Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Browns Table: Indianapolis Ineptitude

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 Samantha Bunten and The Coop for their contributions this week.

The guys and gals review another disappointing performance by the Browns’ offense, discuss the RB and QB situations and weigh in on the latest Browns controversy in soap opera land. Let’s talk Browns football.

Another game, another touchdown-less performance. Romeo Crennel said the gameplan "worked" even though they lost. What did you think of the offensive gameplan?

Samantha Bunten:
What gameplan? Seriously, the only way I would say this alleged gameplan worked is if the purpose was to eat up possession time without actually accomplishing anything. Crennel is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so to speak. I understand the need for the head coach to remain positive, but maybe it's time we just call a spade a spade and acknowledge that absolutely nothing the Browns do is working.

The Coop:
If I strain my eyes really hard, I can maybe see Romeo's point. The Browns moved the sticks won the time-of-possession battle, thereby keeping the normally-explosive Colts offense off the field.

But to say the gameplan "worked" is really a stretch. I mean, they scored 6 points on two field goals for crying out loud. In fact, other than the first two drives, they really only threatened to score one other time, and that resulted in a missed field goal.

Once again, the play-calling was way too predictable. Just because they wanted to establish the run doesn’t mean they should have ran it eight times in a row or on virtually every early-down situation.

And then when they decided to throw, almost everything was underneath. They hardly took any shots down the field, and the entire offense suffered as a result. With no downfield threats, Indy’s defense was able to play the run more aggressively and force the Browns to make plays, which we all know has been a challenge this year.

Jeff Smirnoff:
The premise was sound against a strong Colts offense. Posses the ball and minimize the Colts’ opportunities. That being said, to just posses the ball without being aggressive once you were sustaining a drive and not taking chances gives you no opportunity to win. Once the Browns got into Colts territory the offense became so conservative they were lucky to even get field goal attempts. The basis of the strategy was sound but the way they went about it was unbelievable.

Jamal Lewis asked for the ball and got it 24 times. He only gained 77 yards (3.2 average), however. How do you think Lewis should be used for the rest of this season and beyond?

Samantha Bunten:
While I acknowledge that Lewis was spectacularly unproductive on Sunday, I'm not sure we should be picking on him individually any more than anyone else. I'm glad he asked for the ball. It's nice to see someone on this squad is still willing to show some initiative even as the team continues to implode. Overall, what I might take from this is proof that Lewis needs some better blocking to assist him. He put up good numbers for the Browns last year, and I think he can do it again.

The Coop:
I will say this: running the ball is the only chance the Browns have of winning. Ken Dorsey isn’t going to beat anyone with his arm. So, for the remainder of 2008, the Browns have to pound Jamal when they can and then use Harrison and Wright more for a change-of-pace.

Lewis is a vital component of the Browns and needs to be treated as such going forward. People who want to get rid of Lewis because they think he is too old or think he’s lost a step are ignoring some very important facts and are not looking at the situation objectively.

Even in the last two games, Lewis has shown burst and power, ripping off some nice runs and also fighting for tough yards. Isn’t it possible that predictable play-calling and the absence of a downfield passing game might have something to do with his inability to dominate?

Jeff Smirnoff:
He should start and get 15-20 carries a game but not at the expense of getting Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs some touches on offense. Lewis is slowing down but he can still be an effective back if used properly. Harrison and Cribbs can keep the defense off balance, and are explosive runners, so getting them more involved will take the focus off of Lewis and hopes open up the power running game some.

Derek Anderson is now out for the season with a sprained MCL. What are the ramifications of having both Brady Quinn and Anderson out for the season?

Samantha Bunten:
Quinn and Anderson were both largely ineffective in their respective stints at the helm. Thus, I doubt losing both will really hurt the Browns all that much. I hate to challenge the universe's sense of irony by asking, "what could be worse?", but really, could things really be any more of a mess with Dorsey as the Browns QB?

The Browns season is over anyway, so even if Dorsey were to cost us a game or two, it won't make much difference overall. The one thing that makes this such a disappointment is that we did not get a chance to see if Quinn, finally given a series of consecutive starts, could step up and be the guy he was supposed to be when we drafted him. As per usual, we wait till next year.

The Coop:
Well, obviously, the injuries are troubling because no one knows how they will handle the rehab and recovery. I’d think Quinn would be okay because it doesn’t seem as serious, but the injury is on his throwing hand and who knows if it will limit his throwing ability. For Anderson, it’s much scarier because knee injuries are just never good. And the guy wasn’t mobile to begin with.

Quinn will be mainly hurt by not being able to gain valuable actual-game experience. There’s no substitution for facing “live bullets.” Allowing him to start the last half of the season would have given him a good foundation to build on heading into 2009. Now, he’s practically still a rookie.

As for Anderson, the bigger impact may be felt by the Browns as an organization. He now has virtually no trade value, because no one will want “damaged goods.” So, although I generally like DA, the Browns’ are more or less stuck with him until he plays out his contract or is released.

Jeff Smirnoff:
For Brady Quinn it is five games lost against quality opponents that you can accurately evaluate him for the future. Now you are forced to evaluate him based on three games, one healthy, and ten plays last year. Not a large data sample.

For Derek Anderson it is an opportunity lost to prove his worth to another team, prove to the Browns that he can still be their quarterback or increase his trade value. Now not only has he had a poor 2008 but he is also damaged goods without an opportunity to get back out there and show he is healthy.

Cue the Ken Dorsey Experience. Dorsey gets the start at QB for the rest of the year with Josh Cribbs serving as back-up. How should the Browns approach the QB position for the last 4 games?

Samantha Bunten:
It is a shame Winslow is injured - it would have been interesting to see if Dorsey and Winslow could rekindle some of the chemistry that made them a solid combination during their days at the University of Miami. That aside, I'm not sure this situation merits a change in approach to the position. The Browns have not had the luxury of relying on the strength of their quarterback all season, so they are used to having to look for other ways to succeed. Also, signing Gradkowski was a smart move - if anything happens to Dorsey, I don't really want to see Cribbs in the QB slot.

The Coop:
We now know that Bruce Gradkowski will be the backup. Thank goodness for that. The notion of Josh Cribbs playing QB is really silly. Cribbs in one of my favorite players, but the guy has no NFL experience at QB and hasn’t taken any reps in practice, nor has he been involved in quarterback meetings in Berea. How could anyone expect him to run the offense? Furthermore, putting him at QB takes away the Browns' best special teams player – offensively AND defensively – and reduces their options at the already-thin wideout position.

Dorsey deserves to finish the season as the starter because he knows the offense better than anyone on the roster. There’s a reason he’s a third-stringer, but the Browns weren’t exactly lighting up with the other two guys, so the Browns should just run him out there and hope for the best. Bet he wishes his first start as a Brown was coming against Denver (like Quinn) or Cincinnati (like Anderson) and not Tennessee!

Jeff Smirnoff:
Ken Dorsey should be the quarterback with a healthy dose of Josh Cribbs in the “Flash Package” as the Browns call it. You can not expect a guy, who already has to know all his special teams assignments and receiver routes, to come in and learn the entire playbook for a QB perspective in four weeks. Not going to happen. It also will decrease his effectiveness on special teams.

Dorsey is not going to light it up but at least he is a veteran who has some starting experience, albeit three seasons ago. Use Cribbs to keep the defense off balance but don’t expect him to come in and play quarterback in a standard capacity in any way, shape or form.

Controversy of the Week: Some of the faithful at Cleveland Browns Stadium cheered Derek Anderson's injury. Your thoughts on the fans taking their angst out on DA?

Samantha Bunten:
It is never, NEVER acceptable fan behavior to cheer for an injury to a member of your own team. Ever. I find this sort of behavior classless, disloyal, and flat out despicable. It reminds me of fans applauding when Tim Couch got a concussion a few years ago. I hated Couch as much as anyone, but I don't think a good fan should ever delight in an injury to a member of his team.

The Coop:
There’s no question that cheering because a player is injured is classless and disgusting.

But the thing that bothers me the most about this incident is that it’s just another occurrence in an all-too-familiar series of contemptible behavior by Browns fans. Since coming back in ’99, Browns fans have managed to cheer injuries to not one but two quarterbacks, litter the field with beer bottles and other debris, enter into email confrontations with members of the front office, and even run onto the field during a game.

I’ve always believed the Browns have the best, most loyal and passionate fans of any professional sports franchise. My friends, family and other bloggers here on B/R reaffirm those thoughts frequently. But when there are a couple of losers who act in these deplorable ways, it’s impossible for anyone else to see how great the majority of Browns fans truly are, and it personally embarrasses me.

Jeff Smirnoff:
I was at the game. It wasn’t all or most of the fans doing it but that doesn’t make it right at all. To boo any player when they are injured is just classless. I understand the fans are upset and frustrated at the Browns performance this season but that doesn’t give you Card Blanche to celebrate the injury to someone, let alone your own team.

It’s always the few people who do it that give the rest of the people a bad name but it doesn’t change the fact that it just is the wrong thing to do. Very disappointing indeed.

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