Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interview sessions …
Todd’s take: Since Hard Knocks, offensive coordinator Todd Haley has espoused a “no days off” mantra because of the amount of work needed to get the Browns’ newly-built offense up to par.
He continued that pitch in explaining the ragged performance of the offense in Game 1.
In a nutshell, Haley believes the offensive unit has had too little time together to operate efficiently so soon. Haley said the offense committed 28 mental errors – he considers 10 to be a winning number – as a result of not having time together on the field.
“In the course of that game, I’m looking across the sideline watching Ben [Roethlisberger] throw to AB [Antonio Brown] or JuJu [Smith-Schuster] or Jesse James, and having been there [as Steelers coordinator for six years], there’s been thousands of balls thrown between those guys,” Haley said.
“Our group is really new together. On top of being the first game together, we had a lot of guys miss a lot of time. And all of that affects most importantly the passing game. When you’re coordinating a passing game and you’re a quarterback and have to have trust and faith, we haven’t had a lot of time on task.
“So what we are urging all these guys to understand, missing a day is not going to help speed that process. Doing it wrong or half speed or not the way you’re supposed to do, is not going to speed the process.”
“He’s a guy that missed an extended amount of time that was not here practicing,” Haley said of Gordon’s 28-day leave of absence during training camp. “That slows not only his process but our entire offensive process.
“We know he has a chance to be a big part of what we’re doing, but you can’t just snap your fingers and say put him here or there. Offensively, we just can’t guarantee a lot of times where the ball’s supposed to go. It is a process and we have to understand that.
“As coordinator, I’m trying to understand that because we all want to be great right now. The trick is when it’s taking time, we have to find ways to win.”
Pare it down: That last point leads to possible adjustments by Haley during this catch-up process.
Haley said the 28 mental errors is evidence of asking too much of the offense too soon. He then pointed to the one extended scoring drive in the game, opening the second half, on which the Browns moved 86 yards essentially by running the ball.
Two Pittsburgh penalties for 20 yards and two first downs helped immensely, but the fact is running the ball was the only thing the offense did well – and only when committed to it.
“I thought a lot of good stuff was put on display, a lot of grit, determination,” Haley said. “That was a positive, positive drive for us as a young group coming together the first game. The problem was there wasn’t enough of it.”
Run-blocking was something the offensive line – hastily realigned on the left side just the week before the opener – proved capable of.
“I understand the variables given, and as a coach our job is to make it work,” Haley said.
All of which leaves you wondering if we may see a much simpler, offensive game-plan in noisy Mercedes-Benz Superdome come Sunday against the high-scoring Saints.
If successful, it would also serve to keep Drew Brees & Co. off the field some.
“When I first got to Pittsburgh, it’s not like we plopped it out there and were one, two, or three in putting up yards. It takes time,” Haley said. “Now, the name of the game is we still have to win the game. We’re going to do it anyway we possibly can. And it may not always look pretty.”
One last look back: Haley squirmed in his seat when asked about Gordon being on the field for the first play when coach Hue Jackson had said for two weeks that Gordon would not start the game.
“With the job we’re trying to get done here, no disrespect … I understand you have a job to do … [but] it’s a silly question to me,” he said. “We’re now trying to get ready to play the New Orleans Saints, going into a lion’s den, they’re coming off a loss, we’re coming off a tie, which is just as bad, and it’s a big, big game.
“The whole start of the thing to me is comical. We have so many different personnel packages play-in, play-out, any one of our 22, 25 guys could be starting on any play, and we’re going to continue to play the guys on each particular play who gives us the best chance to succeed.”
When pressed that even Jackson was surprised, and that’s why the question needed to be asked, Haley said, “That’s behind us. I think it’s behind him. It’s behind everybody.”