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Archive for the category “Colt McCoy”

Source: Browns may have made regrettable mistake

As we pointed out yesterday, the Cleveland Browns now find themselves under the spotlight for their mishandling of Colt McCoy following James Harrison’s illegal hit during Thursday night’s game.

According to ESPN: the team’s handling of the situation is being labeled as a “blatant system failure” by a union source because the team’s medical staff did not conduct proper testing before sending McCoy back into the game.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association’s chief physicians — Dr. Elliott Pellman and Dr. Thom Mayer — have conducted the initial review, sources said, and both the league and the union will continue the process that one source says will “likely” be the catalyst for the placement of independent neurologists at each game site in time for the 2012 season.

It will be interesting to see what the NFL comes up with as they review the situation. If it leads to having an independent neurologist at each game, then something good will have come out of the situation.

Short-term, however, it raises questions about what the Browns are up to on the sidelines during the game. We still find it very hard to believe the team willingly put McCoy back into the game knowing that he had a concussion – there’s no benefit to McCoy or the team under that scenario.

And making a mistake is not the same thing as having malicious intent.

But if the NFL can determine the team intentionally ignored McCoy’s symptoms and put him back in the game knowing that he had a concussion, then the franchise needs to be fined heavily – starting with coach Pat Shurmur.

We understand that things can get hectic on the sidelines, especially at the end of a close game against a division rival, but the coach’s job is to know what is going on and act accordingly. The player is always going to want to go back into the game – it’s the coach’s job to make sure the player is not putting himself or the team at risk.

Lost in all this is the fact that Harrison’s hit was clearly illegal and now he may face a suspension.

According to ESPN, the NFL will look at the hit and, at the very least, fine Harrison. If he is suspended for a game or two, Harrison would be the first player suspended under the league’s crackdown on player safety violations.

“Our staff is going to be looking at that play along with every other play that happens this weekend, and they’ll make their decisions,” NFL Roger Goodell said.

Fines are obviously not working, so maybe a suspension that could cost the Steelers as they position for the playoffs, will finally do the trick.

***

What if we told you that, against the Steelers the Browns would:

  • Win the turnover battle.
  • Knock Ben Roethlisberger out of the game.
  • Win the third-down battle.
  • Commit fewer penalties.
  • Force Pittsburgh to be inefficient at scoring points.

The Browns should win, right? Well, that’s what they did Thursday night and it still wasn’t enough, as Cold Hard Football Facts points out:

Cleveland forced 3 turnovers while surrendering just 2 (4-2 if you count Pittsburgh’s meaningful turnover on downs). Cleveland forced Roethlisberger to the sidelines for a whole 6 minutes of game time (an eternity for Ben), leading Ben to limp and slide through the second half. Cleveland held Pittsburgh to its second worst 3rd Down conversion rate of the season (25%) while converting 43.75% of their own. Cleveland was the more disciplined team as Pittsburgh committed 6 extra penalties for 43 extra yards. And Cleveland forced Pittsburgh to travel 29.71 yards for each point they scored, the least efficient scoring output from Pittsburgh since Week 1 (and this a team that is known to be inefficient this season coming in at No. 23 in the league in Scoreability).

In many ways, Cleveland did exactly what they needed to do. Well, except score points. Pittsburgh’s defense stepped up in the game forcing Cleveland to travel more than the full length of the field for each point they scored (101.33 YPPS). Cleveland may have converted third downs just about at will on Pittsburgh’s side of the field, but the Pittsburgh defense clamped down past the 50. In fact, Cleveland converted 7 out of 8 third down opportunities on their own side of the field and converted a perfect 0 out of 8 third downs in Pittsburgh territory.

Just another fun day in paradise for the Browns.

***

Finally, several of the early season darlings of the NFL have crashed back to earth.

Buffalo is 1-7 after starting 4-1.

Oakland is 3-4 after starting 4-2.

Cincinnati is 1-4 after starting 6-2.

Tampa Bay is 0-7 after its 4-2 start.

Detroit is 3-5 (which should be 2-6 after the refs somehow missed a blatant face mask penalty at the end of Sunday’s game against Minnesota) after its 5-0 start.

Just wanted to point that out.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Better effort, same result, more controversy

The Browns finally came through with what looked like a solid effort Thursday night against Pittsburgh, but of course it wasn’t enough, as they fell to the Steelers.

That’s nothing new for the franchise, as the Browns have now lost 15 times in the past 16 games and 21 times in the past 23 games against Pittsburgh.

No matter who is the coach, no matter what offense or defensive system the team runs, the Browns have come up short time and again against the Steelers.

But, this being the Browns, it can never just be about another loss.

Colt McCoy’s concussion – thanks to an illegal hit from James Harrison – and how the coaches and medical staff handled it during the game have put the franchise in a spotlight that is better left avoided.

After sitting only just two plays, McCoy came back in and threw an interception in the end zone. Whether or not McCoy should have been back in the game so quickly has now become an issue.

And the Browns find themselves facing questions of “what did they know and when did they know it?”

“We go through the strict protocol to evaluate whether there is concussion like symptoms,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Friday. “Seneca (Wallace) was in the game for two plays. I was told that Colt could go back in the game. He came up right next to me and said, ‘I’m ready to roll,’ so he went back in.”

McCoy’s dad had a different take on the matter.

“He never should’ve gone back in the game,” Brad McCoy told The Plain Dealer. “He was basically out (cold) after the hit. You could tell by the ridigity of his body as he was laying there. There were a lot of easy symptoms that should’ve told them he had a concussion. He was nauseated and he didn’t know who he was. From what I could see, they didn’t test him for a concussion on the sidelines. They looked at his (left) hand.”

Wait, what? McCoy’s dad is speaking up? Oh boy.

We get that McCoy is worried about his son, but does he really think talking to the media is going to help? Colt McCoy is not a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, he’s the starting quarterback (for now) on a (presumably) NFL team.

No matter how you feel, it’s not really your place to talk out about how the team is handling things. That’s what agents are for; or, if you are Kellen Winslow, you handle things yourself.

It seems unlikely that the Browns would put McCoy back in the game if they didn’t think he was alright. After all, at various times this year (including Thursday night) they have kept Ben Watson, Owen Marecic, Mohamed Massaquoi and Scott Fujita out of games after they suffered concussions.

“I felt like the management from the point that it happened through yesterday was just fantastic,” linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, said in October after Fujita was diagnosed with a concussion. “So that makes me feel really, really good. I couldn’t be happier with the way (trainer) Joe Sheehan and our doctors handled everything.

“Obviously there’s so much heightened awareness [in the NFL about concussions] and I’m an older guy in my career and with a family and stuff, so certainly you think about those big-picture things,” he said. “But again, I feel confident in the doctors and stuff and trust me, I know a lot about this issue, I’m on every email list. I think I’m pretty up to date on some of the concerns, so, yeah, I feel good about where I’m at right now.”

If the team was so careful with the other players, why would they just rush McCoy out there without checking him out or if they thought he was injured?

“If he would’ve shown symptoms of a concussion, then, I wouldn’t have put him back in the game,” Shurmur said. “It would’ve been out of my hands anyway because I would’ve been told he can’t go back in the game. With the way it happens, that was a tough, physical game. Everybody got knocked around. If he had the symptoms, he would not have gone back in the game, absolutely not. He just said, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go.’ I was told he was ready to go too.”

According to The Plain Dealer, McCoy was coherent in answering questions after the game and accurately described the interception. By the time the team arrived in Berea — about 2 a.m. — McCoy was woozy enough that teammate Evan Moore had to drive him home. By Friday morning, he drove himself to the Berea facility for further exams and was diagnosed with a concussion.

The fact McCoy’s conditioned worsened in the hours after the game fits in with what Fujita said happened to him.

“It’s one of those things that kind of builds and builds,” Fujita said about his concussion. “I feel good that I have a couple teammates and a coach who kind of noticed that my demeanor was off and they alerted the people.”

So it seems possible that McCoy was coherent enough that the team doctors would clear him to go back in the game, even if it turns out after the fact that they really should not have. The Browns probably mishandled the situation, but it seems unlikely they did it with the intent of putting McCoy in danger.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it’s that the Browns have an extra three days off before their next game in Arizona, which gives McCoy extra time to rest. But at this point, the Browns should really hold him out of the Cardinal game to make sure he’s OK.

Having Seneca Wallace start one game isn’t going to hurt anything. Wallace is not a threat to take the starting job and, even if he misses one game, we’re confident that the Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, Shurmur power trio will have seen enough of McCoy this year to be able to make an accurate determination on him at the end of the season.

Now if they could just keep Brad McCoy away from the microphones.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

The "education" of Colt McCoy

Another day, another reason to be thankful that the Browns are no longer saddled with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and his brand of “motivation.”

For reasons we don’t totally understand, Michael Silver at Yahoo! Sports decided to revisit the story about how Daboll treated Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during his rookie season. And even though it seems odd to bring this up again – it made sense the week before the Miami game – that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

According to Silver, Daboll had a special plan for McCoy:

  • In what became a running joke in the Browns’ locker room, Daboll disparaged McCoy loudly and relentlessly – sometimes to his face, sometimes through the earpiece in the quarterback’s helmet.
  • Another time, says one Browns offensive player, “It was during a walk through, and they chose Colt to stand in at fullback, for whatever reason. I guess he kind of ran the wrong route; how the hell should he know what the fullback was supposed to run? Daboll flipped out. Colt was livid. He’d never had a coach talk to him like that.”
  • Several Browns recalled a meeting early in the 2010 season in which Daboll told McCoy, “I just watched [tape of] your last college game, and you were terrible. What the hell were you throwing out there? That was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen. Why the [expletive] did we draft you?”

Now we’re getting somewhere. With team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert calling the shots, the power base of coach Eric Mangini and Daboll had dwindled. Unable to talk back to the bosses, Daboll decided to pick on the Holmgren-selected rookie quarterback instead.

Because that’s what bullies do, and there’s no way to classify Daboll as anything other than a bully.

“The simple reason (people bully) is it shows that they have power over others,” according to Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the United States, based in Clemson, S.C. “The reason that they do it repeatedly is that they are getting away with it. Nobody is calling them on their bad behavior (nice leadership from Mangini, there). When they aren’t called on it they think, ‘Well, it must be O.K.’

“A person who bullies intentionally picks out someone that they know is weaker than themselves so that they can intimidate, harass or humiliate them to do their bidding. It is a misuse of their power. This behavior is usually repeated and of course this power differential is there.”

The fact that McCoy was the All-American quarterback from a major college football power, while Daboll was one of the worst offensive coordinators in the NFL, probably played a role as well.

As to where Daboll got his sense of entitlement from, who knows? He, of course, would not talk to Silver for the article.

To his credit, and showing the kind of mental toughness you want in a starting quarterback, McCoy took the high road when Mangini and Daboll were shown the door after a second consecutive 5-11 season.

“When those guys left I walked up and shook their hands,” McCoy told Silver. “I really did appreciate them. It made me stronger as a man. It taught me a lot about how to handle things.”

McCoy may not be the answer at quarterback for the Browns, but he definitely proved he is the better man in this situation.

“There was a lot of pressure put on Colt, and some of it was over the top,” said tight end Evan Moore. “He was coming off winning 45 of 53 games in college, and it was the first time he was dealing with adversity. It was a whirlwind for him. He stepped right into a buzz saw. It rocked his world. I knew it was tough for him, and there were a lot of times when he was frustrated. But he did a good job of not really showing it, and he handled it well.”

One thing we probably need to do is stop reading these kinds of stories. We are so tired of talking about last year and what was, to some, the brief Camelot of the 10-22 Mangini era.

Those days are gone and, thankfully, they are not coming back.

Browns lose themselves deep in Texas

Every time we think the Browns can’t sink any lower, they drain a little more water out of the pool.

Case in point: Sunday’s 30-12 loss to the Houston Texans.

The Browns went in to the game as 11 point underdogs and certainly played that way.

The Browns totaled 10 first downs and 172 yards of offense.

Houston’s Arian Foster rushed for 124 yards, Ben Tate ran for 115 and both scored touchdowns.

Cleveland’s Chris Ogbonnaya finished with 28 yards rushing, Thomas Clayton had 10; the Browns finished with just 44 yards on the ground.

The Browns have now gone eight consecutive games without scoring a touchdown in the first or third quarter.

“They came from the first snap to the last and it’s frustrating,” quarterback Colt McCoy said in published reports. “They were able to create a lot of pressure up front. At times, it was hard to overcome.”

The Texans got the ball to open the game and went 82 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Ogbonnaya fumbled on the Browns first offensive play, the Texans scored six plays later and the game was essentially over.

“We spend the whole week working on the run game, play-action, things that you’re going to do,” McCoy said, “and then both times you have to completely abandon that and get into something else because you’re down two touchdowns. We’re not good enough to overcome that.”

The Browns are broken – especially on offense – right now and there seems little anyone can do to fix the problem.

The team can’t do anything on offense – it can run, it can throw long, it can’t throw short, it can’t protect the quarterback (it will be a miracle in McCoy makes it 16 games in one piece).

“I don’t think we did very good overall protecting the quarterback,” tackle Joe Thomas said in the understatement of the season. “We’ve got to play better if we want to win in the future. It wasn’t anything we didn’t expect. They open the playbook up when you’re down, 14-0, right away. There’s nothing that they can’t do. You can’t spot them 14. That’s just the bottom line.”

Josh Cribbs continue to be the lone bright spot on offense – and the one player that really seems to bring it every week. Cribbs, playing in his 100th career game, had a 64-yard kickoff return, five receptions and a touchdown. He’s already set career bests with 22 catches for 298 yards. He also had three tackles on special teams.

Everyone else? Not much.

“I don’t want to say we’re at a crossroads, but this is a point where you can go one of two ways — pack it in and fold or keep trying to get better,” linebacker Scott Fujita said in published reports. “And defensively we can’t afford to take a step back.”

We knew coming into the season that things could get rough. With only two drafts under his belt and a reduced off-season, there has only been so much that general manager Tom Heckert could do to clean up the mess left for him by Phil Savage and Eric Mangini. There are only four players left on the team from Savage’s last draft in 2008 and Mangini’s one-and-only draft in 2009.

Maybe if they didn’t have so many holes to fill across the team Heckert would have realized what a bad idea it was to go into the season relying on Tony Pashos at right tackle, who’s been a turnstile and is now injured again.

Unfortunately there is nothing the Browns can do about those problems now. They have to face the last half of the season with the team they have, not they one we wish for.

And the team is left to come home, lick its wounds, and get ready for the 1-7 Rams next weekend at home. The Rams have somehow managed to score fewer points than the Browns this season, so we should all be in for some kind of offensive treat next weekend.

For now, we’ll leave it to Cribbs to sum up the loss to the Texans.

“They beat us up,” he said in published reports. “They beat us up front, all across the board. Give them credit, they were whooping us up front. They whipped us all over.”

That they did.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Browns need to know when to hold ’em

We’ve been a little behind on our reading so it was just in the past couple of days that we read the Sports Illustrated article about how San Francisco’s Alex Smith has turned into a viable NFL quarterback – at least through the early part of the season.

In the article (written after the 49ers win over Detroit), Jim Trotter points out how a simpler game plan calls for Smith to do less, which means he doesn’t have to force things or take as many chances. “With this coaching staff and this system, the way it’s built, it’s just take the plays that are there,” Smith said in the article.

The seventh-year quarterback is also helped by his offensive line, where three of the five starters are first-round picks, and a running game that is sixth-best in the league after averaging 188.5 yards per game in October.

Reading that got us thinking again about The Colt McCoy Question, mainly wondering if the Browns will know when to cut ties with McCoy, if that day ever comes around.

Solid offensive line? Strong running game? Simpler offensive plays? Sounds like a blueprint the Browns would consider following to help develop McCoy.

Of course, a season-ending injury to guard Eric Steinbach forced rookie Jason Pinkston into the lineup perhaps before he was ready. And right tackle Tony Pashos’ play has reminded fans of John St. Clair.

Same with the running game. Injuries have stalled Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, meaning the Browns may very well line up with Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton as their running backs on Sunday in Houston.

Those injuries have conspired against the Browns and contributed to McCoy not making as much progress this year as many had hoped for.

And let’s not forget the wide receiver play.

It’s still possible, of course, that even if the Browns surround McCoy with talent that he won’t be the answer, but now is not the time to make that call.

The Browns have been searching for a quarterback since trading away Bernie Kosar. They’ve tried young quarterbacks, veteran quarterbacks, benching quarterbacks after a couple of games only to make them the starter again later in the season, and none of it has worked out.

While we don’t expect – or want – the Browns to take seven years to make a determination on McCoy (but really, after 47 years without a title what’s another five years?), Smith offers another good lesson about not making hasty decisions over the quarterback position.

Because he works for a morning newspaper and we write for the Internet equivalent of the evening edition, Terry Pluto made the same points in today’s paper.

Of course, not everyone shares our same opinion, but that’s what makes sports in this town such a spicy topic.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

The Colt McCoy question

“We’re constantly looking for the things that are part of what we do that he does well.” – Browns coach Pat Shurmur

Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur addressed the topic on everyone’s mind in the wake of the team’s 6-3 win over Seattle on Sunday: just what do the Browns have in quarterback Colt McCoy?

“This is a little uncharted, playing without an offseason,” Shurmur said in his Monday press conference. “I think it’s important that (McCoy) just improves each week. At the end of the year we’ll just add it up and see where it’s at. It’s a little bit hard to define right now. If we would have had a full offseason with all the OTA’s you would have had a better idea where he was during training camp, then you can judge the improvement during training camp and then so on. This is a little bit uncharted as far as marking the progress I think.”

Shurmur’s comments are spot on and show that the Browns are handling the McCoy situation exactly the way they should – by letting him play.

The only way we’re going to know if McCoy has what it takes to lead the Browns into the playoffs on a regular basis is to let him play this season. Too often in this town we’ve seen coaches mishandle the quarterback position, not being able to settle on one player, benching quarterbacks after two games only to make them starters again later in the same season.

And it has to end for the team to have any hope.

This isn’t an endorsement of McCoy as the long-term answer. The stats through six games are certainly not pretty – 27th in completion percentage, 33rd in yards per attempt, 32nd in passes of more than 20 yards, 28th in quarterback rating.

This being Cleveland, half the fans always want the back-up quarterback to play. Of the other half, the majority just want someone else. But that doesn’t work and it’s not how you run a team.

The Browns need to stay the course with McCoy. They need to be certain whether or not he’s their quarterback. And the only way that is going to happen is by letting him play.

There is probably nothing more important this year than for the front office and coaching staff to be able to make a definitive decision on the quarterback position for the future.

If McCoy can stay healthy through 16 games – and that’s no certainty with the play of the guards and the right tackle – there is no doubt that we will all know the answer the morning after the Jan. 1 game against Pittsburgh.

“I know my job is to go out there and play and give our team the best opportunity to win,” McCoy said after Sunday’s win. “If you start to think about what people are writing or what somebody says, that just creates things in your mind that don’t need to be in there. I’m going to give it my all every week, in practice, in meetings and in the games. If you do that, then good things are going to happen. I think we need to focus on our team and give ourselves the best chance to win.”

You can’t really ask for anything more than that.

***

One hundred and forty-six total yards of offense.

No first downs until the 5:26 mark in the third quarter.

Sixteen total yards of offense in the first half.

One passing yard in the first half.

Six total points.

The Browns’ box score from Sunday’s game against Seattle? Think again.

Those are the offensive numbers the Baltimore Ravens put up Monday night against Jacksonville.

You know, the first-place Ravens, allegedly Super Bowl contenders? That’s all they could do against a 1-5 Jaguar team that is playing for a lame duck coach before an apathetic fan base.

But to hear the anti-Holmgren crowd tell it, the Browns are the worst team in the history of forever after their win against the Seahawks.

Think Ravens’ fans would have been crying this morning if Baltimore would have figured out a way to win while only scoring six points?

Yeah, we didn’t think so.

***

We could have sworn it was guard Jason Pinkston who got blown up on Sunday by Red Bryant on Bryant’s two blocked field goals.

But the Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich wrote that: In the second quarter, Oniel Cousins lined up at left guard and fell on one knee while trying to get out of his stance, allowing Bryant to break through the line and earn his first block. In the fourth quarter, Alex Mack played left guard and kept his head down as Bryant maneuvered past him for another block.

Alex Mack, huh? Guess the Browns should have drafted Mark Sanchez after all.

(Photo by Cleveland Browns.com)

The glass is empty this morning

Cleveland had a rare sports double header with Detroit on Friday night and woke up this morning to an empty glass.

In the game that mattered, the Indians fell to the Tigers to drop 2.5 games out of first place.

Josh Tomlin needed to be perfect for the Indians because the offense decided it was a good time to take the night off.

Tomlin tried his best, shutting out the Tigers through five-and-a-third innings, but the long ball did him in, with Austin Jackson hitting a two-run shot in the sixth, and Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta adding solo shots in the seventh with two outs.

Tomlin has now given up 23 home runs on the year, or one every seven innings.

“I thought Josh pitched well and gave us a chance for six innings,’’ manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “We just couldn’t get anything going against (Max) Scherzer. He got better as the game went on.’’

The Tribe offense was inept, scoring its sole run in the seventh inning courtesy of a wild pitch by Max Scherzer.

The Indians have apparently decided that putting the ball in play is not important, as batters have struck out 47 times in the first four games of this road trip. Travis Hafner has contributed 21 percent of that total as he continues his second-half transformation into Adam Dunn.

The Tribe continues to ride the K Train, striking out at a staggering rate of 7.8 times per game. At that pace they will finish with a franchise record 1,265 strike outs on the year.

Having said that, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. If the Indians can take care of business today and tomorrow, they come home just a half-game back of Detroit.

“The way they are playing, the way we are playing and even the way Chicago is playing, I don’t think this is going to be decided in the next couple days,” Tomlin said.

***

In the game that didn’t matter as much, the Browns lost to the Lions in Cleveland’s second – and final – home game of the exhibition season.

Colt McCoy continued to give us confidence that the West Coast offense is the right fit for him. McCoy completed 10-of-18 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

“He did a good job,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of McCoy. “He executed like you’d expect. They came after us with some pressure and he stood in there and executed. I think he would tell you he missed some throws out there.”

Evan Moore caught two touchdown passes and rookie wide receiver Greg Little had one as the first-team offense put up 21 points despite missing Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson and Eric Steinbach, none of whom played because of injuries.

“He can really run and catch the football,” Shurmur said of Moore. “That’s how we’ll try to use him throughout this deal. I think he’s improved as a blocker, but I think his real value is a pass catcher.”

If Moore can stay healthy – he left Friday night’s game with what may be a concussion – and Ben Watson can have another solid season, that will take a lot of the pressure off of a group of unproven and unproductive wide receivers.

“Evan is definitely a weapon,” McCoy said. “He’s a big target and he creates mismatches. I thought he played excellent. He got some good balls and then we got him out of there.”

The best part of the night was that the cool, refreshing breeze of Shurmur’s offense continued to blow through Cleveland Browns Stadium. After two exhibition games, it’s clear that Shurmur thinks touchdowns, not field goals.*

“Tonight we faced a good front and we had our ups and downs, for sure,” McCoy said. “We capitalized on some short fields. We didn’t settle for field goals.”

The first-team defense didn’t play all that bad, either, holding Detroit’s first-team offense to just 10 points. And they did it while playing without starters Usama Young, T.J. Ward, Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita.

Ahtya Rubin and Jabaal Sheard were active on the defensive line, with Rubin notching a sack and Sheard forcing and recovering a fumble.

“I thought they battled,” Shurmur said of the Browns starters on defense. “(Detroit) is a pretty explosive group on offense. I thought they did a good job battling.”

The Browns travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to take on the Eagles in what is normally the last true test for the starters in the preseason. It should be a good test for the Browns new offensive weapons.

*Sarcasm font is activated at 35 percent.

Browns preseason opener is first step

Preseason games in the NFL are tricky things.

The players are almost in a no-win situation with media and fans. If they do well, “it’s only preseason” against an opposing team that is playing under its own agenda.

Struggle, and it’s “man the lifeboats” time (which is only true if the team you are talking about is the Bengals).

Having said that, there were some positives to take out of the Browns win against Green Bay on Saturday in the exhibition opener:

  • Colt McCoy looked sharp, completing 9-of-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. “I’ll be the first to tell you we’re nowhere where we need to be,” McCoy said in published reports. “It’s a good start, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
  • Josh Cribbs caught a 10-yard pass on third down and a 27-yard touchdown pass from McCoy. “It’s a great sneak preview of the West Coast offense, especially with the way we moved the ball down the field at will,” Cribbs said. “It was so beneficial for us to work all summer long … and we’ve got the timing down pat.I don’t want to say too much, but with the talent on this football team and the winning tradition that Colt had in college, it’s starting to look like that now.”
  • Defensive tackle Phil Taylor drew the first of what should be several holding penalties.
  • Defensive end Jayme Mitchell finally had a chance to show Browns fans what Tom Heckert saw on tape last season, sacking backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the first quarter.
  • The starters on the offensive line looked really good. We all know Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach and Alex Mack are going to be solid, but Shawn Lauvao and Tony Pashos looked like they can do some damage if they stay healthy (a big if in Pashos’ case).
  • Coach Pat Shurmur finally saw game action as a head coach and he came through it in one piece. “Even though this one doesn’t really go in the record books as a regular-season victory, that feeling you get when you win is something we all long for,” Shurmur said. “Somebody that’s teaching young men, to see them respond to some of the things we’ve been talking about, I thought it was good.”

Having said all that, it’s good to remember not to get too carried away.

Green Bay didn’t dress four of their cornerbacks, including Charles Woodson, which helped make things easier for the Browns offense.

And on their second drive, the Packers went 73 yards in seven plays pretty easily, scoring on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings.

“We did some good things and we have to improve on some things,” tight end Ben Watson said. “Don’t take it any further than that. We’re still in training camp, we’re still working out the kinks and we’re still going to face some adversity. When that happens, it’ll be important to see how we respond.”

But the Browns still accomplished everything you could want from the first game. They got their first-team offense on the field under game conditions, rookies Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor all got their first taste of NFL action and, most importantly, the team came out of the game without any major injuries.

It’s also evident that the players are responding to Shurmur in a way we haven’t seen with the Browns in quite a while.

“It all starts up top,” lineback D’Qwell Jackson said in published reports. “Shurmur) has created a winning environment. The coaches are relaxed and it trickles down to us players.”

“Coach Shurmur is real calm,” Ward said. “He expects you to do your job and be a professional. He lets us go out there and be men. We really appreciate that because he’s not riding us all the time. As men we have to knuckle up and know that this is our job. We’re not just here to play football. We’re here to win and play football. He let us know that right off the bat.”

“I like his aura,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “It’s really good and it rubs off on the players.”

So while this was just the first step in what is sure to be a long journey, at least the Browns made that step in the right direction.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

***

Finally, this one is for the few remaining hoople heads who think the Browns should sign Troy Smith to play quarterback simply because he used to play for Ohio State.

San Francisco got rid of Smith in the off-season, choosing to keep Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick instead. Now, after one preseason game, the team is so desperate for quarterback help that they are bringing in 34-year-old Daunte Culpepper for a workout.

Culpepper hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009 and spent last season with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.

Further proof that Smith isn’t an NFL-caliber quarterback and the last player the Browns need to bring to the team.

On the outside looking in?

Did former Browns coach Eric Mangini intentionally sandbag Colt McCoy’s development during his rookie season last year?

And if he did, does it matter going into this season?

Yahoo’s Les Carpenter got McCoy to open up about what he went through last year under Mangini and deposed offensive coordinator Brian Daboll:

“Last year had a lot of challenges,” McCoy admitted in the article. “I spent a lot of time trying to think about ‘Why did this happen? Or that happen?’ ”

What happened, allegedly, is that when McCoy arrived in the spring ready to get to work, the coaching staff rarely even spoke to him.

And in the preseason, McCoy didn’t find out he was going to start the final exhibition game until five minutes before kickoff. A coach looked at him and said: “You’re starting,” then McCoy raced into a huddle with players he barely knew.

And once the season started, quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace got the weekly game plan on Monday, while McCoy wasn’t included in the quarterback club until Wednesday.

(Of course, Daboll’s game plans weren’t all that complicated, so McCoy may not have been missing much. But we digress).

In their defense, coming off a 5-11 season Mangini and the coaching staff had their hands full trying to hold onto their jobs – especially as Mangini was no longer the lone voice in the room, but now had to answer to general manager Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren.

With that new dynamic, it seems odd that Mangini would intentionally snub the quarterback hand picked by his boss, Holmgren. But McCoy doesn’t strike us as someone who would lie.

When you add McCoy’s story to that of Jayme Mitchell, who was told to “be patient” when he asked why a 3-4 team would acquire a 4-3 defensive end, and Joe Thomas’ comments about how it is “exciting to be a part of the professional approach everybody takes because I feel like there’s going to be tremendous stability for a long time here,” it sheds a little more light on why Mangini is now the former Browns coach.

The bigger question is does any of this matter now?

Probably not – at least we hope not.

If McCoy is so soft that he would lose his confidence after one season, then the Browns are in trouble. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“I think what I have seen in Colt, at least in the last week or so, he’s a very eager guy, very smart, he understands how to play the position and he really tries to learn the terminology – try to get up to speed that way,” Shurmur said in the Yahoo! article. “Because every play doesn’t work how you draw it up, he has the ability to improvise and make something happen.”

What’s done is done, and no matter what went on last year McCoy ended up receiving valuable playing time in his eight starts.

McCoy seems ready to put last year behind him and get on to bigger and better things.

“It’s easy to say this is one of those teams that fans will support if it plays well,” McCoy said. “We’ve got to win. We’ve got to find a way.”

(h/t to TenCentBeers for finding the Yahoo! article)

(Photo by Getty Images)

Busy day on the transactions desk


Lots going on today in the world of Cleveland sports, starting with the Indians trading with Chicago for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

We’ll admit our first reaction was “that’s it?” as Fukodome isn’t the big bat the Tribe needs right now, but we came to realize that, at a minimum, Fukodome is an upgrade over Austin Kearns and Travis Buck (who was designated for assignment after the trade).

As the always reliable DiaTribe points out, Fukodome’s .742 OPS would put him fourth among current Indians behind Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana.

Fukodome doesn’t hit for power, only 20 extra-base hits and three home runs this season, but he does get on base at a consistent level and, as having runners on the bases greatly enhances your chances of scoring, that’s a good thing – especially with this team.

***

Not to be outdone by the Indians, the Browns made several moves of their own on Wednesday.

To no one’s surprise, they released quarterback Jake Delhomme, who injured his ankle in the season opener last year and was never able to get what was left of his game back on track.

The team also reportedly signed second-round draft picks Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little; having them in camp from day one will be nothing but positive.

The Browns also agreed to a contract with Usama Young, a safety and former Kent State Golden Flash who played the past four years with New Orleans.

Young was a third-round draft pick of the Saints, playing safety the past two years and contributing on special teams for the past four. He recorded three interceptions and one sack in limited duty on defense.

Young played with current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita in New Orleans and with Josh Cribbs at Kent State. No doubt Cribbs and Fujita briefed the coaching staff and front office on what Young brings to the table.

And as Kent State has produced more Pro Bowlers in recent years than Ohio State – and did it without cheating – what’s not to like about the signing?

Finally, the Browns reached a deal with Brandon Jackson, who should fit nicely as a third-down back in the West Coast offense.

Jackson caught 43 passes with Green Bay last season and has 110 receptions in four years wiht the Packers. He also rushed for 703 yards last year.

He’s also only 25, so he comes to the Browns without a lot of mileage.

***

The Arizona Cardinals took the bait and traded for Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb on Thursday, surrendering a second-round pick and staring cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a Pro Bowler in 2009.

In addition (as if that wasn’t enough) the Cardinals are expected to sign Kolb to a $63 million, five-year contract that includes $23 million guaranteed.

All for a quarterback that has seven career starts in the NFL.

For those fans who think the Browns should have pulled the trigger on a deal for Kolb, chew on this for a moment: current Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has eight career starts. Looking at the numbers for the two finds that:

  • They both have completed 60.8 percent of their passes
  • McCoy’s yards per attempt is 7.40; Kolb’s is 6.53
  • Kolb has 11 touchdowns to McCoy’s six
  • Kolb has 14 interceptions to McCoy’s nine
  • McCoy’s quarterback rating is 74.5 to Kolb’s 73.2

So why would anyone think that Kolb is an upgrade over McCoy, especially at $63 million?

***

We were shocked at the news that Bob Bradley has been relieved of his coaching duties for the U.S. national soccer team.

“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years,” federation president Sunil Gulati in a press release. “During his time as the head coach of our Men’s National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change. It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

As we’ve learned over the decades here in Cleveland, firing the coach is the easy part. The hard part comes when you have to find a replacement that will take the team to the next level.

According to Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated, the next coach “will not be a surprise,” which means that German legend Jürgen Klinsmann is probably on tap to replace Bradley.

If Gulati is targeting Klinsmann, he better hope he can seal the deal; Klinsmann has turned down opportunities to coach the U.S. team after each of the last two World Cups.

The one thing we’ll say is, if you have to make a move, you want to do it now before the next World Cup qualifying cycle begins.

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