The Rhetoric of October

Frank Derry loves this time of year. There's a snap in the air, baseball and football are in high gear, the Browns stomping the Bungles, he can wear his dress outside... um... (ahem). The only negative thing is all the campaign rhetoric in the air. What with all these false charges, spinning, and campaign informercials it's hard to watch TV. Oh, wait, never mind... that's just Butch and Jeff again... <BR>

In many ways, I love this time of the year.

The weather has chilled; the leaves have turned; the kids are back in school.

Right around the corner is Halloween, that wonderful holiday that allows my once-a-year opportunity to legitimately walk out of my apartment wearing my powder blue chiffon dress, peek-a-boo nylons, blonde wig and Dolly Parton-size, uh, hooters. (All other times I have to sneak around like I'm some sort of pervert!)

Sports-wise, the baseball playoffs are well underway; basketball camps are open and footballs are flying everywhere as high school, college and professional teams work to try and earn a title.

About the only negative during this time of year are all of the political ads that interrupt my favorite television programs. (At times, I think it's my TV shows that are interrupting the political ads!)

Worst of all is the way the candidates will quote their opponents out of context. I mean whether you love George Bush or John Kerry, it doesn't matter. They all do the same thing, twisting and turning every word the other guy has said to make him look like an idiot. (Believe me, most of these guys and gals don't need any help. They can look like idiots all on their own.)

Through the first six weeks of the 2004 NFL season, it often times appears as though Butch Davis and Jeff Garcia are political candidates on opposite sides of an issue. In this case, the issue happens to be the Browns' so-called offense.

The disagreements started in the preseason when Garcia expressed the opinion he wasn't getting enough snaps. Since then, their differences have gotten a bit more heated just about every week.

The day after the Browns were trampled by the Steelers, Davis was asked about his team's offensive performance in the red zone and the offensive line's handling of the pass rush.

In the middle of his rather lengthy answer, Davis said, "When your quarterback gets hits, where there is pressure early in a ball game, a sack or a pressure or a hit, all of a sudden people can't panic and abandon fundamentals.

"If you're an offensive lineman, you have to punch people in the mouth. You have to protect. Your quarterback has to have confidence that the last time he got hit, that's an aberration. That's not going to happen the rest of the day. You can't be skittish. You have to sit in the pocket, make the throws and let the routes come open."

Two days later, when Garcia held his weekly press conference, he was asked about being called "skittish" by his coach. (By the way, according to my thesaurus, skittish means, among other things, all of the following: wary, jumpy, edgy and restless.)

Garcia, with a scowl on his face, said, "I don't have a reaction to that. Until he (Davis) plays the quarterback position, (only) then he can understand where I am coming from."

Wow! (Coach Butch, where is Tim Couch when you need him? I know Tim Couch. Tim Couch is a friend of mine. Tim Couch never, ever would have made such a comment!)

Davis did the politically correct thing and tried to downplay Garcia's comment when he was asked to respond to Garcia's response. Among other things, the head coach pointed a finger at the media for creating a controversy.

"He (Garcia) probably shouldn't have been (unhappy about the comment)," Davis said. "That is one of those things where the media takes one word out of 12 paragraphs and paraphrases it when it is taken out of context. Jeff and I talked about it and laughed about it.

"I will still say that when a quarterback gets hit when he thinks that he has protection, and he has the full right to expect it on certain plays, and that protection doesn't hold up for one reason or another, you will get skittish. That is no reflection on him. That is a reflection on every single quarterback."  

Garcia says everyone is "a little frustrated" by the snail-like pace at which the offense is coming together. Until the franchise-record 99-yard scoring pass from Garcia to Andre Davis in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Bengals, the Browns had not scored an offensive touchdown in the first half of a game this year.

Garcia later tossed scoring passes to Aaron Shea, Quincy Morgan and Lee Suggs in the Bowns' 34-17 romp past the hapless Bengals, but those quality moments were nearly offset by three Garcia mistakes … two interceptions and a fumbled snap from center.

Those weren't really "skittish" moments for the veteran quarterback. Instead, they were bonehead plays, although one of the interceptions might not have been totally his fault. It looked like Andre Davis might have cut his pattern short on Garcia's first interception. Against a quality team, three mistakes like that usually spell defeat. Fortunately, the Bengals are not a quality team at this time.

Quite frankly, Garcia has to go no further than his own mirror to see one big reason why the offense has struggled this year. His turnovers can be partly blamed on the lack of offensive cohesion, but certainly the fumbled snaps, of which there have been several, are in large part directly attributable to him.

"I wouldn't necessarily say that we are all on the same play on every given play, but that is not the reason for our lack of success," Garcia said.

Maybe it's not the only reason, but it's definitely a significant part of it.

Maybe an equally big part is the offensive talent level currently on the roster. That is a direct reflection on the approach Davis has taken in creating a quality offensive line.

Davis has been tentative instead of going full-throttle in building a line through high draft picks and acquiring top-of-the-line free agents. Instead, he has placed more of an emphasis on acquiring skill-position players.

That philosophy didn't work in 1999 or 2000 under then-head coach Chris Palmer, and it hasn't worked in 2001, 2002, 2003 or 2004 under Davis.

Mainly because the offensive line is still well below average, you have to wonder whether King Butch, who now dictates all facets of the football end of the organization, will be voted out after four years in office.

The victory over the Bengals will get some of the critics off his back. But much like the leaves in the fall, they'll quickly turn if the mighty Philadelphia Eagles come to Cleveland next Sunday and fly away with a victory.

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