Quarterback position is unsettled heading into offseason
When the season ended a year ago, the Browns knew Colt McCoy would be the starting quarterback, but they didn't know who the head coach would be until Pat Shurmur was hired 11 days later.
As players head to their offseason homes after another dismal season, they know Shurmur will be their head coach in 2012, but they aren't sure about the quarterback position because the front office hasn't endorsed McCoy.
McCoy, who missed the last three games because of concussion symptoms, tied for 25th in the league in passer rating at 74.6. His average of 5.9 yards per pass was higher than the figure of only one other quarterback in the league, Jacksonville rookie Blaine Gabbert.
He threw 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
The season ended badly for McCoy when he was concussed on a helmet-to-facemask hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
McCoy was 4-9 as a starter in 2011, but it was his first year in the West Coast, and he had no offseason program to learn the offense. That has to be taken into consideration when management decides whether he is the right man for the job.
Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace had a poor game Sunday in the Browns' 13-0 loss to the Steelers. Wallace completed 16 of 41 passes for 177 yards. He was intercepted once and didn't throw a touchdown pass.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Rookie classes aren't supposed to be graded for three years, but the Browns can make an exception on their top three picks.
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, chosen 21st overall after the Browns moved down and then back up in the first round, was an anchor inside along with four-year veteran Ahtyba Rubin. Second-round pick Jabaal Sheard has given the defense quickness at end the Browns haven't had since Kamerion Wimbley was a rookie in 2006.
The Browns passed on Julio Jones in the first round when they made the draft-day trade with the Falcons, then got their receiver with the 59th pick by choosing Greg Little. Little caught 61 passes. He has strength to break tackles and run after the catch, and he should benefit from an offseason program.
Overall, the defense showed improvement from a year ago. It ranked 10th in total yards allowed, and more important, sixth in points allowed. Both were the best finishes for the Browns in the expansion era.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The defense was a bright spot. The offense was a disappointment. Tracing the cause of why the Browns scored only 218 points in their first year using the West Coast offense is the major task for coach Pat Shurmur, team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert.
Peyton Hillis did not match his production of a year ago, dropping from 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 to 587 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. No one else filled the gap. Hillis was hampered by injury problems that caused him to miss six games, and he had off-the-field issues that included a lingering contract dispute. Now the Browns must decide whether to re-sign him or let him go in free agency. They do not seem enthusiastic about re-signing him.
A back injury to Eric Steinbach in training camp forced Shurmur to use rookie Jason Pinkston at left guard. Pinkston never played guard at Pitt. The right side of the line, with Shawn Lauvao at guard and Tony Pashos at tackle, struggled at times.
Problems in the run offense coupled with a suspect offensive line and lack of a deep threat at receiver, such as Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown with the Steelers, makes judging quarterback Colt McCoy difficult for the Browns brain trust.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Josh Cribbs caught a season-high seven passes for 91 yards in the loss to Pittsburgh.
--DT Ahtyba Rubin tied a season high with nine tackles. He added his fifth sack, which is also a career best.
--P Brad Maynard, after going the first 15 games without a touchback, did kick one into the end zone on a 63-yarder.
--CB Joe Haden recovered a fumble for the first time in his career.
--WR Greg Little did not catch a pass Sunday but still led the Browns with 61 receptions.