Despite the distraction created by the firing of GM George Kokinis, the Browns have major work to do during the bye week to prepare themselves for the last eight games of the year. If Mangini is smart, these are the Top 5 things his team should be doing to turn this season around :
1 – Address the Quarterback Situation. This decision is two-fold. First decide who will be under center. Unless there is an overwhelming organizational desire to keep DA at the helm the right choice is to bring back Brady Quinn. Once that choice is made, there needs to be a decision on how to best run the offense so he can be successful. This may sound ludicrous, but with the state of our running game, this offense should live and die by 4 or 5 wide receiver sets. Three step drops and quick throws should be the bread and butter. Brady Quinn could do it, Mangini just needs to trust him.
2 – Decide how Joshua Cribbs will be used as a receiver. Honestly, can he run routes? Can he be an impactful player within standard sets? Is he a deep threat? Knowing this, then designing plays that get him open should be the number one priority. If he can help turn this group of receivers into an asset, than do it. Stop bickering about his contract too. If he can help this team win on Special Teams and on Offense, he deserves the money.
3 – Stop the run. Scrap the 3-4 and go back to running the 4-3. Let Rogers and Wimbley do what comes most naturally to them in the pass rush. Put Wright and McDonald on their islands and let Brodney Pool help the one on the other team’s most dangerous receiver. Put Abram Elam into the box and have him blitz like crazy. Time to take chances and put some fear into the other team’s QB. Make them make mistakes. It is the only way to overcome our lack of talent.
4 – Let the kids play. There is no reason for anyone Mangini drafted to not play extended minutes over the course of the next eight games. If this team is going to crash and burn, at least allow the rookies to make big mistakes. Big mistakes this year could save us a lot of heartache next year. Allow them to take ownership of this team and make it their own. They need to feel the pain and frustration along with the humiliation that accompanies losses and decide collectively that they never want to taste this bitterness again.
5 – Coach and teach. This organization has a lot of fresh faces and unfamiliar names roaming the sidelines. Daboll, Ryan, Mangini are all football guys. They live and breathe this game. Time for them to teach it. Part of this process should include lengthy sessions of practice that includes fundamentals. Also, using their previous coordinator and coaching experience, they should be finding creative ways to get these guys in positions to make plays. These are professional athletes. They can turn this around. They just need their coaches to provide some semblance of structure and help them adjust quickly within the game. Nothing should surprise these coaches. They need to make sure nothing surprises the players either.
This list is vague. There is so much this team needs to work on that it’s hard to pinpoint one or two areas that could be tweaked. Fundamentally this team is flawed. There is also a leadership vacuum that many of us never would have expected.
An extra week during a bye won’t be enough. Collectively, even if these five suggestions were taken seriously, nothing might change. Sunday’s though would be a lot more palatable if this Cleveland Browns team actually played football as if they had heard of the sport before. At this point, anything would be better than what they gave us the first eight games.