Thinking About the Browns While Watching NFL Playoffs Round One

Ravens
The more I watched the Ravens eat up the Chiefs, and the more mock drafts I read with AJ Green falling to the Browns at #6, the more I find myself agreeing with my friends who are screaming for support of Colt McCoy in 2011.

I’ve been the guy speaking out against Colt McCoy, warning everyone that’s the odds of a third round quarterback succeeding on this team, in the AFC North, were slim. But watching Joe Flacco made me start to feel different.

First of all, I think he’s overrated. He’s got a huge arm for sure, but the media loves the Ravens and wants to love Joe Flacco too. I just don’t’ see it.

They rave about the fact that Joe Flacco has been to the playoffs three times in his three years in the league. But he’s never been the difference in any one of those games. Sure, they Ravens went into Foxborough and eliminated Tom Brady and the Patriots last year, but he only threw for 34 yards in the cause. He doesn’t win playoffs games for the Ravens, his skill players and defense does.

Playing against a paper kitten Kansas City team, Flacco threw for 265 yards and two scores. It was the first time he’s thrown for over 200 yards in a playoff game. But most of his throws were underneath, crossing routes and dump-offs, where the receiver did most of the damage after the catch.

Here’s an example from the game, which turned out to be the game-winning score…

Watching him on Sunday I couldn’t help thinking: Why not Colt McCoy? Would he really be that much worse than Joe Flacco if you put him on the Ravens with Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, T.J. Houzmanzada, etc? Maybe the Browns should focus on just adding talent because with it, average QBs like Flacco can make the playoffs.

You have to give the Ravens and Flacco this though: They protect the passer well, and the passer never gets injured. From Tim Couch, to Kelly Holcomb, to Trent Dilfer and Jeff Garcia, to Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, your Browns QBs have never been starters for long, and often times they get injured. Flacco’s played every game, for three years. He can build chemistry with his teammates. The Ravens can spend their time acquiring talent around him instead of acquiring other quarterbacks.

Anyway, I’m in now. Get Colt some toys in the draft, and let’s hope he stays healthy.

Chiefs
Even though I just called them a paper kitten (they went 4-0 against the NFC West), the amount of young talent on the Chiefs is remarkable. I know everyone likes to say an NFL team can become a contender in just one year, but teams that have didn’t live through disastrously risky, Phil Savage and Eric Mangini led drafts.

The Browns gambled and lost on Brady Quinn in 2007, and that hole can still be seen on this team from outer-space. Let’s compare the Chiefs last five drafts with the Browns and see who is still playing for their original team:

Kansas City Chiefs Cleveland Browns
2010 Chiefs 2010 Browns
Rnd Pick Player Pos G Rnd Pick Player Pos G
1 6 Eric Berry DB 16   1 7 Joe Haden DB 16
2 36 Dexter McCluster WR 11   2 38 T.J. Ward DB 16
2 50 Javier Arenas DB 16   3 85 Colt McCoy QB 8
3 93 Tony Moeaki TE 15            
5 136 Kendrick Lewis DB 11            
                     
2009 Chiefs 2009 Browns
Rnd Pick Player Pos G Rnd Pick Player Pos G
1 3 Tyson Jackson DE 26   1 21 Alex Mack C 20
3 67 Alex Magee DE 21   2 36 Brian “drafted a round early” Robiskie WR 23
4 102 Donald Washington DB 18   2 50 Mohamed “wheres the ball” Massaquoi WR 29
7 237 Jake O’Connell TE 9   4 104 Kaluka “cut me please” Maiava LB 17
7 256 Ryan Succop K 31   6 191 Coye “I hate being touched” Francies DB 7
                     
2008 Chiefs 2008 Browns
Rnd Pick Player Pos G Rnd Pick Player Pos G
1 5 Glenn Dorsey DT 47   6 190 Ahtyba Rubin DT 43
1 15 Branden Albert G 30            
2 35 Brandon Flowers DB 44            
3 73 Jamaal Charles RB 47            
5 140 Brandon Carr DB 48            
6 170 Barry Richardson T 18            
                     
2007 Chiefs 2007 Browns
Rnd Pick Player Pos G Rnd Pick Player Pos G
1 23 Dwayne Bowe WR 58   1 3 Joe Thomas T 50
            2 53 Eric Wright’s corpse DB 58
                     
2006 Chiefs 2006 Browns
Rnd Pick Player Pos G Rnd Pick Player Pos G
1 20 Tamba Hali DE 78   6 180 Lawrence Vickers FB 68
3 85 Brodie Croyle QB 18            

If you don’t see a player above that means he didn’t play in any games. The only way the Browns become next year’s Cinderella story is if they somehow have 21 picks in the upcoming draft. Then again, they play the NFC West next year, and the last time that happened they went 10-6.

Defense
The Browns may never have a defense that can match the Ravens. But when you think about it, the clock is ticking on the Ravens continuing to have that kind of defense too. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed should be done in two years, and they aren’t just good players, or pro-bowl players, they are Hall of Fame players. Not much the Browns can do about that except draft a hall of famer of their own, and that rarely happens. Its not like the Ravens do it every year either, but doing it twice in 15 years is apparently enough. It’s just their era.

Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback and one of my favorite players in the NFL, but the Packers are moving on in the playoffs because they held Michael Vick and the Eagles to 16 points, in Philadelphia. They also shut out the Jets in New York and gave up just three points in Chicago. Its hard for me not to pull for them given all the injuries they’ve had. That’s a deep team. Once the Browns lost Scott Fujita they seemed a lot softer. We need to get deeper too cause if a 31 year-old free agent is the difference, that’s sad.

The Saints defense is why they are out of the playoffs. They finished the regular season ranked 4th in the NFL in yards per game, but they played a soft schedule against the NFC West. 41 points in the playoffs just wont do, obviously. After giving up 41 points to the Steelers on their final Sunday, the Browns fell from 7th in points allowed, to 13th. Middle of the pack again.

Coaching
Maybe people will look back and say Indianapolis’ season was sabotaged by injuries. They’ll say Peyton Manning was a one man show playing without Dallas Clark and Austin Collie.

I’ll remember head coach Jim Caldwell calling a horrible time out in the fourth quarter which gave the Jets an extra 30 seconds to drive down the field and score the game winning, walk-off field goal. Sean Payton had some questionable coaching calls in the Saints loss to Seattle too.

Interesting how Eric Mangini’s clock management was cited as one of his major faults with the Browns. Like there are tons of coaches out there who can do it, like its NFL Coaching 101, and if Eric Mangini could just do that one darn thing right, we’d have 3-4 more wins.

Maybe that’s wrong, because lots of coaches in the playoffs are having the same problems as Mangini. Maybe it comes down to talent, again, over everything else.

A key play in the Colts’ loss, and the Jets win, was none other than Braylon Edwards just being taller than the Indy cornerback he had on him. He caught an 18-yard jump-ball which made the game-winning field goal a chip shot. No great coaching decision there, no masterful manipulation of the clock. Just fling it up high for the tall guy and see if he comes down with it.

Seahawks Upset the Saints
How do you think Mike Holmgren felt watching his former team win a playoff game two years after he was let go? The Saints lost for the second time this season in a game where they were double digit favorites. The other was at home against the Browns. BAM.

I understand the crowd in Seattle at Qwest field is loud and all, but I think the announcers went a little overboard commenting on it, like they love saying, “this is the loudest stadium in the NFL,” so at least that mystery is solved, no more investigating how loud stadiums are anymore. Really? Can you imagine if the Browns played a home game in the playoffs right now? I mean, we wouldn’t be drunk on fresh fish and Starbucks I can tell you that.

Now the Bears get another break in a season full of breaks, hosting the only team in playoff history with a losing record. All the pressure will be on them though, and if I were Pete Carroll I’d be reminding my team it was just two years ago when the Arizona Cardinals won the awful NFC West with a puny 9-7 record, yet advanced all the way to the Super Bowl.

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