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)