Friday, December 12

Heroes & Zeroes: Week 14

Apparently Romeo Crennel isn't content to simply watch his tenure die; he wants to build his coffin and pound the nails in himself. The Browns held the lead for much of the first half, but this game went according to plan. Without several big breaks, the Browns weren't going to win this game. Tennessee was too solid on defense, and the Browns had too little offense to hang for all four quarters. If you'd written a game summary half an hour before the game, you probably wouldn't have been far from reality.

This Week's Zeroes

Five Demerits: Jamal Lewis

Seven carries for seven yards. It's no secret that Lewis has been wearing down the last few weeks, but that's ridiculous. Lewis' standard stumble into the line for two yards has become stunningly predictable. The running game is so much more predictable when Lewis is in there because of his physical limitations. He's lost a step, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The real question now is whether or not Jamal Lewis has a role on this team in 2009. I'm not sure. Lewis hauled in $6.5 million this year, and should be scheduled to bank a similar figure next season. If there's a viable option to replace Lewis either in free agency or the draft, he should be cut.

Ideally, I'd like to see Jerome Harrison paired with a power back in a plowshare. Out of the unrestricted free agents, Brandon Jacobs seems an obvious choice, but he'll likely be too expensive. A cheaper guy who intrigues me is Correll Buckhalter in Philadelphia. Buckhalter shouldn't be too expensive, and although he's 30, he only has 459 career carries, so he should have plenty of tread left on his tires. Although Buckhalter's battled injury problems in the past, his price tag should make him a fairly low-risk signing. Still, the best option is probably to look for a value pick at RB in the middle rounds of the draft.

Four Demerits: Ken Dorsey
It's almost tough to be upset with the way Ken Dorsey played because it's what we were expecting. Dorsey's a number three quarterback for a reason. But let's face the fact: Ken Dorsey doesn't have an NFL arm. When fans are seriously asking themselves whether or not they can out throw the quarterback, then you've got trouble in River City. This guy is basically a coach wearing a helmet, so let's end the charade, make him a coach already and suit up a third quarterback who can actually throw a 20-yard pass. Bruce Gradkowski probably isn't even backup material, but I'd rather get a look at him than watch Dorsey serve up more wounded ducks.

Three Demerits: Romeo Crennel
When the "neutral" commentators (Don Criqui and Dan Fouts, in this case) are openly criticizing your coaching and management, it's safe to say that things have gotten bad. Don Criqui deserves some credit for praising Browns fans and referencing Browns Backers clubs, while also bashing the way this team is run. You can't blame these guys -- you wouldn't want to call these games with a flat, lifeless Browns team out there either.

There's a part of me that keeps expecting the Browns to upset a team down the stretch to "win one for the gipper." Then I come to my senses, and remember that in this case, the gipper has about as much charisma as Keanu Reeves.

Coincidentally, Reeves' new flick is a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Speaking of planets not moving, have you watched Romeo Crennel coach a game? Fat joke: check.

Two Demerits: Rob Chudzinski
Chud's not getting off of the naughty list until Jerome Harrison gets double-digit touches in a game. Period.

One Demerit: Vince Young
Remember when the Texans should have drafted Vince Young or Reggie Bush instead of Mario Williams? That argument's now a moot point. Young is healthy again, but we won't see him barring an injury to the venerable Kerry Collins. And one can't help but wonder what Young's future in Tennessee will be.

Remember when we had to endure ESPN's talking heads (yes, I mean you: Sean Salisbury) explain how "all Vince Young does is win games"? Well, it turns out that Tennessee was winning in spite of Vince Young. Yep, a guy with a career passer rating of 68.6 isn't a "winner," he's a backup QB who's being carried by a quality team and an excellent coaching staff. Just look at how the Titans have excelled with Collins, the embodiment of a game manager at this point in his career, under center. It turns out the scouting reports were right: Vince Young is a great athlete, but maybe not an NFL quarterback.

This Week's Heroes

Five Dog Bones: D'Qwell Jackson
It was a career day for NyQuil, who made 12 tackles and grabbed a pair of interceptions. Jackson's a vexing fellow. He'll have solid games, but he never wows you with anything he does. I think he'd be a solid player if he were teamed up with competent LBs. Still, the guy just doesn't pass the eyeball test. He's listed at 240 pounds. Really? Maybe sopping wet. If Jackson could add 15-20 pounds of muscle onto his frame, I'd be much more comfortable with him, but for now I think we can at least all agree that he's far from the problem with this defense.

Four Dog Bones: Josh Cribbs
Cribbs playing quarterback was basically the only reason for Browns fans to tune into this game. And as cool as it was, there are several things the Browns should have done differently.

Number one, Cribbs needs to be under center more often. Ken Dorsey is just wasting space back there, so why not at least threaten the defense with a play maker? Two, Cribbs' play fakes are totally wasted. Cribbs usually runs the ball, and nobody's going to buy that he's handing off. In fact, Cribbs' fakes are probably just costing him that first step he needs to gain big chunks of yardage. That needs to be cut out altogether. Three, Cribbs has to throw more. He can't be worse than Dorsey, and Cribbs needs to throw to at least keep the defense a little bit honest to loosen things up for the running game around the line of scrimmage.

Three Dog Bones: Jeff Fisher
Raise your hand if you thought the Titans were going to oust the Colts to win their division. Okay, now raise your hand if you thought Tennessee was going to make the playoffs at all. In fact, when you consider the pre-season popularity of the Jaguars and Houston's "sleeper" status with some, it's safe to assume that quite a few prognosticators had the Titans bound for the AFC South's cellar.

Jeff Fisher isn't the league's longest-tenured coach by accident. Fisher always seems to maximize his team's potential, and this year is no different. The Titans aren't a super team like last year's New England club or a team loaded with Pro Bowlers like Dallas. But what they lack in flash, the Titans make up for in discipline and fundamentals. That's a direct reflection of Fisher, and it's something the Browns have been sorely lacking.

Two Dog Bones: Syndric Steptoe
Steptoe added four more catches to his season totals, and he's quietly made 19 catches for 182 yards this season. Those aren't big numbers, but for a second year player who was a seventh round pick, that's not too shabby. Steptoe certainly has been a more consistent contributor than Don't Play -- excuse me, Donte Stallworth. Steptoe's an example of the type of solid depth players the Browns typically have trouble finding, and he'll have a place on this team in 2009.

One Dog Bone: Kerry Collins
Kerry Collins is an easy guy to cheer for. Collins has definitely been through the fires, whether it was alcoholism, rehab, or controversy for using racial slurs. But Collins fought back to lead the Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl, and he appears primed for another Super Bowl run with the Titans. In a way, Collins embodies what makes this Titans team so good. He's not a flashy player, but he plays within himself, he knows the game, and he's fundamentally sound. With Kerry Collins at quarterback, the Titans aren't going to beat themselves. They're definitely beatable, but you'll need to bring your A-game all day, and you'll probably need a break or two as well.

Up Next: 12/15, at Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field, 8;30
I have a hard time believing this defense can stop Brian Westbrook. Expect Philly to really dial up the blitzing on Ken Dorsey, and expect a lopsided Cleveland loss. Can we end this season and sort out the front office and coaching staff already?

Prediction: Eagles 27, Browns 10


Andy said...

I agree with your remarks about the coaches. Crennel virtually never moves - shouldn't he be doing something? I saw an NFL Films video about Fisher and he was working the sideline all game, talking with refs, coaching up players, and correcting problems. Now that's being a coach.

Good call on Cribbs. They ran the same play with him every time and he still got yards, including that 31-yarder that was called back on an absolutely horrible penalty call. Imagine if they tried the variety you suggest!

You seriously love Brian Westbrook - every Eagles game you seem to comment on his status.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with the idea that lots of moving around on the sidelines in an emotional/serious manner is indicative of a good NFL head coach. Pre-USC Pete Carroll's cheerleader act didn't work too well at the pro level.

On the flip side, stoics from Tom Landry to Tony Dungy have had tremendous success with their uncharismatic statue impersonations.

Having said that, Romeo still sucks.

Andy said...

You make a good point, Ernest.

What I should have pointed out is the importance of being confident and in control. Coaches like Landry were quiet but always seemed in control of the game, while Crennel looks like he's asleep. Fisher also is in command, while a guy like Carroll looked like he was always putting out fires.