Tag Archives: Brandon Weeden

The Sad Decline of the Indianapolis Colts Continues

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard the words “Super Bowl” and “Colts” in the same sentence. Looks like it’s going to be a lot longer before we hear it again.

The Houston Texans came into Lucas Oil Stadium and wrested the division lead away from the Colts by virtue of a 16-10 triumph on Sunday afternoon. The Texans (7-7) now hold a one-game lead over Indianapolis, who fell to 6-8 with two games remaining in the regular season.

For the third straight week, the Colts held an early lead before imploding. After trailing 10-0 in the first half, Houston scored 16 consecutive points to win their first ever game in Indianapolis (the Texans were 0-13 coming into this contest). The Colts had an unprecedented 16-game winning streak within the division snapped last week against Jacksonville; now they’ve lost two in a row against the AFC South.

The quarterback matchup in this game was not exactly one for the ages: backup QB Matt Hasselbeck going for Indianapolis, while Houston had to play their third-string signal caller, T.J. Yates. Neither quarterback played particularly well, and when Yates went down with a non-contact knee injury after scrambling late in the second quarter, things looked even worse for the Texans.

Enter Brandon Weeden, the former starting QB in Cleveland, but currently number four on the depth chart in Houston. Weeden was the hero in this one, coming off the bench to go 11-for-18 for 105 yards and a touchdown after Yates’ injury. Most importantly, Houston scored all 16 of their points with Weeden at the helm, as he gave the Texans the shot in the arm they needed after falling behind early 10-0.

The Colts offense was anemic, gaining a paltry 190 yards for the game. QB Matt Hasselbeck had a tough day in more ways than one, going 17-for-30 for only 147 yards, and feeling pressure and taking hits from the Texans’ defense all afternoon. Indianapolis RB Frank Gore ran hard, but had nowhere to go, averaging 2.8 yards on 16 carries.

Aside from Brandon Weeden’s heroics, Houston didn’t exactly light it up either. The Texans’ running game was mostly held in check, other than Alfred Blue’s 41-yard run in the second quarter, which didn’t actually lead to any points for Houston.

The turnover battle was even, but the Colts only lost fumble was a very costly one. Indianapolis was driving late in the fourth quarter, trailing 13-10, when WR Griff Whalen took a short pass from Hasselbeck and coughed it up after a good hit by Houston CB Johnathan Joseph…this effectively ended the Colts’ hopes.

Indianapolis did get the ball back one more time, only to have Matt Hasselbeck throw a deep interception on the first play of the drive when he “misinterpreted the angle” WR Donte Moncrief took on his route.

The last three minutes of this game continued what has been a pattern of late with the Colts – key moment, key mistake(s).

Now that the AFC South lead has vanished and a playoff berth is becoming unlikely, what do we make of the 2015 version of the Indianapolis Colts? It would be easy to blame this disappointing season on injuries, particularly when your star quarterback has missed significant time on the field…but that’s not why this team has underachieved.

It all starts with a flawed roster, a fact that was previously covered up by QB Andrew Luck’s emergence as an NFL star. Even he could not continue to perform at a high level with a struggling offensive line in front of him. Colts GM Ryan Grigson chose not to address the offensive line to any large degree in the offseason, and it’s coming back to haunt the team now. In general, Grigson has just had far too many “misses” in the draft and in free agency, and they’ve led Indianapolis to where they are now.

Another key issue is coaching. Chuck Pagano, the Colts’ head coach, has not proven to be a top-flight coach in either game preparation or motivation. Consistent errors such as penalties and turnovers, especially at crucial times, are the mark of a poorly-coached team. As the season has worn on, the team is also playing with less and less desire and enthusiasm.

What a difference in outlook from Week 1 to now. The Indianapolis Colts were a trendy pick to win the AFC Championship this season, now, they’ll have to finish strong and hope for some help just to barely make the playoffs – in a weak division. Unless something spectacular (and unexpected) happens, some heads are going to roll when this train wreck of a season is over.

More Than a Friday: All About Cubs, and Some Other Stuff

There may have been nine other teams eligible for this 2015 post-season, and some great stories behind those teams’ run to get here, but the Chicago Cubs are the story. With the Yankees out of the picture, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only ones left standing with nowhere near three decades, if not all of eternity, between now and their last World Championship. And look, those Cardinals are the next obstacle in the way of the Cubs’ destiny.

It’s a different attitude on the north side of Chicago, this time around. We’re not blessing dugouts, exorcising goats, or doing whatever’s been done in the past to fuel the hysteria that comes with a fan-base that’s gone their entire lives without seeing their beloved baseball team compete for, let alone win, a World Championship. Okay, I concede there’s less than a what I would consider a chunk of Cubbie fans that are old enough to remember the Cubs falling to Detroit in 7 games in 1945, but no one has actually been waiting 107 years for what might happen next.

Give it up for the Ricketts family, for putting the right people in charge of the baseball side, and then getting the hell out of the way until it’s time to open the checkbook. There are only two ways to be a bad owner in sports; one is to meddle, and the other is to be cheap, and this family has done no such thing. They went out and got Theo Epstein to run the show, who in turn, brought in Jed Hoyer to be the General Manager, and eventually Joe Maddon was enlisted to manage the games. This group has done their diligence in serving the fans, by not giving a damn what they think. The first order of business was slamming the door shut on the dream of making Ryne Sandberg the skipper. Sure, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria never brought the Cubs anywhere near the promised land, but Ryno didn’t tear it up in his first go-around in the bigs, with the Phillies, either.

In addition to Sandberg not possessing the championship pedigree, if you think the fans were pissed he wasn’t considered, imagine the outrage when they had to fire him. The whole “we run the Cubs, not the fans” effect trickles down to the roster too. Cubs fans loved Tony Campana, and while this wasn’t exactly trading away Ernie Banks, Theo and Jed were able to ignore the groans heard when Campana was traded to Arizona for a couple of teenagers. Epstein wasn’t hired to dwell on the 103 years prior to his 2011 hire, but to make the next century of Cubs baseball great. He’s well on his way.

No matter how well you’re able to put the past away, if you have any rooting interest in the Cubs, and mine is tertiary, as I married into it, there’s always a little lack of confidence, if not paranoia, due to precedent. For many, the next hard groundball to first is still going through Leon Durham’s legs and the next 50/50 ball between the left fielder and the spectators represents a prelude to doom. Entering the snakepit that was a blacked-out PNC Park on Wednesday night, Maddon’s Cubs had to strike early and prevent the Pirates from reciprocating. Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber answered the call early and often. They were loose and unintimidated by Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, almost like someone forgot to tell them the Cubs hadn’t won a post-season game since 2003. Jake Arrieta took the ball, and despite not having his best stuff on the mound, he made sure Schwarber’s RBI single in the top of the first inning was enough. However, Schwarber put one in the Allegheny River and Fowler was a little more modest, instead going to the right-center field seats with his shot, to make the probably Cy Young Award winner comfortable with a 4-run lead. He was able to pitch out of several jams, thanks to several defensive gems behind him, but there is a sour note about Wednesday.

Aside from Schwarber and Fowler, not much offensive production from the Cubs. The probably Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant looked so lost at the plate, you might have thought he missed the flight to Western Pennsylvania. You also have to take into account, the perils of playing that Wild Card game of the 1-game sort, you’ve exhausted your Ace and he won’t get two starts in the best-of-five division series. Those are bridges they’ll cross when they encounter them in the Gateway City, as they face that next obstacle in the Cardinals. The time to worry about that is today, but a nice little honeymoom was to be had all day Thursday. To paraphrase (What About) Bob(?) Wiley, Baby Steps towards a World Championship. It started in Pittsburgh, and may not have a happy ending for Bill Murray and the rest of Cubs Nation, but it’s a start.

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And, in other news…

Texas Rangers fans would probably prefer it, if I stop listening to their big games on the radio while driving down I-8 towards San Diego. For the second time in four years, the previous time being Game 6 of the World Series, my ears were privy to an epic Rangers collapse while en route to California for a Browns game. The last time, it was David Freese of the Cardinals, down to his final strike, who prevented the Rangers from closing out their first-ever World Championship with a double off the wall. The Boys of Arlington would get a shot at redemption in Game 7, but would have no luck in the deciding game. On Saturday, they took a 10-6 lead into the 9th, as I pulled into a Yuma gas station to re-fuel and call my wife. By the time, I got back in the car, the Angels led 11-10, and the assumption I’d had minutes earlier, that the Rangers were going to clinch the American League West had disintegrated. Unlike in 2011, the Rangers were able to take care of business the next day, and all was well in North Texas.

No one knows anything in College Football, a truth that reveals itself to the masses watching each week. On paper, Ohio State should have been able to exercise The Karate Kid III clause, and just waited for a worthy a opponent to take their title from them, in Glendale on January 11th, but they have to play the games. It hasn’t been pretty; you could argue they’re getting everyone’s best shot, but you could probably make a better argument that they’re a lot more flat than the team that impressed us in January. Imagine if it was TCU, and not the Buckeyes, that got to take that magical ride through the inaugural College Football Playoff. Would Ohio State be able to maintain its #1 spot with their play in 2015? If Utah and Florida can hold serve, this point is rendered moot, but how little do we know about the Pac-12 and SEC, and how confusing can the entire College Football Playoff picture be entering the month of December?

Toledo could finish the season undefeated, and there’s a strong possibility that they won’t get the “Group of 5” bid to the Access Bowls, given Boise State’s history and a committee’s tendency to forgive September losses. Rockets fans have to be hoping the stock on the win at Arkansas rises throughout SEC play.

The Browns found a new way to lose in San Diego on Sunday, and I was on hand for the agony. Having watched Josh Lambo’s first attempt sail wide, when my celebration was interrupted by news of the laundry on the field, I assumed someone in a brown jersey ran into the Chargers kicker, but the call was off-sides. I didn’t see off-sides, but the guy in the striped shirt on the field had a better vantage point. I went on with my day in Southern California, overhearing plenty of same ol’ Browns conversations. It was like Tuesday or Wednesday that I was retroactively angry at the linesman on Bill Vinovich’s crew, who guessed wrong and cost Cleveland a chance to take the game in overtime. The Lions are in the same boat with the bad luck of letting an official decide a game. It’s really no wonder, none at all, why neither of these teams have played in a Super Bowl or won a title since 1967.

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As a Browns fan, I’ve had faith in both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, but now that I’m seeing them play in other jerseys, I almost have to slap myself. Difference being, I liked the potential of Weeden, and soon as he put on the orange helmet, he showed he couldn’t play at a high level. Hoyer, on the other hand, won games for the Browns, giving people like me false hope and dismissing poor play as a slump or fluke. It took seeing that punt-looking interception he threw to former Brown Mike Adams on Thursday night, to convince me of his true colors.

Sunday’s New England-Dallas game will get a lot of the headlines, but I’m going to learn a lot more about the landscape of the NFL from Seahawks-Bengals and Rams-Packers on Sunday. I know the Seahawks and Packers are good, but I still need some convincing on 4-0 Cincinnati and the 2-2 Rams.

I’m offering up a lot of chalk with my Division Series predictions in baseball, but I’m looking forward to a Blue Jays-Royals ALCS, and I’m putting the Cubs and Mets in the NLCS. Regarding those National League teams, once they start winning, they don’t stop.

Basketball and hockey, we’ll get to you next week.

Have a great weekend.

Another one bites the dust

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Phillip Taylor #98 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after the Cleveland Browns defeats the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 20-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Phillip Taylor #98 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after the Cleveland Browns defeats the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 20-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Another one bites the dust.

Phil Taylor has been cut by the Browns. The 21st selection of the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft was battling for a position on the defensive line. Taylor has been associated with Julio Jones because that is the pick that the Browns gave up to trade down and take Taylor.

Now look at the situation that the Browns now have with the defensive line and you can see why Taylor was expendable.

During the preseason, it appears that the Browns have hit a home run with Danny Shelton. The first round pick out of Washington has been a menace for offensive lines in the preseason. Shelton has been able to already command double teams by the opposing teams which has opened the pass rush for other players.

The Browns have 11 sacks in the first three preseason games. As a barometer, the Browns had four sacks in the first three preseason games last year. Shelton has been a big part of that.

The worry of Shelton before the NFL Draft was that he would only be a two-down player. He has quieted that worry so far. However, it is not only the emergence of Shelton, but the emergence of other players.

The Browns signed Randy Starks in the off-season and he has already paid dividends in the improvement of the run defense.

One of the biggest surprises in camp is fellow rookie Xavier Cooper. Cooper was the third round pick in the draft this year. Much like Shelton, he has been disrupting plays constantly.

Jamie Meder was a long shot to make this team after being undrafted out of Ashland. He was on the practice squad last season and has played well in camp and in the preseason games. He also is a favorite of Head Coach Mike Pettine. 

In the 31-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Meder registered five tackles (three solo), a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit in limited playing time. With the Browns also cutting Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Meder has a good shot at making this team.

The Browns have had eight first round picks in the past five years. Only one of which is starting this season, Danny Shelton.

Here is the list:

2011

Phil Taylor – Cut by the Browns today.

2012

Trent Richardson – Traded to Colts for first round pick.

Brandon Weeden – Backup to Tony Romo in Dallas.

2013

Barkevious Mingo – Battling injuries and will be a backup starting the season.

2014

Justin Gilbert – Will be a backup to start the season.

Johnny Manziel – Who knows what will happen here.

2015

Danny Shelton – The only player starting on this list.

Cameron Erving – A backup offensive lineman to start the season.

Despite the production of first round picks, the Browns have a really good defense and a highly-rated offensive line. The age old question for the Browns is if they have enough firepower on the offense to compete this season and help keep the defense off the field.

This is a make it or break it year for Mingo. The biggest jump for NFL players is between their second and third seasons and this is his third. If he does not improve this season, he will end up just like Taylor, Richardson, Weeden and so on and so on.

Why the Browns Have Me Waiting For Next Year

I’m afraid to admit this, but the ship has sailed on anything good this season. It’s the same old Browns in a slightly different skin. They might be a few wins better than normal, but at the end of Week 17, there are tee times to be set and a May draft to think about, but no games until August. Fortunately, we’re so familiar with the routine that it should depress us no longer.

There are excuses more legitimate than we’ve seen in years past, and we have no problem with anyone upgrading this bunch from the standard F or D- to a more motivating C+, but they’ve once again failed this pass/fail course we call an NFL regular season. Sure, it’s one of their more successful fails, compared to what we’ve become accustomed to, but we’ve waited two decades for a post-season victory in Cleveland. We can wait another 365 days.

Mike Pettine hasn’t had all of the answers this season, but DAMNIT JIM, he’s a football coach, not a doctor.

The simple answer is the same as always. The reason why the Browns aren’t going to entertain us with January football is that they’ll fail to win the amount of games required for entry into the tournament. The complicated answer is also the same, though to a lesser degree than we’ve come to know and love. They lack the talent to do so.

In the past, we’ve denied lack of talent because it was tough to slice through all of the dreadful coaching to learn the truth. When Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn co-existed in Berea, some were excited at the idea of two real NFL-caliber quarterbacks being on the roster, but the reality is that there were none. Then, there was the time Joshua Cribbs was easily the best player on the roster. Needless to say, that wasn’t a roster worth celebrating, which is the same sentiment many have for the long list of coaches and executives that have taken money from the fans, but offered little in return.

If you think things are terrible at quarterback with Hoyer on the field and Manziel waiting in the wings, I present defense exhibits A & B.

Before you go measuring the emptiness of the current glass, let me assure you that it is most certainly half-full, but it’s going to be capped with an air-tight lid until 2015. First, applause is due for an outstanding first season from Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, the loudest voices in the board room and on the field, respectively. You can nit-pick the little things all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to deny these guys have done their job, perhaps better than any of their counterparts before them, going back to 1999.

I suppose a full 180 degree turn from the 4-12 team that left Pittsburgh with their lame duck head coach would mean finishing in the Final Four instead of the bottom 4 in the NFL, and that’s not going to happen, but they’ve righted the ship. Mathematically, they can flip their win-loss record from a year ago, but an honest look at the state of this football team doesn’t suggest that being they way things will play out.

Look at the way the way were built. You play to your strengths, and the make-up of this roster said they would be strong running the ball and letting their defense win games. Depending on how you looked at it, you could come to the conclusion that no one making decisions took the idea of throwing the football too seriously. That isn’t a slight on Brian Hoyer, but it’s clear they were willing to settle for the hometown kid as a place-holder while other needs were met.

They had the best receiver in the game with Brandon Weeden throwing the football and no one better than Greg Little opposite Josh Gordon, so they prioritized other deficient areas. Ben Tate was an obvious target before we even knew Kyle Shannahan would be in the fold, which only made the former-Texans back a better fit. If you paid attention to the draft experts, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell were home run picks on paper, and the Browns brass was rounding the bases on Draft Day.

With a couple of youngsters from schools you’ve never heard of running the football, Kyle Shanahan has put himself in a good position to interview for some head coaching jobs.

Some were curious about the selection of Joel Bitonio over any highly rated pass-catcher in the second round of the draft, given that word of Gordon’s potential absence from the 2014 roster had come down between Rounds 1 and 2, but they stayed the course and found a monster of a man to play guard between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. If everything played out the way was it planned, it promised not to be an awful plan. They weren’t going to half-ass themselves into a passing team. It wouldn’t have made any sense.

If this were a video game, you would have taken one look at the Browns depth and turned injuries off. Missing time was just not an option. If you had to make a list of offensive players they could least afford to take the field without, it would go something like this:

1. Joe Thomas
2. Josh Gordon
3. Alex Mack
4. Brian Hoyer
5. Jordan Cameron

Thomas, their first-round pick in 2007, has never missed a snap, in this season or any other. Mack, taken in Round 1 two years later, shared that distinction until a broken leg took him out for the year in early October. We know Gordon was handed a ten game suspension by the league, but it’s six fewer games than we initially feared. Cameron has missed time with brain injuries and Hoyer has taken every snap, save three plays designed for their popular rookie back-up. Add in time missed by Ben Tate and Andrew Hawkins, and then wonder how this team has won 60% of their games.

mackinjured
There goes the season

The team released the highly-touted Tate on Tuesday, after ten games of sub-par production. It was a pretty ballsy move, but many would approve of them making good football decisions that aren’t the best PR moves. It goes to show where their priorities are. They like what they see from their tandem of rookies from small schools. We all know the results would be better if the offensive line was at full-strength.

On the defensive side of the ball, I think it’s fair to say we expected better, back when this was a team playing at full strength. We wondered why Joe Haden was getting $60 million contracts when he struggled to cover the aging Steve Smith. We wondered what this team saw in Justin Gilbert, given his lack of production, and if the Buffalo defensive coaching staff of 2013 could graduate Barkevious Mingo from project to football player.

Steve Smith, Joe Haden
This picture doesn’t tell you whose star is fading and whose is allegedly rising.

Players were thought to be busts from the free agent market, like Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, started earning their paychecks. Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine have looked a lot more competent in the secondary, and having Karlos Dansby, Phil Taylor, and Armonty Bryant up front made the entire unit better. Unfortunately, we won’t have the services of the latter three available for the better part of what remains this season.

In the end, it adds up to a very talented list of football players on the Injured Reserve and not enough talent on the active roster to compensate for those losses. And while their presence arguably made their teammates better, their absence does contribute to a significant decline. We’re not looking at a lost cause, but definitely a lost season.

You might call me a wet blanket for observing this thing with my eyes open, but I’m simply not going to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment that will dawn on the eternal optimists out there. There’s no waiting for the bottom to fall out here; that happened when Mack went down, rendering the strength of this running game to a fraction of what it’s supposed to be. Granted, it’s forced the defense into a previously undiscovered gear, but now they’ve set the bar high for themselves and they can’t possibly sustain it with the personnel they’ve been left with.

The silver lining resides in the fact that in writing off this wildly successful season of growth and development, we’re not watching the window of opportunity slam shut. Our optimism isn’t rooted in the unknown of what could be added to the roster, but in the utilization of known commodities, guys that just happen to be banged up right now. For the first time in a long time, the present is very nice and the future is actually much brighter.

After 16 years, we’re all tired of that Bad News Bears mantra, “wait ’til next year”, but we’ll all be ready for something very special in 2015. I’ll be there with bells on.

11-on-11: Near-Perfect NFL Quarterback Play

In the era of shovel passes, bubble screens, and dink & dunk, it seems as though completion percentage should be an afterthought. So many quarterbacks start their days so perfect, or near-perfection anyway. It’s really no wonder that “video game numbers” have become the standard.

This is what you get from the out-of-town overlay, just statistics, no story. Sure, you’ll see Andy Dalton and Alex Smith missed on just one or two pass attempts early en route to victory, but make sure you don’t read too much into Austin Davis’s 5-of-7 start against the Chiefs.

These amazing performances don’t seem to dazzle these days, even on paper. Ben Roethlisberger threw just nine passes that didn’t land in the hands of a bumble-bee-outfitted receiver on Sunday. Considering the fact he threw six touchdown passes and accrued over 500 yards in the process, you wonder how high the bar will be set in the next couple of years. Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards for the Steelers opponent, in what we’ll likely consider a forgettable performance.

Is any of it even real any more?

Game I Anticipated Most

When you get a non-traditional power like the Arizona Cardinals in a marquee game this late in the season, it sometimes seems forced. That’s not the case with these Cardinals. They really look like they belong. They’re built with a certain edge to them on defense and hold their own when they have the ball. Injuries matter, but Bruce Arians has shown an ability to adapt and overcome. Take all of their positives, tack a bad afternoon in Denver on there, and that’s how Arizona was 5-1 entering play on Sunday.

The Eagle bring Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Saturday style to the Sunday game. Their offense moves fast and they run a lot of plays. A threat to score every time they have the ball, it’s all about possessions for them. Defense isn’t the first thing you think of with this team, nor should it be. The architecture of Bill Davis’s defensive unit is to stop teams built like the Eagles, a built that is consistent with the new direction of the league. Strong secondary play has netted them a shut out against the Giants. A trip to San Francisco last month netted them their only loss.

So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald's best days being behind him.  It didn't show in Arizona's 24-20 win over the Eagles.
So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald’s best days being behind him. It didn’t show in Arizona’s 24-20 win over the Eagles.

The Cardinals out-lasted their brotherly loving opponents by stepping up with the big play. Antonio Cromartie picked off Nick Foles twice at the most inopportune moments for the Eagles. On the ground, Andre Ellington did just enough to set up the big play for Carson Palmer and his receiving corps. His two touchdowns passes each went for 75 yards or better. If Larry Fitzgerald is getting long in the tooth, it didn’t show on his classic Fitz 80-yard catch-and-run to put the Cardinals up 14-7 to break a halftime tie.

After the Eagles added a field goal to take 20-17 lead just inside the two-minute warning, the hero of training camp John Brown ran under a ball that I can only assume was thrown as far as Carson Palmer can throw the pigskin. When it came down in the arms of the rookie from Pittsburg State, it only took a few strides for him to reach the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Of his 4 scoring catches this season, 3 have been of the game-winning variety. Cardinals win 24-20.

Thursday Is My Garbage Day

You notice you don’t hear too much griping about player safety and the road team being at such a disadvantage in the Thursdy Night tilts, now that a couple of them have been competitive. My trash still gets picked up on Thursday though, so this section will keep its name. Not many teams have belonged on the same field as Peyton Manning’s Broncos this season, but the Chargers promised to be a worthy adversary.

The X-Factor here was our defending champion Sea Chickens. They went into San Diego in Week 2, and left with a 30-21 defeat at the hands of the very legitimate Chargers. The Broncos, on the other hand, have lost just twice in the 2014 calendar year. A week after taking that loss, Seattle hosted Denver in a game much closer than the laughable Super Bowl we all witnessed in February, but still a 26-20 loss for Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders game has helped Denver fans cope with the loss of Eric Decker

On the strength of three Emmanuel Sanders touchdown receptions, the Broncos won 35-21, but the Chargers didn’t play an awful game. They just ran into a buzzsaw in Peyton Manning, who had the convenience of playing at home. Even in a 21-point hole at various points in the game, you never counted out San Diego. The unstoppable passing game that Manning leads sets up the running game.

Forget that Knowshon Moreno is gone and that Montee Ball was not available, the Chargers weren’t honest to the run. Ronnie Hillman gashed them for over 5 yards per carry and Juwan Thompson had two short scoring runs to take the wind out of San Diego’s sails to move to 6-1 on the season.

House of Sea Chicken-East

Speaking of the champs, we generally tend to think their strength resides in their stadium. Opposing fans call it the belly of the beast, but the NFL makes the Sea Chickens play half their games away from Phone Company Field. In Week 8, they may have been lucky to pull one out in Charlotte, but isn’t that always the case when they visit the Panthers?

On Sunday, they treaded water in an early candidate for the week’s Actual Worst Game, but Russell Wilson led his team on a 10-play 80 -yard drive to score the first touchdown of the game with 53 seconds left. The Panthers counted on their kicker Graham Gano for all of their points, outscoring the visitors 9-6, until Wilson hit Luke Willson for the game-winner in the game’s final minute.

Wilson to Willson for the win away from home for the Sea Chickens

For the third time in three years, Seattle won ugly at Carolina. When Steven Hauschka added the extra point after Willson’s touchdown, it was the first one-pointer the Sea Chickens scored in Charlotte since he nailed the conversion after Golden Tate’s third quarter score in 2012. They won that one 16-12 at Bank of America Stadium, edged them 12-7 in 2014, and added the 4-point win on Sunday. If they play in 2015, that one will be played in the Pacific Northwest.

AFC North Pride

While the broadcast maps suggests most of you did get Pittsburgh’s rout of the Colts in your local market, many were denied the second edition of Ravens-Bengals in favor of that field goal fest in Charlotte. You were probably spared the Raiders and Browns if you weren’t local to either of the teams, unless you sought that game out.

The AFC North has been strong this season. Part of it is the Browns somewhat pulling their weight, but the schedule is a big aid as well. The division games all promise to be scrappy affairs for Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, but they’ve all been afforded the luxury of games against all of the teams in the league’s two worst divsions.

Every team in the NFC South has a losing record, while Indianapolis is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record. Having one-win teams like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay pulling up the rear doesn’t help either. On the flip-side, every team in the AFC North currently sports a winning record.

Does Cincinnati have Baltimore’s number? In Week 1, they dominated most of the way, let the Ravens back in the game, and then won it in the end. It was the same story on Sunday in Cincinnati, only a little more scary. It appeared that Baltimore had done it again with an improbable 80-yard game-winning touchdown to Steve Smith Sr., but it was more improbable that the play was executed within the boundaries of the rules. The play was called back and Cincinnati hung on.

Win or not, that's some ugly-ass garb.
Win or not, that’s some ugly-ass garb.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers reminded us that we simply cannot write them off. On a positive note for Ben and company, it’s more than just playing pitch & catch with Antonio Brown. Brown got his, but Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are emerging as targets for Roethlisberger, as is Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield. For a team written off by their own fans, the Steelers are right in the thick of things at 4-3.

Wembley Wake-Up

Under no circumstances would I go out of my way to watch the 2014 Lions and Falcons play. Wait, what? Alright NFL, if you’re going to put a game on at 6:30 AM in the west, I’ll wake up for it. The game appeared to be all Atlanta, but still somehow came down to a last-second field goal attempt. This is part of why the AFC South is awful.

Me, I’m no fan of shenanigans when a field goal that will determine the game is imminent. I pay homage to Mike Shannahan for his strategy of calling a timeout a split-second before the ball is snapped, forcing a kicker to try the boot a second time. I call it “Shannahanigans”, but it wasn’t that type of nonsense for the Lions in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Detroit got two tries and needed the second one for their 22-21 comeback win over the Falcons in London. It appeared as though the Falcons would hang on when Matt Prater’s kick sailed wide right from 43, but the Lions were actually rewarded a reprieve by their own penalty. Since delay-of-game is a pre-snap penalty, Atlanta was left with no choice but to hope Prater would miss again from 48. He didn’t.

This lends itself to an argument against the whole idea of the aforementioned shenanigans. Many coaches have gone on record to say they don’t like the strategy. Why give the kicker a practice kick? Doesn’t the first kick just give the kicker a better feel for the task at hand? Sure, we’ve seen kickers whiff on the one that counts, but it seems fate is a better strategy then playing God in this situation. If the rules can’t prevent it, maybe common sense will.

Home Sweet Dome

It’s not just playing inside, Bill Simmons. Losses in Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit should paint that picture as clearly as the Saints’ 3-0 record in the Superdome. Even a team as hot as the Packers are no match for what New Orleans can do in front of their home crowd.

Drew Brees is special and his performance in Sunday Night’s 44-23 win was no exception, but how about a nod for his supporting cast? Mark Ingram put up a very Trent Richarson-esque 16 yards on 10 carries in the Saints loss to Detroit last week, and his 83 rushing yards against Cleveland stood as his season-best before Sunday. The former Heisman winner ran the ball 24 times for 172 yards, ate up clock, and kept Aaron Rodgers on the sideline long enough to tilt the needle towards the home team on time of possession.

Who’s Whack for Dak

It’s not likely that anyone is going to unseat Marcus Mariota for the meaningless title of consensus #1 in the mocks, but we’re going to change it up each week here. Prescott still has Mississippi State undefeated and ranked #1 in the polls, and he will likely help an NFL team, even if not taken with the top overall selection.

Can he and will he play on Sundays?  Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.
Can he and will he play on Sundays? Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.

At this point, given their failure to achieve victory, the Raiders are in the driver’s seat to pick at the top. I don’t believe they’re poorly coached by Tony Sparano or poorly quarterbacked by rookie Derek Carr. At this point, they just lack talent in so many areas. They need to uncluster decades of bad football work by Al Davis and rebuild this team.

Actual Worst Game

Hard to go in any direction other than Oakland-Cleveland here. It was an ugly game all around that the Browns made more aesthetically pleasing on the scoreboard with a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns, but this was basically a field goal struggle for three quarters. Nobody wants to pay to see Janikowski v. Cundiff.

The same could be said for the Hauscka v. Gano game in Carolina, but struggling to find the endzone against Seattle is a different animal than what took place in Cleveland.

Dirty Laundry Award

Usually, this honor is bestowed on a team, but Walt Anderson’s crew really earned it this week, with Philadelphia and Arizona each being penalized more than any team in the league on Sunday. 11 flags on the Eagles awarded the Cardinals 103 penalty yards. Arizona gave their visitors 95 yards on 10 infractions.

For the Degenerates

The Cowboys look like world-beaters. The Redskins look inept in every phase of the game, but everyone is focused on the quarterback position. With Colt McCoy starting for Washington, it’s no wonder they’re a 9 and a half point dog on the road. Ordinarily, I might suggest throwing out everything you know and anticipating a close game. Not tonight.

coltmccoy

Don’t expect the visiting team to do much in the way of scoring points, but anticipate them turning the ball over. This is what McCoy does. Even if the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders, total points should stay under 50. There is an added element for Browns fans here with Tony Romo’s understudy being Brandon Weeden. If I were to predict a battle of Cleveland cast-offs here, I’d take the Redskins and the points, and also bet the farm on the under.

Random, Perhaps Unimportant

Peyton Manning wasn’t all smiles after Denver’s big division win over San Diego. He took exception to the actions of his scoreboard operator, who apparently amped up the crowd at the wrong moment(s). The expectation of the home crowd when Manning is on the field is complete and utter silence. He voiced his frustration through the media, which some people didn’t care to hear. I’m left to wonder if he’s tried to quietly voice this internally previously and became the grease-seeking squeaky wheel after it continued.

Nice one-armed grab and run by Theo Riddick in the final minute of Detroit’s win over Atlanta in London. He corralled the overthrown ball from Matt Stafford with his extended left arm and hustled to the Falcons 41, just outside of field goal range.

Sammy Watkins made the most of his three catches (for 157 yards) in Buffalo’s 43-23 win over the Jets on Sunday, but 84 yards is a long way to run to be denied a touchdown. Finish the play, and then you can celebrate.

On the flip-side of the near-perfect quarterback efficiency we’ve seen early in games so far, Geno Smith more than deserved to be benched with a line that read 2-for-8 with 5 yards passing. Good luck, Michael Vick.

These Jack-in-the-Box commercials don’t even pretend to market their product to the non-stoner.

I’m a little inspired by Denard Robinson’s first 11 carries for 90 yards against the Dolphins. I’m back to earth about his final 7 carries for 18 yards in the Jaguars 27-13 loss.

Ninkovich’s scoop and score was the Patriots third touchdown in 57 seconds, part of a 31 point 3rd quarter in Foxboro.
We can stop talking about how much better the Bears are away from Soldier Field, where they own an 0-3 home record. They stuck on the road Sunday, losing 51-23 to New England.

The Patriots scored three times in 57 seconds in the second quarter of their blowout win over the Bears. With a 17-7 lead, Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski from two yards out, just inside the two-minute warning. Jay Cutler and the Bears offense killed just 41 seconds on a three-and-out, before Julian Edelman’s punt return put the Patriots back in businss at the Chicago 9. Brady got his fourth touchdown pass on the next play from scrimmage, and New England scored again on the Bears’ next offenseive play when Ray Ninkovich did the scoop and score on a Cutler fumble.

Rest in peace, Martha Miles and Oscar Taveras. The mother of LSU head coach Les Miles passed away on Friday. On Saturday night, an emotional Miles led his team past #3 Ole Miss at home. Taveras, a 22 year-old prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic this weekend. Taveras never had much more than a cup of coffee at the big league level, but had a bright future with the club. So young, so tragic.

Next week’s slate includes Cardinals at Cowboys, Broncos at Patriots, and Ravens at Steelers. Until we get there, enjoy the week ahead.

Look At The Numbers : Top 25 QB's of the BCS Era

QB
The BCS era is over, whether we like it or not. It’s now time for the College Football Playoff to take over the college football world of ours. But, before we move on from the era, lets take a look back at the most important position over that time, the quarterback. In the 16 year span of the BCS, we saw 11 different quarterbacks take home the Heisman Trophy. We also saw countless others fall just short of winning one, just because the position was that deep. With all of the talent, it’s only right to start an argument and try to decide the top 25 QB’s of the BCS Era.
But, before you go off shouting about your favorite teams’ star quarterback from 2002, you should probably take a look at the numbers. After all, numbers never lie (aside from Air Raid offenses).
*Every quarterback who played at least two seasons in the BCS era are eligible, which means Jameis Winston and Michael Bishop weren’t eligible.
Now here comes the complicated system that I came up with based entirely on statistics. Ready? Okay. I took 35 noticeable quarterbacks from the BCS Era, ones that stand out above the rest. People like Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Andy Dalton, etc. Then I took a lo-o-o-ong list of statistics from passing touchdowns to winning percentage to rushing yards. You could say it took me a while as well. After I acquired all of this information, I gave the quarterbacks points for where they ranked on each statistic.
EX: If a QB was the 10th ranked in total yards and first in total touchdowns, then he would get 25 points and the 9th spot would get 26 and so on. Except I went threw and did that for six key stats I look at when deciding.

  • Passing touchdowns per start
  • Passing yards per start
  • Winning percentage as a starter
  • Average # of wins per season
  • Rushing touchdowns per start
  • Interception per start (The lowest ratio was awarded the most points)

The purpose of this was to make it as balanced as possible, so a system pocket-passer type quarterback would benefit from passing yards and passing touchdowns, a winning quarterback would be rewarded twice for their efforts, and a running quarterback would benefit from the interception ratio and rushing touchdowns. So in other words, Graham Harrell is balanced with A.J. McCarron, while McCarron is balanced with Eric Crouch, and Crouch has the same benefits that Harrell has. This way, we could determine which quarterback is the best at what they do. After assigning points to all 34 players, I then rewarded additional points for the following :

  • Heisman Winner
  • Heisman Finalist
  • 1st Team All-American
  • 2nd Team All-American
  • 1st Conference All-American
  • Maxwell and the Davey O’Brien awards
  • BCS National Championship wins/losses
  • BCS Game wins and losses
  • Being from an AQ Conference awarded you five extra points, as an award for SOS

After processing all of that (only six hours or so), I found the top 25 quarterbacks of the BCS. Let me tell you I now appreciate those BCS computer-geeks a little more now. Because even after all the time I spent, the system is still flawed. But it’s more than enough to get us through the offseason isn’t it? We start off with honorable mentions (30-26), featuring a Georgia QB just shy of making a BCS Championship and a Heisman Trophy winner.
30. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-13)-  116 points I figured Murray would be a lot higher, but his interceptions and winning statistics hurt him here.
aaron-murray
29. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (2009-13)- 117 points
28. Geno Smith, West Virginia (2009-12)- 122 points
27. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1999-02)- 126 points First Heisman winner on the list for the quarterback who ranked near last in every passing statistic.
26. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (2011-15)- 130 points Another year in the BCS and Miller certainly could of soared higher. Now for the top 25 quarterbacks of the BCS Era :
25. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (2006-08)- 131 points The air-raid quarterback most famous for his miraculous 2008 season edged Miller by one point.
Harrell
23. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-01)- 133 points The 2000 National Championship helped Heupel reach the top 25.
23. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2009-13)- 133 points RG3 tied Heupel, as his first three years at Baylor didn’t do to well in the winning category.
22. Case Keenum Houston (2006-11)- 134 points The only quarterback in NCAA history to pass over 5,000 yards in three seasons, Keenum was up top in the passing touchdowns and yards categories. His interception ratio is what hurt him the most.
21. Greg McElroy, Alabama (2007-10)- 136 points
20. Colt Brennan, Hawaii (2005-08)- 137 points
colt-brennan-hawaii
19. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-12)- 139 points Apparently he can Eric Crouch it better than Eric Crouch can.
18. Andy Dalton, TCU (2007-10)- 141 points
17. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2009-12)- 144 points
16. Troy Smith, Ohio State (2005-08)- 163 points Really big jump here, you start to see bigger names and award winners from here on out.
15. Andrew Luck, Stanford (2009-12)- 167 points
Luck
14. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (2011-15)- 173 points A winner who can pass and run. Mariota might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the era.
13. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1998-00)- 174 points
12. A.J. McCarron, Alabama (2011-14)- 183 points A game manager is 12th on a statistics based points system? Something isn’t right.
11. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (1999-01)- 190 points
10. Vince Young, Texas (2003-06)- 191 points I should of spotted Young 20 points for his epic-ness in the 2006 BCS performance at the Rose Bowl.
dallas_g_young_800
9. Colt McCoy, Texas (2007-11)- 192 points The Longhorns come in at #9 and #10 in this list.
8. Ken Dorsey, Miami FL (00-03)- 196 points W-I-N-N-E-R
7. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2011-12)- 199 points Hey I’m a huge Manziel fan but even I was surprised he was this high up on the list.
6. Kellen Moore, Boise State (2007-11)- 206 points I didn’t think Moore would be this high either. Oh well, he won a lot of games and threw a lot of touchdowns so he earned it.
5. Cam Newton, Auburn (2010-11)- 215 points One year was all Cam needed to sky rocket on the list for 215 points.
110210-CFB-Auburn-Cam-Newton-PI_20101102200755_660_320
4. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-10)- 216 points A winner who’s freshmen statistics as a back up hurt him from taking the top spot. Hey don’t blame me it’s not my system! Okay you got me.
nfl_u_tebow_576
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)- 219 points Could have taken the top spot if he had won any of the BCS games he played in.
Sam Bradford
2. Jason White, Oklahoma (2000-05)- 221 points See #3
2003-jason-white
1. Matt Leinart, USC (2003-06)- 244 points In a rather shockingly landslide victory, Leinart takes the top spot by 23 points over Jason White, which almost brings me back to the 2005 Orange Bowl. A winner and a passer who also earned style points with his awards and championships, Leinart earned the top spot and it will be his to keep forever as the best quarterback in the BCS Era. Hope you enjoyed the list and the article all together.
leinartuscms
For the complete statistics and points system, click the links below.
Extra Points Statistics Rankings Players Information

Dear December 28th…

This morning, I woke up and decided to be skeptical.  I wanted to stick all of my optimism about the Browns, or anything Cleveland, back under the pillow and take everything the outsiders tell me at face value.  You see, I’m not allowed to feel good about anything, not when it comes to these Browns.  When fate doesn’t intervene, we need to draw pessimistic vibes from places they don’t necessarily exist.

I have decided to reach out to a place that doesn’t yet exist, the end of the 2014 regular season, because let’s face it, it would be foolish to consider the end of this particular road extending itself into 2015, or even a minute beyond the final gun on December 28th in Baltimore.

It wouldn’t exactly come with the nostalgia of Doc Brown’s letter to Marty that sat at a Western Union office for 70 years, but it might be fun to get Shooter McGavin’s cronie to come knocking on my door at, say, 4:07 PM on that 28th day of December with the following.  Hell, if he’s buying, I’d probably actually be game for some Sizzler, as the melancholy good-bye to my team for another off-season wrestles with the emotional relief that it’s once again over for another eight months.

Dear Jeff (on December 28th),

If my calculations are correct, you just watched the conclusion of yet another chapter in the annals of the Expansion Cleveland Browns, one that left fans feeling unfulfilled once again, for whatever reason.  I’d also say it’s highly likely that some once-believed bizzarre scenario is playing itself out, setting the stage for the Ravens or Steelers to back themselves into the playoffs.  They both missed last year, but it took a Chiefs team losing a game that was meaningless to them on a missed field goal  that came with its share of controversy.

Isn’t it awful how the spite has consumed us?  Is it really all we have left, because this organization has been lacking in the department of making us proud for so long?  I caught myself doing it during the draft, childishly hoping that every player that’s going to earn their pay in Western PA ends up being a bust.  Those jokers have played in as many playoff games as the Browns the past two season, and fell victim to a Tebow-aided one-and-done cameo the year before that; that would be something to celebrate if they weren’t still light years ahead of the Browns.

For a while, it seemed like the Browns were stuck in the starting blocks, but the agony has reached a point where I’m pretty sure they stopped being invited to the race.  It’s this damn draft, the actual root of Cleveland Sports Misery, because in the NFL’s case, it’s a Browns fan’s excuse to party and be overly optimistic, but in reality it’s why the teams we love are so terrible, always and forever.

Still, I have a hard time convincing myself; this is different from the year they took Brady Quinn or Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick, just because it is.  Ray Farmer is a different type of talent evaluator, so he’s done his diligence to alleviate our concerns that Johnny Football is Colt 2.0.  We have to believe that Joel Bitonio isn’t another attempt to do what the previous regime was trying to do with Mitchell Schwartz on the right side fo the offensive line, though we should really be hoping for better results above all else.

Then, there’s the never-ending saga of Josh Gordon’s urine and the circumstances that made said pee a little less than pristine…allegedly.  You obviously know more than I do, whether he played 16 games, 8, or 0.  I am thinking he played as many snaps as I did this season, but can’t really make anything of rumors until we actually hear something official.  Rumors became truth for the elite receiver last spring, and for Joe Haden at the start of the 2012 season.

Those truths equaled six games worth of lost checks for Cleveland’s versions of star players, which ultimately equaled a loss on all six occasions.  For Haden, a clean track record since dictates isolated incident, and there’s $45 million in guaranteed money that proclaims he’s worthy of trust, both from the fans and his bosses in Berea.  Gordon, on the other hand, might never wear the orange helmet again.

The defense is supposed to be better, but are they healthy?  Are they staying out of the law’s way?  Are there discussions about whether Paul Kruger is a bigger bust as a 2013 Free Agent than Barkevius Mingo was as the #6 overall pick in the 2013 draft?  Has Justin Gilbert played well enough to have kept Buster Skrine on the slot receiver, and not in over his head in a place he’s not physically built to play?  Look, the potential of Karlos Dansby and rookie Christian Kirksey as a tandem at inside linebacker intrigues me, but there’s a very real possibility it’s a marriage made in Hell.

I’m curious about so many things, and that’s why I watch, though 5.5 seems to be easy money if anyone will still take your action on the under, if we’re talking about total wins.  I’m anxious to see how well Brian Hoyer plays, coming back from the ACL in jury.  I’m also curious if it’s going to matter, with all of #2 jerseys in the crowd and a fan-base that’s going to insist (as if they have that authority) on seeing Mr. Excitement–pardon me, Mr. Football–play right away.  When will we see him?  Remember, it was an essentially meaningless Week 17 game against the 49ers in 2007 that we first saw Brady Quinn take the field, despite similar pleas to then-head coach Romeo Crennel.

I’m more interested in how empty I’m going to feel at that moment, the one where the season ends and I’m taking it much worse than my father and my wife.  They approach me with more caution when I’m more likely to reach my boiling point; to their credit, they do a pretty good measuring that sort of thing.  Seriously though, it’s probably a good way to tell how many games they’ve won.  If it’s six, I’m not doing back-flips or thinking Super Bowl for the next year, but maybe I can smile for a few minutes and just take in the best season they’ve offered us in seven years.

Did they win the opener, for just the second time in sixteen years, and the first time on the road in their expansion history?  That gets them part of the way to a place I’ve been hoping they can get to eventually, a place where they beat every division opponent at least once; it’s something they’ve never been able to do in their expansion history.

I don’t want to assume they dropped the opener in Pittsburgh, but I can easily see that coming.  I just don’t need that feeling of emptiness to hit me that soon, but what I need and what the NFL offers me are two entirely different things.  Someday, they’ll avoid being swept by one of the division rivals, but between the Steelers and Bengals, one of them will take both games against Cleveland.

Working with only the limited information I currently have, I don’t have any reason to be thrilled with anything Browns-related right now.  On May 15th, I have to seriously entertain the possiblity that Earl Bennett might be the best option Hoyer and Manziel have to throw to in 2014.  I have keep the possibility of a Jimmy Haslam indictment being a major distraction, and give weight to the idea that Mike Pettine is no more qualified to be a head coach in this league than Pat Shurmur.  

I really hope I’m wrong.  I hope someone throws this in my face as we’re getting ready to watch the playoffs.  If it’s printed out on tasty paper stock, I might even volunteer to eat this rubbish, but history is certainly on the side of these words staying out of my stomach.

I suppose I’ve been rambling on, when everything I’ve said could have been addressed with a single question.  The win total, will it be 5 or 6?

Regards,

Jeff Rich (May 15th, 2014)

There are some things to consider, mostly the schedule, in trying to figure out where the wins are going to come.  They should be good enough to beat Baltimore at least once, and I think they get at least one of the other four in the division, so if they need four or five wins to come from the other ten games, where are those games?

I mean, they couldn’t lose to Jacksonville two years in a row, even with the game at Jacksonville, right?  You never actually know, but you have to imagine an improved team, as the Browns allegedly are, not being expected to win that one.  Oakland and Tampa Bay at home both sound promising, but there are factors at play, like how quickly Lovie Smith can turn things around on Florida’s west coast.

Houston and their new tandem of Jadaveon Clowney and JJ Watt come to town, and we don’t know what their quarterback plan is just yet.  Atlanta and Buffalo both host the Browns in late-November, and each will feature an offense with a playmaker at receiver, they have these play-makers because the Browns traded away Top 10 picks to enable these 2014 opponents to select them.  This point becomes more relevant when you consider what the Browns have put out there in recent years and what they think they’re putting out there in 2014, given how Plan A is really up in the air right now.

It’s easy to be skeptical about this, about them, but it ends up being so much more fun to believe.  To think that, maybe just once, everything could bounce the right way for us, for our teams, is a better approach to all of this.  To think of how little it has mattered whether or not players have done the right thing, it makes it a little easier to keep a clean conscious while I sincerely hope Gordon beats the system, even if it comes across slimy, like I think a lot of people see Ryan Braun’s victory by technicality.  Once could look at the cases of Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger and easily laugh off dirty urine.

However, I’m not laughing at anything, with it being so hard to muster up joy for such an act in this context; it’s the real world, where we wait for the of the season to know if we were watching a 4-12 or 5-11 team.  What’s the difference?

Thank God the Draft is Almost Here

A confession: I listen to to sports talk radio. Like, way too much sports talk radio. I would be ashamed if anybody knew how often my car radio is tuned into 92.3 THE FAN and occasionally the AM side of the dial if I’m feeling esoteric. I have a long commute to work and I find myself almost subconsciously turning the radio on to hear the ubiquitous talking heads of Cleveland without even thinking about it. It’s a routine now and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I’ve been able to rationalize it recently by this stupid “Signing Bonus” contest they’re running where listeners can sign up online or call a number to register to win $1,000 at certain times during the day. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t won $1,000. THANKS OBAMA. (Though, if I had won I would probably have a much different view of sports talk radio right now).

 

It’s even more concerning considering that I’m doing this in CLEVELAND, the land of suck when it comes to our professional sports teams (go Gladiators!). All our radio hosts have to talk about it is how much we MIGHT not suck next year and whether or not Johnny Football will be wearing orange and brown this coming NFL season.

 

Which brings me to my point–I am so f$&#*@g sick of hearing about the NFL Draft that I’m ready to drive pencils into my ears while I’m driving if I hear about who the Browns should take at #4 one more time. Thank God the draft is almost here–hearing Chuck Booms’ bleat every morning about how he won’t watch the Browns anymore if they pass on Manziel has pushed me past the breaking point. We’re going on about 8 months of 2014 draft talk, after it became clear that Brandon Wheeden wasn’t going to get any better at the beginning of the 2013 season ([email protected]). 8 FREAKIN’ MONTHS of talking about the same damn thing. Sure, the radio hosts sprinkle in the occasional Cavs and Indians’ talk, but they’ve said their listeners want to talk Browns. Who, pray tell, are these listeners that want to hear the same inane and boring conversations and points over and over again?!?!

 

I get that Cleveland is a Browns’ town first and the Indians and Cavs are simply riding in the dust left by the trainwreck of the Browns the past 15 years. And yes, I admit I am much more excited about the return of NFL football than I was about the Cavs and the Indians. And I sincerely doubt that me bitching about any of this in a blog is going to change the average Browns’ fan Cleveland sports interests, but goshdarnit, I’m going to try. Speaking of the Tribe, here’s how I feel about their 2014 season so far:

 

 

 

You know there’s going to be one last draft-rage push by local radio in the next six days–there’s your warning. Never know what one last mock draft might do, RIGHT?!? The Browns might trade up for Manziel and in doing so have to trade their first round picks for the next 23 years while simultaneously taking the first-born sons of all the Browns’ players and offering them up to the sun-god Ra and it might involve trading Brian Hoyer’s contract to the 49ers for the rights to coach Jim Harbaugh as long as Blaine Gabbert has to go with him and all of this will end up with Gabbert being the QB for the Browns this coming season and all of us hating it. Rinse and repeat. First pick of the 2014 NFL Draft takes place next Friday at 8 p.m. Anybody want to watch it together?

The Long and Winding Road

What’s a sports blogger supposed to blog about when there’s nothing to blog about? Ugh. It’s the worse time of the year if you’re a Cleveland professional sports fan. Football is like 1379428 months away, spring training for the Indians is just getting started, and our local NBA team still kinda sucks. Sure, I know, the NBA trade deadline just came and went and the Cavs picked up a guy who denies global warming and has Barack Obama toilet paper to help out while Anderson Varejao is injured again. Earl Clark and Henry Sims–we hardly knew thee.

 

And I know the Cavs are making a run and playing good basketball. Six wins in a row. ROY HIBBERT OR LEBRON IN THE FIRST ROUND HERE WE COME. Look, I want the Cavs to go to the playoffs–this team has enough talent that they should be there. I would love to be proven wrong and for them to continue this tear and snag a five or six seed, but as I detailed in an earlier column, the Cavs are playing the bottom-feeders of the NBA right now and their schedule ramps up a whole bunch in the next few weeks. A five-game stretch in mid-March sees them square up against the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Thunder and Rockets–all in a row. Ouch.

 

David Griffin was asked yesterday in the press conference for Spencer Hawes if the trade meant that the Cavs season would be considered a failure if they don’t make the playoffs. Griffin deflected and said no it wouldn’t, they’re building with the future in mind, making the team better, blah blah blah. I think that this move from the Cavs screams that they’re making a playoff push in 2014–Gilbert and company intend to live up to their promise of not returning to the draft lottery.

 

I’m disappointed in Griffin that he couldn’t unload Jarrett Jack and all that money he’s owed over the next three years. Jack just isn’t working out as a Cav–but he’ll probably flourish somewhere else where he can get more of the ball.

 

With the Browns, now that the Earth has settled since the firing of Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, there’s really only one discussion for the next two and a half(ughhhhhhhhh) months. DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT. And the 2014 draft has already been frothing on the lips of every local sports pundit since right around the time Brandon Weeden threw an interception on the FIRST freakin’ drive of the 2013 season.  I’m looking forward to May 8 just so we don’t have to hear the SHOULD WE DRAFT MANZIEL OR BRIDGEWATER OR BORTLES argument ad nauseam.

 

We all know that QB isn’t the only thing the Browns need–a running game, another WR to complement Josh Gordon and replace Davone Bess, and more offensive line help are all in high demand over in Berea.

 

But if you’ve read this far, you know all this. You’re a Browns fan. All we can do is sit, wait and hope–hope that this new “streamlined” front office will make the right choices. Ray Farmer seems confident and I like him a hell of a lot more than either Mike Lombardi or Joe Banner. I am a little wary of his quote from yesterday at the NFL Combine. “It may not be what everybody thinks it’s going to be, so there’s an opportunity for some curveballs,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal. Haven’t we had enough curveballs in recent Browns drafts? Mingo kind of came out of left field last year, and I don’t even need to expound upon Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.

 

And then there’s the Indians.

 

 

Francona and the Tribe seem relaxed in knowing that the hopes of an entire city sit on their shoulders in having a pro sports team that isn’t the butt of a joke. Every interview or report I’ve seen from Arizona makes it seem like the team is excited, eager and prepared to build upon the success of the 2013 season. Losing Ubaldo sucked because the guy was on the fire the second half of last season, but getting Masty back for another year is big. April 4 marks the home opener for the Tribe–here’s hoping this town finally gets some good news from its sports teams.

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

What’s a sports blogger supposed to blog about when there’s nothing to blog about? Ugh. It’s the worse time of the year if you’re a Cleveland professional sports fan. Football is like 1379428 months away, spring training for the Indians is just getting started, and our local NBA team still kinda sucks. Sure, I know, the NBA trade deadline just came and went and the Cavs picked up a guy who denies global warming and has Barack Obama toilet paper to help out while Anderson Varejao is injured again. Earl Clark and Henry Sims–we hardly knew thee.

 

And I know the Cavs are making a run and playing good basketball. Six wins in a row. ROY HIBBERT OR LEBRON IN THE FIRST ROUND HERE WE COME. Look, I want the Cavs to go to the playoffs–this team has enough talent that they should be there. I would love to be proven wrong and for them to continue this tear and snag a five or six seed, but as I detailed in an earlier column, the Cavs are playing the bottom-feeders of the NBA right now and their schedule ramps up a whole bunch in the next few weeks. A five-game stretch in mid-March sees them square up against the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Thunder and Rockets–all in a row. Ouch.

 

David Griffin was asked yesterday in the press conference for Spencer Hawes if the trade meant that the Cavs season would be considered a failure if they don’t make the playoffs. Griffin deflected and said no it wouldn’t, they’re building with the future in mind, making the team better, blah blah blah. I think that this move from the Cavs screams that they’re making a playoff push in 2014–Gilbert and company intend to live up to their promise of not returning to the draft lottery.

 

I’m disappointed in Griffin that he couldn’t unload Jarrett Jack and all that money he’s owed over the next three years. Jack just isn’t working out as a Cav–but he’ll probably flourish somewhere else where he can get more of the ball.

 

With the Browns, now that the Earth has settled since the firing of Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, there’s really only one discussion for the next two and a half(ughhhhhhhhh) months. DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT. And the 2014 draft has already been frothing on the lips of every local sports pundit since right around the time Brandon Weeden threw an interception on the FIRST freakin’ drive of the 2013 season.  I’m looking forward to May 8 just so we don’t have to hear the SHOULD WE DRAFT MANZIEL OR BRIDGEWATER OR BORTLES argument ad nauseam.

 

We all know that QB isn’t the only thing the Browns need–a running game, another WR to complement Josh Gordon and replace Davone Bess, and more offensive line help are all in high demand over in Berea.

 

But if you’ve read this far, you know all this. You’re a Browns fan. All we can do is sit, wait and hope–hope that this new “streamlined” front office will make the right choices. Ray Farmer seems confident and I like him a hell of a lot more than either Mike Lombardi or Joe Banner. I am a little wary of his quote from yesterday at the NFL Combine. “It may not be what everybody thinks it’s going to be, so there’s an opportunity for some curveballs,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal. Haven’t we had enough curveballs in recent Browns drafts? Mingo kind of came out of left field last year, and I don’t even need to expound upon Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.

 

And then there’s the Indians.

 

 

Francona and the Tribe seem relaxed in knowing that the hopes of an entire city sit on their shoulders in having a pro sports team that isn’t the butt of a joke. Every interview or report I’ve seen from Arizona makes it seem like the team is excited, eager and prepared to build upon the success of the 2013 season. Losing Ubaldo sucked because the guy was on the fire the second half of last season, but getting Masty back for another year is big. April 4 marks the home opener for the Tribe–here’s hoping this town finally gets some good news from its sports teams.