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Diner morning news: Bad night for the Browns

And a final word on the Belichick call. Michael Lombardi

Print This November 17, 2009, 10:32 AM EST

QUOTE: “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.” -- Henry Ward Beecher

Monday night, America got a chance to see the Cleveland Browns, and it wasn’t pretty (I bet the remotes were in full force in many households). I’m not sure where to begin, or even if I should begin at all, but one thing that must be very clear to owner Randy Lerner after that debacle is that Eric “The Secret” Mangini has lost the confidence of the fans — locally and now nationally. Bad teams are often never really as bad as they seem, and good teams are never as good, but in the case of the Brownies, especially on offense, “bad” is the appropriate adjective.

The Browns are so bad on offense, from scheme to design to execution to talent, that it’s difficult to know where to start the overhaul. Imagine two years ago when the Browns were actually an effective offensive team. They ranked eighth in scoring and even scored 51 points in one game, but those days seem long ago. Back then, they had so many skill players that the only criticism of their offense might have been that they didn’t get the ball to Joshua Cribbs more often. Now Cribbs is their only playmaker, and if he doesn’t score a touchdown, the Browns don’t score.

My question for Browns fans is this: If Lerner thought Mangini was the answer, how can he be expected to find someone to fix a problem that has magnified since Mangini arrived on the shores of Lake Erie? The answer is he can’t. There’s an old saying in the league that applies to Lerner: He does not know that he does not know. What he’ll do is buy a name, someone who comes with a certain cache that will build confidence with his fan base. It will be hard to find that person as an executive but not as hard to find a proven coach who can restructure this organization. With five Super Bowl coaches out of work, it can’t be hard for Lerner to make a list. Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden supposedly loves ESPN right now, but unless they have his signature on a contract that prevents him from going back to college or the pros, it’s meaningless.

Not just based on last night’s 16-0 loss to the Ravens but on his time as a head coach, Mangini is the obstacle keeping Lerner from turning around this team. The sooner he accepts this, the sooner he can begin -- assuming he hires the right person.

Last word on the call...

I’ve gotten a ton of emails saying there’s a double standard between my critique of Bill Belichick’s game management on Sunday and Eagles coach Andy Reid. The attacks -- some kind, some not so kind – claim that if Reid had done this, I’d be going nuts. Not true, and here’s why:

1. Reid usually makes mistakes on coaching challenges and when to throw his red flag, which always cost him timeouts. Too many to list.

2. He also makes mistakes on calling timeouts that can prevent a team from passing. Like the timeout at 2:02 in the Raiders game.

3. He makes mistakes throwing the ball at the end of the half, without regard to allowing his opponent to have another opportunity with ball (see Cincinnati game in 2008).

4. His record in games decided by seven points or less is 1-8-1.

5. He doesn’t have three Super Bowl trophies.

Never do I engage in ripping Reid for his run/pass ratios, as most of the media does in Philadelphia. I actually agree with the philosophy that you must throw the ball to score in this league. Had Reid made this call, I would have ripped him for his use of timeouts, but not for trying to keep the ball away from Peyton Manning. Reid’s ability to manage the game and Belichick’s ability during their time as head coaches is indisputable.

I wrote Monday that the wasting of timeouts was a bigger problem than the call and was very un-Patriot-like. In fact, I’m sure Belichick is disappointed in his use of timeouts, and I’m sure he’ll try to not let that happen again.

But understand this -- and this is my final say on the matter -- there is history between these two teams, and it was because of that history that this call was made. In the 2006 AFC Championship game, the Patriots were in front 34-31. The series before, they had just forced Manning into a three-and-out and had the ball at their own 40-yard line. Here is the breakdown:

New England Patriots at 3:22

1-10-NE 40 (3:22) PENALTY on NE-H.Evans, Offensive 12 On-field, 5 yards, enforced at NE 40 - No Play.

1-15-NE 35 (3:22) T.Brady pass short right to R.Caldwell to NE 42 for 7 yards (M.Jackson).

2-8-NE 42 (2:39) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left to B.Watson to NE 46 for 4 yards (A.Bethea, J.David).

Timeout #2 by IND at 02:30.

3-4-NE 46 (2:30) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass incomplete short right to T.Brown (B.Sanders).

4-4-NE 46 (2:27) T.Sauerbrun punts 54 yards to end zone, Center-L.Paxton, Touchback.

As we all know, Manning and the Colts then drove 80 yards to the winning touchdown, which led them to the Super Bowl title. I know the Patriots thought about going for that fourth-and-4 but decided to manage the game conventionally, based on their defensive outing the series before. Conventional thinking doesn’t work, and field position doesn’t matter when talking about Peyton Manning and his offense.

Those are my last words on the subject.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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