The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Browns Browns Archive An Offense Not Worth "Fixing"
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Fixing The CarIn the aftermath of the NFL Draft, and really for the duration of the NFL’s off-season, I keep hearing talks of the Cleveland Browns fixing what’s broken.  While I am all for righting the ship that’s been off course for a very long time, I’m afraid to inform you that what’s going on with the Browns is not something that can be fixed.  To suggest a fix or repair is possible is to imply that the Lerner Family’s chapter of Cleveland Browns history was ever a functional machine.

Imagine that, the Cleveland Browns as a team without dysfunction that can realistically let their fans dream of real things like Playoffs and Super Bowls.  Hell, I joke that I’d settle for more wins against their AFC North rivals, but that isn't the actual truth.  We want a Super Bowl victory and nothing less, have we not had enough of the “happy to be here” in the form of World Series and NBA Finals futility?  The problem is that a clear path to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow doesn't exist, so reaching that ever-so-unattainable goal isn't just a matter of plugging some leaks and patching some holes.  In short, there was never anything functional about the Browns that can be fixed; this thing needs to be built, not remedied.

It’s difficult to pinpoint just how long it went on, there’s no proof that it is not still “business as usual” in Berea, but needless to say, the powers that be have attempted to build an empire on a foundation of sand since the very beginning.  At times, it has felt like quicksand.  Whether the anchor was supposed to be Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, William Green, or Kellen Winslow II, there is one common variable to all of it; none of it has yielded success on a consistent basis.  It doesn't matter if you consider it the third year, or the third first year, for those of you who speak Holmgren, it is difficult to identify the difference between utter failure and the painful part of the build process.  Let’s face it, the entire process of this expansion has been painful.

Joe ThomasSo, here we are in Year 14 with a few pieces to build around, and we like that, but with the exception of Joe Thomas and possibly a player on the defensive side of the ball, we Browns fans have nothing to attach ourselves to.  Looking forward with the glass half full, I’m going to attempt to see the future through a pair of best-case-scenario tinted lenses.  I know it’s the team that makes its home at the corner of Ontario and Carnegie that uses the whole “What If” slogan, but allow me to borrow that for a moment.

Remember, the goal is to fix nothing, but to develop a Super Bowl Champion from thin air.  That thin air probably starts with an assortment of serviceable picks from a series of what I would classify as wildly unsuccessful drafts.  They have their 2nd Round Pick from 2006, D’Qwell Jackson, Thomas who was the 3rd overall pick in 2007, and a 6th Round defensive line gem from the 2008 Draft named Ahtyba Rubin.  Add in their recent top picks, Alex Mack and Joe Haden, and there isn’t a lot to tell about this team’s foundation prior to the 2011 NFL Draft.  That may not be "thin air" exactly, but when you start thinking about five players on a 53 man roster, it’s pretty close.

The good news is that there may be signs of life ahead, and it’s because we can see something positive in the rear view mirror without having to optimistically speculate about what we can see in the windshield.  All eight of the Browns selections in the 2011 Draft saw the playing field during the 2011 regular season, but you can put that in a negative light as well if you keep in mind that those eight rookies played on a team that wasn't as good as their 4-12 record might indicate.  Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate that Jason Pinkston was able to hold down the fort at Left Guard, and that Greg Little possibly established himself as the team’s #1 Wide Receiver, but only bad teams put those lofty expectations on their rookies, most notably asking the Round 5 project to protect your not so franchise quarterback.

Colt McCoyBut, we don’t dwell on the past here.  If there was anything worth dwelling on, perhaps a fix would be in order, so we can put the past away and talk about building something good.  To call it a re-build would imply that anything substantial was ever built in the first place.  To properly build means starting with a quarterback, and it’s time to recognize that you can’t seek a better version of Colt McCoy to fit Colt’s system; selecting Brandon Weeden with the #22 pick means building around the former baseball player for the foreseeable future.  I commend that decision, considering that I believe trying to fix what’s wrong with Colt McCoy feels like trying to repair a broken typewriter or VCR at this point in time.

You can look at the young offensive line that’s been built to protect Weeden and create holes for whoever he may be handing the ball to, and it doesn't include any Cincinnati Bengals cast-offs, namely Tony Pashos.  To state how desperate times were this past season, I can recall how excited the fans were to have Pashos healthy, but the best thing he ever had going for him in Cleveland was that he wasn't O’Neil Cousins or Artis Hicks.  Fans deserve better options at Right Tackle, but the skilled players on the Browns should demand better protection, and the Front Office appears to have addressed that by drafting Mitchell Schwartz from Cal to play the position for the next decade or so.

Schwartz should be “the goods”, coming with high expectations for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that there are no do-overs when you spend a high Second Round pick on a trench guy with the fans chewing your ear off about getting a top-tier receiver.  The vision is for Schwartz and Thomas to bookend this young offensive line, where the 27 year-old All-Pro is the eldest.  Add in an All-Pro Center in Mack, plus the quickly developing Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao, and the fans have some good things to look forward to for years to come in the trenches.  No more trying to fix things with the 30-somethings, just doing it the right way by building through the draft.

LittleNow, by passing on whatever receiving talent was there for the Browns at 37 to take Schwartz, the Browns did indeed not address their problems at the position, choosing to instead not admit such a problem exists. I think there were a few undocumented cases of fans heads exploding over this, but I have no evidence to back up this speculation.  They believe in Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Jordan Norwood, who they drafted.  They like Joshua Cribbs, the undrafted free agent who has spent his entire career in Cleveland, and they want to exploit his return game talents on a more regular basis from the line of scrimmage.  They might even like Carlton Mitchell if they ever let him see the field of play.  That’s all basically homegrown talent, but it may be the one thing that needs to be fixed once the rest of the team is good enough that addressing this talent deficiency with someone more significant than Travis Benjamin.  I say it may be, not that it will be, because this group is probably a giant question mark once you acknowledge that bigger deficiencies existed on the offensive line and at the quarterback position in years past.  This group might be as good as the Browns brass thinks they could be, but if not; it’s a small area that can be fixed.

The running game, even with a prolific passer, needs to be the Browns bread and butter.  It’s not necessarily by choice because you don’t get a seat at the table in the AFC North without a solid running game.  If you look back at the last three seasons, the Browns won games because they managed that aspect of their game very well, and lost every game where they did not.  And, it didn't take a marquee name at the position; the greatest win of the last three seasons was carried on the legs of Chris Jennings and Joshua Cribbs (not to mention a great defense and an assist from Mother Nature) on a Thursday night against the hated Steelers.  You could probably attribute just about every win they've had since to either Jerome Harrison or Peyton Hillis, but the most recent win, the one against Jacksonville last November, was all about the 115 tough yards Chris Ogbonnaya picked up on the ground.  So yes, the running game is important, but in the same breath, I’m left to wonder if you need to put a superstar in those shoes.

RichardsonThis is where my subdued “Cleveland Vision” kicks in, and I don’t see the big picture.  I feel I don’t need the big name because the other guys kick it into high gear and do very well some of the time.  The truth is, from the eyes of a Browns fan, I don’t know how to appreciate a guy or a team that does well all of the time, especially running the football.  Sure, we get flashes from Jerome Harrison or James Davis, even full seasons from Rueben Droughns and Jamal Lewis, but it’s been 13 off seasons of not being relaxed about who’s going to carry the ball the following season.  The Browns, in their expansion form, have never drafted a running back that’s given them more than one solid season, but we now hope that we've identified that light at the end of the tunnel and we had to look no further than the big football school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to find it.

So, it all falls on the broad shoulders of Trent Richardson.  He’s supposed to be the next coming of Adrian Peterson, and that’s fine by me, as long as Jimmy Brown and Barry Sanders names are off the table.  Perhaps the best comparison would be Emmitt Smith, but I don’t want him to feel the need to fill those shoes either, even if the metaphorical shoes fit, so to speak.  Smith was drafted in 1990 with the #17 pick, 14 behind Richardson’s slot, as a highly touted back out of college football’s premier Southeastern Conference, to play for a second year Head Coach on a team going in the right direction.  Now, Pat Shurmur is a second year coach, but as I stated earlier, it’s hard to say whether the Browns are going in the right direction or if it’s more of the same to look forward to at Cleveland Browns Stadium, now dubbed The Factory of Sadness.

PrenticeOne of the knocks on the Cowboys Hall of Famer, usually in comparison with another Hall of Famer named Sanders, is that he had an outstanding offensive line and the legend in Detroit did not.  If we’re taking anything away from Trent Richardson in 30 years because his blocking was too extraordinary to credit the guy carrying the ball, more power to the Browns.  In fact, if circumstances occur that cause us to debate what made Trent Richardson so great when it’s all said and done, more to power to everyone involved; that sounds like a great world in which to live.  Going off to that place, a place where we can praise the Browns for great things, makes me realize that I’ve allowed the wool to be pulled over my eyes with these fixes because this position has been drafted so poorly (I’m talking to you, Travis Prentice, William Green, and Montario Hardesty).  Now, it’s time for the Browns fans to expect more from their running back and from their running game, since they've stopped trying to fix it and started to build it.

After years of hitting the repair shops and trying out different mechanics, somebody in a position to make a difference has discovered that all of the repairs in the world won’t fix a Schwinn up to drive like a Ferrari.  Finally, there’s someone in Berea with the common sense to throw that ten-speed in the dumpster behind the garage, along with his father, Brad McCoy, in order to build a finely tuned driving machine.  This machine may not start very well in mid-January, but our goal isn't that short-sighted, we want this thing running into early February on a regular basis.

You may have heard, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” quite a bit in your life, but it’s only common sense that if it never worked, don’t try to fix it.  I can only hope that our football team has given up on the repairs, and wants to build something that will provide with a better tomorrow.

The TCF Forums