Passan: Half-Full.. or Half-Empty?

Whether it's in Berea or the Bernie's Insiders forums, there are two ways of looking at Sunday's loss to the Eagles. Butch Davis, usually an optimist, was saw the glass as half empty. In the locker room, players saw it as half full. In his weekly column, veteran Browns analyst Rich Passan looks at the arguments for both...


It is so tempting to look at the way the Browns' offense played against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday and see the glass as half-full.

It is also very tempting to look at the way the Browns' defense played Sunday against the Eagles and see the glass as half-empty.

Half-full or half-empty?

If you're a half-full kinda fan, you look at the 34-31 loss as a huge positive, a reason to believe this is the beginning of something worth getting excited about.

If you're a half-empty kinda fan, it was a loss. Period. Did not win. Thus, it was a loss.

The different perspectives are very interesting. One looks only at the positive. There is no negative. This is called idealistic.

The other acknowledges the positives, but not to the total exclusion of the negatives. This is called realism.

The divergence produces some interesting arguments.


Great moral victory over the Eagles. Hey, the Eagles were unbeaten coming in here and the Browns played them tough all the way. And with a couple of breaks, they would have won the game.

Jeff Garcia is playing quarterback the way coach Butch Davis envisioned when he recruited the former San Francisco All-Pro. He has put productive games back-to-back. Six touchdowns in the last two games. Scrambling well. Staying vertical. 

William Green and Lee Suggs continue to find holes in the defense that previously had not existed. And they are running hard, picking up plenty of yardage after initial contact. Another indication that progress is being made.

And who provided those holes? The much-maligned offensive line. Why all the negative talk about these guys? They work hard. It was just a matter of time before they got going.

OK, they struggled at first, but what did you expect?

Ross Verba and Jeff Faine were coming back from injury and the guard situation was unsettled with newcomer Kelvin Garmon on the right side and whoever at left guard. Only Ryan Tucker was certain at right tackle and he went down early in the season.

Everyone knows offensive lines take time to gel. Sure, this group played terribly at first. But now, with Tucker back and Enoch DeMar playing well at left guard, there is a difference. You can see it.

This unit is playing with more confidence. Watch their body language after breaking the huddle. It's so apparent.

Hold on, half-empty fans. Your turn is coming. Be patient.

And how about those receivers? Not just the wide guys, but the tight ends as well. Not bad, eh?

What depth! No Andre' Davis Sunday. Andre King goes down early in the game. That left Dennis Northcutt, Frisman Jackson and Antonio Bryant. Cutt is a third receiver, Jackson is on the practice squad until last week and Bryant is a neophyte to the Browns' system after coming here from Dallas for Quincy Morgan. And each contributed Sunday.

At tight end, who needs Kellen Winslow Jr.? Aaron Shea and Steve Heiden have been terrific. Nine catches for nearly 100 yards against the Eagles. Heiden with a touchdown. Shea with some tough yards after the catch.

As far the defense and special teams go, hey, it was just a bad day against the Eagles. It's gonna happen. But you have to admit the transition defense was solid. Three turnovers, but only three points.

And don't worry about Anthony Henry. The kid is a stud at cornerback. Don't worry about him. He had an off day against Terrell Owens. Happens to the best of them.

Don't forget the line effectively shut down the Eagles' running game. Shut down Jamal Lewis and Tiki Barber and Clinton Portis, too. That's elite company.

Sure, the special teams had a bit of a problem Sunday. When Derrick Frost needed a clutch punt, he failed. But he's a rookie. Give him time. He'll be fine,

Granted, returning kickoffs appears to be another problem. More specifically, holding onto them. But James Jackson and Frisman Jackson are not used to fielding kickoffs. They were in because King got hurt and Dee Brown was released. They'll get better.

All right – half-empty time.

Was that a moral victory over the Eagles? Moral for whom? For what? Is there a column for moral victories? Don't think so. Let's move on.

Seven games into the season and Garcia is still in one piece. Shocking. It's just a matter of time before he goes down.

The pass protection his line gives him is, at best, marginal. He's not big enough to see over these big guys in front of him. They have to provide lanes for him to see his receivers. Without those lanes, he takes off.

So he scrambles well. Big deal. He shouldn't have to.

It is imperative Garcia be given time and the space to just set up and deliver the ball with the rhythm a quarterback needs to have. Don't think that's possible.

Did you see how effective Donovan McNabb was Sunday when given the protection and time needed to throw? He had way too much time to deliver the ball. Hey Butch, draft an offensive lineman – or three.

No argument regarding the running game. Finally, the Browns have one with Green and Suggs. And yes, the offensive line bullied the Eagles' and Cincinnati Bengals'  defensive lines.

But the big test there will come after the bye week. Four of the next five games are against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the New York Jets and New England, teams extremely effective against the run. Jury still out.

The wide receivers? If they're so good at getting open and catching the ball, why is it taking so long for Garcia to find them? But they sure can block. Right, Butch?

Tight ends? Ready for another shocker? Shea is still healthy. Hasn't made injured reserve yet. When was the last time he went through a season without getting hurt? Try never. Still nine games left.

Now as far as the defense is concerned, is it bi-polar? Trying to figure out this crew. Started off with solid performances against Baltimore, Dallas, the New York Giants and Washington. If the offense had played as well, the Browns would have been unbeaten after four games.

But in two of the last three games, the defense has been awful. Ben Roethlisberger and McNabb roasted the secondary. Henry has given up four touchdown passes in two of the last three games. Isn't this guy supposed to be one of the league's best young cornerbacks? Nice pick, Butch.

As far as the pass rush is concerned . . . what pass rush? The Browns' defensive linemen rush the passer as though they are hip-deep in quicksand. What this defense needs is a line coach like John Teerlinck, the crazy one who coached under Bud Carson in the late 1980s. His guys actually sacked quarterbacks.

Hey, Dave Campo, think maybe it's time to starting falling in love with the blitz? Your line needs help in pressuring quarterbacks. If not, buckle up for more aerial bombardments.

Special teams? A hurtin' area. And don't minimize their importance. If Frost comes up a better punt in overtime and pins the Eagles inside their 10-yard line, no telling what would have happened.

And if the Jacksons had held on to the ball, that's three less points for the Eagles. Of course they'll get better. They're so bad now, anything would be an improvement.

So . . .

Are the Browns living in the half-full world or the half-empty? They are 3-4 with the toughest part of the schedule dead ahead. Are they going to wind up in the playoffs or look for a new coach in the off-season?

Half-full or half-empty? You decide.

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