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Carson: Coaching errors cause Browns loss

| Monday, September 26, 2016

I wake up every morning and praise the world for giving me LeBron James.

Because LeBron — and the Indians, this year — has given me everything the Cleveland Browns never will: hope, fun and competence.

Here’s the thing with the Browns: I want them to go 0-16 this year, because I’m smart enough to realize that the team is going nowhere without a couple generational talents on board. Those don’t really exist on the roster right now.

So, all things considered, I shouldn’t be that upset about Sunday’s 30-24, incredibly dumb overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins.

But damnit, ain’t happiness on a Sunday nice?

New Browns head coach Hue Jackson seemed like a good hire. And at the end of the day, he might be.

He was also really, really stupid Sunday.

Let’s start with the final play of regulation, a missed 46-yard field goal from Cody Parkey, a kicker the Browns literally picked up Saturday. The try was setup by a forced Ryan Tannehill fumble in the closing seconds of a tie game — and after taking over, the Browns kneeled down to setup what they hoped would be the final play of the game.

Here’s the only issue: Parkey had already missed twice in the game from similar distances.

Instead of letting Cody Kessler, who’d actually looked good, and your offense try to make a play to get at the least closer to the uprights, you let your kicker try to do what he was 3-for-5 doing on the day.

A predictable miss — one that sent the game to overtime.

Unfortunately though, that wasn’t the “Brownsiest” thing of the day. Oh man, not even close.

The Browns won the coin toss that starts overtime, which was fantastic news. Being guaranteed a chance at the win before your opponent is a big plus, right?

Not if you’re the Browns, man.

Cleveland, rather than opting to take the ball, decided to kickoff to start the overtime period.

Perhaps there’s an argument to be made in favor of kicking. If you’re playing in a 40-degree downpour with 30-mile-per-hour winds, sure, I’ll back picking the wind. But the Browns were playing in Miami, where it was, you know, nice and sunny and warm and stuff like that.

But let’s look at this from an analytics standpoint.

The Browns’ goal, more than likely, was to get a three-and-out to win the field position battle, since — if you think your offense won’t score a touchdown to end the game when receiving — both strategies require kicking a field goal and getting a stop.

Average starting field position is, roughly, the 20-yard line, so let’s assume that was the expectation. Even if the Browns defense gets a three-and-out — let’s say giving up five yards in the process — they’ll expect to take over on their own 30-yard line after a 45-yard punt.

Is what is, at best, a 10- or 15-yard benefit really worth giving your opponent an extra possession?

When you receive under the NFL’s overtime rules, you’re guaranteed at least as many chances to win the game as your opponent — and if you win the game through a score, you’re doing it on an equivalent possession your opponent didn’t have.

Of course, it’s that extra chance that came back to bite the Browns on Sunday.

Cleveland didn’t force a three-and-out anyway, so when it got the ball back following a Miami punt, Kessler and the offense were taking over inside their own 10-yard line. So at best, the decision had cost around 10 yards.

But after the Browns drive stalled out, partially via penalty, it set the Dolphins up with short field for their second possession of the overtime period.

The Dolphins scored a touchdown on that second possession of overtime and won the game, 30-24.

The Browns never had a second possession of overtime.

Now, I’m just a stats nerd who’s debating whether or not to pursue grad school or to try and find some entry-level job for next year.

But Jackson, and countless coaches who’ve come before him — I wrote one of these things last year about going for it on fourth down, mind you — make millions to screw up what should be easy, probabilistic decisions.

And when it’s my team being stupid? It makes my head hurt even more.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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