Rebutting the Rebuttal: Broken Crayons Edition

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IJuly 8, 2009

The blindingly gorgeous prospects of an early July allow us all to parade around the bandwidths of public opinion, emerging as gridiron prophets and caretakers of the endless optimism that surrounds a sun-drenched Berea.

For in July, it really doesn’t matter that the 2009 Browns are entering yet another first year of a new coaching regime, or that the current collection of talent on the roster appears to be riddled with questions and concerns worthy of volumes of elegant prose.

Because as it stands now, the Browns’ odds to compete for a Super Bowl championship are as good as any other team in the league.

Why not?

If you allow yourself to embrace the Zen-like philosophy of “we shall see,” then every move made in Berea over the past six months is leading to a perfect destination…or not.

Perhaps we should all embrace this feeling for as long as it continues to penetrate our hardened, Northeast Ohio sports fan shells.

But then again, what fun is that?

So, in the spirit of both debate and its sister, contrarianism, as well as in a gesture of goodwill toward accurate, grammatical bliss, let us offer a counter argument to the sunshine streaming through the Internet in recent days.

Or, perhaps in a more correct phrasing, allow me to retort.

Rebuttal to Reboot

I just want to start out and say I have read and always enjoyed the Cleveland Reboot blog. It’s a very intelligent and clever blog about the greatest franchise in football, The Cleveland Browns. I just believe that his recent post about our offense struggling this season to “find” an identity and whichever quarterback that starts not playing well needs a rebuttal.

First things first, thanks for the plug. I also enjoy the stylings of one Cleveland Reboot. And as for the objective of a rebuttal, I admit that I argue with myself constantly. Unflinchingly and stubbornly maintaining the same outlook is self-destructive.

Debate is healthy.

Our offense will not struggle in 2009. They may not be top five or top 10, but we will score points. Let’s start with identity. The team has one…it is balanced. If you watched the Jets, and I have to tell you I watched many of their games because I am a Brett Farve fan, Leon Washington was used in the short passing game more than he was as a running back.

The Browns are installing a new offense, with a largely untested quarterback, an older featured running back, very few playmakers and a revamped offense line. However hopeful I am for the offense to acheive success in 2009, as a realist, I have to think that this unit will struggle in 2009.

Having said this, I admit that the offense will gradually improve throughout the year, but this is a huge work in progress for the team moving forward.

As for an identity of being “balanced,” again, let’s wait and see. However, in viewing the current roster shortcomings, I’m not sure how this team will acheive this kind of benchmark. The only parallel we have now, other than player analysis, is to look at the 2008 Jets.

The flaw in using that logic is that the Browns are not the 2008 Jets.

Isolating the running back position, it is obvious that Jamal Lewis is not Thomas Jones and Jerome Harrison is not Leon Washington.

In reality, these comparisons are not so easy.

Cleveland Reboot goes on to say the browns have “an aging featured running back in Jamal Lewis.” Lewis is younger than Thomas Jones and he can break tackles much more often. So if Jones can flourish in Mangini’s offense, then so can Jamal. The Browns even have their very own Leon Washington…Jerome Harrison. We all complained about the lack of use we saw out of Harrison; well in 2009 prepare to see him used EXACTLY like Washington. Expect to see his best this season.

Technically, Lewis is a half-year younger than Jones, but in terms of NFL mileage, Jones is relatively fresh compared to the more experienced Lewis. Jones bounced around the league for three or four seasons before contributing with Chicago a few seasons ago.

Compare this with Lewis, who has been a workhorse back in the league since the 2000 season.

And as much as I would love to see Harrison finally break through in 2009, comparing him to Washington is a bit of a stretch at the moment.

As for seeing Harrison’s “best” in 2009? I would hope so, considering he hasn’t contributed much in the league so far in his career.

I wouldn’t think he could get any worse.

Our wide receivers (even with the rookies) will be more prepared this year Week 1 than we ever saw them last year. These guys are all fighting for playing time. Our “one playmaker,” as Reboot refers to him, Braylon Edwards, is in a contract year so he will be at the top of his game (which could be 80 Catches 1289 yds and 16 TDs).

Last year we experienced so many injuries at WR. Joe Jurevicious, K2, Braylon, and Stallworth were all injured for a period of time. We are coming in with a very deep squad.

Having 10 wide receivers on the current roster does not necessarily equate to having depth.

My main point in analyzing the current collection of receivers is that after Braylon, there is no dynamic player who can be relied upon to step up. Although I view Robiskie and Massaquoi as intriguing rookies, they are just that—rookies.

With the exception of playing quarterback, rookie wide receivers historically have a very difficult time transitioning to the NFL.

“… the Browns offense is going to be pretty weak. Much like in the early days of the reborn franchise.” (exact quote from Reboot post).

Wow, I thought my prediction of a top 15 defense is bold. Why would this offense struggle so bad? What is so wrong with this offense line?

As many of you have read and commented on before our offensive line is in great shape. They possess pro-bowlers, veterans, youth, and size.

Again, the offense will rely on several untested players. As for the offensive line, I like the addition of Alex Mack, and Joe Thomas is solid at left tackle. While Eric Steinbach should give the Browns one more year of consistent play in 2009, the right side of the line has some question marks.

Who are the starters at right guard and right tackle? Or, a better question could be: Who are the starters when Ryan Tucker gets injured?

Whoever the quarterback may be this year, I do believe will have a good season…not to be confused with great, though. In no way do I think the QB will continuously struggle. I think they ARE surrounded with enough talent to succeed. There are enough playmakers all over this offense to put up the points of 2007.

We have seen greatness out of Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards, Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs, and Derek Anderson (I’m still trying to find more articles about this “awkward throwing motion”), all of who are still on this team and are all currently healthy.

I think Brady Quinn has the talent to be great. I love the rookies we got in Mack, Robiskie, Massaquai, and Davies.

The Browns have talent among the roster; the point to remember is that the team is again in the first year of a regime change. To expect success so quickly is a little misguided. And using a term like “Greatness” is an explosion of hyperbolic fancy, which does not accurately describe the blip of success the Browns experienced in 2007.

The last time “greatness” and Derek Anderson were found in the same room, DA was likely reminiscing about his afternoon nap.

While I don’t claim to be an NFL analyst steeped in the experience and knowledge of a long-time scout or coach, my eyes usually don’t deceive me.

Derek Anderson holds the ball at an awkward angle and when he releases, his passes tend to sail on him. While this may be an admirable trait for a deep-ball passer, DA’s motion leads to inaccurate throws.

Witness the Cincinnati game from late 2007.

PREDICTION: 23.8 pts/game..not bad…
~ The Optimist

If the Browns scored 23.8 points per game, that would place them 12th in the league, based on 2008 numbers. Not exactly scientific, but pretty convenient.

Hopefully I didn’t offend Cleveland Reboot in any way, again I recommend his page to anyone who loves the Browns. I love to debate football, especially the Browns, so hopefully no offense was taken.

It takes a lot to offend someone who was long ago delivered into the world as a Browns fan. It’s not like anyone took the name of Webster Slaughter in vain. The only offense that myself or anyone else should take would result from continuing to not stray from a formulaic, simple and often destructive philosophy of commentary.

In this sense, debate should always be a permanent fixture in any variety of media, because without it, we all become merely receivers and cheerleaders.

Without real debate and opinions, the wonderful gift of a public forum to authentically challenge the status quo and each other is wasted.

Can we do it?

We shall see.

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