In the fallout of the latest thoroughly demoralizing loss of the Pat Shurmur era, a matchup in which the Browns were dominated in all three phases of the game by the Buffalo Bills, Shurmur and his friends at the Browns’ wholly owned press organ want you to know that it’s all Greg Little’s fault. Little dropped one five-yard pass in Browns’ territory with about 30 seconds left in the first half of a thoroughly demoralizing three-phase loss to the Buffalo Bills, and the best that the top Browns beat writer at the biggest paper in town can do for a story on the following Monday is this:
In thirteen drives on Sunday, the Browns offense managed to cross the Bills’ 44-yard line exactly twice. On a staggering seven of these drives, they couldn’t move the ball more than 9 yards. Six of them were three-and-outs or worse, and eleven of the thirteen ended in punts (9) or interceptions (2). Brandon Weeden threw both of those interceptions in the fourth quarter, where the Browns moved the ball a total of 20 yards on three drives. And overall, the Browns quarterback “averaged a pedestrian 5.5 yards per attempt overall,” with “[m]ore than a few passes [having] no chance for significant gain as soon as they left the hand.”
On the other side of the ball, the defense was as resilient as a wet paper towel for long stretches, including the entire first quarter, and in the fourth when it mattered the most.
But Greg Little is the one we’re going to come down hard on today because he dropped one short pass in Browns territory.
BEREA, Ohio — Pat Shurmur sent a message loud and clear to receiver Greg Little Monday: catch the passes and drop the poses.
Right, the poses: Little’s two-second imitation of world record sprinter Usain Bolt that’s hardly different from the “first down” gesture that 75% of the league’s receivers use when they make a catch that moves the chains.
But if you listened to Cleveland sports talk radio or logged on to Twitter for as much as 30 seconds yesterday, you have some idea of how much some folks in town would like to believe that all of the Browns problems would be solved if that boy Greg Little would just learn his place. So go on, Pat. Give the people what they want:
Shurmur warned Little that if he doesn’t hang on, he’ll be posing on the bench. “We can’t play a guy that’s going to drop footballs,” said Shurmur.
Pat Shurmur, football wizard and guru of NFL offensive schematics, now with a career head coaching record of 0-15 against teams playing with quarterbacks any better than Chad Henne and Chaz Whitehurst, can’t play a guy that drops footballs. Yet Tom Coughlin, head coach of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, can. Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who had a better year than any pass catcher in the league last season, has been charged with four dropped passes so far this season. Of course, that’s twice as many as Little’s two (two) drops, yet somehow the Giants are 2-1. And a quick look at the list of the NFL’s dropped passes leaders shows that it’s actually littered with perennial Pro Bowlers on winning teams, including Arian Foster, Jason Witten, Julio Jones, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Andre Johnson and Wes Welker, among others, all of whom have at least as many drops as Little does (2).
It’s hard to imagine a more feckless and obfuscatory response to Sunday’s game than to make Greg Little the headline scapegoat for it. And while it’s one thing for Mary Kay Cabot and her bosses at the Plain Dealer to keep diving for the lowest hanging fruit, it’s another for Shurmur to take the bait instead of beating back with what should have been the obvious response:
“Shucks, Mary Kay, of course we’d like to see our receivers make every catch, and yes, one play can here and there can and often does make a big difference, but you know, drops are a part of the game. If you look at the list of league leaders in dropped passes you’ll see that it’s full of some of the best players in the league. That’s because those guys are the ones whom the quarterbacks want to throw to. Greg Little was our most productive receiver last season and there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep getting better. The real problem here is that we all need to do a better job as a football team to get to a point where the odd drop here and there doesn’t end up making so much of a difference.”
Then you can say something else to your young receiver behind closed doors.
But of course, when you’re a head coach who’s drowning in his own illegitimacy and incompetence, you’ll do the opposite. You’ll take the opportunity to take some heat off of yourself, and put even more pressure on your developing players by helping turn a non-issue into a headline.
So Greg Little is going to be benched for Jordan Norwood in Baltimore on Thursday? That ought to do the trick.
And the quote of the day is from Brandon Weeden, who, in addition to chalking up another L with a 65 QB rating, two interceptions, one touchdown, “a pedestrian 5.5 yards per attempt overall,” and “[m]ore than a few passes [having] no chance for significant gain as soon as they left the hand,” is doing just fine:
“If you take away the last throw, I thought it was a solid day. I threw ball where it needed to go all day. I felt extremely comfortable in the pocket. I felt my reads were really good. I felt like I threw the ball accurately.”
We’ll be back tomorrow with an Xs and Os post on Sunday’s showing by the Browns rushing attack against the Bills defense.