I’ll just say it. The Cleveland Browns are a mess from top to bottom and this mess is entirely of their own making. A combination of poor draft decisions, particularly first round drafts over the last few years, frequent turnover at both front office and head coaching positions and the rare ability to keep hold of their best players has led to this abomination of an NFL franchise. Simply put the Browns are a laughing stock in the NFL.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is ultimately responsible for the whole debacle of the 2015 season. Two years ago Haslam hired the inexperienced Ray Farmer as GM before Farmer was simply not ready to take up such a pivotal role in the organisation. Haslam also hired former Buffalo Bills defensive co-ordinator Mike Pettine as head coach. Pettine has a solid coaching pedigree in stints at the Ravens, Jets and Bills. Pettine’s father Mike Pettine snr was also a famous high school coach. However, Pettine was untested at the next level. A combination of a brand new first time GM in Farmer and a brand new first time head coach in Pettine was never going to work.
Pettine brought his friend Jim O’Neil with him from Buffalo as defensive co-ordinator. A clear step up for O’Neil from his previous position as linebackers coach. Pettine also hired John DeFilippo as a first time offensive co-ordinator and to be fair DeFelippo has done reasonably well considering the lack of offensive skill players at his disposal. Meanwhile the Browns Defense has for the second year in a row once been a disaster. Hovering all season around being the worst D in the league they have again failed to stop the run despite drafting nose tackle Danny Shelton in the first round of the draft. Key injuries to the secondary and a lack of pass rushing talent amongst the front seven alongside a very poor 3-4 defensive scheme has led to the Browns D being nigh on unwatchable come game day. Cleveland also let go the defensive talent of Jabaal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin and Buster Skrine in free agency and these guys have all had success with the Patriots, Seahawks and Jets. They are all likely to make the playoffs this year.
As for the offense well what can you say when there is literally no skill level at any position. To be fair the quarterback play has largely been good from a mix of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis. The fact that once again three QBs have started for Cleveland this year says it all. McCown was always injury prone and was never going to last a full season. Manziel was… well Johnny Football. Inexperienced after a shocking first year, out of rehab and you were never fully sure about his commitment. Austin Davis was hired mid season and signed to a two year contract! I still have my doubts abut whether Manziel has the passing ability and mind set to make it as an NFL starting QB. As of writing this blog I really don’t want an off season of distracting Johnny stories every week. I’d rather the Browns traded him and then focussed in drafting a tall strong armed young college prospect that will fit nicely into the tough AFC North and be developed by McCown next year. The wide receiver position is fully stocked with talentless smurfs who cannot get open. The exception in height being Dwayne Bowe who was signed to a two year $9 million dollar contract by Ray Farmer in the spring. Bowe has three catches all year and has been a healthy scratch most weeks to justify his salary. The offensive line has had its fair share of struggles and injuries with Joe Thomas and Alex Mack probably not justifying their Pro-Bowl selections. First round draft pick Cam Erving has been a disaster getting exposed and blown up on virtually every down he’s faced. The lack of consistency from the O line has also contributed to another disappointing year’s production from the running backs. Terrence West was booted early in the season for being a disruptive locker room influence which left the bulk of the carries to Isaiah Crowell and rookie Duke Johnson. Crowell averages an underwhelming 3.8 yards per carry and Johnson has been under utilised for a player of his talent. Despite this I can still see a positive future in Cleveland for both RBs.
The one bright spark on offense for the Browns this season has been the consistent play and production of Tight End Gary Barnidge. Barnidge has had a career year developing from being largely a blocking tight end to a pass catching, touchdown making monster. Barnidge unbelievably has not been selected to the Pro-Bowl although he is an alternate.
Finally, what can I say about the Browns special teams except for being a disappointment. This is in main due to an alarming lack of protection on field goal attempts particularly from longer range. The one outstanding highlight being the blocked game winning field goal attempt in the Monday night game against the Ravens which was taken all the way back for a Baltimore game winning touchdown!
It’s been a season full of new lows, mishaps, bad timekeeping, dodgy coaching decisions, injuries, inability to catch the ball, run the ball, tackle, block, intercept, etc, etc. The GM and coaching staff possibly with the exception of DeFelippo and QB coach Kevin O’Connell should all be fired. As Browns fans we can then look forward to another new regime in Cleveland. Jimmy Haslam needs to hire experienced hands in the key GM and Head Coaching positions although who in their right mind would want the jobs? There is talk of an experienced executive being hired to ‘oversee’ the hiring of a new GM and Head Coach, someone like Ron Wolf who had success with Green Bay in the past and incidentally whose son Elliot is being touted as the next great GM in waiting. For now though we’ll wait and see what happens, but it’s very likely to happen on or around 4 January 2016. Here’s hoping the Browns get it right this time… I won’t be holding my breath.