Sunday, September 15, 2013

Only the faces have changed

Anatomy of yet another loss by the Browns . . . they’re just not very good. In fact, they’re losing the struggle to achieve mediocrity.

All that talk about the offense being aggressive this season? That’s all it was. Just talk. At least based on what we’ve been subjected to thus far.

This team does not know how to win. This coaching staff does not know how to prepare the players adequately enough to win. The frustration mounts almost by the snap.

We were told, in so many words, that fans were in store for a different look when Cleveland owned the football. No more of that tortoise-like movement. This was going to be a well-oiled machine. OK, maybe not well-oiled, but noticeably different.

Many fans bought that line. Members of the media bought it as well. My natural skepticism warned to see it first before you believe it. Well, we’re waiting and I'm not believing.

All we see are Trent Richardson slamming into the line on yet another dive play and Brandon Weeden dropping back to pass, only to look totally perplexed as to what to do with that spheroid in his right hand.

The Browns are 0-2 (for the fifth time in the last seven seasons) because they’ve played well enough to be 0-2. It’s not an undeserving record and the coaching staff shares in the culpability.

In the 14-6 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore Sunday, it’s also fair to ask what the hell happened with time management? The Browns were penalized three times for delay of game. It would have been four if Weeden hadn’t called a timeout just two seconds before the play clock expired. On the fourth play of the opening series! The fourth play of the game!

There is absolutely no excuse for not getting the play called down and into Weeden’s helmet receiver on time. That’s on the coaches. How difficult can it be for offensive coordinator Norv Turner in the booth upstairs to choose a play?

We have to assume he’s not brain dead. Or suffers from narcolepsy.

What in the world is head coach Rob Chudzinski hearing in his headphones? If it happens once, that’s a lot. But four times in one game?

Yes, it’s only two games into the season, but at some time, Chudzinski has got to lay down the law. What’s going on now offensively is inexcusable and unacceptable. This offense looks lost.

Did that lose this game? No, not totally. But it sure tells you all you need to know about how poorly organized this coaching staff is when it comes to getting a handle on the importance of communication.

No. What lost this game was a myriad of problems, not the least of which is Weeden’s startling inability to get the ball out on time. He was sacked six times and forced to scramble on two other occasions.

Why? It was a combination of not finding the open receivers, shoddy pass protection and poor pocket awareness. No, make that no pocket awareness.

On at least three occasions, Weeden could have avoided a sack by sliding away from the pressure. He does not see trouble quickly enough. And when he does, he almost unfailingly slides toward the pressure. He looks lost and most uncomfortable.

He’s looking more and more like a college player getting his first chance to play in the National Football League, not a second-year pro. The growth factor seems to be lost on the soon-to-be 30-year-old quarterback, who suffered a thumb injury and was replaced by an ineffective Jason Campbell on the final series of the game.

He entered this season with a lot of questions hovering over his job. And he seems to be coming up with all the wrong answers. It won’t be long before Chudzinski, who insists there is no leash on Weeden, begins to act like a coach who has a leash on his quarterback.

Considering the way the Browns have played the first eight quarters of the season, Weeden is not the quarterback who gives this club the best chance to win. It’s not even close.

The defense played well enough Sunday to keep the Browns in the game. And yet, the 6-0 halftime lead evaporated just like that when the Ravens came out no-huddle and put together a way-too-easy 12-play, 80-yard march on their first drive of the second half. They stayed no-huddle throughout the half.

Along the way, they converted a third-and-6, third-and-7 and third-and-8 after going 1-for-7 on third down in the opening 30 minutes. All three conversions were crossing or clearing patterns against a Cleveland zone defense.

Why are the Browns playing zone on obvious passing plays? Weren’t we told the defense was going to be aggressive? Aggressive means press coverage.

The Ravens subsequently went on to make it six straight third-down conversions (three later of 10, eight and four yards) as the Cleveland defense, mostly in zone, began to wear down.

The Browns appeared to catch a break late in the third quarter when Craig Robertson separated Ray Rice from the football and D’Qwell Jackson recovered at the Baltimore 45. Four plays and a dramatic measurement later, they turned over the ball on downs.

After Weeden was sacked for the fifth time and Greg Little dropped his second pass of the afternoon that would have given the Browns a first down, Weeden got lucky when his floater (caused when his arm was hit) resulted in a 15-yard completion to Chris Ogbonnaya.

Then came the drama when Weeden’s fourth-down throw to Jordan Cameron fell, quite literally, less than half a link short of a first down. Referee Bill Vinovich agonized over the call before determining it was a 1/64th of an inch short.

Tandon Doss’ 21-yard return of a Spencer Lanning punt gave the Ravens a short field with which to work a couple of series later, setting up an eight-play, 42-yard drive that led to a Marlon Brown touchdown catch.

By this time, the Cleveland defense was completely gassed because of an offense that piled up a miserable 85 yards in the second half. It’s an offense that has rung up just one touchdown and 16 points in two games.

The main culprits in this charade are the offensive line, the quarterback, receivers who have trouble getting open and the play calling of an offensive coordinator that conjures up images of dinosaurs and cavemen. All the imagination and creativity seems to have been left on the blackboards in Berea because none of it has shown up the last two Sundays.

One-eighth of the season has resulted in the kind of football no one expected. Only the faces have changed.


  1. I actually stopped watching when Weeden missed a wide open Ogbonnaya streaking down the sideline in the 3rd Q and on the very next play Little dropped (surprise, surprise) a sure third down conversion. You only get one or two plays a game like the one Weeden missed and those plays can make the difference in winning and losing in this league of parity. It was only 7-6 but I had no doubt at that point that the Browns would lose.

    So far, the new regime, new coaching staff, and new systems have shown nothing except the usual ineptitude we've come to expect. Where are all smarts you so easily espouse, Mr. Banner?

    Paul from Seattle

  2. Hi Paul,

    I watched Ogbonnaya on that play from the snap and he was open from the snap. A blown coverage enabled him to get that wide open. At first, I thought Weeden did not see him because he was not the primary receiver.

    But when I saw the throw head in his direction, I got excited. Until I saw he didn't put enough air under it. At that point, my opinion of Weeden wavered. Just a bit, but it wavered nonetheless.

    Little, I now believe, is a lost cause. I'd like to see what he could as a running back (which he played in high school and very well), but I don't think that'll happen.

    After losing in Minnesota, the Browns will be 0-3 and headed for the same kind of record Crennel, Mangini and Shurmur put up. It'll be interesting to see how Banner spins that.