Rich's Rant: Wishing and Hoping

The OBR's resident curmudgeon has some things he wish he could say...

Wishing and hoping won't make it so. That said . . .
I wish I could say Maurice Carthon is finally getting it as the Browns' offensive coordinator, showing much more imagination as a play caller.
But I can't because we're not seeing much difference between this season's Dunkin' Donuts offense and the one we saw last season. Even though it's just exhibition games were talking about, Carthon has shown the imagination of a newt*. No wonder Bill Parcells wouldn't let him call plays in Dallas.
I wish I could say Romeo Crennel has a solid handle on this team, that he has found a way to mentally and emotionally prepare his men for games.
But I can't . . .  yet. You saw what happened in the final exhibition game against the Chicago Bears. Exhibition or not, that was a disgraceful display of football. The Browns gave sleepwalking a whole new definition with that one. Not even No-Doz would have helped. And the coach deserves a major portion of the blame.
I wish I could say there will be no problem at quarterback this season.
But I can't for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that Charlie Frye is nowhere ready to be the No. 1 quarterback. But he will be the sacrificial lamb nonetheless because of inaction by General Manager Phil Savage, who should have brought in a veteran quarterback months ago and given Frye one more season to watch and learn. The only thing Frye does well is scramble. He'll get plenty of work in that area this season. Too late to make a move now anyway. To do so now would mean learning a whole new system for the newcomer.
I wish I could say Savage has finally put together a strong offensive line.
But I can't in large part because of bizarre happenings with the center position and average players at the other four spots along the line. Kevin Shaffer is a solid run blocker, but is spectacularly mediocre when Frye drops back to pass. Cosey Coleman is inconsistent, Joe Andruzzi has clearly seen better days and Ryan Tucker is a tough Texan on the downside of his career. They'll have Frye in scramble mode most of the time as they try to keep him vertical.
I wish I could say the trade for center Hank Fraley will help the offensive line.
But I can't even though he's better than anyone on the roster now who can play the position. He's far better than Lennie Friedman, who survived the last cut, but not nearly as good as LeCharles Bentley. Fraley also had a lot of talent on either side to help him in Philadelphia. He won't see that kind of talent with the Browns. He's not going to make his linemates better. They're going to have to make him better.
I wish I could say the Browns' pass rush has improved.
But I can't because unless defensive coordinator Todd Grantham resorts to scheming, the club does not have an effective pass rusher outside of Willie McGinest and rookie Kamerion Wimbley. And it appears as though Grantham is not willing to gamble on throwing a variety of blitz packages at opponents.
I wish I could say the Browns have finally hit in big with a No. 1 draft choice.
And I can. After watching the Tim Couches and Courtney Browns and Gerard Warrens of the world fail miserably, it is refreshing to watch the development of Wimbley, who is showing moves that Brown only wishes he had.
I wish I could say the run defense is stronger.
And I can, but I'm not certain how long it will stay that way. It all depends on the health and well being of a 38-year-old man who is 6-5 and weighs around 375 pounds. If Ted Washington goes down, all bets are off and the walls come tumbling down.
I wish I could say Kellen Winslow Jr. and Joe Jurevicius will figure prominently in the Browns' passing game.
But I can't, not after watching Winslow block a lot more than being a target for a Frye pass and Jurevicius doing his best impression of Casper the Ghost. What in the world is it going to take for Carthon to involve these guys in the passing game?
I wish I could say the Browns have a dangerous weapon as a third-down and/or change-of-pace running back.
And I can. Watching Jerome Harrison make play after play in the exhibition season has been a pleasure. His quick feet and ability to make people miss have been refreshing. Now, let's see if the rookie can do it in the regular season.
I wish I could say Carthon has given Frye freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage when it's obvious the called play has no chance of succeeding.
But I can't because the obstinate Carthon is too blinded by what he almost surely perceives as his own genius. If he doesn't give Frye more latitude to change the play, this offense will become as predictable as a draw play on third and 17.
I wish I could say the Browns are set at inside linebacker.
But I can't because Chaun Thompson doesn't play the run well and rookie D'Qwell Jackson has all kinds of problems on pass defense. And there's just so much Andra Davis can do to cover up the mistakes.
I wish I could say the Browns have finally solved the punting problems that showed up after Chris Gardocki left for Pittsburgh.
And I can because Dave Zastudil has made a difference. Two minor problems, though. Unless the Browns' offense shows a proclivity to stay on the field, Zastudil's left foot will be worn out by midseason. It would also help if he learned to pin the opposition deep in its end instead of trying to set the touchback record, if there is such a thing.
I wish I could say the Browns will contend for the playoffs this season.
But I can't for reasons that are painfully obvious to the knowledgeable fans of the club.
I wish I could say the Browns will finish with a better record than last season's 6-10 mark.
But I can't even though the team has improved. So, too, have the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.  And Pittsburgh is no pushover. The Browns this season will be hard pressed to equal last season. Look at the schedule. No NFC North patsies like last season. This season, it's the much tougher NFC South. Anything better than 5-11 would be a surprise. A pleasant surprise.
So buckle up and enjoy the ride if you can. There will be many surprises and disappointments along the way. Another season of highs and lows beckons. And don't forget to stock up on your ulcer medicine.
One more thing: GO BROWNS!!


* Hopefully, he'll get better - Ed.

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