Its football season in Cleveland and time for the perennial fifteenth year of rebuilding; we have a new coach, we have a new (and as yet unproven) star quarterback, we have a new attitude, we have a slew of new players trying out for the team. Yet there are many elements of déjà vu that Browns fans across the country are experiencing after last night’s pre-season loss to Washington.
So what elements are the same? Let’s start with the “quarterback controversy”. There is an old saying from Abraham Lincoln (who borrowed it from the Bible) that states “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. As was evident last night by the poor showing of both potential starting quarterbacks neither one is ready to take the team to glory. While holding off on a decision makes for great press it does nothing to unite the team. A decision needs to be made so that 100% effort can be thrown behind one man in order for the team to jell as a cohesive unit. Professional football is a game of nuances that are barely detectable but are there none the less. You cannot fault the receivers and offensive linemen for trying to memorize two different throwing styles. It is time to choose a quarterback and back him to the hilt.
Personally, I feel that Bryan Hoyer is the most logical choice to start. He has all the tools needed as well as the experience. While I am excited that we have acquired “Johnny Football”, let’s be real. The biggest mistake a team can make is to take a youngster fresh out of college and thrust him into the road of field general. Professional football is college football on speed. Stuff that you can get away with on the college gridiron does not fly on the pro field. The rush is faster, the tackling is faster (with players coming clear across field for the stop) and the hits are without mercy. Are we so desperate for a win that we are willing to risk overloading this young player with a new playbook, team philosophy and modus operende? The opening games of this season are against very tough rivals. You need experience to win not flash.
Next on the list of the all too familiar is once again having a WR on the verge of suspension for doing a selfish and stupid act…for the second season in a row! Perhaps someone should have reminded Josh Gordon of the old adage, “If you lay down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas”…and if the dogs are smoking dope you will test positive. Aside from being a bad example to the youth, letting down the team and for that matter the entire Browns Fan collective he perhaps fails to realize that bodies only last so long in the NFL and every year lost will never be regained.
Let’s talk about the defense. What can be said about the Brown’s defensive unit that has not been said for the last long fifteen years? At times they show absolute brilliance (such as the four stops of Washington at the two yard line last night) then they turn around and let their secondary get beat to shreds on a long pass play. There needs to be more consistency. The game is 60 minutes with anywhere from 120 to 140 plays for each team with each new play carrying potential for a win or loss.
Now for the offense…ahem…dropped passes, breakdown of quarterback protection, telegraphing of plays to the defense all made for a long night o’ football. Part of the problem lies in the “Quarterback Controversy” and could be solved by backing one or the other 100%. When you rely on your defense and field goal kicker to score points it does not bode well for the offense. Their job is simple… to score points. Perhaps someone needs to mention this fact to them.
While we are at it, let’s talk about what makes a successful team. Professional sports demand teams that stay together as a unit with minimal disruption of personnel. This haphazard Browns method of each year gathering a group of men for a pick-up game has got to stop. Truly successful franchises keep the same coaches, personnel, players intact and happy year after year. Most great quarterbacks began with mediocre seasons and went on to greatness because the franchise believed in them. It takes patience but in the end it pays huge dividends.
One thing not related to the game is the fact that those fans wishing to attend the Cleveland Browns Training Camp this summer had to go through the hassle of procuring free “tickets” on line. The system did not work that well and as a result a lot of fans stayed away from camp. In the past, it was opened each day to everyone who showed up. This effort to create “buzz” by making attendance to camp by the fans a special event is not a good idea. Leave the gates open to all and stop with the politics and trying to create a story. Win a Super Bowl and then we will talk about limiting fans access.
Now for the positive aspects (yes there were some last night). The goal line stance was absolutely brilliant and showed the strength of our defensive line. Manziel showed some true poise scrambling and throwing the ball on the run (points off for giving the finger to the Washington bench), the decision to go for two rather than risk injury during overtime was a good move, the running game seems to be coming along, pass rushing by the defense was not perfect but did manage to disrupt some plays and coaching staff and players held their cool in spite of all the penalties called.
Yes, it is only the second pre-season game and there is still time for the team to jell, it just seems that the Browns need to address some various re-problems that have been nagging this team since its return. Whatever the case, we in Browns Country wish them the best of luck and a safe and winning season.