In the NFL, there are the “haves” and the “have nots”. There’s little question where the Cleveland Browns fall, if those are the choices. I could literally start about 25,000 sentences with the words “The Browns have not” and not duplicate a thought. The low-hanging fruit starts with the Super Bowl. The Browns have not won a Super Bowl…wait, the Browns have not played in a Super Bowl is slightly more accurate, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One playoff appearance and a 16-year rebooted history that includes two 7-9 seasons in its Top 4, dictates a simple truth, the Browns have not rendered themselves relevant enough for coverage on a league-wide site.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to stop me from throwing some occasional thoughts on the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchise. I don’t know if they are actually that, but it isn’t difficult to make a case for their dysfunction out dysfunctioning the rest. It starts at the top. Jimmy Haslam, the team’s new-ish owner, has faced corruption charges from misdeeds at his non-football interest. Alec Scheiner, the team president and allegedly a non-football guy, has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar on the football side of things (worth mentioning, but not that big of a deal). The GM, an apologetic Ray Farmer, broke a silly rule, which may be detrimental to the development of a budding organization. Mike Pettine is on a 5-game losing streak as the team’s head coach, and “his guy” for the quarterback position may have proven to be “just a guy”. Exploration of the 53-man roster will return similar results in the department of dysfunction, but who has time for all of that?
I don’t care. I mean, I do care, but I just cannot put myself through the trauma of re-hashing it all every day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have thoughts on all of it. At the core of it all, I’m a fan, but the connection is more about what the original franchise did in the 80s to get me into the game as a fan, and a lot less about what they’ve done for me lately. Lately, we, because I’m assuming I’m not on an island in this regard, have tried to find any cog of success to grip on to. We’re complete losers for doing so, and few of us will apologize for our foolish optimism. Anyway, I’m going to have some thoughts, and I’m going to try to maintain some level of objectivity when it comes to the team with the logo-less helmets, but know it’s coming from a rather subjective place. Without further ado, here are some Browns Bites…
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been willing to give Johnny Manziel the benefit of the doubt on a lot of how his celebrity is received and scrutinized by the general public. Some of it, most of it, is deserved. You think he’s a tool, because he acts like a tool in the public eye. No denying that. From a football perspective, if he’s not taking that seriously because of his extra-curricular activity, that’s a problem. This season, he played and it was clear he wasn’t ready.
Here’s the thing. It wasn’t inflatable swans, money phones, rolled up currency, or even his perceived tardiness for work-related functions, the latter being the most concerning, that told me he wasn’t ready. It was what we saw in August, that he needed time to catch up to the NFL game. One of his greatest assets, his ability to get to the edge as a runner, was neutralized by Detroit’s number two’s in August. He wasn’t able to do it when teams were just going through the motions over the summer, so when it came to facing defenses playing for their playoff lives in December, I’m not sure why the results were so surprising. The guy wasn’t ready, probably shouldn’t have been expected to, and apparently did himself no favors in preparing for what was inevitable when Brian Hoyer, the aforementioned “Mike Pettine guy”, struggled.
Write off the Heisman winner as a bust, if you must, but don’t tell me this guy can’t turn it around. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that, when it was first suggested before the season, Johnny needed “help”, I chuckled. I didn’t see an addict, an alcoholic, or even a guy that didn’t love football. In my eyes, he was a young man, not unlike the young man I was a decade ago. He drank, went out often, and probably derelicted his primary responsibilities, but needs help? I didn’t see it. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe he’s going through the motions of needing help; it’s too close for me to make the call. Now that he’s in treatment, he might discover that he needed help all along, and the worst case scenario would be going through the motions and being a regular at these rehab resorts like some sort of child actor.
Let’s say he does come out on the other side of this with a new outlook on life, and acknowledge that’s a huge “if” at the same time, what faith should the Browns have in getting what they thought they were getting with the 22nd pick in the 2014 Draft? Though I would have to think Mike Pettine and the Browns are best fit for Mark Sanchez, an acquisition that makes the most mutual sense, I think Mike Vick makes a lot of sense, if they want to go all-in on Johnny. Brian Hoyer is, of course, an option, but it just doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Vick is a guy that wasted his best years, even before incarceration, with his focus being outside of being the very best at his craft. With that experience comes wisdom, and perhaps his history could teach the young and probably impressionable man from Texas A&M. Right now, my assumption is that Manziel starts in Week 1, but I’ll waver on that if a free agent trying to start for someone or anyone gets brought into the fold.
What Was Farmer Texting?
From 90 minutes before the game until the final gun, the NFL says no digital communication. Maybe Ray Farmer didn’t know of that statute, but it’s a better assumption that he did, thought he’d get away with it, and was/is surprised that he is going to face punitive action for the exercise. I’d prefer to see my GM as sly, rather than ignorant, but that’s just me.
There’s little question, in my mind, that he was sending anything that gave the Browns a competitive advantage. In fact, I believe those text messages had to be more of a nuisance than an aid on game day. Did he say “run this play” or “get Player X on the field”? That’s not exactly the support I want from my front office, if I’m the head coach, but Mike Pettine is no puppet. He just doesn’t come across as someone that will tolerate the back-seat driving. He doesn’t let his star players get away with the nonsense, so my guess is that any instruction, and we don’t know that he was receiving instruction, would be taken with a grain of salt, even if Ray Farmer is his boss. The jury is still out on who exactly Pettine answers to.
Change isn’t always good. If you have something that works, like the New York Yankees and the Green Packers do, just leave it alone. No sense in changing for the sake of changing. They say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, I think we’ve established that the Browns are broken. Uniforms don’t fix anything, and let me pay homage to my pal Dan Zaleski here by saying the time dedicated to uniform re-design and logo concepts don’t take any resources away from what happens on the field, so changing uniforms do nothing to harm the product on the field, as if it could get worse. Tradition is great, but the current uniform doesn’t bring thoughts of Otto Graham or Lou Groza to the forefront. Remember, the Browns have not done anything to render themselves relevant in the modern era, so change here means bucking a tradition of ineptitude.
The helmet, in all of its nothingness, seems to be the most sacred thing. In all of my attempts at apathy on the overall subject, I find myself starting to care, but only to the point where I don’t want radical change. I don’t want the helmet to be primarily brown and I don’t want the dog or “dawg”, if we’re matching up with the Dawg Pound of the 80s and 90s, rather than Chomps or Swagger, which are an actual mascot and an actual dog to boot. Based on what we’re hearing about the upcoming unveiling of the new, my guess is the helmet changes, but not drastically. I expect a different hue of orange, maybe even two different tones of it and a possible widening of the brown stripe that runs across the top.
The jersey has changed. It’s possible that Browns fans don’t necessarily identify with any particular jersey over any other the team has worn, and we venture to guess most couldn’t pinpoint the subtle changes that have been made it in the last fifteen years. Change the shade of brown, the stripes on the sleeves, and/or the font on the numbering and name on back, and I’m sure everyone will be fine. Do the eccentric things that Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and Arizona do, and many will say they did it wrong. Keep in mind, the Browns do tend to have a lot of the market cornered on doing it wrong, so the hope is Nike and the Browns will let someone else have this one in the department of dysfunction.
Pants. The white ones are bland, but commonplace. The brown ones look terrible with white jerseys and gimmicky with the brown jerseys, but I think they can get away with the brown monochrome look for special occasions, only as an alternate though. The answer, and I don’t know why it gets to be like pulling teeth to see them these days, but orange pants. Like the grey ones the Giants wear at all times, the orange bottoms can be universal with the white and dark jerseys and should match the helmet. All of that is assuming the helmet remains orange, even if it isn’t the same orange. If the helmet is something different altogether (read: not orange), then all bets are off.
In the end, we shouldn’t care about uniforms so much. In reality, we should have stopped caring about this organization long ago, but we have not.