Steven King

It's Painfully Obvious That QB Is Browns' Biggest Problem

Created on Dec. 22, 2013 9:08 PM EST

As painful as its was – and it was certainly painful – there was nonetheless a silver lining for the Cleveland Browns that came out of their 24-13 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

In recent weeks, there have been those who have cited the defense as the main culprit for the team’s struggles this year. They mean well when they say this, but they’re wrong.

The reason that Cleveland is 4-11 and has lost six in a row is it quarterback play, or the lack thereof. It is brutal – to put it conservatively – and that was evident again in the loss to the Jets. So now we know beyond any shadow of a doubt where the most work must be done.

Jason Campbell has continued to regress during that time into what we all knew who he was from the very beginning – a journeyman who can manage a game but can’t win it. He was especially bad on Sunday. Time and time again the Browns ventured into the red zone, yet they came away with just one touchdown. They had a first-and-goal at the New York 2 and did not gain an inch – not a single inch! That’s incredible!

Cleveland has had trouble all year running the ball, so it has been forced to pass. That has put the fate of the offense into Campbell’s hands, which is not a good thing. Yes, there were more dropped passes on Sunday – as there always seems to be – but the problem was more with Campbell’s passing. He was off-target a number of times and, on many occasions, his touch was also way off. When he needed to loft the ball into a tight spot, he threw a laser. When he needed to throw a laser, he put loft on it.

Cleveland has holes, especially on offense. That’s obvious. But there are not as many holes as you might think.

Good quarterback play – which the Browns haven’t had much of this season whether it was Campbell or Brandon Weeden delivering the ball – will mask a lot of those problems. That improvement happened in the three games started by Brian Hoyer early in the season before he was lost with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Since then, the decent passing performances have been few and far between.

Quarterback is the most important position in team sports and, until Cleveland solves its issues in that respect, it will not go anywhere regardless of what its defense does.

By this point of the season, the Browns’ defense is worn out from spending way too much time on the field. The offense isn’t holding up its end of the bargain with series after series of three-and-out, and the defense – as well as the team – is paying for that now more than ever.

Mercifully, Cleveland has one game left in the season, playing at Pittsburgh on Sunday. The season can’t end soon enough so the club’s deep thinkers can begin fixing the offense by finding its quarterback. Right now, it appears as if Hoyer will be the starter when training camp begins in 2014, with a rookie – playing somewhere in college now – waiting in the wings.

A lot can change between now and then, however, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But whoever is under center next season will have to be better on a consistent basis than Campbell and Weeden have been in 2013 or the Browns will be right back in this same position again next season.

And that would be painful beyond words.

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