Anemic offenses and the Cleveland Browns have unfortunately become synonymous with each other nearly every season since the team’s return in 1999. Granted, there have been a few outlying years of competence but, for the most part, it’s been a steady stream of one poorly-run offense after another.
In 2010, the Browns ranked 29th out of 32 teams in total offense, though the team ranked nine spots higher in rushing offense compared to passing offense (20th for rushing, 29th for passing). Nevertheless, the Browns fell into the familiar patterns of the Brian Daboll-led offenses: predictable, slow offenses that made achieving first downs so rare that it was something to celebrate. Granted, the stretch in which the Browns beat the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots saw the Browns as an imaginative team, utilizing unique offensive sets and trick plays to keep the defense in check. Where that imagination went is anybody’s guess. But it also gets to the point where the offense has to function using normal plays as well.
- The biggest strength of this year’s offense was, without a doubt, the emergence of running back Peyton Hillis. Never given the proper chance in Denver, Hillis was the shining beacon of the the Browns offense. He rushed 270 times for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Even better, he had 61 receptions for 477 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Another pro of this year’s offense is the emergence of quarterback Colt McCoy. If things had gone according to plan, McCoy never would have stepped foot on the field during the regular season, as he was to watch and learn from Jake Delhomme. But, like so many veteran quarterbacks brought into Cleveland, Delhomme was a bust due to injuries, as was back-up Seneca Wallace, giving McCoy the chance to play.
- Well, just take a look at the passing offense. The leading receiver was tight end Ben Watson with 68 catches for 763 yards. The next leading receiver in terms of yards – Mohamed Massaquoi – doesn’t even come close; he finished the year with 36 catches for 483 yards. Running back Peyton Hillis was second on the team in receptions with 61, meaning a tight end and a running back were the leading receivers on the Browns.
- Once again, the Browns couldn’t go a full season without running through every available quarterback on the roster. From Jake Delhomme to Seneca Wallace to rookie Colt McCoy, the Browns couldn’t establish a rhythm with just one guy. Instead, fans were subjected to the weekly guessing game that has become all too familiar. Sure, part of it had to do with the fact that Eric Mangini took his sweet time naming a starter each week that it was up in the air, but, for once, it would be nice to see a coach make a decision and see it avoid the treacherous injury bug.
So what can we expect from the 2011 Browns offense? With the new coaching staff taking shape, the philosophy is sure going to change. Pat Shurmur and his staff are implementing the West Coast offense, which places more of an emphasis on passing than Eric Mangini’s pound-the-ball philosophy.
At first you might be thinking, “Pass first? With this offense?” However, it’s also a very real possibility that the Browns will draft a wide receiver like A.J. Green, hopefully giving the Browns’ receiving corps the upgrade it so desperately needs.
2010 certainly showed some signs of progress, but the usual lapses into ineptitude is just one of the many things that doomed the previous coaching staff. A lot of changes are on the way in Cleveland, so Browns fans have new reasons to be optimistic. We’ll see if that undying optimism is finally rewarded on the field.