The Cleveland Browns went into Candlestick Park Sunday evening looking to get above the .500 mark for the first time in what feels like a decade. Unfortunately for Browns fans, all the Cleveland faithful received was more evidence that this Browns team simply isn't as good as what their previous record indicated. Offensive incompetence, defensive blunders and overall poor play calling turned what should have been a winnable game into yet another disappointing loss on the young season.
Now, there are many reasons why this team is losing these tight games in the second half and many of Cleveland's fans are well aware of the problems this team is facing. The offensive line pretends to be Swiss cheese on every pass play. Peyton Hillis' attitude changes on a day-to-day basis. The wide receivers are absolutely horrid, for lack of a better word, and the team barely ever converts a third down in the fourth quarter.
Now, as a Browns fan and as a sports writer, I have to put most of this blame on the personnel on the field. However, as in every sport, it is the head coach's job to put his (or her) players in a position to win games and to play to their strengths especially in crucial moments. Pat Shurmur has simply done the opposite for most of this season to date. However, Shurmur is currently on pace to lead this team to a 7-9 record (with a lot of help from Dick Jauron), which would be one of the best seasons Cleveland has had since 2007.
For the real reasons why Cleveland is struggling to win these close games, fans have to look up to the press boxes and pick out two men. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert have been clear they intend on building this Browns team through the draft, but have not done anything at all to help the current team win football games. Great teams not only draft well, but they make additional acquisitions that help the team get over hurdles throughout the season.
Who is to blame for Cleveland losing these close games?
For example, one of the biggest weak spots on this Browns team is at the wide receiver position. So far this year, multiple big-play receivers have been on the market and the Browns have failed to land every one. Lee Evans, Brandon Lloyd, Mike Sims-Walker, Plaxico Burress, Sidney Rice and Michael Jenkins are all players that were available as free agents or possible trades since the NFL lockout lifted. The Browns failed to pull the trigger on every one of those players and are now forced to have Brian Robiskie and Jordan Norwood on the field for a majority of their offensive snaps.
This lack of management is hurting everyone on the current team and is making the fans even more antsy than they have been over the past several years. Colt McCoy's progress as a player is even taking a hit because of his production with a very sub-par supporting cast.
The Browns have plenty of ways to right this ship before the 2011 season is all said and done. However, this team needs help in order to compete down the stretch and into the coming seasons. Holmgren and Heckert have done a good job of drafting young talent for this Cleveland team but must work on the art of free agency to really get the Browns where they need to be.