By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Reading between the lines: There seemed to be some finger-pointing going on among the Browns’ top two rookies in the aftermath of the 38-21 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The first salvo came from running back Trent Richardson, who was upset with the loss but also with the fact he carried the ball only two times in the second half. Richardson said, “It was shocking … I think we just got out of our game plan.”
Coach Pat Shurmur’s reaction to Richardson’s comments are posted later in this column.
The second salvo came from quarterback Brandon Weeden. It was more of an indirect hit on Shurmur, but a little more indicting. Weeden marveled at the ease at which Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to perform in his first NFL start.
“Coach (Mike) Shanahan put him in a great spot,” Weeden said. “They tailored what he does well. It seemed like they were doing naked (bootlegs) and play-action passes through the middle.”
Cousins ran the same bootleg pass, play after play after play. Shanahan was smart enough not to change something that was working. How many times do we see coaches run something that works, and then go away from it thinking the other team had adjusted? Shanahan basically said to the Browns: Here it is. Go stop it.
Weeden also had praise for Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle, who is the Redskins offensive coordinator.
“I think Kyle Shanahan called a great game and tailored what they do very well to the personnel they have.”
It might be dangerous to read more into Weeden’s comments than what they are. But it’s impossible not to draw a connection to what’s happened to Weeden in his first NFL season.
After having huge success running a shotgun spread offense with a frenetic pace at Oklahoma State, Weeden has been converted to an under-center, dropback quarterback in the slower-paced, bogged-down-by-verbiage, constant-personnel-shuffling, horizontal-throw West Coast offense.
Weeden also made a point of saying he has never had so many batted balls as the 21 through 13 games of Shurmur’s offense. Both he and Shurmur attribute the high number to the frequency of short throws on crossing routes imbedded in the West Coast playbook. So the question is: Why do they keep running those plays?
The names change, the results don’t: Shurmur has tutored three high-profile young quarterbacks in the last three years, and the results have been eerily similar.
Consider the numbers posted by Sam Bradford in his rookie season when Shurmur was Rams offensive coordinator, by Colt McCoy last season in Shurmur’s first year as Browns coach, and Weeden through 13 games this year.
Name Year Games Comp. Att. Pct. Yards Y/attempt TD INT Rating
Bradford 2010 16 354 590 60.0 3,512 5.95 18 15 76.5
McCoy 2011 13 265 463 57.2 2,733 5.90 14 11 74.6
Weeden 2012 13 285 498 57.2 3,281 6.60 14 17 72.4
About giving up on the running game: The Browns opened the second half with a 14-10 lead and possession of the ball. After a Weeden interception and Cousins TD drive, they were behind by 17-14. And then after a Browns punt and another Washington TD, the Browns fell behind, 24-14, with 7:20 left in the third quarter.
Richardson did not carry the ball again. He had two runs the entire second half.
Shurmur: “I think what happened was they were doing a pretty good job of defending the run on first down, so we tried to throw the ball on first down. Now when you don’t have success throwing on first down, then you get behind.”
What about Richardson’s complaint about abandoning the game plan?
“I don’t know what he meant by that,” Shurmur said. “But we would like to be able to run consistently throughout and involve him as a runner running the football. But at some point in the game, the score stretched out a little bit and we had success throwing a little bit, and then we had the interceptions.”
And how did Shurmur feel about a rookie criticizing the play-calling?
“I talked to Trent,” the coach said. “And I explained to him that after a game he will be asked questions. I said it’s very important when we’re all in a state of being disappointed that we lost that we all keep our focus on getting ready for the next game.”
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