Grace period is over for the Browns' offense. That's it. No more mulligans. Not after what happened Sunday in Pittsburgh.
It's official. After five games, the team's offense has the aroma of six-month-old limburger cheese.
In the first four games this season, the Browns were carried by their defense and special teams. Without them, the team probably would have been winless going into the Steelers game.
Time and again, they bailed out the offense, which was supposed to be the hallmark of this team with a new quarterback who has been to three Pro Bowls; a blocking fullback with the reputation of clearing the way for 1,000-yard rushers; two solid running backs; and a heralded rookie tight end.
Frustrated as they were, they continued to put the offense in a position to win games. They held up their end of the bargain.
But in Sunday's 34-23 loss, the defense made Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger look like anything but a rookie. Anthony Henry losing track on Plaxico Burress twice didn't help. And the special teams short-circuited all afternoon, starting with Chris Crocker's inability to recover the opening-kickoff fumble.
On an afternoon when the defense and special teams had a rare off-day, the offense continued its sickly – and sickening – performance. For the first time this season, the offense was called on to rescue them. And it picked up a gun loaded with blanks.
So now, it's time to start pointing fingers of blame.
It is time to point to the one area that has been consistently pathetic. It is time to ratchet up the anger toward the one area most people believed was not going to be a problem
Here we are five games into the season and the Browns have yet to score their first offensive touchdown in the first half. Ten quarters, no TDs. Incredible.
It is time to hold Terry Robiskie's feet to the fire. The offensive coordinator is facing way too many questions with not nearly enough answers.
- What exactly is your philosophy?
- Do you favor a run-oriented offense or one that puts a premium on the passing game?
- If you favor the running game, then why don't you utilize the smash-mouth fullback you brought in from New Orleans? We're tired of seeing him on the sideline.
- If you favor the passing game and the opposition is blitz happy, why do you insist on five- and seven-step drops for your quarterback? Are you trying to get him maimed?
- Why do your receivers have trouble getting open? The team's spinmeisters say they are among the best in the league.
- Are you aware that your offensive line is really quite bad? (Sorry, we already know the answer to that one. You probably do, too.)
- Why don't you use the no-huddle offense early in games? Like the opening series. Catch the opposing defense by surprise.
- Do you have any quick-developing, high-percentage passing plays in your playbook? Hitches, drag patterns, slants? You know. The low-risk simple stuff.
- Why is your offense making the same mistakes week after week after week? Where is the discipline?
- Do you have a creative bone in your body?
- And finally, the biggest question of them all: Do you know what you're doing?
Robiskie compiled a playbook for this season that was heavily weighted to the talents of an unproven, attitudinal tight end. And because that tight end is through for the season, the playbook lost 50% of its volume. Amazing.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who should make certain all the premiums on his insurance policy are paid on time, says the Browns have to play with "a sense of urgency" at the beginning of games. OK. Ready when you are.
When does urgency turn into points? Where is the pride? Where is the desire? Where is the talent?
Here lies an offense that is so repulsive, it defiles the legacy of this team.
For years, the Browns were rich on offense. From the running of Marion Motley, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner to the throwing and quarterbacking savvy of Otto Graham, Bill Nelsen, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar to the pass receiving of Dante Lavelli, Mac Speedie, Paul Warfield, Gary Collins, Reggie Rucker and Ozzie Newsome.
Don't blame Garcia. Against the Steelers Sunday, he had no time to set his feet as the Browns danced the three-and-out tango in nearly half their possessions.
From the snap, it was 1-2-3, bam. Hey, how'd he get in here so quickly? Or 1-2-3-4-5, holy moly! Feet don't fail me now.
The fact Garcia finished the game in one piece is astonishing.
At the beginning of the season, I didn't think the most important factor in the Browns' offense this season was Garcia. Or who the running back was going to be. Or the wide receivers. Or the revamped offensive line.
The most important factor was Robiskie. He was taking over an offense that struggled mightily for three years under Bruce Arians. It did not have a direction. It was helter-skelter with a quarterback ill equipped to handle it.
And now what do the Browns have? An offense with no direction and a quarterback ill equipped to handle it.
Coach Butch Davis says the Browns have to start putting up sevens instead of threes when the red zone is reached. No kidding.
And just how do you plan on doing that, General Obvious? Are you sure you have enough offensive talent on this team to do that?
It appears as though your quarterback trusts only one wide receiver (Andre' Davis). He has failed to connect with your best third-down playmaker (Dennis Northcutt). Is it any wonder your offense is scraping the bottom of the NFL in third-down conversions?
It has become quite evident that your offensive coordinator is the reason.
It is easy to defense your pathetic offense. If I'm defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at the Stadium, I'd have my guys blitz the driver of the bus coming to the Stadium. I'd blitz the security people welcoming us. Then I'm going out and blitz Garcia into next week. I'm blitzing until the Browns prove they can beat it. I'm blitzing until the bus pulls out of the Stadium.
Davis, to his credit, realizes there is a problem here. Asked what his offense needs to do to remedy the situation, he said, "Chill. Just chill and play the way you're coached."
Uh, Butch, that's another problem. They are.