Sunday, October 23, 2011

Browns win delivers more questions than answers

Is Colt the answer? Man, I don't know.
The thing about today's 6-3 Browns' victory over the Seahawks is how little it moved the needle in terms of the "process" the front office has been advocating. A win is a win, yes, but in a season where the franchise is trying to find its cornerstone players on offense, the Browns are no further along in getting those answers than they were yesterday.

Hell, the deciding three-point margin didn't even do anything for the gambling community, as the game ended in a push. The Browns' latest assault on their fans' patience for all intents and purposes may as well never have even existed. Would that it didn't.

What did we learn today? Uh, well, the Browns did commit themselves to the run, dominating time of possession with Montario Hardesty. It was painful watching the young Tennessee product get stonewalled by the Seahawks' defensive line again and again. Hardesty has a bit of a waggle, and he sure likes that "press X" spin move, but the burst you want to see out of a running back is just not there yet. Right now his best use is as a compliment to Peyton Hillis, who was sorely missed today. Beyond that it's hard to determine if Hardesty can grow into a more prominent role.

Colt McCoy, meanwhile, did not avail himself terribly well. While I'm repeating myself week to week with the same criticisms of his game, McCoy is not helping matters with his constant accuracy problems and disturbing lack of intuition as to when to get rid of the ball. Our receivers are a mediocre crop, but McCoy is going to get his guys killed with some of those leading throws into coverage.

So many questions abound with this unit, it's hard to point to an exact fix. Is McCoy struggling because he has middling receivers, or are the receivers playing poorly because they don't have a decent quarterback to get them the ball? Is McCoy truly this nervous in the pocket or is the offensive line simply not providing him with adequate (or even basic) protection? Are the coaches calling the wrong plays, or are they drawing up a conservative offense to protect an inexperienced quarterback?

The scary thing is, the solution is probably a conglomeration of all of these issues. There's so many leaks offensively, you wonder how the coaching staff can keep the entire ship from foundering under the weight. Let's just say that when your leading receiver is street free agent Chris Ogbonnaya, you've got problems. The one happy surprise this year has been Greg Little, who is very quietly emerging as a solid option for McCoy. Watching him fight for yards gives me at least a dash of hope that 2011 will end with at least one answer on offense.

It's true players have to make plays, but I hate some of the playcalling coming from Coach Shurmur and his staff. Not throwing on third down near the goal line of a 6-3 affair is a gutless move. If this team wants their quarterback to gain confidence, let him put the ball in the end zone in that situation, and allow him to him throw down field more than once a game.

The offense, and lately and alarmingly the special teams, has been so forehead-slappingly incompetent that it's overshadowing the good work being done by the defense. It was great seeing Joe Haden back flashing all over the field making plays. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron needs to get credit for bringing one of the poorer units in the league around to respectability.

Still, offense is what garners all the flashy highlights on ESPN, and there was none to speak of today for the Browns. We'll gladly take the victory, but during a year when how the Browns play is perhaps more important than their won-loss record, the future at the all important skill positions is too cloudy for comfort.