Passan: A Tale of Two Coordinators

Rob Chudzinski's offense looks close to unstoppable. Unfortunately, so do opposing offenses. Rich Passan offers his take on the huge disparity of success on the different sides of the ball this season...

Rob Chudzinski can't be very happy with the work of his fellow coordinator Todd Grantham, especially after what unfolded Sunday at CBS.

It would be understandable if Browns' offensive coordinator avoided Grantham for a few days just to cool down after his guys dismantled the Miami Dolphins' defense and watched as Grantham's guys nearly undid everything Chudzinski's guys accomplished.

Scoring on seven of nine drives is rather impressive and surely had Chudzinski beaming. Watching the defense allow five scores in 11 drives surely had to frustrate him.

The offensive coordinator did everything humanly possible for his team to beat the Dolphins. And the defensive coordinator, it seemed, did everything humanly possible to keep the final outcome a mystery.

Were the Browns in any danger of losing this one? Not with Chudzinski as their hole card. No way that was going to happen with Derek Anderson and his men playing a nearly flawless game.

What should have been a rout turned into an exciting game against the winless Dolphins, who were totally outplayed for the first 25 minutes of the game.

This one should have been easy. It wasn't, courtesy of Grantham, anointed (by a large number of fans) as Romeo Crennel's successor in the event the head coach stumbled. If there has been any stumbling, point the fingers of guilt at Grantham.

"But they won the game; what difference does it make?" you say. "They're 3-3 at the break. Quit your complaining."

Yeah, they won the game. But if there isn't a major concern over the performance of the defense at this point of the season, the thinking heads in Berea are clueless. And until it's fixed (if that's possible), you can expect the same thing week in and week out.

And the offense is not going to give you this kind of performance every game. There will be some inconsistency along the way and the defense, consistent in its inefficiency, won't be there to bail them out.

This team doesn't play the run well, it doesn't play the pass well (17 TD passes in six games) and if a Cleo Lemon can pick them apart, imagine what better quarterbacks can do. Never mind. They already have.

The situation isn't getting any better. If Crennel isn't bothered by the continual failure of his defense to play well, shame on him. He's supposed to be a defensive guru. Prove you were more than just Bill Belichick's caddy in New England. The defense is broken. Fix it. Now. It's backsliding.

Lemon looked more like a seasoned veteran than an inexperienced backup making only his second National Football League start in three-plus seasons. There's a reason he's Trent Green's caddy with the Dolphins. The Browns made him look like a candidate for player of the week.

Wearing a uniform seemingly soaked in Crisco, Lemon slipped and slithered out of drive-killing sacks time and again Sunday as Browns defenders flailed helplessly (with two exceptions) in his wake.

Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown broke tackles all over the field as the Browns, once again, demonstrated how not to tackle. During the bye week, how about teaching these guys fundamental tackling? And when you're done with that, practice tackling some more. Try wrapping and falling down, guys. Try not leaving your feet. Avoid arm tackling.

Can't anyone here play defense?

Thank goodness for Chudzinski and his offense.

Check out the latest statistics and you'll find the Browns own the third-highest scoring average in the AFC behind New England and Indianapolis and the fourth overall in the NFL if you include Dallas in the NFC. They have become a legitimate offensive threat.

Since scoring just seven points in the season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the Browns have averaged 32 points a game and Anderson has thrown 13 of his 14 touchdown passes.

A Cleveland offensive explosion was almost expected against a Miami defense that had given up 28 points a game. Unfortunately, you can say the same thing about a Cleveland collapse on defense. It's become too commonplace.

The defense has surrendered every point this season except for the Randall Gay fumble recovery for a TD in the final minute of the New England loss. That is downright unacceptable.

The Browns have allowed more points (183) than any team in the NFL, including the Dolphins. That's 30.5 points a game. They're on pace for a 488-point season, which would be the worst in team history. So much for Grantham's luster.

It is extraordinarily apparent the Browns still don't have a dependable defense if a Cleo Lemon can solve it. Heading into the season, fans hung many of the team's hopes on what they perceived the strong point of the team. They targeted the wrong side of the ball.

When the Browns jumped out to a 24-3 lead against Miami with a little more than six minutes left in the first half, it appeared as though they shifted into cruise control on defense. Good teams don't do that.

When you have your foot on someone's throat, you don't remove it. You clamp down even harder until the opposition shows signs of conceding. You don't give the opposition any hope. Stay with what got you there. In failing to do that, they let the Dolphins back in the game.

They played soft; kept everything in front of them. After blunting the Miami attack successfully in the Dolphins' first four possessions (only three first downs), Grantham called off the dogs. The result? A seemingly harmless 12-play, 80-yard drive in which they gave up double-digit yardage on half the plays. That's a danger sign.

Another danger sign: After three consecutive Miami penalties backed the Dolphins to the Browns 45-yard line with a first down and 30 in that drive, they were in the end zone five plays later. Minimal resistance. Unforgivable.

All of a sudden, the Dolphins had a sliver of momentum. And in the NFL, it doesn't take much to gather some steam.

A combination of too much zone defense and a palpable pass rush allowed the Dolphins to think that hey, maybe they could come back. Even though Chudzinski's guys came right back and countered with a field goal, the damage had already been done. The Dolphins had some life.

Only problem is Grantham's guys couldn't take back that momentum. Two long touchdown drives sandwiched around a Cleveland hiccup on offense in the third quarter turned a laugher into a Stephen King novel.

Fortunately, Anderson and his merry men parried by sandwiching their own two-touchdown salvo around a Miami three-and-out and the King novel had a happy ending.

But that does not excuse the shoddy performance of the defense.

The offense is a completely different story. It has become a force that is certain to catch the rapt attention of future opponents, who must now try and figure out how to stop Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow Jr. and an offensive line that improves with every game. Pick your poison.

If Grantham can't get the job done, get someone who can. The danger signs have been there all season. And when a team like the Dolphins can come into CBS and hang 31 points on the board, it's time to seriously consider a change.

Even if it means Crennel taking the reins himself.



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