By the time you read this we will have been through several regular season games of the Brandon Weedon era. Hopefully things will be going in the right direction. With the young and talented team around him, it will take time for things to show in the won/loss column. However, make no mistake about it, this is the most talented team by far of the ‘new’ Browns era.
What Weedon needs to happen, and what failed to happen to Colt McCoy over the last two seasons, is to have one of those defining moments to give this team and himself a true identity. Something to show the team and the fans that good things are going to happen with these guys, that talk of a championship one day will not be out of line.
Bernie Kosar’s moment happened at the end of regulation during the great Browns-Jets playoff game after the 1986 regular season. In his second season with the team, Kosar and the Browns found themselves behind 20-10 with less than four minutes to go. It was a cold and windy Saturday afternoon, and the crowd at the old Stadium was as loud and enthusiastic as I had ever seen it. Even with the team down 20-10 most fans had refused to leave.
Up until that moment in the game the Browns had been that day a team of interceptions, missed field goals, and quarterback sacks. But that final four minutes and the overtime periods that followed for the Browns and their fans was nothing less than pure magic. Some clutch catches by Brian Brennan and Reggie Langhorne; field goals by Mark Mosley that weren’t sure bets; some tough runs by Kevin Mack; and some clutch defensive stops.
The moment that made Bernie Kosar came with the Browns down by three, the ball on the Jet’s 43 yard line, 47 seconds left on the clock in regulation with no time outs left. If the Browns don’t get at least a field goal their season is over with. Webster Slaughter ran a fade route down the left sideline into terrific coverage by the Jet’s Russell Carter. How Kosar’s pass got to Slaughter, and how Slaughter caught it is stuff that has made the moment legendary. However, it was what Kosar did next that is his moment of endearment.
Slaughter, and most of the Browns, those on the field and on the bench, as well as all the fans in the Stadium, thought Slaughter had landed out of bounds consequently stopping the clock. But he didn’t. Surrounded by pandemonium, Kosar ran down the field to where Slaughter was celebrating the catch with several teammates, grabbed him and dragged him and the rest of the offensive unit back into the playing field. He was able to get the offensive unit back to the line of scrimmage, call another play at the line, and threw an incomplete pass into the end zone to stop the clock and allow the field goal unit to come out and tie the score and send the game into overtime. The Browns would win in 2 O.T.’s on another Mosley field goal. But it was that cerebral moment by Kosar, getting the team back to the line of scrimmage to stop the clock at the end of regulation, that was the defining moment of the game, and the moment that let his teammates and the fans know this guy was something special and was going to lead the team to great things.
There is no other situation that can define a quarterback than how he handles two minute offense. Besides dealing with the crowd and the elements, as Bernie Kosar did on that Saturday afternoon so many years ago, the quarterback has to have knowledge and control of so many things.
Lets first start with knowing when the clock starts and stops. Knowing when the clock starts again, either on the snap or the referee’s whistle, is of the upmost importance. Most fans know the clock stops on an incomplete pass, during a time out, or when a ball carrier goes out of bounds, and starts again on the referee’s whistle. That’s the easy part of clock management. The hard part is when the clock doesn’t stop between plays, or when it stops then starts after the ref spots the ball.
Against the Jets on the pass Slaughter caught, Kosar knew the clock was going to start as soon as the ref spotted the ball. A quarterback must also know that the clock starts immediately after a penalty is marked off, or after an injury time out expires.
A quarterback must be in complete command during two minute offense. He needs to know that the team will huddle only if the clock stops and won’t start again until the ball is snapped. He must keep formations simple, either two receivers to each side or some sort of trips formation, with three receivers to one side and a lone receiver to the backside. He must be able to communicate to all players what the next play is. He should keep the pass blocking upfront simple, using the same protection each play, only switching it if a huddle situation arises.
A quarterback also has to think about calling several plays in a row; and if and when to kill the ball by spiking it or throwing it away.
Two minute offense can be used when a team is winning, usually at the end of the first half and you want to add to your lead. However, most of the time you use two minute offense you are behind in the game. And, again, the quarterback must be in command of the situation. He must know whether his team needs a field goal or touchdown, and how many time outs are left. He must get everyone back to the line of scrimmage after each play as soon as possible. He must know when to give up on a play and throw the ball away or run and try to get out of bounds.
The quarterback must be the one communicating with the officials. If a team wants a time out after a play is run, he must tell an official before the ball is snapped. If a QB does get sacked during two minute he must get up and get the ball to the spotting official as fast as he can, then start the cadence for the next play.
Can Brandon Weedon handle all of this on game day? Can he handle all of this on a windy and cold afternoon down at the Stadium, with whitecaps out on the lake and the Steelers peering at him from across the line of scrimmage, in a game with a playoff spot at stake? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know this, if and when Brandon Weedon and the Browns can face that situation successfully than for once and for all they will finally be once again simply called the Browns, instead of the ‘new’ Browns, and the world will once again turn in grease grooves.