Through all the strange vibes and contradictory comments during president Mike Holmgren's first state-of-the-Browns press conference since July, one thing seemed clear Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's play-calling is not helping Holmgren get over his itch to coach.
From the moment he arrived, Holmgren expressed his amazement that the Browns could win the final four games of 2009 without throwing for more than 118 yards. While the passing numbers are up -- except for 85 yards at New Orleans on Oct. 24 -- Holmgren still seems somewhat baffled as to why Daboll ignores the wide receivers.
Asked why the receivers have been so unproductive, Holmgren said, "There’s an emphasis to work the middle of the field here with our tight ends, our backs and then the slot receiver (Chansi) Stuckey. That’s part of it. The second part of it is we don’t throw as many balls here as I have thrown over the years, so the numbers aren’t going to be as great. The third thing I think is you have to ask yourself about the receivers, but they do not get as many touches as I am used to.
"Brian has a belief in a system and how he moves the football, how he’s going to do it and if anyone were to interfere with that too much, it would really throw a monkey wrench in most things. We are going to play it out and see what happens.''
Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi has nine catches for 115 yards and a TD and Brian Robiskie eight for 61 yards. Tight end Ben Watson leads the team's receiving list with 30 catches (for 336 yards and two scores), followed by running back Peyton Hillis with 27 (for 193 yards and a TD), Stuckey with 21 (for 213) and Joshua Cribbs with 14 (for 185 yards and a score).
The Browns have six receiving touchdowns, which is tied for next-to-last in the league with Seattle and Carolina. Arizona is last with five. The Browns are one of 10 teams still in single digits in that category.
Asked how Daboll has done, the best Holmgren could say was that coach Eric Mangini's staff ''is a hard-working group.'' Holmgren added that broadcasters Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken hear his frustrations on game days because their booth is next to his at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"I don’t know if you hear me yelling sometimes, but I try not to get too boisterous up there,'' Holmgren said. ''You’ll see things and you’ll go, ‘Aw, gee.’ That’s the coach in me talking and I apologize for that right now.
"Whether it’s Rob Ryan, who’s a wonderful coach, they’re fine coaches, but when we start moving around on defense and do all of those things, it drives me crazy, but it works. I’m not used to that. This first year I’m getting used to a certain style. I do not question their work ethic and how hard they’re trying to get this done.''
Some of that style may come from the fastidious preparation Mangini, Daboll and Ryan learned in New England under coach Bill Belichick. On Wednesday, linebacker David Bowens admitted the Browns spend a lot of time on plays and packages that end up getting tossed on gameday.
''I think we overprepare a lot,'' Bowens said. ''We have a numerous amount of sheets that we end up throwing out before Sunday.''