Time for a Heart-to-Heart

<BR>Despite the 2-2 record, the Browns aren't yet looking like a playoff team, or even a .500 team, when it comes to the offense. Rich Passan examines what we've seen to date, and offers some insight into the issues the team is experiencing getting their offensive stars aligned...<BR><BR>

If Browns coach Butch Davis comes away a satisfied man following Sunday's 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins, he is making a mistake of monumental proportions.

This one was hardly a Picasso. In fact, it was a lot closer to finger painting.

If it is the Browns' intention of leading the National Football League in ugly victories this season, they are succeeding in spectacular fashion. In fact, they are very close to making it an art form.

Yes, the record is 2-2. Yes, the Browns are unbeaten at home. And yes, the defense and special teams are playing up to – and often times beyond -- expectations. But there is one more alarming yes.

Yes, there are still many danger signs – mostly on offense – out there as the Browns enter the second quarter of the season Sunday in Pittsburgh. There are several indicators that all is not all sunshine and happiness in Berea.


  • A huge question mark at quarterback. Davis cannot honestly tell us this is what he expected from Jeff Garcia.
  • Lack of depth on the offensive line. This area is one of the team's weak points and season-long health is a must in order for it to be effective.
  • Poor pass protection for Garcia. The offensive line has proven it can run block for Lee Suggs and William Green, but has failed to provide Garcia with time to throw. The fact he is still vertical after four games is a testament to his toughness,   resolve, quick feet and luck.
  • An offensive coordinator who appears unsure of what he wants to do. Getting a handle on Terry Robiskie's philosophy has been difficult. If his intention is to confuse us, he has succeeded.
  • A pass rush that wouldn't scare a college team. Thus far, the defensive line has proven it can stop the run. And it's about time. But harassing the quarterback would be nice, too. It's a must if the secondary is to provide turnovers for the offense.

It has become abundantly clear that Davis needs to have a long talk with his quarterback. There are problems that exist that shouldn't be a concern heading into week five.

He has to convince Garcia that this is not San Francisco. There are no trolley cars here. Terrell Owens is in Philadelphia. Bill Walsh is not here to hold his hand. Get over not being a 49er. Apparently, this has not sunk in.

Davis has to make it clear that the West Coast offense that helped make Garcia a three-time Pro Bowler is not the offense of choice in Cleveland. Get used to it and conform.

He has to make it clear that poor first halves will not be tolerated. If not for the defense and special teams holding this team together in the first 30 minutes of games, the Browns might be winless today.

Issues like this should not have to be addressed at this late date.

Here it is eight games (including exhibitions) into the season and the Browns' offense is still struggling. Garcia looks as comfortable at quarterback as Eminem would at a Dixie Chicks concert or John Kerry at a Republican fund-raiser.

The Fox TV crew working the game Sunday spoke of Garcia's problems getting used to the nomenclature of the Browns' playbook. The language is totally different than that in San Francisco.

The plays are the same, but the play calls are different. After nearly six months in the system, one would think that wouldn't be a problem for Garcia anymore.

But maybe a corner has been turned.

Sunday against the Redskins, we saw a glimpse of what could be the solution. Play-fake misdirection bootlegs by Garcia caught the Redskins off guard and proved effective. Why it even got the Browns into the end zone once. At the very least, it took pressure off the offensive line.

In order to know how important the struggling offense is to Davis, know one thing. He is a defensive coach. The hallmark of his teams will be defense, special teams and controlling the flow of the game. Field position and time of possession are key ingredients to his success.

Following the game Sunday, Davis talked about how well Garcia "managed the game." In other words, he didn't screw up. No interceptions. No fumbles. Very few mistakes.

It has to be that way until Garcia embraces his new offense and turns it into something opposing defenses will respect. If that's possible.

In his post-game ramblings, Davis almost always talks about the wonderful attributes of his team. The words are the same no matter the outcome.

"There was no quit today," he said Sunday. "Our character showed up today. I'm proud of the way they handled the adversity of the last two weeks. They needed something to validate all the hard work they've put in the last few weeks."

No quit; character; proud; hard work. Listen very carefully and you'll hear most of those same words after a loss.

Is Davis trying to convince himself his team always gives him the maximum effort or is he trying to motivate and squeeze every bit of talent out of an underachieving crew?

A lot will depend on when – not if – Garcia decides to put San Francisco in his rear-view mirror. In the meantime, Davis should not become sanguine because of the deceiving record. The picture is still blurry.

Focus, Butch, and have a nice heart-to-heart with your quarterback.

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