Browns

Plenty of blame to go around

“The Browns have no talent on the roster, so how can Hue Jackson win with so little?”

“Hue Jackson has put his young talent in situations that are not fitting the players’ talents.”

These are both valid points, but both are not mutually exclusive. The continuing struggles of the Cleveland Browns cannot be blamed on one source.

After yet another miserable and embarrassing loss on Sunday where the team lost 31-7 to the Cincinnati Bengals, there were so many takes being made on whom is to blame for the mess that is the Browns. It almost seemed like people were taking sides with two sides forming. One side is blaming the front office, while the other is blaming the coaches. But in the end, the entire franchise is liable for where the team stands currently. Not one single part of the franchise.

Let’s start with the front office. Sashi Brown and company have had their fair share of troubles. First of all, the wide receiver position is a jumble of inadequacy. It started with the failed attempt to re-sign the budding Terrelle Pryor, who showed some real promise last season. In response to their inability to re-sign Pryor, the Browns decided to go with the veteran Kenny Britt to fill Pryor’s shoes. And to say Britt’s first four games with the Browns has been a disaster would be an understatement. But, beyond the that pair of decisions, the Browns front office decided to rely on inexperienced young receivers to fill the depth of the position rather than looking to supplement the position with quality veteran pass catchers. The group is made of a gaggle of young receivers who have been unable to show much improvement or development. And the front office went in this direction, possibly knowing that they may be going with a rookie quarterback.

The front office went with the game plan to gut the entire roster and fill the depth chart with young players. The team definitely needed to rebuild following years and years of failures, but the front office may have taken it a little too far. The regime made the roster the youngest roster in the NFL, with the current construct of the roster having the average age of 23.3 years old, which is almost a year younger than the next youngest team. Youth is all well and good, but to not put enough veterans on the team to keep the team afloat and competitive, the youth can be beaten down and their careers can be damaged from the losing. The current roster of young players has for the most part never felt NFL success. The decisions of the front office have put the young players into a tough and uninspiring situation. The roster is full of young players who have potential, but just have not reached their peak talent, resulting in a roster void of ready-to-go talent.

Though, the coaches have not helped the situation either. The biggest example of this is the offensive scheme Hue Jackson has installed for the young Browns offense. Jackson evaluated his quarterback group and decided to go with rookie DeShone Kizer, which I believe was the correct choice. But, the way he has put the offense around Kizer has been dreadful. So far this season, the Browns have thrown the third most passes in the league with 161 attempts, while rushing only 84 times, which was sixth fewest rushing attempts in the NFL. Yes, the team has been trailing in games for most of the season, but Jackson’s offense has quickly ditched the run game to go with the pass every down mindset. For an offense that has a rookie quarterback under center, the offense should not place the weight of its success on the quarterback’s back. Especially with the Browns upgraded offensive line, the Browns rushing attack should be the backbone of the offense, so that the pressure and attention of the opposing defense is not fully trained on Kizer. Make the offense easier for the rookie quarterback. So, far Jackson has made the offense harder for Kizer.

Some of the other self-inflicted wounds the coaches have created are the questionable roles the coaches have placed some of the players in. On offense, Jackson has shied away from using his most dangerous skill player, Duke Johnson. Jackson has been unable to consistently get the ball into his hands. On defense, the way safety Jabrill Peppers has been used has been head scratching. For a player who was used in his final year in college as a linebacker, the Browns have put Peppers in a deep safety role, which greatly negates his talents. He is a physical player who should be used in a versatile role around the line of scrimmage, not 30 yards back from the line of scrimmage. The coaches have put some of the players in questionable roles and are not fully using the player’s talents to the best of their ability. The coaches are not protected from the blame.

But, let’s not forget how we got into this mess. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s constant change and volatility put Cleveland into this position in the first place. The current regime and coaching staff is currently positioned in a situation where even though Haslam has said that he is done making brash changes, there is still doubt about what he could do with all this consistent losing.

The Browns current status as the worst team in the league who has yet to lead in a game so far this season cannot be blamed on one part of this franchise. Every part has contributed to the mess and have almost moved in a completely direction as each other. To get out of this hole, the front office, coaches, and Jimmy Haslam must improve and look to make adjustments to their area of the franchise. If they cannot, then change is coming. Again.

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  • MartyDaVille

    1. There was no reason to tear the roster down to nothing. None. You can rebuild without becoming horrible first.

    2. A slew of draft picks won’t do you any good if you can’t draft wisely. Not a single one of our many draft choices last year even made the NFL All-Rookie team. So much for drafting impact players.

    3. Sashi grossly overestimated how good this team would be this year, which doesn’t give us much confidence that he can judge talent at all. This year was supposed to be all about showing progress. That hasn’t happened.

    4. This idea that the Browns will be competitive in 2018 is based on fairy dust. There is no rational reason to think that.

    5. Yeah, things take time, but time alone won’t do a damn thing. You need some talent in the front office, and I ain’t seeing it.

  • mgbode

    1 Myles Garrett
    2 We’ll see
    3 FO & Haslam both said they had no expectations for 2017- pointed towards 2018 before Training Camp opened
    4 Possibly
    5 Time alone is useless. Need to draft talent and develop it. Dumping everything every year or two makes that difficult.

    All that said, this team is incredibly disappointing even accounting for the players injured. I want to see Garrett play (once he’s healthy) and I want to see some more creativity w/ the playmakers we do have. I was hoping for aggressive mistakes but fun w/ playmakers. Instead it seems like we are playing cautious and still making the mistakes.

  • KFunk

    IMO, what’s most criminal about this debacle is the pic below.. the under-use of salary cap space. Is that on Haslam or the FO? I wish a reporter would research this and let us know. Imagine you were given $200 to go out and buy groceries for a nice Thanksgiving meal for the family. And you came back with not enough food to feed everyone, but $80 change. That’s what it’s like.

    I want the nice meal..! I want to watch a winning football team. Why get rid of the Davis, Haden, Schwartz, Gipson, then not make a serious bid on a good WR? All to save cap space?? For when? Why? For Haslam’s bottom line, for some type of future cap ramifications, or for what? They have had the most cap space several years in a row, I believe. And that’s why they don’t have good enough players on the field. They are not trying with all the resources available to them. This roster is woefully thin, and as more injuries hit, it’s only going to get worse.

    In the other pro sports, cap space is a much bigger topic of conversation, and I wish it were here, too. Spending so little of the available cap space has set up this team with the youngest roster in the league, and destined to fail. Imagine if the Cavs decided to spend so little of their cap space. Folks would be up in arms about why the didn’t land this player or that. And when the Dolans weren’t spending, folks didn’t even go to the games.

    Why isn’t this a bigger story for the Browns?? PLEASE, someone report on this?

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    So much this.

  • Steve

    “FO & Haslam both said they had no expectations for 2017”

    This right here. Admitted no expectations, plenty of cap space left for the future. Cap space used to acquire a future pick. Vegas had the Browns as the worst team coming into this season. Why were there expectations for anything other than exactly this?

  • mgbode

    As much as I know and understand that progress is not always linear, I still did expect/want the on field product to look better than it did last year.

  • KFunk

    I agree about the expectations.

    I just don’t understand why it made sense to let the good (not great, but at least good) players they already had go when they did. Gipson & Haden would make this DB group look a lot better. And just wait until someone gets hurt.. oh boy

  • Steve

    Absolutely, and certainly not all of the problems lie at the feet of the rebuilding strategy. But this was always the worst team in the league.

  • JM85

    They’ll go 2-14, fire people and draft incorrectly next year again.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    I don’t understand what the plan is during this rebuilding phase. Rebuilding through the draft requires veterans who can both show young players what to do and help coach them. It means having coaches willing to lose a few games through calling plays focusing on fundamentals and moving or stopping the ball.

    Like with Kizer, call a lot of running plays and play action plays so he can learn the speed of the game and how to read defenses. With Peppers, have him play in a linebacker spot so he’s not deep all by himself and humiliating himself over and over.

    And for the love of God, sign some dependable veterans with all that cap space. Stop signing players who woudn’t make the roster anywhere else. Spend some of that cap money.

    The current plan seems to be save every penny possible and coach rookies and practice squad guys as if they’re a fully mature team.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    The Browns Way.

  • Steve

    Their goal is not to make anything “look a lot better” this year. Hopefully a lot of these issues are eventually learning experiences for the guys who come out of the fire more battled-tested.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    Or broken with poor mechanics and codified bad habits. There’s a reason none of the guys from the Sam Hinkie 76ers years are worth anything.

  • KFunk

    Agreed. And I want to know if it’s because Haslam said to do that, or because the FO thinks this is a good way to build a team. I wish a reporter would get to the bottom of that

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    Your cap space point is right on the money, too. Why do the Browns have so much available every year? It’s the Hinkie 76ers…build a team for as cheaply as possible and charge full prices.

  • KFunk

    If that’s the case, they shouldn’t expect fans to support the team. If they’re (the FO) not trying, why should we be paying? They are all making a ton of money, and I’m not even being entertained. Really, what’s the point? The tradition/culture around the team only carries the product for so long. 1-19 is just not worth investing emotional energy in.

  • KFunk

    It’s so coercive. Somehow the Haslams have convinced us all to support them, because their players are dressed in the colors we associate with fun & joy, when the team was better. But they don’t deserve our support. They have been horrible owners, and I wish they would just sell the team. I wish the team was owned by the community, like in GB.

  • Steve

    “they shouldn’t expect fans to support the team”

    And therein lies the deepest problem. Every time the draft rolls around again, Browns fans are lining up to buy tickets and jerseys and proclaim that “this year will be different”.

  • Steve

    “Somehow the Haslams have convinced us all to support them”

    Haslam didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm. This was already the case when he bought the golden goose.

  • KFunk

    I think it’s reasonable to be interested/excited, but I sure as hell wouldn’t buy season tix. And by halfway through the season if they are the same old stinky team, fans should boycott. How else will Haslam get the message. Hit him where it hurts– ticket sales.

    Don’t buy the tickets then leave early. Buy the tickets once they show they’re actually trying, by investing in quality players, not just rookie contracts and waivers.

  • KFunk

    People should boycott. Not the players, but the management.

    I’m tired of folks blaming coaching decisions & even the players. Fish rots from the head down. Haslam doesn’t deserve to own OUR team. He’s not even spending the $$ to field a decent team.

  • mgbode

    Haden would not make anything look better. He has been terrible both when he was with us and now for Pitt. Plenty of others that could have helped though.

  • mgbode

    Sure. That is reasonable.

    Should be noted in here that while we hold the 2nd most cap space in 2017, we are actually spending the 4th most cash:
    http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/cash/

    Just a point of reference.

  • KFunk

    Fair enough, but they have plenty of $$ and they will need depth at some point. But regardless, get better talent in here

  • KFunk

    Thanks for sharing. I wish there were better reporting on how the cap works in the NFL. The NBA reporters have, and it really help the average fan to understand what’s going on better. As you can tell, I have a very strong opinion about the Browns’ under-use of cap space. I really don’t understand what the upside is. There must be some rationale..?

  • BenRM

    Tony Grossi would rather wax poetic about Brian Hoyer.

  • mgbode

    We don’t have to worry about the cap floor because it is based on cash spending, which we have done. The reason to hold onto cap space is “theoretically” to sign our young players to 2nd contracts. It all rolls over, so even if we need to sign a QB (think Kizer eventually hits), then we’d still be flush to sign all the other young players to those second deals.

    It requires those players being worth signing to another contract. Then again, if they are not, then nothing else we do matters either.

  • KFunk

    It’s the “roll over” part I don’t understand. That’s not how the NBA salary cap works. Theirs is just based on how much $$ is on the books that year. Maybe you can write an article explaining how the NFL salary cap works, how it’s different from the NBA, and what the Browns’ strategy around hoarding their cap room is..?

    I doubt most fans understand what the FO is even trying to do. I think most fans (like me) are just dumbfounded as to why they aren’t just spending more $$ to get (or keep) better players

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Peppers will play closer to the line of scrimmage once Garret is on the field. I don’t know why, but that’s what I see happening. It feels like they build in excuses for the starters, Kizer underperforms because he Coleman got hurt and he has noone to throw to though we try 40 times a game. We can’t run because we can’t throw and are behind. We can’t stop anyone because Garret is hurt and we need Peppers to play between the LOS and the end zone for insurance, because we play from behind, because we can’t throw, because, because, because….
    Remember pre-season!!!

  • mgbode

    Sure. I can write an explainer. It will probably be a couple weeks because of the Indians postseason though. Quick is that rollover allows you to keep the cap space you have each year and add it to the cap space in subsequent years.

  • KFunk

    Thanks, I’m sure folks will appreciate it. To your point, I’m super excited to watch the Tribe this postseason! IMO, they did things the right way: Yes, the big contracts given to the CF and (I think RF) a few years ago who didn’t do much (and were traded to ATL) could be seen as a big waste, but they did help the Tribe gain some relevance, and drag them out of the cellar. At least those vets helped them get on a good path (and attract a fantastic manager).

    About rolling over cap space, is the idea that the Browns will accumulate so much that they can amass a ton of expensive talent all at the same time (like having a huge stack of poker chips to play with) while everyone else has way less? And in the whole scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter whether you win big early in the evening, or late at night, so long as you walk out of the casino a winner at some point? And you might as well wait to really play until you have that big stack of chips to throw around? Is that the rationale?

  • mgbode

    Sort of. The rationale is that rebuilding clubs struggle to keep all their young talent because they get expensive at the same time. We’d be able to keep them together longer.

  • KFunk

    Thanks. So it still all depends on nailing draft picks. They probably won’t do much in FA until they are 1-2 pieces away. It really is all about Draft Day with this team..

  • I keep thinking that a boycott will backfire. Why?

    1. Browns fans boycott, causing a massive decline in revenue.
    2. Getting whatever value left, Jimmy puts the team up for sale.
    3. New owner buys the team and moves them to… London, England for example.
    4. Cleveland fans demand a expansion/existing team from the NFL.
    5. NFL ignores their pleas because we didn’t support our last one.

    Speaking of selling, I found an article on DBN stating that Jimmy is selling Pilot/Flying J. Perhaps now he’ll have more time to focus on the Browns?

    https://www.dawgsbynature.com/2017/10/3/16412536/jimmy-haslams-pilot-flying-j-sale-will-have-no-effect-on-browns

  • KFunk

    Maybe you are right. Such a sh*tty way to hold this over the fans’ heads, though. All the more reason I wish he would sell the team

  • KFunk

    Basically, I think the FO is counting on the five 1st & 2nd rounders in 2018 to help shore up the DBs (need a S & CB), the skill positions (need a WR & RB) and somewhere else (like maybe OT). Then they should theoretically have talent all over the field, including people who can take the ball into the end zone (remember that place?).

    The problem will still be how young the team is, so hopefully they will add some good veterans via FA.

    I can see the plan, but I don’t think they had to tear down as much as they did. They could have kept some vets, since they have so much cap space.

  • paulbip

    When will Hogan enter the game this week? Fier Hue and get a coach that will play the best QB on the team.

  • Natedawg86

    They need to abandon the “try to win” mentality in offense and just run your plan and figure out how to develop these young guys. There’s was not a lot of good at all to take away from last game. Nothing promising and now we expect that we are developing a qb by being down and out each game and just making him pass the all the whole time? Frustrating

  • Natedawg86

    Rule: You have to drink 3 beers before you read it

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi K … we’re only in year 2 of a total rebuild & i imagine we’ll start using the cap space on meaningful free-agents in another year or two when they’re closer to competing for a playoff spot … and they did not let let Schwartz , Gipson , Pryor & few others just walk … they offered fair contracts to Schwartz & Pryor & they both ended-up signing for less somewhere else … it’s hard to try to keep players when they don’t want to be here.

  • jpftribe

    It’s a reasonable expectation, no? Does anyone go the grocery store and buy spoiled meat because it will be better next week?

  • jpftribe

    This is really interesting. Wonder if Jimmy cut a deal with the Feds to get out of the biz.

  • mgbode

    Like I said, progess is often not linear. There are times you take a step back because you know it will help you take three steps forward. Still…

  • mgbode

    I haven’t had 3 beers in one sitting in a couple years, so that would be interesting.

  • KFunk

    FWIW, they pulled their offer for Schwartz off the table. Seems like it was an ego thing or something. Sure could have used him last year (and this)

  • tigersbrowns2

    from what i understand , they pulled the offer when Schwartz decided to test the market instead of signing. water under the bridge now … he is playing with the best team in the NFL right now , so it worked out good for him.

  • VMI1998

    Teams are stacking the box selling out to protect against the run and daring Kizer to beat them with the pass. He’s not been good enough to do so. Until he does, they’ll keep doing so.