So why did Mike Pettine choose to stick with Brian Hoyer Sunday against Indianapolis when it was obvious the Browns quarterback left his A game (B & C games, too) at home?
Why, when it became painfully apparent the Colts were in the game only because of Hoyer’s ineptitude, did Pettine stubbornly refuse to even think about benching him for Johnny Manziel?
Probably because the Browns led the entire game despite Hoyer’s horrific play. And coaches, for some stupid reason, do not want to disturb the karma a lead produces and change quarterbacks when they have the lead.
Never mind that in this case the quarterback was the reason the Colts not only crept back into the game, but ultimately won it. By then, it was too late for Hoyer to make a difference.
His badness for practically the entire game seemed to be excused by Pettine as long as the Browns owned the lead his defense provided. That kind of flawed thinking proves, at least on this occasion, that this Cleveland coach doesn’t have the best interests of his team in mind.
The offense made only three first downs (one via a penalty) in the second half. That’s not just embarrassing. It’s beyond pathetic.
The line between winning and losing is so slim, so perilous, all it takes is one little mistake and poof, the opportunity is gone. Just like that. Browns fans witnessed that up close and personal Sunday against Indianapolis.
National Football League teams play only 16 games in the regular season. There are just 16 shots at winning as many games as possible. The margin for error is the slimmest of all the major sports.
That’s why it is incumbent on Pettine, or whoever owns the title of Cleveland Browns Head Coach, to make certain they think things through thoroughly, be prescient and do what they believe is best for the team.
By adamantly staying with Hoyer, Pettine did not do that Sunday against the Colts. Why he chained Manziel to the bench staggers the mind. He could not have believed, even as he watched him unravel, that Hoyer gave him the best shot at winning that game.
It is easy to second guess Pettine, who seems to be falling in line with other slow-thinking coaches the Browns have hired, coaches like Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur, who failed to get it.
Sometimes, tough decisions are required when it comes to the good and welfare of the team. Pettine failed in that regard Sunday. He had the chance to do something and demurred. It cost him and his team, which deserved better from its coach.
He called the loss a “kick in the gut” after the game. He is too pig-headed to realize it was a self-inflicted kick he could easily have avoided by making the only move possible.
With losses like Sunday’s, it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Haslam III, if he already hasn’t done so, steps in and wonders just what the hell is going on. He’s been around football long enough to know something is wrong here.
The owner and his team’s fan base fans have a right to know why the club keeps losing games it should be winning and what is going to be done about it. Pettine better have the correct answers because this season is slipping away rapidly.
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So who will Pettine go with at quarterback next Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals arrive to help the Browns close out the home season? (This, by the way, is being written before Pettine names his starter.)
Consider this: Hoyer has started two games against the Bengals in his brief NFL career as a starter and won both. Perfect justification for the coach to remain with Hoyer as the man. That’s why I believe he will opt again for Hoyer.
Joe Thomas once again probably will lobby for Hoyer and suggest that by choosing Manziel over Hoyer, the coach is conceding the rest of the season. That ploy worked for the Colts game and will again.
What Thomas fails to realize is that the Browns are going nowhere fast with Hoyer in charge. If he doesn’t see that after what went down against the Colts, he never will. Switching to Manziel will not be change for the sake of change. It will be change for the betterment of the team.
It’s nice that Pettine talks with the players regarding personnel decisions such as this. Nothing wrong with keeping the lines of communication open. But the players should have zero influence in the ultimate coaching decision.
Thomas would be better off trying to recapture the quality of play that has gained him recognition as one of the best offensive tackles in the league. His pass blocking has been subpar (for him), not to mention the high number of holding penalties and false starts that have been costly.
Players ultimately are paid to play. Coaches are paid to coach and in Pettine’s case make the major decisions. There should be a clear line separating the two. By allowing himself to be influenced by Thomas, Pettine paid a heavy price last Sunday.
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Josh Gordon was targeted only seven times against the Colts after being the main man 29 times in his first two games back.
Pettine mentioned something about the wide receiver rotation and wanting to “get Josh’s reps down a little bit and kind of balance it our a little more.” That’s right. Limit your best receiver in favor of others who might – or might not – help. In this case, “down a little bit” meant cutting in half.
Another case of football coaches outthinking themselves. “Let’s make ourselves weaker for the greater good. Let’s limit someone who is the best playmaker on the team. Yeah, that’s the ticket.” Sheesh.
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There is no question Paul Kruger is playing much better than he did last season. The outside linebacker seems revitalized in the Pettine defense that allows him to do something he does very well – put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. But he has to learn to play the game the correct way or pay the price.
When referee Clete Blakeman flagged Kruger for roughing-the-passer following a 10-yard sack on a third-and-10 at the Cleveland 47-yard line early in the third quarter Sunday, a great hue and cry arose throughout Browns Nation. Instead of punting, the Colts were awarded a first down, sustaining a drive that eventually led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
I looked at that play at least a half dozen times to make certain the call was not bogus and came to one conclusion. Just before planting Andrew Luck, Kruger lowered his helmet and speared the Colts quarterback with the crown. All he had to do was drop his shoulder and wrap up Luck. He led with his helmet and was properly flagged.
If someone had nailed Hoyer in the same manner, the same hue and cry would have arisen but against the player who committed the infraction.
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I did have a problem, however, with the pass interference flag Buster Skrine drew on the first-and-10 pass Luck threw to tight end Dwayne Allen on the Colts’ final drive, the one that led to the winning touchdown.
Considering the physical play the officials allowed the two secondaries all afternoon, the piddly call on Skrine, who gave away six inches and 70 pounds to Allen, could have been overlooked. The 35-yard penalty was a major reason the Colts moved so quickly into scoring territory.
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When Karlos Dansby went down with a knee injury a few weeks ago, I forecast trouble for the defense. I didn’t think Craig Robertson would be an adequate replacement. As it turns out, he has been outstanding in Dansby’s absence and one of the major reasons the defense has played so well the last several games.
Robertson, playing perhaps his best football since joining the Browns, seems to be in the right place at the right time, has a nose for the football, appears to get his guys in the best position to make plays and has improved his tackling.
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Notebook: Can’t blame Hoyer for the first-quarter end zone interception. The ball hit tight end Jim Dray in the hands and the fell off right into the awaiting hands of Colts safety Mike Adams. . . . Not sure if anyone noticed, but veteran Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne dropped three passes Sunday. . . . Nice to see Jordan Cameron back in the lineup. The tight end needs to shed some of the rust he accumulated with his five-game absence due to a concussion. . . . Billy Cundiff is thisclose to being unemployed. He has missed too many makeable field goals this season.