Back in early September, the writers at CST made personal predictions about what the Browns’ final record would be. Allow me to list what some of the predictions were for you: 6-10, 6-10, 7-9, 6-10, 8-8, 5-11, 5-11, 6-10, 7-9, 6-10, and 9-7.
…I’ll give you three guesses which writer on the CST team predicted the Browns would go 9-7. Actually, I’ll just tell you: It was me.
From this prediction came feedback, most of which was along the lines of “you’re completely insane,” yet here we are, 5-3, two games above .500, in the thick of things as far as the playoff race, and exceeding most Browns fans’ expectations. However, in the CST group Facebook chat, there has been heated debate (yes, I very much mean “heated”) about if and when we should see backup quarterback Johnny Manziel. On numerous occasions I have turned off my computer and put down my phone much angrier than I should have been, but perhaps for good reason.
To be honest, the disputes with my colleagues and other Browns fans on Twitter about the quarterback situation has me completely cheesed off. The way I see it, there’s one word to best describe Browns fans lobbying for Manziel:
Yeah, I said it. People who suggest that the notion of playing Johnny Manziel at any point this season is a good idea are just greedy. If you’re 21 years old reading this article, the last time the Browns were 5-3, you were 14 and you may not have even been in high school yet and the thought of driving a car was actually exciting. To put even more context to it, in 2007, the first iPhone was announced, Barack Obama declared his candidacy for the presidency the first time, people were still reading the final Harry Potter book, and Barry Bonds was still relevant, as he broke the home run record in August. That’s what was happening around the last time the Browns were 5-3. Think about it for a minute.
I wrote a different article at the beginning of the season begging and pleading for fans to not turn this season into a “Tim Tebow” situation, and that is exactly what has happened. Fans begged for Tebow to replace Kyle Orton in Denver, but at least they had some reason to be frustrated: that team was 1-4. Tebow took over for Orton, and eventually became the starter. They made the playoffs and even won a playoff game (hey, Steelers fans,) but that is about where Tebow’s success ended.
Where are they now? Tebow is out of the NFL and is working as a college football analyst. Orton? Well, he’s the starting quarterback of the 5-3 Buffalo Bills. You see my point.
It is no secret that the Browns’ offense has had its fair share of struggles after losing Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack to a broken leg and there are certainly arguments that suggest a solution to the problem:
I have heard the argument that the Browns and Brian Hoyer have had success exclusively against sub-par football teams. That is correct.
I have heard the argument that perhaps a more mobile quarterback who can improvise and create big plays would help offset the weak offensive line. That is somewhat correct in theory, but very debatable. In short, it is easier said than done.
I have heard the argument that Brian Hoyer is a game manager and not a Super Bowl caliber quarterback and that Johnny Manziel is a dynamic quarterback who could overcome a weak offensive line and no running game to eventually win the Browns a Super Bowl.
I have heard the argument that Brian Hoyer cannot be compared to other quarterbacks who have played in the postseason and/or won a championship, and for that reason, simply just isn’t in their league. By that logic, Kevin Love must not be up to Shawn Marion’s standards, either.
I have heard all those arguments. Those arguments, however, are subjective. Here are the facts:
In the last 3 games combined, the Browns have rushed the ball 83 times for 158 yards. That’s about 1.9 yards per carry. In context, when the Browns’ offense was successful during the first 5 games of the season, they were averaging 146 rushing yards per game along with about 236 yards passing per game. In their last 3 games, they have averaged a whopping 52 yards rushing per game along with about 250 yards per game passing.
Brian Hoyer has actually thrown, on average, for more yards when the offense has been “struggling” than when the offense was operating efficiently, and that’s behind a weakened offensive line. How exactly, then, is the sputtering offense Hoyer’s fault? Imagine what Hoyer could do with Josh Gordon and a healthy Jordan Cameron on the field and with his best receiver being actually taller than 5’7”.
As far as the Super Bowl is concerned, last year’s Super Bowl winner, the Seahawks, passed for 219 yards per game during the regular season and ran the ball for 137 yards per game. The Super Bowl winner before that, the Ravens, threw for about 249 yards per game and ran for 119 yards per game. On the season, with sacks included, Brian Hoyer is averaging 241 yards per game.
It is the running game, not the passing game, which has caused the Browns’ offense to struggle moving the football. As the temperature begins to drop, the snow begins to fall, and the wind begins to swirl, teams will rely on the running game to move the football, as passing in such conditions will be more difficult. There has never been a Super Bowl winning team who has not been able to run the ball. I repeat: Never. Football 101 says that a team can be able to pass the ball all it wants, but it simply cannot win big games without some semblance of a running game. Unless Johnny Manziel can somehow also play running back and block for himself at the same time, keep him on the sideline; he’s not helping anything. The quarterback position is the least of our worries.
The Browns under Mike Pettine have an identity: Run the football down the defense’s throat, work the play action off the run game, and play solid, physical defense. That is who the Browns are and that was the exact formula for the previous two Super Bowl winners. The fact that the Browns have lost that identity is not reflective of the starting quarterback and will not be fixed by playing the backup. End of story.