Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday leftovers

Hue Jackson was asked a question by the media about his rookie quarterback in the wake of Sunday’s 27-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the home finale.

It had to do with DeShone Kizer’s maddening and very annoying habit of repeating the same mistakes ad nauseam, almost as though he is not learning from them. Will he ever get it, coach?

“I think that’s a fair question if he’ll ever get it,” the Browns’ coach answered. “I think he will, but he has to keep working.”

Working is not the problem. No one can accuse Kizer of not working. It’s the execution, or lack of same, that’s the problem. He makes mistakes at the most inopportune times.

Ball security, for example. Kizer leads the National Football League with 19 interceptions. He has lost six fumbles, thrown six of his interceptions in the red zone, seven fourth-quarter picks and one in OT. The Browns have turned the football over 36 times this season; Kizer is responsible for 26 of them.

When you keep making the same mistakes, as Kizer has, all the learning in the world is not going to help. It makes one wonder what exactly is he learning? Whatever it is, it is not transitioning well to the field.

I read somewhere a while ago that Kizer has slow eyes. In other words, he has a problem coordinating what he sees with what is actually happening. The recognition aspect of the passing game is not working. That could account for his late delivery of passes at times. The timing is just not there.

It all seems to be adversely affecting him after 14 games. He had a glazed, almost bewildered look on his face after throwing his second interception of the game early in the fourth quarter Sunday. He attempted to hit running back Isaiah Crowell, who was triple covered in the end zone.

Two possessions prior to that, he was strip-sacked in the end zone, gifting the Ravens with an early Christmas present touchdown. One dumb play after another after another has made this a nightmarish season for the young quarterback.

Even though he previously said Kizer is his quarterback for the rest of the season, Jackson indicated he would think about sitting Kizer for Sunday’s game in Chicago against the Bears. “I’m going to watch the tape and make the best decision for our team because we’re still trying to win,” he said.

“We’re not here just trying to get through the season. I don’t look at it like that and I’m not going to let our players look at it like that. We’re trying to win. I need to see where he is.”

Right now, Kizer is probably in a state of confusion. He no doubt wants to think he belongs, but the results suggest otherwise. He might outwardly display confidence in his ability to handle the huddle, but he has to be hurting inwardly.

“This is tough on a young player,” Jackson said. “Let’s be honest. This guy has been battling as hard as you can all year. . . . I want to see where he is because this is about his future as a quarterback in the National Football League.”

There are those who strongly believe Jackson has put the kid in untenable situations, stubbornly attempting to make the quarterback fit his system rather than creating a system to fit his talents.

That problem, one way or the other, will be corrected with a new quarterback next season because it would be difficult to imagine Kizer leading the Browns’ offense in 2018. He will be doing something he should have been doing this season – learning through observation.
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One of the most important statistical measuring sticks for success at any level of football is the turnover ratio. The higher you are, the more likely your team is winning.

We already know how generous the Browns have been this season with ball security on offense. Give the ball away 36 times in 14 games and you can understand why the Browns are 0-14. So what about the defense?

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ crew, while playing much better against the run and competitively in all phases in general, has taken the football from the opposition only 11 times this season (six picks and five fumble recoveries). They are dead last in the NFL in opportunism.

It gives the Browns an NFL worst (by a mile) -25 turnover ratio. The Denver Broncos are next worst at -15. The best? The Ravens at +17 overall and +7 against the Browns.

That important stat has had a deleterious effect on the Cleveland offense, which has started way too many drives in its own territory. The severe lack of takeaways, in many cases creating a short field, forces the offense to sustain long drives and it has not been able to.
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Sounding embarrassed, Jackson issued a public apology to local fans with regard more to what the Browns didn’t do this season than why they didn’t.

“I apologize to our fans that we were not able to . . . get them a victory in our stadium,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the end of all that. I’m not going to make any guarantees because you never know . . . what happens from year to year. At the same time, it can’t get much worse than this, true?

“There’s no way. There’s not a bone in my body that thinks this will ever be like this again. I know I said it a year ago that I didn’t think it would be this easy heading into next season. It is. I was wrong. There is no way this organization, this football team, this city .  . the rest of the people in this organization can stomach this again.”

This season, he admitted, has worn on him. “I’m not coping with this very well,” he said. “I haven’t for two years. . . . We have to fix this. That is what we are committed to doing. . . . We’re going to turn a corner here . . . turn the page on this.”

With regard to the coaching situation down in Cincinnati, where Marvin Lewis is rumored contemplating stepping down as Bengals coach at the end of the season and Jackson’s name has come up in speculation, the Cleveland coach demurred. “I’m not going to run from this,” he said. “I have never gone any place and left it worse than I found it.”
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Remember the days when the Browns and Bengals were bitter rivals? The Browns and Baltimore, the city that stole the original Browns, were even bitterer rivals? And the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers were the bitterest of rivals?

Those were the six games on the schedule that meant a whole lot more than the other 10. Those were the games that must be won, that had to be won from a prestige standpoint.

The dictionary definition of rivalry is “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.” That rivalry exists among the other three teams in the AFC North. Not in Cleveland.

The Browns the last two seasons are 0-11 against the division and have been outscored, 291-148, heading into season finale in Pittsburgh. Overall, they are winless in the last 16 games against the division, having been outscored, 450-209, an average score of 28-13. They haven’t won a division game since October 2015, a 33-30 overtime victory in Baltimore.
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Finally . . . From the department of don’t–think-I’ve-ever-seen-that-before comes this little gem: On the Browns’ second possession against the Ravens, Kizer completed two passes to Crowell for minus 11 yards. An offense slammed into reverse. . . . In somewhat ironic fashion, the Browns’ lone touchdown Sunday was achieved solely on the ground. Five plays, 96 yards, all infantry style. Ironic because Jackson’s offense is predicated on the forward pass. . . . A disappointed fan at the game held up a Seal Brown Cleveland No. 99 jersey with the words Sad Since above the number, reflecting the mood of most fans since the club returned in 1999 after a three –year forced absence. Well done. . . . The Browns haven’t won a game in Chicago, their destination Sunday, since 1969 when the Bears played at Wrigley Field. That’s because the Browns have played only three games in the Windy City, losing all three at Soldier Field, since ‘69 in the 15-game series, which the Browns lead, 9-6. . . . Sunday’s crowd at the home finale was announced as 56,434. Judging from the television pictures. Half of them were disguised as seats. . . . Duke Johnson Sr. touch watch: Seven carries for 23 yards and a touchdown; five receptions for 40 yards. Total: 12 touches for 63 yards.

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