Not a whole lot of positive musings this morning as we wake up from the nightmare that was yesterday’s Cleveland Browns loss to the Miami Dolphins. A whole lot of Frownies, not a lot of Brownies in our traditional wrap-up piece as we dive into what it means to be 3-6 with eight games left.
Monday Musings is a place for me to get out a lot of random thoughts from yesterday’s game. Sadly, my “weekly worries” from last week came true as the Dolphins controlled the Browns and fan hope after a win and a bye week faded quickly.
That First Drive!
Talk about building off a win and a bye week, that first drive was impressive by Cleveland. The offense did what many thought they should against this Miami defense by throwing the ball against a weakened secondary. QB Jacoby Brissett looked good and the scheme was opening up a lot of passing lanes.
Man, was hope high after the Browns went up 7-0.
What Happened to Jack Conklin?
Pretty much after that opening drive, Cleveland was owned by Miami at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Conklin in particular looked like many of the bad tackles fans had been used to seeing over the years. Is he struggling with injuries or returning from them? Has wear and tear finally taken its toll?
Either way, Conklin did not look like himself. Might make it easy to move on from him after the year and let James Hudson III take over for much cheaper.
3-4 Defenses vs Zone Blocking
This is much more of an anecdotal reference than a data drive one but it very much seems like 3-4 defenses are better against zone-blocking schemes. With linebackers further off the ball and longer defensive linemen, generally, in the scheme, it seems more difficult for Cleveland’s scheme to get the push and creases against the 3-4 defensive alignments. A small problem given that Baltimore and Pittsburgh run that scheme.
Change for Change Sake
At this point in the season, and really in general, changing coordinator or head coach isn’t really something that is generally fortuitous. While some teams may start to win after a change, often that is due to the lack of quality competition or players just playing slightly better and not the coaching change.
That said, I’m also not a big fan of changing just to change even in the offseason. At this point, however, there are questions as to whether this current power structure will work. The problem with change for change's sake is that Jimmy Haslam’s ownership has been so wreckless with firing folks that being able to find a quality GM or head coach (or both) could be very difficult to do. Instead of finding the next Mike McDaniel, the Browns are more likely to find the next Mike Pettine who would be out in two years or so.
This is where outsiders don’t have enough information to know where the blame belongs. We know what we see on the field but not what we see in practice, in meeting rooms and in individual conversations. At the end of the day, Haslam is the one who may need to make the decisions. Remember that Stefanski was hired and then joined the search committee that hired GM Andrew Berry so the power dynamic is interesting between those two.
Watson Move Should Have Led to Long-Term Thinking
When Cleveland traded for QB Deshaun Watson, it would have kicked off a win-now mode for the team if he wasn’t facing a significant suspension. With a suspension looming, and everyone should have known it would be pretty long, the Browns should have moved to a more long-term thought process.
The biggest move, but not the only one, was the re-signing of DE Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney would have fit perfectly in a win-now scenario but just wastes $10 million in salary cap that could be very useful next year when Watson is playing the full season. Instead, Clowney becomes a free agent again and the team is out that money in a year that they should have been playing the long game.
At some level, Week 10 ended most fans hopes for the season. Week 11 against the Bills and Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could just throw dirt on that season.
The problem isn’t so much the losing it is the lack of hope and excitement. After this week’s game, it will be hard for fans to find a reason to get their juices flowing. Heck, because of the Watson deal, fans won’t even have draft positioning to be too excited about.
Yesterday, hope seemed to have died for the Browns 2022 NFL season. While, technically, the team could go 11-6 by winning out, it is far more likely that Cleveland will end the year with double-digit losses.
How negative are you feeling this AM?