With their starting quarterback shelved for much of the season, the 2022 Cleveland Browns were bound to struggle.
But the team’s brain trust conceded nothing and proclaimed complete confidence in Jacoby Brissett.
And for the first five weeks, Brissett held up his part of the deal, filtering one or two bad plays into otherwise well-managed games.
But his bad plays were really bad plays and came at all the worst times, turning what could easily be a 4-2 record upside down.
"we all have to do our job and we all have to do more" pic.twitter.com/vuns320pPS
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 19, 2022
The thing is Brissett should never have been in the position for those final-minute anti-heroics to matter.
Cleveland was supposed to field a top-notch defense and excellent special teams to shield the quarterback from such scrutiny.
But the roster is not as strong, and not nearly as deep, as we were led to believe.
And so we have to ask, how much blame should be on Andrew Berry for this season gone awry?
Is Berry’s Strategy Failing?
Based on his roster management to date and a peek at Paul DePodesta’s manifesto last year, Berry’s plan seems obvious.
Excellent drafting is the key to the Browns’ long-term success, and on paper, that part might appear to be working.
Richard LeCounte became the first Berry-era draft pick cut from the roster this week in Berry’s third season.
Berry filled his first roster with an assortment of marginal-to-good, yet disposable, veterans on one-year deals.
#Browns released Richard LeCounte from the practice squad. That is the first Andrew Berry draft pick in 3 years to be jettisoned by the EVP/GM.
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 19, 2022
Those veteran positions dwindled as subsequent drafts required more space on the roster- 24 plus a UDFA in 2022.
Cleveland’s young GM also locked up his top 8-9 players to long-term deals, resetting pay scales at quarterback, guard, and tight end.
Outside of his specialists, it left Berry with about 18-19 roster spots to fill some gaping holes.
And this season, he failed to find as many credible gap-fillers as he did in 2020, leaving the Browns thin in key areas.
2 Big Issues Berry Has To Fix
When exactly will those 25 Andrew Berry draft picks and UDFAs step up and assert themselves?
We can argue that the defensive scheme is holding several key players back, but it seems more likely the youngsters have regressed.
Jedrick Wills answered the bell this year, and there are a handful of others handling their roles.
But none of Cleveland’s youngest players are stepping up or making a reputation for themselves, including some projected stars.
I’ve seen some discourse about Andrew Berry’s drafts. I’m pro-Berry, but I think it’s fair to say they’ve been good but not great. A lot of solid contributors, but not a lot of star power.
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) October 17, 2022
This brings us to the next big issue: Is there a leader anywhere on this team willing to light a fire under anybody else?
Berry filled his roster (and coaching staff) with calm, self-motivated, and quite frankly- boring veterans and leaders.
And too many players seem content to watch (and rely on) their more-accomplished teammates than follow them into battle.
Even a perfectly painted room needs a splash of color, and Berry needs to find a coach or player who can brighten the scheme.