In light of Kevin’s post about the Bills, I thought I’d write a few words about the 2-4 Cleveland Browns.
— We’ve only really been clobbered once this season, the opener against the Jets, which we lost by 21. We are a few lucky breaks from 5-1 (or conversely, 1-5). This gives me hope for the rest of the schedule. A lot will depend on Sunday’s game vs. the Rams; if we win there, we’ll have momentum going into a winnable game against Arizona to bring us back to .500. That’s the good news.
— The offense has been very solid, which I’m frankly shocked to say. We’ve scored at least 20 points in every game (except, again, the opener). I’ve gone from actively hating McCown to merely annoyed with him. He’s capable of making deep throw, and with some bigger wide receivers, we could really light some people up. Gary Barnidge is McCown’s best friend, Travis Benjamin reminds me of a Josh Cribbs who can actually catch the ball, and Duke Johnson has been very capable. We aren’t running the ball badly, but #22 in the league probably isn’t good enough. Crowell and Johnson are good backs; it’s just an issue of being behind in most games, which forces us to pass. 151 attempts over 6 games is less than 30 attempts per game, and consider that McCown and Manziel have combined for 17 carries. Picking up Robert Turbin seems like a stupid move to me; I don’t see what he can do that Crowell can’t. In my vision, Crowell would be the #1 back, with Johnson the change of pace guy.
— The defense… I will grant that Gipson and Haden have been hurt for a good chunk of the season. But it’s frankly sickening how bad the defense has been, especially against the run. What makes this fact so troubling is that Pettine is supposed to be a defense first guy. SI had a great article on the problems with Cleveland stopping the run. I love this quote, which sums up everything beautifully:
Simply put, the Browns are spending so much time figuring out ways to trick the offense, they’re leaving themselves little to no margin for error. If it means dropping linebacker Paul Kruger in coverage to fool Peyton Manning, despite the latter being a scheme-identifying genius, Cleveland will do it. In other words, the Browns are so worried about you figuring out their cards, they wind up putting certain players in the wrong position.
Add the injuries to Haden and Gipson, and it’s easy to see what’s going wrong. If Pettine can salvage a decent season, he might keep his job, or he could throw Jim O’Neil under the bus (and, admittedly, it might be more his fault than Pettine’s) to save his own skin. However, unless the Browns end the season fairly close to .500, there will almost certainly be a personnel change.