Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 9/11/12
1) Heres the problem with Brandon Weedens opening game: If it happens again it brings into question whether Weeden has it. Its one thing to struggle as a rookie -- Andrew Luck threw three interceptions after all. Its quite another to set the standard Weeden set, which was historically bad. At least as far as football since 1960 goes. If that happens again, its a problem. It if happens over and over and over , it borders on a calamity. And if Weeden puts another three-interception game on the board in Cincinnati, well, let the doubters shout.2) Strip away the excuses. Theres no time for excuses. The running game was bad. Guys dropped balls. The line was bad. Lord havent we heard these before recently? At some point a guy has to pick up his play, and a quarterback has to pick up his team. Didnt happen. Whats especially bothersome is that in the last preseason game he played, Weeden started well. Then he got worse as the game went on. Same with Sunday. The start wasnt bad, but he got progressively worse. This is concerning for two reasons: Start of games are scripted, and practiced. As the game goes on, the defense has adjusted and its up to the quarterback and the team to do the same. To recognize what theyre seeing, adjust, make good throws. Legends, after all, are made on how guys finish games, not how they start. Second, the common theme about the way Robert Griffin III played in his spectacular opener was that he had poise. Weeden? Well, on a play with one second left in the first half, he lined up for a Hail Mary. He stepped up in front of the rush, and had a clear throw to the end zone. And he ran. He RAN. Heck, a 65-yard field goal try from Phil Dawson was better than a run. Earlier Weeden threw to the wrong guy on the third-down that Owen Marecic dropped, and later he had Ben Watson running to the flag on the left side of the field with nobody within 20 yards of him. Weeden rolled right, then threw out of bounds. Pat Shurmur said Weedens mistakes will be easily correctable. He best hope so.3) Pat Shurmur looked a little baffled when told during his Monday news conference that already some fans were clamoring for Colt. He then restated the fact that Weeden is the starter. But if Weeden struggles, the McCoy clamor may re-arise. This situation was created in part by the Browns decision to let Seneca Wallace go and keep McCoy. It may not linger. Its only one game. Cincinnati lost Monday night, and a Browns win over the Bengals sends them back home to face Buffalo, which struggled. Weeden showed a lot in practice and college to believe he has the arm to make it work. But McCoy started a year ago and has a following. There will always be fans ready to raise the clamor for him. Its a reason the Browns couldnt yank Weeden last Sunday, even though there was an argument to do so. Once McCoy is in the game, the division grows. Had the Browns kept Wallace, the roles would have been more clearly defined. He would have been the backup, period. He could have relieved in a game, and there would have been no clamor, no drama, no questions. Think about the last time there was noise for Vinnie Pestano to start for the Indians; there isnt because his role is defined. If the mess festers its because Weeden is still struggling. But its also a mess that the Browns helped create.4) Of course the argument could be made that if Weeden struggles McCoy would be better to have as the backup because hed be a better replacement. If it comes to that it might be time to start repainting the basement on Sundays. The Browns didn't draft Weeden to have to to turn back to McCoy. They will give the rookie more than every opportunity.5) It was interesting that Pittsburgh went for two Sunday night against Denver up five with almost an entire quarter left to play. In almost the exact same situation, up 15-10 with 13:59 left, Shurmur went for one. He revealed his thinking on Monday by saying he goes not by a chart, but by feel and situation. And the Browns game felt to him like one of those field goal kind of games (unlike the games good teams play, when offensive players actually get their feet in that place called the end zone.) The Eagles had scored once, late in the first half. So Shurmur figured a six-point sure lead was better than taking a chance on getting a seven-point lead and winding up with five. Two field goals beat you if you dont make the two-point play, Shurmur said, adding he prefers to save the two-pointer for the end of the game, when its absolutely needed. So theres his thinking.6) That philosophy seems like an offshoot of the manage the game philosophy. Thats the nonsense that says the best thing a coach can do is keep the game close so the team can win in the end. Many pilloried Shurmur for the decision, and in hindsight thats an easy criticism. Because playing careful in the end cost the Browns. Lets be honest, too its far more likely a team scores one touchdown in a quarter than two field goals. But there are arguments against the two-pointer, though Shurmur dismissed the one that was foremost in my mind: The offense had given no indication all day it could get two yards.7) A two-point play would seem to be an ideal time for Josh Cribbs. Let him run the Wildcat. If anyone on the Browns should be able to get two yards from the quarterback spot, its Cribbs. If the Browns dont have a two-point play at the ready that involves Cribbs, then its a sad day in Peoria.8) There always seems to be a lot of venom spewed toward Shurmur after a loss. Some is justified and comes with being the head coach who has won gone 4-13. But Im not sure all of it was justified after that game. For those who say going for two was a no-brainer and he blew it well you know his thinking and the argument in favor of trying for two is pretty dadgum compelling. For those who say it was the coaching staffs job to drag Trent Richardson off the field because he wasnt fullspeed and there was a game to be won well cant argue that one. Those who want to question whether it would have helped to have Weeden not be treated like he was Her Royal Highness in preseason well I got no problem with that criticism either. But lets also not forget that there were two plays called that would have been touchdowns had Weeden made a simple throw: To Mohamed Massaquoi in the first quarter and to Alex Smith in the third. Lets also not forget the Browns best scoring chance in the first half was set up by a double reverse that worked. And that a first-down play was called at the end of the first half, but the players involved botched it. The defense rolled in linemen all day and had good pressure on Vick. Two rookie linebackers had interceptions. The Browns still had a chance to win after the Eagles went ahead, but Weeden threw a pass that made him look like Rick Ankiel trying to find the plate. There are many questions to be asked after that game, some about Shurmur. But not all. Because in some instances Shurmur and Brad Childress and Dick Jauron actually put the team in position to win. The players in some cases simply did not come through.9) The way players are used in preseason continues to be among the most baffling elements of the NFL game. To say they are treated like china dolls insults the china doll. To say they are considered precious does a disservice to precious kids worldwide. To say they are treated with a sense of entitlement barely earned does a disservice to entitlement programs like Social Security. Why Weeden couldnt get on the field, why the first team line couldnt block some guys, why Greg Little couldnt catch a few passes in the final preseason game boggles the mind. This team won 18 games the last four years. Yet they treat players like theyre coming off three Championship Game appearances. Did sitting guys out in preseason matter greatly in the opener? I have no idea. But it sure doesnt seem like playing them more would have hurt. And spare me the worry about guys getting hurt; they can get hurt picking up their dogs. The fact that coaches and teams have made a complete mockery of the preseason ranks as one of the more outrageous parts of sports. That a team like the Browns seems fit to make their players so entitled is a real head-shaker.10) A wise man once said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. Little is as likable a guy as there is on the team. But he dropped passes in college, he dropped passes last season, and he dropped a key pass in the opener. It was almost laughable to hear people talk about how Little was primed for a monster year because he lost weight in the offseason. Spare the monster year stuff, please, and focus on the basics. Like catching the dadgum ball. Then maybe maybe he can head toward that monster year.And because we forgot something important A bonus 11) Somehow the Browns dodged Joe Hadens suspension before the opener, but they get it shoved into their face before week two. Haden cant practice or be with the team at all during the four-game suspension. If it werent so ridiculous itd be comical. Just one more notch on the Browns wack belt, which is running out of room for any more notches.
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