Maybe I’ve watched too many Browns games over the years, or maybe I’m just old and cynical.
But I was not feeling the joy Friday night after Cleveland’s 19-17 win over Detroit in the exhibition season opener, aka the Great Lakes Classic.
The Browns celebrated after the game like they’d clinched the division, when in reality the third- and fourth quarterbacks beat the Lions third- and fourth-stringers in the second half to secure a last-minute win.
Now, any win helps, and given the lack of wins lately maybe this win was a little better than most preseason openers. But the most important parts of an exhibition game are when the main guys are playing, not when the 48th through 53rd guys on the roster are holding tryouts to make their team — or someone else’s.
Every year there’s a phenom from that second-half group. Last season it was Armond Smith. Come regular season there was no Armond Smith.
In Friday’s first half, there was a lot of lackluster stuff.
Brandon Weeden threw two nice balls right off the bat, but not many after.
Mitchell Schwartz learned quickly about the step up in intensity and speed on the line.
Josh Gordon looked lost, period.
And the Browns gave the ball away and stumbled around with eight penalties in two quarters.
That simply is not good football.
Some of that was to be expected, given the number of rookies playing. But the sharpness and crispness was not there, which was disappointing.
But, the Browns won. Seneca Wallace and Thad Lewis looked good, Pat Shurmur was not going let the game finish in a tie and, dare we repeat it, the Browns won.
A few years back in the Eric Mangini era, his first win came in Buffalo. The final was 6-3, and the game was won because Buffalo fumbled a punt return. Mangini and the Browns were positively giddy and ebullient after the win.
It taught me something about how hard these guys work to win, and what it means when they do.
Friday was an extension of that.
Some other very quick thoughts:
–Weeden’s quarterback rating for one quarter: 19.0. That’s nine-teen.
–Weeden said the one thing he learned was how precious each possession is. He didn’t treat them that way, fumbling on one third down, throwing an interception on another and almost throwing another pick earlier. Weeden is a rookie, but he can’t turn the ball over. If a possession is precious, make it that way.
–Josh Gordon looked lost. Simply lost. Didn’t catch the ball, didn’t come out of breaks. He just looked lost. So lost, in fact, that I’d be surprised if — barring unbelievable improvement — Gordon isn’t on the inactive list the first several weeks of the season. Either that or the Browns force-feed him and hope something good comes out of it. Because he looked lost.
–Shurmur on Gordon: “He was out there competing. When we look at it I’m sure there are some errors in there that he’ll clean up. But he’s out there competing. If you remember last year when Greg Little burst on the scene, he had to run himself into this thing and had what I thought was a pretty good year. I think that’s the stage that Josh is at right now.”
–Greg Little “burst” on the scene?
–Mohamed Massaquoi and his coach have a difference of opinion. Shurmur said Massaquoi had a concussion, Massaquoi said on Twitter he didn’t and he was held out for precautionary reasons. Obviously the Browns are going to be delicate with hits to the head. Massaquoi did take a shot on the first play of the game, and did get up slow. He was taken to the locker room soon after. “We follow league protocols,” Shurmur said. “He came off with the symptoms, so we followed the protocol.”
–Bright spots: Jordan Cameron, who looked good starting for Ben Watson, and Travis Benjamin, whose speed and receiving ability impressed. Both looked far better than I expected them to look.
–The solid play of Thad Lewis might give the Browns enough comfort to trade Colt McCoy. If Lewis’ solid play continues. Just a thought.
–Didn’t hear much from James-Michael Johnson and John Hughes, though Hughes was able to stack and shed on one Lions run.
–Shurmur said he was angry with both Weeden and Little on Weeden’s interception. Little stopped on the route, which contributed to a poor throw. Not great for a guy who is supposed to be growing into a receiver this season.
–Weeden: “I felt in complete control in the huddle. I felt in complete control of everything we did. I had a couple of miscommunications with a couple things that went on, but that’s why it’s preseason. We’re going to continue to get better, I think, overall as the way we function. We had a couple too many penalties, but the way we functioned, I think we did a pretty good job.”
–Shurmur said the team did not run one of their primary two-point plays after the Browns cut the lead to 17-16 in the fourth quarter. The Browns ran a draw because they want to keep their best plays from being seen.
–Interesting that Shurmur said the Browns called a couple runs with Montario Hardesty when they knew there would be one more player than the Browns could block. They wanted to see Hardesty deal with that challenge and run tough against it, and Shurmur said he “handled it pretty well.”
–How coaches look at games … Shurmur: “As I was watching the game, I kept remarking to myself that this was going to be a great tape to watch. Because there were a lot of situations and a lot of guys got an opportunity to play. And that’s what you want, guys having an opportunity to play and being able to evaluate what they can do for us as we move forward.”