Cleveland Browns: Optimism about young team being drowned out

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns argues a call with referee Shawn Smith #14 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns argues a call with referee Shawn Smith #14 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The paradise of optimism surrounding the Cleveland Browns has a hint of a fishy odor, emanating from the troubling coaching issues and other areas.

I remain one of the few that still support Hue Jackson as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The issues with the coaching staff from top to bottom, however, are worthy of a deeper look.

Josh Gordon playing the first snap means little, but the miscommunication among coaches is troublesome. Jackson called it a “miscommunication”, Whereas Todd Haley called it “comical”. Is there a brewing power struggle, as Randy Gurzi with Dawg Pound Daily suggests?

As far as Gordon starting or not starting, it is all simply nonsense. The truth is, yes, Gordon was on the field for the first play. Very shortly after, however, he was on the sideline watching while the first-team offense played. It was a reckoning for missed time and the first play does not define the first team. Gordon served his time and reclaimed his spot, end of story. It is media hype at it’s finest, nothing more.

I do find it quite troubling that one or the other coach was unaware of what the first playcall would be after weeks of preparation. Did Haley disobey a widely known order from his superior? Or was somebody on a different page altogether? Either way, something stinks about it.

Adding to the scent of something in the air, if you combine this “comical miscommunication” with the riff shown on HBO’s Hard Knocks, wherein Haley and Jackson disagreed on resting players during training camp, you too may sense a growing discord. Jackson likely feels threatened by steady onslaught of boo-Hueing from fans, accompanied with the knowledge that even success will not ease the negativity. After all, Haley is standing by to receive the credit for anything worthy of praise. 

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Shy of sitting in behind closed doors, without the cameras and microphones, it is hard to determine if there is indeed trouble aboard the hype train in Cleveland. It could also be a non-issue amped up by the elephant in the room, being Jackson’s lack of wins and Haley’s arrival.

Moving on, how are so many penalties being tolerated? Throughout the preseason and continuing into Week 1, penalties have haunted the Browns like a cancer, slowly nibbling away at what could have been. They claim to be working on discipline and there is much needed, but shouldn’t there be progress as well?

The Browns offensive line ranks on paper as one of the best in the NFL. The impression following an opening week performance yielding seven sacks and seemingly endless pressure was far from advertised. They certainly need time to bond into a unit, so I offer slack there, and the last-minute position swap did not help anything. I do expect a swift and vast improvement in the weeks to come.

Another issue lies within the not-so-special special teams. Quite simply, they appear to be a mess. I love having Josh Cribbs on board as an intern-coach, but do wonder if he should instead be leading the pack and showing them how to properly pour heart into the job. From abandoning their coverage lanes to fair catches while all alone, the mental mistakes have been abundant.

One bright spot for the Browns has been the defense behind defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. I love his style and straight-forwardness, but the foul smell has wafted his way as well. Allowing a backup running back to have his way, pretty much at will, is certainly not acceptable. I want to see a brick wall established to block opponents from advancing, I expect it, but they have offered instead what more-closely resembles a bat-wing door.

Mychal Kendricks has signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Oh well, the Browns were right to move on. I’d rather take a chance on guys with troubled pasts looking to better their lives than those who profit off others illegally. That blast of tainted air certainly caught me off guard, however. 

These issues, each on their own, are understandable with the roster changeover and youth of the season. Stuff to correct, things to improve, no big deal. The combined layers of it all are quite like an onion and my eyes are starting to burn.

It is hard to say if these on-the-field tidbits are truly a sign of trouble on the horizon. The magnitude of which is not yet measurable and clarity will not come until there is a larger body of work to examine.

Week 2 will show a great deal as far as the coaching goes, by providing a deeper glimpse into which issues have been resolved and which ones will linger further. For me, the unpleasant odor I sense is certainly worth the examination. At least it is not a punch-you-in-the-face stench of a skunk like the Raiders have endured. Perhaps a Mack truck was at fault in their case.

I believe Jackson is still the right man for the job and a fair shot will justify his claim as head coach. I also feel that Todd Haley may need to check his rung on the coaching ladder and, as they would say in the military, fall in line. Solidify the ranks and everyone will benefit.

Discipline must be throughout the organization in order to adhere and a coach that steps out of line is only setting a horrible example for players. The boss is the boss, until they are not. Whether in agreement, or not, a boss makes the rules the job is to follow suit.

Next. 2018 NFL picks, score predictions for Week 2. dark

If the Cleveland Browns Week 1 wobbles are not soon remedied, it may in fact be time to open the doors and windows, evaluate the options, and allow a fresh breeze (via coaching changes) to clear the air.

For the time being, fans must remain patient. Allow time for the offensive line to mesh and other quirks to be ironed out. We will learn soon enough if the coaching staff is up to the task at hand. I think things will come together, but it won’t happen overnight. That is, of course, as long as no significant problems emerge from the odor of possibility.