Cleveland Browns Film Room: Third Down Controversy

I’m sure some of you are already tired of this and think it is being beaten to death, but I just read on Twitter that Pat Shurmur is still defending the play saying Jordan Norwood was open in the first read. Anyway, I won’t tell you where I stand on it anymore, but it is worth going through the pictures to discuss the progression.

First up is the third and one where Trent Richardson got stuffed and the Browns settled for a field goal. As you can see, the Browns telegraphed what they were doing and just put their best effort against the Giants’ best effort. There are eight men in the box and one man toward the top of the screen who seems to be waiting to see what the TE is going to do. So that’s like 8.5 men in the box.

This next screen grab was the third and eight play that turned into a huge gain for Weeden and Ogbonnaya. 38 yards.

And now the third and one that has Shurmur fighting with the media and fans going crazy on sports talk radio. The Browns line up with Ogbonnaya in the backfield in the third different look on third down with Weeden under center. That makes the QB sneak a possibility, albeit an unlikely one. It makes the handoff a possibility. The pass is always a possibility because the Browns have three wide with Ogbonnaya and TE Ben Watson.

In Shurmur’s presser, he was saying that Jordan Norwood was open on the first read. The screen grab below pretty much proves that, but Weeden didn’t pull the trigger on it.

Weeden re-directed traffic and Josh Gordon cut back inside on a scramble play. He was open with inside position on the defender. By that time Weeden had a man closing in on him and threw the stinker we all remember.

So anyway, we don’t have to fight about it anymore. I am obviously not going to change anyone’s mind, and I can’t argue with the thought of having Trent Richardson on the field pretty much ever (maybe even including defense.) At least all the evidence is in front of us now.

  • Philbert79

    I disagree that Norwood is open there. It looks like the WOLB is in the passing lane. The ball should have been thrown away.

  • Pat Shurmur

    This is what I’ll show to my players during today’s practice!… wait, they might actually learn from this. I can’t let that happen!

  • RyInCBus

    Sure the play call is on Shurmur but the execution is clearly on Weeden. This isn’t the first time his hesitation to pull the trigger has led to an INT. Remember the slant to Little on the goal line vs. the Eagles? These are the things that cost you games with a rookie QB. That said, I believe he still has what it takes. He’s got to learn to trust his reads better and be more decisive. This will come with time.

  • I don’t hate the decision to throw on 3rd and 1 near as much as I hate the fact that Richardson was not on the field. The idea of throwing on 3rd and 1 is to catch the defense off guard and surprise them. The moment Trent Richardson left the field, everyone knew a pass play was coming. Especially the Giants. That’s what I take issue with.

  • I can’t argue with that, really. I like Richardson too. I will say that Richardson had run on both of the two previous plays, and Ogbonnaya was coming off of a 38 yard pass reception on the previous third down, so it isn’t like he stunk his last time on the field.

  • porckchopexpress

    I am really amazed at how the most random things seem to become a referendum not just on the team but on the fan base as well. We seem to find these types of issues and use them as a proxy for all the other things we believe about this team, regime, etc.
    I understand that you can’t go wrong with giving the ball to T Rich, he was clipping something like 4+ yards a carry. Even if you weren’t going to hand it off I totally understand why you would want him on the field to at least make the defense account for him. That being said, the play that was called ended up with 2 different recievers open, and capable of catching a pass for a 1st down. Even if the defense knew this play was coming the players were still open so I just am having a hard time wrapping my head around why makes or breaks this as a good/bad call by the coach.
    In my opinion the 4th down call was 1000xs more indefensible. However the play worked so nobody seems as offended.
    I guess my point is that people seem to be using the success or failure of the play as the test as to whether it was a smart or dumb call by the coach, and ignoring that if the 3rd down play was executed correctly, and the 4th down play was not, we would probably be having the exact same conversation about the latter, and nobody would have an issue with the 3rd down play. I dunno I think everyone is just frustrated with the slow circling of the drain on yet another failed reboot

  • NW Ohio Brownie

    You are right, Craig. All the evidence is in front of us. Because I see 3 potential receivers within 5 yards of each other in the last screen shot. The personnel package was dumb, the play design and choice is garbage, and Weeden’s throw magnified how everything was doomed to fail from the start. Heck, Ogbonnaya’s not even a legit option for Weeden here so what was the point of putting him out there? For crying out loud, Pat, keep Trent in, play action the ball and let Weeden survey the entire field from the pocket.

    Our Miami Vice/Doogie Howser era version of the WCO, like our coach, lacks imagination.

  • NW Ohio Brownie

    But don’t you agree that he should be a receiving threat here then? Because he clearly is not, which makes the substitution out of TRich even more headscratching.

  • NW Ohio Brownie

    Which is exactly why you get the first down the surest way instead of calling a play that asks said rookie QB to fit the ball into a tight window on the sideline while on the roll out.

  • Dee P

    Yep. I agree. We saw tipped passes at the line of scrimmage all day. The LB is clearly reading Weeden and preparing to jump the short pass. It feels like Shurmur is throwing Weeden under the bus here in an attempt to save face. Not sure that’s how you deal with a rookie QB, even if you think he messed up. But I’d sure like to hear from Weeden, because I bet he will mention that LB sitting there in the lane like you mentioned and that caused the hesitation. Plus, the angle looks bad as well, and didn’t Weeden get burned on a pick-6 vs. Baltimore on a play similar? Looks he is trying to to learn from past mistakes and I’m not so sure we can call this a bad read because of those reasons.

  • Garry_Owen

    Stop. Please. If you inject too much sense into this conversation, how will we ever develop our microanalyzing skills? Quit trying to hold us back. Because, honestly, if you look at Weeden’s finger positioning with his grip on the ball, you’ll see that THIS is really why the play broke down. And that, my friend, is Shurmur’s fault.
    Also, you have to look closely, but you can actually see a reflection off the helmet of the Giants’ DB. It shows Shurmur actually choke-holding Richardson with one hand and reaching for zip ties with his other hand in order to keep him off the field. It’s a little shaky, but I think if you read his lips you’ll also see him saying something about “Jim Brown . . . your mom . . . LSU.”
    So . . .

  • mgbode

    then how will he ever learn? putting him in these situations is what coaches call “teaching moments” and there will be alot of those this season.

    Shurmur may very well have been planning on going for it on 4th down.

    all that being said, there didn’t appear to be a clear-cut 2nd read, which is on the play design. you’d hope that there’d be a safe outlet pass if the first read was covered and the NYG got pressure.

  • He was a threat inasmuch as he had to be accounted for. On this particular occasion though, he was a secondary receiver after blocking so Weeden could hit Norwood, his first option. Ogbonnaya didn’t do a great job getting into space when Weeden missed his first read.

  • “I guess my point is that people seem to be using the success or failure of the play as the test as to whether it was a smart or dumb call by the coach, and ignoring that if the 3rd down play was executed correctly, and the 4th down play was not, we would probably be having the exact same conversation about the latter, and nobody would have an issue with the 3rd down play.”

    To be fair, I was criticising the call before the ball was snapped. The moment I heard Richardson was coming off the field, I said “Well, this is obviously a pass. I hate this. It makes no sense to me taking Richardson off the field and tipping your hand that you’re going to pass here.” I don’t feel my criticism of the call is reacting to the outcome at all.

  • Agreed on the second read. I felt like Ogbonnaya didn’t aggressively get into space after the block like he was supposed to do. He seemed to hesitate when the first read broke down and ended up just taking up space without presenting an option for his QB. Josh Cribbs is still the best player on the team for bailing out the QB on broken plays, BTW.

  • Yeah, I’m not even saying Richardson should never be on the bench. On obvious 3rd down passing situations, using Ogbonnaya makes plenty of sense. I just didn’t like it in a 3rd and 1 deep in Giants’ territory. I just felt it was clearly showing our cards that we were going to throw, and I’d prefer using Richardson in play action or just as a decoy in terms of his mere presence in the backfield.

  • I disagree that he’s definitely in the passing lane. If Weeden throws it to lead Norwood, and makes a good throw, he’s throwing outside the numbers on the field, at least. At least that’s the way my eyes see it. An overhead shot would be much better. I’ll grab the coaches film when it becomes available.

  • How dare you question the imagination of Miami Vice! Crockett’s outfits? Laurence Fishburne as a drug-dealing prison guard? Bill Russell as a judge with a gambling problem? Liam Neeson trying to shoot down the freaking Concorde?!
    And Doogie Howser–he was just a KID, and he was already a DOCTOR! If that’s not imagination, then I don’t know what is, sir.

  • I really don’t have a problem with the play call, aside from the heavily mentioned substitution of Obbie for Richardson. But the platent throwing of your QB under the bus to divert the negativity from himself, proves that Shurmur just realized that he is in the middle seat of a firey bus crash, and his only recourse is to climb over people to get our alive. Which is a fancy way of saying, he wants to blame everyone else from now on, so he can get another job when he is fired in 2 weeks…

  • NW Ohio Brownie

    I am referencing Pat’s version of the WCO that’s stuck in the 80s, not the lack of imagination in those iconic 80s shows. But you have proven two things to me:
    1) You have a excellent sense of humor
    2) There is a secret stash of VCR cassette tapes of all the Miami Vice episodes somewhere in your house.

  • Thomas

    The only thing that bothers me about the play on third down is Norwood is the primary and still behind the first down so needs to catch the ball, turn and take a step. Can’t he just go a wee bit further on the route?

  • Dee P

    Craig you’re probably right…as many people know I tend to have orange colored glasses.

  • Shooter

    You’re absolutely right, however criticism of this play isn’t random. This play is a perfect example of why the Browns are 0-5 — poor play calling AND poor execution. It is the coaches job to put the players in a position to succeed by calling plays that utilize the strengths of the offense and minimize potential for mistakes. We expect a certain degree of poor execution from a team made up of predominantly rookies and second year players. However a head coach who seems to repeatedly put his players in situations where there is a high probability for poor execution is mind boggling. In a vacuum a 3rd and 1 pass play call is reasonable. But when you’re 0-5 and in field goal range in the rain while trying to hold onto a lead over the defending Superbowl champs and your rookie RB that you moved up to get just had runs of 4 and 5 yards where he was carrying a pile of defenders and your receivers are leading the league in drops it’s reasonable to question the competency of the head coach who calls a pass play that doesn’t even have your best player on the field, but rather puts an undrafted free agent in, to create a distraction for the defense and give your rookie QB the best possible chance for success.

  • JimH

    @Shooter – you nailed it perfectly. Good job. Also let us not forget there were 4? minutes left in the half. Pass play in this specific situation with all of the variables you’ve mentioned is also poor clock management.

  • I now understand your original post. And I agree.

    Now, as to your other points:
    1) Many thanks. I do my best.
    2) Actually, that’s laserdisc. And it’s no secret.

  • porckchopexpress

    Thank you, that makes sense. It seemed to me like a lot of people were looking at the play in a vacuum, or maybe they were saying what you said and I just didn’t get it. For whatever its worth I’m fully on board with questioning Schermeur’s competency. To me, it just seemed odd that with the 10,000 things that you (not just you, the royal you) could have picked Sherbert apart for, this play became the flash point for the complete loss of fan support for this entire regime. I feel like this play should be known as the Necker (Jacques Necker). Louis VI had given the French millions of reasons to overthrow him, but Necker’s dismisal is the thing that creates a point of no return, and barring a miracle, I feel we have reached that point with Holmgren, Heckert, and Samsonite (I was way off).
    *I’m still working to change the medieval torches and pitchforks theme for storming Berea, to more of a French revolution theme. I sincerely believe that since the football players technically wear cullottes, there is a natural tie in. Okay its thin.

  • porckchopexpress

    Ain’t it like most people, I’m no different, we love to talk on things we don’t know about.

  • Garry_Owen

    My life is but a coin pulled from an empty pocket, dropped into a slot with dreams of “sevens” close behind.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    XVI not VI.
    Also, agree on the theme…Storm the Berea-stille?

  • cmm13

    The dumb and dumber reference combined with the French history lesson makes the comment the greatest post ever. Thank you porckchop

  • porckchopexpress

    Here at porckchop industries our motto is “Raising standards, and Lowering the Bar”, or maybe its “Lowering standards and raising the bar”. Just know that we have a motto and it involves a complex system of philosophical levers and pulleys that are attempting shift the moral scales of our country.

  • porckchopexpress

    Here at porckchop industries our other motto is; “Roman numerals are hard”.

  • BenRM

    Welcome to the sole purpose Monday Morning Quarterback. (Sunday Afternoon in the case of the Browns).

  • BenRM

    The less there is to actually talk about concerning the Browns, the funnier the comment section becomes.

    It is the saving grace of this season.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Yes. Shooter stated this much more effectively than I have been able to do to this point.

  • Look, right now, Weeden has no accountability for his mistakes. When He makes one of these, butt-head decisions to ignore one of his reads, yank him out for two plays, put Colt in, let Weeden know on the sideline that his free ride gun-slinger attitude will not be tolerated.

    I know, I’m not suggesting sit him for the rest of the game. Two or three plays should get the point across. His “mistakes” takes points off the scoreboard and gives them to the other team. He needs to learn by doing, it’s true, but he needs to learn accountability by doing too.

    This “all is forgiven” attitude Shurmur shows towards Weeden has to stop. Shurmur has to grow a pair. Yell at Weeden when he screws up.