Coaching up coach

Being a Browns fan these days means awaiting the next, previously-unthinkable new way for a team to meet defeat.
Yesterday’s worthy contribution to this panoply of pathos: blowing a three-touchdown lead to a 1-8 team and allowing a rookie QB to throw for five TDs and 422 yards, the third most ever allowed by the Browns.

Rather than detail all the defensive breakdowns, pan the performance of Terry “Bottlegate” McAuley and crew, or lament the deactivation of two second-round draftees and a back with a career rushing average 4.8 yards per carry, I’ll just focus on the reappearance of something I’ve known for a few years now.

That Hank Poteat sucks? Well, that too.

But this time I’m talking about the dubious game-day management skills of Eric Mangini.

This caught my attention back on December 9, 2007, when the Browns beat his Jets, 24-18. After all, it’s not often that a trailing team will opt for two field goals after the two-minute warning and still lose by 6. (Not impressed? Consider that the second FG, Mike Nugent’s 35-yarder, came on first down with 50 seconds and one Jets timeout left, and was followed by a kickoff that went out of bounds at the Cleveland 3-yard-line.)

Now after the four years of Romeo Crennel’s on-field follies, I thought even Mangini would be an improvement in those executive decisions made in the heat of battle: use of timeouts, kicking versus going for it, etc.

Yesterday makes me wonder. Call me a nitpicker, but this is a guy intolerant of player mistakes on or off the field, so it’s only fair to point out the following:
  • In the second quarter, the Browns drove to the Lions’ 22 and on first down with 58 ticks to go, Lewis ran up the middle for a yard. No problem with the play call. But Cleveland had two timeouts remaining. By the next snap, the clock was down to :25. A timeout should have been called.
  • After the second fourth-down conversion of that drive, the Dawson-to-Furrey fake FG, put the ball on the Lions’ 11, there were eight seconds left, according to the video. The gamebook shows that timeout was called two seconds later. By the Lions. An astute clock manager, or at least an awake one with any interest in scoring a touchdown, would have stopped that clock pronto and taken a quick shot into the end zone against the league’s worst pass defense.
  • Fourth quarter, Browns up 6, milking clock. Lions burn their timeouts, then the two-minute warning. Third-and-five. What’s the call? The Browns go shotgun with an empty backfield. Can you telegraph a passing play any more than that? How about some play action? A bootleg, a rollout, an end around. Go wildcat. Or just stuff it in Jamal’s gut again. Nope. Cue the blitz and an off-target, clock-stopping incompletion. Stafford takes over with 106 seconds to go, which proves just barely enough. Any running play in bounds would have drastically lowered the odds of a comeback.
  • After Poteat’s pass interference puts the ball on the one with the Lions do-or-die play upcoming, their backup QB trots onto the field cold, since C.J. Mosley’s hit knocked the starter out. For godsakes, let ’em sweat it. Make them beat you under pressure. Let the play clock tick. Nope. Mangini calls timeout to get his defense set. That allows Stafford back into the game, and he finds his tight end open between two Browns linebackers, who apparently were at least properly set.
I ain’t a hater, and this is no personal attack, chief. Let’s just smarten up out there, OK?