The “First Impressions” post is supposed to get a few quick reactions out into the InterTubes– to be followed by the Deep Thoughts, but I have what the British call “Bugger All” to add to what I said the other day. After three more looks at the tape– and view of the telecast of the St. Louis affiliate– I can offer the following:
1. On one of the two plays where he was called for holding, Joe Bitonio wasn’t the culprit– Joe Thomas was. Thomas hasn’t had a very good pre-season at all. Presumably this is because he’s got nothing to prove and is conserving his energy, lest he gets hurt.
Or that’s what we hope. Thomas is 29 and has played seven years. Walter Jones played 12 years. Orlando Pace played 13; Willie Roaf 13 and Jonathan Ogden 13. The guy is more than hlfway through his career and he’s still only had one team– a fluke team–to play on.
2. The Browns gained a whopping 32 yards rushing on 15 plays. They look in mid-season form:
- Ben Tate had 3 rushes for 5 yards (1.7 yards).
- Terrance West had 7 rushes for 17 yards (2.4)
- Dion Lewis had 3 rushes for 8 yards (2.7)
The leader in rushing average– and the only Brown to get a rushing TD in three games— is Johnny Flipbird. Cleveland’s totals after three games: 63 carries for 209 yards (3.3 yards).
To put that into perspective:
- Projected to 16 games: 336 carries, 1,114 yards, 5 TDs.
- The 2013 Browns stats: 348 carries, 1,383 yards, 4 TDs.
I’d buy the “It’s only pre-season” line better if I could see any area of the team that was performing well. The Bill Parcells line that “you are your record” doesn’t apply to exhibition games if the people smelling the place out aren’t gonna play. The problem here is that only eight carries have gone to people in that group::
- Game 1: Edwin Baker (3-9)
- Game 2: Isaiah Crowell (2-3), Connor Shaw (2-9)
- Game 3: Chris Ogbonnaya (1–5)
Everything else is Tate, Lewis, West and the QBs. Tate (19-81; 4.3) and Johnny Flipbird (8-33-1, 4.1) are the only ones doing OK. And, remember, 19 of Tate’s yards came on one carry.
3. The other day, Terry Pluto, who isn’t a rabid football fan, but can smell a turkey, commented on the offense:
I confess to not knowing enough about [Kyle Shanahan’s] offensive system to really see what it can do — but the same seems to be true of many of the players… I’ve heard whispers about the offense being “complicated.” Not sure if it’s “complicated” compared to the simplistic spread offense run by Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, or if it’s “complicated” compared to other NFL offenses.
That’s simple, Terry: It’s complicated compared to everyone. I have a detailed piece on this in the works, but the short answer is that Shanahan began with Tom Landry’s multiple front offense (which he learned in Denver) and grafted some of the West Coast offense on top of it (when he worked in San Francico).
Landry’s offense was extraordinarily advanced– among other things, he invented pre-snap shifts, zone blocking and brought back the shotgun. But it was legendary for its difficulty. Every Dallas quarterback hated it– you can find Dan Meredith, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach and Danny White railing about it in the ether or books. Vince Lombardi told his assistants that Green Bay had an advantage in any game it played against Dallas because Lombardi’s system was so easy to remember that players wouldn’t make mental mistakes at crunch time– but Landry’s would. (Based on what happened, he was right.)
And the West Coast Offense– even the people who like it say that it requires an enormous amount of memorization. It isn’t comparable to anything else; you just have to internalize it.
The simplest offense to learn? Everyone agrees on that: The Air Coryell system Cleveland used last year. Don Coryell developed it when he was coaching a team (San Diego State) that had trouble getting players to sign up for four years. Many of the first Aztecs teams relied on junior college transfers — guys with talent to play Division 1 who hadn’t been able to hack the SAT and GPA requirements. Everything is designed to be easy to pick up.
There’s an additional problem too: Mike Shanahan isn’t here to teach this. Kyle Shanahan has never run an offense where his dad– or one of his dad’s proteges– wasn’t standing behind him. Kyle has a reputation as… well, some people have suggested that his given name ought to be “Richard.” NFL insiders agree that Kyle definitely has inherited his dad’s attitude… the jury is still out on his talent.
4. I don’t think the receivers are nearly as bad as they’ve looked. Hoyer has been wretched– if there were any better alternative, the team would have gone with it. But the inability to make even some basic decisions has been deadly.
They spent the first two games either (depending on who I ask):
- Trying to make sure both QBs got work with the best receiver they had (Puff)
- Imagining– in total denial of reality– that Roger Gooddell would let Puff play
Meanwhile Nate Burleson didn’t play and Andrew Hawkins (5 targets in game 3) got as many looks in the last game as he did in the first two combined (3 targets each). Jordan “Poke” Cameron (it’s a comment on his blocking) hasn’t played much (5 targets)– the other two tight ends haven’t played at all. Gary “Clank: Barnidge (referring to his hands) has 4 targets; Jim Dray (the closest thing they have to a two-way player) only one.
The top three backs have seven targets in three games– Tate hasn’t been targeted at all. I’m still trying to figure out who the fullback (who’s often the safety valve) is.
If it looks like a Mongolian Cluster Fluff, (or a Chinese Fire Drill or a Balinese Boat Drill), it’s because it has been.
And I swear on the corpse of Jeff Triplette that if I see them running Travis Benjamin out there tonight, I’ll smite him with my pinky and put him on IR. He won;t last the season if they try to use him in the offense– he might not last on returns– and they’d be better off using Taylor Gabriel.
We’ll see what happens tonight, but my gut says it won’t be good.