Adkins: The Tough Questions

OBR's football analyst Lane Adkins answers the latest questions from Browns fans in the exclusive Ask the Insider's forum.

Below are a compiled list of questions from OBR insiders and answers from Lane Adkins in OBR's exclusive Ask the Insiders forum.

Please note all copy [sic]'d.


Season breakdown

idahobrownie: I'm deployed and I'm trying to watch football by reading articles and such.  They Browns over here don't even get replays on the TV.  I did get to see the Saints game, and based on what I see the Browns have been in every game and seemed to always throw games away.  From my undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, they look like a team that couldn't find away to win in the first part of the season.  Is this a team that is learning to win and believe in themselves or is it just wishful thinking?

Adkins' Answer: The key here is a much hated word used by the HC often -- it's a process and it's exactly that.

The Browns have shot themselves in the foot throughout the first 5-6 games of the season. Outside of the Pittsburgh game (which was still reasonably within reach), the Browns have failed to capitalize on the opportunity that good teams don't fail to utilize.

A team such as the Browns due to the lengthy mediocre play and mounting losses is one which has to learn how to win. Seizing the moment in the NFL is much tougher than many will credit.

One thing that stands out about this current team is the manner which they play 'team' football. Void of true, proven play-makers, lacking this overall dynamic is difficult to be successful when playing at a talent deficit.

This is why the job done by this staff, the HC and those guys on the sideline should be recognized.

Execution at this level is critical, as the same can be said about the ability to minimize mistakes -- two areas this team has greatly improved upon recently.

The improved execution breeds confidence and this team is playing confidently, which having fin with the game.

Also, I must add the offensive players love playing with rookie QB Colt McCoy. In speaking to various players, I am told McCoy is a leader, brings a calm confidence. His poise and accuracy has really been recognized by his teammates and coaches alike.


How good are the 2010 Browns?

Chidawg: We now have impressive wins over quality teams back to back - one of those on the road.

Even some of the earlier losses are looking a lot more "understandable" since we did not know early on that Kansas City and Tampa Bay would be as competitive as they have shown.

In fact, if the season were over today, Baltimore, New England, Kansas City, and Atlanta would win or be tied for a division title.

Pittsburgh and New Orleans would be wild card teams.  Tampa Bay would be in a tie breaker with Philadelphia and Chicago for the final spot in the NFC.  A win by Pittsburgh tonight elevates them into a tie with Baltimore for the AFC North.

The only opponent without playoff chances at this point is Cincinnati.

Going 3-5 against THAT schedule is starting to look...   impressive?!?!?!?   - especially compared to our performance in 2008 & 2009.

Insider thoughts?

Adkins' Answer: This remains a team that cannot afford to make costly errors, and there has been improvement in this area. The team is gaining a consistency and confidence, some of which comes from a coaching staff displaying confidence in the players.

At 3-5, the Browns have been competitive, they have had their opportunities to win games that have ultimately placed an L in the loss column.

This is a much improved team when compared to the 2009 model overall, as the execution has been progressively improved and the team appears to have found an identity.

The Browns will not be overlooked by any opponent in the second half of the season and the schedule does favor the Browns in comparison to the first half of the 2010 schedule.


Future front office structure

Szuch77: With all of the discussion about Holmgren wanting to possibly coach again, I was wondering if a scenario could play out where if Mangini continues his success the rest of the season, he would keep his job, which would lead to Holmgren going to another team to coach (i.e. Dallas, San Fran, etc...). If this occured do you think Mangini and Heckert's relationship is strong enough to co-exist without Holmgren and if Holmgren did leave do you think he would want to take Heckert with him? Also, if Holmgren did leave, would Lerner want to bring in another president or just role with Heckert and Mangini?

Adkins' Answer: I don't believe we are going to see Holmgren bolt for Dallas, but for discussion sake, here goes.

If Holmgren were to leave, it is extremely unlikely Heckert would follow suit. In Dallas, it's everything Jerry Jones, he fills many roles and is basically the GM as well.

Heckert has a future in Cleveland, as he has a solid relationship on the FO with all, and the team owner and current HC also have a solid working relationship with the man.

It'll be most interesting to see the season play out and whether Holmgren does indeed intend on coaching again.

If this Browns team remains competitive and displays progress now seen, it's going to be difficult to fire Mangini straight-up, unless he is given some sort of ultimatum regarding his staff.


Another Holmgren question

pmars64: Any chance he could bolt to SF?  Lane answered about Dallas, but Holmgren is a bay area guy and obviously coached there.  Don't know what the SF front office is like, but Singletary is likely gone.  I could see a scenario where SF offers Holmgren power and control comparable to what he has in Cleveland.  If so, how could Holmgren not at least seriously consider it.  I think Holmgren would have to find someone to replace him as team pres for Lerner to exit gracefully.  I don't think he would leave Lerner high and dry.  Thoughts?

Adkins' Answer: Unless he has more power than that of a HC, I don't see it happening with the structure in place in SF.

Now, if given absolute power, this may be something that would seriously interest him.

Being under contract as he is, he can't simply walk out and take another job, unless he is fired or permitted as such.

If the team and organization continue to grow and achieve, I don't believe his departure would be permitted.


More Holmgren

rutger: I don't understand all this Holmgren wanting to coach again and/or him leaving to do it someplace else questioning out there simply because he said he sits up in his box and can't help but think like a coach (that he had been for so long), and what he might do a little differently.  How else would anyone expect him as an ex-coach and now the President to be thinking while watching the team he's building play and/or practice?

If his intention really was to get back into coaching at the age of 62 or 63 next year (and he wasn't coaching last year either so it's not like this is a sudden cultural shock for him), wouldn't he have just fired Mangini off the bat and taken over the coaching as well as being Team President last year?  Brought in the same people he did to help him draft and pick free agents and fulfilled his dream of coaching again then?

He just doesn't come off as that kind of indecisive type of person to me, let alone one who's more than just a little wishy washy about it.  Does he to you guys?

Me, I think he wants to be and sees himself as another Bill Parcells.  Both were very successful HC's, but Holmgren had not been a success as a GM or team President yet and that's the role he wants to prove he's just as good at by building a winner from the top down.

Adkins' Answer: I look at the Holmgren situation in this manner -

Coming to Cleveland as the team president, there was plenty of evaluation to be done, as well as add the pieces to his front office puzzle to change the direction of the organization. This alone is a lengthy process, as the organization required a complete evaluation to ensure issues of the past would be rectified.

This timely work was to extensive for any man, even an experienced head coach and former GM type such as Holmgren to maintain in multiple roles would ultimately lead to each role not gaining the fullest of attention.

With Holmgren's people now surrounding him, within the new front office structure for months, this structure itself may be stabilized to the point Holmgren may be entertaining the option of returning to the sideline.

Knowing what I know about the man, if he indeed seeks a return to the sideline, he has spent endless hours debating whether it would be the correct move, not only for the Cleveland Browns organization, but him personally.

It's hard for a successful HC to walk away from the action, if he still has that fire burning.  I just see it as a very difficult situation for Holmgren. As the team improves and meets the 'competitive' nature Holmgren expressed as being the expectation in 2010, I don't see how dismissing the HC would be a positive step.

The final eight games in the 2010 season are going to be key indicators as for the direction of the team on the field and that of Holmgren.


Mangini trying to please Holmgren?

tall66man: Last year when we went on our winning streak we had no choice but to run the ball and pound it. We won, regardless of the commentary on the quality of the opponents - they were wins and we were in no position to take any win for granted. Could Holmgren's commentary about the lack of passing led to EM allowing Delhomme to think he was the second coming of Marino and spray passes all over the field? I can not help but think that MH let Delhomme think he was going to be able to lead with his arm, when he signed him. Could his influence be what made EM change from the style that led us to win? Also- we only went back to running when they felt we could not pass. I am fearful that if they gain more confidence in Colt they may inch back towards the balanced attack, Holmgren prefers and take us from the style that is successful for us ..please share your thoughts on this - any and/or all insiders. Could it be that EM just decided he was just going to have to do it his own way ???

Adkins' Answer: If Delhomme doesn't suffered multiple ankle injuries, those opening of the season losses may have had a different outcome.

Injuries are part of the game and it is what it is, but this offense, the players surrounding him believe in him andd they achieved in pre-season and early in the season opener.

The throwing of the football was part of the offensive scheme and it did have some bright opportunities. But, getting the passing game in gear would help the rushing attack and the coaching staff sought balance, especially as the rushing attack and play along the offensive line struggled early on.

I don't see Mike Holmgren directly causing the change in approach -- as the Browns attempted to be versatile and provide a threat.

I do know for a fact the HC and Holmgren talk often, about everything related to Browns football and I am as sure as I sit here, Holmgren's influence and expertise rubbed off onto the HC and that has been a good facet for this HC and team.

The Mangini teams in NY also were sort of closet cases. The impression is Mangini wants to run the ball 50 times a game, making the old Big-Ten conference football gods smile.

But in reality, Mangini has been on each side of the coin. From a passing game plan to that of a rushing game plan. When he talks about scheming specifically for the opposition, he really does believe in this theory.


Rob Ryan's influence

rutger: Kind of looks a lot like Ryan's style of play is rubbing off on the rest of the coaching staff the last couple of games doesn't it?  And personally I love his beat me over the top because you're not going to pound it down it away at me approach.  A  DB gets repeatedly beat, he either improves or he's replaced, the approach doesn't change.

Yesterday this staff had an aggression first, foremost and last in all phases of the game and more power to them for it, now keep it up because players love to play the game that way and it shows.

Adkins' Answer: Improved talent and an ability of the offense to gain time of possession has helped Ryan's defense gain greater impact and consistent play.

Actually, the offense appears to be more aggressive, but there are factors involved that help push this perception.

The unit has gained a confidence and identity, which was lost early in the 2010 season as this team sought an identity.

Execution and confidence are the two immediate facets that just off the tape when looking at this team.

Some of the intensity, the make-up and emotions involved from some on the offense side of the ball are now showing, as the unit improves.


Play calling: Who gets the credit?

BeerDog: Just curious if you had any insight into who should get the credit for the more effective play calling this week.  Is this Daboll finally coming into his own or are Holmgren and Haskell becoming more involved?  Conversely, do you think the quality of the play calling has remained more or less constant and its really coming down to better execution.  Thanks.

LaneAdkins: Brian Daboll is in the line of fire when the play-calling appears mediocre and deserves credit for what is becoming an increasingly efficient unit.

Execution is the word I have preached for years and especially in the year-plus the Mangini crew has been in Cleveland.


Mo Mass

rutger: To me this was far and away his most impressive game.  No catches that made you jump out of your seat, instead he just simply caught everything thrown at him.  This kid had to earned a lot of respect from his QB yesterday.

I've never been a big MoMass fan.  I would never have drafted a guy that had a questionable hands rep. coming out of college, but if he continues to play like he did yesterday that's another position we don't need to fill.   He had a real nice game.

Adkins' Answer: It;s nicer to see the game-plan looking to utilize the WR and a QB that can get the ball to the WR -- accurately.


Colt McCoy

brownsrthebest04: Will he be the starter from here on out can you bench him?

Adkins' Answer: There is no reason to sit the young man down.

With each passing week, McCoy displays the ability to lead this team and make plays that have been void at the position.


Grading (Eric) Barton and (Abe) Elam after the Pats game?

tochigi: In the first part of the season the play of Abe Elam and Eric Barton drew lots of criticism in various posts.  How do you all view them now?

I thought Eric Barton has been looking quite solid the last few games. True, or my imagination?

What about Abe Elam. Seems like he made some good plays against the Pats.  Do you see over all improvement there or just one good game?

Adkins' Answer: Barton has steadily improved as the season has progressed. This itself may be somewhat a product of the defensive scheme being utilized to confuse the opposition, much more than simply lining up and playing.

Additionally, the defense has been doing a much better job as a whole on first down, which leads to getting off the field.

Couple this improvement with the ability the offense has shown in running the ball and handling the time of possession battle and success generally follows.t

Barton has played better the past three games than he has at any time in Cleveland.

Being surrounded by a much more physical type personnel has helped not only Barton inside, but the entire defensive unit. A key cog has been the play of NT Ahytba Rubin, his excellent work in recognizing and maintaining gap responsibility and integrity significantly helps the ILB's.

As for Elam, he has performed better in recent weeks, but he remains somewhat a liability in coverage, but the c-2 and c-3 scheme, with some surprising coverage drops and blitz packages has helped created pressure or a sense of squeezed passing lanes for the opposing QB's


Running back depth

brownsouth: Who's behind Mike Bell?  Are we thin?

Adkins' Answer: To a point, yes.

Lawrence Vickers is the emergency 3rd RB, with Clayton a likely call-up from the practice squad if necessary.

If the position were to be void of bodies, I'd expect the front office to look at a vet with some experience in a similar offense.

I am wondering how much the running game will suffer if Hillis goes down?  His play has been awesome.


What happens if Hillis gets hurt?

tochigi: So what happens if Hillis is injured?  Would Bell or the other guy be able to produce? The few times Bell has come in, the results have been nondescript at best.  But is that because he gets so few touches?

Tell me it will be OK . Tell me that we can expect the rushing game to continue reasonably well in the event of an injury to Hillis.

Or are we always just one play away from disaster?

Adkins' Answer: Considering the void behind Hillis, the run game would struggle. Bell is adequate, has displayed a toughness, but filling the shoes of Hillis would be very difficult.

The yards after contact, which Hillis has been exceptional in achieving would be the greatest loss.


I agree with the RB depth being so low. So...

bds2222: While I don't have a whole lot to complain about right now (refreshing change of pace).....did we screw the pooch here?

I felt a lot better about Jerome Harrison and James Davis backing up Hillis.

I think it's safe to say we know Jerome Harrison was shipped out of town for an injury prone declining player because he wasn't happy about his role and wasn't hiding it.  Right or wrong, Mangini ships any discontents out of town to take their talents elsewhere.  Luckily he's had the luxury of the malcontents being not so talented thus far.  Save for maybe Jerome and even then he's only slightly above average talent wise.

But still....I had a lot more confidence in Jerome and James as our backups.

Adkins' Answer: Considering the lack of confidence the HC has in both noted players, they would only get PT in the case of injury.

With Hillis being one play away from injury at any time, which is the case for any player, the organization must field a competent backup.

Mike Bell isn't chopped liver, he is a tough runner with experience.

He doesn't possess the potential dynamic of a Harrison or the raw Davis, he is solid to be a between the tackles RB.

Though, I am greatly concerned if Hillis were to miss PT, as he is a beast in yardage after contact.

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