An avalanche of questions piled up in the ornate and occasionally vacuumed OBR headquarters this week, as fans looked to ask Pat about the Browns' disappointing start and what it means to the team's future and the future of the team's brain trust. Due to the volume of email, we won't be able to answer every question sent in. Many of the questions concerned the fate of Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, such as these three which start off this week's Pat Answers. – ed.
Hey Pat great that you can still bring us the Browns news. I've been a long time reader ever since your days on the Cleveland Browns website. Well that's not a long time ago in the whole time continuum of things but it seems a long time. So here's my question: Do you think Maurice Carthon is being too strict in his playcalling? Is Charlie able to audible at the line? And last but not least is Maurice holding Charlie back? - Kevin
Is it just me, or is there a serious problem with an offensive
coordinator who calls a draw on third-and-eight? -
How do you see the Mo Carthon drama playing out? Will loyalty win
over best decision for long term health of the team? -
Dear Kevin, Matt, Matt and all the others who wonder about Carthon:
Blaming all the Browns problems on Maurice Carthon is like blaming the gas prices on George Bush. It's not all his fault, but at some point he's the one accountable. So Carthon is accountable for the offense – and the play-calling. And neither have been stellar this season.
But before I say more about him, I would point out that Carthon has nothing to do with the defense giving up 150 yards a game rushing. That's a big issue that has been ignored.
As for Carthon, I'll say this:
He has opened himself to questions with his play-calling and decisions. No question. Some of it is worth wondering about – like using a rookie on key third downs and taking Kellen Winslow off the field on some third downs. Being a coordinator means being creative, and I can't see how it's creative to use Joshua Cribbs – God bless him because he plays his ass off – instead of Winslow. Me, I leave Winslow out there and ask him to do what he can instead of worrying about what he can't.
When Romeo Crennel formed his staff, he first thought of hiring Chris Palmer, but balked because he didn't want to try to get him out of his contract in Houston. Methinks folks would have been pretty happy with Palmer as coordinator. Well guess what, Palmer got fired after two games in Houston last season. Does that make Palmer a bad coordinator?
Everyone in the league, though, knew that Carthon was inexperienced calling plays and that Bill Parcells only let him do so much in Dallas. The results in Cleveland have been less than exciting.
There are many questions about Carthon I can't answer because I can't talk to him on a daily basis. In my time covering the league, I've learned that misconceptions can grow without information. I'd see a play and wonder why some player did this or that, then I'd find out that some other player goofed on an assignment and the first guy was covering for him.
The bottom line, though, is that the NFL is about one thing: Winning. Doesn't matter how you win, the idea is TO win. So if Crennel and Carthon and the entire coaching staff don't win, they'll be replaced and the Browns will be starting over yet again.
And the ship of fools will continue sailing.
As for the specific questions:
Strict in his playcalling? Not sure I'd use that word. Baffling might be a better one. For me at least.
This is where I'd use strict. Frye can't just pick any play from the playbook. The Browns give him a choice of a second play if he sees a certain action from the defense. Trent Dilfer despised this. As a veteran, he felt he could get the team into better plays with audibles. He wasn't allowed (incidentally, Dilfer doesn't look so silly, now, does he?). Can Frye audible? To one other predetermined play. And that's it.
I don't think Carthon is holding Frye back. I'd say if one guy on offense showed something the first two games it was Frye. So the playcalling might be upgraded (shall I say), but Frye is doing pretty well with what he's given.
A draw on third-and-eight seems pretty silly, yes. As does play-action on fourth-and-22 or whatever it was last season in Houston. The draw might work, but the odds are not good. Especially since the Browns seem to run it 48 times a game.
Will loyalty win over the best decision? That's a bit of a loaded question, no? If the problems persist, Crennel has to be smart enough to realize things are not working and do something about it. If he doesn't, it will reflect on his abilities to manage his team and his staff. We all know where that leads.
Wow. After two games.
If you are playing a run-first team, then play your eight guys up on defense and force them to throw all game to beat you. Put nine guys up on Atlanta and you know you will get at least three picks over 60 snaps if you make Vick throw 30-to-35 times, Wouldn't you rather have Philip Rivers throw 30 times than get LT'd for 30 carries? So: Do you think McNair, with the tread on his tires, could take the beating of 35 dropbacks, which equates to a minimum five shots he takes in the chops by the fourth quarter? - Bob Kusyk
One of my best buddies … who lives in the shadow of Mr. Jefferson's university and home.
I will say this: Steve McNair is one of the toughest players in the league. Can he take 35 drop backs? Sure. Can he take getting hit five times? He's proven it. He's older, but the guy can play. That being said, IF the Browns force Baltimore to throw 35 times it's a good thing because it means they have stopped the run.
I listened to the Monday press conference with Romeo.
There was a marked change in tone from anything else I've ever heard in those things. Guys were questioning individual play calls left and right and accusing McGinest of not wanting to play or be here, as if his injured calf were an excuse.
All in all it seemed like the press was more interested in extracting a pound
of flesh than getting information. That's the kind of mob hysterics I
might expect on our message boards after an 0-2 start, but not from a group of
I was particularly amazed by the McGinest question - the guy was probable (not 100%), he doesn't play, now that means he hates Cleveland? What's up with that? Regards, Tom McCarthy
Interesting letter. Because I've gotten many more letters asking why I don't ask the tough questions. Too, I asked the question about McGinest.
Our job is to get information, to ask questions. I have no regret about asking a question because I think my track record as being accurate, fair and professional speaks for itself. I feel that if I ask a question, there's a reason for it. And a guy can't address a question that's not asked, can he?
As for McGinest, I asked because the way the injury went down was strange. McGinest was not on the injury report all week, then he appeared as probable on Friday – and in the NFL probable means a "virtual certainty" that the guy will play. Suddenly he's not playing – despite being one of the active 45. Perhaps McGinest didn't give the trainers enough information during the week. Perhaps he re-injured it in warm-ups. Perhaps he should have been listed as questionable instead of probable. I don't know. All I know is that the way it went down was strange – especially because Crennel has been very honest in the way he lists players on the injury report. He doesn't want to say more than he has to, but when he lists a guy as doubtful it's for good reason. So when McGinest was probable, the assumption was he would go.
Trust me … there were people inside the team who raised their eyebrows at McGinest's injury, especially since he was probable. I got many e-mails from outside the team wondering about him. What better way to set the record straight – that he was injured – than to ask. To not ask, in my mind, would have allowed rumors to grow.
In the NFL, probable guys almost always play. So I asked … and I got a straight answer. And on Friday, I asked McGinest himself. This was not the most pleasant situation I've been in, but I felt I owed it to him to allow him to address the perceptions, especially since they appeared to be false. He gave a very straightforward answer.
This led to a long discussion among writers and Browns folks about whether McGInest was being treated fairly. In hindsight, perhaps he should have been given the benefit of the doubt given his experience and relationship with Crennel.
But I don't mind asking the question because I got very straight, honest answers from both Crennel and McGinest. And as far as I'm concerned, their answers addressed the situation.
And as far as I'm concerned, their answers ended the speculation in my mind.
Will Lawrence Vickers see more time at running back if Droughns can't go? God I hope not - Rob Housel
Now … don't judge the guy on that first game. Those were unusual circumstances. I'd give him another chance.
Was it just me that felt Marvin Lewis was trying to run up the score last weekend? Leading 34-10 with two minutes left, he throws on third-and having already lost a starting linebacker, safety and center. I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but seeing Chad Johnson's helmet flying and hearing his groggy interview well after the game seemed like karma. Seeing the Jags kneel down leading by nine at the Steelers goal line with two minutes left was class. What Marvin did, definitely not. No wonder we saw so many of them in the police blotter this year. - GK
You're asking the wrong guy. Pros get paid. There is no such thing as running up the score in the pros. If you feel the other team is running up the score, stop them. Plain and simple.
In high school it's different. College is a little different cuz those guys don't get paid as much. But in the pros, it's your team's job to stop the other team from running up the score. I got no sympathy for anyone who loses bad, because they can do something about it.
Lemme ask this: If Jacksonville misses the playoffs because of a tiebreaker in points differential, and it's two points, and they could have kicked that field goal, what will their fans say? If you don't like the score being run up, stop them. Period. End of story.
Now … the wisdom of throwing that pass and making Johnson vulnerable is worth questioning. Prior to that pass, we wondered why Johnson and Carson Palmer were still in the game. So you might question the decision, but not running up the score.
They're pros. Suck it up.
Why do the football gods hate us? What did we do to make him do bad things to us. I'll say however Hail Marys I have to to let us have a couple winning seasons in a row!
This letter cries for a smart-aleck remark. Alas, I have nothing pithy to offer. Winners never quit and quitters never win. The Browns need to keep at it until they get it right, no matter what the football gods think.
you think that Kellen Winslow was right about speaking out to the media. I think
that it's one of those things that if someone doesn't say something then this
season will be lost very quickly. - Mr. Sham
Dear Mr. Sham,
Winslow violated the code by going to the media, but I didn't disagree with his points. That being said, there's a clear perception in the league that a guy who's only played four games hasn't really earned the right to say that much. Around the league, folks would prefer Winslow perform first, then talk. And two games this season ain't performing.
Me, I think Winslow had a clear message he wanted to get across, and he did. He knew what he was doing. And if he feels that way again in three, four weeks, he won't hesitate to speak his mind.
It's part of the Winslow package the Browns got when they drafted him.
Why is it that Romeo Crennel loss after loss says "We have a lot of work to do"? Why wasn't that "work" done and taken care of before the season, as in mini-camp, training camp, and the preseason? - Phil
I don't know.
How are you? I wanted to know if you think that the Browns will draft a quarterback (Brady Quinn, Troy Smith, etc.) early in the draft next year if Frye does not have a good year this year, or will they give Frye until the end of next season? - Gordon
This is the earliest draft question I've ever heard, which says something about the state of the team. Ask me in January.
I'm looking at the positives here. I think Sean Jones has come out this season and really improved and impressed. What are you hearing about him as far as his progress and his future potential? - Roy
Coaches are happy with him, but isn't this like finding a nicely-baked cookie in San Quentin?