Browns Offense Very Offensive On MNF
By Steven King
That was awful.
The Cleveland Browns’ overall performance in a 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football was completely unacceptable. To say it was embarrassing and humiliating and reprehensible and a disgrace would be to look through rose-colored glasses.
Indeed, it was much, much – much – worse than that.
Now, the defense was extremely impressive, especially against the run. That goal-line stand in the first half, when the Redskins were held out of the end zone three straight times from a yard away, was as good as you’re going to see from anyone, anywhere, at any time.
If the over-zealous, hands-on approach to pass coverage, which resulted in receivers being grabbed, pulled, yanked and held so firmly that it would have taken the Jaws of Life to extract the defenders’ grasp from those opposing jerseys, can be cleaned up, then this defense could be competing for a spot in the top five in the NFL. And it has to be cleaned up, because like it or not, that’s the way the officials are going to call it this year. It’s the way the league wants it, and the fans want it.
This should not be surprising, for every rule change in the last 36 years has been made to take something from the offense and give it to the defense so as to enhance scoring, because every survey the NFL takes of its fans indicates strongly that scoring, scoring and more scoring is what they want to see. Defense is for people who are carrying around AARP and Golden Buckeye cards. It’s yesterday’s wow factor.
In one respect, the pass coverage infactions make for a minor problem, but if the defense is going to carry this team, which is certainly the way it appears now, then it’s going to have to be corrected – completely so.
But the offense? It was abysmal.
The running game was OK, but the passing attack was non-existent. The quarterbacks – we’re talking about only Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, because fourth-stringer Connor Shaw looked pretty good and third-stringer Rex Grossman didn’t play – and receivers were not on the same page. For goodness sake, they weren’t even reading out of the same playbook. Bad throws. Bad receiving. Bad route-running.
And bad blocking at times, with Mitchell Schwartz looking so very terrible – again – that the club absolutely has to acquire a competent right tackle before the start of the regular season. The team has 80 percent of a pretty good offensive line. But that right tackle spot is, as it has been for over a year now, a cavernous hole.
The quarterback competition? What quarterback competition? Hoyer, with just two completions in six passing attempts for 16 yards for a quarterback rating of 42.4, and Manziel, who was 7-of-16 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown for a 76.3 rating, were about as ineffective as pro passers can be.
In a quarterback- and pass-driven league, going a combined 9-of-22 for 81 yards and a touchdown for a rating of 66.7, is a death knell. It will keep a club from having even a chance to win, no matter how good its defense is.
Head coach Mike Pettine will have to pick a starter from this pair. Lots of luck. It’s the lesser of two evils.
Could Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe, Frank Ryan or Bill Nelsen be coaxed out of retirement?
Manziel is a rookie, so he has a little bit of an excuse. Being a rookie – and young and immature – is also why he flipped off the Washington bench near the end of the third quarter. He has to grow, and grow up, but that can be said of any rookie quarterback.
Maybe he was trying to indicate to the Redskins – and a national television audience as well – that he was No. 1 on the depth chart. On this team right now, that’s not anything to brag about.
As for Hoyer, he has shown no signs of being the offensive spark he was a year ago. Maybe it’s because then he was playing with no pressure in being elevated to the starting job from third string because of injuries to Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, and now he’s playing with all the pressure on him because, for the first time in his career, he headed into training camp as the man to beat for the job. Is it that he is that weak mentally and emotionally? If so, then he has no business playing quarterback in the NFL.
The wide receivers are just as bad. Actually, they’re worse. This is the poorest group of wideouts the Browns have ever had. And if you don’t believe it, then you can look it up. And when – not if, but when – Josh Gordon gets suspended for all or part of the season by the league, then the quality of the group sinks even lower.
We’ve been saying all this for weeks, and now, finally, you realize what we’ve been talking about. You can see it for yourself.
And because the club’s deep thinkers, even though they knew at the time that Gordon was in trouble, failed to address the problem in the 2014 NFL Draft, they deserve every shred of criticism they’re getting. Maybe someone ought to impress upon Pettine and General Manager Mike Farmer that if they don’t get this quarterback/receiver/passing game issues straightened around, then they’re going to be out of a job sooner rather than later. It’s what they will be ultimately judged on. They can mess up a lot of other things, but if they can get this right, then they’ll survive. Yes, it – this passing problem – is that big, that important.
Has the team been practicing since the spring? It sure doesn’t look like it. It appeared Monday night that a bunch of strangers walked in off the street late in the afternoon, suited up and went out and played on offense. Where were the offensive coaches? Where are the coaches? They’re doing a horrible job. There’s no two ways about it.
What is owner Jimmy Haslam, a proud man who isn't used to being associated with failure, thinking after that debacle? It can't be good.
Cleveland has a lot of work to do on that side of the ball in a short amount of time. The regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sept. 7 is now less than three weeks away.
But maybe the worst part of what happened at FedEx Field is that the Browns blew a great chance to begin to change the losing image they’ve fashioned with people since the the expansion era started in 1999. More specifically, they seemed to validate that ugly moniker.
And that’s a real shame – for everybody involved.