Time For Some Browns Fan and Media Self-Reflection

I am left wondering a great many things after the Browns game yesterday.  But I’m thinking maybe I don’t have as much wonderment about the Browns as about some of the fans and critics in the media.  I don’t know what a lot of them were expecting from this team going into San Francisco as ten point underdogs.  More importantly, I can’t figure out what anyone gets out of sarcastically ripping the team for four straight hours without so much as a hint of constructive criticism.  Just because you can type bad punchlines about a struggling team for an entire game, doesn’t make you any more right about the progress (or lack thereof) of the team.  It certainly doesn’t add anything of value to the universe either.  I can honestly stand a banged up, under-performing, developmental team more than I can stand some of the people who critique them anymore.

I am not defending the Browns play or them losing.  This is not a “In Holmgren We Trust” diatribe.  I have plenty of critiques of my own for Pat Shurmur, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren.  They made their (increasingly uncomfortable) beds with regard to wide receiver and right tackle.  At the same time, to sit there and read them the riot act about an offense not producing consistently after being down to a single running back, that wasn’t even on the roster more than two weeks ago is positively goofy.  Remember Brandon Jackson and Peyton Hillis?  They were supposed to be available to play this season as your starters.  Montario Hardesty went down in the first quarter with a calf injury and he was an unknown prospect coming into the year.  The Browns weren’t trying to be this thin at running back and everyone should know it.

When facts are dressed up as excuses for Halloween are they not still facts?

I’m not making excuses for Colt McCoy.  He isn’t playing nearly as well as I was hoping he would by this point in time.  He takes sacks and doesn’t seem to have the kind of accuracy I would like him to have on shorter routes.  The ways he magically extended plays with his feet tossing shovel passes and generally improvising a year ago appears to be lost in the details of learning this new offense.  Then again, he leaned on Peyton Hillis hard last season and even in week one this year when the Browns’ offense was looking at least marginally better.  Remember?  Hillis didn’t have an amazing game against Cincy to open the season, but Colt McCoy completed 6 passes to him.  You think maybe that helped open up the 34-yard TD pass to a streaking Ben Watson?

I am watching and trying to figure out if Colt McCoy can get better, but it seems like everyone around me would rather draw conclusions right away.  You remember the California tests, Ohio proficiency tests or whatever standardized tests we had to take in school as kids?   It seems as thought a lot of people around me think there are bonus points for finishing the exam faster.  This is like in geometry.  You don’t get credit for the proof without showing how you arrived at it.  Seven games into a season doesn’t show conclusive proof.

And Pat Shurmur?  He seems to be having a tough time calling plays and managing the game at the same time.  I am leery of the speed the Browns offense operates.  I am suspicious of why it always seems like opposing defenses know the snap counts.  That being said, I don’t think he called the worst game ever.  Sure, not going for it on 4th and 2 from near the 49ers 40 was the wrong decision.  Also, when you need ten points to tie the game, you should probably kick the field goal first and then try and get an onside kick.  Even with those critiques, I scratch my head at those of you who just continue to hammer away at the gameplan and playcalling ad nauseum.  The team was down to its last active running back while trying to work in replacement guys like Jordan Norwood as the team continually put the ball on the ground.

I’m not sure what gameplan Shurmur has to draw up that would entail not fumbling the ball.  I’m pretty positive the fumbles weren’t designed by Shurmur.  I’m pretty sure the turnstile routine that Tony Pashos executed on the second play wasn’t designed either.  Tony Pashos is still pretty banged up with his ankle, but who didn’t see that one coming.  That’s on Tom Heckert.  (See?  Constructive criticism of Tom Heckert.)  Shurmur deserves some criticism to be sure, but how about looking at the whole picture?

This is something that the Mangini supporters should be feeling right about now.  Even if you think Holmgren and Heckert made the wrong choice firing Eric Mangini, you know how Mangini was treated by media and fans as he had the unenviable task of remaking the Browns’ roster and culture.  Remember when he got off to the 1-11 start with only a win over Buffalo 6-3?  That miserable season was probably one of the most impatient seasons I’ve ever seen from Browns fans.  Remember how the perspective changed drastically in the last four weeks as the team fought to win five games including one against the Steelers?  Mangini was far from perfect, but he was shown a lack of trust and a lack of patience that was so severe that it was almost criminal.  Just make sure you self-satisfy that desire to make everyone painfully aware how long Browns fans have been waiting for this thing to get turned around, right?  I am sure I was a part of that problem at times, but I am willing to learn from my mistakes.  How about you?

The point is that you can’t continually lump a decade’s worth of misdeeds on the next crew of people who want to clean up the mess.  Remember that last part.  They want to clean up the mess.  They have no incentive to want to do anything other than that.  If you want to dump a decade’s worth of pressure on them, I guess you can, but you shouldn’t because it is self-destructive and wholly unproductive.  That doesn’t mean that you have to make excuses for the team or forgive them for losing or not competing.  I know it is a subtle point.  This is the NFL and there are no excuses for not competing and not winning.  Still, to show a lack of constructive analysis and constantly trapse through the mud and muck on a constant basis is worse than any set of excuses I can think of.

That lack of constructiveness ends up coming across as rooting against the team and makes me wish some Browns fans would just become fair-weather fans.  Building an NFL team is a process regardless of who is executing the plan.  After seven games, a 3-4 record and watching a painful offense we know just how much work they have to do.  We can help them with patience and constructive criticism as the Browns continue to prove who they are and what they want to be.

This season could be long with five more divisional games including two against the Steelers and two against the Ravens.  Three out of the last four are on the road too, remember.  What else are you going to do though?  You know Pat Shurmur is getting at least one more year, if not two more, so even if you don’t get on board, is it too much to ask that you don’t try and derail the train?

(Mangini photo / Tracy Boulian / The Plain Dealer)

  • Voodoora

    Can of worms officially opened…

    I’m in my fourth decade of Browns fanship, and I have no doubt that many of you are more knowledgeable about football technicalities than I am.

    However, I do know a fair amount about business and large organizations and what it takes to move them forward. Whoever made the comment about last drinks on the Titanic, don’t forget how they got into that mess in the first place: they couldn’t turn that giant ship fast enough to avoid the iceberg that opened the ship’s hull.

    The only thing that could have prevented that, metaphorically speaking, was more foresight and planning. Let’s assume the Titanic crew had foresight and planning. They would have started turning the ship, making small corrections along the way, long before they would have been clear of the iceberg. Meanwhile, no one on the ship would have felt a thing. However, without that foresight and planning, they had no choice but to make a desperate maneuver, which sent the ship listing to the passengers dismay and they crashed anyway.

    Most of you probably put this all together now, but just to be explicit: the Browns are the Titanic in this metaphor and we, the fans, are the passengers. Now, whether you agree with Craig or not, take this one thing from his post: it doesn’t matter whether you believe the iceberg is keeping Shurmur or firing Shurmur (he thinks the iceberg is firing Shurmur), his post is about careful analysis, forethought and planning. Too many people advocate the listing ship approach and, I believe, that is what he’s railing against.

  • pepe

    Who gives a crap about constructive criticism. You think Holmgren is checking out WFNY for ideas on how to improve the team? He doesn’t care what you or I think.

    We are football fanatics. And if I can’t go crazy and yell about how great they are, then I’ll go crazy and yell about how much they suck. This is not a TED conference. It’s a football blog. Get over yourself, Craig.

  • Billy Thomas

    Please just stop talking about the Browns and stop going to these games. Don’t support this bad product anymore. Find something better to do on Sundays. PS Pat is a Clown.

  • oribiasi

    @ Voodoora: I think Shurmur’s “regime” is the iceburg and we have hit it straight on for 7 games. How much longer do we hit our good ship the Browns until we realize he was just a mistake?

    The one good thing I can say about some of the posters here is that you are eternal optimists. Its touching; I think its also misguided, but it is a stark change from almost everyone near me at the bar on Sunday watching the game.

    How some of you can be positive after seeing this magnificent disaster of a team is beyond me, but kudos to you.

    I want success; I hope that the optimists here also want success. I want it sooner than they do and when I see teams like the Bengals turn it around when everyone thought they’d suck, I ask myself, “Why not us, too?” And then I hear Shurmur say “we only need to score 4 points…” and I know the answer why.

  • Voodoora

    @oribiasi – I agree with you on this: I want success. I don’t want to wait any longer than necessary. Where I think we may disagree is on how long it takes to establish success. Part of that for me is that I don’t want just a successful game or just a successful season, I want a successful franchise. Something sustainable.

    What I’d like to be clear about is that I believe you may be totally right about Shurmur, I just believe it’s too early for me to tell. I’m also not afraid to say that I think it was too early to jump ship on Mangini. Daboll yes, Mangini no.

  • B-bo

    @77 I believe that here we find some common ground, you and I. In terms of the type of coach we ought to have pursued post-Mangini, I would have much preferred someone with more pedigree and experience as a head coach, especially given the tumultuous circumstances you mentioned regarding personnel, the lockout, etc. Some veteran leadership with a proven track record could have been beneficial in navigating uncertainty. Our first problem, however, is who out there at the time fit the bill? Bill Cowher, much as we would have loved to have, is/was not coming here, as he made clear pre-Mangini. Jon Gruden? He had offers thrown his way, and he chose to remain in television. Wade Phillips was still in Dallas. Rob Ryan? I don’t think I’d consider him in that vet class just yet. Dick Jauron as HC? He’s clearly shown he’s more comfortable at DC. Proven, experienced NFL guys were in short supply. So Holmgren turned to a younger, less seasoned guy in Pat Shurmur. I have no doubt their pre-existing personal connection via Fritz aided Pat’s cause as far as getting his foot in the door, and maybe the agent connection with Holmgren helped, too. But who were the other young turks out there? Harbaugh (SF version) wasn’t leaving Stanford back then. Pete Carroll? No, thanks. The picking were slim here, as well. Regardless, I think I understand where Holmgren went with that choice. He looked at teams like the Ravens and Steelers and Jets, where younger guys with systems in mind had established themselves with the aid of strong, stable front offices. Heckert and Holmgren knew what it took to succeed in the style of play Shurmur was bringing to the table, so the personnel issue would/should be easier to address. Shurmur, once established, could very well be like Mike McCarthy in Green Bay (heavily criticized early on, by the way), there to guide the team for years after. This was big picture thinking, about not only the coaching staff, but the organization as a whole. Establish a long-sought-after identity and stable leadership, putting the team in position to compete for years, not just a surprise season or two. Holmgren has said he’d like to walk away one day having made this franchise a true competitor, and I see no reason to doubt his sincerity.

    Were mistakes made? Yes indeed. Shurmur needed an OC. Now, was one available that would be committed to the WC system? If so, were they interested in coming here? We don’t know. But why not let Shurmur try to wear both hats? What’s the harm in year one? Maybe he needed to be humbled by trying both and seeing just how hard it really is. Maybe he was the best choice, given his knowledge of the system itself. The struggles were almost inevitable given all the disruption involved, and the talent level of the existing squad hardly screamed contender, so what are a few growing pains while we sort it all out? I don’t see that as lazy or devious or incompetent on the part of our front office. I believe they felt that they were starting from scratch on everything short of the stadium and uniforms, and realized it wouldn’t all be fixed in one (partial) offseason. I believe they felt the fans would understand all of this, and many do. But I don’t know that Holmgren ever anticipated just how crazy it could get in BrownsTown, or just how badly people want a winner right now. He’s learned.

    I would have loved to be in the room for the meetings with prospective coaches, Oribiasi. But the fact is that I know that I am not qualified to be, and I don’t think many of us would claim to be either. I am placing my faith in the new regime to do this the way it should have been done a decade ago, and to establish a consistent competitor that we can all be proud of, not just a one or two year bandwagon that will collapse in a flash (hello, Dolphins). I do that at my own risk, knowing full well it might not work out. But I do it because I am a fan, becuase I think we have competent folks running the show, and because I know that it’s possible thanks to franchises like the Pats, Ravens (ugh) and Steelers (double ugh). But it demands patience.

  • Eric D

    Don’t confuse optimism with being content about the way the team is playing. And don’t confuse patience with complacency. I would prefer this team to be successful this season, but that is not in the cards, and we need progress. I was just as mad as anybody else yesterday, but Saying we need to trade all our picks for Luck and fire Shurmur and bring in Gruden, or Cowher, or Ditka or Vince Lombardi or whoever isn’t going to make this team any better. It also isn’t going to make it any worse.
    I guess my point is, I’m getting too old to be breaking my foot kicking parking meters after games anymore (Baltimore 2006, Court St., Athens, OH) I watch the game, get disappointed like everybody. But I am seeing rays of hope, our signs of life, or whatever you want to call them from this team and these players. Colt included. So I’m going to choose to focus on that and hope that they do get better. Maybe that makes me an idiot, but I don’t see enough reasons to give up Colt or Pat after 15 and 7 games, with all the things they have had going against them.
    And if Lerner mangled the Mangini/Kokinis hiring, or screwed up with Romeo and Savage, or Holmgren boned over Mangini (I’m with Ammo and Frowns on this. He did, it was part of Holmgren’s plan, but I really truly don’t care. Mangini made his bed in 09) That’s in the past. We have who we have now, and I would like to see this group succeed. And for everybody who is impatient with not winning, the fastest way to get a winner is for this group to do it.
    Go Browns

  • eldaveablo

    It could be way worse, we could be Broncos fans.

  • Matt


  • Foghorn Leghorn

    As much as Im down and out on this team right now, I see the turnaround of the last 2 years in the defense and I think I have to give these guys at least 2 more years for the offense. I dont really understand Shurmur at times or Colt’s decision making, but there really are no offensive weapons on this team and the O-line, the one part of the offense that can make bad RBs look good, or give young QBs more time to throw and young WRs more time to get open, is injury-plagued and playing poorly. Put it all together, the offense is a recipe for disaster no matter who coaches, QBs, runs the ball.

    Draft the offense. Get them better playmakers and a better line. Then lets judge. In the meantime, we can complain (we have every right), but dont give up on the whole system just yet.

    Last point, when we avg. the worst yards per play in the NFL, you have to run 5-10 more plays a possession to score. 5-10 more plays open up so many more opportunities for criticism (think failed 3rd downs, etc). I think since we cant sustain long drives (due to lack of talent) we should be going for a few more homerun plays then we do. That would be my instant fix…probably wont work, but it would at least be more exciting and couldnt yield a worse result. This is about as bad as an offense in the NFL can perform.

  • chris

    Idiotry. Oribiasi. Idiotry.

  • Remember Dreamy Brady Quinn? lol

  • Big Z

    @ Wacman

    The numbers are lying to you man, you have to watch the play on the field.

    How often did Colt fumble 4 times in one game, throw INT’s into double coverage (3 straight games now), throw inaccurate passes, not audible out of ridiculously-called plays, not get the ball out or throw it away quickly enough, not recognize coverage schemes, or eat unnecessary sacks last year? Yeah, it’s not in the stats.

  • oribiasi

    @ chris: Haha, thanks for that, I needed a laugh.

  • oribiasi

    @ B-bo: A thoughtful, well-written statement and I respect you more for it. I agree with almost everything you said. The only bone of contention I have is with this sentence:

    He looked at teams like the Ravens and Steelers and Jets, where younger guys with systems in mind had established themselves with the aid of strong, stable front offices.

    The reason that Tomlin walked into that job and won was because he had a solid, franchise QB who knows how to win. In that case, the coach doesn’t matter as much as the players. This can happen; Tom Brady doesn’t need to be coach, he needs to be unleashed. You can’t coach what Vick can do, etc.

    But these are outliers; in the rest of the NFL, you need competent, smart and with-it coaches. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it with Shurmur and unless a miracle happens in two years (ugh, the thought of more from him makes me ill) I never will see it. So, we will have wasted two more years (maybe more) on another coach that isn’t cut to be a head coach.

    I would have offered Gruden the sun/moon/stars to come here, and if he rejected it, which is hard to imagine coming from Holmgren, I would move on down the list of experienced coaches. Maybe even ask Dungy to come out of retirement? Who knows.

    I do know that there are two consistencies among NFL champions, and those are an amazing QB and a solid, tricky coach who utilizes his talent, goes after appropriate free agents and rarely, if ever, gets outsmarted by his competition.

    I don’t think McCoy can ever be on the same level as Brees, etc., and I really don’t think Shurmur, who has been outsmarted a number of times already, can hold a candle to Super Bowl winning coaches.

    So, yeah, I do agree with you, it takes patience and I really hope that Holmgren is sincere. Time will tell. Let’s hope it tells a story of the Browns coming back from the brink and forming a championship team before we colonize Pluto.

  • It’s the unfortunate nature of our instant gratification, instant analysis world right now, people feel they MUST make definitive statements as soon as possible (think Tim Tebow).

    Someone had a good game? They are the greatest and must be the starter. Bad game? Run them out of town now, they are obviously the worst ever.

    This team is still cleaning up after Phil Savage, who was cleaning up after Butch Davis, who was cleaning up after Dwight Clark. It feels like it will never end, but you can’t hold the current regime responsible for those mistakes.

  • jimkanicki

    @pepe102. post of the decade. i want to buy you a beer.

    the most baller comment on WFNY in months:
    Who gives a crap about constructive criticism. You think Holmgren is checking out WFNY for ideas on how to improve the team?

  • christopher

    This is truly the most venom I have ever seen on WFNY….ever.

    It got so bad even Denny came out of the woodwork to try to throw ice on the fire.

    And to answer your questions Denny, yes. Yes I remember how dreamy Brady is, er….I mean was.

  • B-bo

    Brady Quinn never stopped being dreamy, christopher. He’s just harder to see behind the glow that emanates from Tim Tebow.

  • JM

    OK WFNY. You win. I promise to be a good fan and not complain about the garbage we’ve seen since all year. Sorry guys after 11 years, it’s hard not to be aggravated.

  • TikiHat

    @ oribiasi: Our FO did not just decide that our WRs were good enough. They decided that of all the glaring holes in our roster, they were a lower priority than many other areas. Even so, they trimmed Stuckey and added Little. Before the draft our under-contact starting D-Line was Nobody, Nobody, Rubin and Nobody. That pretty clearly was Priority 1. They did a pretty good job addressing that priority. Another glaring need was getting TJ and Joe some help at DB. They also decided that extending Joe Thomas and Alex Mack was more important than signing an expensive Free Agent to a stopgap contract. Having either of them end up in, say, Black and Gold next season because we had wasted our money on a wideout would be one of the greatest mistakes in Browns History. Would you rather we start Shaefering or Benard than have Taylor and Sheard in order to get a rookie wideout? Do you consider either Thomas or Mack expendable? Do you want to see Hillis walk away because the cookie jar is empty?

    The Browns had to make some tough choices. They will have to make some more next season as well. We need at least one OLB who can contain the run. We desperately need major OL help. RB looks a lot shakier than it did last offseason. We need a better option than Mohammed Massequoi as our Number One Receiver. Phil Dawson ain’t going to kick forever. Who knows what we’ll have at punter.

    I’m betting that we won’t find permanent solution to all those areas next year, either. We will be closer. Then people will say “How did the Browns turn it around so fast?” The answer will, of course, be that we didn’t turn around overnight. It just took a little time for the changes to add up before people noticed.