The Browns come off their bye week in the most unusual of situations: trying to rebuild a front office in the middle of the season.
That's the focus of owner Randy Lerner as the team enters the second half of the season with a 1-7 record, the only win a stumbling 6-3 victory in Buffalo.
General manager George Kokinis and the Browns parted ways a week ago. Kokinis has not been fired -- Lerner's words -- but he no longer works for the team.
Not with the Browns, who are a mess off the field and a bigger mess on it. The team ranks 31st in total offense, 32nd in defense.
Its starting quarterback for the Monday night game against Baltimore will be a mystery until Wednesday, and the players were humiliated in consecutive games heading into the bye week. The team's average margin of defeat this season: 19.1 points.
Despite the reality on the field, Lerner says he still stands by coach Eric Mangini. And while he says that, he searches for someone to run his football operation -- someone who will evaluate Mangini the final eight games and make a decision on his future after the season.
Professional football teams are simply not supposed to operate this way.
--QB Derek Anderson has been abysmal since taking over as the starting quarterback in the third game of the season. Anderson has thrown nine interceptions and only two touchdowns, numbers that would earn him a spot on the bench with most teams.
--QB Brady Quinn might have his last chance to salvage his career in Cleveland under the present coaching staff -- if he returns to the starting lineup. Quinn's propensity to throw underneath was evident even in his brief stint against Chicago: He threw underneath on two of his three throws.
--NT Shaun Rogers has been nearly invisible in the Browns defense this season. Rogers went to the Pro Bowl a year ago, but he's not had an impact in '09, as the Browns are giving up the astounding total of 170.5 yards rushing.
--RB Jerome Harrison would figure to get more carries given the frustrations of Jamal Lewis, but that won't happen until Harrison shows he can pick up the blitz more effectively. Every time Harrison is in the game on passing situations, opposing defenses take advantage of his struggles to block in pass protection.
--TE Robert Royal missed the two games leading up to the bye with finger and hamstring injuries. He may return against Baltimore, but the problem is that even if he does, he'll be playing with a finger than needs surgery after the season, so his impact will be limited.
REPORT CARD AFTER EIGHT GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- There's nothing pretty about a pass offense in which the two quarterbacks have ratings of 36.2 and 62.1 and have thrown three touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Can it get worse? Browns receivers have dropped 23 passes, a ridiculous number for a professional team -- just short of three per game. The quarterbacks also have been sacked 19 times, and are averaging just 121.5 yards per game passing. Pathetic.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The only bright spot in this ugly, ugly first half were two 100-yard games -- one by Jerome Harrison, one by Jamal Lewis. It has mattered little, though, as the Browns have played so poorly in every other area. That being said, the Browns are averaging 99.6 yards rushing per game, which isn't terrible. If there is anything to build on in the second half, it could be the running game.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Browns secondary has been plagued by big plays and poor tackling. Other than that, it's playing very well. The run defense is so poor that it puts a lot of pressure on the pass defense, but the Browns are giving up 238.6 yards per game on top of a sieve-like attempt to stop the run. Pittsburgh exploited the secondary in a bad way, and Green Bay did the same. Any team that follows the same plan should have success.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Rob Ryan promised he would stop the run for the Browns this season. He said he'd done it everywhere he's been. Fans are still waiting. The Browns are giving up 170.5 yards rushing per game, which ranks as the worst run defense effort since the team returned in 1999. The presence of some decent defensive linemen has not mattered at all. The Browns are being humiliated by the opposition's run game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- This makes sense, since the Browns have a large collection of good special teamers. Start with P Dave Zastudil, who may have been responsible for the team's only win with his outstanding work in Buffalo. Phil Dawson has been injured, but he remains dependable as any kicker in the league. Josh Cribbs can score every time he touches the ball. And the Browns have an aggressive group of coverage players. It's good to have this group, but any team is in trouble when its best three players play on special teams. That sums up the Browns pretty well.
COACHING: F -- Eric Mangini's future hangs by a thread, as well it should. He has not connected with the players or the fans at all this season. The bigger issue, clearly, is with the players. If Mangini could sell his program to them, wins might follow, and then the fans would buy in as well. But the team plays uninspired, bad football. It does not tackle, does not catch the ball, does not protect the ball and does not compete as if it believes it has a snowball's chance to win. Yet Mangini continues to drone on and on with non-responsive explanations at news conferences. If he survives to the 2010 season, it will be the greatest miracle in NFL history.