September 15, 2014

Medina
Rain
56°F

Scott Petrak: Browns season not lost yet … really

Patience and perspective. I don’t expect Browns fans to have any patience left after 15 years of misery. But a little perspective would be nice.

The 0-2 start destroyed any optimism that accompanied the new season. The frustration that gets hidden under a layer of hope in the offseason quickly resurfaced with two close losses to mediocre teams.

Fans have every right to be furious that their beloved Browns have gotten off to another terrible start. A win or two would’ve given everyone a sense of promise — that elusive emotion they’re feeling in Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Instead, the pair of come-from­ahead losses has everyone flashing back to the nightmares of recent years. It’s easy to assume the worst when you’ve seen the worst for the past 11 years.

Browns fans should be fed up.

They devote their precious time, hard-earned money and fragile psy­ches to following a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994 and has managed only two winning seasons since 1999.

So when Browns Town turns red before summer fades into autumn, I fully understand. There was even a limit to Gandhi’s patience.

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That doesn’t mean we should lose perspective.

The 2010 season is two weeks old. The Browns haven’t been blown out despite five turnovers and 14 penalties. Their starting quarterback got hurt before halftime of the first game, wasn’t the same in the sec­ond half and couldn’t play in the second game.

The season is two weeks old. Let’s hit the pause button on talk of coach Eric Mangini getting fired.

The speculation has begun on talk radio and in chat rooms. Profootballtalk. com listed Mangini as the No. 2 coach on the hot seat behind Carolina’s John Fox. Si.com’s Peter King said Mangini’s seat was warming after Week 1.

I get the fact that Mangini needs wins to keep his job. And that new president Mike Holmgren has no commitment to him, and a drastically different coaching/management style. I know there have been coaching mistakes — unsuccessful halftime adjustments, overly conservative game plans, not enough Wildcat against Kansas City — and that the Browns shouldn’t be 0-2.

I also know the meat-grinder of a schedule that awaits: at Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans. That’s quite a stretch before the bye week, and there’s little doubt it will define the season and Mangini’s future.

But the games haven’t been played. The Browns aren’t 0-7. They aren’t even 0-3.

Sure, they’ll be the underdog in each of the next five games, but let’s see how they play out before we label this a replay of 2009 and start checking the out clauses in Jon Gruden’s “Monday Night Football” contract.

The losses were brutal, the Browns aren’t going to the playoffs — did anyone really think they were? — and the lack of big-time talent remains an issue. But they could easily be 1-1 or 2-0, confidence remains high within the locker room and there’s a chance to salvage something from the season.

It’s way too early to give up on the Browns and tune out for the year. It’s only Week 3.

Halftime help

Mangini and his staff work as hard as any group in the league. That doesn’t mean they are good at adjusting on the fly. Mangini came from New York with the reputation of making poor halftime adjustments, and he’s done little to switch the perception. The start to 2010 certainly hasn’t helped.

The Browns have been outscored 13-0 in the second half in the first two games. Not a staggering difference, but enough to turn two leads into two losses.

Mangini gave a non-answer Monday when asked if halftime adjustments were overrated.

“By the time you get in, guys get a drink and use the bathroom, you get on the board. It’s pretty quick,” he said.

“Offensively, you’re looking at what we did well, what we want to come back to. It’s a consistent process everywhere that I’ve been as to how to approach it.”

Mangini chose to blame turnovers and penalties for the offensive struggles in the second halves. Veteran linebacker David Bowens thinks halftime is critical.

“Halftime adjustments are what win or lose a game,” he said. “You can obviously see the difference in the statistics.”

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar had an interesting take on whether the Browns were getting outcoached. He thinks lack of talent is the problem, and that the coaching is keeping the Browns in the game in the first half.

“You can’t outscheme a team for four quarters,” he said on WKNR 850-AM.

“The coaching is so good, that we’re overcoming (a lack of talent) in the first half. You can’t trick ’em for four quarters.”

Kosar may have a point, but Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll should’ve realized during the game that more Wildcat could’ve sparked the stagnant offense, and that they needed to use the middle of the field more. Seneca Wallace threw down the sideline too often.

Final thoughts

Jerome Harrison isn’t the only problem with the running game, but I would like to see the speedy James Davis get a shot.

Harrison just doesn’t look the same as he did at the end of 2009, and the Browns are desperate for the big-play threat that Davis provides.

◾ Mangini isn’t just making excuses when he says something different goes wrong on each unsuccessful running play. A couple of examples: Fullback Lawrence Vickers missed a block on Chiefs safety Eric Berry on a play that had potential, and tight end Benjamin Watson ignored a blitzing Mike Vrabel, who forced Harrison’s fumble.

Tiny mistakes add up.

◾ Tony Pashos played one series at right tackle Sunday, with John St. Clair moving to right guard. I’m not sure if Pashos is the answer, but he’s huge and I’d like to see him get a longer look at tackle.

◾ Receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie need to help their quarterbacks. Four plays on the sideline have gone for incompletions when catches were possible by dragging feet or hanging onto the ball. Great catches are made across the league, but we haven’t seen many from this pair of second-round picks.

◾ Tight end Evan Moore shouldn’t have been allowed to return — even for a play — after suffering a head injury. He was wobbly after a hit to the head, and the medical staff should’ve stepped in sooner. The latest research shows the damage is much greater from a second head injury sustained in a short period of time.

◾ How about ending on a positive.

Linebacker acquisitions Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita have made an immediate impact. They’re active and quick, and Fujita does a nice job against the run from his outside position.

Rookies T.J. Ward and Joe Haden have been fantastic on special teams coverage.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.