I'm reminded of the track on the NFL Films soundtrack where John Facenda laments how "hopes that were high in the heat of September can wilt and die in the chill of November." For the 2002 Browns, the wilting and dying of playoff hopes came a month early.
Where do I even begin to analyze this mess? Let's go inside-out, beginning with the lines. Disclaimer: I am writing this in the 4th quarter of the Browns-Bucs game, so my thoughts may not be completely coherent after watching that pathetic performance.
On the offensive side of the ball, what we've seen from the line is the end result of basically ignoring the line in the 1999, 2000, and 2001 drafts and picking up table scraps in free agency. Who needs John Runyan or Todd Wade when we have Roger Shan-wah? So, while the line hemorrhages, our pick-ups seem to consist exclusively of wash-outs or cast-offs from other teams, such as Ryan Tucker and Barry Stokes, whose best quality appears to be his versatility. Call me jaded, but whenever I hear an offensive lineman is "versatile," it just means he sucks at more than one position (e.g. Everett Lindsay, Steve Zahursky, Gregg Rackozy, etc.). Is it any wonder, then, our pass blocking is bad and our run blocking is worse? If I see Stokes wave at another defensive lineman it'll be enough for me to burn my Ron Wolfley jersey. I guess Tre Johnson, the one offensive lineman who has performed at a consistently high level for the Browns when he's been healthy, wasn't versatile enough.
But at least we haven't spent a lot of cap room on the offensive line, which certainly is the case for our Maginot Line. I thought Butch Davis was supposed to be some sort of defensive line guru? Long story short – this line can't stop the run and can't put pressure on the quarterback. Every once in a while, Gerard Warren will stuff the running back at the line of scrimmage or Courtney Brown will almost get to the quarterback and you'll think maybe this line has turned the corner and we'll start seeing the performance that was advertised to us in the off-season. However, those plays are few and very far between. Kenard Lang, Orpheus Roye, and Gerard Warren have played OK at times, but I don't see any of those guys in
Our secondary was supposed to be another position of strength. After all, who wouldn't be excited at 33 interceptions a year ago, and with our dominating defensive line putting consistent pressure on the quarterback, there was reason to believe that number would just increase. Well, my friends, those visions, just like Anthony Henry on a deep ball, have been left in the dust. Henry, in particular, thinks he's Deion and gambles way more often than he should. He thinks he has Deion-type recovery ability and he does not have that kind of speed. All a QB needs to do is pump-fake and Henry is toast. Robert Griffith is good for a decent hit or two, but he and Devin Bush are making far too few plays in the passing game. They simply can't cover anyone and our INT total reflects that.
The less said about our linebackers, the better. The most notable play from this group has been the Dwayne Rudd helmet tossing incident; otherwise, this unit has been nearly invisible. Darren Hambrick is playing Jamir Miller's position, but he hasn't replaced Miller. No quarterback pressure at all. And Earl Holmes has been an improvement over Wali Rainer, but a stiff breeze would be an improvement over Wali Rainer. It's all about playmakers and our defense has none.
Two other players can be filed under the "It wasn't supposed to be like this" category. William Green was supposed to be the workhorse back this franchise has sorely lacked for three years, but he is lost, tentative, and has no confidence. The minimal holes that the offensive line open up (who needs a fullback anyway, right?) are not being hit by Green with any kind of authori-tay. I've read on the forums some folks are encouraged by a couple of decent runs he had versus
And then there's Tim Couch. Suffice to say, he is a mess. The good folks in the Pure Football forum have detailed his problems so I don't have to here. And I don't have the answer as to what can turn him around. But I don't think it will happen this season, and I wonder if he'll ever have a productive career in
So who's to blame for this season that has become such as disappointment? I don't know if it's any one person, but the bad drafts and blown number one picks are good places to start. A record of 2-4 and 200 yards of offense is what happens when you draft Green instead of TJ Duckett, Gerard Warren instead of LaDanian Tominson, Courtney Brown instead of Lavar Arrington, and Tim Couch instead of Donovan McNabb. Meanwhile,