Clouds are beginning to form over 76 Lou Groza Blvd. in Berea. They are dark and filled with anxiety, frustration, conflict, all the wrong things and show no signs of going away.
Hue Jackson has placed the Browns’ offense on the critical list, an offense that has not been the same for the last three games. So he has decided to step in and apply a Band-Aid.
When you look at it from his standpoint, the lack of production from the Cleveland offense has a solid connection with the good and welfare of Jackson’s job and a direct bearing on his status as the Browns’ head coach.,
By inserting himself into the picture on one side of the football, (notice he won’t touch the defense, which hasn’t exactly excelled lately), Jackson is slowly but surely talking his way out of Cleveland with his latest little diatribe.
For the good and welfare of the franchise and fans, Jackson needs to be out of Cleveland pronto, yanking his abysmal and embarrassing record as head coach of the Browns along with him. The sooner, the better.
He needs to take everything associated with him as far away from Cleveland as humanly possible to remove the acrid stench that has hovered over this franchise for the last year.
Jackson’s latest gambit involves possibly commandeering the offense from Todd Haley, the coordinator he personally okayed to be his successor while he concentrated on being the head coach.
“I’ve got to jump in head first, all hands, feet, everything, and go figure it out,” said the man responsible for (not even arguably) the absolute worst offense in the National Football League the last two years.
This all hit the fan moments after the Browns dropped yet another heart-breaking game, this one a 26-23 overtime loss down in Tampa Sunday to the Buccaneers. The solution to the club’s miseries on offense, he told reporters, was to reinsert himself into the picture.
“It’s just that simple,” he said. “I think I have to. That’s what I know. I’m not going to continue to watch something that I know how to do keep being that way. That’s just the truth.”
That, of course, would fly in the face of inevitably confronting the fiery Haley, who ostensibly had been given carte blanche to run the offense with no interference from the head coach.
“That’s nothing against anybody is our building,” Jackson said with obvious reference to a possible clash with Haley. “I just think that’s what I do, And I think I need to be a little more involved.
“I’ve been respectful. That’s why you bring guys in and make them coordinator. Again, that’s something we’ve got to fix fast to get this thing back to where it needs to be.”
What about a possible confrontation with Haley? “It’s not going to be about butting heads,” Jackson assured and then leaned on a favorite authoritative, maybe even combative, bromide.
“I’m the head coach of the football team,” he declared. “I will do what I feel I need to get this team where it needs to be. I’m the head coach of the football team, period. Period. There is nothing else that needs to be said. Nothing. I am the head coach of the football team.”
On Monday, Jackson backtracked. indicating Haley would still call the plays, perhaps cooling down the situation temporarily. “When I decided to bring Todd here, I made a commitment he would have total autonomy of the offense,” he said. “. . . He has my full support (calling the plays) and I’ll continue to support him in that way.””
Airing dirty laundry in public won’t win points for the insecure Jackson, who must know he won’t last much longer, especially with a nasty part of the schedule dead ahead starting Sunday in Pittsburgh.
An eventual showdown with Haley could turn this into a him-or-me moment for the offensive coordinator, as in one of us goes, either him or me.
“Trust me when I say I’m not trying to create an issue here,” Jackson said Sunday. “The offense is not playing well – and we haven’t over a period of time.
“Being a head coach and an offensive guy who has done this, I think I have every right . . . to jump in here and see if I can help and assist and get this thing to where it needs to be. . . . I need to be involved more and I will be.”
It’s almost as though Haley, who ran the wildly successful Steelers offense the last six seasons, has become stupid all of a sudden. This one clearly has no chance of turning out well.
In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some politicking and lobbying between the locker room and Ivory Tower involving Jackson, Haley, General Manager John Dorsey and owner Jimmy Haslam III with each trying to curry favor with the big bosses.
And to think all this could have been avoided had Haslam done the right thing and pulled the plug on Jackson after last season’s historical 16-game journey through football hell.
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Most good football teams capitalize on turnovers with solid transition teams on both sides of the football.
Good transition defense limits the opposition to minimal damage following an interception or fumble by the offense. It is their job to either get the ball back or make certain the damage is limited.
Good transition offense is obviously just as important, perhaps more so, especially on teams that rack up major numbers when it comes to takeaways. Taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes is a great morale booster.
The Browns this season have not experienced anything that resembles a symbiotic relationship between their offense and defense when it comes to capitalizing on ball control and time of possession.
Gregg Williams’ defense this season has gotten the ball back for the offense 20 times in seven games. That’s a 16-game pace of an incredible 46 takeaways. But all that means nothing because the transition offense hasn’t enjoyed the fruits of their counterpart’s labors.
On those 20 occasions when the defense earned a rest, the offense converted them into only 30 points – three touchdowns and three field goals. Seven ended in punts.
The Browns’ transition defense has fared worse with fewer opportunities to succeed. The offense had turned over the ball only 10 times, but the defense has permitted points in six of them, 34 points in total.
And you wonder why they are 2-4-1 at this point? Above is hard evidence this team fails miserably in the opportunistic department.
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It has become quite obvious in the last three games that opposing defenses have become smarter in defending against Baker Mayfield, whose numbers directly reflect the club’s offensive woes in the last three games, one stat in particular.
He has completed less than 50% of his passes (48.8%) for 795 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions over those three games, during which the offense has scored just 46 points.
The alarming stat is the 15 times Mayfield has been sacked, in part attributable to an offensive line that has trouble holding pass blocks, but in larger part to the fact the rookie is having a difficult time finding open receivers.
That very well could be due to his relatively short stature, which prevents him from getting a good look at the field over the big uglies in front of him. Teams are now beginning to engulf him, shutting off any possible escape routes from the pocket.
Mayfield had little trouble escaping the pocket in his first two games, but those 15 sacks in the last three games is an indication opposing teams have figured him out and adjustments need to be made.
* * *
It was only one game, but defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah finally showed up and played a terrific game in the Buccaneers loss. If it weren’t for Ogbah and fellow edge rusher Myles Garrett, Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston would have had all day to pick apart the beleaguered Cleveland secondary.
The third-year pro had five tackles, four solo, 1½ sacks, a couple of quarterback hits and numerous hurries as he spent plenty of time in the Bucs backfield. Garrett benefitted and upped his season sack total to seven with two more on Winston along with three hits and a forced fumble
Now all Ogbah has to do is show he can play like this every Sunday and it would more than justify not selecting Bradley Chubb in the last college football draft with the fourth overall pick. He has not displayed that consistency thus far.
* * *
Some fans probably held their breath when Nick Chubb took over as the Browns’ lead running back following the trade of Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville. It didn’t take long for them to realize it was solid move.
Hyde was good for two, three and sometimes four yards a crack and was a reliably hard runner. Chubb is quite different, but in a very good way. His ability to break long runs leads one to believe a play is never over until this grinder is on the ground.
The most important statistic when evaluating Chubb is his yards after contact number and he picked up plenty of them with his hard-to-bring-down style against Tampa Bay, churning out 80 yards in 18 attempts with one touchdown. He’s going to be fine.
* * *
Referee Shawn Hochuli’s explanation for a flag being picked up after Mayfield was the victim of a helmet-to-helmet hit by Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter Sunday was weak. And wrong.
After Mayfield scrambled 35 yards after escaping the pocket, Whitehead drilled him along the sidelines bonnet to bonnet as Mayfield began this slide, drawing a flag for what most believed was a personal foul for unnecessary roughness.
After huddling with other officials, the flag was picked up and Hochuli announced that since Mayfield the quarterback became Mayfield the runner, he was fair game for such a hit. That’s bullroar unless the National Football League has changed its rule about getting rid of such hits on anyone and kept it secret.
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Finally . . . Former Browns defensive end Carl Nassib, now with the Bucs, gained a measure of revenge with a two-sack afternoon, working mainly against rookie offensive tackle Desmond Harrison. . . . The Bucs’ defensive line, with veterans Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry nursing injuries, manhandled the Cleveland offensive line all day. . . . Browns punter Britton Colquitt punted nine times, averaging 51.2 yards a boot. His 79-yarder late in the second quarter, had to be the longest in the league this season. . . . Fourteen more penalties for the league-leading Browns in this department for 114 yards. A holding penalty was declined or it would have been worse. . . . Free safety Damarious Randall played a lot of cornerback against the Bucs and recorded 12 tackles, 11 solo. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, relegated to the bench the last few weeks, came off it and posted 10 solo tackles, , , , Mayfield targeted Jarvis Landry a whopping 15 times and tight end David Njoku six times, accounting for 14 receptions, 149 yards and two touchdowns.. . . . Duke Johnson Jr, touch watch: One carry for minus four yards; four receptions for 23 yards. Total: Five touches for a net 19 yards. Season total: 38 touches, 294 yards. An average of 7.74 yards a touch. Sigh . . .