CLEVELAND - A new rule that is going into effect for the start of the 2011 NFL season has already created consternation amongst the league's most dedicated fan base.
The NFL announced earlier in the week that kickoffs will be moved from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line to decrease injuries and concussions.
A direct result of the rule change will give less opportunities to one of the NFL's most dangerous kick returners; the Cleveland Browns' Josh Cribbs.
It will also force the Browns to call actual offensive plays for the first time since 2002.
"We're scrambling for new plays," stated new Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur, the former offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, was hired to re-energize one of the NFL's worst offenses of the past two seasons. However, shortly after the hire, Shurmur received odd news.
"When I was hired I was given specific instructions that we don't run offensive plays...I mean, that was one of the big selling points. I was gonna do 50% less work, and still get 100% pay."
The Browns' offensive arsenal consisted of four passing plays and three running plays designed to help the team's inept and/or inexperienced quarterbacking core from making mistakes.
The four pass plays were made to help each of the Browns' starting quarterbacks make quick
decisions. Investigative work found the four plays labeled as the "McCoy Rollout and Freeze", the "Delhomme Chuck and Cringe", the "Seneca Wallace, Check Down, Check Down, Check Down" and the fan favorite play call simply titled as "Pass".
The three runs, which were stolen from the 1991 Los Angeles Raiders playbook from Nintendo's Super Tecmo Bowl, were labeled "Hillis Left", "Hillis Right", and "Hillis Run Over Every Player in His Path".
The simplistic play calling led to the 30th most points scored in 2008, the 29th highest in 2009, and the 31st highest output in 2010.
What the Browns could count on during this time was the returning ability of Josh Cribbs. However, even that offensive advantage is now hindered by the new NFL rules.
"We stood by our seven plays," said former Browns head master Eric Mangini. "But we felt we only needed seven with Cribbs back there. I feel sorry for that Shurmur guy."
Shurmur met with Browns officials late Tuesday to go over the new plays that will be added. Unfortunately, the meeting led to confused faces by management and players alike.
"I had some basic plays, you know, typical NFL play calls...and they just looked at me like I was an alien," said Shurmur. "We showed them a play Sam (Bradford) used to run in St. Louis called Ace Right z-Dig x-Shallow. That's when it erupted."
The eruption came from Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis threw a chair at Shurmur and yelled, "Me run ball! Me get ball! Run left, run right, me run over people!" The stocky running back then left the meeting.
Even more confused was the Browns' young quarterback Colt McCoy.
"So...you mean I'm looking right, the z receiver is running a dig, and the x receiver is running shallow...so...I'm still gonna roll out and freeze, right?"
One thing's for certain, change will be slow for the new Browns.
"We're taking it one step at a time," said a disheveled Shurmur. "It might be later rather than sooner, but we'll get there...Jesus, I hope we get there."