About a month ago, following consecutive wins over the defending Superbowl Champion Saints and the Patriots, and an overtime loss to the Jets, I was on board with Coach Mangini and the direction his team was headed. A tough-nosed, gut-it-out group who it seemed, could not only play with - but beat - anyone on any given Sunday.
Then came a blown opportunity against the Jaguars, followed by an uninspired too-close-for-comfort win (at home) against the 1-win Panthers. And except for a nice little win against an average Dolphins team, the Browns have regressed ever since, with stunning losses to two of the NFL's doormats - the Bills last week and a clunker today against the previously 2-win Bengals.
Last week in Buffalo, after rumbling down the field on the back of Peyton Hillis, the Browns had first and goal. This would've been the PERFECT opportunity for a play action pass to the tight end. Instead the Browns went run, run, run. And ended up with a field goal. From that opening drive, it seemed the Browns would score at will. They ended the game with only six. The same paper-thin offensive game plan was seen in the "victory" (barely) against the lowly Panthers a few weeks prior.
Today, the team came out throwing, with Colt McCoy under center. The offense was creative on the opening drive, culminating in a nifty little formation where one of the O-linemen lining up as a receiver and McCoy throwing a picture perfect pass to the tight end on the other side of the field. Then, in a David Copperfield-like disappearing act, the offense went poof. I could be off (I'm relying on memory here) but I believe I saw a stat in the 4th quarter that the Browns had 99 yards of offense in the first quarter, but barely that from the 2nd on. Ouch.
Coaches and teams (even the bad ones) in the NFL are too good for these vanilla game plans. They adjust, yet the Browns stick to Plan A. There seems to be no Plan B. Granted, the Browns have limited talent. But it's the same talent that put up 30, 34, and 20 points respectively against the Saints, Patriots, and Jets. Those surprise wins against Superbowl contenders seemed to have saved Mangini and his staff's jobs. But it may have been a smoke screen, as the pathetic losses against the Bills and the Bengals may have sealed their fate.
Mike Holmgren holds the rope. Coach Mangini and his staff are hanging themselves.