Preach It, Brother

October 29, 2004

Note: This was supposed to go up yesterday, but then the Sox won the World Series, and I figured that was worth a mention. Sorry for two sports entries in a row; I've been trying to avoid that this year.

The Browns finally gain one of the first entries in a TMQ column, and it's for their horrible play-calling in OT:


It's overtime in Philadelphia-Cleveland collision. In the waning seconds of regulation, the Browns scored to force a fifth period, sending the dog-dressed crowd into delirium. Now Cleveland faces fourth-and-1 on its 48. You're going for this, right? The Eagles are an undefeated elite team; the Browns are a 3-3 who-dem outfit; the hometown crowd is roaring at military-afterburner decibels. You're going for this, right? Last season, NFL teams that ran on fourth-and-1 converted 75 percent of the time. So if Cleveland runs, it has a 75 percent chance of a first down and the upper hand for victory; plus ground defense is the Eagles' weakness, the Browns had rushed for 165 yards to that point. If Cleveland punts, it hands the ball back to a team that had already gained almost 450 yards against the suspect Browns defense. So you're going for this, right? You are going for this, right? Boom, a punt. Philadelphia marches for the field goal and victory; Cleveland never has possession again.

If you're 3-3, what have you got to lose by going for the first down in this situation? The punt didn't even help tactically -- Philadelphia took exactly one snap to get back to where the Eagles would have been if the Browns had gone for the first down and failed. Cleveland had a chance to take fate into its own hands, and instead passively punted the ball away. This seems yet another instance of an NFL coach trying to avoid criticism. Had Cleveland gone for it and missed, Butch Davis would have been blamed for the call; as it was, his players were blamed for soft defense on the final Philadelphia drive.

This is one of my biggest beefs with the Browns -- their coaching. Butch Davis is not a pro coach; like Spurrier he's a college coach trying to hack it in the pros and failing. The offensive coordinator, who probably called the play in or suggested it to Davis, is just as culpable. He also doesn't belong in the big leagues; it takes more than half a dozen plays to win a football game. Dave Campo, the defensive coordinator, is as close as anyone on that staff comes to competence, and he'll go running for the Prevent when the Browns are up 3-0 halfway through the first.

Fire the coaches, patch up the O-line, and maybe this team will be a contender again.

October 28, 2004November 1, 2004