July 26, 2014

Cleveland Browns missed a big opportunity with first impression

POTUSA rocking Browns fans with "Peaches"

POTUSA rocking Browns fans with “Peaches”

Another year began for the Cleveland Browns as so many years have begun for the Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t a miserable nightmare game. It wasn’t a gut-punch that will last in any sort of misery memory bank. That bank is rich with much bigger and grandiose currency than what transpired yesterday in Cleveland against the Dolphins. Still, it’s not a great look for the latest ownership, front office and coaching staff that is looking to make their own new mark on the franchise.

The team did a wonderful job gold-plating the Cleveland Browns game-day experience. The staff was friendlier than I’ve ever seen them in my life. The Browns had plenty of personnel out in the streets to try and help head off any issues with the new small bag policy they are left to enforce. The music, replays, drum line and the surprise halftime show by The Presidents of the United States of America (POTUSA) were all really great. I’m not being even the slightest bit sarcastic. With apologies to Dustin Fox, I don’t think the Halloween theme being played on third down worked, but these things are fluid. As I’ve said all along, the in-game stuff should be the easy part. And if they didn’t know already, this new Browns organization just learned how difficult it is to build the team on the field.

It’s not all bad, of course. Desmond Bryant looks like a beast along with the rest of the defensive front. The safeties played well in their first game, I thought. We also must put Oneil Cousins in perspective here. He was the third man up. Maybe the fourth man. It’s not like anyone in the Browns organization aimed to have Oneil Cousins as the starter this season on the right side of the offensive line. On top of that, it isn’t like Cameron Wake and the Dolphins front isn’t good. They are. The problem I have is where the Browns skimped or thought they were good enough.

I don’t want to pick on Buster Skrine.1 I thought Buster probably played a little bit better than some of us thought on the first watch of the game. I re-watched this morning and while the Dolphins were picking on Skrine, there were a couple other things happening.

First of all the defense was designed to get pressure on the QB and force him to make mistakes. That left Skrine out there to play soft and keep the game in front of him. Yes, he got double-moved by Hartline on one long TD pass, but I think some of his exposure was at the hands of the blitzing nature of Ray Horton’s defense. Combine that with really nice timing play execution by Tannehill and Hartline, and they really made Skrine and Owens look bad at times.

The real problem I have here is with the Browns going through camp and pre-season with all of us assuming that Buster Skrine was clearly a solid option for nickel corner, and then seeing him named winner of the position battle at CB2 opposite Joe Haden. Those weren’t the best plans and even understanding it’s just one game, it’s hard to believe this won’t be a continual problem all year without some personnel adjustment.

All you Browns fans that harped on Sheldon Brown, should be up in arms today. Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson aren’t the be-all end-all at cornerback, but this is a team with tons of cap space that knowingly went into the season with Joe Haden, Leon McFadden, Buster Skrine and Chris Owens as their corners. All of this is prefaced with the “it’s just one game and things could get better” garbage, but you can’t tell me that everyone who paid any kind of attention to the Browns this pre-season wasn’t worried about corner.2 To have it present itself so plainly in the first game of the season as a clear roster gap is discouraging.

Finally, on Brandon Weeden, I talked about it with Scott Raab this morning, and I almost don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t hate Brandon Weeden. He seems like a good guy who wants to do really well, but he just doesn’t look like a guy that has the level of football instinct needed to win in the NFL. He’ll have better games than he had yesterday against the Dolphins and their pressure on him was pretty impressive.  Beyond that, it’s tough to say the potential ceiling on Weeden is worth the time. He’s not going to be the next Kurt Warner. He’s just not. So, I guess I can say that’s something that Michael Lombardi got right?

It’s not the end of the season, but man is it frustrating. Not that the Browns lost, per se. That’s always frustrating. It’s that the Browns lost in the face of some really obvious glaring needs and never looked like they exposed any glaring needs on the opposite side of the field. I was certainly hoping that despite some inadequacies that couldn’t all be fixed in a single year that the Browns were good enough to pick apart another team’s weak points.

Certainly I hoped they could do it at home to start off a brand new season with brand new front office and coaching staff. This was the culmination of all that work that went into the off-season and for one very important week – a week where the Browns wanted to make a really great first impression – I’m left with my only fond feelings being a surprise performance of “Peaches” by POTUSA at halftime.

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Footnotes:

  1. We’ll leave that to opposing quarterbacks. Hey oh! []
  2. Opposing teams weren’t worried about any Browns corner not named Joe Haden. []
  • BuckeyeDawg

    It’s pretty clear that they felt that Pinkston/Lauvao was reasonable depth at RG, and that a high 3rd round draft pick would win the job over Skrine at CB2. They have been wrong on both so far, but at the start of camp neither position was that unreasonable, in my opinion. Yes, they are responsible for acquiring depth. I’m not sure it’s fair to completely destroy the FO for not anticipating that we would be on our 3rd string RG by week 1 and that the 3rd rounder that they took to address the CB2 position would not be a factor (for whatever reason).

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    Thank you for taking my tongue in cheek comment to heart. I don’t see much in Mariota that would make me think he is anything more than a great athlete that plays in a system geared towards that. Also, assuming RG3 pans out you have to admit that would be the exception to the rule with Big 12 guys.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    Lauvao was a bad guard, Greco a journey FA, Pinkston almost died. And Ryan Miller.

    No, that is not depth at guard and more than StClair-Pashos was depth at right tackle. This was a foreseeable problem that was neglected with predictable results.

    Speaking of McFadden, a small 3rd round rookie CB does not address the glaring weakness that was Skrine at CB2 last year and the proof of this is that Skrine is still at CB2 this year.

    Cripes.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    What’s your plan for the $30M in cap space? More truck stops?

    As for me, I would’ve liked Keenan Lewis and/or Andy Levitre but that would be wrong because then we might be trying to win this year and seems like that’s imprudent or something.

    Say again: cripes.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    What the hell does “aggressive” even mean? The dolphins play a base 4-3. 6 sacks; 16 QB hits. No super hybrid, cross-dog, attacking-aggressive Horton McBlitzy stuff but.. ain’t that aggressive?

    Cripes.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    It was meant to be tongue in cheek. No, traditionally they aren’t wordbeaters but Boyd and Bridgewater are legitimate NFL QB’s. I don’t believe, talent wise, anyone in this upcoming draft will compare to Bridgewater.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    Mariota’s pretty great. Good arm. Big and maybe better athlete than Bridgewater. I expect him to play himself into the convo with Bridgewater by the end of the year.

    (And I am assuming he’ll declare for the draft. It’s not a sure thing, but he is eligible.)

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    I don’t doubt that he’s probably a better athlete than Bridgewater. That system demands that. Louisville runs a west coast, pro style, offense. To me, that’s a huge leg up. I love watching Mariota but that system scares me. But honestly, the more legit options the better because Weeden won’t be starting next year.

  • mgbode

    I figured it sarcastic, but needed the reprieve from thinking about week1 Browns game, so I went with it :)

    you have to judge all QBs individually but there is definitely a “no defense” factor you have to evaluate BigXII QBs with (even after Bradford and Geno had good week1 games).

  • mgbode

    I think Boyd is just a tick below, but in the conversation. And, I really, really, really want to see a Louisville v. Clemson game this year (cmon Orange Bowl, hook us up).

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    Love this. Florida was no push over last year (considering they’re Louisville) but this would be an awesome match-up.

  • mgbode

    and it would be right on the heels of Louisville joining the ACC. so, a potential ACC Championship game of sorts.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I would have been just fine with either one. I was hoping they might get Lewis, but they decided to draft a CB instead. Again, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 3rd round draft pick to be better than Skrine (a 5th rounder) was last year. I would call that an attempt at an upgrade. I would have been fine with a FA CB, but there is nothing wrong with building through the draft as long as you hit on the pick. It remains to be seen if McFadden will turn into anything, so as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out.

    We can argue about the depth at RG, but the bottom line is that nobody could anticipate that we would be on our third stringer before the first game. Say what you will about Pinkston/Lauvao/Greco, but they are all better than “tire fire” Cousins.

    I’m not privy to the intricacies of the salary cap going forward, but it is my understanding that Banner (whatever his other shortcomings might be) is good with the cap. I defer to him. I know we should re-sign Mack. Beyond that, I don’t know.

    I’m loving the “they don’t care about winning” argument that is getting thrown around. The front office that spent big money on Kruger, Bryant, and Bess, brought in two of the best coordinators on the market, and made an attempt to upgrade the position of need at CB2 with a high 3rd rounder all of the sudden doesn’t care about winning this year. Just because they aren’t trying to fix things the way that you think they should doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying to fix things or that they don’t care.

    Cripes indeed.

  • gct

    That damn know-nothing Horton.

  • Steve Amey

    Seems like after one game everyone is saying we need a new QB. Perhaps we should look at the obvious. We keep trying to draft a new QB or have QB competitions…. Perhaps we should stop trying to get the perfect QB and work on the rest of the mess – WR, CB, offensive line. If we keep doing the same thing, why would we expect different results?

    We should give the QB 3 years to develop into their job, then assess. It takes most people 3 years to get good at any job with the right tools. Why would we expect our QBs to do better without such tools?

  • saggy

    Two words: Chip Kelly.

    Two more words: now we all know why the heck he chose Philly.

  • saggy

    because top rookie QBs don’t take 3 years to develop. They are John Elway, Dan marino, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, RGIII.

    it takes most mediocre-to-good people 3 years to develop into their job. The Browns have simply had way too much of that already.

    They need a guy who is ready from Day 1.

  • slaman992003

    Seems like after one game everyone is saying we need a new QB. Perhaps we should look at the obvious. Every season, we keep trying to draft a new QB or have QB competitions…. The team never addresses its other needs and we lose most of our games. Perhaps we should stop trying to get the perfect QB and work on the rest of the mess – WR, CB, offensive line. If we keep doing the same thing, why would we expect different results?

    As long as the QB improves, we should give the QB 3 years to develop into their job, then assess. Thease offenses are complex. Let the guy learn and improve.

    Weeden did throw for almost 300 yds and 2 of the INTs were not his fault….despite getting no protection and lots of dropped passes.

    It takes most people 3 years to get good at any job with the right tools. Why would we expect our QBs to do better without such tools?

    And yes, I envied the Miami receivers Tannehill got to throw to.

  • slaman992003

    Not sure I agree. You don’t need a HOF QB to win a Super Bowl. Three of the guys you list are. The other two…we’ll see. Luck looks like the real deal, while RGIII didn’t make it out of his first season. All of them had targets to throw too. In fact Peyton had a horrible first season. Then management went out and got him targets. My point is not that Weedin is a HOF QB. My point is he is good enough and is making something happen with lousy protection and WR’s that drop balls hitting them in the hands.

    Put any of the above guys in that situation and it won’t get much better. My point is to address the other needs to make any QB successful rather that expect a rookie to be awesome.

    Remember Luck did walk into an offense that Peyton trained….

  • mgbode

    if Weeden were “looking” like a NFL QB, then I might agree. the issue is that he is missing targets, WRs seem to have to adjust to his passes, etc. with not just the great QBs, but Pryor, Geno, Manuel, Wilson all showing more much quicker. then, add in QBs at new places with new systems that seem to pick things up rather quickly like Alex Smith, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers.

    waiting 3 years with a cruddy QB isn’t in the cards. Weeden has the rest of this season to convince the FO he has a future in this league and he knows it.

    (also, Peyton’s rookie year he threw a ton of INTs, but showed a ton of promise too. Luck walked into a situation where the Colts had gutted most of that offense Peyton trained, but he did have Wayne to lean on — his weapons now are all pretty new to the Colts — TY, DHB, Bradshaw, Fleener, etc.)

  • dcdawg

    I blame Holmgren for wasting picks on McCoy and Weeden…really set us back (and Hardesty too)