Trent Dilfer calls out Cleveland Browns “Spitball Offense”

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

A former Cleveland Browns quarterback looked at the offense the team is currently running and says it doesn’t suit their strengths

Trent Dilfer, a former Cleveland Browns quarterback, referred to the Browns offense as a “spitball offense.”

Well, he may be right.

So what is a spitball offense, Trent? Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Dilfer offered the opinion that

"“They should be a run, run-[play] action team. “Run the rock with Nick Chubb and play-action pass off of it. Let Baker Mayfield split the field in half, get it out of his hand [to his] talented playmakers quick.”"

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But that’s not what Dilfer sees, apparently. He compared the Browns play-calling to the children’s game of spitball, where they make up a list on a blackboard and shoot chewed up wads of paper to see if any will stick on the blackboard and thus choose something from the list.

"“It looked like spitball offense to me.  It looked like they spent a week saying, ‘Oh that’s a cool play…that’s a cool play…oh, we can trick them here…. oh we can do that…’  And they just threw spitballs against the wall and said, ‘OK, let’s pull that one off and try it.’”"

It’s probably not quite that bad, but Dilfer is not the first person to question the playcalling of head coach Freddie Kitchens. And Dilfer is not your average sports telejournalist. Not only was he the Browns’ starting quarterback in 2005, but he is also a 13-year veteran.

You may call him a lousy quarterback if you like, but he earned a Super Bowl ring and also a trip to the Pro Bowl. He has done a few things that most of us have not done.

To cite one glaring example of the unorthodox nature of the play calling, this writer has no complaint with handing the ball off to Nick Chubb, even though he made two consecutive fumbles. But what do you do in order to settle the team down after those unfortunate miscues?

Well, Freddie called the flanker reverse — or maybe some even more complex play, we may never know —  which resulted in the ball popping up in the air for Lawrence Guy of the Patriots to grab. NFL fans league-wide once again had a great laugh at the expense of the Cleveland Browns. Some are saying it is the funniest play since the infamous Butt Fumble of Mark Sanchez.

The Browns have true talent. Nick Chubb can run the ball. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham can catch it. So why not let them do their thing? Instead, the Browns want to rely on trickeration, reverses, and deep passes. has taken the trouble to compile the percentages for personnel groups utilized by each team. They say that the Browns use three wide receivers 75 percent of the time, and two tight ends 19 percent of the time. However, their plays are successful only 37 percent of the time in the 3WR formation, but they are successful 57 percent time using 2 WR, 2 TE.

In other words, this stat strongly suggests that the Browns run plays that they are bad at, and avoid the plays that they are good at. They’re doing things the hard way. Why not use the formations that are working?

It’s not just one or two oddball calls, but a systematic pattern of calling flamboyant but ineffective plays.

Of course, it’s not so simple to come up with a game plan, and a counter-argument could point out that the offensive game plan has to be tailored to the defensive team. And Kitchens knows way more about football than your humble correspondent.

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So it might be that the flanker reverse was just exactly the perfect play call after Chubb’s two miscues.  But most of us, including Trent Dilfer, are not buying it.