Your Cleveland Browns lost in especially embarrassing fashion yesterday against the Titans. The 31-13 final score is bad enough, but the team looked even worse than that. They gave up long plays, turned the ball over, failed to convert short-yardage 3rd downs, suffered from less than inspiring quarterback play, and continued to look like the only way they can score points on offense is if the defense forgot to take the field.
On top of all that, there's the brewing saga with Peyton Hillis.
Last week, Hillis missed the game against the Dolphins because of strep throat. He'd run a fever, he said, and lost about 10 pounds. Prior to yesterday's game, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that anonymous teammates wondered if Hillis sat out not because of illness but because he's unhappy with his contract negotiations. Previously, Hillis had said, "If they wanted to extend me, they'd extend me," when asked about progress on the talks.
As Cleveland's resident sports talking heads noted this morning, whether or not Hillis was actually too sick to play isn't the issue here. When you have a split in the locker room, when you have guys whispering quietly to reporters that they don't have Hillis' back, that's the issue. Distraction, with a capital D.
Something which Pat Shurmur did nothing to quell yesterday by only giving Hillis ten carries out of the backfield, a curious bit of playcalling that has some wondering whether coach was punishing Hillis for undetermined transgressions. (When asked about the ESPN report, Shurmur said that "his understanding" was that Hillis was sick.)
As Cleveland Frowns points out, the Browns were down by sizable margins almost the entire game. You know what happens in football when you're on the wrong end of a double-digit deficit? You throw the ball. Alot.
"...the “running back controversy” that folks are stirring up is absurd and needs to go away. Peyton Hillis had 10 carries, Montario Hardesty had 7 carries, and there aren’t going to be many more carries than that when the team falls behind as quickly as the Browns did yesterday. A lot of these numbers depend on how the specific drives go, so 10 and 7 could have easily been 12 and 5."
After the whistle blew on the Browns loss, reporters peppered Hillis with questions about the gameplan — why only 10 carries? — and personnel decisions. The Madden Cover Boy politely said those are all queries best answered by the coaches. "Take it up with the coach. I'm just running the plays he tells me to," Hillis said, according to the News Herald.
"I've always been a guy that gets into a rhythm and gets things done," he also said. "But the game plan and what the coaches presented out there, that's what they wanted to go with. Being a player, you follow the coach's orders and do what he tells us to do. You respect that."
As for the ESPN report, No. 40 had this to say, according to the Plain Dealer: "That shouldn't be an issue. That's not an issue in my brain. I go out there and I'll play. But if I know I'm not 100% and I can hurt my team, I'm not going to risk myself.''