Loose Slag From The Still Mill (Sep 21st)
There's numerous things to comment on after the debacle a few days ago in Cleveland. That a professional football team can have two Goal Line Fiascos in consecutive weeks is beyond belief, but then again this is the same team -- and same coaching staff -- that gave away consecutive games last season on imbecilic screen plays, so I reckon anything is possible.
I've scoured the tape of the game. I've watched -- with a small empty trash can nearby -- Cowhead's press conference. Both endeavors left me more nauseated than I felt watching the game live on TV on Sunday.
Here's some random slag for you to chew on:
* I'm still annoyed with the Halfback Option pass. Here you have Bettis, the 265-pound doughboy, who has shoulder pads the size of your typical subwoofer found in those hot rod cars, trying to throw a pass on the run. Meanwhile, Ward -- a man who actually played QB in college -- is still waiting to throw his 1st pass since '98. One primary reason I also hate this play, is that Bettis is a poor actor. The minute he touched the ball, he looked immensely different than he does on normal running plays. Worse, Ward and Burress -- who are required by the staff to block like demons on EVERY simple little line plunge -- NEVER ONCE attempted to block on this play for a second or two. They both dashed out of their stance like Michael Johnson, and of course the DBs never bought the idea of a run for even a nanosecond. This is a simple matter of coaching and rehearsal, both of which were evidently done poorly. Yes, Burress was open, but you cannot expect Bettis -- a man who has thrown 1 pass in his entire NFL career -- to be standing back there like Danny Marino, scanning the pass defense.
* As opposed to the HB Option pass with Doughboy Bettis, I'm much more a fan of the simple-but-effective play-action pass. As much as Kevin Gaypride DESPISES the play-action pass, the Stillers did run one superbly conducted play action pass. At 0:30 of the 1st quarter, on a 1st & 10 from the Cleve. 39, Graham -- after Bus had been ROLLING up the yardage -- smoothly play-faked to Bus, and had LOADS of time and ROOM in the pocket to throw. Since we had lined up with TEs on the right, in a power running formation, this was a perfect time for a play-action pass. He completed a 11-yard out pass to PRIMARY RECEIVER Jon Witman. As Witman is being tackled, you can see the feet of Ward, who was lined up on the left and obviously did some sort of 15-yard curl. THIS is the play that should have been DESIGNED to go DEEP. But no�. Gaypride DESIGNED it to be a 10-yard dump to Witman. Contrast this with Palmer and his staff, who designed the play-action TD pass to Edwards to GO TO THE HOUSE. They could have designed it to be a 6-yard dumpoff to FB Edwards, but Palmer -- just like the Papunu TD in the '95 AFC title game loss to San Diego -- designed it to score SIX. This is the difference between a Palmer, and the dullardly combination of Cowhead & Gaypride.
* I'm still very annoyed at the Stiller defense. First, it was readily apparent that they were woefully unprepared for the Browns offense. I have no idea what offense they prepared for, but it obviously wasn't Cleveland's. This blame goes to Tim Lewis, who had to wait until we were 14 points down before making adjustments that should have been made during the TWO WEEKS he had to prepare, as well as by the 3rd or 4th play of the game. The other disgust is the total lack of aggressive blitz packages. Lewis, taking pages directly from Jim Asslet's playbook, is proud when he blitzes ONE man to supplement his 3-man line. It's downright shameful and embarrassing when you review the tape and see the time, room, and vision that we gave Tim Couch the entire game.
* Want more on the defense? Remember the 36-yard completion in the 4th quarter, which beat Battles and DeWayne on the sideline? 2 DBs blitzed on that play --- BOTH charging in together ELBOW TO ELBOW. Had they been any closer, they'd have been declared Siamese Twins. One RB from Clev. blocked BOTH men.
* Cowher actually alluded to this play in his press conference. Like everything else, he blamed the players for miscommunication and botching their assignment. Just like Shields. Just like Chad Scott on the Edwards TD. At what point does the STAFF start taking RESPONSIBILITY for their players CONTINUAL screwups ??? At what point does the staff start providing INSTRUCTION and a "we'll do it until we do it right" way of practice? Funny, how when Cowhead had the Lakes, the Woodsons, the Wolfords, and the Kevin Greene's, he didn't have to pay attention to details, since his players took care of that. Now, with those all pros gone, Cowhead keeps getting bitten in the ass, each and every week, from one botched play after another. But remember, it's not his fault�or so he claims.
* Cowhead was pressed about why they didn't throw a pass on the 2nd down, rather than the spike. The local media did a piss-poor job of highlighting this answer, and what it meant. Cowhead claimed that he wanted his players "to be able to huddle, so that every player knew his responsibility", especially, as he claims, given the youth and "the players that we have" to work with. This is the most manure-laden, illogical bunch of crap I've heard in years. Cowhead had a timeout, in which ALL 11 players could have been lectured on the TWO plays the team was going to run. ie, "Men, we're going to run Fu on the EXACT SAME draw play we JUST ran. Then, we're going to line up and throw a fade to Plex. Any questions ??" Cowhead thinks he needed a 45-minute presentation, with PowerPoint charts and handouts, in order to convey the 2 plays. And people wonder what's wrong with this team.
* A few weeks ago, I mentioned my hatred of Cowher's continual quibbling and excuse-making about "youth". He used it about 13 times in his press conference. Funny, Bill -- the Browns have a 2nd year QB, 2 2nd-year WRs (KJ and Chiav.), a rookie WR who was starting until he got hurt (Dawson), and a rookie TE. Palmer seems to be making good use out of all of them. Fact is, Little Billy has only 2 rookie starters on offense -- one is a #1 pick from MSU and the other a #2 pick from ASU. EVERYONE ELSE on this offense has at least two previous years of NFL experience, to include Fu, Ward, and Faneca.
* Bill's excuse for the draw play to Fu. "It was the best of both worlds," he said. "If they sat back, we ran the draw�if they showed blitz, we were going to pass." Funny. I always thought draw plays worked best when LBs were overzealously charging at the QB, instead of staying at home and reading the play.
* I heard Gilbride after the game interviewed by Myron and Myron did ask about the lack of throws to Burress�Gaypride said that Burress was the primary on several plays, but, on those instances where they were going to go to him, he was either double covered, or the safety was cheating over, or that Graham didn't see him or recognize the defense in time to get him the ball. This is pure, unadulterated balderdash. First off, Burress was in single coverage for dozens of plays during the game. In fact, in ALL 3 plays at the end, Burress was in single coverage, as the safeties were both playing across from the end of our interior formation, about 9 yards off the ball. This baloney about Graham not recognizing him is also hogwash, because Graham CONTINUALLY looked immediately at Ward or Shaw on a vast majority of the playcalls. Finally, getting a WR into single coverage in the NFL, is no more difficult than getting the ball to a player in the NBA. The offense clears out one side of the field/floor, and spreads the field/floor, and forces the defense to have to pull defenders away from whomever the offense wants to isolate. Sure, a defense can overplay it, but Cleveland was rarely doing much of this at all. Between Bettis running for gobs of yardage, and Shaw/Ward gaining good yardage on their receptions, the Browns had enough to worry about besides trying to throw 2 defenders at Plex Burress.
* Isn't it ironic that the Jets, on the same day that Burress was ignored, inserted 6-2" DEFENSIVE BACK Marcus Coleman at the end of the half for a hail mary bomb, and then they threw to him and he snared a huge TD in the Jets win. Let's see -- the Jets have enough guts to use a former 5th round pick, a DB who has never played WR....but the Stillers, who invested millions of dollars and a #1 pick in Plex Burress, REFUSE to throw the ball to Burress. Go figure.
* Speaking of getting sickened, I get sickened every time I watch Scott Shields try to tackle. He looks like a pelican trying to hump a porcupine. This is the best technique the staff could teach him?
* The debate will continue all season --- is it a problem of talent, or coaching? Sure, the talent is not great. But it's more than adequate enough to beat a team like the Browns. This team has among the worst misuse of assets in the National Football League. If they were a publicly owned corporation, their stock price would plummet like a rock. The entire coaching staff has become a laughingstock around the NFL and the entire country. This is the staff that tried making Stewart into a pocket passer. This is a staff that has no comprehension of what a GAME PLAN is, or what it looks like, or how to devise one. This is a staff that invested its #1 pick in the biggest receiver in the NFL, who was facing some of the smallest DBs in the NFL -- and they saw fit to throw the man the ball twice the entire game. This is a staff that has TWO of the biggest receivers in the NFL -- Malcolm is 6-5" -- yet they refused to insert Malcolm and refused to even look at Plex in Goal Line Fiasco II™. This is a staff that had two weeks to prepare for Cleveland, and their biggest surprise was to have a lumbering 270-pound RB throw a pass to a double-covered backup receiver.
* Many folks are already chomping at the bit --- legitimately enough --- at the thought of the 2001 draft. This is a worthwhile endeavor. My concern is -- how do we find the best available 1st round decoy ?? Just because we found one in the '00 draft, doesn't mean we can have rabid success doing that every year.
The Still Mill