One game into the 2011 Cleveland Browns football season and 75 percent of C-Town is ready to abandon ship. Sorry to those 75 percent, but it’s just a little too early—in fact, it is absolutely way to early—to even think of jumping off the ledge…yet.
Jumping off now would be like trying to hop off Millennium Force six seconds after the overly excited Cedar Point employee jerks your seat belt.
It’s one game. ONE GAME. One game out of 16. It is a long, long season and there is plenty of time to see this thing through, and that you should.
I understand people being upset at the debacle we all witnessed Sunday at home, against the Bungles and that’s fine, but c’mon peeps, we are overreacting with the whole idea that Shurmur can’t coach, that Colt McCoy is not the QB of the future, that we are not better off than we were at this point a year or even two years ago and that we would be better off with Eric Mangini still at the helm of the ship. If you believe any of those statements in that last sentence, then it may already be to late for you, but if you keep reading I’ll try to change your mind and make you see the light.
Now before I go any further, I must tell you: I am not drinking the Browns' Kool-Aid, I do not see the front office as messiahs who can do no wrong; I see everything as a fan who sees things clearly and with a little bit of logic, and an even smaller bit of patience.
Patience? Yes patience. Something all of us as Browns fans need to learn. We have been waiting since 1999 for this team to get back to the glory and prominence that the Browns franchise once was known for, and it’s understandable that our patience is wearing thin at this point but trust me, a little more will be well worth it.
This team, the front office, the entire franchise is on the same page for the first time since…ummm well, since…the late 80’s probably. There is a plan in place, a structure, and a shared idea by all involved.
There is an offensive scheme, a defensive scheme and the type of player that will fit in each that can be agreed upon, from the owner, to the president, to the GM, to the head coach and to the assistant coaches. Everybody knows what kind of player they need and what kind of player they want, but most importantly, what type of player will fit the plan.
With that in mind, remember that this is still a learning process and somewhat of a rebuilding process. Gone are the aging character players from Mangini's “plan,” and in are younger players who fit this scheme. With the youth movement, there will be bumps in the road and there will be issues with discipline, which brings me to Shurmur and the game Sunday.
The Browns had seven penalties in the first quarter Sunday. That is a disgraceful number; Pat Shurmur needs to fix that, and he will. During that time, Twitter, Facebook, and local talk shows will blow up with comments like “this would never happen to a team Mangini coached” and “Shurmur can’t coach, he can’t discipline his players and get them not to make mental errors.”
To a certain extent, one of those comments is absolutely true, these types of things never happened during the Mangini regime—which is part in credit to the Mangenius himself, but also the fact that those were veteran players who had endured the riggers of NFL life, not young guys still learning.
Looking back at the penalties in the first quarter, two were on our young right guard Shaun Lauvao, who has started a total of two NFL games. Young guys will make mistakes early; it is part of the learning curve and Shurmur and his staff will fix it.
If Mangini was still here, the Browns would be eons from a championship contender rather than a few years from that point they are at now. I say that not as a knock on Mangini but more in reference to our team being filled with “character” guys who were on the downside of their career.
Give Shurmur and this young squad some time, and you will see that this is what is best for the future.
Now, on to those who believe Colt McCoy is not a franchise QB based on Sundays performance. First I must ask, “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?”
Once again, it is one game, ONE GAME. McCoy battled to keep the Browns in that game while he was being beaten and battered by a Cincinnati defensive line that heavily outplayed the Browns offensive line.
O'Neil Cousins, the starting right tackle, looked like Grady Sizemore as he swung and missed at pass rushers whizzing by him. Artis Hicks—who replaced Cousins—was better, but the Bengals' combination of Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap still were able to push the pocket and get their hands up to tip at least six McCoy passes.
He was 19-40, with six tipped passes and three or four catchable dropped passes. Also keep in mind, the difference in field position was astounding. It’s hard to play well with your back to the goal line and with your punter getting off booming 21 yard punts.
McCoy was not Joe Montana, but he was far from Spergon Wynn.
To all of those who say the Browns are no better than the last two teams who finished 5-11 in consecutive years, ask yourself this question: entering each of those seasons, who were the cornerstones of the franchise? Joe Thomas and…Phil Dawson, Josh Cribbs?
I’ll give you Thomas, that is the obvious answer. However, if you look at the teams the past few years, you have Thomas as a cornerstone— then our special team studs in Dawson, Cribbs and the best draft pick of the Butch Davis era, Ryan Pontbriand and that’s it.
Entering the 2011 season, the Browns have franchise cornerstones on both sides of the ball and have built one hell of core. On offense, Colt McCoy is the QB of the future, Peyton Hillis is a stud back who can control the ball (if the guns don’t get in the way and cause a fumble), you have center Alex Mack added to Thomas on the line, and up and coming stars like Greg Little, Montario Hardesty and Evan Moore.
On defense you have Joe Haden, TJ Ward, Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. The core is here. Pieces will be added and the young players will get better and more disciplined.
We will not see another game, thankfully, like the one we saw Sunday, I am comfortable enough to damn near promise that. This is a learning process, it takes time, but it will get better. We need to be behind this squad and have their backs, not stand here ready to throw them overboard.
So I ask you C-Town, rather than overreact to one game, step back from the ledge, relax and enjoy the ride.