What Kind of Identity are the Browns Building?

Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz block for Brandon Weeden
Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz block for Brandon Weeden

I recently read a piece from Mike Tanier on the new Sports on Earth website that broke down the NFL title contenders into 4 different approaches to winning or team identities essentially. Recommended reading.

There were 22 teams listed in the piece, divided into the four categories. The categories, according to Tanier are “Wind up the Franchise Quarterback and Watch Him Go”, “Strong and Sturdy Everywhere Wins the Race”, “Ground, Pound and Rarely Throw it Around” and “Big-Play/Big-Mistake Roulette”.

The Browns were not one of the 22 contenders listed. in case you were wondering.

Here’s what the article got me thinking about- what kind of team are the Browns building?

Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren now have three drafts in the books for the Browns. Looking at those drafts, it should be safe to say that the Browns want to establish a pass rush. They want to be a team that gets after the opposing quarterback. They have drafted four defensive linemen in the last two years, including first, second and third round selections. They have also drafted heavy on defensive backs, grabbing six total.

But what about offensively, what kind of identity are they trying to create?

They run a west coast offense, which would traditionally mean an accurate QB and a do everything type of running back. Have they found those players in Weeden and Richardson? Obviously time will be the final judge of that.

But with Weeden’s ability to throw the ball deep, and the addition of fast receivers like Travis Benjamin and to some degree even Josh Gordon, you have to wonder if the identity of the offense doesn’t become a little less west coast, and a little more vertical passing.

Is it important that the team have an identity at all?

Well, yes. But not so that the team can fit into some nice category, or be labeled easily. These teams have earned their identity because they are really good at something. If Brandon Weeden turns into a top tier QB, we would all gladly accept that as an identity. Those teams tend to win. If they become an elite defensive team with a sturdy running game, I’m sure we’d all accept that as well. From Tanier’s article about the strong and sturdy teams-

“The best teams in this category have very good quarterbacks, but not the kind who can complete 70 percent of their passes over four seasons or throw four interceptions in 500 attempts. Category 2 teams are hard to build, but it may be harder to acquire and develop a Category 1 quarterback than the dozens of capable players needed to be strong across the roster.”

Let’s face it, anything is better than the identity the Browns currently have.

Which player would you say has been the face of the Browns the last 10 years? It would have to be Josh Cribbs or Phil Dawson wouldn’t it? And what kind of identity is that? We return kick-offs often! Our place kicker is our best weapon!

Here’s hoping Richardson, Weeden or even Gordon can become that face.

  • I am forever an advocate of the Browns going the route of defense-first, supported by a power running game and possession passing game. Unfortunately, much of the league has moved to a video game, high-flying pass attack and bend-don’t-break defenses. I still believe the former is an approach that can beat anyone on any given week, but it’s certainly not “sexy” in the age of the latter.

  • Harv 21

    I totally agreed with that for a long time, especially considering that the last crucial games of the season in this division are played in inclement weather, but the NFL rule changes altered my position some. Don’t think it’s a matter of what’s sexy; the defensive players are just as good, but the wideouts are bigger and the rules prevent jamming on the line and bumping them off routes and down the field, illegal chop blocking on the LOS is enforced and eliminating high hits on the QB has lessened the fear factor. The elite defenses can’t seem to warp the game now, like the Bears of the 80s and the Ravens of 10 years ago. All teams (well, almost all, cough) will score, so you better be able to put TDs up there too.

    But I agree: we do need to run the ball over people in the December muck. And we sure need defenders hitting hard enough to stop the run in those same conditions and strong enough to bring down Roethlisberger when they get to him.

  • mgbode

    honestly, i’ll settle for any identity different than the one from the last 13 years

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The comment about Weeden having a strong arm and WRs to go deep got me to thinking about something. Just how many times did we see this combination go deep in the preseason? Honestly I can maybe recall one time and that’s a stretch.

    As far as drafting defensive lineman in order to create a pass rush if this is the case where has it been?

  • dan

    I don’t think it’s obviously the team wants to get after the quartback. I think they’re putting together a bend-don’t-break defense. Sheard is the only pass rusher drafted in three years. Now, there are enough holes that maybe they just haven’t got around to putting together the Giants’ defensive line, but based on the selections of Haden and Taylor, it looks more like bend-don’t-break than kill-the-QB to me. Not that there would be anything wrong with that strategy, if I thought they had drafted or signed the talent and depth to pull it off.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    You just summed up why Roethlisberger is the perfect QB for this era. He’s huge and the rules against hitting the QB high or low prevent teams from using the type of hits required to bring such a big human being to the ground. In a previous era, defenses would just beat up a guy like him with high spearing shots.

    WIth today’s rules, defenses are required to wrap QBs up around the waist…good luck with that on a Ben Roethlisberger or an Andrew Luck.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I want the team to have an offense-first identity.

    With today’s rules that favor the offense so heavily, there’s no point to having a defense-first approach. It’s worked for the Ravens for the last decade, but they are the exception.

    Ideally, I’d like the browns to go 4-wide most of the game with a moderately fast no-huddle approach to the offense that keeps defenses from switching personnel. Also, in my opinion, running backs are nearly irrelevant, and their success rarely leads to team success. MJD and AP are great, but their teams are in the basement. Give me 3 Brandon Jacksons that can block a blitz and catch out of the backfield any day.

    Finally, to complete this pass-first offensive identity, the browns need to go after the next Larry Fitzgerald or Megatron type wide receiver. They don’t come around very often, but if the Browns have figured out QB for the next few years, trade up to land the dominant #1 receiver that requires a double team.

  • Hopwin

    Is Spastic-Monkey an identity? Cause I can totally see us continuing the Spastic-Monkey tradition on the lake.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    You didnt mention anything about a coach. I think your teams identity starts with the HC. The coach is going to try to bring guys in that fit his identity but sometimes a team will take on a coaches personality and run with it. San Fran for example. They were a mess. They bring in Harbabaugh and take on the hard nosed midwest attitude with a great defense and a solid running game to go with a manageable QB.
    That can be a negative thing as well. Look at Rex Ryan in NY. Loud, outspoken, runs his mouth. His team has taken on that identity and basically become a dumpster fire. We need Pat Shurmur to take the reigns and lead us somewhere.

  • mgbode

    what about the first 2 years with Rex? they were considered brash confident guys who could take on anybody (2 straight AFC Champ games)

    the “identity” honestly is mostly a media-fan creation based on hindsight.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    I agree on the brash confident aura he built but at the same time I couldnt help but think he was another Jerry Glanville that would wear on people and his team.

  • Oso Johnson

    “what kind of identity are they trying to create?”
    I don’t know if they are trying, but the identity they are creating is the Unimaginative, Lackluster Offense with a Porous Line. They achieve this by making conventional wisdom draft picks and steadfastly refusing to spend money on free agents. Another key feature is to create a ‘controversey’ with whatever offensive player shows some talent or heart and and run him out of town. In this effort they are ably and doggedly abetted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  • jpftribe

    LOL. Very good. But you forgot: Best Pass Defense (no one throws against us cuz we can’t stop the run) and Our Two Best Skills Players are on Special Teams (Cribbs and Dawson).