Browns Review: Game #13 (San Francisco)

Opening Statement

I’ll keep this brief. Sunday’s game was a contest between two terrible teams. One team was ready and willing to play. One was not.The game tells us four things:

  1. The Browns don’t dislike Mike Pettine, Flipper and Jim O’Neil as much as the 49ers detest Jim Tomsula, Geep Chryst and Eric Mangini.
  2. Cameron Erving is a really, really terrible lineman.
  3. Pettine should absolutely not be retained as head coach, because he can’t fix problems.
  4. Johnny Relapse has a serious addiction– very close to Puff Gordon’s, most likely. The Browns should make getting him the hell off the team their top priority.

Other than that, we learned nothing. The Browns didn’t do one thing that means shinola to a tree. This game is as germane to the perception of the season as the Tennessee game was. Anyone who thinks differently understands nothing about the NFL. Z-E-R-O.


I thought it was a good win.
I saw lots of positive things.

Then you need to watch several thousand more football games and read a few hundred books to develop your analytical skills. Nothing positive happened.

The Browns had nine sacks.
They pressured Blaine Gabbert on almost every play.

So what? They had seven sacks against Tennessee and pressure Marcus Mariota on almost every play. In the next six weeks, they had six sacks. That game meant nothing. Neither does this one.

But I saw some players–

You saw nothing. Let’s go through this.

Armonty Bryant led the team with two sacks Sunday. That does’t mean he had a good game– or that he is turning into a pass-rushing maniac. He had 2.5 sacks against the Titans– then had one sack in the ten games between these games

He’s a one-dimensional player who can only make plays if the opponent is bad enough. Period.

And you know that because–

Because I observe his play, because I can read– and because I check things. As I said, between Bryant’s 2.5 two sacks against Tennessee and his 2 against the 49ers, he was shut out in 9 of the next 10 contests.

Do you remember what the tenth game was– the one where he got the sack? I didn’t, so I looked. It was the first Baltimore game– the only other game the Browns won.

At which point I checked the game log for Bryant’s career:

  • In 2013, he had sacks in two games. The Browns won both.
  • In 2014, he had a sack in only one game. The Browns won that.

So, of the 30 games Bryant has played, he has sacks in six. The Browns are 6-0 in those games. The conclusion I draw from that data: If the opponent is bad enough to let Armonty Bryant get a sack, the Browns will win.

The 1.5 sacks by John Hughes against Tennessee weren’t the start of something big. Nor were the sacks by K’Waun Williams or Jamie Meder, or the half-sacks credited to Donte Whitner and Paul Kruger. They were events that occurred against a bad team.

Anyone who watched the two sacks by Nate Orchard should be manuifestly unimpresses. On one, he was going up against a scrub tight end who missed the block. On the other, he lined up against a tight end who went out for a pass– leaving him with a clear path to the quarterback.

Desmond Bryant had 1.5 sacks–he’s too old to be developing. And I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that the sacks by Chris Kirksey, Whitner and Jordan Poyer— or the half-sack by Xavier Cooper— don’t mean squat either.

What’s next?

The Browns gained 230 yards rushing.

You’re joking, right? The Browns have had three problems all season long. They can’t run the ball, they can’t stop the run and they can’t pressure the passer. Then they have a game where they do two of the three well (they still didn’t stop the run; the 49ers gained 4.2 per carry)– and you take that seriously?!?

Aside from a fairly obvious inference– that the 49ers either couldn’t play or weren’t trying to– 104 of Isaiah Crowell’s 145 yards came on two plays. Nearly half of Squire Johnson’s 78 yards (35) also came on two plays.

Eliminate those plays and the Browns two leading backs gained 84 yards on 29 carries– 2.9 yards a carry. They came into the game having gained 615 yards on 200 carries– 3.1 yards

I should think anyone who watches the Browns being out of position and missing tackles every week would be able to notice when the opponent does it– and to not give the runner too much credit.

What’s next?

I liked the way John DeFelippo established the run.

Oh. For. God’s Sake. On the first carry of the second drive, Crowell ran for 50 yards. Johnson ran for 19 on the next play. Who wouldn’t have run the ball after that?

Flipper did call five runs (for 16 yards) on the first possession, as opposed to six passes (for 40 yards). But how much praise does he deserve for that?

What’s next?

Are you going to keep saying that no matter what?

No, I’m going to keep saying it until you ask something that isn’t foolish. One game doesn’t show that Flipper has learned to call a game– especially when the game provided still more evidence that he has no idea what he is doing.

If you said you were pleased with the play of Austin Pasztor, I’d respond differently. He played surprisingly well. Granted it was against a bad team that wasn’t trying, but he seemed to know how to run-block pretty well– he sprung a couple of the longer runs. With the same qualifier about the opponent, his pass blocking didn’t seem bad.

I assumed, when Jacksonville cut Pasztor, that he wasn’t any great shakes. The Jaguars always need offensively linemen desperately. He’d started 23 games for them– both at guard and right tackle– between 2012 and 2014. So why would they cut him if he could play?

But when he stepped in for Erving at guard last week, some of the bleeding stopped. And he had a good game here. Maybe he’ll get trashed by Seattle, Kansas City or Pittsburgh. But if he does not– and if RT Mitchell Schwartz does bail on the Browns at the end of the season– they might be able to get away with playing Pasztor at right tackle.

I wouldn’t be thrilled having him and John Greco next to each other. But if the 2016 Browns use Erving at center for Alex Mack, I’m sure that would be the least of my worries. Dear Lord, he is a terrible player.

Erving didn’t play.

Yes he did– he and Danny Shelton are still blocking on field goal attempts. They’re the reason Travis Coons’s first kick got blocked– and the second one came close. That piece of evidence is one of the many reasons that I’ve flipped on Mike Pettine. The first thing the new GM should do after he watches the tape of the 2015 season is throw Mike Pettine out on his butt.

Don’t you always say never to
make judgments about only one play?

I do say that. I say it about the results of a play– or the decision-making. But I never say it about a pattern of mistakes.

When I was 30, I ran into Don Shula. It was just after the second and final year of Bud Carson’s coaching career– the year that the team Marty Schottenheimer and Ernie Accorsi had built (that Art Modell, Mike Lombardi and Bill Livingston had dis-assembled) had collapsed. The offensive line had come apart at the seams; kicks got blocked every other week.

I asked Shula how you could separate a coach who didn’t know what he was doing from a good coach who was being hamstrung by lack of talent. He gave me the Shula scowl (he didn’t like giving a reporter a weapon to use against a coach), then said:

“Mistakes. Good coaches make sure their teams never make the same mistake twice. At least not with the same players. And you can always tell a good coach by watching special teams.You might not have a quarterback like Dan Marino or a linebacker like John Offerdahl, but all you need on a kick are players who can block and tackle. Any good coach should be able to find those players– even during the season.”

Let me ask a question. If the Browns pulled Erving as a starter on the offensive line due to incompetence, why keep him blocking on field goal attempts?

Especially when he and Shelton were (in the words of Brady Quinn, who worked the game for Fox) “getting blown completely off the ball”?

That’s why you fire Pettine. It’s the same mistake–and it’s coming on the plays where talent (other than the kicker) isn’t the key determinant.

Not to mention that Coons– whose leg is clearly not strong enough (three blocks and two close calls in his last five field goal attempts)– is still on the team.

You can’t just not play Erving.
It shows a lack of confidence in him.

Pettine hasn’t had any problem not playing high picks– or premium free agents.

He also told the entire world “I think Cameron Erving really sucks!!!” when he pulled Erving out of the Bengals game in mid-drive. The Browns were losing 34-3; there was 12:42 left in the fourth quarter. in mid-drive. He got a holding penalty, Pettine sent Pasztor in. Everyone knew what that meant– even if Pettine lied about it after the game.

If the player doesn’t deserve to play in the rump end of a blowout, why continue to use him in scoring attempts– in the same role where he helped cost you a game? Especially in the last game you have a chance to win.

If you don’t play Erving, how will he develop?

Football games are played one day a week. He can’t be developed on the other six?

Admittedly, there are fine points of play that you can’t develop except in games. But when the problem is that opponents push you backwards and throw you aside, that’s either strength or bad mechanics. Those are things you don’t have to play to fix.

Those are also the first two things a competent GM looks at when he scouts blockers– strength and footwork. Just another sign that “Snapchat” Ray Farmer can’t do anything right.

For all we know, Erving might be 100% developed– this might be as good as he will ever get. Anyway, why single him out when nobody else who gets drafted gets playing time?

I still don’t blame the coach for Erving.

I blame him for the mistake of using Erving in a role we know he can’t do. Here’s the other mistake that happens consistently– the use of the clock late in a half. On Sunday, the Browns had the ball with 4:12 left in the first half and all three time outs. They ran only seven plays before the two-minute warning.

Seven plays in two minutes isn’t bad.

Do you remember the plays? Let’s walk through this:

  • Play #1: 1st-&-10, Cleveland 20 (4:12) No Play, “False Start” penalty on John Greco
  • Play #1: 1st-&-15, Cleveland 20 (4:12) Manziel sacked at Cleveland 4 for -11 yards
  • Play #2: 2nd-&-26, Cleveland 4 (3:28) Manziel–

And let’s stop right there. Cleveland got sacked– and let 44 of the 252 seconds run off before calling another play. They don’t call a timeout to regroup– they just blow nearly 20% of their total time remaining. To resume:

  • Play #2: 2nd-&-26, Cleveland 4 (3:28) Manziel pass–

Annnnd let’s hold it there again. Cleveland is leading 10-3, the ball is on the Cleveland four-yard-line— the point where a negative play might result in a touchdown. Now what type of play does Flipper call?

A pass, naturally.

Running would waste too much time.

That’s a phenomenally stupid statement in three different respects. First, the clock did run out without them scoring. Second, they had three time outs— only one of which they used. Finally, you obviously don’t remember what happened. To resume:

  • Play #2: 2nd-&-26, Cleveland 4 (3:28) Manziel pass incomplete to Johnson
  • Play #3: 3rd-&-26, Cleveland 4 (3:24) SAFETY: Manziel sacked in end zone for 4 yards. NULLIFIED by “Face Mask” Penalty (Lemonier), 15 yards, enforced on Cleveland 4.
  • Play #4: 1st-&-10, Cleveland 19 (3:19) Johnson run for 1 yard. Timeout #1 by SF at 03:12.

To quote Strother Martin in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Morons. (Pause) I got morons on my team.”

That play sequence is why Flipper goes out the door along with Pettine. In the situation where he needed to run– where a mistake could have resulted in a turnover or a defensive score– he tried to pass. Twice.

And had he been playing a better team, it would have cost him. Had Corey Lemonier not been so stupid– had he had the sense to realize that Johnny Relapse was at the back of the end zone already— that all he needed to do was push him backwards– he could have gotten the safety without the penalty.

The score would have been 10-5 and the Browns would have been punting from their 20 with 3:19 left.

But Lemonier screwed up royally, the Browns get a second chance. And then Flipper runs. Then.

And after the play, San Francisco– not Cleveland– calls the time out.

Why call time if the opponent will do it for you?

And you think the Browns would have called a time out if the 49ers hadn’t? On what basis? I have 13 games of evidence to show that they wouldn’t have. Includuing this one. To continue:

  • Play #5: 2nd-&-9, Cleveland 20 (3:12) Manziel pass to Hartline for 6 yards. Timeout #2 by SF at 03:07.

Lets recap this. Of the five plays that have consumed 1:05 of clock time, we have:

  1. A pass attempt that burned 44 seconds.
  2. An incomplete pass that burned 4 seconds
  3. A pass attempt that ended in a penalty, which burned 5 seconds.
  4. A run where the opponent stops the clock after 7 seconds.
  5. A pass where the opponent stops the clock again after 5 seconds.

Four of the five plays stopped the clock– but Cleveland didn’t stop it even once.

Unfortunately for Cleveland the opponent gets only three time outs per half. Having just used two, Jim Tomsula decided to keep his last, in case he needed it. Without the opponent helping out, Pettine and Flipper did what they do best– waste time:

  • Play #6: 3rd-&-3, Cleveland 26 (3:07) Manziel pass to Benjamin for 9 yards.
  • Play #7: 1st-&10, Cleveland 35 (2:34) Johnson run for 3 yards .
  • Two-Minute Warning

After three more plays– an incompletion where a penalty was called, another dink pass and a scramble, the Browns finally used their first timeout with 1:25 left. You can’t have that type of decision-making against a good team. They’d make you pay for it.

The Browns gave the 49ers two chances to take control of the game– after the blocked kick and then on the safety. The 49ers’ bungling is the only reason the Browns got to hang around long enough for the drunk to win it.

You keep cracking on Manziel.
What did he do wrong, other than winning the game?

This story sums it up. When he came to the Browns, he was an addict, and he made the money sign. Then he went into treatment and he stopped, saying it was not a good idea. Now he’s doing it again. The addiction is back in control.

He’s won the starting job– the coach can’t possibly take it away from him. He played well enough to win a couple of games (never mind the quality of competition). The fans are behind him; the media is off his back. The addict knows he can do whatever he wants to. And he’s starting to.

He’ll have another episode. It’s only a matter of time. Hopefully he can hold it in check until the Browns can trade him.

And you’re the expert on this? 

I’ve been right all the way down the line. If you understand addiction, this isn’t a difficult call. I hope Johnny Relapse plays really well in the next three games– and doesn’t get arrested before they can trade him. But I wouldn’t bet on that.

But if he can play well on Sundays– 

He won’t. Addicts can’t usually work within limits.

But if he can– 

He won’t. Puff Gordon isn’t going to come back either, even if he is releasing videos that say he’s cured.

What’s next?

If you’re going to act like that, I guess nothing. 

Fine with me. I wasted too much time on this game anyway.


One thought on “Browns Review: Game #13 (San Francisco)

  1. Pingback: Delay of Game

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