A New Year, but Same Result for Browns

Perhaps Josh Cribbs said it best about the Browns’ season when he said the team almost always almost wins.

Still, last year team president Mike Holmgren said 5-11 isn’t acceptable when he fired Eric Mangini.  Well, he changed that didn’t he? 

This year’s Browns went 4-12 after another game effort in a 13-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Cleveland has now not won a game against the Ravens and Steelers since 2009, and overall, is 1-11 against the AFC North over the last two years.

That has to change if the Browns are ever going to challenge for a playoff spot.

If you want to be positive, you could say Pat Shurmur’s crew was competitive in every game against divisional foes.  Even the first Ravens’ game in which Baltimore rushed for almost 300 yards, was not a blowout.

But this team needs all kinds of help on offense, and not just in personnel.  As we have seen all season long, this offensive game plan just doesn’t work. 

And it probably doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. 

The Browns will have the 4th pick in this spring’s draft, and the speculation has already started regarding Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor coming here to give Cleveland a “franchise” quarterback.

However, Griffin seems to operate better from the shotgun formation, which current QB Colt McCoy feels more comfortable in as well.

Unfortunately, no one has seen any flexibility from Shurmur in his desire to run a “true” west coast offense. 

That means if GM Tom Heckert drafts Griffin, it will mean another year of the “process”, as Griffin learns to deal with something he is not familiar with.

After the game, Shurmur said his team battled, which raises the “battling” record to 14-2.  Unfortunately, the NFL decides which teams make the post-season on wins and losses.

As for the season finale, it was the same thing we’ve seen in the previous 15 contests.  Cleveland had an early lead, 6-0, but couldn’t hold it.

They were outgained, 360 to 240, and Pittsburgh dominated on the ground, gashing the Browns’ defense 161 to 72. 

And the defense couldn’t get off the field when it needed to, allowing the Steelers to convert on half on their third downs, a large factor in Pittsburgh running 20 more plays than Cleveland.

Shurmur’s offense also averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per pass play, as Seneca Wallace hit on just 16 of 41 passes for 177 yards.  Wallace’s biggest contribution to the offense were his three runs totalling 44 yards, which made him Cleveland’s leading rusher. 

Can we put to rest all of the talk that McCoy was the offense’s problem?

The attack is inconsistent, as it was all season long.  There is nothing you can hang your hat on.  For example, rookie wideout Greg Little leads the team in receptions.  Today, he didn’t catch a ball.

Giving credit where it was due, Josh Cribbs played a tremendous game, with seven catches for 91 yards.  However, two plays stood out.

One was a great hit on a kickoff return after Phil Dawson’s second field goal.  Cribbs was being blocked and still hammered the returner to the ground. 

The second was after a reception in which the former Kent State product refused to let All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu bring him down.  The Browns need more of the fight the Cribbs gives each and every game.

And also, props need to be given to Dawson, who made three more field goals today in fierce winds.  Heckert needs to get Dawson back in a Browns uniform next season.

There are plenty of things to be optimistic about with the Browns, despite their record.  Rookies Little, first round pick Phil Taylor, and DE Jabaal Sheard showed a lot.  Sheard had another sack today, giving him 8-1/2 for the season.

But the offense needs an overhaul, and it starts with a coach using the talent to the best of their abilities.  Right now, Shurmur doesn’t do that.  Whether the quarterback next season is McCoy or Griffin or another veteran is brought in, the philosophy has to change, and other playmakers have to be on the roster. 

Otherwise, Browns’ fans will be suffering again at the end of the 2012 season.

JD

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