Cleveland Browns Need To Find a Running Game

Erin McLaughlinSenior Analyst IINovember 30, 2009

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 29:  Jamal Lewis #31 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Chris Crocker #42 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

All season the Browns fans have been arguing over Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson. That debate has held the team hostage. Eric Mangini did a horrible job of handling it with his indecisiveness one way or the other.

Some fans support Quinn and others still support Anderson. Then there are those who think neither are the answer.

Although I'm a Quinn supporter, I honestly don't think either one is really that bad. I am not saying either is a future Hall-of-Famer at this point, but I think both can be better under better circumstances.

It hasn't mattered all year who has played under center. Both guys have been under constant pressure and have had to hurry throws. Both have had receivers drop passes. Of course, both have missed passes themselves.

It doesn't help to have an offensive coordinator who is in over his head.

Looking at the season for the Browns, there is one thing that seems to have gone overlooked for too long. That is the running game, or should I say lack there of.

So far the Browns have only three rushing touchdowns for the season, and guess who scored them? Anderson scored two and Quinn scored the other. That means that no running back, including Jamal Lewis, has found the endzone yet.

To make matters worse, only twice this season has a runner gone over 100 yards. Jerome Harrison did against the Bengals the first time. Then Lewis did against Buffalo.

For the season, Lewis has 500 yards and Harrison just 257.

Joshua Cribbs is averaging 6.00 yards per carry. However, he touches the ball on Wildcat  and other gimmick plays. The next highest average per carry is 3.77 and guess who has that? That is right, Brady Quinn.

This is not to say that the running backs are totally at fault here. They too have faced many of the same problems the quarterbacks have. The big one is defenders in the backfield as they touch the ball. Predictable playcalling combined with poor line play makes it easier for defenses to stuff the running game.

Then you wonder why every quarterback that comes to Cleveland struggles. All year both Quinn and Anderson have been sitting ducks back there because defenses don't respect the running game.

The reality is that this is the AFC North. This division is won by dominating defense and a solid running game. It gets cold in Pennslyvania and Ohio from November on. That makes it tough to execute a solid passing attack.

The game Sunday against the Bengals was a perfect example of that. Cincinnati has Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco. Yet, their passing attack netted eight less yards than Cleveland's whose total was only 118 yards. The Bengals like the Browns only found the endzone once.

The difference was the running game. Larry Johnson gained 107 yards and Bernard Scott added 87 more. Lewis gained 40 yards and the next leading rusher was Quinn with 10. Adding it all up, the Bengals gained 210 yards on the ground altogehter while the Browns managed just 58. That is a difference 152 yards.

That 152 yards created three field goals meaning nine more points. More importantly that kind of run production keeps the defense on the field for way too long and the offense on the bench. That ultimately makes it difficult for any offense to create any rhythm regardless of the quarterback.

The other day Sam Ingro wrote a great article on how to rebuild the Browns. Ingro mentions that drafting another quarterback would be a mistake. He says finding the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is like finding a needle in a haystack.

With the current state of the Browns they won't find that needle until they can build some sort of running game. All division rivals have guys the Browns should look at. Willie Parker seems unhappy in Pittsburgh with Rashard Mendehall becoming the main guy. What better way for Parker to get back at the Steelers than by signing with the Browns.

Willis Magahee is in a similar situation in Baltimore being behind Ray Rice. The Browns could even look at Scott in Cincinatti since they have Johnson and Cedric Benson.

Any of those guys could be huge additions to the Browns. The only sad part is that it won't matter unless they fix the line.