Rich's Rant: Offensive Rot from the Top

Looking to understand the Browns offensive woes? Don't look at the QB or OC, Rich says: Look higher.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

Don't blame Brady Quinn. Don't blame Braylon Edwards. And don't blame the offensive line. Well at least the left side of that group.

Looking for a head to chop off? Start at the top of the football-command chain.

No, not Randy Lerner, although the Browns owner has to share some culpability for what has transpired thus far in the 2009 season for the Browns.

Here's a clue. He's mild-mannered, secretive, cooperative to a point and loves to preach hard work, focus and attention to detail.

That's right, every finger of guilt in Browns Nation today should be pointing squarely at Eric Mangini for what the starved and extremely frustrated fans have had to endure in the first 120 minutes of the season.

If the new Browns head coach doesn't screw around with his quarterbacks during minicamp, training camp and four exhibition games, there is no way the Cleveland offense would like this awful.

Mangini had a chance to name a starter from the beginning and chose to make a mockery of the process by shuffling quarterback Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson in and out, back and forth with no rhyme or reason.

Played games with the media along the way, too, all the time ruining what most likely would have been at least a more representative start to the season.

By waffling, Mangini has provided Quinn and his merry men of offense with virtually no rhythm, no continuity, no consistency and no chance when the Browns have the ball.

And it showed big time Sunday in Denver when that poor excuse of an offense made the Broncos' defense look like the famed Orange Crush of the late 1970s. Shades of Randy Gradishar, Lyle Alzado, Tom Jackson and Rulon Jones. Talk about giving a defense a false sense of security.

Embarrassing doesn't begin to describe the so-called football this team has displayed when owning the football this season. Not even the winless Detroit Lions last season played this poorly. At least they knew how to cross the opponent's goal line on occasion.

It's not Quinn's fault that he has experienced timing problems with his receivers. We don't know yet whether he can stretch the field because he has been given limited opportunities to do so.

And it's difficult to blame offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, whose playing calling gives conservatism a bad name. He's a rookie coordinator who most likely didn't have the nerve to tell Mangini his quarterback selection process was completely wrong.

Thus, Daboll has applied the shackles to Quinn, favoring what seems to be a horizontal offense that begs the opposition to plant eight or more men in the box on just about every play.

If there is a vertical game in the Browns' offensive playbook, what harm would it do to unveil it? As it is, the current offense is excruciatingly boring.

Quinn has one receiver, Edwards, and no one else. There isn't one other receiving threat that frightens opposing teams. Anyone seen Brian Robiskie or Mo Massaquoi lately? Mike Furrey? Simply a complementary receiver. Joshua Cribbs? Great return specialist. Not a receiver.

And there is no running game to speak of that can support the passing game. That's because the right side of the offensive line is a disaster area. Anyone miss Kevin Shaffer at right tackle? Strictly a guess, but he wouldn't have allowed Elvis Dumvervil to drop Quinn four times Sunday.

One touchdown in eight quarters this season – and a sympathy touchdown in garbage time at that – conjures up thoughts of Maurice Carthon. And if that doesn't frighten Browns fans, then nothing will.

For the record, the offensive futility continues with just the one TD in the last eight games, 86 drives, 472 snaps and 494 minutes. And there is nothing even remotely visible on the horizon that provides one with hope this is temporary.

Not even the most optimistic fan can scrape anything positive from this latest loss.

It's not that the Browns lost to the Broncos. It's that they looked so awful in doing so. They have plumbed new depths of ineptitude.

How much worse can it get? A quick check of the schedule reveals a trip to Baltimore next week to play against a defense that makes Denver's look amateurish. Bad enough?

Mangini never saw anything like this in New York. He has now come face-to-face with the woe-is-me attitude Phil Savage decried.

In his rookie season with the Jets, he won his first game in Tennessee and gave the New England Patriots a tough battle before losing the second game. The Jets scored five touchdowns in those two games and gave themselves a chance to win.

The Browns didn't come even close to smelling victory against Minnesota and Denver, although they did play a representative first half defensively against the Vikings.

In order for the Browns to do any damage this season, they'll need much better play from the defense because the offense is hopeless.

Every once in a while, it would be nice to get the offense back on the field by stopping the opposition on third down and turn the opposing punter into something other than a spectator.

The defense has faced 29 third-down situations and stopped just 15. The Cleveland offense, meanwhile, has converted just six of 26 third-down opportunities. A recipe for failure.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, to belabor a point, promised a more aggressive approach. Remember he said he has stopped the run wherever he has coached? Sort of bragged about it.

So far this season, Minnesota and Denver have combined for 411 rushing yards. Two games . . . 411 rushing yards. Makes one shudder to think what the rest of the season holds if that's considered stopping the run.

A few other questions regarding Ryan's defense, which would have surrendered six more points had Denver kicked Matt Prater not missed two relatively easy field goals.

How did Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, an average passer at best, put 263 more passing yards on his resume? And why the hell is nickelback Hank Poteat even on this roster, let alone on the field? A hold on third and 18 here. A pass interference on second and 8 there.

And why was linebacker Kamerion Wimbley assigned one-on-one with Denver tight end Tony Scheffler on the first Broncos touchdown? Where was the strong safety or some other member of the secondary?

Still looking for a positive? After a long and dramatic search, try this one on and feel good about the Browns.

They're only one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North standings.

Now if that doesn't serve to reignite the flame of passion for this team, nothing will.

Heaven – and, by now, Mangini – knows it won't be the offense.


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