Status Quo Not Working For Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in need of a jolt to their senses.  After a stretch in which the wine and gold went 18-1 and looked every bit like a trip to their fourth straight NBA Finals was assured, they have looked, well, terrible.

The entire roster is responsible too, from coach Tyronn Lue, to all the players, and yes, that includes LeBron James.

We watched yesterday’s debacle against Oklahoma City and noticed several disturbing things.

The first was the terrible defensive concepts the Cavs use.  There is no help concepts being used, they don’t force offensive players into help, and they play underneath the pick and roll more often than not.

We have watched basketball for a long time and we have never seen a player without the ball score.  Yet, the Cavaliers consistently stay connected to the man they are supposed to be guarding, while the player with the ball is going to the basket.

This happens time and time again.

In the first half, Isaiah Thomas was guarding Russell Westbrook on the wing and Jae Crowder was near the paint to lend help.  Instead, Thomas allowed Westbrook to go baseline for an uncontested lay up.

That’s horrific team defense.

Lue seems to be so passive, which is fine when the team is winning, but this team needs a spark.

In the first half, Thomas went to the basket and was fouled, which wasn’t called.  That’s fine, referees miss calls.  The very next play, Thomas was called for a touch foul defending Westbrook, who missed a jump shot.

In that situation, Lue has to challenge the official verbally.  He has to defend his player, particularly when the contact was more severe against Thomas.

Later in the first half, Thomas was called for palming the ball, which we don’t believe has been called in the NBA since the 70’s, right in front of the coach.  We would have had to have been restrained at that point.

Although we used Thomas in both examples, this isn’t about him.  He pretty much says nothing when James is mugged going to the basket on a nightly basis.

When Lue took over as coach, his first move was to quicken the pace.  He wanted the team to play faster.  However, this squad is the oldest team in the NBA.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, in fact, we still maintain they can win the NBA title…this year.  But they need to slow the game down, particularly against younger teams who like to run the floor.

They have issues in transition, so they need to get good shots, which may not always be a shot within five seconds of the possession, so they can guard against opponents racing back up the floor.

Another problem may be the coach’s loyalty and how it affects the roster.  Players know who should be playing, and don’t think for a minute they know how well Channing Frye played earlier this year, and wonder why he is out of the rotation.

The same thing happened a year ago to Derrick Williams, who played well in February last year, and then vanished.

The difference is Williams just joined the team.  Frye has been here for more than two seasons, and is a veteran presence.

There is no question in our head that is a factor in the disconnect.

Cavs’ management can’t keep firing coaches at the first sign of trouble, but the best coaches recognize when the status quo isn’t working and a change has to be made.

Right now, the wine and gold need a new defensive philosophy and a more aggressive stance from their coach.

Let’s hope Lue can see the same thing.

JK

 

Advertisements

Not Ready To Give Up Hope That Cavs Can’t Win A Title.

Nothing incites panic around the sports city of Cleveland more than a Cavs regular season loss to the Golden State Warriors.

After Monday night’s defeat, the town was filled with talk ranging from the wine and gold having no chance to win a second title in three years to folks talking about how the Cavaliers should deal LeBron James before he can leave in free agency this summer.

Our belief from watching the two games, which were played within three weeks, is right now Cleveland is a little short, but both games were decided late.  The Christmas Day matchup was tied with a couple minutes remaining, while the Martin Luther King Day game was even into the fourth quarter.

It would be surprising if Koby Altman didn’t make a deal before the trading deadline, but everyone assumes such a transaction would involve a fourth star player to add to James, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin Love.

That may not necessarily be the case.

We believe the team needs an upgrade on the wing, where JR Smith has declined from the title team of 2015-16.  Getting a player like Kent Bazemore from Atlanta (12.5 points, 39% from three, a very good defender) would be an upgrade.

Maybe you could swing a deal to bring Bazemore and C Dewayne Dedmon (10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 41% from three) to the team, upgrading the team at both the wing and getting a rim protector.

Or you good get Nerlens Noel and Wesley Matthews from Dallas, a duo that would accomplish the same task.

Getting players such as these would give Cleveland a better chance against the Warriors because it would improve them, or at least should improve them defensively.

Of course, improving the team’s defensive scheme would be a step in the right direction as well.  If you don’t think the philosophy is an issue, just check the performance of Jae Crowder last year in Boston, and Kyrie Irving’s defense a year ago in Cleveland.

As for the organization’s biggest prize, the first round pick from Brooklyn, we would consider giving up that pick for a young player who is under contract for two or three more years, or at least isn’t an unrestricted free agent during that span.

After all, a player who is already good is better than one who might be good, because the latter describes most draft picks.

While we understand that Tyronn Lue likes to play with pace, we would rather see a different tact against the Warriors.

We would slow the game down on offense, and try to establish an inside power game vs. Golden State, being very physical with them.  Let James operate the offense out of the post, and whoever is being guarded by Stephen Curry needs to take him to the basket at all costs.

Why not take a page out of the 80’s Celtics playbook vs. the Showtime Lakers?

Playing fast is what Golden State does, and if you try to match them, we feel you will lose more often than not, because they are better at it than you are.

Because the games were close late, we feel some creative minor tinkering would be enough to make a possible fourth straight Finals’ matchup competitive and one the Cavaliers could win.

We refuse to think any team is unbeatable.  No doubt, the Warriors are good, in fact, they are a great team.  They aren’t perfect, though.

It’s up to Lue, James, and the wine and gold organization to put together the plan and the talent to knock them off.

JK

 

Browns Make Changes. That Can’t Be Bad.

The Cleveland Browns make a lot of news for an 0-16 football team.  It’s bad enough the ownership decided to bring back a head coach that has won a single game in two seasons, so if they were totally standing pat, it would be a greater concern.

Since John Dorsey was appointed the GM, the Browns have added more executives well respected in the football industry to their front office, hiring Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf away from Green Bay.

Although we thought Sashi Brown got a raw deal from Jimmy Haslam, we cannot complain about bringing people with solid credentials in.

Some in the media have been critical that more people from the past regime have not been let go, but that’s just silly.  Why wouldn’t you want as many qualified people as you can involved with building a team that has reached depths in terms of losing that no team in NFL history has seen.

Our guess is Dorsey came in, and much to Hue Jackson’s chagrin, didn’t find a bunch of idiots in the front office, so he kept them around.  We believe the reporter spouting this opinion is echoing the comments of the head coach.

As for the coaching staff, Jackson has yet to give up play calling duties, but he has brought in Adam Henry (who worked on his staff in Oakland) as wide receivers coach, and Ken Zampese (who worked with him in Cincinnati and was fired two games into the 2017 season) as quarterbacks coach.

Running game coordinator Kirby Wilson was let go, but the way the head coach eschews the running game, this position could be considered superfluous.

Rumors emerged yesterday that Mike Mularkey, just let go as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, may come aboard as offensive coordinator.

Mularkey liked to run the ball as head coach of the Titans, especially the last two seasons, but in eight years as a coordinator, his offense finished in the top ten in rushing offense just three times (2001 and 2002 in Pittsburgh, and 2008 in Atlanta).

He did finish in the top ten in scoring offense five times in those eight years.

It would be interesting if Mularkey comes aboard if he can get Jackson to run the ball more often.  In 10 of his 14 years as head coach or offensive coordinator, his teams have been in the top half of the league in running attempts.

The game plan should not be changing, though.  We would go out and get a competent veteran quarterback, one that takes care of the football.  That was DeShone Kizer’s biggest weakness this past season, and he really didn’t progress in that area as the season went on.

Then draft your future franchise guy with the first overall pick.  You have the guy who has been rated the best QB since he came out of high school in Josh Rosen.  You have the guy who was the darling of the college football world after last season in Sam Darnold.

And you have the Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield.

Don’t overthink it, take one of them and let them learn behind the veteran for at least a season.

Bringing in good front office people is great.  Making changes to the coaching staff is fine.  However, until they start winning football games, it’s all a bunch of noise.

JD

 

 

 

Lue Reaching The Loyalty Vs. Stubbornness Line

One of the toughest things for someone in charge of a sports team is recognizing when it is time to replace a veteran player.

Likewise, it is difficult to see when a plan of attack you have used for years needs to be changed.

The greatest coaches/manager understand that.  They see what kind of talent they have on the roster, and use it to the best advantage.

Bill Belichick famously released Bernie Kosar when he was coaching the Browns because he saw that the quarterback was not the same player as he was when he took the team to three AFC title games in four seasons.

The great coaches think totally with their head and take emotion out of the equation.

That’s what Tyronn Lue seems to be facing right now.

Since he was elevated to the head coaching position in 2015-16, the Cavaliers defensive rating has slowly decreased.  The wine and gold are currently 29th (out of 30) in defense in the NBA.

Lue was in charge of the defense during the first run to The Finals for the Cavs (2014-15), but when he got promoted, he brought Mike Longabardi in to run the defense.

Longabardi has good credentials.  He was on the Boston Celtics’ staff with Lue under Doc Rivers from 2007-13, and the Celts were one of the league’s best defensive teams.

He went to Phoenix from there, and initially the Suns improved dramatically too, but they got worse from there, although to be fair, the Suns got younger in that three year span.

With the Cavs, the defense has never been as good as it was when Lue was running the show, and it has been reported that Lue provides more input once the playoffs start.

Whatever they are doing on that end of the floor, it isn’t working very well.  Yes, the Cavs are an older team, but over the years, younger players seem to have more of an issue on the defensive end than veterans.

Cleveland struggles in transition for sure, and we have said for the past two years that no team depends more on their offense for their defense than the Cavs.

However, the defensive issues have now gone on for two years.  Look at Jae Crowder, who was considered a solid defender with Boston in Brad Stevens’ system, which by the way, has also made Kyrie Irving better than he’s been in his career.

Crowder looks lost in Cleveland.  Did he forget to play defense as soon as he put on a Cavalier jersey?  We doubt it.  It’s just that the scheme the wine and gold is using is not effective.

Lue faces the same situation with players like JR Smith and Tristan Thompson.  Both were important cogs in the championship team of 2015-16, but they don’t look like the same players now.

Smith has dropped offensively and defensively from the past two seasons, and the changing game appears to be hurting Thompson, who isn’t as effective guarding smaller players on the pick and roll, and hasn’t been able to handle bigger players near the basket.

Right now, Lue seems reluctant to make changes in his playing rotation.  Cedi Osman seems to do well in limited minutes, but there are nights he doesn’t even play.

Smith and Crowder are two of the reasons the starting lineup is struggling.

Right now, Lue is being stubborn.  This isn’t a one week slump, the Cavs fortunes seemed to have changed when Thompson came back, and that’s been almost a month.

Luckily, there are still three months for the coach to turn things around.

JK

 

 

Cavs Need An Aggressive JR Smith

When you are the Cleveland Cavaliers and your best player is the best in the sport, the scrutiny is unbearable.

The wine and gold have lost five of their last seven, and seven of their last nine, yet still have the sixth best record in the NBA.  But, if you listen to people talk about Tyronn Lue’s squad, you would think they may miss the playoffs.

When you figure in eight of the last ten contests have been on the road, with the next two also away from Quicken Loans Arena, you could almost understand the mini-slump.

Lue is working Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, and he is bringing some added scoring to a starting lineup that really had only LeBron James and Kevin Love as scoring threats.

When Love isn’t making shots, which has happen in two of the last three games, the starters struggle to score and the Cavs fall behind early in games.

Unfortunately, Jae Crowder and more specifically, JR Smith haven’t stepped up when needed.  So, should Lue start pondering shaking up the starting lineup?

It’s trickier than you think.  First, the second unit has been so good, you have to think he doesn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart with them.

Second, if you make a move with Smith, do you risk losing him as a contributor down the road.

Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes (29.8), trailing just James, playing about the same amount of time per game as he has since arriving in Cleveland.

His number of shots taken has dropped from 11 per game in his first two years here to just 7.1 this season.  And his defensive rating is the lowest it has been too.

Smith turned 32 last fall, and you have to remember not everyone ages like James, who is in his 15th season.  This is Smith’s 14th year in the NBA, so perhaps age is starting to take its toll.

Before making any changes in terms of who plays, we would like to see Smith start looking for his shot more often.  He seems to be looking to drive more often and his assist numbers are the highest since he arrived in Cleveland.

But that hasn’t been Smith game since he came to the NBA.  He’s a sniper, a shoot first guard with the ability to make tough long range shots, and when he gets going, he’s unstoppable.

He was the reason the Cavs took game one of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, hitting eight threes, scoring 28 points as Cleveland stole home court advantage with a 97-89 win.

If he can’t regain that form and that style of play, perhaps Lue should try Channing Frye with the first unit, providing another three point shooter at the start of games.

After all, when the veteran big man has played ten or more minutes in a game this season, the Cavs are 16-3.

Ironically, Frye’s three point shooting is down, from 40% to 31% this season, but he is making 68% of his attempts inside the arc.  His defensive rating is behind just James, Love, and Dwyane Wade on the Cavs.

Since, Frye’s time has diminished since Tristan Thompson’s return to health, moving him into the starting five could be a big benefit.

The other player we would consider is rookie Cedi Osman, who could provide length, hustle, and his defensive rating is just behind Frye’s.

It has been reported that instead of another big man, GM Koby Altman may be looking to upgrade at the #2 guard spot, which would mean the organization would like Smith to step it up.

The trading deadline isn’t that far away, so the time for Smith to step up is now.  He needs to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor.

JK

 

 

Kipnis Back To Second Makes Sense

The news didn’t make a lot of headlines, but the Cleveland Indians announced over the weekend that Jason Kipnis would likely be the Opening Day second baseman in 2018.

That puts the infield alignment, save for newcomer Yonder Alonso at first base the same as the one the Tribe used in the 2016 World Series, with Jose Ramirez moving back to third, and of course, Francisco Lindor at second.

It does weaken Cleveland’s up the middle defense.  Ramirez is a far better defender at the keystone than Kipnis, including turning the double play.

However, we never liked the idea of trading Kipnis after last season’s injury plagued season in which he hit .232 with 12 home runs and 35 runs batted in (705 OPS).

We understand the veteran’s salary takes a huge jump this season, going from $9.2 million last year to $13.7 million in ’18, making him a candidate to be moved if Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff wanted to create payroll space for another player.

And another off-season would make Kipnis virtually untradeable going into the 2019 season, with his salary jumping again to $14.7 million.

But, the second baseman should be a good candidate for a bounce back season coming up, if he remains healthy.  Keep in mind he suffered a shoulder issue during spring training and then had hamstring woes as the season came to a close.

Although Kipnis turns 31 in April, last season saw him have the lowest OPS of his career (640 in 2014).  Three of his five full campaigns have resulted in OPS over 800 for the season.

You would have to figure he would come close, if not surpass, that mark again in 2018.

This move also clears up one of the question marks the Indians still had as spring training approaches, who will play third?

So, the biggest question now becomes whether or not Michael Brantley can open the season in left field, and if he can’t who plays there?  Also, how does Yandy Diaz fit on the roster?

Our guess is the organization will take it slow with Brantley, so as to not cause any setbacks with the ankle, and they would be fine with a debut around May 1st.

As for Diaz, who really needs and deserves a chance to get extended playing time in the big leagues (after all he hit .350 with a 914 OPS in AAA last season), perhaps he fits in as a platoon partner at first base, as Alonso has struggled vs. southpaws, or in the outfield.

Remember, the Indians still have Brandon Guyer and Abraham Almonte on the roster too.

Don’t forget Guyer has an 828 OPS for his six year career vs. left-handers.

Even with Kipnis moving back to second, the Indians are still missing a power bat in the lineup.

Santana has been replaced by Alonso, but who replaces Jay Bruce?  Lonnie Chisenhall had an 881 OPS in half a season with the Tribe, compared to Bruce’s 808 figure.  But Chisenhall isn’t a guy who gets pitched around often.

We would classify the Opening Day lineup for the Cleveland Indians right now as still fluid.  However, deciding Jason Kipnis is returning to second clears it up a little bit.

Even if they stand pat on position players for the rest of the winter, there will still be tough decisions for Terry Francona, particularly in the outfield.

MW

 

 

Dorsey-Jackson Combo Raises Draft Questions.

This Sunday is the first without angst since the end of summer without angst for fans of the Cleveland Browns.

No worries about can the team win their first game, no concerns if the coach will ever use the running game, no wondering if DeShone Kizer can keep himself from throwing passes to the other team.

Now, the parades are over, and it is time to start focusing on the “Super Bowl” for Browns’ supporters seemingly every year…the NFL Draft.

Between now and April 26th, when Cleveland will kickoff the selection process with pick #1 (we assume), there will be plenty of speculation what GM John Dorsey will do with all of the selections his organization has.

The big question is how does Dorsey look at the process.  Does he select the players with the best potential to be NFL stars, or does he take players who fit the style of play coach Hue Jackson prefers.

One thing we have learned about Jackson in his two years at the helm is he will try to fit a square peg into a round hole.  We have extreme doubts that the head coach wants to change what he wants to do offensively.

Jackson has said he wants to hire an offensively coordinator, but since he is apparently doing the hiring, he is going to bring in someone who runs the same offensive style he favors, which is going downfield.

The Browns led the NFL is the average distance of their passing attempts at 9.7.  The only playoff team averaging over nine yards per throw was the Panthers.  Three other playoff teams (Falcons, Titans, Bills) were 8th-10th.

Two things come to mind here.  First, throwing downfield was clearly not working for Kizer, but Jackson didn’t care about that.

Second, it appears most successful teams mix in shorter throws as well.  The four teams in the top ten in this stat also rank in the top half of the league in rushing attempts, Cleveland ranked 28th.

We would take this to mean Carolina, Atlanta, Tennessee, and Buffalo throw downfield off of play action.  The Browns rarely do because teams don’t respect Jackson will run the football.

Getting defensive help is clearer because we believe defensive coordinator wants to pressure the quarterback, but didn’t have the secondary to do it in the style he prefers.

Getting Minkah Fitzpatrick would seem to be an ideal fit.  He can play both cornerback and safety and is considered the best defensive player in the draft.  To get that guy two years in a row (Myles Garrett) would help.

It has been reported that Dorsey wants to make a splash in free agency, and that’s fine as long as he isn’t bringing in aging players with a year or two left.

No matter what you feel about the past regime, there are plenty of good, young players here to build around and we would hate to see some of them let go to bring players on their last legs to the roster.

This is the asinine system set up by owner Jimmy Haslam when he decided Jackson would continue to be head coach of the team in 2018.

Our guess is Dorsey will bring in his guys, but then we can expect another season, at least at the beginning, of not utilizing people to the best of their abilities.

That’s why it is still frustrating to ponder.

JD

 

 

Slow Moving Player Market Frustrating Tribe Fans

Spring training opens in about six weeks for the Cleveland Indians, and there are still questions surrounding the roster of the defending American League Central Division champs.

Off-season transactions throughout the sport are moving at a snail’s pace, except for relief pitchers, and the Tribe has lost two of them, Bryan Shaw to Colorado and Joe Smith to Houston.

A third, southpaw Boone Logan is rumored to be heading to Milwaukee, although the Indians probably believe they have filled that spot late last season with Tyler Olson.

So, the front office needs to find some bullpen help for a manager who loves plenty of arms in the ‘pen in Terry Francona.

There are still some options on the free agent market, but none are as accomplished as Shaw and Smith.  So, creativity may be needed by GM Mike Chernoff and president Chris Antonetti.

The bigger hit to date may be offensively with the loss of Carlos Santana to the Phillies, and an impending departure of late season hero, Jay Bruce.

Will the slow market allow the Indians to retain Bruce?  The longer he stays unsigned, you have to believe his demands will come down.  Will they come down to an area where the Tribe is comfortable?

When you are a contending team, you can’t have a lot of unproven players in your everyday lineup.

Right now, third base is a question mark and so is centerfield, despite Bradley Zimmer’s debut a year ago.  Zimmer has no track record, and had some swing and miss issues in 2017, so to say the team doesn’t need a back up plan is a big mistake.

We would like to think Yandy Diaz is the frontrunner at the hot corner, but the skipper frequently makes comments about his glove (despite good defensive metrics in the minor leagues), and he loves the defense of Giovanny Urshela, whose bat is suspect.

Right now, the lineup just isn’t long enough, but there is still a long way to go before the players start arriving in Goodyear.

We understand fans don’t like the inactivity, but really, outside of the bullpen movement and the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton, what teams in the AL have done anything?

That’s right.  Nobody else has made a significant move, at least among the upper echelon of the Junior Circuit, and that’s where the Indians live right now.

Even though the Tribe has Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion, besides the questions we already listed, they still have Jason Kipnis coming off an injury plagued, off year for him.

Michael Brantley didn’t play for much of the second half, and is coming off surgery on his ankle.

Lonnie Chisenhall missed a good portion of the season after the All Star Game, and Brandon Guyer was pretty much a non-factor either.

And don’t forget last year’s big surprise, Austin Jackson, is a free agent, and may not be back with the team.

Remember, this winter, player movement is moving at a glacial pace.  At some point between now and the middle of February, that will pick up.

With the slow movement could come bargains, which is to the advantage of the Cleveland Indians.  Something to keep an eye on in the next six weeks.

MW

 

 

 

 

 

Cavs Need A Thomas Boost

Isaiah Thomas makes his much awaited debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Cavs have lost four of their last five and appears to be in a bit of a holiday malaise following a tough loss to Golden State on Christmas Day.

The bench has struggled a bit since Tristan Thompson’s return and his replacement of Channing Frye with the second unit.  Dwyane Wade and his crew have lost the floor spacing that the latter provided with his three point shooting.

Thompson needs to be near the basket and if he’s away from the rim, he doesn’t need to be guarded.  That takes away driving lanes for Wade and allows teams to shadow Kyle Korver, making it more difficult for him to get open.

Thomas will start off coming off the bench and will play limited minutes, but the starting lineup is also in need of a shot in the arm.

Jose Calderon did a great job in the starting lineup after Derrick Rose was injured, but he is starting to show that he is, well, Jose Calderon.  He’s a guy who should be playing limited minutes, and instead he playing more than he did a year ago.

They also need to get more offense out of their starting lineup.  Currently, the only players Tyronn Lue can count on nightly are LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Unfortunately, that’s only two-fifths of the starting five.

JR Smith’s shooting continues to decline from his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, dropping from 39% and 40% in those seasons to the 35% and 36% in the past two campaigns.

Moreso, he has been more inconsistent, at times going several games where he is not a factor on the offensive end.  By now, we know James needs to play with three point shooters to open up driving lines.  In return, those shooters get wide open looks.

Those snipers have to knock down those looks more often than not.  Right now, that’s not a given.

Calderon and Smith’s issues are one reason the bench group is more productive than the starters.  There are more of them making nightly contributions.

Once Thomas shakes the rust off his game, he should help provide more scoring from the starting five, and he is a 36.7% career shooter from behind the arc, so opponents have to account for him.

He’s also an 88% lifetime free throw shooter, so if he gets fouled he makes them.  Keep in mind, the Cavs already rank second in the NBA in free throw shooting as a team.

No doubt, it will take some time for Thomas to get used to playing with a roster that outside of Jae Crowder, he hasn’t played with before.  But, his style does fit more than someone like Thompson.

To start, we can see Thomas taking Calderon’s role, but with more drives and more volume scoring.  He also provides the offense with another player who can create his own shot, something that only James and Wade can do right now with regularity.

Thomas’ return to the floor should give the Cavaliers a little boost that is needed right now.  It’s not like the team has been playing poorly, but a slight jolt shouldn’t hurt anything.

JK

 

 

 

The March To 0-16 Is Complete.

We are sure that some will find humor in the play that clinched the 0-16 season for the Cleveland Browns was a dropped pass by Corey Coleman, because it goes along with the narrative that the former first round draft pick is a bust.

That’s the state of the Browns these days.  Fans are divided, and the ownership seems to be in a world of their own.

That world allows them to be content enough with a coach that has gone 1-31 over a two year span, and put together just the second 0-16 season in NFL history, to bring him back for a third season.

Imagine selling that to your fan base, after the 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

To be fair, the Browns fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to tie the game at 21 in the third quarter on a 5 yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Rashard Higgins, the latter’s second TD catch on the day.

The special teams, coached by zombie apocalypse survivor Chris Tabor, allowed a 96 yard kickoff return by JuJu Smith-Schuster which gave the Steelers a lead they would not relinquish.

The turnover battle, normally a loss for Cleveland, was even today, making Hue Jackson’s crew 0-12-4 for 2017 in that category.

Kizer, as he usually does, made some good throws, such as a 54 yard strike to Josh Gordon, and first TD toss to Higgins on a slant pattern.  However, he also spiked several throws throughout the day, and flirted with interceptions several times in the second half before finally throwing one in the fourth quarter.

Consistency is a talent.  Great players aren’t the ones who make great plays, they are guys who make positive plays all the time.  Kizer is the baseball player who gets four hits in a game, but goes 0 for 18 in five other games.  Professional sports is about being consistent.

The rookie quarterback didn’t get any help from his coaches, who failed to protect him all year, by throwing the ball way more than they ran it all season long.

Even today in frigid conditions, the Browns ran the ball with their running backs just 21 times, compared to 42 passing plays (30 passes, six sacks, six runs by Kizer).  By contrast, Pittsburgh had 25 running plays and 33 passing plays (27 throws, three sacks, and three bad snaps).

Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin said he thought the Browns should run the ball more to minimize turnovers early in the week.  Apparently, everyone realizes this except Hue Jackson.

Besides finishing without a win, the largest kick in the groin Cleveland football fans have to endure is the owner Jimmy Haslam’s stubborn stance in bringing Jackson back.

Jackson maintains there is a devoid of talent here, but several articles have come out recently disputing that.  Statistically, the Browns are much better than the ’08 Lions, the only other team that finished 0-16.

And even if Jackson’s claim is true, it simply means he didn’t do a good job coaching.  Good coaches get more out of the talent given to them.  As was pointed out earlier this week, the New York Jets were said to be tanking this season, but Todd Bowles squeezed five wins out of them.

Look, we and anyone reading this could have coached the Browns to an 0-16 record.  Jackson didn’t maximize the talent here, and we believe time will prove that there are good players here.

Hopefully, the owner comes to his senses on this issue and allows new GM John Dorsey to bring in a someone different.

We don’t trust Jackson to be involved with whatever QB Cleveland drafts in the first round this spring, or with a veteran brought in by Dorsey.

Hue Jackson contributed to this mess, he should not get a chance to ruin another football season in Cleveland.

JD