopeless could it be? Keep reading.

The play Shurmur elected go go with on first-and-20 was a screen pass, a staple against teams with a strong pass rush. But the Ravens’ pass rush was not scaring anyone Sunday afternoon.

Besides, the Browns execute screen passes poorly. If Shurmur is intent on streamlining the offense, the first move should be tearing all screen pass plays out of the playbook and incinerating them.

Screen passes require good acting and exquisite timing in order to be effective. The Browns do neither very well. And that’s being kind. The next successful screen pass that turns into a success for the Browns will be the first. Stick to swing passes, flat passes and dumpoffs.

It’s a situation that is slowly deteriorating and won’t get any better unless Shurmur is willing to make even further changes. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.
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It’s also time to let Weeden be Weeden and incorporate more plays from the shotgun into game plans. While he doesn’t look supremely uncomfortable taking the snap from the pro set, Weeden is much more comfortable in the shotgun.

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has made Robert Griffin III’s transition to the NFL more comfortable with many plays and sets from the rookie’s playing days at Baylor. And Ryan Tannehill’s modest success in Miami can be traced to Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M.

So why not more shotgun snaps for Weeden? Of the Browns’ 65 plays against the Ravens, only 21 were from the shotgun, just six in the first half and none in the first two series, when the Browns twice went three-and-out. In those first 30 minutes, Weeden was five for six from the gun for 73 yards.

Shurmur and Childress opened it up in the second half, but most of those snaps (nine of 15) came when the Browns were in desperation mode. Overall, Weeden was nine of 16 in 19 dropbacks from the gun for 92 yards, only two running plays, a sack and an interception.

In order to be more effective, he needs to play from that formation on a more consistent basis.
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Good offensive teams win first down on a consistent basis. That means at least a four-yard gain on the down, making subsequent downs easier to deal with. Perhaps that explains why the Browns had so much trouble against the Ravens.

Using the four-yard barometer, the Browns won only 12 of 26 first downs, compiling 36 of their 110 first-down yards on three plays. Six times, the offense produced no gain, and five others produced two or fewer yards. No wonder the offense scrambled most of the afternoon.
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Notebook: When you stop and think about it, the failure to take one step back cost the Browns a 19-14 lead against the Ravens. One li’l ole step. If running back Chris Ogbonnaya takes just one step back off the line of scrimmage and uncovers tight end Jordan Cameron, that 18-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon with about nine minutes left would have counted.. . . . The Browns need to get off to stronger starts in games. They have been outscored, 56-27, in the opening quarter this season (with 14 of those 27 points coming in one game) and 122-68 in the first half. They have been shut out in five of those games in the first quarter. That’s on the coaching. . . . In the second half of games, the Browns outscore their opponents, 101-89. . . . So where was the Cleveland pass rush against the Ravens’ revamped offensive line? Just one divided sack and a measly two quarterback hits. . . . Only four penalties against the Ravens, the back-to-back false starts, an illegal crack back block on Gordon and a roughing-the-passer call on safety T. J. Ward. The latter two were questionable at best. . . . Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. Nothing really. I just like typing the defensive tackle’s first name. It’s a challenge. 

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