First and Ten – Shurmur and Little woes

Before starting, it’s important to offer our thoughts and prayers from everyone in Browns land to Chuck Pagano and his family. Pagano, who is fighting leukemia, was an assistant in Cleveland before he moved on to the Ravens and Colts.
1) Pat Shurmur has really boxed himself in with his “zero tolerance for drops” comment. Well he hasn’t boxed himself in. Because he can always just change his mind. But he does make it interesting when he says that, because he has one guy that has dropped a lot of passes and a team that does the same. Depending on the web site or people doing the measuring, the Browns have dropped either 11 (Stats LLC) or 17 ( the first four games of the season. The number is large either way — three or four per game. And Greg Little has at least four by himself. If a coach has zero tolerance for drops, Little would not be playing. Perhaps Shurmur meant to say: “We have zero tolerance for drops until I look at my roster and realize that the risk of trying to develop a guy while he learns to catch is better than the reward of playing a bunch of other guys who can’t catch either.”

2) Did we ever think it would come to the point that Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs are the Browns most reliable wideouts?
3) Little was scheduled to appear at a Giant Eagle store in Canton on Friday, the day after the game against the Ravens. He was slated to arrive at 5. At that point, there were 50 or so people lined up waiting for a meet-and-greet, but no Little. By 5:30 there was still no Little. Sometime between then and 5:45 the store PR folks got a text — a text — from Little’s representative saying he would not be there. The 50 or so turned around and went home. The reason given for his absence was that Little was getting treatment. He may have been, because he took a shot to the back against Cincinnati. But he practiced Monday and it seems there was plenty of time before 5:30 or even before 5 or even before 4 to let folks know he was not arriving. Instead, a text was sent at least 30 minutes after he was supposed to be present and accounted for. Again, a text. The store had been advertising this appearance throughout September.
4) It’s all sounding eerily similar. A year ago Peyton Hillis didn’t show for a kids event, then blamed miscommunication. Hillis also got married on a day off. This year, Little missed an appearance and waited until 30 minutes after it started to let anyone know and Joe Haden got engaged during his suspension (according to various web sites). Does this stuff happen anywhere else?
5) It seems that Little’s situation is much like the Colt McCoy situation. The Browns created this monster waiting to pounce by making McCoy the backup instead of career backup Seneca Wallace. Brandon Weeden has done a lot defuse that McCoy chatter, but it will always be lurking. In the same way the Browns helped create this Little situation. Little is a likeable guy who does not hide or duck from anything. But he was a running back who spent one season at receiver at North Carolina before he was suspended for committing NCAA violations. He joined the NFL as a guy with one year’s experience at his position, and after he didn’t play his senior year. He immediately was made a starter. Not so much because he earned it, but because he was all that Pat Shurmur had. He looked like he could be a good receiver, so the Browns played him. Lo and behold, he made some catches, but dropped way too many passes. Only in Cleveland would his 61-catch season be considered a really good one. It wasn’t, not with all his drops factored in. In the offseason, the Browns again did not sign a veteran receiver, but they did tell Little to lose weight. He did, and everyone assumed that meant he’d have a good year. How that translates is beyond me. Do dance lessons help a baseball player hit home runs? But Little was the starter, because the Browns said so. He never had to actually earn a spot; he got it by default. He dropped a potential touchdown in the opener that turned into an interception, then strode out of the locker room saying he had to make the catch. That didn’t stop him from dancing after scoring with the Browns losing in game two and from doing the Usain Bolt pose after first downs in game three. In every game, he’s dropped a key pass. Little did not create this impression of himself as an NFL receiver, though. The Browns did. Just like they created the impression of Josh Gordon as a starter when he can barely run an NFL route. Is it any wonder the Browns are in the predicament they are in with receivers?
6) At times it seems like the Browns are the only team in the league that believes merely putting a helmet on a guy makes him an NFL player.
7) Travis Benjamin might be fast, but he’s not really into contact. Not based on the Baltimore game. He took a dive with the ball just past the first down marker after one catch, with a few yards in front of him. Then he completely avoided trying to make a block when a block might have sprung Trent Richardson for a touchdown. Monday Benjamin was not in practice (#generalsoreness). Benjamin had a nice punt return against the Ravens, and set up a touchdown with a catch on a deep in route, but he doesn’t seem like a real physical player.
8) I certainly hope the seriously kind, polite and thorough TSA agent who took the threatening toothpaste out of my bag en route to Baltimore enjoys AquaFresh with Scope.
9) Ray Ventrone charged the Ravens with playing dirty during the game. Cheap shots, “stuff” that Ventrone said was not right. “There was some dirty stuff going on,” Ventrone told the Associated Press. Which was … “Just stuff that was happening after the play, during the play.” Which does eliminate before the play, meaning the Browns could line up worry free. Ventrone continued by saying it was unnecessary “stuff” that targeted defensive backs, but he did not want to get into details. A couple questions come to mind here. First, of course, is … Ray Ventrone? Second, why not state what happened? If a player brings this up and keeps it vague the way Ventrone did, it comes across more as sour grapes than a legitimate gripe. If you’re gonna bring it up, you gotta spill the specifics.
10) Phil Dawson understands that his tweet that this is not the same old Browns could be looked at cynically. After all, they are 0-4 and dropping passes as if they are firecrackers. He gets it. But the point he wanted to get across to younger players when he talked to them before posting on Twitter was that they should not carry the frustration of the previous 12 or 13 years of struggle. All they have to carry is how to handle the next game. Coming from Dawson it means something. But looking at the schedule ahead, it will take more than wisdom from the team’s veteran presence to turn this around.
For the rest of the story, head here to check out some numbers and thoughts on Trent Richardson and the end of games.