By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Reflection time: Does the bye week come at a good time for the Browns? Not really.
A better time would have been during Joe Haden’s four-game suspension. It would have meant one less game of pass destruction.
Or a couple weeks ago when Trent Richardson was nursing bruised ribs.
Or in Week 1 when Brandon Weeden wasn’t ready to play.
But it’s here now, the latest bye week possible, and it’s time for the Browns to take a good, hard look at themselves. Here are a few things I’d like to see happen this week:
1. Hand the offensive play-calling duties to Brad Childress: Pat Shurmur may not like this, but it beats the alternative, which would be to hand over the head coach duties to Dick Jauron.
Clearly, something is wrong with the Browns’ play-calling and the play-calling process.
They run when they should pass, pass when they should run, punt when they should go for it, and go for it when they should punt.
Shurmur hired Childress to relieve some of the offensive burden after Shurmur was buried by the dual role of head coach and offensive coordinator last year. Shurmur wanted to call the plays, however. So what’s happened is Shurmur and Childress discuss plays through the headphones and then Shurmur voices the plays to Weeden’s headset.
One problem is these long-winded West Coast plays involve different personnel groupings and, inevitably, there are delays in getting in the right personnel groupings with the play called. These delays cost the team timeouts, but, more importantly, disrupt the flow and rhythm of the offense – which is supposed to be brisk.
The other problem is that Shurmur simply doesn’t call a good game. He doesn’t have a feel for instilling confidence in the fundamental component of an offense – the offensive line – and he doesn’t call to the strengths of his players.
Would Childress do better? Let’s find out.
2. Commit to Richardson on third-and-short: I never thought this would be an issue after the Browns traded three low draft picks to move up one spot and secure Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick. That is the highest spot the Browns ever have used on a running back -- higher than Jim Brown in 1957.
Since the team has been so bad in gaining “The Longest Yard,” I have charted its record on third- or fourth-and-1 plays. Through nine games, I have them in 21 third- or fourth-and-1 situations. They have converted nine of them – an awful success rate.
Richardson is 2 for 7 on third-and-1 carries – the worst mark in the league. I don’t know the exact reasons why he has failed five times. There is a suspicion Richardson has not run to the right spot. There is also the glaring lack of a dependable lead blocker. Whatever the problem, the coaches have to work it out. Richardson should be a slam-dunk to make 9 out of 10 carries for a yard. The Ravens said he was the strongest runner they’ve seen.
Shurmur has elected to pass nine times out of 21 in these situations; they converted four through the air. My hunch is that every time they call a pass in short-yardage, the offensive line takes it as a slap in the face.
3. Keep Josh Cooper in the mix: Like Brian Brennan in the 1980s, Cooper is a chains-mover – an underneath, possession receiver who makes first downs. The bonus is that he has a built-in chemistry with Weeden from their years together at Oklahoma State.
Every quarterback needs a security blanket. For Weeden, Cooper is that. He needs to play more, not less. Cooper is a keeper.
4. Run some hurry-up: Weeden was excellent at OK State at managing his offense in a hurry-up mode. He seems stifled in the Browns’ 1980s-era West Coast system, with its laborious play-calls and infinite personnel groupings.
Even when the Browns need to hurry, they lollygag and waste time on the clock huddling and walking to the line of scrimmage. Pick up the pace. Show some energy. Fast-paced is where it’s at, anymore, in the NFL. Throw fast. Run fast. Don’t let the defense dictate. Force the defense to react to the offense.
5. Let’s hear from the owner: Historically, bye weeks have been an occasion for the – pick one – owner/surrogate owner/president/CEO to speak to the fans through the media.
Granted, owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner have a lot on their plates – what with some 50 of the 150 luxury suites in Cleveland Browns Stadium empty and unsold, “paid” game attendance dipping to the 65,000 level, and the club’s business operation employee rolls loaded with fat. There is a lot to do.
But the business of football is football. And the Browns’ product is underwhelming, the leadership is suspect and the customers are angry. None of this is Haslam’s fault. Frankly, he inherited a mess.
Haslam has made good on his promise to be visible. Now it’s time to be audible. The NFL votes have been cast, the transaction has closed and the checks have cleared. It’s Haslam’s team. It’s time to speak on the obvious issues confronting him ahead. Saying, “We’re going to do everything possible to bring a winner to Cleveland,” isn’t enough.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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