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Interest in QBs obscures Browns problem

8/17/2014

The endless debate and discussion about the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks -- wait ... Johnny clipped his nails today!” -- obscures one troubling reality about the offense no matter who plays quarterback.

So far in this camp, the Browns have been offensively challenged.

Or challenged offensively.

Both are true.

  The offense did not score a touchdown in a scrimmage and did not score a touchdown in the first preseason game -- and that when the Browns played two quarterbacks competing to start for three quarters while the Lions played their backups.

There have been chances. A bad call cost Johnny Manziel in the scrimmage and a fumble cost him in Detroit. A dropped pass and two overthrows cost Brian Hoyer against the Lions.

But the Browns have been a team of “what ifs” and “yeah, buts” the past six seasons, when they have combined to lose 69 games -- 11. 5 per season.

As in yeah but they’d have been good if Greg Little didn’t drop all those passes.

Or in yeah but Brandon Weeden is only a rookie.

Or what if they hadn’t traded Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

Yeah buts and what ifs have done nothing but get coaches fired, players released and new systems started.

The wash-rinse-repeat cycle the Browns have been on for so many years continues as new coach Mike Pettine brings a new offensive system. He's trying to balance getting one of two quarterbacks ready to play while he works without any knowledge of whether or for how long he’ll have his best playmaker on the field. Oh ... there’s also the consideration that the blocking scheme for the running game is a complete overhaul.

This isn’t to say it can’t come together by opening day. But it is extremely challenging and difficult, as the Browns are showing this training camp and as they’ve shown in so many prior camps.

Even Manziel admitted the offense needs to find itself, and he sounded like a guy who understands that a touchdown might be a mental relief.

“We haven’t done it yet,” Manziel said, “so that’s what we need to do. That’s the goal for every group that’s out there is to score points.”

The Browns have some pieces. The offensive line seems to be made for Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Ben Tate and Terrance West have shown ability. Josh Gordon, when he plays, is as good as any receiver in the league.

But learning a new system is difficult for any group of players. Trying to mesh on the fly can be frustrating.

It’s overstating it to say first guy to get a touchdown with the offense is the regular-season starter -- but not by much.