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.