First and 10 with the Browns returns for the 2012 season, and in honor of the 2011 offense we’ll start the new season with First and 15:
1) Watching the sloppiness of the exhibition game in Detroit, the thought came to mind: What changes when this happens under new ownership? Randy Lerner’s style was to hire people and leave them alone. Like … really leave them alone. He might ask, but he would not interfere, and the few times he showed emotion in the owner’s box he would leave it there. Haslam has given every indication he will be more involved, more hands-on and more probing. So when a team has eight penalties I wonder how he’ll handle things.
2) What can Haslam do, you ask? He can’t just go in and fire people … well he can’t until the midway point of the season … and he can’t throw bookshelves around … well, looking at his Hochuli guns I guess he could, technically. But he sure can raise holy heck and make it known that he will not sit back and tolerate nonsense. Not that the first exhibition game was complete nonsense, just that a fair part of it was. A different owner could make it very clear that he will not tolerate things like off-field issues or sloppy play. He could get in a coach’s grill and make it very apparent that the coach’s livelihood depends on how he handles things like excessive penalties. This is where a change in ownership can change the dynamic of a team. The owner creates the culture and environment where people work. Some owners like tension, some like hugs. Where Haslam fits once he officially takes over will be interesting to watch.
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3) Why would an owner create tension for a coach? The question is why not? Coaches create those kind of situations all the time for players. Pat Shurmur admitted as much when he said the team called some running plays in Detroit where they knew a guy would be unblocked. The idea: To see how Montario Hardesty handled it, to see if he stuck his nose in and ran hard. Hardesty’s response will tell the coaching staff something about him. Same is true from owner to coach. The owner will support and back the coach, but he also might challenge him. And if the coach doesn’t respond well the owner will know something more about him. This is a dynamic that might have been missing a bit the past few years.
4) Pat Shurmur’s consternation about Twitter caused a ministir this week. It’s the Browns, so things like this have shelf life. Shurmur said after the game that Mohamed Massaquoi had a concussion, but Massaquoi took to Twitter to say he didn’t. Tuesday Massaquoi said he had no symptoms, but the press box observer thought the hit he took warranted his being examined. It’s logical, because players have shown they will conceal a head injury to return to the game. Shurmur didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that Massaquoi’s tweet was reported. Interesting. Because Massaquoi was answering a question with fans the same way he’d probably answer it with reporters. This reveals a few things, which have to go by letters since this entire item started with a number: a) Players will almost always minimize an injury to get back on the field; b) Shurmur and Massaquoi were both telling the truth, as they saw it; and c) There remain a lot of folks still sensitive about the Colt McCoy fallout from a year ago — Shurmur made a point to say at least twice in his postgame news conference that the Browns were following proper protocols. Nobody really doubted they would.
5) I continue to wonder why the Browns don’t play Brandon Weeden more in preseason, say a half in the first game, three quarters in the second and third and a half in the fourth. The guy is a 28-year-old rookie. Let him play. The argument against, of course, is twofold. Putting him out behind the second-team offensive line increases the risk of injury, and keeping the first team in longer limits the amount of time the coaching staff has to evaluate other players. That being said, it seems to me that getting the starter ready is more important than evaluating the guys who take the 46th through 53rd spots on the roster. The Browns kept Mitchell Schwartz in the first game for a half. Is risking him to injury easier to do? Shurmur gave a simple “no” when I asked if he thought of giving Weeden more time than usual because of his rookie status. “I think it’s important to evaluate everybody,” Shurmur said. “But I do think that if you mix up too many ones with twos then the game gets a little sloppy at times, and I don’t want to do that.”
6) This obviously is the moment to cue the “first team never looks sloppy” jokes.
7) Sure is good to see Trent Richardson has that Subway commercial. Before he’s even played a down.
8) There has been a change in Shurmur on the field this camp. He seems to be holding folks more accountable. He’s jumped Josh Gordon, he’s told Montario Hardesty to catch the ball with two hands not one — “He’s a running back, not a circus act” — and he moved Trevin Wade ahead of Buster Skrine and James Dockery this week as Dmitri Patterson probably will miss due to his ankle injury. This could simply be the head coach being more assertive, or it could be the difference between a coach feeling his way, as Shurmur did last season when he met his guys the day before camp started, and a guy who knows he has to produce with this new owner in town.
9) Everything you hear about Joe Haden indicates that the only way he doesn’t miss the first four games is if he appeals and the legal process drags out. Haden has done a lot to enjoy his celebrity status in Cleveland — including in the community — but at times it’s seemed like he’s been living too fast. Put it this way: Would a player like Haden be a celebrity in any other NFL city?
10) I continue to insist that one of the more underrated Seinfelds of alltime is the time George discovered the best bathroom in midtown — “Exquisite marble, high ceilings and a flush like a jet engine,” George said. So George took Kramer there, and through happenstance Kramer wound up getting a job at the office housing the bathroom. Eventually, they just had to let him go:
11) Shurmur hates hearing about injuries, but they are significant and lead to a lot of ‘ifs.’ If Richardson isn’t ready for the opener, the growth of the running game is slowed. If Haden is suspended and Patterson’s ankle problem lingers the Browns would have coverage issues. If Scott Fujita’s suspension is not lifted that means two of three starting linebackers will be out. If Massaquoi has concussion issues (he said he’s fine) and Josh Gordon doesn’t somehow transform himself, the receiver spot is back to Greg Little and who knows what else. If, if, if. It’s only the second game of preseason, so time is on the Browns side, but that’s just too many ‘ifs’ for a team trying to find itself.
12) The Josh Gordon project? It’s got a long way to go. A very long way.