Getting off to an 0-3 start has a large portion of the Cleveland Browns fan base wanting change within the organization. Whether the change is the head coach, the QB or the general manager, change is always the recommendation when expectations are not met. My view is that the Week Four battle against the Cincinnati Bengals is where the focus of the organization needs to be. If the team plays uninspired football and does not display a confidence within, then change should be heavily entertained heading into the bye week.
Injuries and poor execution have riddled what was once an explosive offense in Cleveland. While placing blame on the head coach is easy to do, the issues which led this team to an 0-3 start must be identified correctly.
A season ago, the Cleveland offensive line was lauded for its play. The QB was protected, the rushing attack came to life, the Browns won 10 games and scored points in a manner which has eluded Cleveland for years.
The Browns are finding out how quickly the complexion of the team and game can change. Losing four starters on the offensive side of the ball has basically eliminated thoughts of playoffs in Cleveland after only three weeks of the season.
During the off-season the team signed free agent Donte Stallworth to be the #2 WR in the offense. Stallworth has yet to play a game due to a quad strain suffered prior to the season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The man Stallworth was to allow to become a #3 receiver, Joe Jurevicius, has yet to take the field due to complications from knee surgery, which centered around a lingering staph infection.
Despite the issues at receiver and the effect it had on the offense, the organization has maintained the course and has yet to make a move to solidify this position of need - which appears to have been an epic strategic mistake by the front office.
Derek Anderson is not getting the ball out of the pocket quickly and the explosiveness of the Browns offense has seemingly disappeared. Frustration and inconsistency spew from the playmakers of a season ago, as this Cleveland team finds ways to shoot itself in the foot at every turn.
Inconsistency and irregularity have been the constant amongst the play of the offensive line early in the 2008 season. Starting guards Eric Steinbach (shoulder) and Ryan Tucker (hip) are missing in action, while replacements Seth McKinney and Rex Hadnot have simply underwhelmed. Starting center Hank Fraley has been exposed due to the injuries of his surrounding cast members, while starting RT Kevin Shaffer continues his path as a relative average offensive lineman, making star-quality dollars in a salary-cap strapped era. Generally lost in media reports is that underappreciated but reliable Lennie Friedman was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury.
The offensive line it is an unexpected area of concern, and it looks like a glaring hole.
Or is it?
If I were the Browns, I would walk into Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Brady Quinn ready to play in this game. Why, you may ask?
The more I see the opposition walking up into the box, pressing the passing game and squeezing the running game, I want a QB in place with the physical ability to move and excel in the short game, basically taking what the defense is giving. Especially in light of the developments of this 2008 season, when the offense has not posed to be a down-field threat and opposing defenses challenge the QB to beat them.
Getting the ball out of the pocket, out of the hands of the QB is essential and critical - much like a season ago for this Browns offense. This is a particular area in which this team has struggled, some of which is due to the issues at receiver, and some of which is the failure of the team to execute.
Finger-pointing will not solve what woes this Browns team. Consistency is needed to turn the tide in Cleveland. This is a team which has appeared to lose its confidence, as that swagger with which this team played a season ago has been lost.
Nobody knows if inserting Quinn in the lineup with change the fortunes of the Cleveland Browns. But, when watching the play of this offense and the starting QB, the body language of all involved speaks volumes. One thing is certain: Quinn will not buckle to the constant cravings and demands of some in the huddle; his demeanor is such that this will not be an issue - Quinn is a leader, it will be his huddle.
Where this Cleveland offense may benefit the most from a change at the QB position is in the utilization and trust of the receivers. Quinn has worked extensively with the Syndric Steptoe's and Steve Sanders' of the roster. As the second QB on the roster, his time with these players provides some assurance they will not be overlooked on gameday; that is only natural and will only enhance those playmakers clamoring for every opportunity.
Whether Quinn is the spark this team needs is questionable, but at this point in time I don't see any reason not to find out. Getting the second-year QB into the game does not prohibit this organization from relying on Derek Anderson again at some point.
Once upon a time the general manager of the Cleveland Browns noted that when the team goes to Brady Quinn, there would be no turning back. I'm not sure this is indeed the case necessarily. Not that the current starter does not deserve the opportunity to right what ails this Cleveland offense, but much more to the fact he has been close to the center of the issue.
Anderson is not the singular scapegoat. He is not the basis for the failings of this Browns team during the first month of the season; he is only one portion of the failings. As they say, when the team plays well, the QB gets props; when the team plays poorly, the QB catches the heat. In this case, Anderson has been called out - lets see if those same decision makers can do the same to underachieving players not named Derek Anderson.
Right now, this team is only looking for someone to manage the ship - not give it away. As has been the case the past two weeks.