What’s Really Going On In Cleveland?

Colt McCoy put a lot of pressure on himself as a leader heading into this season due to his off-season antics. Fans are starting to speak their minds about McCoy, and it's not good. One has to ask though; Is McCoy getting a fair shot in Cleveland?

One could argue, that no fan base in the NFL deserves for something to go right, more than Browns fans do. Prior to this season, you could make an argument for the Lions, but I think it’s safe to say that they’ve finally turned the corner.

The Dawg Pound in Cleveland has been through a lot over the years. There’s the ’80s, where we were so close – yet so far, and then “the move”, which has its place in history as one of the biggest heartbreakers in all of sports. What has been most agonizing, however, has been the return of the Browns.

Since ’99, we (Browns fans) have suffered through the likes of Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Chris Palmer and Tim Couch. There was Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, and the Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn fiasco. We’ve seen glimpses of the Browns of old, in the ’02 playoffs and a 10-6 record in ’07, only to have everything fall apart the very next season.

For the last few seasons, there’s been a plethora of hope and optimism, especially since Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert took over in the front office. Although Holmgren makes the decisions, it’s Heckert that finds the talent. Heckert has a track record of finding future stars in the NFL, dating back to his days in Philadelphia.

In fact, it can be argued that, if not for Heckert, the Browns wouldn’t be any closer to “getting there”, than they were before. He is responsible for 9 of the 11 starters on a Cleveland ‘D’ that ranks in the top five in the NFL statistically. Assuming the front office continues to better the defense, whether via the draft, or free agency, the Browns are going to have a stout defense for years to come.

The offense, on the other hand, has been a complete disaster, and it’s got to be embarrassing for Heckert to claim anyone as “his” on that side of the ball for Cleveland. To be fair, there’s been immense turmoil surrounding, not just the Browns offense, but the NFL as a whole.

While Browns fans are the most passionate in the NFL, but in terms of types of fans, they’re just the same as every other fan base in the league.

There’s the optimist, whose fandom is based on hope. These types of fans need to see some glimmer of hope from their team to survive. They often look at the negatives as fixable, and not something that will set the franchise back.

There’s the blind fan, whose fandom is based strictly on the positives. If the team fails to produce an obvious positive to anyone else, blind fans often resort to nit-picking the positives. For example, one of the biggest arguments I see in McCoy’s favor on message boards and what not, is the fact that he is the NCAA’s all-time leader in victories. Now, the fact that he’s a winner is a positive, but a blind fan will tell you that McCoy is bound to be successful in the NFL because of that reason. Then they’ll talk about his effort during the off-season to back them-up. Make sense? Moving on…

There’s everyone’s favorite kind of fan, the pessimist. The kind of fan who, regardless of success, will nit-pick at every negative. I’d like to talk a little about pessimist.

You’ll often find that pessimistic fans won’t settle for even an 8-8 season from their favorite team, even if they spent the last 10 years as a 5-11 team. They often need back-to-back playoff appearances to be content with the team’s progress, but once consecutive playoff appearances are achieved, the Super Bowl becomes the barometer of success. In extreme cases, everything is a failure until the team wins the Super Bowl. (Which, in theory, is true, but in gauging how much a team is improved, the Super Bowl is unrealistic.) All this is needed to cure a pessimistic fan, and turn them into, let’s say, an optimist.

When things aren’t going well, the pessimist are the most vocal of all fans. You’ll often find arguments between pessimist and other types of fans on message boards. Pessimistic fans focus on everything that’s wrong with their team, and question everything. They often attack the front office for their decision making, and often fail to realize when things start to turn-around for their team. They are, most definitely, the most annoying of all fans.

Pessimistic Browns fans are blaming everyone these days, despite a slightly above after 3-4 record through 7 games for the team. Most of the blame has been put squarely on the shoulders of Colt McCoy for the offenses’ struggles, which is easy to do since he plays QB. He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, and the team has lost a few games because of the offense, but is it all because of McCoy? Or is there more to it?

There’s no denying that this season has been a failure for Colt McCoy – I bet even he would probably tell you that – but is it fair?

Sure, McCoy has seemingly regressed since week one of the NFL season, but it’s not entirely his fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Browns’ offensive struggles, though McCoy plays QB, and QBs tend to be the focus of the blame when things go wrong for an offense.

Colt is only in his second year, and if rumors are correct, wasn’t really given a fair shot by former head coach Eric Mangini last season. (In short, rumors are that former coach Eric Mangini, gave McCoy the cold shoulder as a slap in the face of President Holmgren.) Though everyone loves to focus on the bad, and even the most optimistic Browns fan will tell you there’s some bad, Colt hasn’t been as terrible as he seems.

If the rumors are true, McCoy played pretty well last season with limited help – as a rookie. Coming into this season, McCoy was likely to be the starter in week one, at least, regardless of who was the head coach. Though one would say it’s an excuse on behalf of Browns fans, I really do think the lockout has had an affect on the Browns offense.

People fail to realize what McCoy has had to go through to even prepare for his first season as the team’s unquestioned leader. He was dealt a first year head coach, and not just a first year coach for the Browns, he was a rookie head coach. Coach Shurmur compounded the problems for the Browns offense when he though he could handle the stresses of his previous job, offensive coordinator, with his new job, a NFL head coach. There’s a new offense McCoy had to learn, and the front office didn’t set him up well for immediate success, when they failed to find Colt a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball through the draft or free agency.

There was some hope that Colt could be successful this season, with what was supposed to be a solid offensive-line, and a star running back, Peyton Hillis. On top of that, certain players had emerged as potential playmakers on offense during the off-season – Evan Moore comes to mind. Heading into the season, one was led to believe that, despite the lack of anticipated productivity from the WR position, solid offensive-line play, and a ground-and-pound running attack led the team’s leading rusher, would be keys to offensive success for the Browns. Couple that with creative ways to get Joshua Cribbs the ball, along with Evan Moore and Ben Watson, and Browns fans felt content with the Browns offense heading into the season.

However, Cleveland’s run-game has been a nightmare, mainly because the offensive-line has been terrible. Oh, and Peyton Hillis only has 211 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on the year. 94 of those yards, and both touchdowns, came in one game (Colts). Couple that with the fact that Coach Shurmur is in way over his head as the team’s head coach and offensive coordinator, and it’s no wonder the Browns offense is struggling so far this season.

People don’t realize that though, and think that McCoy is solely to blame for the team’s offensive struggles. In all reality, he hasn’t even been given a fair shot yet. Mangini screwed him last season, and the lockout, as well as another turnover for the Browns, have really hindered any potential success for McCoy this season.

It doesn’t matter who’s back there at QB, when your offensive-line is in shambles, your third-string RB, who, by the way, was just signed off another team’s practice squad a couple weeks ago, and you have absolutely no creativity on offense, they’re going to look terrible.

Those who are ready to deem the Colt McCoy Era a failure, were probably hoping he’d fail from the get-go. The kid was put in a tough situation, and has handled himself pretty well in spite of everything he’s had to go through to get to where he is. I’m pretty sure he knows that he’s no where close to being an elite QB in the NFL, but who’s to say that with a little help from his teammates and the front office, he won’t be?

I think it’s clear what’s going on in Cleveland this season, though fans may not want to hear it. It appears to me that the front office is in evaluation mode; seeing where they need to fill holes, and if the talent they have is worth paying. This is more commonly known as “rebuild mode”.

Things are turning around in Cleveland, but they’ve still a long way to go. The front office addressed the defensive side of the ball in last year’s draft, and should do the same with the offense this go round. Personally, I’d like to see McCoy get one more year as the starter. A year with weapons, and an offensive-line that is worth a damn. The o-line has been the key. A horrible o-line can destroy a running game in a heartbeat, and make even the best quarterbacks look like rookies. A lot of pessimist will say that this is McCoy’s shot and he’s in over his head. Combine that with Holmgren’s recent comments about bringing in a new QB every year until they get it right, and all the ingredients for a lynch-mob are there.

Even if it’s for eight games, McCoy deserves a fair shot. If the front office properly addresses the offense next season, whether it’s through free agency or the draft, and McCoy continues to struggle, then at least we know that it’s him, and that it’s not a case of a decent quarterback being plugged into a terrible situation. Regardless, the Browns are still a year, or two, away from being a championship caliber team. At least they’re finally, finally, heading in the right direction.

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3 Responses to “What’s Really Going On In Cleveland?”

  1. denolakes says:

    Let McCoy play. The OL is a problem — and we have a rookie and 2nd year player at the guard positions. What was supposed to be a strength turned out to be something else. That’s not the QBs fault. Missing open receivers and throwing into heavy coverage is, though — and McCoy does that way too much. Speaking of “way too much” — that applies to the dink-n-dunk passing game. Evan Moore, Ben Watson are big targets; so is Little. I would like to see Carlton Mitchell on the field.. Folks from southern Florida liked him a lot; let’s see what he can do. Don’t know what the second half of the season will look like, but I have an idea based upon what I’ve seen so far. Defense will get better. Sheldon Brown (good man and professional) is probably going to see more limited time. Need another CB. Offense will languish — unless McCoy gets untracked and can get to receivers downfield. Otherwise, it will be more of the 8-9 guys in the box stuffing run after run after dink pass. I see today as a 2-possession loss, at least. Cleveland has struggled against mediocre defenses and laid an egg against a decent defense with Seattle. And, they have been out-coached far too many times. We have watched garbage for so long around here, seeing some quality players and a definite improvement in the front office should make everyone relax a little bit. We are playing draft choices — and overall they are playing well. We are signing key players to multi-year deals. I would not trade down in this next draft. Keep our picks and play them. Four more starters makes a huge difference on this team right now; imagine if they were all on offense. We need to watch this team like the coaches should be: is McCoy the QB? Not gonna know after this year, but we will after next — especially if real talent is brought in around at a couple — only a couple — of the skill positions.

  2. Dotcommie says:

    Although I agree with most of your comment, I have to disagree with a couple of points:

    One – The offense needs more than four players to become a quality unit. Taking Steinback out of the equation, they need three (1-3) people just to shore up the O-line. He’s missed too many game to be a reliable starter. That doesn’t count a starting WR and FB (4 and 5). Add a HB to the list if Hillis doesn’t recover from his injury (6). Since it’s unlikely that he’ll return to form this year, you have to start preparing for that possibility. Finally, they need a QB (7).

    While some may give McCoy a pass on this year with many excuses (5 previously listed), I am not one of them. You cannot teach accuracy. His inability to hit a receiver in stride on even the short, crossing routes and wasting of long throws to open receivers because he either underthrows badly or misses the receiver entirely shows that accuracy problem. Then, you add that he has trouble picking the best receiver to throw to (being unable to notice open receivers) and you have a mediocre QB who won’t win you many games on his own.

    Two – The defense is likely to get worse in the second half of the season. Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s offenses have been low rated because they haven’t played the Browns, yet. We get them twice each in December. Pittsburgh’s offense has already started to ramp up, and Baltimore’s has plenty of potential.

    The game against Tennessee showed that our LBs and Safeties are too slow to cover TEs when a QB can get them the ball in stride (hrmmm… wonder why that’s important). Plus, with no offense to use up clock or get a lead, both the entire defense and the special teams have a spotlight put on them. Even though they are clearly better on defense, if the opponents have more possessions, they’ll more likely run up more yards and points.

    This team needs more than just next year’s draft to be able to go anywhere. The only caveat to that would be drafting a QB with the skill of a Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. Here’s hoping, but I can’t realistically expect that.

  3. Tim says:

    As a “faithful” fan of the Browns over the years, I’ve seen a lot of good; unfortunately, it now appears as though we have been cursed as that good has turned sour like last month’s milk.

    I really don’t believe McCoy is the problem. Why? Well, the O-line has been banged up this year, but I think that’s only a small reason. Ok, Steinbach is out and Pashos is hurt, but remember, last year, the O-line was regarded as one of the best in the NFL, as Hillis runs for almost 1400 yards and 13 TDs. This year? What’s changed? Well, I’ll tell you. The West Coast Offense. Now, instead of the O-line firing out and being aggressive, they have to fall back on their haunches as an inexperienced QB – with No running game and No Wide Receivers – tries to figure out who to throw the ball to. These guys, the O-line, are run blockers NOT pass blockers and this, in my opinion, is the real reason the Browns are struggling. Remember, this kid came out of basically what was a shotgun-based passing offense in Texas that was more run-n-shoot than “four yards and a cloud of dust.” I truly do not think McCoy is the problem. He is basically a rookie AGAIN this year because of the change in offensive philosophy. It sure doesn’t help that his surrounding cast is hurt and ineffective, that’s for sure.

    I thought, initially, that Holmgren was a good pick. won a super Bowl, took his teams to the playoffs and generally hard a good idea on what to do and how to build a team. However, if you think back, he was both coach AND GM when he went to Seattle and that team stunk until he gave up the GM role and went back to the sidelines. The guy is NOT a GM/President material, and when you put the wrong people in management roles, they put the wrong people in place to run his scheme, i.e, Heckert and Shurmur. It doesn’t help, however, that Randy Lerner doesn’t know if a football is pumped or stuffed. he hired Hoomgren on reputation not of his ability to run a football team. Look at Kansas City as an example. Scott Pioli has helped tunr that team around, and the Browns and Lerner, had a chance to go after him, but, alas, no such luck. Then, Holmgren had a chance to go after Jim Harbaugh but coulnd’t wait for the Stanford bowl game to end, so he went after a QB coach on a bad NFL team. How many times has it been proven that even the BEST QB coach IS NOT an NFL head coach: Do we need to go down the list?

    Josh McDaniels
    Jim Zorn
    Cam Cameron
    Charlie Weiss
    Marty Mornhinweg

    And now, Pat Shurmur? The guy is emotionless, has NO idea of what to do, and the ONLY reason (in my opinion) that he’s the head coach of the Browns is because he’s a favorite son on a past coaching buddy.

    Bottom line? Randy Lerner needs to sell the team and go play soccer. Until then, We, the fans of the Cleveland Browns, are doomed to the bleak and gloomy depths of NFL oblivion, and will forver be the Home Coming and Bye week game that every team in the NFL looks for on their schedule.

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