Vikings 24, Browns 12
Let me relate two concerns I have about the Browns coaching staff:
I am concerned head coach Romeo Crennel is too passive, and offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon's mind grinds to a screeching halt whenever the Browns get in the red zone.
The Browns self-detonated a touchdown opportunity away at the end of the first half Sunday, and all we had to show for it was Crennel circling the wagons around his offensive coordinator after the game, employing selective memory about the half-ending flub when reporters asked him about it.
It is disturbingly Butch Davis-ish of Crennel, kind of like playing musical quarterbacks. Which is something else he did, yet again, on Sunday.
This time, it was even worse than the flip-flopping he showed in the Miami game. Trent Dilfer injured a leg, Charlie Frye came in, threw a pick, and Crennel decided Dilfer on one bad leg was better than Frye.
Which brings me back to the leadership issue.
I hope I am wrong about this, but Crennel and Carthon are starting to look like guys who don't want to have to make the tough choice. Crennel is wishy-washy and vague on committing to a QB, and Carthon, who looked so promising in the preseason, looks uncomfortable as the offensive shot-caller when a touchdown opportunity arises.
Carthon has looked terrified of making the wrong decision. It is something he hasn't had to do before. He was an offensive coordinator on a leash last year in Dallas. This year in Cleveland, he is the undisputed pilot of the offensive playbook.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has his share of faults as a coach, but his cool head in tight, pressure-packed games is a big reason why he is 4-1 against Michigan and 3-1 in bowls. Tressel is a beacon of stability for his team because he exudes strong leadership without being a human volcano.
Former Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens is another example of strong-yet-stoic leadership.
Crennel's leadership looks stoic without the strong. Again, I hope I'm wrong about that.
It doesn't all fall on the shoulders of Crennel and Carthon, or defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. As I have said, as is blatantly obvious, this team has a lot of ground to make up on the NFL's contenders talentwise. But when a team with a veteran QB, 1,000-yard rusher-to-be and a supposedly-talented receiver corps is as dismal as the Browns are in the red zone, some off the heat should find its way to the sideline. The team reflects the leadership, after all.
Some coaches are practice masterminds. In an environment where the coach can control just about everything, they can sand and polish their rosters and playbooks to meet the spectacular visions in their minds. Judging by the reports of increased professionalism in the Browns' locker room and the fact that the Browns are still trying despite being two losses away from a losing season, I'd say Crennel is solid practice coach.
But put the finely-tuned concepts into a game environment, with 80,000 screaming fans, an opposing team and referees with glaucoma, and the luster can wear away quickly.
That's the jump Crennel is still in the process of making, and Carthon too. Being the head honcho at team headquarters is one thing, being the head honcho when thousands of pairs of eyes are boring holes in your skull is quite another.
I hope Crennel grows into someone who is up to the task.
Up next: Jacksonville, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET.