Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Got Your Back

Having someone's back just doesn't mean what it used to.

Just one week ago, Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. was defending over matched offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, declaring, "We've got his back and he has ours. It doesn't matter what [anyone] says." (from the Plain Dealer) That didn't last long.

In a few well-considered moments yesterday to reporters, Winslow said that he now thinks coaches "may be holding us back a little bit." But that wasn't all. He openly questioned the play calling, both during Sunday's game and yesterday. ``That's exactly what it is,'' Winslow said. ``I think we're being a little too conservative right now. We just need to unleash it. You know, why wait? It was a division game and we're 0-2, so we have nothing to lose.'' But that wasn't it, either. According to the story posted by Akron Beacon Journal reporter Patrick McManamon (who last season was house shill for the Browns web site), Winslow acknowledged openly venting his concerns to coaches on the sidelines Sunday. As McManamon noted:

"In the loss Sunday in Cincinnati, Winslow came off the field several times on third down as the Browns went to a three-receiver, two-back set. Winslow talked to Crennel on the sidelines when it happened in the third quarter.
`I talked to him during the game, and he said he'll take care of it,' Winslow said. `So I'm pretty sure it's going to be taken care of.''
Winslow also said he had talked to tight ends coach Ben Coates, apparently before the game.
`Nothing's changed,' Winslow said. `I don't understand it.'
Winslow did not mention Carthon, but said: `There's so much talk. It doesn't even matter sometimes. It's just up to them (the coaches).'
The Giants run the same system as we do. The Cowboys run the same system as we do. And (Jason) Witten and (Jeremy) Shockey are on the field on third down,' he said of their use of tight ends. ``I just don't understand why I'm not on the field sometimes.'

Normally, we're pretty team oriented and don't much care for the self-promotion that underlies most complaints to the media. We think it hurts the team. But in the case, we make an exception and join in the comments by Beacon Journal columnist Tom Reed. First of all, there is significant truth underlying the comments. We've said it before and will continue to say it: it's not so much the play calling but the overall lack of game plan that is the most appalling. The Browns have been well short of play makers since their return. They finally get a few and then put Carthon in charge of making as little use out of them as he can. How else to explain the puzzling absence of Winslow in several key third down situations on Sunday?

Second of all, as Reed notes, it's about damn time someone in that locker room showed some leadership. Head Coach Romeo Crennel may not like the fact that Winslow is outspoken, but he has to admire his willingness to be so. And it would be a serious mistake for Crennel to write this off as merely the opinions of another egocentric athlete looking to achieve a performance bonus. Winslow may have a high opinion of himself which the few games he's played may not quite warrant, but for anyone who has seen the first two games, he's clearly been the only offensive standout. And it's pretty clear, too, that Winslow isn't just speaking for himself. There is absolutely no spark or inspiration in the players. That comes from a complete lack of confidence that their coaches are putting them in a position to succeed. And unless addressed immediately, it will seep into the performance of the defense, as well.

Expect Crennel to continue to publicly support Carthon and to drop veiled criticisms of his players, just as he did by suggesting that Winslow isn't all that polished of a player yet. Privately, though, may be a different matter. We note that Crennel also told the media that he has asked the coaches to simplify the schemes on both sides of the ball. This is code, we think, for telling them to let the players play. If Crennel isn't fed up with Carthon's miserable performance the last two weeks, then Crennel is complicit as well and should be sharing the same hot seat with Carthon.

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