Wasn’t it not too long ago I wrote a column criticizing the NFL and Roger Goodell on the decisions of “Bountygate?“ Well, Roger, you’ve done it again. And, so I might add, in a more “Everyone thinks you’re King George III” kind of way. Although this may not be as prominent as the Stamp Act, it may be just as popular. However, popular for all the wrong reasons.
At what point in time do we, as football fans, decide to chastise the league we love? Unfortunately, the 2012 season might be the time. Who would of thought the potential lockout of 2011 wouldn’t create a big a hassle as the referee lockout did? Thankfully, the real men in pinstripes are back at it after Monday night’s fiasco. And what better way to welcome them back than with a column about a Cleveland Browns primetime game. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Let’s catch you up on the current situation in Cleveland:
There’s no other way to put it, so here it is: The Cleveland Browns might just suck. But I’m not willing to give up on my team until they are mathematically eliminated from contention and I start looking forward to the NFL Draft in April. Yet, glimpses of life have been shown in the last couple of weeks…Brandon Weeden (better known as BW3. No? Damn.) is becoming crisper in the pocket after Week 1′s pitiful performance (alright I’ll admit it, not that crisp, but you know what I mean), Trent Richardson is proving why he was selected at number 3 in New York, and, honestly, Cleveland has been seriously contending in the early part of the season.
I’m not willing to speak about the losses to Philadelphia or Cincinnati, because those should have been glorified victories. However, everyone knows by now that that’s not the path the Cleveland Browns decide to take, unfortunately. Buffalo just beat us, and the loss of Joe Haden through weeks 2, 3, and 4 is ultimately disastrous. Adderall, Joe? Seriously. Guess that’s what makes you a Gator.
Thursday night’s game in Baltimore marked Cleveland’s first nationally televised game since Colt McCoy’s head was taken off in Pittsburgh in Week 13 of last year. Here’s some thoughts about last night:
Cleveland’s Not That Bad
Currently, I’m not in favor of blaming the organization or the team for an 0-4 start. There’s many factors that have contributed to such a poor beginning; which has resulted in a wasted season, already. Those factors include, injuries (Taylor, Massaquoi, Gocong), suspensions (we already covered this, Haden), and “veteranship” (is that a word? Regardless, the youngest team in the NFL). Who would have thought two first round draftees, a talented defense, and an above average offensive line would lead to four straight losses? Obviously I’m kidding, because all the talking-heads denigrate Cleveland whenever they get the opportunity. And for no good reason at all.
Browns fans find themselves in a twisted world where the “Cleveland Browns always suck.” However, that’s not really the case. Cleveland only lost by more than 10 points a total of four times last season, and those games were against Tennessee, Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Yes, Tennessee isn’t a powerhouse but the 3 latter teams are Super Bowl Contenders. In the other 8 losses of the season, 6 of them were one score ballgames and the other 2, two score ballgames. Ladies and Gentleman, Cleveland contends almost every week. Surprised? Probably.
Could you make the case that the “Dawg Pound” is just extremely (and I mean, extremely) unlucky? I believe you could.
Cleveland’s Receivers Really Do Suck
They don’t just suck, they’re blatantly awful. Greg Little can’t catch, Travis Benjamin is a backup, Josh Gordon is still learning, Josh Cribbs isn’t a receiver (haha), Jordan Norwood is Jordan Norwood, and Massaquoi has been in the league for quite some time now, and there’s no signs of life. Wow, that list stunk, huh? And I’m not just upset because Greg “I’m the new Braylon Edwards” Little dropped a picture perfect touchdown which would have brought the game within a field goal, I’m upset because the front office has done a horrific job at constructing this wide receiver corps. Just go sign Plaxico Burress already. That has to be done.
The one element of the passing game that stands out are the receivers inability to gain separation from their defender. Just watch some tape and you’ll realize every time Weeden (and McCoy last year) throws the football, there’s a defender right on top of the receiver. Every single freaking time. I don’t know if that’s a coaching mistake, or just a lack of talent. I’m going with lack of talent. Brandon Weeden has potential (once he starts looking off the secondary), but that potential won’t have the ability to showcase itself if he doesn’t have the correct arsenal of weapons. And, like always, I don’t see those weapons making their way to Cleveland anytime soon. Well, unless they capture the number 1 pick in the draft. (Can’t believe we’re talking about that already. Crap.)
If the receivers don’t step up, the offense won’t leap to the next level, it’s that simple. However, that brings us to our next topic…
Brad Childress, You Have Trent Richardson, Use Him
Since it’s Week 4 and nothing’s happened, I assume the knee is fine. So just use Trent Richardson, please. I know Shurmur is trying to implement the “West Coast Offense” into Cleveland, but with a tailback who possesses absurd amount of talent, just run the ball. In the offseason, Shurmur helped hire former Minnesota Vikings head coach, Brad Childress. And here’s his job: Offensive Coordinator. Run the offense correctly, I’m begging you. Weeden threw the ball 52 times on Thursday night. 52 times!? Are you kidding me? He’s a rookie with no receivers, let the game develop with him, don’t let him develop the game himself.
At various points in the night, mostly Cleveland’s TD drive and their final possession, Weeden moved the ball effectively and efficiently down the field in a quick manner, through the air. Yet, on other drives, Cleveland stalled quicker than me driving a stick-shift car. And to much surprise, that doesn’t win football games. Shocker, right?
Trent Richardson looks magnificent. He is flying down the field, his agility is great, he’s breaking tackles, and most importantly, he’s gaining yards. He also has happened to score 4 times this season. Yeah, that’s right, he’s averaging a TD a game. Build the offense around him and then let the passing game develop.
Nervous About The Future
A few columns back I wrote about the sale of the team and the possibility of another rebuilding stage for Cleveland. With an 0-4 start and a new owner, that possibility keeps creating better odds. Personally, I like Pat Shurmur, as well as Holmgren and Heckert. I’m not ready to see them go. However, the days may be counting down ’til Jimmy Haslam decides to pull the plug on this era. But that’s what makes us such great fans, willing to stick with our team through every bump in the road. And hopefully, it’s not the current staff’s last season.
After Thursday night’s game, I’ve come to the realization that I’m satisfied with the Cleveland Browns. Win or lose, I’ll always be fan. Making strides is half the process, even if they carry into next season.
About the Author
Written by Corey Rioux
A wise man once told me, "Sports are modern-day mythology." I tend to disagree. Proper grammar is optional. You can read my columns here: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/c_rioux23/ You can follow me on twitter at: @CoreyRioux You can contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org