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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “reason for hope”

Patience is good … But we also need Hope

Patience is the companion of wisdom – St. Augustine

If you are going to be a fan of Cleveland’s sports teams, you need more than a fair share of patience.

But patience is great only if it comes with its twin – hope. We need hope that things will get better, that there is a plan in place for Cleveland’s sports teams, that the championship parade will one day roll through downtown Cleveland.

Head over to The Cleveland Fan for the rest of the story.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Serenity now, Browns fans

Repeat after us, Browns fans: it’s only five games.

Five games into the season. Five games that Pat Shurmur has been a head coach in the NFL. Five games into a season with a new offensive and defensive system that has been installed without the benefit of a full off-season program (think the Browns could have used the approximately 1,000 snaps of practice lost to the lockout?)

Five games.

The hair-pulling has begun in earnest among Browns fans. Some have already hit the panic button, ready to bench the quarterback or fire the coach. Some revisionists are pining for the return of former coach Eric Mangini and his 10-22 record.

That’s the kind of thinking that, in the past, has put the Browns in the situation they find themselves in. That’s how you end up with:

  • Tim Couch becoming the starter at halftime of the first game of the season.
  • Or how you hand out big contracts to players who don’t fit the system (Corey Williams) who have had only half a good season (Derek Anderson).
  • And how you hire a coach before a general manager.
  • It’s also how you end up with two ex-coaches and two ex-general managers still on the payroll.

The Browns have finally put the correct structure in place. Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Shurmur are all pulling in the same direction, share the same idea on the offensive and defensive systems the team will play, and know the type of players that are required for those systems.

And they should blow it up after just five games? Why? Because the Browns are “just” 2-3?

We are fully convinced that the process the Browns are using is absolutely the right way to go. Everyone has a clearly defined role to play, everyone is working toward the same goal, the team is building around young players and draft picks; it’s all the right way.

Will the end result be one that Browns fans can cheer? That chapter still has to be written, maybe not for another two or three years.

Of the three, Heckert is really the only one who we know can perform his job in a capable fashion. The jury is still out on Holmgren and Shurmur. Mistakes can still be made, things can fall apart and, as we’ve seen repeatedly over the years in this town, just because you’re a decent coordinator doesn’t mean you have what it takes to be a good head coach.

What we don’t want is a repeat of 2007, where the combination of a few lucky bounces and a soft schedule created the mirage that was a 10-6 season. We don’t want the Browns to be the flavor of the month in the NFL – think San Francisco and Detroit this year – but rather a team that consistently competes for the division title.

More importantly, Holmgren is not firing Shurmur – especially after only one year on the job. It was easy to fire Mangini, Holmgren didn’t hire him. But Holmgren’s sucess as team president is tied to Shurmur’s success as head coach. If Shurmur fails, that means Holmgren failed in hiring him, so short of Shurmur doing something off the field to embarrass the organization, he’s not going anywhere for a few years.

The Browns need time to work this all out. This isn’t a game of Madden football – we can’t just continually hit reset if we don’t like how things are playing out.

When it comes to the current state of the Browns, we’re reminded of this phrase from the Cadet Prayer at West Point: “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”

The Browns are currently taking the harder right. All we can do is go along for the ride and hope for the best.

To hear what Holmgren had to say today: Part 1 & Part 2

Likes, Dislikes, Hopes & Fears

Now that the bye week is out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the Cleveland Browns at the quarter mark of the 2011 NFL season.

Through four games there are things about the team that we like and dislike, plus some things we hope to see over the next 12 games and a few things we fear we’ll see.

Like: The Browns 2-2 record is their best since 2007.

Dislike: Both of the losses have come at home, although that is a little skewed by the fact the Browns have played three of their first four games at Cleveland Browns Stadium. But for a team that is 28-44 at home over the past nine seasons, that’s not a way to send the fans home happy.

Hope: That the Browns can stay competitive as they still have the NFC West and Jacksonville on the schedule; those five teams are a combined 8-16 on the season.

Fear: There are more games like the Tennessee one on the horizon.

Like: After giving up a ridiculous 11 penalties in the season opener, the Browns have settled down to the point where they have given up fewer penalties through four game (27 to 29) than they did through the same point last year. Turns out you can treat professional athletes as adults – rather than junior varsity high school players – and still see positive results.

Dislike: While the penalties are down, the timing and type of penalties that are being called are a bit troubling. The two penalties – even though one was highly suspect – at the end of the Miami game almost cost the Browns a win.

Hope: That whatever the coaching staff told the players after Week 1 continues to stick.

Fear: The Browns will commit a penalty at an inopportune time, costing the team a win.

Like: The Browns were able to get a sense of what Montario Hardesty can do at running back in the game against Miami. After missing his entire rookie year to a knee injury, Hardesty had a solid – if not spectacular – game against the Dolphins, showing that he can be a nice compliment to Peyton Hillis.

Dislike: The reason why Hardesty was on the field against Miami – Hillis missed the game because he was sick and, two weeks later, there are those who won’t let it go. Hillis didn’t play because he is soft. Hillis didn’t play because he wants a new contract. The nonsense has gotten out of control.

Hope: The Browns remember what they have in Hillis – a player who accounted for 71.5 percent of the Browns rushing yards and 84.6 percent of the team’s rushing touchdowns in 2010. If you factor in his 61 receptions for 477 yards and another two touchdowns, he was responsible for 34 percent of the team’s total offense and 50 percent of the offensive touchdowns last season.

Fear: The coaching staff can’t figure out the best way to use Hillis and Hardesty, meaning both players are ineffective and the offense suffers.

Like: The overall play of Dick Jauron’s think fast defense, especially the front four of Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard who have been rather frisky through the first part of the season. Joe Haden is quickly turning into an All-Pro corner back in his second season. And D’Qwell Jackson has looked good after missing large parts of the past two seasons with injuries.

Dislike: 4-3, 3-4, 1-10, doesn’t matter, the Browns still can’t stop the run. They currently rank 26th in the NFL against the run. Because Haden is so good Sheldon Brown is seeing more activity on his side of the field and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Hope: The young front four continues to mature during the season and the Browns figure out a way to at least slow down opposing running backs.

Fear: Injuries will take their toll on the defense – which is still lacking in depth – and the players will start to break down in the season’s last quarter. Haden may miss this week’s game against Oakland, and on Monday Marcus Bernard suffered a broken arm in a motorcycle crash. This team can’t afford to have that happened and hope to be at least competitive.

Like: Colt McCoy has mostly done more good than bad through four games. He had a good game against the Colts, led a game-winning drive against the Dolphins and was OK against the Bengals.

Dislike: On of McCoy’s strong suits is supposed to be his completion percent, but on the year he’s only at 58 percent – good for just 23rd in the league. His 5.7 yards per attempt leave him 30th out of 32 quarterbacks. Of course, not all of those numbers are totally on McCoy’s shoulders (more on that in a minute).

Hope: The McCoy we saw on the final drive against the Dolphins – when he led an 80-yard drive by completing 9-of-13 passes, including the game-winning touchdown to Mohamed Massaquoi – is the real McCoy and he will continue to grow during the season.

Fear: The McCoy who throws a preponderance of check-downs, holds onto the ball too long and seems unsure of himself is the real McCoy. Which would mean the Browns will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes next April.

Like: Jason Pinkston’s play at left guard. The fifth-round draft choice switched positions after Eric Steinbach was put on injured reserve for the year and hasn’t been all that bad. We’re sure playing between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack has made his transition easier, but we don’t go into a game worried that Pinkston is going to be the weak link on the offensive line.

Dislike: The play at right tackle. Artis Hicks and Oniel Cousins showed why they were available on the waiver wire as they filled in the first three weeks for starter Tony Pashos. They also needed help from a tight end, which meant that Alex Smith was on the field at the expense of Evan Moore, a stronger offensive threat that the Browns need.

Hope: Pashos can stay healthy the final 12 games of the season and the offensive line can work itself into a stable unit.

Fear: Pashos hasn’t played a full season since 2008, so we haven’t seen the last of Hicks and Cousins.

Like: The (albeit) slow development of rookie Greg Little at wide receiver. After not playing his final year at North Carolina, Little has been adjusting to the speed of the NFL. In a part-time role he is second among the wide receivers with 14 receptions and third with 131 yards. Those numbers should go up as the Browns have promoted Little to one of the starting spots.

Dislike: Brian Robiskie taking playing time from anyone on offense. It’s clear by now that Robiskie just is not an NFL wide receiver. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, or that he doesn’t try hard, but the Browns just can’t afford to keep giving him playing time.

Hope: Little can turn into a reliable playmaker, Josh Cribbs can stay healthy, Mohamed Massaquoi can be at least a decent third receiver, and Ben Watson and Moore can continue to make plays at tight end.

Fear: The wide receivers will continued to not be able to gain separation, meaning McCoy will have to hold onto the ball too long – opening him up to repeated hits – or he will continue to have to dump the ball off for four-yard gains.

Like: The approach the coaching staff is taking with the team. The lockout took away weeks of key preparation time that the Browns – who have eight starters in either their first or second year – desperately needed. The coaches have used the first four games of the season as a sort of extended training camp as they continue to learn about the players.

Dislike: The defensive breakdown against Cincinnati that lead to the game-changing touchdown by the Bengals, the way coach Pat Shurmur has used Hardesty at the expense of Hillis, the overall play against Tennessee in the last home game before the break. The slow starts by the offense – the Browns have been outscored 27-3 in the first quarter this year.

Hope: The team will show improvement as the year moves along, giving the coaches and front office a clear indication of where the team needs help.

Fear: More games like the one against the Titans, more nonsense over Hillis, that Shurmur is in over his head as a first-year head coach.

We’ll give Shurmur the final word.

“What you’ve noticed from the first four weeks is we’ve got some good young talent that’s out there getting better each week,” he said on Monday at his weekly press conference. “I feel like our schemes are in place. As I mentioned earlier, there are some things that we’ll do more and emphasize and then there are some things about our scheme that we’ll, both sides of the ball and our kicking game that we’ll set aside. I felt good about that.”

(Photo from Cleveland

Buying into Delhomme

Since the Browns returned in 1999, the team’s passing leaders have been:

1999: Tim Couch, 2,447 yards, 15 TDs, 73.2 QB rating
2000: Couch, 1,483 yards, 7 TDs, 77.3 QB rating
2001: Couch, 3,040 yards, 17 TDs, 73.1 QB rating
2002: Couch, 2,842 yards, 18 TDs, 76.8 QB rating
2003: Kelly Holcomb 1,797 yards, 10 TDs, 74.6 QB rating
2004: Jeff Garcia, 1,731 yards, 10 TDs, 76.7 QB rating
2005: Trent Dilfer, 2,321 yards, 11 TDs, 76.9
2006: Charlie Frye, 2,454 yards, 10 TDs, 72 QB rating
2007: Derek Anderson, 3,787 yards, 29 TDs, 82.5 QB rating
2008: Derek Anderson, 1,615 yards, 9 TDs, 66.4 QB rating
2009: Brady Quinn, 1,339 yards, 8 TDs, 67.2 QB rating

In his seven years as the QB in Carolina, Jake Delhomme’s average 16-game season was good enough for 3,386 passing yards, 21 TDs and a QB rating of 84.9. And that includes his horrific year last season.

This tells us two things:

When you look back at the last 11 years of Browns football, you realize just how bad the quarterback play has been.

The team is going to be in good hands with Delhomme.

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