There are plenty of positives for NFL teams to take away in August, even though it’s only preseason. Like discovering young up-and-coming talent or learning new ways to improve the overall organization heading into the regular season.
However, for the Cleveland Browns, some of the things the team learns it needs to work on may actually be beyond their control.
Take, for instance, the curious case of Mohamed Massaquoi. The 6-2, 207-pound wide out took one hit in last Friday’s game, and promptly was removed from the game for precautionary reasons related to concussion symptoms. On Tuesday, it was revealed the spotter in the stands was the official who had Massoquoi removed from the game.
While in the course of a normal game Massoquoi may have come back in, assuming he was symptom free, it ended his night and created a whole new debate over concussions in the NFL, a debate that won’t hit the national stage until it happens to someone like Tom Brady.
What if Tom Terrific suffers a hard hit on Sunday Night Football in the third quarter and the spotter, who has no ability to look in the players’ eye or question him, tells the trainers to pull him aside?
What if there is nothing wrong with Brady, but as a result of being pulled from the game for a series or three, the Patriots lose the game?
The proverbial crap is going to hit the proverbial fan. That is exactly what is going to happen.
The debate over concussions and how to treat them is going to create an evolving set of rules and protocols, and the learning process will not be fair, or pretty in some cases. But this showcases some of the struggles an inherently bad team is going to have to face in the 2012 season.
It was mainly due to head coach Pat Shurmur‘s complete incompetence last year that the NFL now has spotters in the stands whose sole function is to pull players from games who they feel may have suffered a concussion.
Shurmur failed to pay attention to what was going on with his own starting quarterback, and now not only the Browns, but the rest of the NFL is paying for that incompetence.
For the Browns, this is on top of the complete lack of depth on the defense due to injury and suspensions, an offensive line that looks like it’s held together with duct tape and wishful thinking, a rookie quarterback who needs to be great RIGHT NOW, new ownership looking over everyone’s shoulder, and a first-round pick currently recovering from his second knee surgery this year.
The Browns play the Green Bay Packers Thursday night, and there is a lot more to watch in this game than meets the eye. It’s no secret Cleveland may be shopping the very unhappy Colt McCoy and the Packers are considered as one of the few teams who have have legitimate interest in his services.
Look for McCoy to receive plenty of playing time as an audition for not only Green Bay, but the rest of the league as well.
This need to audition Colt also creates a bit of a logistical problem for the club, as the Eagles are on the schedule next week, who also open with the Browns in Week 1 of the regular season.
As a result, the starters are expected to see more playing time this week in an effort to not show their hand too much to Philadelphia before the two teams battle in a “real” game on Sept. 9.
While showing too much to the Philadelphia Eagles may not make too much of a difference, considering they’re widely viewed as a serious Super Bowl contender this year, but reviewing the real problems in Cleveland and trying to be objective about its current situation, it’s difficult to envision more than four wins this year.
Make no mistake, under new owner Jimmy Haslem, I see good things in this team’s future. With that said, the optimism does not extend to this upcoming season. It’s too late for Haslem, who doesn’t actually attain control of the organization until October, to make any major changes to the team this year.
However, the housecleaning looks to begin once this year is locked up as a losing season. With Shurmur, who still clearly appeared overwhelmed by his showing last week, that “goal” will be reached sooner rather than later.