Monday, December 22, 2008

The Browns Table: The Battle of Woe-HIO

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 The Coop, Dustin Haley and Michael Taylor for their contributions this week.

The guys and gals debate what losing to the Bengals means, the upcoming game against the Appalachian Inbred and how a Browns-Lions match-up would end up.

Put another log on the fire and let’s talk Browns football…

The Browns lost to the Bengals, 14-0. Are you more surprised they lost or are you more surprised how they lost?

The Coop:
Ironically, I’m more surprised they lost. The way they lost was basically a microcosm of the entire season: boring play-calling, inept offensive execution featuring pathetic QB play, costly turnovers and penalties, and an inability to stop the run. What is surprising about that?

But to seemingly lack the pride, intensity, focus, and desire to beat a miserable team like the Bengals? That caught me off guard. I knew the offense would sputter, but to produce absolutely nothing when, theoretically, the Browns are a more talented team, well, that’s just embarrassing.

Do you realize that opposing defenses have scored three touchdowns since the Browns’ offense last scored one itself? Talk about pathetic.

Dustin Haley:
Coming into the game I knew the variables, so I wasn’t expecting much offensively. Dorsey will always struggle and throw interceptions. Defensively this season we have struggled against the run. So I wasn’t taken back with Benson’s 171 yards. Amazingly he didn’t score. I knew this game would be an ugly one. So the word surprised really isn’t applicable for me.

Jeff Smirnoff:
I am not surprised they lost but am surprised they got shut out. If you throw out the interception for the touchdown, the Browns’ defense only gave up seven points. Yes, Cedric Benson ran for 171 yards but the Browns were able to keep the Bengals off the scoreboard sans one drive.

I cannot believe that the offensive game plan did not involve every sort of play they had for Josh Cribbs, Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright and Jamal Lewis. With the wind so severe, and Ken Dorsey at the helm, it was pointless to try and pass. Open up the playbook, change the pace of the game with all your playmakers and you have a chance. Once again a game plan without any designs on winning the game.

Michael Taylor:
Neither, the Bengals no matter their record have played better in recent weeks. The Browns on the other hand have been a complete and utter disaster beyond imagination no matter the personnel situation. No offensive touchdowns in five straights weeks! Enough said.

Ken Dorsey is now questionable for the season finale with a concussion. That is three quarterbacks that have gotten hurt this season. Joe Thomas made the Pro Bowl but what so you think of the offensive line’s performance in 2008?

The Coop:
I’d say it’s been very, very mediocre. As much as people want to blame Jamal Lewis’ age and “happy feet” for the sub par running game, the main reason for Lewis dancing around in the backfield is because the holes simply haven’t been there.

But why is that? Ultimately, I believe the offensive line, along with Jamal Lewis, has suffered tremendously due to the ineffective quarterback play and horrendous play calling. Because of these factors, defenses can stack the box against the Browns, play much more aggressively, and stop just about anything.

In the passing game, the Browns have given up only 22 sacks this year (less than 1.5 / game), which is 7th best in the NFL. That’s pretty darn good.

And while we’re at it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Browns have missed Ryan Tucker for most of the year. Tucker has been called the team’s best offensive lineman by coaches and members of the front office, so while it’s not an excuse for their performance, it’s also a huge loss that cannot be overlooked.

Dustin Haley:
It is amazing isn’t it? The effect that one, almost mediocre, player can have on a single unit. Missing Ryan Tucker has been huge this season. He solidified the right side of the line and really opened up what we could do offensively, compared to our ability now.

The right side of the line needs revamped. Hadnot is neither quick nor agile, and Schaffer may be better suited as an interior lineman. Either could serve as a quality backup lineman for depth, but both should be removed from the first unit and replaced.

Joe Thomas making the Pro Bowl is a great feat considering what he has had to deal with this season. Some say he’s regressed, but it’s obvious it has had more to do with coaching. Defenses overload him with blitzes and the coaches have been expecting him to engage an end first, and then bounce out to the appropriate pass rusher, not an easy task for even the most experienced tackle.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Thomas has been solid but has not played as well as he did in 2007. Eric Steinbach has been injured most of the season and it has shown in his performance. Hank Fraley and Kevin Shaffer have played very poorly for stretches after having one of their best years in 2007. Rex Hadnot is serviceable but a big drop off from Ryan Tucker. The Browns need to develop some young depth at center and tackle to help transition some youth into the offensive line. I wrote about topic this last week.

Michael Taylor:
I don't think it is as bad as many out it out to be. Looking up sacks allowed, the Browns are seventh in the league with just 21 allowed. That is a far cry from the near 50 that seemed to happen on a yearly basis just a few years back. I also believe that the yards per carry average has taken a bit of a hit from Jamal Lewis' career regression. He is slower and does not have a run past 29 yards this season, but congratulations are in order for hitting the 10,000-yard career mark in rushing Sunday. The offensive line is not the problem of this team. Injuries happen, its part of the game. It's just unfortunate that all three quarterbacks went down.

Word came out after the game that Shaun Smith and Brady Quinn got into a physical altercation on Wednesday that culminated with Smith hitting Quinn in the face with a barbell weight. Smith was inactive while Quinn was absent from the sidelines Sunday. What does this incident tell you about the current state of the Browns?

The Coop:
In reality, this doesn’t tell us anything about the Browns that we don’t already know. There is clear frustration in the locker room, which has been growing all season long, and this isn’t even the first rumor of a fight that we’ve heard about this season. The only reason this one is getting such attention is because it involves Quinn.

I do find it interesting that two guys who haven’t contributed anything in weeks are getting into it with one another. Having played a little football in college, I can assure you that fights between teammates are fairly commonplace - although I'll grant you I never saw anyone hit another guy with a barbell weight.

It’s noteworthy that Smith (whom I’ve always respected) is the “mystery player” that Josh Cribbs and Jamal Lewis were referring to when they spoke of the team “quitting” during the Denver game.

I guess if I’m trying to look for the silver lining, and Smith really is the player who teammates thought quit, I would be happy if Quinn confronted him, as it seems to be further establishing him as a team leader. And just look at the fight between Carolina’s Steve Smith and Ken Lucas and what it did for their team.

Dustin Haley:
Doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. It’s been painfully obvious there are problems within the organization. This incident is just another chapter in the saga that is the 2008 Cleveland Browns.

If the reports of this incident are true, then Shaun Smith should be sent walking immediately. In all fairness both sides should be investigated, but hitting someone, a potential franchise quarterback nonetheless, with a barbell weight is inexcusable whether in defense or retaliation. In my opinion, Shaun Smith has been a cancer to the team anyhow, as this is not the first time he has had off field issues.

Jeff Smirnoff:
It tells me that the coaching staff, and this regime in general, has lost the team. Why is a guy, Smith, who has under performed and has been injured most of the year taunting a second year quarterback who is on injured reserve. Quinn also deserves criticism for not walking away. It just shows how undisciplined the entire team is and how the current regime has lost them.

Michael Taylor:
Wow. I hadn't heard this rumor yet. I'll have to watch the "Red Zone" on STO to see if Smith makes his regular appearance alongside Mary Cabot and Andre Knott. What a joke this season has become. This actually would usually be a shocking event, but after the 2008 Browns, nothing will surprise me anymore. The whole organization down needs to take a step back and reassess what the (bleep) is going on. They are completely in disarray with no leadership to calm the rough waters. I'm not just talking player leadership or coaches. This has to be deeper with the rampant situations that appear weekly now.

The Browns’ season mercifully ends in Pittsburgh this week. Pittsburgh has nothing to play for as they are locked into the second seed in the AFC. I think we all know that despite that we are looking at the 11th consecutive loss to the Appalachian Inbred. How bad is it going to be?

The Coop:
I know you had to ask it, but this question just makes me sick. With the Steelers having clinched a playoff bye, their starters will barely break a sweat before being pulled. Sadly, the Steelers’ backups are probably just as good as the Browns starters, and definitely better than the Browns’ own backups. I expect the Steelers to systematically destroy the Browns much like Tennessee and Cincinnati each did. The question you have to ask is, would a Browns victory over the Steelers make you feel any less awful about the Browns’ 2008 season?

Dustin Haley:
With the likelihood that Gradkowski will be helming the signal calling position this week, it’s going to be bad. Like, two shutouts in a row bad. We will rely on our defense to create turnovers and score points. The bad news is the Steelers will probably go 75% to 80% run in play calling. They’ll be looking to grind out the game with minimal effort and risk to their players.

Jeff Smirnoff:
It is going to be bad. It may not be the Christmas Eve Massacre (41-0) bad but the Browns will be shut out unless the get a defensive or special teams return deep into Steelers territory or a touchdown. Even if Pittsburgh plays their back-ups the entire game they still would win. The Steelers players know how much this game means to their Inbred fan base and will play hard. The Browns just want to go home.

Michael Taylor:
I don't know and frankly don't even care. I honestly have not sat down to watch a Browns game since the Houston debacle in November. You could see it then that this team was finished. I just lost the desire to put an effort into rooting for this team this season if they were not putting in the effort to play it out. As a side note to this I did catch part of yesterdays game, and once again heard an announcer pointing out how poorly Braylon Edwards is running routes.

This may make me a poor fan, but I have had it. I will still root for and love this team in the future, but until they show me something that resembles an effort to become a respectable franchise I will care a lot less. Now we know what Bengals fans have been going through for 20 years! Bring on Opening Day baseball!

Theoretical question of the week: If the Browns played the 0-15 Detroit Lions this weekend, would the Browns win?

The Coop:
Yes, the Browns would win 2-0 when Dan Orlovsky inexplicably runs out of the end zone in overtime. In an ironic twist of fate, Romeo Crennel is instantly fired and Orlovsky is given a contract extension by Lions' management.

Dustin Haley:
At Detroit, yes. In Cleveland, no. I say this based on the lone fact that the home team’s lackluster performance would be booed out of the game by halftime.

Jeff Smirnoff:
No, the Lions would. The team is incapable of moving the ball let alone scoring a touchdown against anyone. The Lions could at least find the redzone and put up some points. It would be close but right now the Lions could beat the Browns.

Michael Taylor:
Four or five weeks ago yes, but right now no way!

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