Last year, the Browns’ preseason opener was in Green Bay, where — as we were told repeatedly by the WKYC broadcast team that covered the game — the Packers try to win preseason games for the home crowd. This year the preseason opener against the Packers came at home, with the Packers having arrived in Cleveland directly from Washington and a trip to The White House the day before, where they were honored by the President for last season’s Super Bowl win.
In last year’s preseason opener, the Browns scored three touchdowns in four series against Green Bay’s first team defense, with two different quarterbacks. This year, the Browns scored one touchdown in two series against the Packers’ starters.
Tony Grossi led off his recap of last year’s preseason opener with a joke about brown pants and sarcastic expressions of shock at the team’s “steady” offensive output:
Could it have been the brown pants all along?
No way, of course. Uniform style has nothing to do with the way the Browns played in their preseason opener. But they never looked as good last year — offensively, at least — as they did Saturday night wearing their traditional white-on-whites.
Discarding the unpopular brown pants they wore in a dismal 2009 road season, the Browns looked competent on offense against a good Green Bay defense. Check that. They were borderline explosive.
This time around, to Grossi, the offense wasn’t just “steady,” but “sharp,” and much more:
They looked, in a word, coordinated. There was a sense of purpose in what they tried to do and a tempo that was faster than we’ve seen here for a while. The trigger man, Colt McCoy, was on target. … Packers coordinator Dom Capers didn’t throw many of his exotic zone blitz schemes at McCoy, but so what? The timing and rhythm that McCoy worked on all week seemed to come together.
The Packers weren’t really playing defense, but so what? Did you see all that purpose out there?
HNNNNNNNG. Michael Reghi and Aaron Goldhammer were actually much worse with this on the KNR post-game show, and the WKYC broadcast team literally went out of its way to hide the fact that the second Browns’ touchdown drive came against Green Bay’s backups. But anyway, we get it. There’s a difference between having an offensive-minded head coach who came up as an offensive coordinator and a defensive-minded head coach who came up as a defensive coordinator.
What tends to get lost is that this year’s Browns offense should be “sharper” than last year’s no matter who’s coaching it. If the offensive line can stay reasonably healthy it will be much better than last year’s edition and should be one of the league’s very best. With Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi coming into their all-important third season as NFL receivers (it’s technically Josh Cribbs’ third season as a receiver, too), the addition of explosive rookie Greg Little, the continued development of Evan Moore along with Ben Watson at tight end, a pair of running backs with clearly defined roles in Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jackson, and with as much stability at the quarterback position as the Browns have had since Tim Couch, there’s really no excuse for these guys not to be better. Which is great. And of course, being three years out from a massive stable-cleaning is better than being two-years out from it, all else being remotely equal.
Mike Holmgren is so amazingly smart it’s absolutely amazing. Just five more days till Detroit for ALL THE MARBLES.