The question is that if you were to read the words “no offense,” would you pronounce them the same way you’d assess the Browns’ ability to score points and move the football? Or would you pronounce it in the way of “I don’t mean to offend you?”
My plan is to look at this from both angles while really trying to keep a positive spin on things.
The Cleveland Browns’ offense was atrocious again this year. There are executive people to blame, there are schemes to blame, there are coaches to blame, there are players to blame, and there is (as always with Browns fans) tons of luck to blame. But it doesn’t matter who you point the finger at, this team was awful when it had the football. Again.
The Browns were bad enough with the football that it has taken me several days to actually work up the nerve to write this article. The defense and special teams recaps were easy to write because I could at least pick a place and start. But with the offense? Yikes.
If you’re reading this then you’re surely a fan of the team, so you don’t need me to rattle off examples of futility…I’ll just go with the basic standings: 30th in points, 29th in yardage, 24th in pass yards, 27th in pass TDs, 28th in rush yards, 32nd in rush TDs.
There are other stats that matter in football but…wow.
I’ll start with the passing game – it wasn’t pretty. We are in for two solid months of speculation on whether or not the team will trade up to make sure they can select Robert Griffin III (which is surely going to be a topic of future articles here at DPD and is surely not the topic right now), followed by endless speculation on whether or not the actual choice was the right choice, followed by several seasons of moaning about how it was the wrong choice – no matter which choice was actually made.
The point is that Colt McCoy was pretty ineffective and the fans are upset. In fact, everyone’s upset. And that’s fine. He could have played better, sure, but it doesn’t help that he seemed to have about 1.5 seconds to pass each time he dropped back. It also didn’t help that the Browns had four guys in the top 25 in drops this season (Side note: drops are a bizarre stat. It only counts if it’s blatantly a drop and was into their body/hands completely without another player touching it. So basically, add about 12 to every drop-count you read). I’m not saying McCoy’s season and career would be worthwhile and stellar if those 30-40 other passes were caught, but it sure wouldn’t have hurt.
You’ve seen, heard, and read it all about McCoy. In fact, you’ve probably had every conversation you can have about him over the last six months. And if you’re anything like me, the jury is still out, which might mean that the decision is there. So let’s move on to something else.
I liked most of what I saw from wide receiver Greg Little - 61 catches for over 700 yards sure seems like a heck of a rookie campaign, doesn’t it? We also know that he battled to be a league leader all year long (in drops), so it’s always nice to have a guy at the top of a leaderboard. He’s got some improving to do, but he’s off to a good start. It’d be fun to get him into the end zone more than twice, but beggars can’t be choosers, as they say.
In other wide receiver news, Josh Cribbs is still mediocre at the position. He can make plays with the ball in his hands, but rather than ever trying to get a stud receiver in the draft, the plan was always to wait until mid-to-late rounds to get one – even if that guy played quarterback for the previous ten years of his life. Foolproof.
I love Cribbs, but he’s not a main threat at receiver. Flashes of greatness, sure, but come on. As for Mohamed Massaquoi and anyone else (including the bizarre bumper crop of tight ends), there’s not much to say. No one performed well so it’s hard to point fingers. No one could consistently get them the ball, either. Furthermore, having one of the five worst rushing attacks meant that opponents could drop more guys into coverage to stop an already struggling passing game.
Wait a minute. Did someone say rushing attack?
The Browns ranked 28th in rushing yardage, 31st in yards per rush, and 32nd in touchdowns. I realize that Peyton Hillis had all kinds of problems this year both on and off the field, but make no mistake, it was bad. As for Montario Hardesty, the Browns’ leading backup averaged 3.0 yards per carry to our starter’s 3.6.
The correct emotion here is sadness. It’s almost unheard of for the top two backs on a team to hold a combined average of under 3.5 yards per carry. The “saving grace” of this team’s running game was Chris Ogbonnaya. A 100+ yard game from him does a lot for the theory of running backs being expendable in the NFL, that’s for sure.
The offensive line was out of whack for most of the season as well. I mostly blame the absence of left guard Eric Steinbach, which is beyond control. Two studs and three subpar linemen is not the key to success. That’s all. I would be happy with Matt Kalil being on the Browns because you simply can’t have enough good linemen on a football team. It won’t happen, but I’d be fine with it.
I need to stop. Really. Nothing good happens when you spend this much time thinking about the Cleveland Browns offense. I am truly attempting to find silver linings here. Little has a lot of promise. Cribbs can still make plays. Steinbach comes back and suddenly there are three studs on the offensive line. There are about eight tight ends on this team that I actually like/think can perform at a mid-range NFL level. The running game should, in theory, return with the offensive line.
Let’s just all agree to simply count down the days until the draft. Or until Roberto Hernandez Heredia gets his first Major League start, despite his career record of 53-66.