Cleveland Browns Coaching Staff Deserves Blame for First Half Debacle

Updated: December 3, 2013

On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns fell in impressive fashion to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, 32-28. As the Browns fall to 4-8 and further out of the playoff picture, fans and media pundits alike have already spent countless hours attributing blame to quarterback Brandon Weeden, cornerback Joe Haden and center Alex Mack for their missteps that led to the team’s loss.

Haden was burned for the game-winning touchdown, Mack snapped the ball over Weeden’s head that forced him to kick the ball out of the endzone for a safety, and Weeden threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once with less than three minutes left in the first half to go from leading 14-7 to losing 20-14 at the half. But with all the criticism of these players, many people are failing to put some blame on a group that has avoided a lot of criticism all season long—the Browns offensive coaching staff.

Listen, Weeden’s issues and shortcomings as a quarterback have been magnified times 10 this season to the point where we all know he is no longer a viable option as the future starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Despite this fact, with no other options at quarterback, the Browns are forced to trot him out there thanks to injuries to Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell this season. As a rational thinking person, you would think the coaching staff would devise a plan to help Weeden make fewer difficult decisions and put him in a better spot to win—instead, they allow him to average over 40 throws per game in his starts.

With the understanding that head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are products of a vertical offense that likes to throw the ball, we all knew the Browns would throw the ball a lot. But as they figured out after two games that Weeden wasn’t an option, why would they not run the ball more and take the ball out of his hands?

A perfect example of this situation came with the Browns up 14-7 with less than three minutes left in the half. After a punt from Jacksonville pinned them on their own 19-yard line, common sense dictates that with a questionable decision maker at quarterback you should run the ball a couple of times to get the clock moving. Instead—with the Browns receiving the ball to start the second half by the way—the coaching staff comes out and calls a pass play which ends up being thrown behind Jordan Cameron (not that he really made an attempt on the ball anyways) and intercepted by the Jaguars.

Calling this type of play up seven with the ball coming to begin the second half was an absolute disaster waiting to happen. The Jaguars took the ball and punched it into the endzone to draw the game to a 14-14 tie with just over a minute left in the half. While the mistake was glaring and the fans were booing, the Browns were still in a good position to come out and take the lead in the second half after running the rest of the clock off to end the first half.

Instead, the offense did the unthinkable and came out throwing AGAIN from their own 20-yard line. The result, as we all know, was an interception by the Jaguars on the very first play of the drive. The Browns defense would hold the Jaguars to a field goal, keeping the game to a 17-14 Jaguars lead—still keeping the team in a good position to come out in the second half and score a touchdown to take the lead after running out the rest of the clock (roughly 48 seconds) after the kickoff.

However, as we all not so fondly remember, the coaches did it again. After a five-yard run, Weeden would connect with Josh Gordon on a 14-yard pass to move to their own 39-yard line. As the clock was winding down, forgetting their quarterback had just thrown two interceptions in less than two minutes, the team continued to throw the ball in an attempt to get into field goal range. The result was two check down passes, followed by an atrocity of a blocking job by Mitchell Schwartz which resulted in Weeden being stripped of the ball with under 10 seconds left. The Jaguars would then add a field goal, making it 20-14.

I certainly apologize for making you relive those moments once again, but that chaos needed to be stated for the fans to understand my point—the coaching staff needs to be questioned as to why they proceeded to attack despite getting the ball back after the half. To take it further, why is it that their understanding of the player under center and his deficiencies as a passer did not alter the type of play calling at the end of the half?

Listen, I am not paid millions of dollars to devote my entire life to understanding the fine details of commanding an offense in the NFL, but it doesn’t take a millionaire genius to realize this coaching staff has major issues with in-game adjustments. It is has been painstakingly obvious all season long, and the fact that everyone continues to attribute blame to just the players is an absolute shame and injustice to this franchise.

After making positive strides early in the season, the Browns have fallen back into draft talk and focusing on what needs to be done to right this ship in the offseason. But with four games left in the season against the likes of the Patriots, Bears, Jets and Steelers, this writer wants to see some improvement out of those commanding the offense as well.

The players can only go as far as the coaching staff allows them it terms of development and putting them in the position to succeed. And as of right now, the continued failures of this offensive coaching staff are going to impede the growth of this offense no matter who is out there slinging the ball around the yard.

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