Browns Review: Game #7 (@ St. Louis), part 2

Presumably you have read the first half of this, dealing with the defensive issues.

The other point I want to address is why the offensive line appears to look so terrible. The answer is pretty obvious to anyone with even minimal knowledge of technical football… but sadly, the only people covering the team who possess it are kept too busy writing every story to sit down and explain it.

It is impossible to find a “Football For Fans” book that does not contain some variation on the phrase “In today’s NFL, a quarterback has between 3.0 and 3.5 seconds to throw the ball– most coaches say, the sooner the better.” My library has books from every decade with that bromide.

That time window hasn’t changed because it can’t change. You can cut down the amount of time the quarterback needs to get into position by using a shotgun snap, but he’ll still have to wait for the receivers to evade defenders and run to their appointed locations on the field. Unless you’re throwing a very short pattern– where everyone runs short patterns and the quarterback he throws as soon as the ball is snapped– the play will take at least three seconds.

With that in mind, let’s examine one of the two strip-sacks Josh McCown committed. Here’s a capture of the ball being snapped; I’ve pasted the counter into the frame.

Sack Fumble 1

The next photo is either the first or the second frame of DE William Hayes (#95) making contact with RT Mitchell Schwartz (#72). According to the counter, 1.763 seconds have elapsed (first contact might have been 1.730; it’s hard to see). So 50% of McCown’s window has already elapsed.

Sack Fumble 2

Does he have anyone open? Not on the right side– the big black box at bottom right shows three Browns cheek-by-jowl with Rams. On the left side (the box in red at the top), the Ram defender is five yards deeper than the Brown receiver. He’s giving the receiver a huge cushion, so you can guess that it is Travis Benjamin without even seeing the number.

It’s pretty obvious McCown wants to throw to him– he’s staring at Benjamin, and hasn’t even looked right (not that there is anything to see).

Notice how well the protection is holding. Schwartz and LT Joe Thomas (above McCown) have both engaged– the Browns even have RB Robert Turbin in space, waiting for a rusher who hasn’t gotten to him.

Sack Fumble 3

Now let’s jump ahead half a second. Things are getting a little tighter back in the pocket, but they’re by no means out of control. Both Schwartz and Thomas are getting bull-rushed; they’re both using the same technique. They’re stepping to the side to let the guys go forward, and they’re gonna shove him back and toward the center of the field.

Meanwhile Turbin has his guy under control, while Mack and LG Joel Bitonio have their rushers locked up. There’s an enormous amount of open field on the right side– so much that RG John Greco (#77), who was double-teaming, takes a look back to see if McCown is about to scramble– and if he needs to release his many and get ready to do downfield blocking.

He needn’t worry. McCown still has the ball at his chest, staring down the right sideline, waiting for Benjamin to break free (which he is just about to do).

Sack Fumble 4

The photo above shows the play at 2.83 seconds– just short of our the window where you have to throw. The photo illustrates the difference between a Hall-of-Fame lineman and a pretty good one. Thomas has his opponent pushed a full yard deeper than Schwartz does, and the angle of his body clearly shows that he’s the one in control– he’s leaning in and finishing the block.

Schwartz hasn’t taken his opponent as far back or as wide. Hayes has spun back and is pushing to get to McCown. You can see from Schwartz’s feet that he’s set and trying to hold Hayes off, but it’s a very even battle at this point.

On the other hand, look at the empty space to the right. McCown has stepped forward from the 34 (in the last photo) to the 35. All he has to do to rip off about 10 yards is to burst through the right side. Or, if he wants to buy time for Benjamin to get downfield (you notice that the only part of him still in the picture is the bottom of of his back leg), all he has to do is take two steps.

Instead, McCown is just standing there, staring, waiting for Benjamin to get deeper.

Sack Fumble 5

The photo above is the play at 3.064 second. We have just passed the point where it is no longer the line’s responsibility to block– it’s the quarterback’s responsibility to get the ball out of the pocket, either by throwing or running.

You can see from the image that if McCown waits any longer, bad things will happen. Again, the photo illustrates the difference in levels of ability:

  • Thomas’s man is on the turf– with Thomas driving him down.
  • Bitonio is driving his man forward– the opponent has given up on getting by the blocker and has his hands up to try to deflect the pass.
  • Mack is having trouble with his man– to the point where Greco is having to help.
  • Schwartz is still hanging on, but Hayes is about to get past him.
  • Turbin is going backwards, and is about to get thrown into his quarterback.

And the quarterback is standing there. He senses danger, but you can see by the ball position that he isn’t ready to throw… but he also isn’t ready to run.

Sack Fumble 6

This sixth photo– taken in context with the five before it– clearly shows why Josh McCown is a second or third-rate quarterback, and will never be able to lead a team to a winning record, much less the playoffs.

Another tenth of a second has passed. The elapsed time on the play is now 3.164 seconds– nearly halfway through the 3 seconds to 3 1/2 second window. 38 milliseconds from now, Hayes will swat at McCown’s arm and dislodge the ball that the journeyman still hasn’t thrown or tucked.

The right side is still wide open– McCown has a good chance to run (at the very least) a substantial part of the 10 yards required for a first down… possibly a great deal more. But he still can’t decide if he wants to wait for Benjamin or run.

He ends up doing neither

I have made my opinion of Jonathan Paul Manziel known on many occasions. Loudly– and at length. I am about as far as one can get from being a fan. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would never, ever have fumbled on that play. Manziel has many flaws, but the ability to sense pressure, make a decision and execute it isn’t one of them. He’s been sacked and fumbled, but almost always on plays where (if you go frame by frame) there was nowhere to run and no lane to throw the ball away

McCown gets sacked when it’s obvious what is about to happen. It’s the reason the Browns (who allowed a sack on only 5.8% of their pass attempts last year, playing three QBs, without their center for 75% pf the year) are up to 8.7% with McCown.

He’s 36 years old and he still doesn’t know when to run or throw the ball away. He throws off his back foot when he gets panicked. He throws high, low and wide, costing his receivers yards after the catch.

While has has worked well with Benjamin and TE Gary Barnidge, he’s had enormous trouble finding either Brian Hartline or Andrew Hawkins. Perhaps it’s the fault of the players; perhaps him.

But one thing that is entirely on McCown is that he turns the ball over repeatedly. He has only 3 interceptions (against 8 TDs), but he leads the league in fumbles with 6.

I get that the players love him like a brother, but it’s time to get him out of the lineup. If the Browns end up 2-14 and Johnny Relapse hasn’t played, the Browns will have wasted a chance to see what he can do, and maybe set up a trade for him.

I’m not taking questions; I’ve said everything I want to say about this team. It’s time to see what, if anything, they can do to try to move forward.


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