Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “bad quarterback play”

Browns better be working on Plans B, C and D

browns sign josh mccownThe Cleveland Browns signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown on Friday.

If the team is planning on McCown helping to solve the biggest on-going issue with this team, then they better be working on Plans B, C, D and beyond. (And Brady Quinn better not be part of those plans.)

“Josh is your consummate professional,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer said in announcing the move. “He’s known to be a great guy in the locker room and will be great for the quarterback room. He knows how to get an entire offense on the same page and get a team to rally behind him. He has been exposed to a lot of different types of offenses and we think still has the drive and skill set to be a successful quarterback in this league.

“We are excited to get him and believe he will help continue to move us in the right direction and help us build the type of team that will bring winning football to Cleveland.”

Good for Farmer for being able to say all that with a straight face. As to the part about bringing “winning football to Cleveland,” we’ll return to that point in a minute.

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Can we talk quarterbacks for a moment?

Basic RGBCome with us for a moment, if you will, as we join Mr. Peabody for a trip in the Wayback Machine. It won’t take long – we’re only traveling back to the fall of 2013.

Cleveland Browns fans remember that magical time, when Jason Campbell took over at quarterback and led the Browns to a series of stirring moral victories. Sadly, Campbell only posted one actual victory in his eight starts.

We’re back now and you’re probably wondering why, if we could travel back in time to any Browns season, we picked 2013.

It’s because that season taught (or should have taught) the Browns and their fans an important lesson — just because you may not be happy with your current quarterback, that doesn’t mean that plugging someone else in automatically solves the problem.

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On the playoffs and the downside of veteran QBs

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis ColtsIf Sunday really was the last time we see Peyton Manning on an NFL field as an active player – and it yesterday wasn’t the end, it certainly is coming soon – then the Denver Broncos are about to learn the same hard lesson that teams, including Minnesota and Kansas City, have learned before.

It is also a lesson that the Cleveland Browns and certain corners of the fan base should heed.

When you sign an aging veteran quarterback, no matter how good they are, rather than develop a quarterback, and don’t end up winning a Super Bowl, you run the risk of setting your franchise back even further than you were before you signed said quarterback.

The Chiefs learned that lesson back in the day with Joe Montana, the Vikings learned it a few years ago with Brett Favre, and now the Broncos are about to learn it as well.

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Browns once again find themselves in a QB quandry

browns redskins manzielIt is only preseason. It is only preseason. It is only preseason.

We have to keep reminding ourselves of that after watching the Cleveland Browns on Monday night against Washington.

The running game didn’t look all that bad, as Ben Tate and Terrance West combined to average 4.5 yards per carry, which compared to last season’s baggy pants farce is Pro Bowl-caliber work.

The defense had three interceptions and was active all over the field – at least when the officials weren’t throwing a flag. (The Browns were penalized 10 times).

Other than that, nothing much went right, especially with quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.

And that, Browns fans, leaves the team with a major problem on its hands.

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Do the Browns really need a QB competition?

browns quarterback competitionWhile we have already made a solid case for why the Browns would be better served to give quarterback Brandon Weeden a year in Norv Turner’s offense to see what they really have at the position, the Browns have other ideas.

“I think Norv and (Rob) Chudzinski have been very open that they like a lot of what Brandon does, but we’re going to have competition at that position, and I think competition makes us all better,” owner Jimmy Haslam said earlier this month.

Now whether that competition comes in the form of current San Franciso quarterback Alex Smith, who was available a year ago following a 3,100-yard season with 17 touchdowns compared to five interceptions and drew zero interest from any team (which means something); career backup Matt Moore from Miami, a player that Turner is reportedly a “big fan” of for reasons not readily apparent; or a player that has not yet been identified (and we can’t help but think that Mike Lombardi just can’t wait to prove how smart he is and select a quarterback way too high in the upcoming draft), it looks like there will be a new face in training camp taking snaps against Weeden.

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Browns front office still has work to do

With the ongoing NFL lockout preventing rookie minicamp and any other team activities, the Browns coaching staff doesn’t have a lot to do right now.

But the same can’t be said of the front office.

Eventually this ridiculous labor issue will be resolved (probably, maybe) and when it does teams will once again be able to sign undrafted free agents. And teams that put in the work now studying and keeping tabs on those players should be able to get a jump once they are allowed to start signing people.

And there are plenty of players available that could help the Browns build some depth at key positions like running back, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker.

West Virginia running back Noel Devine, East Carolina offensive tackle Willie Smith or Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes are all players the Browns could be looking at.

Hopefully the Browns are doing their homework because they still need more players and this year’s group of free agents is considered to be one of the weakest in years.

***

Former Browns quarterback Ken Dorsey retired from the NFL on Tuesday.

Who could forget those four games (three starts) that Dorsey made for the Browns near the end of the 2008 season?

A 47.3 completion percentage. Zero touchdowns. Seven interceptions. A quarterback rating of 26.4.

Good times.

***

Finally, a charming story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that provides reason No. 172 why Pittsburgh is the toilet bowl of America.

According to police, a 17-year-old boy came across a PNC Park usher who was having a heart attack in his car, pulled the man out and onto the ground, went through his pockets and stole his wallet, then drove away in the vehicle, leaving the usher to die in the street.

The teen is not charged with homicide in the death of 58-year-old Michael Schacht, who was headed home after a 14-inning game at PNC Park on April 9. The suspect is charged with car theft and robbery as a juvenile, and police did not name him.

Police said Mr. Schacht was found unresponsive on Brighton Road on the North Side and was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No confirmation yet on whether or not the teen was wearing a Steeler jersey.

Browns finally dance with Lady Luck

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy and, at times, it wasn’t enjoyable to watch, but Lady Luck finally blew on the right dice as the Browns held on to beat the 1-9 Panthers, 24-23.

After back-to-back last minute losses, the Browns built an early 21-7 lead and slowly tried to give the game away to the Panthers, finally prevailing when John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal attempt nailed the left upright as time expired.

The Browns seemed to seal the game when Joe Haden intercepted Jimmy Clausen’s pass with 1:30 left in the game. After three runs exhausted the Panthers timeouts, Reggie Hodges pinned the Panthers down at their own 5-yard-line with less than a minute left.

Hodges earned every penny of his contract extension on Sunday. In addition to the clutch punt, he pulled down a high snap on Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal and picked up a first down by drawing roughing penalty on a third-quarter punt.

Clausen somehow marched the Panthers down the field to set up Kasay’s field goal attempt. It didn’t look good for the Browns after the refs inexplicably let Carolina receiver Brandon LaFell roll out of bounds despite being down at the Browns 24-yard-line. Rather than the clock running out on the Panthers, the refs botched call gave them a chance to set up for the winning field goal.

The Browns offense was once again led by running back Peyton Hillis, who ran for 131 yards, added a team-high 63 receiving yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. Hillis had a lot of success running left behind Lawrence Vickers, who had another monster day, Eric Steinbach and Joe Thomas.

Hillis now has 13 total touchdowns on the season, 905 rushing yards and 414 receiving yards. For the year, Hillis has accounted for 37 percent of the Browns offensive yards and 62 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. General manager Tom Heckert should be named Executive of the Year for turning Brady Quinn into Hillis and additional draft picks.

Now for the bad part, namely the play of Jake Delhomme.

As we said in our game preview, the only way the Browns lose this game is if they have multiple turnovers and Delhomme did his best Derek Anderson impersonation to try and prove us right.

Holding a 21-13 lead to start the second half, Delhomme was intercepted on his first two passes of the half, the second a TAINT by Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn that cut the Browns lead to 21-20 and put what was once a sure win in doubt.

Delhomme was rusty and off target with several passes, which was to be excepted after missing eight weeks, but there were also the silly throws while running out of the pocket or being pulled down by a defender. We saw that in the Tampa game and the Atlanta game and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue if Delhomme is back under center next week.

And on a day when the Browns rushed for 4.8 yards a carry, they still felt the need to have Delhomme throw the ball 35 times. And while his completion percentage was almost identical from the first half (12-of-18) to the second half (12-of-17), Delhomme threw for less than 100 yards in the second half and had those two picks. Plus he almost lost a fumble on a sack.

And remember how we said Hillis was successful running behind Vickers all day? Well when the Browns drove to Carolina’s 25-yard-line early in the fourth quarter and faced a fourth-and-one, the Browns decided to go for it – which was the right call. Not so right was, after a timeout, they came out and ran Hillis out a formation that did not include Vickers. Hillis was stuffed, the Panthers went down and kicked a field goal, and suddenly the Browns were trailing.

But, in the end, the Browns won and that’s the most important thing. They didn’t play particularly well at times, and they were fortunate to be playing a team as bad as Carolina, but after some of the tough breaks that have come their way this season they deserved to come out on the right end of one of these games.

For this week at least, Lady Luck didn’t leave her escort and blow on some other guys dice. Hopefully she’ll want to hang around for next week’s trip to Miami, where the Browns haven’t won since 1970.

Quick thoughts on a slow Tuesday

Apparently South Beach isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as LeBron James now says he’s not having any fun.

I guess that’s what happens when you’ve already lost six games this season. By comparison, last year’s Cavs team didn’t lose its sixth game until Dec. 8; two years ago it was Jan. 4.

Maybe you shouldn’t have left home then.

***

Larry Fitzgerald is learning the hard way what Browns fans already knew: that Derek Anderson is a lousy quarterback:

“I’ve tasted the caviar now, so eating out of the garbage is not where I want to be,” Fitzgerald told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

***

While we are on the subject of quarterbacks, as we wrote back in training camp, the Browns are fortunate to actually have depth at the position.

In addition to the situation in Arizona with Derek Anderson and undrafted rookie Max Hall, the Dolphins were forced to start Tyler Thigpen last week, the Titans are planning to start rookie Rusty Smith this week, the 49ers have resorted to Troy Smith and, after going through Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen, Carolina turned to Brian St. Pierre last week.

So while the ankle injuries that are plaguing the Browns quarterbacks are absurd, it’s good to know the position is in capable hands.

***

Speaking of the Browns opponent for Sunday, apparently the Panthers are the greatest 1-9 team in the history of the National Football League.

The Return of Derek Anderson

The Browns dropped another hard-fought, close game on Sunday to Atlanta – the fourth such loss of the season – and in the process Jake Delhomme came off the bench to deliver his best Derek Anderson impersonation.

Once again, the defense did everything it could to give the Browns a chance to win. They held the Falcons to just 13 points and – just like the Tampa game – gave up just one big play, a 45-yard TD catch by Roddy White where safety Abe Elam decided to double-cover Tony Gonzalez underneath rather than give cornerback Sheldon Brown help over the top on a deep pass.

Other than that, the defense held Matt Ryan to just 187 yards passing, sacked him twice and hit him hard on several occasions. They did give up 140 rushing yards to Michael Turner, including one 55-yard run, but when it mattered held Atlanta out of the end zone except for the White TD.

As for the offense .. oh boy.

After ripping the Ravens and Bengals for big rushing days, the Browns rushing attack struggled to get anything going, picking up just a single first down on the ground. Peyton Hillis repeatedly had to leave the game with some kind of injury; as a result he totaled only 28 yards on the ground but added 49 in the passing game, including a nice TD catch.

When Hillis was out Jerome Harrison continued to prove the end of last season – when he ran for 561 yards over the final three games – was a complete mirage. Harrison ran six times for a total of six yards, bringing his season total to 91 yards. It’s clear why the Browns were hesitant to give him a contract extension.

As bad as the rushing game was, the passing game was even worse after Seneca Wallace left with an injury. Starting in place of Jake Delhomme, Wallace kept the Browns in the game as he was 11-of-15 for 139 yards and a 124 QB rating before getting hurt right before the end of the first half.

Enter Delhomme, who proceeded to give everyone wearing Brown and Orange flashbacks to the days of Derek Anderson.

Simply put, Delhomme was horrible. Whether it was rust from not playing since Week 1 (probable), not being 100 percent healthy (also probable), the offense completely short-circuited under Delhomme, who was beyond ineffective.

Finishing 13-for-23 for 97 yards, a QB rating of 30.5 and two interceptions – one returned for a game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter – Delhomme gave the Browns no chance to win this game. He consistently threw into double coverage and once, on a pass to Josh Cribbs in the end zone, into quadruble coverage, in the process looking like a quarterback who’s better days are far, far behind him.

I’ve been watching the Browns, and by extension the NFL, since the mid-’70s and I can’t remember the last time a team had three TAINTs in a five-game stretch, let alone in one season. And yes, the Tampa interception wasn’t officially a TAINT, but for our purposes it was close enough.

The receiving corps didn’t help either, as Brian Robiskie checked in with his weekly one catch for five yards and Mohamed Massaquoi pulled in five catches, but for only 55 yards, furthering the believe that these two are Canadian Football League talent – on a good day – and taking all of us one step closer to making the second round of the 2009 draft a complete void.

Tack on another seven penalties from the Browns and it’s a surprise this game was as close as it was at the end.

Having said all that, it’s clear that Delhomme is still not 100 percent healthy and, even with his experience, not really practicing much over the past three weeks showed. If Wallace hadn’t been injured, Delhomme wouldn’t have even been in the game.

However, it’s a fair question to wonder if Wallace, while probably not a better quarterback than Delhomme, is a better quarterback for this Browns team. He certainly was better today and, while not performing at an Pro Bowl level, has played decently the past three weeks.

Look, as with most weeks the Browns needed to play a perfect game to beat Atlanta. It’s a testament to them that with the injuries and poor offensive performance they were able to still be in the game up until the interception return. We’re still in the disappointed and frustrated stage with this team, rather than the disgusted stage.

But depending on how bad Wallace is injured, the Browns face the prospect of heading to Pittsburgh next week with an immobile Delhomme at less than 100 percent. And if neither Delhomme or Wallace are healthy enough to play, Colt McCoy becomes the only healthy quarterback on the roster.

Not a happy thought to carry us through the week.

This Isn’t the Big Ten

With Saturday’s cut down of NFL rosters to 53 players came the news that the Ravens finally cut ties with former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith.

That news was predictably followed by the cries of the hoople heads who want the Browns to sign Smith.

The big question in that scenario is why would the Browns do something like that?

Smith was exposed in the 2007 National Championship game against Florida as not being an NFL-caliber quarterback. The Gators defense, loaded with NFL talent and speed, overwhelmed Smith and the Buckeyes that night.

Since then he’s done nothing in Baltimore to change that fact. He played in 14 games for the Ravens, starting two of them. In three years he completed only 53 percent of his passes in a league where the top quarterbacks best 60 percent, for three TDs and one interception.

The NFL is a quarterback starved league, with half of the teams barely able to find one decent quarterback. Derek Anderson has a starting job in Arizona. Todd Collins – who played at Michigan so long ago they may have been wearing leather helmets – earned a roster spot in Chicago. Dennis Dixon is going to be starting Week 1 for Pittsburgh.

The jobs are there if you can play; it seems obvious that is not the case with Smith. He’s really no different than Pat White, who was cut by the Dolphins.

The Browns need players who can compete on the NFL level. It doesn’t matter where they went to school, they just need players who can be the dogs bollocks on game days. Thankfully, Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini realize this. They aren’t going to sign someone who can’t help the team on the field.

And for those who think that Smith just “needs a chance” to prove himself, ask yourself this question: If Smith had played at any other college than Ohio State, would you still think he’d be a good fit for the Browns?

If you’re being honest, then the answer is clearly no.

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