Browns receiver Dwayne Bowe finally got some playing time on Thursday night, and he was just OK, certainly not doing enough to justify the big contract the Browns gave him this offseason.
But Bowe did outplay the Browns’ other receivers, which raises questions about why he’s been buried on the depth chart all season, until injuries finally forced him into the lineup last night.
Bowe was the Browns’ leading wide receiver in the loss to the Bengals, catching three of the five passes thrown to him and gaining 31 receiving yards. Bowe was far better than wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who has been ahead of Bowe on the depth chart all season: Gabriel got six passes thrown to him and had some brutal drops while catching just one pass for three yards.
So now that Bowe has finally gotten some playing time, and shown that he’s a better option than Gabriel, it raises an uncomfortable question in Cleveland: What the heck was Mike Pettine doing playing Gabriel ahead of Bowe all season?
The apparent answer is that Gabriel is 24 years old and Bowe is 31, and Pettine would rather give playing time to younger players to develop for the future. That’s all well and good, but if the Browns care more about developing for the future than winning now, why did they give Bowe $9 million guaranteed this offseason?
The uncomfortable answer to that question is that Pettine and Browns General Manager Ray Farmer clearly aren’t on the same page. Farmer wanted Bowe whether he fit in Pettine’s plans or not. Pettine wouldn’t play Bowe whether Farmer gave him a lot of money or not. That’s a serious problem. The coach and the G.M. don’t always have to agree about everything, but if they’re so far apart that the coach won’t play the G.M.’s big free agent signing, then the situation is untenable.
If Farmer and Pettine can’t work together, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam needs to fire one of them. Or both of them.