Stillers-Browns Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This game was the '98 Thanxgiving game fiasco, all over again. Lethargic playing, boneheaded close-to-the-vest playcalling, excessive turtling, settling for FGs, failing to bury a weak opponent, and an asinine late-game personal foul, all too reminiscent of the hideous loss at Detroit. The entire Stiller franchise, from the Rooneys all the way down to the entire staff and roster, should feel embarrassed over this disgraceful loss to a horrible JV expansion club.
QB: Stewart's been given more chances than there are bridges in the Steel City, to prove that he can QB in the NFL. The teary-eyed justification for his lack of progress is enough to make most bleeding heart liberals cry: he has a new coordinator, he has different WRs, the OL isn't meshing, the running game is bottled, blah blah blah. The bottom line, is that The Western Union Man is not cutting it as an NFL QB. He's the master of the 140 passing yards in a game. He's gotten away with that in all our wins, because a couple hideous passes fell incomplete rather than INT. Today, his luck ran out, and 2 woeful tosses were picked off. Just as worse, he missed wide open receivers on crucial 3rd downs. The 1st INT may have been a wrong route by the WR, but the 2d INT was a dumbheaded toss on a play that should have been read, and scrapped, by a QB playing in his FIFTH NFL season. The scrambling deepish toss to a wide-open Ward (in our 2d series), which was batted away by a DB at the last second, really drew my ire. Had Stewart not lolipopped the ball, this is at least a long gainer, and very possibly a TD. Stewart did, to my utter disbelief, complete about 4 passes beyond 8-10 yard, while ON the run today, something that has been desperately lacking in his game. He also ran the ball fairly well. In all, however, he didn't play nearly well enough as a 5th year QB to beat a lowly expansion club. And, he had a pompous look on his face as the game came near its close, as if to say "Well, I did my job today, and I'm satisfied, so I'm not upset at all." D.
RB: This was 1 of Bus's best games of the season. He showed good grit, reading, and plowing, and delivered a couple brutal blows at the end of some runs. Hunt chipped in with 1 catch and 4 carries. A.
FB: Witman, playing against a softee defense, played a little bit better than his usual nauseating performance. He also had 1 catch, on Gilbride's favorite play (the out-pass to the FB), for a whopping 2 yards, and 1 carry for 5. C+.
WR: A mixed bag today. There were a couple nice plays, like Ward's diving snare on a slant pattern. But Ward and Blackie both failed to snag tough, low throws. On the Hail Mary throw at the end of the half, all three receivers -- Hawk, Ward, and Jackwell -- bunched up like shivering refugees, and none had a chance to make a play on the tipped ball. Very poor. Troy, although he's not allowed to start, led the way in YPC. Ward led all our WRs with 4 grabs. Will Jackwell had his usual 1 grab for a whopping 4 yards. Troy did draw my ire by getting a moronic personal foul penalty early in the 2d qtr, which bogged down a promising drive, eventually forcing a punt. C.
TE: Bruener, the TE (Tackle Eligible), came out of mothballs and had 2 grabs for 20 yards, which is practically a career day for the plodding millionaire. His blocking was solid. A-.
OL: An ok day run-blocking, but unacceptable pass protection. The run blocking was often ok, though there were plenty of plays where the push --- against a softee defense --- was puny. The pass protection was all too often sieve-like. Brown got abused by Miller for a sack, and later was replaced by Conrad. Faneca was abused on 1 pass play, which caused Stewart to scramble from the pocket. Wayne Candy was called for tripping (terrible call by the ref) and also holding. He also failed to even come close to cut-blocking Thierry on the huge INT, though it's entirely possible Thierry --- even if stone-drunk or asleep during team meetings and film study --- expected a screen &/or quickly diagnosed the screen immediately when the play began. Duffy bogged down many a ground play with shabby blocking. C-.
DL: The play was fairly solid, though Jabbar was able to often gash thru for nice gainers. Henry and Roye each deflected a pass at the LOS, and their run plugging was ok at times. Steed had a couple stops. Hot Tub Harrison did not dress. Vrabel committed a jackassed roughing the passer penalty on the final drive, when he blatantly forearmed Couch in broad daylight. B-.
LB: Kirk led the way for the LB crew, with 5 solos and 2 assists. Holmes, for the 2d week in a row, was a bit quiet, with only 3 solos. To his credit, he did make a huge stop on the 2-point try, and he also had a bone-crushing hit on Edwards that sent the ex-Pitt Panther flying OOB. Emmons had a cover sack, and otherwise did little. He had an easy sack of Couch, but lazily and clumsily allowed Couch to escape. Gildon, the budding "pro bowler", had 2 sacks, each when he was thoroughly untouched. He did force a fumble on 1 of them, which is a career first for Jason in terms of forcing a fumble off a sack. Gildong, however, showed his true colors -- yellow -- on the Marc Edwards TD. As Edwards caught the ball and turned upfield at about the 4, Gildon --- with Simmons on his inside shoulder -- cowardly stood back behind the goal line and never attempted to come UP and lay a lick on Edwards. Worse, Gildong then allowed Edwards an easy angle at the orange 'pylon', and barely gave Edwards a love-tap as Eddie lunged in for the score. A totally wretched play by a LB who supposedly is having a "pro bowl season". After a play like this, you have to wonder which block Gildon fills in when he fills out the "gender" question on surveys, IRS tax forms, and so on. C.
DB: A so-so effort by this banged up crew. Lee Flowers led all Stillers with 9 solos, and dumped Edwards so hard and so often, it seemed as if Lee were being paid bounty money to devastate Edwards. However, Lee made a huge gaffe on the TD to KJ on the 1st drive, somehow slipping on bone-dry AstroTurf and allowing an easy TD lob that even Stewart probably wouldn't have botched. Davis chipped in on the 2-pointer stop, but otherwise pulled a "Casper" and was fairly invisible. Scott got hurt, on a play in which Gildon came flying in on, but flailed badly and whiffed. Shields had an INT on a poor overthrow by Couch. DeWayne chipped in with 5 solos. The DBs allowed some big plays, and too much yardage by KJ. B-.
Spec Teams: This was mostly a bag of blunders. Fu was waaay offsides on a rare Kris Brown KO that was a touchback. Both Porter and Oldham were flagged on the KO return right after the late Cleve. TD. Lance did a nice job downing 1 punt. Josh's punting was solid, save the last one, which was a low liner that easily carried into the EZ. Troy, who's not good enough to start, had a spectacular 48-yard punt return late in the 2d qtr. C.
Off Coord: I'm never ceasing in amazement at Kevin Gaypride. I'm amazed that this guy is so infatuated with any screen pass, and the worthless 2-yard out pass to a clodfooted FB. I'm amazed that Gilbride loves to put Wittman and Bettis in motion, and even go 1 step further today by having Witman then stop and set up as a split-out WR. I've given up trying to figure out what the hell Gilbride is trying to do on offense. It's almost as if the man is trying to sabotage his own team. The slow, plodding, lumbering pace & tempo of our entire offense today was grossly unacceptable. The offense moved in & out of the huddle, no more crisply than wet Saltine crackers. Instead, they lumbered and lollygagged along, and you could just feel the sickening inertia all the way thru the TV set. 3 plays in particular drew my ire. The 1st was a 3d & 9 from the Cleve. 14, at about the 10-minute mark of the 3rd qtr. On this play, apparently designed while Gilbride was either drunk or on acid, Bruner went in motion to the left, in a 3 WR set & 1 RB. Bruener, at the snap, literally jogged down the sideline and was nothing more than oxygen thief on the play. Blackie did a short drag-out from the left slot. Troy and Hawk each did an in or hitch, and both ended up within 6 feet of each other at about the 3-yard line. No less the FOUR Brown defenders were within arm's reach of the 2 WRs, and Stewart's forced throw was nearly INT'd by Pope. Why the slowpoke Bruener was even IN on this play is a bizarre mystery, as is the stupid-assed patterns that caused Hawk and Troy to BOTH be in a phone-booth sized area on the gridiron. Another kindergarten playcall was the QB draw call on the 2-pointer. Remember, we'd just scored the TD on the Huntley draw. Then we called a timeout, which allowed the Cleve. coaching staff to chew on their players and harp about the draw. The last play ya wanna call on this 2-pointer is a draw. The draw play works when a defense is fooled. The Browns weren't about to be fooled 2 consecutive plays. It's pretty sad when Measley Reese --- whose football IQ is smaller than his shoe size --- correctly ridiculed Gaypride for a totally dumbassed playcall on this 2-pointer. Then there's the WR screen on 3d and 4, which was INT'd. This is a vomit-laden playcall for a several reasons. A.) we were running the ball well, and a ground play not only keeps the clock going, but might very well have gotten the 4 yards against a porous Cleve. defense. B.) If you insist on throwing here, throw PAST the sticks. Don't waste your time, and take a big gamble with a bobble or deflection that could be INT'd, by throwing way short of the sticks. Throw the damn ball 10 yard downfield, if you're gonna insist on throwing. F.
Def Coord: The opening of this game was nearly just like the 1st Tennessee loss last year --- the opponent marches casually and effortlessly downfield for an easy TD. It's obvious that Jim Asslet did nothing to prepare for this game. He assumed that Cleve. would use the same old vanilla offense they used in week #1, and their spread formation of 5 WRs caught Asslet with his pants down. D.
Head Coach: As much as I hate losing to the Browns, losing today does have some possible positive effects. Perhaps Marty Jr. will finally awake from the long slumber he's been in, ever since his extortion ploy in the spring of '98. He's going thru a "déjà vu all over again" --- this season is exactly like last year, and the mulestubborn Cowhead is too myopic, bullheaded, and too staunchly determined to do it "his way". This is terribly ironic, because this Cowher is NOTHING like the one from '95. We played Cleve. on MNF in '95, and Stewart --- serving then as Slash --- threw a successful pass for a crucial 2-pointer. 4 years later, Cowhead staunchly refuses to use multi-purpose Hines Ward in anything remotely similar to that Slash role, and the best he can come up with on a 2-point try is the tired old QB draw, which was easily snuffed by Cleve. With the score 12-7, the right decision was made to go for the 2-pointer, but the playcall itself was straight from the bland KC Chief's playbook and Bill's hero and father, Marty Shittenheimer. Cowhead has the ability to whip his team into a rage when on national TV, but playing a weak team on local TV causes Cowhead to consistently play down to his opponent and play fiddle-faddle rather than bury the foe. F.
This is surely 1 of the lowest points this team has hit in years. It reminds me somewhat of the crushing loss to Cinci on Thurs. nite football in '95. But there is a vast difference between then and now. Back then, we had player leadership, and a coaching staff willing to make the necessary personnel & tactical changes. Now, we have very limited leadership, and a close-to-the-vest coaching staff that plays only "not to lose" rather than "to win." We have a coaching staff so enamored with veteran mediocrity, that is still staunchly refuses to start its premier impact-player, Troy Edwards. We have a staff so bent on "we'll do it our way" that we're rapidly approaching the NFL record for most screen passes in 1 season, and we're running an offense that a 4th grade youngster can predict and read with minimal difficulty. I do expect that we can give most of our tough foes hard battles in the upcoming weeks, but it's readily apparent that this team, just like the '98 version, is going nowhere. Last year, few were willing to admit it, instead denying and denying until about week 15. We should all take a page from AA and note that denial is the 1st step. Bill Cowhed and his rutted team are clearly stuck in step 1, and only the weight of continued dismal defeat can possibly snap Field Goal Bill out of this sickening denial.
The Still Mill