Friday, August 30, 2013

Unwrapping the new package

So the Browns finish the exhibition season with three victories. And Brian Hoyer proved he belongs in the National Football League.

What’s next?

The answer to a lot of questions, not the least of which is just how aggressive will the Browns be this season.

We saw glimpses of that aggression in the exhibition season, but not nearly enough to whet our appetites for the 2013 season, which begins a week from Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at – where else? – home.

For the most part, coordinators Norv Turner and Ray Horton folded their arms across their chests and kept them there. Nothing fancy. Or different, Or daring. Just plain old vanilla football.

And yet, there will be a certain segment of Browns Nation that will puff out their chests and point to their team’s 3-1 record in games that have no meaning whatsoever.

In no way, if we are to believe all that spills out of Browns headquarters in Berea, are we to expect the same kind of football once the games become much more meaningful.

When Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer and Rob Chudzinski were in place in the Browns’ hierarchy, we were told the culture would change. These would not be the same Cleveland Browns we’ve been watching achingly for the last 14 seasons.

No sir, they seemed to say. Watch us grow. Watch us play football the way you’ve wanted. The kind that more typifies the city of Cleveland than what you’ve had to endure since 1999.

OK. That means we can expect the Browns to blitz at least half the time. And the offense will be more creative and inventive, although that doesn’t take much considering how dreadfully mundane it has been for the last decade.

Will we see something other than stretch plays and dive plays from the running game? And something other than five-yard hitch patterns on third-and-7s?

How much of Turner’s playbook did we get a glimpse of during the exhibition season? Same with Horton’s. The answers to those questions should shine a bright light on what we can expect in the next 16 games.

When you rack up double-digit losing seasons routinely, there should be no such thing as a conservative approach to a season. One of Pat Shurmur’s major failings was his inability to win close games. That’s because instead of playing to win, he played not to lose.

What’s Chudzinski like in that regard? We don’t know yet, of course. He can’t be any worse than the conservative coaching styles of Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Shurmur. Or can he?

It’s always exciting to anticipate the beginning of a season with a new coaching staff. The mystery of what to expect will remain for just the first game. But it’s the consistency of a new coach’s style that remains paramount in the development of a team.

How much of a leash will Chudzinski give Brandon Weeden? How hurtful will it be being without his top receiver for the first two games? Is the secondary deep enough to make a difference? Those are just some of the questions seeking answers.

And then there’s the big one: How much will Chudzinski trust his coordinators? The secret behind successful coaching is the ability of the head coach to coach his coaches and let the coaches coach the players. If you’ve got solid coaches, and Chudzinski is fortunate enough to be in that position, then the rest will take care of itself.

As for Brian Hoyer: Nice game, guy. You’re still the emergency quarterback. At least we know what you can do in an emergency.

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