Friday, October 3, 2008

The Browns Table: Bye Week State of the Union

Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.

We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

As always thanks to Browns fans Scot Miles and Michael Taylor for their contributions this week.

With it being the Browns’ bye week, we have a second round table to discuss where the Browns are today, where do they go from here for the rest of the season and even take a Nostradamus-like look into 2009…

But presently, let’s talk Browns football…

After four games, the Browns defense is ranked #10 in the NFL. Is this legit or a mirage? What do you expect from the defense the rest of the way?

Scott Miles
It's too tough to tell. They got torched by Dallas, who has one of the league's best offenses. But they did keep them less than 30 points, which I thought would have given us a chance to win. Then, you look at how they've been able to keep Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati in check...except for the fact that their offenses are putrid.

So, I guess all things considered, the defense has done enough to keep us in football games. It's the offense that hasn't been able to carry its weight.

Jeff Smirnoff:
It is somewhat skewed because other than Dallas, the three teams that they have faced do not have a high powered offense. Baltimore has a rookie QB, the Steelers are not as good as they looked against Houston and the Bengals are a train wreck. However, the defense has been a nice surprise despite the losses of Sean Jones, Antwaan Peek and Robaire Smith. Mike Adams has filled in nicely for Jones and Alex Hall has been a much needed surprise. It all comes down to linebacker play, if Hall and Kamerion Wimbley can get pressure on the QB, D'Qwell Jackson can continue to improve (I am not a fan but he has impressed me a bit so far) and they can figure out the second ILB spot it would go a long way in keeping it going and protecting the wafer thin secondary. It will be tough with the upcoming schedule but at least SOME part of the Browns is playing BETTER than expected.

Michael Taylor:
Not that I didn't trust you for saying that the Browns were ranked in the top-10 statistically, but I had to go check it out for myself. I was shocked. It just goes to show if we had a bit more offensively (man I didn't think that I'd be saying that this season), the Browns would be at least 2-2 to start the year.

However, as glowing as that looks right now, I still believe that it is a mirage. They still rank 22nd against the run, which is not very good to say the least. And if you think about it, the reason that the pass defense is doing so well statistically, is that the Browns have only faced one truly healthy above average QB. Other than Romo in week one, it has been an injured Roethlesberger, rookie Joe Flacco, and a backup quarterback from hell for the Bengals, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The true test of this defense is in the upcoming three weeks against excellent football teams. In the end, I still see this defense around the 20-25th rankings in the league.

The Browns sit at 1-3 after their bye week. We know the upcoming schedule. Let's hear it. What do the Browns finish at in 2008?

Scott Miles:
Well, we need to beat Jacksonville, Houston, Baltimore and Cincinnati. We might have a shot against the Broncos (in Cleveland) if they play like they did last week. And by Week 17, the Steelers might be out of healthy players and have forfeited the season.

(A boy can dream, can't he?)

So that leaves us with what, seven wins? And I'm probably stretching on one or two of those. Call me an optimist. 7-9 or bust!

Jeff Smirnoff:
Everyone talks about strength of schedule before the season, but you really don't know until the season starts what you are up against. Last year the Browns played the "tough" NFC West which turned out to be overrated. Before this year I projected a 9-7 record. They play the AFC South and NFC East... and both divisions appear to be better than predicted. In the last 12 games I only see two teams we are hands down better than, Houston and Cincinnati. I only see four teams that I think we are at close to a level playing field with; Baltimore, Denver, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. If we beat Houston, Cincinnati and split the other four that puts us at... 5-11. The Browns lack "it". They had "it" in 2007 but no so much in 2008.

Michael Taylor:
Knowing what I know now, and being able to get a better judge on this team than we could exiting the pre-season when you asked, I now project about a 5-11 mark. I see three "winnable" games left on the schedule that we should win, and we probably should expect one game where they will win an unexpected game. I stated it early, this schedule is way different than last year and that it would get them. But I didn't expect such poor play too.

The AFC North has been a dogfight so far. The Browns, Ravens and Steelers have beat on each other once already and the Bengals gave the Ravens a scare in Week 1. How do you see the AFC North playing out as the season goes on?

Scott Miles:
The Bengals are done. They won't win more than four or five games this year, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be prominently involved. The Steelers (somehow) pulled out that game with Baltimore, but at what cost? Can they hold up this entire season?

My guess is no, and Baltimore ends up taking the North in the end. Even if Willis McGahee is hurt, Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice are more than capable backups. And that Ravens defense is still pretty good. Steelers will be second, Browns a fairly distant third, Bengals bringing up the rear.

Jeff Smirnoff:
The Browns still have a glimmer of hope, but I don't see them getting back into play-off contention (although they still can salvage the season without play-offs) and the Bengals are, well, the Bengals so that leaves you know who, the Appalachian Inbred and the Ratbirds. Despite the tough schedule I still see the Steelers winning the AFC North, albeit with a 9-7 or 8-8 record, for the simple reason they are a better team with more talent than the Ravens. Plus John Harbaugh is a rookie head coach and I think Mike Tomlin is on helluva coach. Ray Lewis is playing like he is 25 but I don't see them outlasting the Steelers even with the Steelers' injury issues unless Big Dumb Roethlisbozo goes down.

Michael Taylor:
It will be the Steelers. It always seems to. They have the experience in place, and regardless of the running back situation, I believe that they will still win the division by two games over any of the competition.

I am not sold on the Ravens yet, Flacco has done an admirable job as a rookie starter, but will it last and will Troy Smith get his shot? They still have the 'D', so they should hover around the 9-7, 8-8 mark.

The Browns will then fit in in the third position with the 5-11 record as I previously stated.

Then the Bengals will finish last with their pathetic excuse for a franchise. They will win 3-4 games.

Derek Anderson is the starting QB going into Week 6 on MNF versus the NY Giants. Does he make it through the entire season as the starter? If not, when does Brady Quinn take over?

Scott Miles:
Derek Anderson won a stay of execution with those two touchdowns late against Cincinnati. But I still think he's hanging by a thread, and while he might be able to survive a poor quarter here or there, he can't survive a poor half or game without being yanked.

Is it entirely fair? No, not at all. He was hurt during preseason and may still not be 100 percent from his concussion. Braylon Edwards has been disappointing. Donte’ Stallworth has been non-existent, which I feared when we signed him. The offensive line has also struggled. But when he's had some opportunities down the field, he hasn't converted, and he's also made some terrible decisions that have resulted in turnovers and Kellen Winslow's near-decapitation.

Jeff Smirnoff:
First off, let me state I do not care who the QB is as long as they win.

That being said, Anderson's days are numbered. We are at 11 games of mediocre to sub-par play from him which is almost a season. The league has adapted to his strengths and weaknesses and he has yet to adapt back. I hope this bye week helps him figure it out because it either strengthens our QB situation or increases his trade value.

But if it doesn't you have to see what you have in Brady Quinn. Right now he is an unknown commodity and you have to see what he can do. Not because you paid a steep price for him, because you have to see if you do have a franchise QB on the roster. If DA proven he is not the guy, you have to see if Quinn is.

With the next three games against the Giants, Redskins and Jaguars I see Quinn being readied for the home game against Baltimore at earliest or after the Thursday night game versus Denver at the latest.

Michael Taylor:
No, the pressure by the fan base and the media will eventually make Romeo change it up. Heck, the play on the field will make Romeo change it up as well.

Should the Browns go out and stink up the place the next 2-3 weeks (very conceivable with who they are playing), what would be the purpose of sticking with DA? You would already be a possible 1-6? Quinn was drafted to be the future and will be the starting quarter back by week 9 against Baltimore at home.

Romeo Crennel is the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, today. Who is coaching the Browns in 2009 and why?

Scott Miles:
If the season plays out like I said above and we go 7-9 and at least play competitively in some games, it will be Romeo. If it goes worse than that, I think he might lose his job before the end of the year.

If Romeo's not the coach in 2009, I really can't speculate on who it will be. Obviously Bill Cowher would be great, at least as a giant "FU" to Steelers fans. And boy has Rob Chudzinski's stock taken a hit these past four weeks. Has he been doing some work with Fannie Mae or what?

I'm really not sure who we'll see in charge next year. Just as long as it's someone who knows how to control the clock and take a shot every once in awhile.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Not Romeo Crennel. I like Romeo Crennel. He is a good man and a great role model but I just don't think he is a good football coach. The same issues have plagued this team since he arrived. Poor discipline on the field, penalties out the ying-yang and a stubbornness to adjust in game or on a weekly basis. I don't care if they finish 5-11, 7-9 or 9-7 to me it is obvious it is time to move on. The team needs to evolve. They need a new, better leader and Phil Savage needs to draft better because this team is not too far off from the next level.

So who is coaching the Browns in 2009? If I had my choice there is only one man it should be. Bill Cowher. He played, coached and lived here so he has a fondness for the area, team and history of the organization. He knows the AFC North all too well. He is a proven, SUSTAINED winner. Yes, he only has one ring but he is in the playoffs almost every year. He picked up a struggling, young, up and coming team in Pittsburgh and we all know that turned out. That is the situation the Browns find themselves in right now. He knows how to motivate and does not aceept mediocrity or failure, something the current Browns regime seems to embrace.

There are other alternatives. I will take an established, winning NFL coach not named Brian Billick. No more hot, college coaches. No more losing, retreads.

Go down to NC Randy Lerner. Take a blank check. Get on your hands and knees and beg. Bring "The Chin" back to where is all started for him so he can come full circle and karma can swing back to the city it rightfully belongs, Cleveland.

Michael Taylor:
That is the question of the season. It will be hard to swallow another regime change for the Browns, but should it happen, I want the Browns to go out and sign themselves an actual proven NFL head coach. No more of this signing coordinators or college coaches.

I want an actual NFL-proven head coach. Maybe that is another go-round with Marty Schottenheimer, or maybe it is the fan choice Bill Cowher. Whoever it becomes, I just want to be given the confidence that they have done this job before.

No comments: