Who signed me up for this Mr. Optimism gig anyway? The absolute worst Browns season of my life and I'm tasked with looking at the bright side? I would like to find the guy responsible and give him the beating he has coming to him. Wait, I volunteered? Are you sure? Dang it, hold on a second while a reenact a scene from Fight Club.
Ouch. Ow! Oh, right in the teeth. Son of a... That's going to leave a mark.
There I think I have taught myself a lesson I won't soon forget. Surprisingly, that lesson turned out to be that hitting oneself in the face hurts less than watching the Browns offense. I know I'm supposed to be the voice of unwavering optimism, but I'm running out of ways to sugarcoat this thing.
It's official, this putrid season has officially transformed my optimism into some sort of weird hybrid where normally negative events feel like they could be positives. So now, with giddy anticipation I await Brian Daboll's release from the position of offensive coordinator. I don't like being "that guy" but at this point, I just can't help it.
Sure he doesn't have the easiest job considering the talent deficient unit taking the field each week. But these are still NFL players right? I mean how bad can they possibly be? My breaking point, or more accurately, my total meltdown point came with about 9 minutes to play on Sunday. The Browns were facing 3rd and 14 and lined up in the shotgun with 3 wide receivers. The Bengals response? Basically 8 in the box (safety rolled up tight on Cribbs in the slot) with linebackers crowding the line of scrimmage, man coverage on the corners, and a single safety lined up deep.
Consider that scenario in your head for a second. Allow me to paraphrase your thoughts: So basically 8 guys are huddled near the line and the corners are man up. So that just leaves one guy and he's back in deep coverage somewhere… wait a minute, isn't there a giant hole in the middle of the field?
Yes sir, there sure is. The Bengals were begging, pleading, for the Browns to chuck one over the middle. Naturally, the Browns went to the wide receiver screen. Really, it was almost comical watching offensive lineman (the slow right side of the Browns line no less) try to get out and block quick defensive backs and linebackers who were already in position to make the play.
I am still trying to figure out how the Bengals could have been ready for the quick screen. Daboll rarely breaks that one out of the playbook. What's that? The previous two plays? They were both screens? Oh, got it.
So obviously, my optimism is waning a little after another embarrassing loss but there are a few positive notes to mention. On the defensive side, Rob Ryan deserves some accolades once again for the job he did with an injury plagued unit. Carson Palmer struggled to get much accomplished all day and guys named Trusnik and Roth were among the Browns leading tacklers. When this coaching staff is, in all likelihood, sent packing after the season, losing Ryan will be my one regret.
Offensively, as I peered through the murky haze of craptastic game planning, I saw Brady Quinn play ok. Yeah, I said it. I went out on a limb and proclaimed his performance "ok." Sure he wasn't fantastic and he certainly missed some throws but there is only so much one man can do. No deep threat, no running game, drops, incomprehensible offensive scheme… you get the picture. In Quinn, I see a quarterback that makes good reads, has an adequate arm, and is accurate when he throws in rhythm and with good technique.
When Quinn gets flustered, his mechanics break down and he struggles with accuracy. The same could be said of many quarterbacks, but the good ones stay poised more often than not. To be successful, Quinn is going to have to learn to do the same. A game plan that builds some confidence and provides opportunities to make plays certainly wouldn't hurt.
If wishing made it so, Charlie Weis would already be on his way to Cleveland. Short of a shocking game plan emerging next week, a proven offensive mind like Weis taking over the reins of this offense immediately might be the only way to fully restore my optimism for what's left of the season. Short of that, I will settle for anything that doesn't make me punch myself in the teeth.