Over the past year and a half, I’ve written thousands of words on Pat Shurmur, continually analyzing how over matched and unqualified he as both a Head Coach and Offensive play caller. And now that it appears that most of Browns’ Nation is beginning to reach the same conclusions, everything that follows is just further validation that Shurmur is holding back a talented group of young players from achieving success.
Look no further than Shurmur’s third down play calls, which prove that he is completely detached from the tone and reality of the game unfolding in front of him. And as for the argument that Shurmur is “still growing” as an NFL Head Coach, the evidence from Sunday suggests that this is a wildly false assumption. If anything, Shurmur regressed in his own development against the Ravens.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Trent Richardson breaks his body to gain nine yards, setting up a 3rd and 1. And then Shurmur calls a pass play – one that requires rookie Mitchell Schwartz to block his man for 7 seconds. Brandon Weeden is chased out of the pocket, throws the ball away and the Browns punt.
On the next 3rd and 1, Shurmur dials up an even more exotic play call, but all the moving parts lead to an overthrow and offensive pass interference penalty.
On the next possession, a 3rd and 9 results in a sideline check to Alex Smith – who catches the ball about an inch past the line of scrimmage.
Later, in what was probably the Browns’ biggest offensive play, Weeden is given an eternity to throw and finally turns his head around to see Josh Gordon running free past a fallen Ravens’ defender.
On the same drive, Weeden heats up a bit and finds Greg Little to move the Browns into the red zone. But similar to last week – and most weeks before – Shurmur tightens up in the red zone. On this drive, another third down means another short check down to Alex Smith.
On the next drive, the lack of communication that burned the Browns’ timeouts shows up as Weeden fires a pass to an unsuspecting Jordan Cameron.
As the game progressed, the Ravens began sending an extra pass rusher on third downs. This trend continued throughout the second half, yet the Browns couldn’t adjust. During these situations, the Browns’ offense looked like the lost versions shown during the preseason and early regular season.
Once again, the Ravens bring an extra rusher and the pocket collapses. This time, Weeden is sacked.
About the only truly effective play on Sunday was giving the ball to Richardson and letting him fight for yardage. Here, Richardson breaks himself to gain the extra yards needed for a first down.
And a sort of painful irony is revealed here, as the Ravens cover the sideline tight end check down and Weeden has room to scramble for a first down.
More red zone tightening – both in terms of the open spaces not created by Shurmur’s play calls and the tension of a near interception as Weeden guns a pass over the middle to a covered Mohamed Massaquoi.
Later, there is perhaps no series of plays more characteristic of a Pat Shurmur-coached team then consecutive false starts leading to a 1st and 20. And naturally, everyone in the stadium, everyone watching on TV and everyone on both sidelines had to know that a screen pass was coming.
Back to more full circle realizations, another third down means the Ravens bring an extra rusher, the Browns can’t pick it up, Weeden is pressured and throws the ball away. Yet somehow the 38 Bob LaMonte represented ex-coaches sitting in the press box can’t figure out a better protection scheme.
On the next possession, the Browns’ second best pass play proved to be a Ravens’ pass interference penalty – one that gave the Browns a first down and resulted in a jubilant sideline celebration.
Of course, in typical Shurmur style, once the embattled play caller finally figured out that the Ravens were blitzing on third down and finally called a quick strike that actually worked – someone commits another dumb mental error penalty.
And then after the touchdown that wasn’t, Shurmur calls a third and long draw play, setting up another field goal. And because Shurmur evidently doesn’t understand that the Browns are a 2-7 team and because Shurmur doesn’t understand that he is coaching for his job, he basically concedes that because his team can only produce field goals, then the entire game unfolding in front of him is a battle of field goals.
And because the NFL gods (and average offenses) make a team pay for settling for field goals, the Ravens drove the ball down the field, were aided by two Browns’ penalties and quickly reaffirmed the reality that the game was actually a game of touchdowns, and not field goals.
On the Browns’ possession after the Ravens took the lead – and on the MOST IMPORTANT third down of the game, a two-yard sideline route to Little when the Browns needed four is the best that Shurmur can offer.
Shurmur’s final offering couldn’t have summarized his vapid game management any better. After an afternoon of sterile, conservative third down play calling led to a final fourth and two situation – and after Shurmur’s field goal strategy painted him into a tiny corner, Shurmur HAS to convert a fourth down.
And did even the most blindly optimistic of Browns fans think that this play had a chance?
Once again, I’ve devoted thousands of words to Shurmur, and I’m not sure how else to say it. Pat Shurmur has no feel for coaching an NFL game, let alone calling offensive plays. He is wasting the efforts of his roster and impeding the progress of this team.
As for some other notes, first I had to this.
Here’s an interlude of Usama Young once again failing to take a proper angle on an opposing ball carrier. (Young’s the player in the wide open space to the left.)
I’m still trying to track down Young’s high school Geometry teacher, but I suspect the Browns’ safety failed the class 7 times.
And what’s both sad and hilarious is that offensive linemen like Joe Thomas and Alex Mack actually take better angles on opposing ball carriers.
Finally, some bonus mentions have to go to Jabaal Sheard, Sheldon Brown, Kaluka Maiava, Greg Little, the Mack/Thomas/John Greco trio, Josh Gordon and believe it or not, Brandon Weeden.
Before I get to Weeden, everyone mentioned above turned in a physically sound game – including everyone’s favorite scapegoats Sheldon Brown and Greg Little. Like him or not, Little is a huge talent that Shurmur has no clue what to do with.
As for the defense, I keep seeing uninformed Browns’ fans who only look at stats that suggest Sheard has regressed from his rookie season. All season, Sheard is getting chipped, doubled and cracked because the Browns don’t have another quality pass rusher.
Plays like the following are why Sheard’s numbers aren’t great. Notice Sheard in the bottom left corner.
Anyway, you simply can’t convince a fan who only looks at numbers.
Finally, two notes. First, the popular opinion is that Weeden regressed yesterday. A case can be made for this argument, but I will again suggest that Weeden is not being put into positions to succeed. The third down play calling was much more regressive than anything Weeden did and the fact that the Browns couldn’t figure out that the Ravens were blitzing is inexcusable.
Once again, Weeden has never been given plays that suit his strengths. To his credit, he has worked hard at trying to become the 1990′s era quarterback that Shurmur is comfortable in coaching. Weeden’s mechanics are fine on most plays and if anything, his mobility and footwork have dramatically improved.
Certainly, some of Weeden’s passes float or are rocketed into places they probably shouldn’t travel towards – but Weeden is doing an unbelievable job simply by surviving a mostly untenable situation. For those who somehow think that Colt McCoy or Colt Anybody could do any better, you simply do not realize what is going on.
Finally, we’ve only seen nine games, but Trent Richardson is probably the most talented offensive skill player of the expansion era. And again, because his stats aren’t what some fantasy football mouth breather desires does not mean that Richardson is any less valuable.
In fact, could you imagine this offense without Richardson?
And with all the genuine sentiments I can muster, can you imagine a player who fights for more yards or who breaks his body more than Richardson? My biggest fear is that in 3-5 years when the Browns hopefully are in a position to win a championship that Richardson’s body shows the mileage that he is accumulating right now – during a time when every Browns’ player’s contributions are being wasted by a Head Coach who is in way over his head.
Anyway, much more throughout the week. Leave COMMENTS good, bad or other below.