The other day in an interview on 92.3 The Fan, Sports Illustrated’s great pro football writer, Peter King, said he felt Browns’ coach Pat Shurmur wasn’t creative because he didn’t have the tools to do so.
That’s a bit of a curious statement because it seems to be just the opposite of how it should go. If you don’t have the talent to compete, then you need to trick your opponent.
That’s why it was curious to see the Browns run on first down on 11 of the first 12 situations of this type during last Sunday’s game at Houston.
Trying to establish the run first by using your 4th and 5th string running backs doesn’t seem to be smart football.
Plus, you put your offense in poor down and distance situations due to the inability this team has right now in running the football.
If your offensive line is struggling a bit, putting them in certain passing situations on 2nd and 3rd down doesn’t really help them out.
That’s why it’s a head-scratcher to see Shurmur use such a vanilla attack against an obviously superior opponent. You have to mix it up and try some different things when you have the ball.
Look, it is understandable that you can’t run trick play after trick play. They carry that term for a reason, they are high risk, high reward plays.
That doesn’t mean you can’t mix one in on a game to game basis. What would be the harm? Your opponents may not like it, but who cares if you win the game, or make it a competitive contest.
Using a gadget play also loosens up the defense, and may just make it easier to run your basic plays. Certainly, the positives in doing something like that outweigh the negatives.
Plus, it makes the game fun for your players. And after the last three games with a lack of offense, Browns’ players on that side of the ball may need that.
It appears that the coach may be gun-shy from his first two attempts to do something different, the 4th and 1 pitch out to rookie RB Armond Smith and the wide receiver reverse to Josh Cribbs that went awry.
We’ve seen nothing but basic plays since.
However, those plays took place when Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty were healthy. If you have a 4th and 1 and Hillis is available, why not give it to him.
Shurmur would argue that he was trying to hit a home run, but it wasn’t the right time in the game.
It is also understandable that the coach is installing a new offense, but he has an obligation to win games as well. Work on the new scheme in practice, but in games, mix in some stuff (shotgun formation, no huddle plays) to help you win.
Without a healthy, proven runner, there is even more pressure on the coaching staff to get the ball to playmakers. Therefore, be creative and get the ball to Cribbs, Evan Moore, Greg Little, and Ben Watson.
The strength of the team is at tight end, so why not use a lot of two tight end sets, featuring Watson and Moore? It works for the New England Patriots, though understand Tom Brady doesn’t quarterback the Browns.
Shurmur seemed a little tense and terse during his usual Monday press conference. The pressure is mounting on him.
Right now, he needs to make football fun again, both for his players to play, and for the fans to watch.
Running some imaginative plays wouldn’t hurt.