The Cleveland Browns enter the bye week a disappointing 2-7. The team has had chances to improve the record, but being inconsistent has been a problem.
The lack of consistency is not only a game-to-game problem, but also a play-to-play problem. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Browns are not good enough to play inconsistent football and win games.
The inconsistency seems to find a way to show up at the most critical point in the game for the Browns. An example is the touchdown Joe Haden gave up to Torrey Smith against the Ravens. Haden had played well most of the game, but his bad angle cost the team six points.
The reason why Joe didn’t play the right technique is not the issue; the issue is not consistently playing well the entire game.
Joe Haden was not alone in the Ravens game or in the previous nine games when it comes to not playing 60 minutes. The offense is the biggest offender of inconsistent play, which is driven by the head coach Pat Shurmur.
The most recent evidence of this problem was the back-to-back false start penalties and a timeout to follow those penalties. Shurmur cited communication problems as the reason the offense couldn’t get the play run on time and the need for the timeout.
In the ninth game of the season, a professional football team shouldn't be having problems getting the play call in with the right personnel.
In this week off for the Browns, they will need to make adjustments to perform better in the last seven games. Let’s take a look at five adjustments they need to make during the bye week.
Stop sharing the play-calling duties:
In Pat Shurmur’s Monday press conference, he addressed the play-calling process with Brad Childress stating, “We talk about what the plays are going to be” and then Shurmur calls the play into Brandon Weeden.
In an NFL game where you want to give your quarterback 15 seconds at the line of scrimmage to look over the defense, the current play-calling operation has too many moving parts. Pat Shurmur must decide that he will call the plays or Brad Childress will call the plays into Weeden’s helmet.
Feed the beast:
The ball needs to be in Trent Richardson’s hands as much as possible. He is clearly the best and most consistent player on offense.
Giving the ball to Richardson will help slow things down for Brandon Weeden. It also makes the play-action fake viable and would allow for more one-on-one opportunity for the wide receivers.
The other benefit will be better short-yardage performance; the offensive line needs reps moving people forward. In practice you can’t replicate run-blocking and if you pass too much in the game, that takes away more reps as well.
The offense needs to take what is given:
In the San Diego game, the weather wouldn’t allow for downfield passing and in the Ravens game, the defense played more down the field zone coverage. So in these cases when the weather or defense is taking the deep ball away, the running game needs to be featured.
The quarterback also has to take the five- to seven-yard pass when the deep ball isn’t there. If they keep taking what the defense is giving them, eventually they will get into the end zone, it just might take 14 plays.
At some point, the defense may start to overplay the run or the short throws, allowing the deep ball to open up.
Make quicker defensive adjustments:
Opposing offenses have gotten off to a good start against the Browns defense and often the adjustment doesn’t happen until halftime. The adjustment at halftime is effective, so it needs to happen sooner.
If they don’t wait until halftime, the deficit doesn’t get as high, allowing the Browns offense to stick with the original game plan. It also keeps the running game alive early in the game, which helps the defense stay rested.
Stop trying to trick the opponent:
Pat Shurmur has outsmarted himself time and time again with passes in short yardage situations and going for it when it doesn’t make sense. All of the decisions are in an effort to outsmart the opponent. The Browns are in a position with the talent they have to line up and beat the men in front of them.
The players need the coach to show belief in their ability to get the job done. I know this is the professional level, but Shurmur is sending a message to his players that he believes more in scheme than he believes in them.
The message he is sending may not be intentional, but it shows in the lack of execution that this is how the players feel.