Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “frustration”

Things are tough all over

Pop quiz time.

All of the following quotes are from an NFL head coach, but only one is from Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

Can you guess which one?

  • “I don’t think a sense of urgency or lack of a sense of urgency is the issue. I think fundamental football is, better blocking, better tackling.”
  • “There are also a lot of things we need to work on, so that’s what we’re doing. But I’m telling you it’s not one person. It needs to be all of us pulling this thing together and doing our jobs a little bit better.”
  • “You’re always trying to learn from these situations that you’re in. I think he’s ended game situations, in relation to the football, are things he has to get better at. He knows that and he’ll be the first one to say that. So we have to find a way for him to get better at that.”
  • “In my opinion, this is a sport where you develop every day that you practice or every day that you meet and along the way as you’re developing, you need to win games so that’s the focus. We need to get better, we need to execute more efficiently and we need to put our guys in the right spots to do the right things and along the way we need to win.”

If you said the last quote is from Shurmur, take a bow.

But what about the rest?

The first quote is from Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, who’s 2-2 Steelers have lost both games they’ve played this year against good teams. (Sound familiar?)

The second is from Philadelphia’s Andy Reid, who’s seen the Eagles, the alleged “Dream Team,” get off to a 1-3 start.

The third is from Dallas’ Jason Garrett, who watched his Cowboys blow a 24-point third-quarter lead on Sunday against Detroit.

And let’s not forget New England who, because they have Tom Brady, are 3-1 despite being last in the league in yards allowed after giving up 504 yards to a Jason Campbell-led offense on Sunday.

The point of all this? (We’re sure we have a point here somewhere). Teams with far more talent than the Browns are struggling this year, so maybe things aren’t as dire as they appear to some.

It’s easy to put the blinders on when it comes to the Browns, but fans need to look around at the rest of the league to help keep things in perspective.

The Browns just hit the quarter-mark of the season with a 2-2 record. If they repeat that each quarter of the season, they end up 8-8 on the year, which many fans would have signed off on at the start of the year.

But this season isn’t about the final record. It’s about evaluating the talent on the team, figuring out which players fit best in Shumur’s West Coast offense and Dick Jauron’s 4-3, play fast think less, defense. And it’s about learning whether or not Colt McCoy is the quarterback who can take this team to the next level.

It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be frustrating – very frustrating – at times, and it’s not going to be fun. But there are also no shortcuts or quick fixes. The Browns have been down that road before and it just does not work.

Patience is hard to come by in our instant gratification society, and it’s a commodity that is severely lacking in many Browns fans. It seems like the Browns have been on the rebuilding merry-go-round since the late ’80s.

But patience is exactly what we need with this Browns team because things are tough all over.

Just take a look around the league.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Well that was special

Like the plot in a bad made-for-TV movie from the ’70s, the Browns broke out their schizophrenic personalities on Sunday, losing to Cincinnati in the home opener and Pat Shurmur’s debut as head coach.

There was a lot of bad, followed by some good in the 27-17 loss.

The good: rookies Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard teamed up to knock staring quarterback Andy Dalton out of the game with a wrist injury. Hopefully that is the first of many quarterback hits from the duo this season.

The bad: Ten penalties in the first half, including one we’ve never seen before: an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Shurmur for running into an official on the sidelines.

The good: Joe Haden was all over the field, batting down five passes and frustrating Cincy wide receiver A.J. Green all game.

The bad: Green’s 41-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter when the Bengals snapped the ball while the Browns were basically still in their huddle.

“They quick snapped us,” Shurmur said in published reports. “I’ll have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding they changed personnel, lined up and then quick snapped. There’s rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it.”

The good: Touchdown catches by Ben Watson and Evan Moore, helping the Browns come back from an early 13-0 deficit.

The bad: Cedric Benson had 121 yards rushing – including a game-clinching 39-yard touchdown run – as the Browns still can’t defend the run, giving up 4.2 yards per rush.

The good: Josh Cribbs showed that he is still a threat in the return game. Cribbs returned three kick offs for 91 yards (with a long of 51) and six punts for 58 yards (with a long of 21).

The bad: On Cribbs’ 21-yard return in the fourth quarter, Browns receiver Greg Little blew up Cincy’s punter with a block but his momentum carried him into Cribbs, essentially bringing Cribbs down short of what was shaping up as a big return.

The good: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s new 4-3, play fast, defense produced four sacks, two by D’Qwell Jackson.

The bad: After Green’s TD gave the Bengals a 20-17 lead, the Browns had three more possessions. They ran 12 plays, gained a total of 25 yards with two first downs.

The bad: The offensive line was not good. Two false start penalties on Shaun Lauvao, one on Joe Thomas, Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks showed why they were available on the waiver wire, the Bengals were able to pressure Colt McCoy all game, just not a good game all around.

The bad: The running game was a non-entity for the Browns. Peyton Hillis had 57 yards on the ground, Montario Hardesty added 18. Not good enough.

The bad: McCoy didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, holding the ball way too long at times. Very surprised by that.

The bad: Wide receiver Brian Robiskie was in mid-season form, putting up his all-too-familiar Blutarsky stat line of 0 receptions for 0 yards. That’s the 11th time he’s pulled off the double zero in 26 career NFL games.

The bad: Punter Richmond McGee had punts of 20, 30 and 28 yards.

OK, that’s enough.

We know some people don’t want to hear it, but it was only one game. As bad as the Browns looked in the first quarter, they looked that good in the second quarter. What happened in the second half was clearly not good, but this is a young team still working to figure things out.

If they are still playing like this in Week 10, we’ll start to get worried. But whether we like it or not as fans, the team is going to continue to have growing pains this year. They are trying to rebuild this team the right way, and there are just no shortcuts along the way.

“The biggest thing is do not let this game trickle over into a whole season,” corner back Sheldon Brown said. “That would be the most frustrating thing.”

Yes it would.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Browns go out with a whimper

The Browns ended the 2010 season on Sunday in much the same way they have ended several seasons in the past decade – getting abused at the hands of the opponent.

It really isn’t a surprise the Browns lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday – the Steelers are better and healthier – but more the way they lost in the 41-9 debacle.

A Browns team that has been competitive all year long seemed to have the fight go out in them early, as Colt McCoy was intercepted on a tipped pass on the first possession and, before you knew it, the Steelers were up 14-0.

Maybe the players were following the lead of the coaching staff. After falling behind 14-0, McCoy drove the Browns 85 yards to the Pittsburgh two-yard-line. The Browns targeted Robert Royal twice in the end zone (the guy who came into the game with 5 receptions and 4 drops on the year) but both passes were incomplete.

Facing fourth down the Browns opted to kick a field goal, just like the did early in the Buffalo game. Why is anyone’s guess. Maybe coach Eric Mangini wanted to spotlight kicker Phil Dawson in what could have been his last game in a Cleveland uniform.

You are 5-10, you are on the other team’s two-yard-line, why not go for it? There is nothing to lose there. At least when they faced the Bills they were going against one of the worst defenses in the league and could expect more scoring opportunities. That clearly is not the case against the Steelers.

Obviously when you give up 41 points those lost points don’t really make a difference, but if the Browns would have punched it in who knows how things would have played out the rest of the half?

The defense had a horrible day. Coming into the game the Browns were the only team in the league that had not given up 30 points this season. The Steelers took care of that in the first half as they took a 31-3 lead into the locker room.

Pittsburgh scored on its first five possessions and rolled up 418 yards in offense.

Perhaps defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who will reportedly interview for the head coaching job in Carolina, was already making dinner plans for The Pit and couldn’t be bothered to put together a solid defensive game plan.

“I thought we got beat in all three phases,” Mangini said in published reports. “They had a better plan than we did and when that happens against a team like this, you have a day like today. It’s difficult to feel any positives in the wake of what happened.”

We certainly echo that sentiment.

So in a season where the Browns were once 5-7 and dreaming of a .500 finish, the Browns instead finish 5-11 for the second year in a row and are now 2-10 under Mangini in the division.

Unfortunately the team had its worst performance by far in the last game of the season. Right or wrong, the memory of today’s game will linger with people more than the wins earlier in the year against New Orleans and New England.

And if the four-game winning streak to end last season was supposed to be a sign of progress under Mangini, what are we to make of the four-game losing streak to end this season? Was the losing streak a function of a tougher schedule – much like last year’s was built against teams with nothing to play for? Should one weigh more heavily than the other in determining the fate of Mangini and the coaching staff?

“I’m sure everybody thinks there is a possibility [of a coaching change],” left tackle Joe Thomas told The Plain Dealer. “We knew that was the way it was going to be coming into the season, so I don’t think anything was different.”

We’ve all seen this before. Chris Palmer’s final game was a 24-0 loss to the Titans in 2000, the last in a five-game losing streak. Romeo Crennel finished his final season with a six-game losing streak in 2008 that ended with a 31-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

As discouraging and disappointing as today’s game was, we really don’t relish the thought of starting over again with a new coach. A lot of what was wrong with this season can be fixed with improved talent and by bringing in an experienced coordinator on offense.

Just look at the Chiefs this year as an example: they brought in Charlie Weiss as offensive coordinator and the team improved from 25th to 9th in offense. Romeo took over the 30th ranked defense and improved them to 11th this year.

There’s little reason to believe the same can’t happen here in Cleveland with another strong draft, a little patience and more experience in the offensive coordinator position.

Here’s hoping Mike Holmgren sees things the same way.

We may find out soon enough.

A Bad Day in Buffalo

Oh boy.

The Browns lost their last chance to finish the season with a winning record in an ugly loss on Sunday to the Bills. And along the way they showed that, while they have come a long way this season, they still have a long way to go to be a consistent winner in the NFL.

We subscribe to the theory of win as a team, lose as a team, so we hate to point fingers at one particular unit, but this loss hangs squarely on the offense.

The Browns took the opening kick off and moved smartly down the field with the running game, reaching the Buffalo six-yard line in just five plays, all rushes. But once they hit first and goal the drive stalled, as Peyton Hillis ran three straight times for five yards, leaving the Browns facing a fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Perhaps a play-action call would have been beneficial on first down in that situation, but the Browns were moving the ball and Buffalo does have the worst rushing defense in the league.

The Browns chose a Phil Dawson field goal rather than go for the score on fourth down. We would have been OK with the Browns going for the touchdown, what with the Bills weak run defense and all, but it was the first drive of the day and you want to get points early.

“I did think about [going for it], but I felt like the game was going to be close, like a one-score game,” coach Eric Mangini told The Plain Dealer. “I figured we would have more drives later on.”

We did too, coach. Unfortunately that first drive was the highlight of the day for the Browns offense.

After gaining 49 yards on the opening drive, Hillis would only gain another 59 yards the rest of the day. And once again he had no support in the running game, as Mike Bell ran three times for eight yards and Josh Cribbs added minus 11 yards on a botched end around.

This is a problem we’ve all seen coming for weeks now: Hillis is the Browns only running option so teams can key on him; there is simply no one else they need to worry about at all. Unfortunately there is nothing the team can do about it until the off season.

Same with the passing game as tight end Ben Watson had only one catch on the day. The Bills knew that Watson was the only person in the passing game they needed to worry about and it showed.

The Browns put up 54 yards on that opening drive, they would only gain another 133 yards the rest of the game.

Which brings us to Jake Delhomme.

Delhomme just wasn’t very good, going 12-for-20 for 86 yards. He had two fourth-quarter turnovers – a fumble and an interception where he was hit on the throw – that killed the Browns last chances to tie the game. He couldn’t move the Browns past midfield at all on their five second-half possessions.

Look, Delhomme was supposed to be a stop gap this year at the quarterback position. From all reports he’s been great mentoring Colt McCoy and that’s wonderful. But he is clearly past his expiration date as a starting quarterback in this league.

Since returning to the starter’s role three weeks ago, the Browns have gone 8-for-35 on third downs under Delhomme. He’s just not moving the team and there really is no good reason to keep him in the starting role now that Seneca Wallace is healthy. The Browns have options, they need to use them.

Speaking of things we don’t need to see anymore, it’s time the coaches sat down with Hillis and put the kibosh on his hurdling obsession. It’s unnecessary and it led directly to a fumble on Sunday when the Browns had a chance to take control of the game.

After the defense forced a turnover and gave the offense the ball on the Buffalo 25-yard-line, Hillis ran the ball on first down and tried to hurdle Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who knocked the ball loose and the Bills recovered.

“You knew from watching film that he has been [hurdling] for a while,” Byrd told The Plain Dealer. “If you get him in the open field, he’s going to try to stiff-arm you or jump you. It was something I knew was coming. I prepared for it.”

That was one of three fumbles by Hillis, to go with the one by Delhomme and one by Cribbs. In one absurd sequence in the third quarter the Browns fumbled three times on one drive and were lucky to recover all of them.

Bottom line it was a frustrating loss. But it doesn’t undo the good the Browns have done this year with moving the team forward. The loss does highlight the holes the team has and all the work still left to do. The front office and coaching staff don’t appear blind to that, so we can stay confident that things are turning around, despite how we feel after today’s game.

The Browns now need to refocus and get ready to travel to Cincinnati next week. Because if they lose to the 2-11 Bengals and come home at 5-9 to face the Ravens and Steelers, it may not be a pretty sight.


Everything in Cleveland sports ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t be Cleveland. – Coughlin’s Law

Less than 24 hours after the Cavs season ended prematurely in Boston, a feeling of numbness still envelopes Cleveland. I still can’t believe when Sunday afternoon rolls around there won’t be a Cavs game on.

On one hand, for long-time fans this is reality. If it says Cleveland on the jersey then, ultimately, something bad is bound to happen. On the other hand, why? Why does this always seem to happen?

How did the Cavs become the first NBA team to post 60-win seasons and not make it to the NBA finals?

Why us?

The answer is both simple and complex. The Cavs – both the coaches and the players – just didn’t get the job done. That’s the simple answer. The other answers are harder to find.

Last season, the Cavs built a team to beat Boston. But then they didn’t face Boston and lost to Orlando.

This year, the Cavs built a team to beat Orlando. Of course, they never made it to Orlando.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say that trading for Shaq was a mistake. Same with Antawn Jamison. That’s the thing about hindsight, it’s easy to be right after the fact.

Maybe a better approach would be to just build a solid team, not worrying about matching up with just one particular team in the league. I don’t know, but it seems like in the coming months we’re going to find out the team’s new strategy.

Mike Brown has taken way more than his share of the blame for this loss, even for him. The hoople heads are missing the bigger picture when they call for his head. Firing the coach is the easy part; hiring a new coach is far more complicated. Just ask the Browns. But we’ll cover that another time.

Probably the worst part about the Cavs early exit is it unleashed the national media’s quest to have LeBron leave Cleveland. If the Cavs had advanced, we would have been spared the nonsense for a few more weeks. Sadly, that’s not the case, so already today we’ve been treated to “analysis” such as:

Fallout from Megaflop: LeBron needs new team

Oh no, LeBron took his jersey off – after the game – there is symbolism there, I tell you!

LeBron’s playoff exit means John Calipari watch

Yes, let’s hire a college coach who failed miserably in his previous NBA job.

LeBron James’ flirtations with free agency will leave some cities feeling scorned

So New York won’t buy any LeBron jerseys if he’s not a Knick? Oh, poor you.

And let’s not forget the “experts” at ESPN.

I swear, when LeBron resigns in Cleveland ESPN may actually just shut down, with all the hot air they’ve wasted talking about how certain they are that he just has to leave.

And on, and on, and on: LeBron Media Recap

Look, this isn’t easy and it’s certainly not fun. But this is Cleveland. We’re not Chicago, where they cry because the Cubs can’t win. We’re not Boston and the formerly “tortured” Red Sox fans. We deal with disappointment every year, every sports season. It’s what we do, but it’s not who we are.

Just remember this Chinese proverb:

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

That sums up the Cleveland sports fan pretty well.

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