State of the Team: Before Steelers Game

The Cleveland Browns have a terrible record on the field and a growing sense of a mess off the field. What is the State of the Team the day before taking on the rival Steelers?

As a fan or as a member of the media, it is hard to figure out exactly what is going on with our favorite professional sports franchise. For most, or all, professional teams we don't know the inside workings but we tend to have a sense of where things are and where they are going. Even with Lane's great inside piece, expect another before the game tomorrow, the Browns seem like a team in a state of confusion.

Weekly I want to take a look at the State of the Team. This can take on a variety of things from on the field, off the field, management and more. It will entail a combination of what we know, what we see, what we hear and what we infer. I won't be breaking any news or inside information but combining it all to get a feel for the State of the Team.

Today, our first, will take us in three different directions:

Chicken or the Egg?

The power struggle that Lane described gives light to a possible discussion going on with Jimmy Haslam and most likely Alec Scheiner, among others. Are the Cleveland Browns bad because they don't have enough talent or are the Cleveland Browns bad because the coaches are not putting them in a good position for that talent to produce?

It is not, and should not be, their record that brings up this question. Wins and losses are far more detailed and complex than to blame on either the GM or the coach only. Strength of schedule, matchup fit, health, weather and even luck of the bounce also play huge roles in the outcomes of games.

It is the performance on the field that has raised these questions and, much like the Chicken or the Egg, answers are varied. Let us take a look at each side of the football and see if we can answer the question: Is it a talent problem or a coaching problem?


Prior to the season, we were all sure we would have an elite defense. We added Danny Shelton to stop the run, veterans Randy Starks and Tramon Williams were brought in to bring talent and experience and the rest of the team was a mix of young and veteran talents. Paul Kruger had a great year last year and Barkevious Mingo was finally going to be healthy while Christian Kirksey and Karlos Dansby were very good inside. With Joe HadenTashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner starting and K'Waun WilliamsPierre DesirJustin Gilbert and Charles Gaines Jr. in reserve, the defensive backfield was talented and deep.

Yet, to this point, the defense has underachieved. That seems to point to coaching being the problem. We all believed the team had talent coming into the season and they are not playing well, easy to point to the coach. However, Dansby and Whitner seem to have declined, Haden has fallen off and the rest just have not been good enough. Could we have overemphasized what talent was here? Did the team bring in veterans that still had something left in the tank?


The offensive side was much the opposite. We believed we had a good to great offensive line, with the added security blanket of Cameron Erving. Besides the line, we hoped that Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson would be good enough running behind such a great line. The QB position and his weapons were huge concerns going into the season with only slot guy Andrew Hawkins expected to shine.

Yet, to this point, it has been the passing game, 15th in the league in yards, that has carried the Browns offense. With the belief that limited talent was brought in by the front office, the coaching staff would have to get credit for how well the offense has played.


In the end it seems the coaching staff hasn't done well on the defensive side of the ball even with the talent they have been given but that the offensive staff has made much out of little. That doesn't lead to a simple solution/answer/blame for Haslam/Scheiner and company. What if the defensive side of the ball was coached better? What if the front office brought in real weapons for the offensive coaches?

Chicken or the Egg?

Two Point Conversion

1. The State of the Team is an interesting one especially when it comes to one Johnny Manziel. Lane's piece made it clear that Manziel was not someone Mike Pettine wanted anything to do with. Pettine and OC John DeFilippo are clearly holding Manziel's feet to the fire as well. According to an ESPN report, Manziel stated that he couldn't see some throws due to his height with Pett and Flip both not giving the young QB that as an excuse:

"There's other quarterbacks in this league that are his size and are having some success," DeFilippo said.

"There are other quarterbacks of his stature that have been successful," Pettine said.  "The realization is that he's going to have to understand where to move in the pocket to create some throwing lanes. When you study a Drew Brees, you can see that he's not a scrambler but he has great sense in the pocket as far as where to move in relation to who he's throwing to and where the potential throwing lane would be. Russell Wilson is similar in that aspect as well."

At least the coaches are in lock step and that they are pushing Manziel to be successful in a way they believe will work long term in the NFL.

2. From the outside looking in, the State of the Team keeps seeming worse. Albert Breer of reported that teams told him that dealing with the Browns around the Trade Deadline was tough because they weren't sure who was in charge. GM Ray Farmer has made it clear that they make decisions as a group, including Pettine, Haslam and possible Scheiner, so that makes some sense. It doesn't instill confidence that their organizational structure is going to work long term, as I wrote here. Breer also notes the long standing whispers that Peyton Manning could be coming in as the head football voice as early as next year.

Where do you see the State of the Team a day before the Steelers game?

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