Browns’ Offensive Minds are Borderline Offensive

After countless years of defensive coordinators becoming the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, we were told that the new regime would help right the ship. No longer would we be forced to endure methodical plodding, the three-to-four-yard runs and occasional five-yard out; the halfback draw followed by a series of painful check-downs for six yards on a third-and-seven. 

Mike Holmgren was the quarterback guru, Tom Heckert was able to provide Andy Reid a bevy of weapons and Pat Shurmur was the next great offensive mind.

Yet five weeks in, your Cleveland Football Browns are 26th in the NFL in offense, Holmgren is stone silent, and Shurmur has a recent approval rating of 18 percent.

Loading up the defensive side of the ball with play-makers named Haden and Ward and Taylor and Sheard; using free agency and trades to acquire Usama Young, team captain Scott Fujita and the recently-extended Chris Gocong; the Browns front office has decided that they will load the talent up on the defensive side of the ball while trusting their acumen and skill set on offense, aiming to help the young, inexperienced bodies alongside Joe Thomas outperform and overachieve all while developing.  Hopes were that the pair of third-year receivers coupled with athletic tight ends and a high-upside rookie out of North Carolina would help buy time for McCoy to learn the ropes of a completely new offensive system. The team could grow together rather than adding aging veterans who would not be a part of the future.

Yes, McCoy is a third-round quarterback project with a mere 13 games under his belt who is admittedly trying his hardest to get this team on the winning track.  But one can argue that, even with offensive minds behind him, he has regressed from last season in terms of reading blitz schemes, going through his progressions and maintaining composure when the pocket begins to collapse.  He’s looking to roll more than he should, he’s making questionable decisions post-snap and – though he showed flashes of willingness to throw down field on Sunday – continues to be on the single-digit side of yards per attempt (4.8 yards per attempt this past Sunday, meaning it would take three completions just to get a first down).

Anyone wanting to bail on McCoy this early has downed a serious-sized bottle of pessimism.  Sure, Seneca Wallace has more experience than McCoy, and he may actually give the team the best chance to win right now.  But in a season that is supposed to be about McCoy’s progress and the future of the organization, pulling the plug on the twangy one now could be career-ruining; I’m talking Tim Couch-like proportions.  A yo-yo act of quarterbacks is something that gets a coach run out of town. Give Shurmur credit for embracing a downtrodden 25-year-old on the sideline following an incomplete pass on fourth down, but the Browns’ new head coach will be judged principally on his ability to do what we were told he could do: make this team’s quarterback into a winner within the NFL.  The system and scheme are allegedly in the favor of a not-so-strong-armed lad; the quick routes are supposed to help McCoy’s completion percentage and, in turn, his confidence.

Right now, McCoy looks anything but confident.  He’s staring wide-eyed at a converging defensive line, not recognizing creeping safeties and is throwing off-balance ducks into traffic. Bailed out by defensive backs dropping potential interceptions just as often as Montario Hardesty’s hands have allowed drives to grind to a screeching hault, luck has played just as much of a role in relative success as pedigree.

In late July, I wrote that the quest for stability and progress would fall squarely at the feet of McCoy and Shurmur.  Last season’s numbers looked encouraging – McCoy went from a kid who we all thought would be decapitated against the Steelers to having his jersey fly off of the shelves at the local Cardboard Heroes.  He fights and he embodies a lot of what Clevelanders enjoy rooting for, but he’s still leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to each additional 60 minutes of football. 

Presently, we have a pass-first offensive mind with a group of players better suited to run the football.  Rather than transitioning to a North Coast version of the West Coast offense, Shurmur feels that he can merely flip a switch with a group largely comprised of the smash-mouth style which permeated Cleveland for the last two seasons. It will take a realization of balance – even if it’s a concession to the contrary – to take the pressure off of their second-year quarterback.  To the public, it looks like a battle of egos attempting to fit square pegs in round holes.  In Berea, it looks like things are starting to unravel at the seams and the walls are closing in around a rookie head coach who appears to be struggling with getting his players to buy in to his system.  Shurmur is out of bye weeks to help regroup and tinker.  Can he get these guys back on track while grooming and supporting his quarterback? It sure seems like he bit off a bit more than he can chew.  Let’s just hope Holmgren is behind him to provide the Heimlich if any choking ensues.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

  • Billy Thomas

    Pat is Crap
    Pat is an ass hat
    Pat suckmore

  • Ben

    Who are the 18%???

    What are they watching???

  • oribiasi

    And all those short-sighted fools who shot down the Brandon Lloyd trade, check out what St. Louis had to give up for him: A 6th that MIGHT be a 5th, tops! HOLY SMOKES. We definitely need the hold onto those picks like Shurmur clutches that stupid play sheet that I doubt he can even read.

  • Harv 21

    if Rick does his weekly diagramming I would love to see what happened on a slant play intended for Little. No replay so I couldn’t see all it, but puzzling.

    The rush was coming hard (blitz?), Little is split wide left and runs a quick slant so many teams use successfully there, 2 or 3 steps, quick throw and beat the defender for 6 yards, and if he misses you’re upfield. But the safety jumped it and was closing on Little on a quick slant – why? (corner and safety were so close that they almost collided, and if Little got it he was gone upfield). Did Little round off pattern? Why was the safety bunched up so close to him, and who was uncovered? Bad read by McCoy? Unexploited mistake by the defense? Slaughter and Kosar regularly beat blitzes with this pattern, Braylon also was effective with it. Love to know what happened since it looked like a good play call.

  • It comes down to one thing and one thing only. PERSONNEL! They don’t have anybody. They didn’t have anybody last year or the year before. AND we KNEW this.

    But the brain trust decides to stand pat in the off-season.

    But hey, at least, we have progressed on defensive to defiantly middle of the road!

    I can smell 7-9 in two or three more seasons!

  • Vengeful Pat

    For the offense, I think I would put the issues in this order:

    1: Colt McCoy has been inaccurate, plain and simple. He’s not at the level yet where he can guide his team to victories against defenses that aren’t labeled “prevent”. Also, he’s not mixing up cadence or snap count and defenses are getting great jumps.
    2: Offensive line is not getting a good push on running plays and although they are improving against the pass rush, are making a lot of mental mistakes… doubling one player while leaving another free, penalties, etc.
    3: Drops. Not so much the receivers, but moreso Hardesty. He has what 6 in the last two games?
    4: Receiver quality. I agree, there is no #1 receiver and Greg Little isn’t that guy… he does not have the hands of an elite receiver. But, I think everyone believes that they’re having a hard time getting open… I don’t think that is the case. I think the problem is Colt McCoy not finding them at the right time with catchable passes.

  • Jack

    I would very readily give three first rounders and two second rounders for Andrew Luck per King’s SI article.

    That’s what we need.

  • Hetz

    I don’t think anyone expected the Browns to do better than third in the division this year, but I think we did rightfully expect the establishment of some stability and professionalism on the way to better days.

    Fair or not, Shurmur is getting the reputation as an unimaginative playcaller who parcels the ball out based on an immutable game plan and on petty vindictveness towards his most talented players.

    As an ex-pat Clevelander, I dont get to see the games, but these “controversy” developments are becoming alarming. If there was one thing the Browns did not need this year, it was unecessary drama. Yet here we are again.

  • Josh Stein

    @#2 – they’re Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens fans.

  • ben

    I think we should start Brady Quinn. He’s better looking.

  • oribiasi

    Yes Jack, yes yes yes. Sell the farm for that kid, lordy, what difference would it make? If McCoy can’t get it done, then run his aww-shucks @$$ out of town and bring Luck to the table.

    Trouble is, he will be Manning’s student next year and learn from an amazing QB in Indianapolis and then they will be good for the nex 300 years.

  • Tom

    Shurmur should not be calling plays, he should be preparing the team to play. After a bye week, they were no prepared, nor were the plays called anything but poorly thought up. The guy needs to decide if he wants to be a head coach or an offensive coordinator, I don’t need some idiot who clearly can’t do both (I’m not sure if he can do either) trying to. When is Mangini coming back? I’m already over Holmgren and his idiotic must-pass ideals.

  • Lyon

    Question about the hot reads/audibles. Why aren’t there any made when the D is clearly blitzing?

    Is Colt not seeing this, or does Shurmur not allow him to change the play/check to hot read?

    If I remember correctly, Colt was making changes @ the line last year & it seemed to work out. This year, we never change the play & seem to run Play Action even if the D is bringing the house.

    Of course, I probably won’t get a real answer since the “Browns reporters” we have never ask real questions.

  • mgbode

    @oribiasi – i am holding firm on not trading for lloyd until I see what contract StL gives him. if he goes free, then it was a waste. if they overpay him, then it was stupid. let’s wait and see, okay?

    @jack – no way. i think some team comes in and gives whoever gets the #1 overall that bounty. it is an overpayment and we would be wiser sitting still and either drafting whatever QB falls to us (if we think they are good) and using our other 1st rounder on one of the WR or LBers in this class.

  • mgbode

    @Scott – at least Ohio football fans can also watch the Buckeyes and their masterfal offensive execution 🙂

  • oribiasi

    @ mgbode: A waste of what, precisely? A 6th round pick? We both know he will never receive enough passes from Colt to make the pick a 5th rounder. And, do you really believe the Browns would overpay for Brandon Lloyd when they won’t even re-sign Hillis, their ONLY offensive “weapon” from 2010?

    Also, let’s look back at our previous 6th round picks:

    2011: No one (we traded the pick to Minnesota)
    2010: Clifton Geathers, Carlton Mitchell.
    2009: Don Carey, Coye Francis, James Davis.

    Any of those names jump of the page for you?

  • mgbode

    wow, so we’re going to “won’t re-sign Hillis”. thought those were reserved for the Indians and Dolan 🙂 (we don’t know what Hillis is asking, until we do, it’s hard to pick a side for me)

    well, if we give away a pick and he walks in FA, then it could potentially be the next Rubin. yes, Heckert hasn’t hit on a 6th rounder yet, but you have to admit that he’s hit pretty darn well in the draft and I’d like him to have those bullets in the gun to move up if there’s a guy he wants earlier too.

    also, if we end up overpaying Lloyd, then what was the point of trading for him? i can still see negatives coming out of it (guess that’s the real clevelander in me coming through)

  • oribiasi

    @ mgbode: When it rains, it pours in CLE. I can never forgive the Indians for certain players not being here (ahem, two Cy Young winners, Victor Martinez, etc., etc.) so don’t get me started. And self-respecting Indians fan should feel the same way.

    True, we don’t know what Hillis is asking for/what we’re offering. I would bet the farm that Hillis isn’t asking for the moon and the Browns aren’t offering much more than the 3000 block of East 118th Street.

    If the Chris Gocong contract means anything, and by God it really does, then they are willing to spend serious money on not so serious talent. I would like to know how you feel about that deal, actually. $16.8M for three years. It makes me sick; is he a decent, manageable linebacker? Sure; is worth that kind of money and is he a priority when you have Hillis unsigned? Do I need to answer that?

    Heckert has done well drafting, sure, but I really disagree if you don’t think Lloyd is worth a Carlton Mitchell-esque pick. He will be 30 and his agent will know it; how could he ask for much? And if he does, then nothing ventured/nothing lost. We don’t have a sixth round pick. Big deal.

    Its pathetic.

  • mgbode

    I think the Gocong deal shows the Browns FO is willing to spend money (and I hate that contract). Along with re-signing Cribbs, Joe Thomas, etc. The Browns FO has “proven” they are willing to negotiate and get deals done.

    Hillis hasn’t leaked what he wants to the press and has changed agents 3X. If I was to guess who is taking the hard line in these negotiations, then I would guess Hillis. I could be wrong, but the FO’s recent past shows they are willing to pay.

    And, never forgiving the Indians for losing 2 players they had no chance at re-signing is not healthy. For awhile, sure be upset that we can’t compete in that financial stratosphere, but, at some point, it needs to be released. I was most upset over losing Victor because I thought we could get him to re-sign for a discount. Of course, I am not upset anymore because I value having Masterson more than a Victor’s bat + the other portions of that deal.

  • Ike

    A few points:

    1. There’s a lot I’m frustrated with regarding the Browns as well. But at the end of the day, given the lockout/coaching change/new system, did you really expect them to be much better than 2-3 at this point? Not that this absolves the Browns at all, I’m just sayin.

    2. It would be one thing if we were awful on offense all the time. The one thing that ticks me off is when you see a drive like McCoy had to make it 7-7 yesterday. And you can tell that’s how it should be. Then, just like that, the offense goes back to complete ineptness for the rest of the game. It’s such a tease.

    3. Referencing that GW drive versus Miami, it’s seems clear that McCoy is at his best in a hurry-up, no huddle offense. Would it be too much to mix in a random no-huddle drive here and there? I really think it would help him relax a bit.

  • Dee P

    QB, QB, QB…nothing else matters in today’s game.

  • I think colt McCoy is capable of being a proven winner.I don’t think the protection is what he needs. Too many plays to the middle, very few down and outs. Absolutely no back-up to Hayden. Hillis showed some great runs, but no durability, just a few games he played. He was at his best until defenses figured him out.

  • B-bo

    @oribiasi @mgbode actually, Craig did a nice job of briefly revealing the true numbers behind the Gocong deal here:

    No contract in the NFL is actually for its face value. Is it still too much for Gocong? Perhaps. But it really isn’t outrageous as it may seem initially.

  • 216in614

    I can’t believe the negativity surrounding this team right now.

    Although they can’t come out and say this those in charge seem to care more about winning in the future as compared to winning now.

    It is way too early to bail on the new coach or McCoy.

    Before the preseason started the way the browns looked Sunday is exactly how I expected them to look. Because of the new systems and missed off-season the Browms aren’t hitting the 5th week stride like all the other teams.

    Give it time. Look at how well Heckert has drafted. McCoy has shown flashes but he has the worst set of tools around in the league besides Mack and Thomas.

  • khdenn


    I disagree somewhat. If ALL you do is switch McCoy with a legit NFL QB (Brees, PManning, Rodgers, Brady, etc…) this team WITH the personnel they already have would be a 10 win team.

    I believe that hands down. The personnel doesn’t make the QB, the QB makes the personnel. If the opposite were true, the Colts would not be 0-fer right now.

  • mgbode

    @B-bo – yes, I do remember Craig’s write-up now. Thanks for the reminder (and Craig for writing it). still too much for him IMO, but still.