At long last, football is back.
After enduring a crazy quarterback competition, a lengthy training camp, and several painful preseason games, the Browns are finally set to a meaningful regular season game. Whether the Browns will be able to defeat the Steelers is a different matter, but we can worry about that later. The NFL is back.
In anticipation of tomorrow's game, Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan conducted an interview with the media.
You can watch the entire interview here, but I have compiled a list of the five important topics that Shanahan talked about.
1. Shanahan seems to be leaning against a special package for Johnny Manziel, but not totally against it.
Shanahan was asked about the pros and cons of a Manziel package. He responded:
"I don't really know. We'll have to see. He gets out there, he gets to see a play, that's a pro. But you'll never know what he'll do to an offense, how a defense is going to play it. When a play works, it's a pro, when it doesn't, it's a negative. You really don't know until after the game."
Shanahan isn't typically known for rotating quarterbacks:
"I haven't done that before. I've played with a couple quarterbacks in one game, but it hasn't been a planned thing, it was because of injury, guys coming in and back out. That would be a new experience for me if I had to do that. You get a feel for it as you go, you learn from your experiences. You see what works, and when it doesn't work, you make adjustments and try to do it the next time."
2. Shanahan isn't dedicated to exclusively using Ben Tate.
Don't be surprised if Terrance West runs the ball a lot tomorrow if Ben Tate struggles.
"I really don't have any preconceived notion coming into a game how much we'll play a guy. Ben is our starter, so we plan on giving him the ball. When he comes out, we plan on giving West the ball. If West is running the ball well, we're not going to say, 'Put Tate back in,' we're going to keep West in there. You go with who's hot. He's our starter and he's done a good job in the preseason, I expect him to do a good job on Sunday. When he's tired, when he needs a break, we're going to keep guys fresh, so we're going to rotate him. When West gets in there, we expect him to step it up and not miss a beat. If he runs the ball well, he'll probably get it some more."
3. Temper your expectations for the Browns running game.
Pay close attention to Shanahan's next quote and look past the coach speak. As Shanahan says in his own way, success in his zone system doesn't always happen overnight:
"For everybody, any time you look at a group of people who have been together somewhere for a while, the continuity, playing with the same players, football is the main sport out of all of them where it takes all 11 guys to be successful. You can't depend on one player, you can't depend on two players. All it takes is one weak link to mess up the play. Especially when you're running the ball in a zone scheme and you have five linemen moving together with the receivers, quarterback, fullback, running back, it takes everybody. The more you can get out there, go through games together, stay healthy, use the same players, you can get better every year. Our first year in Washington, we didn't run the ball well, it took a couple years. Then we had the same group that we had for two years and we ended up running the ball better in the next two-year span than they've done ever in the history of the organization. It took some time, it didn't happen right away."
4. Expect Shanahan to use a balanced approach to his playcalling tomorrow.
Shanahan doesn't expect to use the pass or run exclusively to win:
"I don't think a run game can be successful in the NFL by itself. You can't just go out and run-run-pass every play and think you're going to do well. The key to this league is keeping defenses off-balance. If you're one-dimensional, I don't care how good you are in that dimension, defenses will find a way to stop it. Players are too good, coaches are too good, you have to do everything. You have to keep teams off-balance and you wanna come out and run the ball make them play an eight-man front and make them stop it. Eventually, they will stop it. They'll have more guys than you in there and they're going to make some tackles and it usually opens up the pass game. You have to make them pay for it."
Shanahan likes to win by switching between run and pass. He doesn't like being one-dimensional, even towards the run:
"Just because I believe in the run doesn't mean I've done it my whole career. I've had times where we struggled running the ball and we did better passing. During my last year in Houston, we were #1 in throwing the ball and 30th in running the ball. We had some injuries and we struggled to run the ball and we had to do whatever we could to win a game. I think with the way we run our offense and our philosophy is that we're going to win whatever way we can, and I like to be able to do it more than one way. Usually it's based off of how the defense is playing us. We're going to make them stop something, and once they stop it, we're going to go to the other part of our system. You hope you've built an offense that can do everything. When you're only good at one thing, it's going to be a tough game. We have to be good at everything."
5. Shanahan is not worried about Brian Hoyer.
Everyone loves Johnny, but Shanahan doesn't have any qualms about starting Hoyer:
"I have a lot of confidence in Brian. I've enjoyed working with him. I was a fan of Brian when he was at Michigan State and when I watched the games he's played in the league. Now to be with him and work with him on a day-to-day basis, I've enjoyed it. I think we've both learned a lot together. I think he's gotten better throughout this process and I'm excited to see him play on Sunday."