Tag Archives: jimmy haslam

More Than A Friday: Is Spaceballs Actually Better Than Star Wars?

Um, no. Though, I do think Spaceballs comes with a cast of more likable characters, the hysteria behind the Star Wars franchise holds water.

What is it that they say? Mockery is the most sincere form of flattery, or something like that. To spoof something, there has to be something worthy spoofing, and Star Wars has it. When you’re not comparing or contrasting it against its source material, something you should not be doing anyways, Spaceballs holds up very well on its own as a comedy.

To prepare for my viewing of The Force Awakens, I, like many others, decided to get a refresher on the George Lucas franchise, going with an unconventional, yet logical order of viewing. It’s called Machete Order, and you start with 4 & 5, the first in order of theatrical release. That tells the story of Luke Skywalker, then you revert back to 2 & 3 to see his father’s story, without the concern of spoiling the reveal in Episode 5, since you’ve already watched it. You skip the Phantom Menace altogether, as it’s really unnecessary to the saga, and watch Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s stories come together in Return of the Jedi. It worked for me, and got me to thinking how complex the sci-fi trilogies are versus the simplicity of the spoof. Imagine how difficult it would be to create the prequel backstories for Vespa, Lonestar1Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role., and Yogurt. Would there have been a time that Yogurt aided the Mogs at war, and had a previous relationship with Barf, a la Yoda and Chewbacca? How was Helmet beckoned to the dark side of the Shwartz? Were Alderaan and Druidia similar places for princesses to grow up? Who knows? Who cares?

While we’re on the subject of immitation, what’s up with the NFL going with the Oregon model, when it comes to outfitting these professional organizations? Did you see what the Rams and Bucs were rocking for the final installment of the Color Rush games this season? I don’t mind a little color-on-color, in the wake of black & white televisions going the way of the dodo, but drowning us in monochrome is not a good application of games without white jerseys. On the field and in the stands, I began to feel the pain of those old scabs being peeled off, remembering that the Rams victory on Thursday night might very well be the last NFL game ever played in St. Louis. If it was, can the diehard Rams fans in Missouri somehow be pleased with what two decades of a team from Southern California brought them?

They got Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title; not bad for twenty years of existence in the Gateway City. Lions, Bills, Jaguars, and Carolina fans would gladly take that. The Browns, on the other hand, would take the perpetual 7-9 run that you get from Jeff Fisher, and they would be glad to have it. That begs the question2Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition., are the expansion Browns the Spaceballs to their original counterparts (the Browns that existed from 1946-1995)?

For those of you familiar with the new Browns, you’d probably liken the new chapter of Browns to some really low budget porn tie-in or a Lifetime original that cuts too many corners in production. You know how it goes, not funny or good, but for some reason, people tune in. This weekend, Cleveland visits the NFL’s answer to the Death Star, as it exists in the form of Century Link field. The Seahawks organization yields its own darkside characters; the once-wholesome Russ Wilson draws some parallels with Anakin/Vader, while Pete Carroll represents Big Poppa Palpatine, and you can find the Colonel Sanders and Major Asshole types on the Sea Chickens defense. How many assholes are on that team anyways?

The problem with the comparison is that the Browns lack heroes, even accidental ones like Han Solo or Lonestar. That’s not to put down the valiant efforts we’ve seen, but as Episode III reminds us, even the greats like Yoda fail from time to time, and sometimes there’s just no hope3No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.. Meanwhile, Browns fans are willing to die on that hill, screaming about how Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and/or Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the chosen one. In reality, the years of 5-11 seasons and no light at the end of the tunnel gives off that vibe of the love of our lives walking away and being left to burn in molten lava by the only friend we’ve ever had.

Maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and it’s Art Modell that left us all for dead, deeming us unworthy as fans of his team. We needed a Sith like Al Lerner or Jimmy Haslam to give us a new beginning, but despite having the Deathstar destroyed twice and the Emperor being betrayed by his established #2, the Republic had a better run than any Browns fan born after 1983. That story of murder, mayhem, betrayal, and redemption are a little heavy for a Friday morning. That’s where it’s nice to instead live in a world of using strawberry to “jam” a signal, Jedi-type weapons coming from Cracker Jack boxes, and Mr. Coffee being conveniently located next to Mr. Radar. At least we can laugh about our owner looking like a giant penis. You have to laugh.That’s the only option to get through a life that has you stuck in purgatory.

The only changes we know are when they go from “Suck” to “Blow”.

References
1 Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role.
2 Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition.
3 No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.

Browns' Free Agency 2015: First Wave Recap

Well…That was disappointing, to say the least. But I mean I guess it is what was expected. The Browns stuck to their plan and went out, made a few veteran signings at positions of need for reasonable prices, and marginally improved the team. Hopefully at least. They definitely did not do anything sexy though. That being said, welcome to Cleveland…

Brian Hartline (WR – Dolphins)

Hartline was a player who had been linked to the Browns for a couple of weeks before free agency opened, and, as he had been released by the Dolphins (meaning his contract wasn’t simply expiring), the Browns were able to sign him on Tuesday morning before free agency actually formally opened. As the team is right now, it would be reasonable to expect Hartline to start next season, and if, for some terrible and stupid reason, the Browns don’t pick up another free agency between now and August, Hartline will be the Browns #1. Which would not be good. To be clear, I’m not saying that Hartline isn’t a good signing. To the contrary, I expect him to be a significant contributor this next year (to the tune of at least 800 yards and 4 touchdowns) as the #2 for the Browns, but he simply is not a #1 receiver. That position still needs to be addressed in the first round of the Draft. Overall though, this is a strong signing, definitely considering that the contract is a simple 2-year, $6 million deal ($1.5 guaranteed), meaning it doesn’t involve too much commitment if Hartline fails to meet expectations.

Tramon Williams (CB – Packers)

I was extremely bummed to see Buster Skrine walk, but Williams is an adequate replacement. Were he in his prime, he would be more than adequate, but considering the fact that he is already 32, he is past his peak and slightly on the decline. Nonetheless, he will be a solid starter across from Joe Haden, and his 3-year ($21 million) contract will give Justin Gilbert plenty of time to mature and develop into a legitimate starter. Or, if that doesn’t happen, it will give the Browns enough time to find a long-term option at the position. Williams himself was quite effective at Green Bay, and his ability to create turnovers (28 career interceptions) and his skill in coverage (at least 14 passes defended in each of the last 7 seasons) make him an excellent fit for the Browns’ system. Additionally, coming from Green Bay, he is already used to the cold, which is always a nice little bonus.

Randy Starks (DE – Dolphins)

Starks was another veteran player brought in to replace a departing defensive starter. With Ahtyba Rubin on the way out, the Browns needed to bring in another big body for the defense. A two-time Pro-Bowler, Starks is a solid run-stopper who is also stout in the pass game, having racked up 41 career sacks, a significant amount for a linemen who plays primarily on the inside. While not a long-term solution (he’s 31), Starks will hopefully be able to help mentor whichever defensive tackle the Browns draft in the first round this year (since that will happen). Or, if he ends up losing what can be assumed to be a starter’s role during preseason, he will still serve as a solid rotational player.

…and those are the three really important signings so far for the Browns. They also inked Thad Lewis to a contract, but hopefully that will end up being an inconsequential signing, because if he is relevant next season, then the Browns are royally screwed. Additionally, the Browns negotiated a new contract with DL John Hughes, agreeing to pay the 26-year-old $14.4 million over 4 years, bouncing him into the top-20 in terms of pay at his position. This was somewhat perplexing to me. I mean, he is a talented player and all, and he is young, but he is definitely not among the top-20 at his position. Unless Pettine sees some immense amount of potential in practice that the rest of the world simply isn’t picking up, this move doesn’t make too much sense.

One other thing so far doesn’t make much sense: the lack of pursuit of a tight end. I mean, unless the Browns are planning on using a Jim Dray-Gary Barnidge combination for the whole season (an idea that I don’t think anyone is really that hot on), then we have a huge huge hole, especially considering the need to spend earlier draft picks on areas such as DT and WR. Luckily for us, Rob Housler is still chilling on the open market. After a couple weeks where he hasn’t truly been linked to any teams (except maybe the Falcons, but their overall interest is questionable), he will come on the cheap side. And he has the receiving ability to greatly aid whichever poor man ends up starting at QB for the Browns. Sure, his blocking game is weak, but we already have other blocking tight ends, as well as a strong enough line to supplement slight weakness at the position. I maintain he would be an awesome addition to the roster.

Overall though, the Browns have attacked free agency exactly how they said they would – by making deliberate moves to bring in veteran players that have the potential to start in weak areas. They of course will also address these areas of need through the Draft, but these acquisitions guarantee that the Browns at least have a starting-caliber player at the position. Although they have achieved owner Jimmy Haslam’s goal of not overspending in free agency, I will be interested to see what exactly the Browns do with all of their extra cap space. As of right now, the Browns are still looking at about $35 million dollars in cap space. Some of that will hopefully go towards signing Housler, and a portion may go towards bringing in Dwayne Bowe, but that would still leave them with at least $27 million or so to allocate to incoming draft picks. They don’t need near that much, and if they don’t spend enough this year, then they will have to spend a bit extra next season to stay above the salary floor that exists in the NFL right now.

So who knows, maybe the Browns make a surprise move over the next couple of weeks. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Browns Disappoint with Logo “Change”

Oh, Browns.

The Cleveland Browns were going through a rebranding phase, so we thought. Tuesday morning they unveiled their “new” primary logo, just like the Cavs unveiled their “new” alternate blue jerseys before this season.

It really wouldn’t have been that big of a bummer if it wasn’t so hyped up. Everyone expected the Browns to do some crazy things with the new uniforms, which will be shown in April. Even the supposed leaks didn’t look so bad and it actually gave me hope that what the Browns produced would be reinvigorating. The new logo was supposed to set the tone for a new Browns era, one in which they move out of their history of losing since 1999.

Instead, Browns President Alec Sheiner decided to keep that same losing tradition by keeping the helmet and, in Browns-like fashion, disappoint fans who had high expectations for change. But really, maybe this is all on us for expecting refreshing improvements from an organization whose owner has been in hot water since almost day one of his ownership.

The Browns keep bringing up that word, “tradition,” but the only positive tradition the Browns have had is one that is getting increasingly harder for people to remember.

The Browns also revealed a logo for the Dawg Pound, which can be seen here with the dumb explanation of the new logo, which includes: “The new brown facemask represents the strength and toughness of Cleveland.” This front office truly #GetsUs.

In reality, this isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s fitting how the Browns couldn’t follow through with the hype they themselves created by leaving their Twitter avatar bare in anticipation of the unveiling.

Moving away from the letdown for a moment, the logo – and new wordmark for that matter – does look better. The orange is much sharper and… nope that’s just about all that was improved. I’ve been of the opinion that they should get rid of the color brown and scrap the “Browns” name altogether. But I totally understand why fans wouldn’t want to part with that. But it does sound like the brown may be phased out a little bit on the uniforms in favor of more grey. But who knows anymore with this organization.

Here’s some more Twitter reaction:

https://twitter.com/CTOWNCody/status/570237214669598720

As Mike Polk Jr. would (probably) promptly say, I’ll see ya at the uni reveal.

(NSFW)

The Browns not letting the national media into rookie minicamp is dumb, and here's why

The Cleveland Browns’ front office announced earlier this week that they would be restricting media access to this weekend’s rookie minicamp in Berea, only allowing local media access to the event. That means no ESPN, no bloviating talking heads emptying their vapid opinions on your TV set and no big, fancy cameras trained on Johnny Football 24/7 to count the number of “money fingers” thrown up per hour or to see what color shoelaces he’s wearing. This is dumb, for a variety of reasons.

 

shining

 

Did Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine forget who they were drafting when they traded up for Manziel at 22? This is Johnny Freakin’ Football baby, the biggest personality to come out of college football in years. This is the first time in YEARS, maybe ever, that people all over the country are interested in what the Browns are doing. They are a small market team in a league that thrives on superstars and marketing, and the Browns’ front office has chosen to spurn the first chance the world has at seeing Johnny Manziel run around the field in a Browns’ jersey. Zak Gilbert, Public Relations director for the Browns, was quoted as saying that “…they don’t want another Tebow situation.”

There’s a stink around Pettine and Farmer that they wanna make sure Johnny knows he’s at the bottom of the totem pole around Berea and he’s gonna have to earn respect around these parts, HARUMPH. There’s no doubt that Johnny has a lot of growing to do, both in maturity and as a QB, but what Pettine and company hope to accomplish by not letting the national media into rookie minicamp isn’t feasible. They’re trying to put the genie back into the bottle, the cork back into the champagne after it’s been popped, they’re throwing a few sandbags down in front of the incoming flood. HOW MANY MORE METAPHORS DO I NEED TO USE? Manziel is the shiny new toy for Haslam and the Browns. Why are they going to keep it hidden away and act like they don’t want the attention that he’s going to bring when you traded up to get him?

 

 

The kid has been a Cleveland Brown for a week and he’s already plotting the downfall of the NFL. How big of a deal should we make about this whole “draft me now” text-thing? Eh, not sure what we can do besides admire the size of JFF’s cajones. They seem to be growing bigger by the minute.

A lot of the Browns’ front office efforts to keep the media tidal wave from hitting Berea are in vain, as the Browns have no say in media access to the veteran minicamps happening in June. Then the cameras will be there, ESPN’s Johnny Football boner will be visible from space, and the world will have to choice but to gaze upon the eventual homewrecker of the NFL. We’re all strapped in for the Johnny Manziel ride here in Cleveland–it’s been a helluva first week.

 

***LATE ADDITION AND EDIT*** Dear sweet baby Jesus our prayers have been answered–GREG LITTLE HAS BEEN RELEASED BY THE BROWNS.  The King of Drops has been dethroned and replaced by the sure-handed pair of Miles Austin and Earl Bennett. Ray Farmer and company can’t stop winning–this offseason just keeps getting better and better.

 

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?

Rumor Mill: Cleveland Browns

The rumors of my demise (or dismissal) were greatly exaggerated.

 

Last week, without getting into details, was a complete cluster, and necessitated a small break from writing. But I’m back this week, and we’re going to do a little catching up.

 

Berea has been relatively quiet over the last several days, at least when it comes to groundbreaking news (Alex Mack not withstanding but we all saw that coming, right?). I suppose that’s not too surprising with the free agent market winding down, and everyone winding up for the NFL Draft.   The byproduct of a lull in news is that the ‘pundits’ and ‘experts’ come out of the woodwork to lend their voices to the rumor clouds.   So that’s what we’ll go over this week. Should be fun.

 

CONFIRMED RUMOR: Former Lions Wideout Nate Burleson Visiting (And Later Signing With) The Browns

This was the widely-circulating rumor late a couple weeks ago in Browns Country. The big wonder was why the Browns would be looking for yet another slot-style receiver after signing Andrew Hawkins earlier in free agency. Burleson must’ve made an impression on the front office though (and vice versa) as this rumor turned into a signing about a week ago. The repercussions of this signing are yet to be seen, but it makes me wonder on the shelf-life of guys like Travis Benjamin and Greg Little. Benjamin has proved himself to be a capable (if not inconsistent) return man, so the odd-man out might be Little. Little as been plagued with drops and major inconsistencies, so if Hawkins and Burleson prove themselves in workouts and training camp, I’m calling Little as good as gone.

 

PUT THE RUMOR TO BED: Alex Mack Finally Gets A Suitor, Browns Match, Everyone’s Happy?

 

So everyone’s been watching the Alex Mack saga play out since the transition tag was slapped on him (and we all scrambled to the Internet to figure out WTF just happened).  After a lot of jawing from his agent, there was finally a bite as the Jacksonville Jaguars put an offer sheet in front of the Pro-Bowl center.  Even before this, the standing rumor was that the Browns would match any sheet presented. The front office proved good on their word as they matched, and everyone’s happy.

 

Right?

 

Well, Alex Mack is definitely happy as he makes a guaranteed $18 million over the next 2 years, and has a chance to judge the state of the Browns in 2016 before deciding whether to ride out the last 3 years of the contract. The Browns make out well as they’re actually saving money over the next 2 years of transition / franchise tags (to the tune of about $4 million over the 2 years). The fans continue to have a Pro Bowl anchor who is ridiculously dependable (playing with a burst appendix, anyone?), and any incoming quarterback has one of the best centers in the game to help the line in front of him. Not getting smashed into bits is a good thing for a rookie quarterback.

 

Right?

 

Rumor Has It That David Carr Would've Liked A Good Line In Houston...
Rumor Has It That David Carr Would’ve Liked A Good Line In Houston… (image courtesy of spundge.com)

 

Now, let’s look at some of the not-quite-so-confirmed rumors floating around the news ether. I’m going to judge these on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being a reasonable rumor to believe, and 5 being something that needs to either not happen or is unbelievable to a monumental degree. The scale will be in… Well, give it a minute, and you’ll see.

 

RUMOR: Cleveland Browns brass mostly absent from pro days.
RATING: 0 / 5
WHY THIS RATING:

Seriously? This is a thing?

*sigh*

Alright, let’s spell this out: Pro Days are not a good judge of a player’s abilities, just like the Combine isn’t the end-all, be-all of athletic grading. We know that the Browns have been a conspicuous absence from several notable Pro Days, but we also know that the Browns have already scheduled private workouts with several of those same players. And if one of the first workout participants is to be believed, the Browns have something going that’s better than any Pro Day could hope to be:

“They really want to tire you out,” (Derek) Carr said. “When you’re doing the individual drills, they really try and tire you out, see how you’re feeling, really grind you a little bit and then you go into throwing routes. You throw routes while you’re tired, like a football game.” (clevelandbrowns.com)

Carr went on to say that the Browns had him running bootlegs after grinding it out, and continued to put him through a game-like pace. He also said that he appreciated being tested in many different ways like that, and if Carr is the ‘benchmark’ that the Browns will be holding their private workouts up to, they’re in fantastic shape to bring people in.

 

RUMOR: Browns looking to start rookie quarterback this season
RATING: Rating FaceRating Face / 5 (and in case you’re wondering, that’s David Tennant, aka the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who)
WHY THIS RATING:

I’m not really sold on starting a rookie right out of the gate. I think you’d be doing Brian Hoyer a disservice by not giving the inside line to start. Yes, the sample size is small, but he was the best-performing quarterback for the Browns last season. So long as he comes off his ACL surgery strong (which, rumor has it, he is), he should be thought of as your first option.

That being said, if the rookie quarterback comes in and goes totally gangbusters in training camp… Well, you’d be hard-pressed to not give him the nod. But as I’ve stated before, I think the starting job is Hoyer’s to lose.

 

RUMOR: Browns looking to grab a veteran QB for backup
RATING: Rating Face / 5
WHY THIS RATING:

As it stands right now, Hoyer and Alex Tanney are the only true QBs on-roster right now (MarQueis Gray has some quarterback experience, but will be kept in the Tight End position). The drafting of a rookie signal caller is a given, but I’d be utterly shocked if the Browns stood pat with the 3 QBs. It would help the Browns make QB transitions easier, especially with the rookie pick, with a veteran available under center during the early going (at least). I see this rumor as a “soon to be reality”.  As for the ‘who’…

 

David Tennant Pop-Up!
“Hello, I’m the Doctor! I’m here to save the franchise!” (image courtesy of david-tennant-news.com)
RUMOR: Rex Grossman is the veteran signing for the Browns
RATING: Rating Face / 5
WHY THIS RATING:

This is the signing that would make the most sense, honestly. Grossman has history with Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan through two different teams, he has veteran and playoff experience. The only thing that would be a question mark for me is his willingness to yet again be a backup for a Shanahan project. If the front office could sell it to Grossman as a tryout for a starting role, but perhaps not with the Browns, it might help things along.

 

RUMOR: Kirk Cousins traded for draft picks to the Browns to fill the veteran QB spot
RATING: Rating FaceRating FaceRating FaceRating Face / 5
WHY THIS RATING:

Just can’t see these things happening. So long as Rex Grossman is on the free agency market, the Browns aren’t desperate for a veteran QB. I don’t see the Browns trading away draft picks for anything other than draft picks (so a package of lowers for higher picks), as they’re trying to build for the future. Even if the Browns were to somehow lose out on Grossman, I think there’s a few other names that would be serviceable without trading away the future.

 

And lastly…

 

RUMOR: The Browns trade for the likes of Christian Ponder or Terrelle Pryor for their veteran help
RATING: Matt Smith Says, "No. Just. No." / 5
WHY THIS RATING:

That man above, my friends, is Matt Smith. He is better known as the 11th Doctor Who Doctor. In this particular picture, he looks like someone has either drugged him, hit him hard in the head, broken his brain by telling him the most stupid thing on the planet, or quite possibly all three.

In my rating context, he’s worth about 15 David Tennants.

In my opinion, we just got rid of guys like Pryor and Ponder by letting Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell go. Trading for Pryor or Ponder would just be…

 

Matt Smith... His brain is broken...
Once more… Just for effect…

 

Have I missed a rumor? Disagree with anything I have to say? Gimmie a holler… Let’s talk!

Ben Tate, what can we expect?

There’s no question that the Browns didn’t risk much in signing ex-Texans RB Ben Tate to a two-year contract worth around seven million bucks. In an offseason where Ray Farmer and the rest of Cleveland’s front office have been rather cavalier with their available cap space, you could even say the Browns got a deal on one of the top free-agent running backs on the open market. But before we pat ourselves on the back too much, are the Browns getting damaged goods with the signing of Tate?

 

Ben Tate has already missed a total of 24 games in his three-year NFL career due to injuries, including his whole rookie season after breaking his ankle in a preseason game in 2010. When he’s healthy, he puts up good numbers though, averaging 4.7 YPC and scoring 10 touchdowns on 421 carries for his career. Tate’s name has been linked to Cleveland since early last season, after Trent Richardson was shipped off to Indianapolis and the ineptitude of the Browns running game became apparent. Plus, Tate had been reportedly chomping at the bit to be a feature back somewhere after sitting in the shadow of Arian Foster for the past three years. And after Foster went down last year halfway through the Texans’ disaster of a season, Tate stepped up to a feature-back role and played through four cracked ribs–clearly toughness isn’t an issue if he’s able to be on the field.

 

Tate carried the rock all four years at Auburn, with his sophomore and senior seasons the reasons why he was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft. He posted 903 rushing yards, 4.8 YPC and eight TDs his sophomore year, before upping it to 1362 yards, a 5.2 YPC average and 10 TDs his final year in school. His bruising style of running together with a deceiving amount of speed (4.43 in the 40-yard dash in his combine) are a desirable mix for NFL general managers.

 

 

 

Tate posted his best NFL line in 2011, with 942 yards and four TDs on 175 carries. Again, injuries forced him to miss most of 2012 where he was able to only put up 279 yards and two TDs. 2013 saw him put up 771 yards and four TDs in limited action. Nevertheless, he’s done enough to warrant a pretty sweet highlight reel:

 

 

 

 

Tate has shown he has what it takes to be a feature back if he can stay on the field. But clearly the Browns don’t expect him to be that guy, the one they can build an offense around, at least not until he proves himself. His contract does come with some incentive-based money, so we know Tate should be out there giving it his all. With a roster that includes five options at the running back position (Ogbonnaya, Baker, Lewis, the Foz, and now Tate), it’s clear that Tate stands alone at the top of this depth chart. The Browns have to envision having Tate on the field for first and second downs, and using a mix of the aforementioned speedy, smaller backs to mix it up as changes of pace.

 

Am I telling you to temper your expectations for Ben Tate? That he hasn’t really proved anything in his three years in the NFL? Sorta. But now the ball is in Ben’s hands, so to speak.

 

Poor Ol' Pettine

You know, I really feel for Mike Pettine right now. He had to know that he was coming into what was the NFL equivalent of a TV drama, but I don’t think he realized that this TV drama was a Mexican soap opera. I mean, honestly, the Browns’ past two months read like the script of Simplemente María, except with a few more unexpected twists and turns.

 

 

We all know how this story started, with the firing of Rob Chudzinski mere hours after the season finale loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After giving him less than a year as head coach. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of shock, disbelief, disappointment, and anger at the decision, both among fans and among players.

 

This was quickly followed up with the emergence of Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels as the leading candidates for the newly available job, but those doors quickly closed, as O’Brien agreed to coach the Houston Texans and McDaniels publicly withdrew his name from the list of options.

 

Potential candidates continued to come and go. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was briefly considered a leading candidate, but that dissipated when he inked a contract extension. Likewise, former Vanderbilt HC James Franklin was considered to be in the mix, but he went to coach the Nittany Lions over in College Town, Pennsylvania. Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops suddenly emerged as having the “inside track on the opening”, but that rumor left as quick as it came. Ohio State HC Jim Tressel emerged as a candidate for a good 20 minutes or so, but again that amounted to nothing.

 

As the search drew on, the situation became slightly clearer, although that really isn’t saying much. Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo came into the picture, as did Ken Whisenhunt. But Whisenhunt decided to head to Tennessee to lead the Titans, and McAdoo just sort of disappeared from the list. Mike Munchak and Arizona DC Todd Bowles both popped up into the list of names, and then, as if in one of those Whack-a-Mole games, popped back out. Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia also made a brief, under the radar appearance, but that passed so quickly that many fans didn’t even realize he had ever been considered a candidate.

 

Throughout this whole period, two candidates had really emerged as front runners for the Browns’ job. One was Seattle DC Dan Quinn, whom they interviewed near the beginning of the process. The other was Broncos OC Adam Gase, who was refusing to be interviewed until after the Broncos completed their season. Both of these guys looked like great options for the Browns, and honestly, during the whole search, I was hoping one of these guys would land the job. And for a day or two the waters calmed, and it appeared that the Browns had narrowed the search to just these two.

 

Well, it turns out we were just passing through the eye of the hurricane. In swoops Bills DC Mike Pettine, along with Falcons OC Dirk Koetter and former Bucs HC Greg Schiano, and out flies Gase. Schiano and Koetter are left behind, and suddenly the Browns are down to Pettine and Quinn, although there are rumors flying around that there is some “mystery candidate”. Another day goes by and it looks like Pettine is a lock.

 

And then Pettine gets hired. So…end of story, right? The search is over, the drama should be over, everything should be relatively smooth sailing…But nah, that would be no fun now would it?

 

Once Pettine was hired, the “mystery candidate” was quickly forgotten. What wasn’t overlooked, however, was that Pettine didn’t have the support of the Browns’ front office. Soon after hiring Pettine, former Browns CEO Joe Banner stated that passing over Quinn was “the toughest decision”. Not really the environment you want to be coming into as a brand new head coach.

 

But lucky for Pettine, and for fans, that problem wouldn’t last long. Just two-and-a-half weeks after Pettine was hired, both Banner and GM Mike Lombardi were headed out the door. It was something that I had been hoping for, but had really not expected at all. And at this point, I figured that the Browns ship had finally moved on into smoother waters. I mean what else could possibly emerge to rock this ship?

 

Re-enter the “mystery candidate”. Earlier this week, reports emerged that the Browns had made an outrageous trade attempt to try to bring 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh to Cleveland. 49ers CEO Jed York quickly issued a statement denying the reports and saying that they were untrue. Harbaugh echoed York, despite the reports saying that it was Harbaugh himself who ultimately shut the deal down because he wanted to stay in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Jimmy Haslam confirmed reports, telling USA Today that “there was an opportunity there and it didn’t materialize.”

 

Regardless of whether the reports are true or not (they probably are), they serve no useful purpose. Why go public with something like this when all it does is hurt both clubs? The 49ers are now on their heels denying the reports in order to save face, while the Browns are openly saying “yeah, we were real desperate. We tried everything.”

 

Now, I don’t have a problem with them testing all waters, but the fact that they allowed something like this to go public so far after the fact is just plain stupid. If I were Pettine, I would’ve just been starting to feel comfortable in my new job and wanted by my new club. And then that confidence would’ve just been completely shattered. To hear that my new team had so little trust in my ability that they would throw a Hail Mary to try to grab someone else instead of settling on me would kill me a bit inside.

 

So, as a fan, I really feel sorry for Mike Pettine. Personally, I think he will be great for this team. What he has had to go through the past month or so is quite terrible, yet he has stood strong and just kept doing his thing. So props to him. I cannot wait to see that calm and that determination in the face of adversity later on this season, because, with this team, more issues will surely arise.