Everyone knows I was high on Armond Smith coming into the season. This has nothing to do with that. I fully realize that Smith wouldn’t have made this roster if not for the Brandon Jackson turf toe injury. He fumbled the ball away in the pre-season and showed flashes of explosive play, but he would have been on the outside looking in. Smith was involved in one of the more controversial play-calls from yesterday’s disaster, but I want to defend the playcall just a little bit.
Ultimately it is a fool’s errand to defend a playcall that fails. I also will recognize what some of the critics, most notably Dustin Fox, were saying that Montario Hardesty should have been on the field instead of Armond Smith. That might be true, but let’s look at a couple things.
First, here’s the 3rd and 1 play that got blown up by the Tennessee defense.
Here’s the pre-snap look with Hillis on the right and Armond Smith on the left behind Colt McCoy. You can see just how many players Tennessee has cheating toward the run. Now the result.
The Titans blow it up completely because they fully expected Peyton Hillis to get the ball. Nice job by them and not a good job of mixing up the snap count and getting off the ball by the Browns’ offensive line. Given that, what do you call next?
Should you call the exact same play running Hillis between the tackles? Here’s how the Browns lined up with Hillis as the fullback in the I formation.
The Titans again are cheating bigtime toward the run as you would expect. They have their big boys cheating toward the right side of the Browns’ offensive line. Shurmur is probably feeling pretty good right now about his call to fake the handoff to Hillis.
The defensive linemen didn’t do as well this time, but the Titans are still going toward the play. At the bottom of the screen it looks pretty promising that Armond Smith will have a chance for a decent play, let alone one yard. Alex Smith is out in front. Joe Thomas is about to get a body on the closest linebacker. It will be Armond Smith vs. one Titan safety.
As you can see, Armond Smith had one man to beat, really.
And he couldn’t get it done. The safety gets enough of Armond that he stumbles short of the first down. But look at that lane between Joe Thomas and Alex Smith. Sure, the safety was there, but how many times can you draw up a play so perfect that your running back goes untouched? That was the kind of lane that Pat Shurmur has been dreaming about all season. If Armond Smith fights through the tackle he could be 25 yards downfield and maybe all the way into the endzone in a flash.
He didn’t. He wasn’t. He failed much like the Browns did all day.
So, if you want to say that Pat Shurmur made a bad call, I can say that it didn’t work, that’s for sure. Did he have the wrong personnel in the game? Well, it didn’t work, so I guess so. I don’t think Pat Shurmur has been a world beater. I even wrote the article questioning whether he should have been given the offensive coordinator duties in addition to being the head coach. That being said, to say he should have given it to Hillis as a blanket statement ignores the fact that Hillis just failed on 3rd and 1. It also ignores the fact that the Browns might have had a decent play called but much like the rest of the day, they failed to execute.