Derry: Good Calls, Bad Calls

How many times has Browns head coach Romeo Crennel defended Maurice Carthon by saying that play calls are "good if they work and bad if they don't". During today's game, Frank Derry decided to put Romeo Crennel's definitions to work to gauge how well Carthon has done...

The hot seat upon which offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon has been sitting most of the season got a bit toastier Sunday afternoon at frigid Cleveland Browns Stadium when the Browns were beaten by the visiting Denver Broncos, 17-7.

Two weeks of preparation did nothing to rectify the offensive woes that have plagued the Browns (1-5) in their five losses this year.

But what did you expect from the league's 31st-ranked offense against a Broncos team that had only allowed one touchdown all year coming into the game?

Carthon, whose offense was ranked dead last a year ago, has been blasted by fans and media for numerous strange decisions this year including, among many things, benching Kellen Winslow Jr. in third down situations and calling an option pass by rookie running back Jerome Harrison in a third-and-inches play in the Carolina game.

Crennel, who says he plans to take a more active role in the play-calling, says that if a play works, it's a good play. And if it doesn't work, it's a bad play.

The question I wondered was how many "good" plays Carthon has called this season and how many "bad" plays he has given to Charlie Frye? I decided to do a little research, but first I had to set up some ground-rules.

First, I had to determine what is a good call and what constitutes a bad call? In my study, I went by these rules:

  • If a first-and-10 play results in four yards or more, it's a good play.
  • If it's first down and more than 10 yards, then a good play results when the team picks up 33% or more of the yardage needed.
  • If it's second down, it's a good play if the team picks up more than half the yardage needed.
  • If it's third down, it's a good play if a first down is made.
  • If it's fourth down and a first down is made, it's a good play.
  • All touchdowns are good plays.
  • If the quarterback spikes the ball, it is considered neither a good play nor a bad play. Likewise if a play is run clearly to set up a field goal or to run out the clock.

OK, now that the ground rules are set and before we reveal the results, take a second and write down what you think Carthon's success rate has been through Sunday's loss to the Broncos. Also, guess what the success rate has been on his first 12 plays that are supposedly scripted to begin each game.

Now that you've predicted, here's how the first six games broke down.

In the opener against the Saints, the Browns had 21 positive plays and 33 negative plays in the 19-14 loss.

In Week Two against the Bengals, the Browns had 22 positive plays and 31 negative plays while losing 35-17.

The Browns faced a very stingy Baltimore defense in Week Three and came away with 23 positive plays and 36 negative plays in the 15-14 loss.

Week Four was by far the best performance of the year for Carthon's offense. The Browns ran 38 positive offensive plays and 28 negative plays in the team's lone win, a 24-21 decision over the Raiders.

In Week Five against the Panthers, the Browns and 25 successful offensive plays and 40 negative plays.

With Crennel supposedly taking a more active role against the Broncos, the Browns actually came out with some solid plays in the first half. Of the 22 plays run before intermission, the Browns had positive results on 12.

But no amount of good plays can overcome turnovers of which the Browns had two in the first half. Things got tougher for the Browns' offense in the second half and the finally tally for the day was 22 positive plays and 28 negative plays.

All told, that's 151 successful offensive plays and 196 bad ones, good for a success rate of 43.5 percent. But throw out the Oakland game and that number dips to just 40.1 percent. In my estimation, 40 percent or less is terrible.

Broken down by quarters, the Browns have thus far this season run a successful play 30.9 percent (22-49) of the time in the first quarter; 48.4 percent (45-48) in the second quarter; 43.7 percent (38-49) in the third quarter and 47.4 percent (45-50) in the fourth quarter.

And when it comes to what are supposedly the first 12 scripted plays, the Browns are 26 up and 46 down, a success rate of just 36.1 percent.

How close were your predictions? I have to admit it was probably actually overall a little better than I anticipated. But, again, that one game against the putrid Raiders kind of throws everything out of whack.

The next question that begs to be answered is how does that compare to other NFL teams?

In the Browns-Ravens game, Baltimore ran a total of 30 positive plays and 37 negative plays (44.8 percent success). They parted ways with their offensive coordinator several days ago.

In the Browns-Bengals game, Cincinnati ran 37 positive plays and 35 negative ones, good for a 51.4 percent success rate.

I then randomly chose the powerful Colts in their 26-21 victory over the New York Giants earlier this season. In that game, Peyton Manning and company ran 34 successful offensive plays and 30 bad ones.

This pretty much tells me that for a team to have a good chance of winning, except when two strong defensive teams are playing, a team needs a 50 percent success rate or better.

The other factor is the caliber of talent the team has. Right now, the Browns are relatively strong at the skilled positions, but they are lacking on the offensive line.

Obviously, a lot of things can be read into statistics. In reality, the only offensive statistic that really matters is how many points are on the scoreboard.

Through six games, the Browns are averaging 14.7 points a game. That isn't going to get it done. And if the offense doesn't get it done, no matter what the level of talent, the person who figures to suffer the consequences, and the wrath of the fans and media, is the offensive coordinator.

Chances are good that Crennel will not make a change during the season. But come this off-season, I'm willing to bet Crennel will make finding a new offensive coordinator his first priority.

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