Passan: The Beat Goes On

Replacing Anderson with Quinn with three minutes left? What in the name of "process" is going on here?

If nothing else, Browns coach Eric Mangini is a clear-thinking, logical, almost-too-rational man who has a tendency to sometimes outthink himself.

So when the Browns coach inexplicably yanked quarterback Derek Anderson and inserted Brady Quinn with his team already down, 30-6, to the Bears and just three minutes left in the game in Chicago Sunday, he acted against type. At the same time, he further angered his rapidly eroding fan base.

Three minutes remaining in a game that was not even close to winnable as early as the beginning of the second half and he summarily dismisses the quarterback who "gives us the best chance of winning" in exchange for the quarterback he benched after the first 10 quarters of the season.

What in the world was he thinking? Why not earlier? Why at that precise time? Was he expecting a couple of 14-point touchdowns? Questions that undoubtedly reverberated around Browns Nation. It was as though Mangini stared – and then spat – at the common-sense quotient.

Maybe Anderson isn't the quarterback who gives the Browns the best chance of winning. And maybe Quinn isn't the quarterback who gives the Browns the best chance of winning.

But to relieve Anderson with just a few minutes left and replace him with a dethroned wunderkind in Quinn is downright insulting. It embarrassed the quarterbacks, the coach, the team and the franchise, not to mention the dwindling number of fans of the team

What, Brett Ratliff wasn't available?

At least he's not a former first-round draft choice with a multi-million dollar contract. He's not a former college quarterback who came into the National Football League with an impressive resume. He wouldn't have minded finishing off the game.

But Quinn? Is there some sinister underbelly of a reason Mangini went to Quinn instead of Ratliff? Or at least allowed Anderson to finish what he started?

Was it Mangini's way of embarrassing the third-year quarterback, whose tenure with the Browns thus far falls solidly into the realm of forgettable? Not if you take his post-game reasoning seriously. The coach said he wanted to "give him some reps." Down 24 points with three minutes to go and he wanted to give Quinn some reps?

Weak. Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

If anything, Mangini's latest dalliance with the bizarre once again opens up that cauldron known as a quarterback controversy. And you can bet it will lead to all kinds of rumors as the Browns prepare for a Monday night date with the Baltimore Ravens in a couple of weeks.

Will Mangini withhold the name of the starter for that game in the name of competitive advantage? Stop laughing. He's just mercurial enough to do it.

If there was any question whether lunacy had moved into 76 Lou Groza Blvd. earlier this year with the arrival of Mangini and his minions, it was dispelled with Sunday's strange move.

To say the Browns' offense once again looked putrid would be belaboring the point. At this juncture of the season, the Cleveland offense should look like anything but what it is – lost.

The incompetence is stupefying. Five offensive touchdowns in eight games. Two by the quarterback. None by a running back. Only four men have reached the end zone this season. And it's already halfway over.

Most experts figured the Browns' offense would be the club's weak area this season. But no one figured it would be this bad.

First downs are so rare these days, they are celebrated as though something wonderful has been accomplished. Come to think of it, the way the Cleveland offense has operated, that just might be the case.

Here are some numbers to choke on as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's reputation sinks lower by the game.

In eight games this season, the Browns have racked up just 103 first downs. That's about 13 a game.

After a scintillating 1-for-11 day on third down against the Bears, they are just 27-for-109 on that critical down, a conversion success rate of 24.7%. They have totaled a meager 42 first downs in the last four outings.

To put that into perspective, the 1999 expansion Browns had a third-down conversion rate of 29.1% and recorded 220 first downs. Extrapolating the latter number, this season's team will wind up with 206 first downs, the lowest number since the 176 in 2000.

In a few cases, figures sometimes lie. In this case, they scream the truth.

All together now: The Cleveland Browns offense has passed abysmal on its way to being so bad, it never again can be replicated. It's highly improbable such ineptitude could be duplicated.

Even last season's team, which failed to score an offensive touchdown in the final six games, had 233 first downs and a conversion success rate of 34% on third down.

Bogging you down with all these numbers won't make anyone feel better and sends an overwhelmingly strong signal to the powers that be that nothing could have saved the Browns from defeat against the Bears. Not even a stout performance by the defense.

Hard to defend that last statement until you realize the defense grudgingly gave up 23 of the 30 points. It could have been a lot worse had it not been for some terrific red-zone and transition defense made the Bears kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.

The offense kept giving the ball back to the Chicago offense, which had problems with the aggressive schemes of coordinator Rob Ryan, who threw all sorts of blitzes at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler from just about every point on a compass.

Playing with a what-the-hell-difference does-it-make-let's-just-go-out-and-slap-some-people-around approach, it was nice to see Ryan take chances with a variety of looks. Looked as though he emptied the playbook. About damn time. Cutler was harassed most of the afternoon and took some hard shots. He knew he was in a game.

And for those of you who think this team has given up, a solid argument to the contrary can be made at least one side of the ball. The other side of the ball, sadly, just isn't good enough to be labeled quitters.

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