Friday, October 25, 2013
Coaches playing to win despite turmoil
By Pat McManamon
There has been a fair amount of talk that the Cleveland Browns don’t care about winning in 2013 and are instead concerned about the 2014 draft.
Clearly the latter half of that statement is correct.
The Browns have done all they could to load up on draft picks next May. They could still do more with the trade deadline approaching on Tuesday.
Rob Chudzinski and the Browns have managed a 3-4 record despite dealing with a lot of uncertainty.
But to say this season's team wants to lose … well that’s a bit much. A team can build and still try to win, it’s just tough to do while building. Or rebuilding. For the 761st time since 1999.
When it comes to coaches, their jobs depend on winning. Ask the last coach to be fired if a weak roster helped him keep his job. It’s tough to believe that a coaching staff will put in endless hours and time, watch all that video and make all those gameplans with the goal to lose. No coach without a few screws loose tries or wants to lose.
That does not mean, though, that coaches are not unaware of their situation. And the Browns know that this season’s team has problems. In a candid moment they might even admit it.
Coaches have to play the hand they are dealt (never heard that one before, I bet), and back in February Joe Banner said he was very aware the team would be short at certain positions this season because he was not going to surrender to a one-year or short-term fix. It would take time to build the team the way he wanted.
So the coaches have to scramble. Norv Turner has already said the running game situation is unusual, and this week Turner admitted it’s difficult to keep changing quarterbacks.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton talked about keeping the game close, then admitted the offense isn’t scoring a lot.
This isn’t dissension, just reality.
So what does the guy in charge, Rob Chudzinski, do? Well he tries to win. He tried to win when he put Brian Hoyer in the starting lineup, he tried to win when Brandon Weeden went back in the lineup, and he tries to win now that he’s put Jason Campbell in the lineup.
Chudzinski has stressed that any decision he makes is based on what helps the team win, not on developing people or any of that garbage. He’s also established an aggressive tone, calling several trick plays and fake punts and eschewing the punt on some fourth downs by going for it.
It’s refreshing. A coach trying to “win” as opposed to “managing the game” (i.e. punting from the opponents 36-yard-line). In the long run the team will know what’s expected, and it might pay off.
The challenge is making that work within the limits he’s working with this season.
At this point the Browns are starting their third quarterback in eight games. Their defense has given up 24, 31 and 31 points in three games.
But they’re 3-4. They have more turmoil than Wile E. Coyote, but they have a better record than Houston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minnesota and the Giants.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to challenge for the Super Bowl, but the coaches no doubt would like to think if they can get to December at or near .500, they would have a chance to steal a win or two and sneak into something. On Sunday, Kansas City is unbeaten, but they live off the sack and doing just enough on offense to be effective. If -- and it's a gargantuan if -- the Browns pass protect, and if they play defense, they can be in this game, because Kansas City's offense is dependent on Jamaal Charles.
Especially because expectations for Campbell seem to be, at best, muted.
But it absolutely has to be the way the coaches look at it.