The Cleveland Browns have struggled at the center position since the departure of Alex Mack. It has become the black hole of death.
The Cleveland Browns have a serious problem. They are unable to fix the gaping black hole of death in the middle of their offensive line known as “the center”. The center position has been a revolving door since Alex Mack left for the greener pastures (aka paychecks) of the Atlanta Falcons.
Since Mack’s departure, the Browns have played three different centers in six games. Two centers have been seriously injured requiring hospital stays. The third is a transplanted guard serving as a band-aid until the “regular” center can return.
The quarterbacks have fared no better. Although Robert Griffin III’s injury cannot be blamed on the center position, he did take several vicious hits during the preseason and in the first game. Josh McCown was repeatedly slammed onto his shoulder breaking his collarbone. Many of those hits came straight up the middle over the center. Cody Kessler has taken several vicious leading to a bruised shoulder that limited his play against the Titans.
Note: This article will feature instructional videos for basic center play in the hopes of extending Browns’ quarterback life spans.
The Browns need to do something at center for the safety of not only their quarterbacks but also for the well-being of humanity in general.
I call the position the black hole of death for a reason. Astrophysicists claim that a black hole is created after a star explodes, the remaining matter collapses in on itself creating a super dense singularity. As its density is very high it has an extremely strong gravitational field. Hence it appears as a “black hole” in the sky because not even light can escape its gravitational field. Anything caught in its field of gravity dies.
When former Browns star Alex Mack left, he left a black hole in his wake that has been killing everything that comes into its gravitational pull.
Just to be clear, Alex Mack was leaving no matter what the Browns did. He tried to leave in 2013 only to be kept in Cleveland because the Browns matched the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offer sheet. Mack was leaving and there was nothing the Browns could have done to stop it. So blaming the front office or playing the incompetency card is pointless.
The former regime tried to plan for his departure by drafting Cameron Erving. Before playing the incompetency card, remember that Erving was the highest ranked center in the draft. Also, the Browns’ choice other than Erving would have been Breshad Perriman, who has 13 receptions for 172 yards for his entire career.
Nevertheless (now play the incompetency card), one is left wondering how Erving became the highest ranked center in the draft having only played five games at the position at Florida State. He began his career at Florida State as a defensive lineman who was transitioned to left tackle to help stabilize the offensive line and further his own career. Further, are there not scouts in Berea who could have warned Ray Farmer that he lacks enough center experience to be anything other than a project? Are projects first-round draft choices?
It should come as no surprise that Erving struggled tremendously when he finally got on the field – either at guard or center. The Browns offensive line coach spent all offseason talking up Erving and teaching him to play center. But when he plays on Sundays, his play reminds fans snap in and snap out that Erving has a long way to go before he is a competent center. Unfortunately, his growth as a lineman was stunted Week 2 of the regular season. He suffered a bruised lung which necessitated an ambulance ride the hospital after the game.
With his injury, the baton was passed (for the first time) to John Greco. As a surprise to many, Greco filled in nicely at center. He made the correct calls, set the protections and the offensive line seemed to gel. In the meantime, a more permanent solution to the center position was being developed.
The Browns claimed Austin “Powers” Reiter (he’s the man!) off the Washington Redskins practice squad. Reiter seemed to ride into the Browns offensive line from out of nowhere. He played a spectacular game against his former team. He could snap the ball correctly (hey, don’t laugh, others struggled with that), make line calls and blocked effectively in the running and passing games.
Alas, Reiter’s star burnt out before it got a chance to shine. Just as another star was being born a miscarriage occurred. In a typical move by Austin Pasztor (not the man), he threw his defender with all his momentum into Reiter’s knee after getting beat on the play. The black hole had killed another would-be center.
Thus, the Browns returned to John Greco. He played adequately but only as a placeholder awaiting Erving’s return. Tragically, the return of Erving meant the return of horrendous center play. He continues to look lost as ever. He cannot make the correct calls leading to vicious hits on quarterbacks and nightmares for youngsters who once dreamt of playing quarterback for the Browns (but have now switched to soccer).
In all seriousness, the Browns must address center in some way. Austin Reiter was a great find from a practice squad, but are there not others like him simply waiting for an opportunity? What about Mike Matthews?
The upcoming draft would be a great time to address center. The Patriots have proven that lineman can be picked up in later rounds or even undrafted. Surely there is an out of work center somewhere willing to take on the black hole of death.
Rebuilding the Browns must begin by fixing the center position. Without a reliable center, neither the line nor the quarterbacks will be successful. And the nightmares will continue.
The moral of this story? If you are looking for a Halloween costume, dress up as a Cleveland Browns center because they are pretty damn scary.