The Owl: The Game Plan

A lot of commentators talk about making changes in reaction to events. The Owl, being a wise old bird, tends to keep his own counsel. He's sticking to his guns, or sharp beak, or whatever, about the Browns quarterback situation, and offers some thoughts about what he thinks would be the right approach for the upcoming game with the Titans.

This business about starting Charlie Frye at quarterback is going to be a weekly issue until Romeo Crennel finally makes the move. So when he makes it, then what? Anybody that thinks Frye is going to salvage the season has been spending too much time in the bar behind the Dawg Pound.

Still, as The Owl has been saying for about a month now, Frye should play sometime this season, and I'm sticking to my Thanksgiving timetable, which means gets his first start should be against the Dolphins Nov. 20 or in Minnesota Nov. 27.

Beyond the idea of finding out whether Frye has what it takes as General Manager Phil Savage plots for the draft in the spring, Crennel should play Frye so Charlie can work the bugs out this season. If next year is his growing up year then fans will have to wait until 2007 to see a winning team. C'mon, Romeo! We've been in this torture chamber long enough! Give paying customers reason for hope.

The biggest disappointment about the way the Browns have played so far has been their inability to get inside the opponent's 20 and then to score touchdowns when they get there, and with Dilfer playing the way he is there is no reason to believe it will change.

The Browns have been inside the 20 only 13 times. The Texans with 11 trips are the only team with fewer red zone opportunities, but the Browns are dead last with only two touchdowns. Two! And we're in the third month of the season. The Texans have six red zone touchdowns.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and it should not all be pinned on Dilfer.

The defense has the top-ranked red zone D in the AFC. Opponents have been inside the 20 a total of 22 times and have scored only eight touchdowns. Obviously, that gives Coach Crennel something to build on.

But because of the bend-but-don't-break philosophy of the defense, the offense rarely gets to play on a short field.

No rushing touchdowns is easily explained; the Browns don't get close enough to the goal line to give the ball to Reuben Droughns on a dive play. They have been inside the three-yard-line only a handful of times. One of those plays resulted in a one-yard scoring pass from Dilfer to Steve Heiden, the Browns first red zone touchdown. They got the other last week on a touchdown pass to Aaron Shea.

Dilfer is too much a team player to point fingers, and since he hasn't been so hot lately he has no right to call out others. There has been some strange play-calling by offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. For example, after Dilfer fumbled the shotgun snap on the Browns first offensive play in Baltimore and the Ravens cashed the turnover in for a touchdown, Carthon called a pass on each play of the next three possessions. Crennel said the Browns were in a hurry to get the touchdown back. Not necessary with more than 50 minutes to play.

"The red zone has a lot to do with feel," Dilfer said. "The windows are tighter. There's more anticipation. You have to make riskier throws many times. As the comfort level grows with everybody, you'll be more successful in the red zone.

"Nobody's more frustrated than me. I'm going to keep chopping wood. I've always prided myself in playing my best in third down and red zone and I feel like I haven't."

Under normal circumstances the plan against the Titans Sunday should be run the ball and be more patient offensively, but Dilfer might have to do it by himself because of the injury situation at running back. Lee Suggs is out with his fractured thumb and William Green has a bum ankle. The Browns cannot let Droughns take a pounding because he has no one experienced behind him.

Being more aggressive defensively wouldn't hurt. Opponents possess the ball nearly eight minutes a game more - 33:56 to 26:04 for the Browns.

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