Welcome to Team Chaos

<BR>It has taken just three weeks for the 2004 Browns to start looking like they are coming apart at the seams. Veteran writer and broadcaster Rich Passan, like many who follow the Browns, feels strongly about what he's seen so far, and offers his take on the team's progress so far this season...<BR><BR>

Welcome to Team Chaos, a.k.a. the 2004 edition of your . . . Cleveland . . . Browns.

Week 3 of the season and the team is spiraling into a state of disarray. Week 3!!!!

Left hand not knowing what right hand is doing. Coaches making bad decisions. Players not certain what the hell is going on. Injuries complicating matters.

This is not the exhibition season, where all the kinks are discovered and tolerated and coached. Where all the mistakes are dealt with and eliminated. Where the groundwork for the regular season is carefully laid.

This is Week 3, for goodness sake. Where all the timing that was worked on in the exhibition season should be closer to a precise thing of beauty than it is. Where the center and quarterback shouldn't botch the simplest of exchanges. Where easy interceptions shouldn't be dropped. Where coaches shouldn't wait until the second half of games to make adjustments.

Losing two games in a row, even at this stage of the season, can fill a team with self doubt. Sure, the players put on a brave face and say "we're better than this. We know we are. And we'll prove it. We just have to work harder. Mentally, we're fine. We've gotta keep chopping at the tree."

What do you expect them to say? We stink? We know it and there isn't anything we can do about it? Too bad we still have 13 games left? Wait'll next year?

What are they going to work harder at? Being bad? Making mistake after mistake?

It's one thing to know what the mistakes are. It's quite another when those mistakes are repeated.

Sunday's 27-10 loss to the ordinary New York Giants was a study in futility. Three dropped interceptions, a touchdown nullified by a penalty, poor pass protection and coaching strategy that was questionable at best.

The offense is embarrassing. Three touchdowns in three games won't win many games, no matter how good your defense and special teams are. Those two units need a lot of help.

What is this offense trying to do? What is its personality? Are quarterback Jeff Garcia and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie of the same mind-set? Are they on the same planet? Is Garcia trying to run an offense in which he cannot succeed?

"We need to have an identity," said Garcia after the Giants loss. "We need to find out who we are." What is this? Dr. Phil?

Garcia sounded the warning signals midway through the exhibition season. He needed more repetitions, more passes to throw, he said. The Browns responded by going no-huddle in the final exhibition game with Garcia doing nothing but throwing for a couple of series.

There, that should shut him up. Next.

When Garcia and center Jeff Faine can't execute the center snap from scrimmage in game three of the regular season, something is terribly wrong. Especially when the problem crops up five yards shy of the opponent's end zone at a point in the game where a momentum shift could have changed the outcome.

 "It's something I'll have to work on," Garcia said. And he said it with a straight face.

Something he'll have to work on? Four exhibition games and three regular-season games later, he has to work on the most rudimentary start of an offensive play from scrimmage?

And the reason for the snafu? Listen to Faine, who sounds as if he's taking courses in doublespeak.

To one group of reporters, he offered the following: "I couldn't tell you what happened other than the ball hit him (Garcia) differently and I knew something was wrong." To another group, he said. "I'm pretty sure it got up to him. I don't know what happened, but I thought it felt pretty good coming out of my hand."

Coach Butch Davis blamed the fumble on Garcia's sweaty palms. Garcia rejected that notion.

The fumbled snap ended the Browns' opening drive in the second half.  Davis called it "the best drive of the season."  It took the Browns 10 quarters before they could put together their "best drive of the season." That, folks, is an indictment.

Garcia said the Browns need to play with "a sense of urgency" at the beginning of games. Davis disagreed. He said his team needs to play with "a sense of confidence."

This team can't even get its stories straight.

There were times during Sunday's mess at the Meadowlands that – heaven help me – Bruce Arians' name popped into my thoughts. The Browns got rid of Arians for this? Somewhere in Pittsburgh, where he is now the receivers coach, Robiskie's predecessor has to be smiling.

So where are the wonderful wide receivers the Browns talk so glowingly about? Are they getting open? If not, why not? Is Garcia getting enough time to get the ball to them? All these questions with no apparent answers.

Here's a start: Watch as much film of Garcia when he was posting Pro Bowl-type numbers at San Francisco and find out why he was so successful. Why was he racking up 16,400 yards in five seasons with the 49ers? Why was he throwing 113 TD passes in 71 games? He looks absolutely lost in this offense.

And I don't want to hear about the injuries. Five starters are out on defense. The major problems are not on that side of the ball. If the offense can stay on the field longer, maybe the defense can operate more efficiently.

Only right tackle Ryan Tucker and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. are out on offense. (William Green is filling in well for Lee Suggs.)  Is the offense that fragile where it collapses with those two out? Guess so.

The loss of Tucker played a prominent part in the Browns' coaching strategy for the Giants game. They overcompensated for his loss by giving Joaquin Gonzalez so much help against New York defensive end Michael Strahan, Garcia's options were limited. Since when does a team game-plan for one man?

At halftime, the coaches simplified some of the pass-protection schemes and, according to Davis, "let everybody fight their own battles."

What took so long? Why did it take 30 minutes of game time to realize the game plan was not working? Are these guys that slow?

If the answer is yes, then Davis has bigger problems than he ever imagined.

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