Browns Review: Game 9 (Dallas)

The most important thing to take away from this game: Dallas is what a good offense looks like. The Cowboys had

  • Scored 24 points or better every week, except in Dak Prescott‘s first NFL game (a 20-19 loss to the Giants)
  • Run for at least 100 yards every week– 180 or more for five consecutive weeks (the 168 Cleveland gave up was the third-lowest total)
  • Gained at least 222 yards passing
  • Turned the ball over only six times in seven games.

If you want to analyze games properly, it is essential to keep that mental image in your head. (And a vision of what a good defense looks like.) The reason the Browns have seemed so disappointing is that people couldn’t put the offense’s performance against Miami, Tennessee or the Jets into perspective.

Thanks to Ray Horton, it’s much easier to maintain your sense of proportion about the defense. They look bad every week.

The most stunning revelation of the past week– at least for me was this line from Bud Shaw’s column:

Sashi Brown said he’d be disappointed if the Browns won four games. Anybody see this group going 4-3 to finish the season? How about 1-6? If so, where’s the one?

Sash-O thought these guys would win four games? Why?

Now I don’t pay much attention to anything the Marx Brothers say, and probably that was a very early quote– maybe from before training camp. But it is absolutely unjustifiable:

1. The Browns dumped the quarterback who went 2-4 for them and kept the one who went 1-7. No, I’m not blaming them for it, but Johnny Out-Of-Football was the one who helped them more.

2. They let a Pro Bowl Center and a Right Tackle (if such a thing existed) leave in free agency. Right tackles never get voted to the Pro Bowl (nobody picks a Gold Glove leftfielder, either), but Mitchell Schwartz is one of the top players at his position. And even though nobody could have retained Alex Mack, they did lose him.

3. They let every veteran wide receiver go– except for the 30-year-old who msised 8 games last year. Calling Brian Hartline a loss is pushing it, but he did go 46-523-2. Taylor Gabriel contributed 28 catches for 241 yards– and was much better the year before.

And any team would have been delighted to have Travis Benjamin’s 68 catches, 966 yards and 5 scores– plus his 11.6-yard punt return average and one TD runback.

Andrew Hawkins was small and injury-prone… and everyone else was a rookie. Thre’s no basis for expecting improvement

4. They retained two backs who combined for 1,085 yards and a 3.7-yard average. You could hope they would improve, but there was no basis to expect it.

Why would you expect to win at least two more games than your 3-13 record? Robert Griffin didn’t play last season– for cause– and nobody else seemed to want him. Gary Barnidge had a good year, but he’s going to be 31, so 2015 was probably as good as it gets.

On defense, you lose your best defensive lineman (Desmond Bryant). You dump five veteran linebackers (Armonty Bryant, Paul Kruger, Karlos Dansby, Craig Robertson and Barkevious Mingo). You subtract two former Pro Bowl players (Tashaun Gipson, Donte Whitner) from the secondary and also pitch two guys (K’Waun Williams, Charles Gaines) who played a lot.

Not that any of the players leaving are that good… but you don’t have a veteran GM who has shown that he can find skilled replacements. In fact, you don’t have anyone on the team who has been a GM before. Or even a director of college scouting. Or even someone who scouts college players. Brown is a lawyer who negotiates contracts, Andrew Berry is a pro player scout and Paul DePodesta has never worked for a football team.

On what basis would you assume that you could get rid of a bunch of people who were brought in by people who had worked in personnel– who could play (at least a little)– and replace them with Demario Davis, Jamar Taylor and a bunch of rookies and win at least two more games?

Counting Marlon Moore, the Browns let go of players who scored 11 TDs. They discarded 19 sacks, 7 interceptions, 12 fumbles forced, 11 fumbles recovered (some of them being offensive players) and 33 passes defensed. Not to sing sad songs about Justin Gilbert, John Hughes or Justin Bademosi.. but the team doesn’t look improved.

When the Browns said they expected to strip the team down– that they would lose for several years– I assumed they meant 2-14 or even 1-15. I didn’t know they expected to win more.

The assumption that they could or would seems amazingly arrogant.

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