Learn from the past, but concentrate on the future.
Those are the words the Browns players must live by if they are to be successful this season.
Too much attention is being paid to the disturbing 2003 season an has left behind far too much negativity in the minds of the players.
What's done is done and can never be changed. All those missed tackles … all those dropped passes … all those penalties … all those blown coverages that happened during the 5-11 season a year ago are a thing of the past. Hey, they happened. They are now part of history.
How they happened, why they happened and when they happened are things Butch Davis and his coaching staff must examine. Were they a result of having players on the field not capable of performing on the NFL level? Were they a result of coaches putting players in roles in which they aren't comfortable? Are the Browns being out-coached?
Those are questions which Davis must answer in about a three-week period of time. It's a daunting task, but one which, if he wants to keep his job beyond this season, must be answered very quickly.
But Davis must now somehow erase those negative memories from his players' minds. He must try to fill their minds with positive thoughts … with optimism … with the belief that, if they play as a team and do everything their own individual talents allow, will result in their being able to accomplish anything they put their minds to.
Many people refer to it as the power of positive thinking. After the 24-3 lambasting the Browns took in the 2004 preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, it was hard to find many positives on which to embrace.
But here is my list of the top 10 positives which came out of he Titans game:
- No serious injuries. Far too often key players are lost
in meaningless exhibition games, injuries that impact the all-important regular
season. The Browns were fortunate to come away with only minor bumps and
- Experience for offensive line. The revamped offensive
line now has one game, or at least one quarter, under its collective belt.
Unless more changes in personnel are forthcoming, the five guys who figure to
protect quarterback Jeff Garcia and open holes for the running backs have at
least a little bit of experience.
That couldn't be said a week ago.
- Lee Suggs and William Green. These guys, while lacking a
lot of game experience, show flashes of brilliance whenever they get even the
smallest opening through which to run. If both remain healthy, the team might
have its best running back combination since Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack.
- Kelvin Garmon and Ryan Tucker side-by-side. OK, this
relates to both No. 2 and No. 3 but deserves special mention because these two
huge men who occupy the right side of the offensive line can and will hold the
key to the 2004 season. The Browns must be able to run the ball. They must be
able to run it to the right side. In the loss o the Titans, it was one of the
few things the team did well on a consistent basis.
- Kellen Winslow Jr.'s downfield skirmish. This was huge
for a couple of reasons. First off, it showed the intensity Winslow brings to
the field, even for meaningless exhibition games. Hopefully, some of that
intensity will rub off on his teammates.
It also was a positive because Winslow now knows what it will be like on a week-in, week-out basis. Opponents are going to try to knock him around, which they did a couple of plays before his personal foul. The self-proclaimed "Chosen One" will have a target on his uniform all season. If Winslow is able to take advantage of this fact, if he gets opponents to concentrate on him instead of achieving their overall goal of winning the game, it can be helpful. Of course, if Winslow loses his temper as he did against the Titans, it could be disruptive for the Browns. This is a situation worth keeping at least one eye on throughout the year.
- Kelly Holcomb. The player scheduled to be the Browns'
backup quarterback looked like he is healthy and ready to fill that role. His
knowledge of the offense gives him a huge advantage over starter Jeff Garcia,
thus Holcomb's preseason performances will likely overshadow those of Garcia.
I wouldn't be surprised to hear fans start calling for Holcomb to start . But no matter how good his preseason stats are, or how bad Garcia's might be as he adjusts to his new team, there will be no wavering in Davis's' decision. Davis went through a quarterback derby all of last season and saw first-hand just how disruptive it can be. Barring injury, Garcia will be the starting quarterback throughout the year.
- The defensive line. OK, call me stupid, but in my
opinion the defensive line actually did its job on running plays for the most
part. The fact is, the linemen are there to occupy blockers, thus allowing the
linebackers to make the plays. It's not their fault when a linebacker misses a
tackle or finds himself out of position. It is vital the linemen don't try to do
too much … that they occupy their lanes and let the chips fall where they may.
- Place-kicker Phil Dawson. Dawson has always been
extremely accurate when working with holder Chris Gardocki, who is now absent
for the first time since the franchise returned. Dawson doesn't seem to have
missed a beat. Dawson not only is extremely consistent, but he seems to be
adding a couple of yards to his range every season.
- Fullback Terrelle Smith. For the first time the Browns
now have a legitimate fullback, a guy capable o not only blowing open holes, but
also protecting the quarterback. He saw limited action against the Titans, but
don't look for that to be a pattern this year.
- The game doesn't count. Come the regular season, no one will remember the 24-3 loss to the Titans.
And those, my friends, are 10 positives which should be taken from the exhibition opener. They are all things upon which the team can build both mentally and physically as the regular-season approaches.