Monday, September 14, 2009

Lost weekend

Not a good 24 hours for CST’s two favorite football teams: An agonizing loss by Ohio State followed by a not unexpected, but still depressing performance by the Browns. I could complain about the play calling in both games (and I will), but what it comes down to for both of our beloved squads is an obvious lack of offensive talent.

Let’s start with the Buckeyes: To continue Pucky’s point, Tressel seems to have let the game pass him by. This is not 2002 anymore, coach. This is the text-happy, Facebook-fellating “get it now” era of 2009, where Kanye West can bust in on any award ceremony he so chooses, and where ball control offense and playing for field position don’t work against top-5 programs with monstrous speed and athleticism. Eventually, you’re going to get burned, and that’s what happened Saturday night.

Tressel may not trust Pryor enough let him air it out for an entire game, but he’s got to let him try. Why put shackles on the Buckeyes most potent weapon? Pryor still tosses flutter-balls from his back foot, but I’d rather have him throw to untested receivers while there’s no Beanie Wells or Maurice Clarett safety valve around to pick up key yards on the ground. Put simply, “three yards and a cloud of dust” doesn’t work when your quarterback is also your best running back.

And I suppose that’s the real problem with these Buckeyes. The skill players are either young or inexperienced, and I’m hard-pressed to point to Ohio State’s second best offensive player after Pryor. It’s true that the Buckeyes lost to the better, more athletic team, but a bit more imagination from Tressel would have resulted in a big win against a top opponent, just what this program needs to polish its somewhat tarnished legacy.

Sunday brought us another head-smackingly schizophrenic performance by the Browns. The team was lively in the first half, and from a defensive standpoint I loved seeing Coach Ryan run a few blitzes from the secondary. The running game picked up chunks of yards, opening up some nice pitch-and-catch action from Brady Quinn to tight end Robert Royal.

I can pick the precise point when the tide turned, and you probably can, too. After the Edwards interference play, why the hell did the Browns run two straight up-the-middle runs with Josh Cribbs in the so-called “flash” package. Why not give it to Jamal Lewis, who was running very well at that point, or let Quinn run some play action? I’d think the formation with Cribbs would work better in space, not so much at the goal line. Those two plays were not only predictable, they were run right into the teeth of one of the better defensive front sevens in the NFL.

I also question the conservative play calling at the end of the first half. Quinn stood there at his own 40, audibling like Peyton Manning while time ticked away. Quinn took the snap and simply slid to the turf, essentially killing the rest of the clock. That’s weak sauce, man.

Mangini must really distrust Quinn if he’s not allowing him to take a shot down field at that point in the game. Perhaps that distrust is not unearned from what I saw of Quinn yesterday (the game-killing second-half interception was terrible recognition on Quinn’s part), but at this juncture in the franchise’s existence we need to see what we have under center. Mangini cannot baby Quinn with dinks and dunks ala Charlie Frye. It’s going to take a whole season to see if Quinn is a gamer, or just keeping the spot warm for Colt McCoy.

The questions about our golden boy QB echo throughout the offense (and throughout the entire roster for that matter). I will belabor this point until hell freezes over, or until this team can play consistently for consecutive quarters. I ask you again, Dear Reader, who are the Browns offensive playmakers? Lewis? Edwards? Cribbs? Quinn? James Davis? Too many questions, too few answers.

So, what exactly is ailing our two favorite football teams? Is it the coaching, or an overall lack of talent? I’ll take Door #2 - for in the upper echelons of sport, talent, or lack thereof, is what usually wins or loses the day.