Tag Archives: Mike Lombardi

What the Hell Is Going On?

A story came out this weekend alleging that the Browns, evidently through GM Mike Lombardi, made a last ditch effort to trade for San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh just prior to hiring Mike Pettine on January 23rd of this year. Rumors have it that Lombardi offered everything from this and next years’ first and second round picks to every pick in this year’s draft for the Niners coach. The same reports indicate that the Browns offer was never close to actually being accepted either by the Niners or by Harbaugh. Whatever actually happened is denouement; the point is that when owner Jimmy Haslam said he wanted a “proven winner” here he didn’t mean Mike Pettine — not least of all because Mike Pettine is not a proven winner. Haslam and Lombardi were willing to part with at least a significant portion of the Browns’ draft picks this May to get a coach who could hopefully win without having draft picks this May. This should bother Browns fans on a number of levels.

 

Initially, this means that Pettine was not Haslam’s druthers. I know Jimmy publicly backed Pettine and called him his guy, but he also said Pettine was merely the best coach that they “could get,” not the best coach in his ken or the coach he thought could make the Browns contenders. Regardless of what he says now, he actually wanted a proven winner; and when he couldn’t get a proven winner he went slumming for a guy who (1) no one else wanted; and (2) hadn’t told the Browns to go to hell. (See, Adam Gase.)  Haslam can perform whatever damage control he wants now that he’s stuck with Pettine, but the fact is that his inconsistency is starting to be a problem: his first coach was gone after a year and replaced by a guy he didn’t want and who clearly doesn’t fit the mold of what he wanted. Does anyone think that if Pettine goes 3-13 this year and a playoff-caliber coach is available NEXT offseason Haslam won’t ditch Pettine to the trash heap in a heartbeat? He is starting to sound a little too much like Al Davis.

 

It also brings into question how things were working under Haslam when this debacle was initiated. Banner was in charge of all football operations yet it was his lieutenant Mike Lombardi who made the call to San Francisco, ostensibly because Lombardi and Harbaugh are friends. And from what has been reported, it was the disconnect between Banner and Lombardi, at least in part, that drove Haslam to fire both. Accordingly, the three stooges metaphor was never more apt. What the hell was going on in Berea that day? The GM proposed trading the entire 2014 draft for a coach while his boss was interviewing other coaching candidates? And then an exasperated Haslam came in ex machina and canned them both?  Huh?

 

It is interesting to note that, even though the Forty-Niners and Harbaugh have a strained relationship, neither the team nor Harbaugh ever took the Browns offer seriously. “The Browns just called and guess what: they’ll give us all their draft picks for you Jim. What should I tell them?”  If this doesn’t make the Browns look like modern-day Keystone Kops, I don’t know what does. Did they have Yakety Sax (the Benny Hill theme) playing in the background during the call? After they were rebuked, did Haslam and Lombardi yell “just kidding” and hang up real fast?

 

I know that Browns fans are so desperate for change that we welcomed Haslam with open arms and a short attention span. But, remember, we did the same thing with Mike Holmgren. I’m not about to say that Haslam is a bad owner: he is clearly vitally aware of fan unease and has made serious and meaningful attempts to change both fan experience and fan awareness. But sometimes things can be too transparent. Sometimes fans just want things to work. As they used to say about a certain Soviet ruler: he made the trains run on time; nobody chose to critique how he was making that happen. If Haslam can just win, nobody will care how he did it. Until then, we must question what the hell he’s doing.

Joe Banner Gone — It's Ray Farmer's Team

On Tuesday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam unexpectedly fired his President, Joe Banner, and his General Manager, Mike Lombardi. No one saw this coming.
 
 
I should qualify that: some saw Lombardi’s removal when Ray Farmer (Lombardi’s assistant GM who has since been named GM) opted against leaving to fill Miami’s GM job. But the general consensus was that should Farmer be promoted to GM, Lombardi would stay and be named to another position, VP, consultant or some such thing.
 
 
But NO ONE saw both he and Banner being fired so suddenly and at such an odd time.
 
 
Banner just hired a new head coach. From what I’ve read, Farmer had little to no input on bringing Mike Pettine in to coach the team. That means Farmer has no connection with Pettine, has made no promises to Pettine, and has no obligation to keep Pettine. So unless Pettine can demonstrate an overwhelming reason why he deserves to stay after this year (read: 7+ wins) he will be gone and we’ll be looking at the fifth (!) head coach in six (!) years when Farmer brings in his own guy next off-season. Unless Pettine can do what only two coaches have done in the past fifteen years — improve the team a net plus three from last year — there will be another new coach again next season. And if you thought the job was toxic this year, wait until the fans, players and media have to go through this circus again next year. It will be interesting to see how the players react to what is effectively a lame duck coaching year. Why buy into a guy and his system when every indication is there will be a new guy and a new system a year from now? How many different schemes can these guys take before their heads explode?
 
 
What did Joe Banner do (or not do) to get fired so unceremoniously? Rumor has it that Haslam didn’t think Joe was at his best should we say during the coaching interviews. From what I’ve seen and read, Banner mucked things up pretty thoroughly during Ken Wisenhunt’s second interview in as many years. Evidently, Banner came across as arrogant and aloof which resulted in Wisenhunt taking the Tennessee Titans job in a huff after becoming irritated by Banner’s insipid questioning. Additionally, the hiring and firing of Chud within an eleven month period fell clearly on his shoulders and was exacerbated by the fact that Haslam liked and was committed to Chud.
 
 
Additionally, Mary Kay Cabot today reported that Josh McDaniels, who everyone believed to be off the Browns radar having allegedly taken himself out of consideration, tried to get back in the running and said he’d take the job if offered. And this was alleged to have been BEFORE Pettine was hired. Indeed, Bill Belichek himself came down from on high and backed McDaniels for the job, but to no avail. Instead, the Browns passed them all up for Mike Pettine. Nobody knows what impact or contribution Ray Farmer made to any of these decisions.
 
 
So the Chud firing, the screw-up in the Wisenhunt interview and the last minute bungling of the McDaniel candidacy spelled doom for Banner. He had simply made too many mistakes in too short a time. Plus, the way he was behaving seemingly went against Haslam’s “new direction” attitude.  When a head coaching job becomes “toxic” there are only so many people you can blame; the guy who does the hiring and firing of coaches being being the most prominent. And when Banner was fired, there was no place for Lombardi, he was Banner’s guy. Evidently, Lombardi was already packed and gone by the time Banner was officially canned. (Insert crocodile tears here.)
 
 
So where does that leave us as Browns fans now? It’s impossible to say whether this is a good or bad thing as we don’t know Ray Farmer or anything he has done well enough to judge him on experience. What we do know is that he was wanted for the Miami GM job and turned it down. I suppose that says something about his reputation outside of Cleveland but that’s about it. He was Kansas a City’s Director of Player Personnel for seven years and a scout before that so he’s got a good background in judging talent. That being said, he has NO experience in actual player and team management as far as we know. He has never made a trade, conducted a draft, gone through the ins and out of player contracts or any of the things a GM is expected to do. Basically, we are taking Farmer on blind faith. He has no track record that we can measure him against.
 
 
Finally, the management structure, now that it has been “streamlined,” has both Farmer and Pettine reporting directing to Haslam. Does anyone else think this is trouble? What has Haslam done to make us think he is competent enough to make serious and meaningful management decisions? He severely mucked up the Banner/Lombardi thing twice: once by hiring them, once by firing them at the wrong time, so why do we think he is going to make better decisions in the future? Additionally, this is assuming he isn’t indicted in the Pilot/Flying J rebate scandal. If so, and he has to give up ownership, he has indicated that the team will stay in the family. So who takes over then? His grandkids? Will it become a family tradition, sitting around the table deciding who to take in the draft by pulling straws? There is no end to the terrible outcomes this could have.
 
 
It’s funny how I keep thinking that things couldn’t get worse for the Browns, that we finally hit rock bottom, only to have something happen that creates a new rock bottom. The only thing the Browns ever consistently do is let down their fans. The only surprises they provide are in the new and unexpected ways they find to do it. I feel so sorry for this fan base.
 
 
And with several young Pro Bowlers, a lot of cap space and a lot of draft picks, the kitty is being handed over to a completely unknown Ray Farmer. If he fails, we are looking at an endless repetition of the last 15 years. If he succeeds? I’ll let you know when I see it.

The Browns' Ship Is Finally In Good Hands

Well thank goodness that finally happened. It honestly knocked me off my feet a little bit when I first saw that both Browns’ CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi had been shown the door, but I am quite glad it happened. It was the last step that the Browns’ organization needed to take in order to start fresh.

 

On that note though, I am rather confused as to the timing. Browns fans were finally starting to settle down and look forward to the offseason after what had been a rather long coaching search. And then poof! The Front Office is shaken up and Banner and Lombardi are on their way out. Which for me begs the question if Banner and Lombardi were to ultimately be shown the door, why include them in the head-coaching job search? Why let them influence the decision if they aren’t going to be around for the start of the season?

 

In his press conference, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam sort of addressed these questions, and stories that have started coming out today may help to answer as well.

 

When asked about why he decided to make changes to the front office, Haslam stated that, “Joe and I began having conversations several weeks ago about potentially restructuring the organization. As Pett came on board and we evaluated where we are, we felt that it made the most sense.”

 

OK…    Now I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but after hearing that, I’m just more confused. If Banner had a say in the conversation regarding restructuring, and if Banner is as good of a negotiator as Haslam claims he is, then how the hell did he end up on his way out?      Just food for thought. Unfortunately, I don’t have any type of intimate relationship with Haslam, so I won’t really be able to get a straight answer to these questions. Oh well…

 

Anyway, returning to the timing issue. When asked specifically about it, Haslam avoided giving concrete reasons but instead blamed it on himself, saying that he realizes that there is a learning-curve for NFL owners and that he himself is, in fact, still learning the ropes of running an organization. To me, this implies that Banner was probably going to get the boot anyway, but that Haslam wasn’t quite sure of that decision yet.

 

What may be the most revealing evidence as to why Banner is out though is the NFL.com article that came out today. According to this, numerous potential candidates for the Browns head coaching job weren’t interested because of the presence of Banner, and that Banner’s behavior in interviews drove away and scared off some potential coaches. This led to a bit of a rift between Banner and Haslam; one which was perpetuated by Banner stating that he would have liked to wait and interview Seahawks DC Dan Quinn a second time after Coach Pettine had already been hired.

 

Overall though, it is a huge relief that Banner is out. Haslam talked about the need to streamline the front office structure, and now, instead of the muddled system where Banner has ultimate say, Pettine, new GM Ray Farmer, and President Alec Scheiner all report directly to Haslam. This will provide for more efficient managing of the team, as well as better decisions overall since each person will be in charge of what he is the most experienced in. On top of that, I am very excited to see Farmer start performing over the next couple of months. He is widely regarded as an up and comer across the NFL, and he is now going to be provided the chance to prove it. The Browns also brought in Farmer’s former boss at Kansas City, Bill Kuharich. Kuharich has an abundance of experience, having spent ten years with the Chiefs as well as fourteen with the Saints, and already has an intimate relationship with Farmer. His presence will give Farmer someone who he can trust and go to for help as he navigates his way through his first season as a GM in the NFL.

 

Anyway, now that the Browns couldn’t possibly make anymore major staff decisions for the rest of the offseason (fingers crossed), as fans, I think we can all finally settle down and breathe a sigh of relief. With a new set of hands running the ship that is the Cleveland Browns’ franchise, I think it is time to lay back and relax a tad. Definitely because the hands in charge are now finally capable pairs. It is finally time for all of us to raise a glass to what will hopefully be the solution to the Browns’ recent woes. Cheers.

For Cleveland, There Is Light At The End of The Tunnel!

We meet again…You are seriously encouraged to reply, respond, post, or just jump for joy! I really would like to know how you feel, and what you think about the latest moves by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. I mean where on this earth can you get a NBA major firing, and a NFL x2 major firing all in the same city. I will tell you where…ONLY IN CLEVELAND BABY!

 

Don’t take that the wrong way I am not making fun of us. In fact, I am overjoyed, giddy, an elated at this news. I believe that both organizations are trying to achieve some level of “sustainability” when it comes to the “hire-ups” and or front office personnel. There is early speculation as to what led to the release of Banner/Lombardi. From the Chud relationship, and his firing to the non-ability to deliver another coach before Pettine was hired for the job. NFL hearsay relates the message that Banner/Lombardi was not well liked in many circles, and that hindered the Browns process of hiring a new coach as some were warned to stay away from those two. This world of professional sports has a life unto its own , and I fully understand how easy it is to get caught up with all the “goings on”(things that happen). Doesn’t some of this seem scripted? It seems unreal and yet it happens before our eyes. I am still wondering how the plot will thicken concerning Mike Brown. Guess I will have to stay tuned in.

 

Change Is Coming

 

It does feel different I must admit. It feels like a new beginning is right there for the Browns. The organization actually mobilizing their forces, and resources to achieve a common goal. Generating a philosophy of team first. Growing a winning culture I dare say in a city that has not had one for so long. Farmer, Scheiner, Pettine, and Shanahan this is the new regime.

 

Farmer brings the football entity to Cleveland that has not been represented at all. The Browns have chased big names…fail. The Browns have gone down the road less traveled…another fail. This time I think they got it right. A football guy for football players. A very astute evaluator of talent. Someone doing whats best for the organization and team. Scheiner has been perceived  in a positive light, and I figure his hand is more to the business side of running things, you know “the numbers man”. Pettine being inherently from the defensive side of the ball appears to be hard-nosed and straight forward, another admirable quality that has not been in Cleveland. With the addition of Kyle Shananhan as the OC it does seem as if the backbone has snapped into place. The only qualm that could go on here is the GM and head coach not being on the same page. As in Pettine might not be Farmers’ guy. My fingers and toes are crossed that everybody will work accordingly to bring the Browns to where they need to be. Contract negotiations and re-signings are the first order of business. Then the important factor of “getting-it-right” placed on this years’ draft.

 

Ray Farmer and Mike Lombardi

 

 

There appears to be something amiss with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but something seems different. I actually saw a beautifully designed play by (ugh) Mike Brown during the Wizards game that didn’t lead to points, but rather serve the purpose it was supposed too. Towards the of the game with the Cavs allowing the Wiz back into the game. Mike Brown called time out with about 6-8 seconds on the clock and drew up a play of “keep away’ which had me laughing as the Wizards chased our players around until the clock almost expired. A couple free throws later equaled a win for the home team. In the game against Memphis the team shot and shared the ball well, eventually notching another win. I bring those points up to emphasize that the Cavs can more than compete with the other teams. I don’t know what the exact problem or problems were that led to the constant falling down and sliding backwards, but I do know these guys can play. As the trade deadline approaches there are a few possibilities that might have to be looked into?

Does a move of Luol Deng hurt now, but help the future?

Does Jeff Green have meaning to the Cavaliers?

Can David Griffin make any moves or deals?

 

Chime in let me know. Help me out. Or just speak your mind.

And Then There Was One

Much to the chagrin of local television news guys and t-shirt designers the three stooges are no more. Jimmy Haslam dropped a bombshell in Berea as he shuffled Larry and Curly out the door and introduced a new General Manager and team structure for our Cleveland Browns. No longer will we have the condescending tones of Joe Banner or the quarantined silence of Mike Lombardi to soothe our ruffled feathers. They are now following in the footsteps of the legends of Browns past. Names like Clark, Savage, Kokinis, and Holmgren. And like the past departures of those fine football executives, this newest upheaval in Berea is something that we should all celebrate.

There have been indications ever since Joe Banner rode into town on Haslam’s coattails that he was an impediment to the success of the franchise. The league wide negative perception of Joe Banner was something that clearly hurt the Browns. To what extent that perception affected the team can be debated, but there is no doubt that it existed. Quite honestly, the extent doesn’t really matter. If the mere reality of having a certain executive in place handicaps the franchise then that executive needs to be removed. That’s what was happening with Banner and that alone is reason to support his removal. Now, this is the part of the paragraph where I would like to add on to my previous sentiment and make a case as to why Mike Lombardi getting fired is also a good thing. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do this as I can’t confirm that Mike Lombardi has actually been in Cleveland this past year. I’ve heard tale that he does exist and has the ability to speak, but as a professional I can’t run with those facts until I can verify them with two separate sources. For now, we’ll just have to go on faith and be happy that Mike Lombardi is no longer doing whatever job he has allegedly been doing this past year.

Aside from Banner and Lombardi no longer running things, the most exciting thing to come out of this front office reshuffling is the new structure that has been put in place. No longer is there some convoluted decision-by-committee-but-Joe-Banner-actually-has-the-final-say dynamic being pushed in the front office. Ray Farmer will decide the 53 man roster. Mike Pettine will decide which 45 guys play on Sundays. Alec Scheiner will run the business side of things. And all will report to the owner. For a franchise that has tried every kind of dysfunctional power structure over the past 15 years, this new set up is a breath of fresh air. It probably seems like an obviously simple fix for pretty much every other fanbase and organization in the NFL, but I’m dead serious when I say that the Browns merely shifting to a conventional team structure is a monumental step forward. And that doesn’t even count what I see as noticeable upgrades at each of the three spots that atop the organizational depth chart. I obviously haven’t been able to write about Mike Pettine here yet as we just launched, but I genuinely like the hire and feel it’s the best move the Browns have made at Head Coach since Butch. Not that that is exactly the highest of praise considering the guys hired in between but I do really like what I’ve seen and heard. There’s also Ray Farmer who, by all accounts, is highly respected around the league and thought of as an up and comer. And he was reportedly at the Senior Bowl, which sadly already sets him apart from his two most recent predecessors. And we also have Alec Scheiner as President who, well, who runs the business side. And that’s it. He seems really bright, good at his job, and he won’t have anything to do with picking players. This also, sadly, is something that sets him apart from his two most recent predecessors. These three guys are reason to be excited. Reason to be optimistic for the Browns. There is, however, one thing that still makes me uneasy. The man that those three will be reporting to is still Jimmy Haslam.

As the weeks and months go on it will probably become more and more apparent how I feel about the current steward of the Cleveland Browns. For now, I will just say that I won’t be applying for President of the Jimmy Haslam fan club any time soon. However, I’ll give him credit for his removal of Banner and Lombardi just like I did for his firing of Chud a few weeks ago. In both cases he saw that something wasn’t working and instead of drawing it out and setting things back even more, he cut bait and went a different direction. It would be fair to point out that he decided to hire all those people only a year ago, but at least he was willing to make the tough decisions and admit he was wrong. Well, at least kind of. While his actions certainly seem to indicate significant errors on his part, you would be hard pressed to get him to actually admit it. Which brings me to the absurdity of the press conference introducing Ray Farmer as General Manager. Haslam time and again talked about how great of a football mind Mike Lombardi has, how Joe Banner agreed that it was time for him to leave, and he again blamed the media for the negative perception of the Browns. The fact that Haslam would think that any Browns fan would buy into any of those things is borderline insulting. And it’s just another example of why I have less and less faith in him every time I hear him talk. Not to mention that we are apparently never allowed to ask about the federal investigation that could potentially land the owner of our football team in federal prison.

Regardless of my natural predisposition to not like Jimmy Haslam or the ever present chance that the next time we see him he’ll be waddling down a hallway in an orange jumpsuit, the dismissals of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi are positive steps for the Browns. For one day the team undeniably improved and Haslam does deserves credit for that. Two of the stooges are gone. And if we’re going to be stuck with the third one, at least he wants to win.

Questions and Answers

I was planning on doing one of those ubiquitous mailbag/Twitter response columns until I realized that I didn’t have any mail or tweets to respond to. Despite that, I endeavored and will provide both the questions I would pose to myself and my responses thereto just for the hell of it.

 

Q. Who will be the Browns starting quarterback be on September 7th?

 

A. Brian Hoyer. First, I should disclose that I’m a Saint Ignatius graduate, the high school from which Brian Hoyer matriculated in 2004. That being said, Hoyer is a legitimate NFL QB. I’m not saying he’s going to take this (or any) team to the Super Bowl, but he is capable of winning games in the NFL. We know that. He looked great in the two games he started and won for the Browns. He showed great field recognition, quick release, accuracy and touch. He is the ONLY Browns QB since Bernie to show all of those talents. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but I will take the former skill set over the latter quality any day of the week. Brandon Weeden and Derek Anderson both have rifles for arms, but both are so intellectually inept and unable to adapt that as soon as opposing teams figured them out, they struggled to change their games and simply withered. Their arm strength is not useless, but seemingly hinders their ability to throw soft out and screen passes which were, at least on their Browns squads, absolutely integral and necessary to the offenses they ran.

My prediction holds even should the Browns draft a rookie and sign a veteran quarterback. Indeed, I am hoping for it. Jason Campbell doesn’t want to be a backup (even though he clearly is) and he doesn’t like the cold weather (wuss). Ideally, the Browns would sign a veteran who can bring stability and leadership to a team and can also come in and perform competently in case of an injury. The rookie (preferably a guy drafted outside the top ten) would be the last option to start games.

 

 Q. Should the Browns draft a quarterback and, if so, who?

 

A. Yes, of course they should. I don’t know who it should be, but I know it should not be Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or a Teddy Bridgewater at four.

Look, I know Browns fans are sick of trading down. We’ve seen it too many times and we’ve had to suffer with them passing up better players for guys who either didn’t work out or who ended up average or marginal. But just because former regimes messed them up doesn’t mean that this one will or that the idea itself is a bad one. The fact is that a quality quarterback can be found later in every draft and the Browns have a lot of other needs that can be filled in this year’s. We need to amass picks and use them wisely. If a quarterback on the Browns’ board is available when they have a later pick, take him. But if they can trade down, get more picks, AND still get a quarterback they like to back up both Manziel and veteran QB X, do it.

We need quality starters at literally every other position on the field. If they do their homework, make wise trades, and get legitimate starters, no one will care if they passed on Teddy Bridgewater/Blake Bortles at pick four. Especially if you expect (as I do) that there will be no franchise quarterbacks picked in the first round this year.

 

 Q. Assuming the Browns don’t trade down, what should they do?

 

A. Draft up to 2 and take Jadaveon Clowney.

If you want me to justify this objectively and based on empirical evidence, I can’t. I just have a feeling that this guy is going to be a monster on defense. And I know the arguments against: our least weak position is D line; we just drafted an end last year; the Quiet Storm and Big Money. Yes, yes, I know. But remember that one game-changer on defense, especially someone who can cause mayhem at the line, can utterly change the face of an entire defense. Think Jared Allen or Julius Peppers. They not only create persistent trouble for opposing offenses, they open up opportunities for other rushers, which we have a plethora of. If the defensive line can, finally, pressure quarterbacks consistently, the entire defense benefits. If Clowney pans out, it could change the face of the team.

Plus, you know mike Pettine is just drooling thinking about coaching him.

 

 

(After the completion of this column it was announced that the Browns management structure had been shaken up. I will comment more extensively in Thursday’s column, but will say this now:)

 

Q. What is going on in Berea?

 

A. It appears as though Haslam had enough of his other two stooges. He canned them both and put Ray Farmer in to head all of the team’s football operations. Quite simply, he replaced two old, tired guys with one young up and comer.

I guess it’s good Ray Farmer didn’t take the Miami job. Clearly, Haslam was getting the feeling that Lombardi and Banner were mucking things up and he had had enough. My guess is that Haslam was starting to doubt Banner’s ability to be a football man instead of just a business man, which is what he was good at in Philly. The Chud firing certainly seemed desperate and inconsistent. How long do you trust a guy who is so flippant with big decisions? And once he made the decision to fire Banner, Lombardi was gone too. There was no place here for Lombardi without Banner, it was a twofer.

All in all, this was a good decision, which could look better if Farmer is the man. The only issue is why this took two years to figure out. Haslam said things wouldn’t be the same under him, but they have been. In two years as owner, he’s now fired two Presidents (Holmgren, Banner), two GMs (Heckert, Lombardi) and two coaches (Shurmur, Chud). Hopefully, this will be the end of the revolving doors.

Just like when, again and again.

The 216: Past, Present, and Future

I don’t have much interest in what you would do if I sang out of tune, because it’s going to happen a lot, so stand up and walk out on me right now. If you wondered why The Wonder Years came to mind, it’s because I’ve been watching the series on Netflix, in lieu of taking in the games of winter night after night. It’s a period piece, one that references a period before my own, but it’s grabbed my interest a lot more in the present than it did in 1988.

In the beginning, the show went back 20 years to the end of summer in 1968, and chronicled the life of a young man entering 7th grade, with what I assumed was supposed to be the man looking back at his own adolescence, narrating two the events two decades later. What’s funny is how it’s dated, but it really isn’t; watching in 2014, a 12-year old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) is the past, a 30-something Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) is the present, and we watch from the future. 1968 is still 1968, and hindsight is the same, but the difference between looking back 20 years and 45 years changes the perspective.

Time is the same, 24 hours in a day, 365 of those in a year, yada yada yada. However, it’s hard to believe that certain periods of time, say 15 years, are of the exact same length when put into certain context. Next weekend, the Denver Broncos will participate in their first Super Bowl, since defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, which was fifteen years ago this month. It was the last NFL game played, sans the existence of the Cleveland Browns.

The last time the Browns played in an NFL Championship, they won it. Granted, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl in those days, but it was still the game you wanted to win when you started building a team, and frankly the best you could do at the time. In the fifteen years that followed, they lost three semi-finals, and finished 9-7 in that fifteenth year. The next year, Sam Rutigliano, Brian Sipe, and company had Cleveland believing in the Kardiac Kids. I was young, so I’m guessing, but 1964 couldn’t have been too much of a concern, even at the end of the ill-fated Red Right 88 play versus Oakland.

The next fifteen years saw Bernie Kosar win the town over quickly, by manipulating the Supplemental Draft process to land in Cleveland, then taking this Cleveland Browns team to the playoffs more often than not. It also came with a lot of heartbreak on the doorstep to greatness, three conference championship losses, all to John Elway’s Denver Broncos, highlight the misery of period that some us look back upon as glory days. I take that back; the entire conversation of miserable starts and ends with Art Modell uprooting our beloved franchise to Baltimore.

That led to the most recent fifteen years. So many coaches, so many forgettable names, but above all, so many losses. That’s the only thing you really have to say, that it’s lost. Hopefully, the next fifteen years will allows the early days of expansion to be lost in the annals of NFL history. If you don’t think what’s done can be un-done, just take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to 1972, which was Chuck Noll’s fourth season. You aren’t just looking at 15 years of being inept in their case.

What we’re going to do in this space is have some fun with the area code in Cleveland-proper. It’s 216, so you’ll get two things to think about, one major idea, and six little tidbits or blurbs, but they’ll all be tied together, sometimes very loosely, depending on my mood. This week, we’ll tie everything together with the past, present, and future.

Two Haunting Thoughts

Window of Opportunity

Here’s what bothers me. Well, here’s one of the many things that bother me, but this weighs heavy on mind, and has for a while. It’s something I consider worthy of sharing. The Browns have whiffed at the top of the draft, on levels varying between “they could have done better” and “JESUS H CHRIST!”, but it’s hard to argue that they could have done better than Joe Thomas with the third overall pick in 2007. Argue Adrian Peterson all you want, and I won’t deny that he’s done some amazing things for the Vikings, who took him four picks later. However, his numbers were comparable to what Jamal Lewis did for the Browns with the benefit of having the rookie Thomas in front of him; the Vikings already had Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie to pave the way for the rookie from Oklahoma. The point being that they didn’t whiff on Thomas, but the clock is ticking to determine whether they’re going to whiff on his behalf, a la what the brand has done or not done for Phil Dawson.

Even if you ignore the double-digit win total in 2007, that year was somewhat of a perfect storm for the Browns. The sure thing from Wisconsin turned out to be a sure thing, and you can bet he learned a thing for two having the newly acquired Eric Steinbach playing to his right. Over the next two seasons, you could see those two picking each other up when the other had a bad game. In the four years that the two anchored the left side of the line for all but two games (Steinbach missed two games in 2008), it was probably Thomas that put Steinbach on his back more often than the other way around, but Thomas noticeably struggled at times in his second season. After Steinbach, it was Jason Pinkston on the left side with Thomas, a late-round pick who played very well in his rookie season before suffering some setbacks. You have to believe Thomas, and Alex Mack at center, had something to do with the solid start for Pinkston in Year 1.

It didn’t stop him from making the Pro Bowl, something that he’s done every year he’s been in the league, a streak that’s now at 7 years. A lot of the criteria for the invite to Hawaii is based on reputation, especially with interior linemen. You know, that’s an excuse you hear from people who believe their guy got snubbed, but since Joe is reaping the benefits, we can look at it a different way, and say there’s a reason his reputation precedes him. He’s not necessarily an overpowering player, his technique is just that damn good, and everyone notices. He’s also the antithesis of how the consensus views the Cleveland Browns; he’s reliable and consistent, he hasn’t missed a snap in seven seasons.

The Browns locked him up with a 7-year deal before the 2011 season, so he’ll be buckling the chin strap on that orange shell through the 2017 season, as long as he’s still playing and the Browns still want him at that point. You can’t count on much more than that from the Browns left tackle after that. That’s four seasons that the Browns have to put a winning team around him, something we probably don’t think about too often with these linemen types, but this lineman type might be the best at his position. Here’s hoping he spends these next four seasons playing for the same head coach, his fifth in eight years, and in the same type of offense. More importantly, let’s hope it’s with the type of coach and offense that can win in the playoffs.

I worry about that window closing on Joe Thomas in Cleveland. I worry that he either won’t see the postseason, or we’ll be rooting for his new team vicariously, when he’s shell of what he was in Cleveland. That’s sad, to already think of Joe Thomas in the past tense.

Suspended Belief

I don’t care to beat a dead horse, but we are admittedly talking about the past. There isn’t any point in beating around the bush with this one, this Cleveland football team is exponentially better with Joe Haden and Josh Gordon on the field. When they miss time, the team misses victories and the fans miss their presence on the field for that reason. You certainly can’t put this all on the two exciting playmakers or any individual on the current roster, but the Browns have won just one single, solitary time in Week 1 since coming back to the league in 1999. However, we haven’t seen both Joe and Josh on the field in Week 2 (Haden wasn’t suspended until Week 2 in 2012, but the point stands) in Gordon’s two seasons for reasons I’ll simply refer to as “cloudy piss”.

In fact, over the last two seasons, we’ve seen the tandem miss six total games for an abuse of one NFL policy or another. The Browns have gone 0-6 in those contests, which has made it difficult to reach that break-even point at any juncture in the season. Even a 1-1 mark would be somewhat inspiring at this point. I’ve said it in the past; their selfishness has cost the team in the past. Now, because of their talent, they have to assume leadership roles. They have to see how important they are to the team. Suspensions aside, the Browns are 0-10 when Haden or Gordon has been out of the lineup in their careers, but I understand there isn’t much that can be done about injury. Though the age obviously isn’t an immediate factor with these guys, as it is for Thomas, that ticking clock does need to be acknowledged. You only get so many opportunities to be great.

One Comic, Sans Triumph

The Cavs have lost me. They just aren’t appointment viewing these days, so it’s a rare occasion that you’ll see me give them the bandwidth, but we’ve reached the point where it’s fair to judge, have we not?

I suppose I can admit now that it was spite, more so than any claim I can make about being a die-hard, but I was all-in on the horrible teams that have taken the floor at the Q since Danny Ferry was relieved of his general manager duties in 2010. As an out-of-market fan, I’m not sure I was given much of a choice; the national TV was gone, so I was going to have to pay too much for a subscription to watch them to ignore them.

In other words, I was locked and loaded for the Byron Scott era with the requisite level of patience. That team wasn’t going to win with Mo Williams. Anderson Varejao was supposed to create match-up problems, but no matter how many silver linings you could identify, and some tried to call Mike Brown’s pink slip something to the effect of addition by subtraction. Trying to label things, whether it meant cherry-picking the good or bad to fit that label proved pointless. Whether you wanted to call it tanking or letting nature take its course, losing and building through the draft was the answer.

I didn’t know the ways of Chris Grant particularly well, and the same could be said for 29 of his counterparts around the Association, but as a casual observer of the game, I tend to trust that these guys know what they’re doing. Dan Gilbert didn’t win the lottery; he acquired his fortune through some level of business savvy, so if he trusted Grant, then I trusted Grant.

After all, he empathized with us in Comic Sans. Of course, I recognized then, as well as I do now, it wasn’t truth. It was hope, but you thought his confidence in Grant was based on more than hope. Hope turned into some good fortune when they turned Mo Williams into the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, which became Kyrie Irving. For their own awful season, the fourth pick netted them Tristan Thompson, the first sign that this new front office was going to be “cute”. We saw more of that same “cute” approach to the draft after another pair of dismal seasons, how else can you explain Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett?

I think it’s hard to say whether they were genuinely aggravated with Byron Scott or if he just wanted out after the 2012-2013 season. I think either is plausible. I also find it plausible that Mike Brown was the best guy they can get to babysit this situation. Right now, at 16-27 in Year 4 after the departure of Lebron James, it doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is. The players aren’t good enough, they lack chemistry on any level, and the front office can’t execute any earth-shattering move that can return outstanding results.

That isn’t to say that they’re doing anything and everything wrong. It just isn’t returning outstanding results. There’s the Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and (eventually) Kyrie Irving trade, that’s a win. Taking Irving with the first pick, despite the fact he only played 11 college games, there’s no way they don’t regret that if they go in another direction with that selection. They got a draft pick for Ramon Sessions and a draft pick for JJ Hickson; one of those trades worked out better than the other, but why dwell on losing an expiring Hickson?

Thompson has shown glimpses, even though we’d probably rather see Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard. But, who is to say that the chemistry problems don’t exist in the locker room with any of them? I think we all need to admit, for whatever reason, that the atmosphere in Oakland and San Antonio probably takes measures against anything getting out of hand like we’ve heard about in Cleveland. I’m not going to stare at the TV and tell you it isn’t on, Waiters was a bad pick, but my hindsight is 20/20. I believed in Waiters as much as I believed in Grant 18 months ago. By then, I was already in “don’t tell me, show me” mode.

I couldn’t have told you Damian Lillard or Harrison Barnes was far and away a better pick, but the status quo was clamoring for Barnes. Grant got too cute. He was so much smarter than the status quo, and it’s hurt the enitre plan for a rebuild…

…unless the plan was to be terrible and stock-pile young assets, before putting all of their eggs in one basket with free agency. If that’s really the case, and I wouldn’t exactly rule out some truth in that theory, as crazy as it is, I can’t really put the energy or emotion into this team.

I guess that brings it all full circle, so this isn’t an outright surprise. I opted not to re-up my League Pass subscription this year, for a number of reasons. Part of me thought there might be enough commercial appeal in this team to get them onto the national slate, but the more realistic part of me saw the writing on the wall. Of all the bad seasons we’ve seen from the Cavaliers since their last playoff appearance. It was supposed to be better, the conference is dreadful around them, and Year 3 of Kyrie and Tristan would lead one to believe this is where Top 5 picks are supposed to take that next step.

It isn’t better. They aren’t a playoff team in the awful conference. Kyrie is an All-Star, but a lot of fans are looking at that sideways because the team is 16-27. Do we trust Tristan Thompson? Do we trust Mike Brown? How about Chris Grant? I know we don’t trust Dan Gilbert on the whole. So, is there any reason to believe this re-build hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster?

Like I said, they’ve lost me. If you believe there’s any reason for my continued patience on this track, feel free to email jrich@morethanafan.net, I have an open mind and would love some positivity on this subject.

Six Ways To Berea

What They Say…

They say it’s a joke. They have good evidence to back that up. They won’t back off that stance until they are given a reason to do so. We might not care what they think or say, but at some point we need to admit that they aren’t lying. Whether we give them the time of day or not, we know it needs to get better.

Nobody wants to come here because the situation is obviously toxic, as evidenced by the quick dismissal of Rob Chudzinski. That’s all they need to sell the toxicity or radioactivity in Berea. Jimmy Haslam’s other interests are under federal investigation, and he does seem borderline unapologetic, candidly, through all of his sorries. Joe Banner is abrasive and a lot of people are still trying to understand what Mike Lombardi has been doing since he left his place in the media. The hot coordinators, the recycled Head Coach, the successful college coach, and Pat Shurmur have all failed in the role.

The judgement is fair. The search didn’t seem clean. You might even aruge that the destination felt panicked. I really don’t want to believe that personally, but with a gun to my head, I wouldn’t bet my life against that. We hear the word “settle” a lot as fans of this team. We ourselves have settled for this poor organization because they’re the only organization we’ve got room for in our hearts. I don’t want to look at Mike Pettine as the guy the Browns settled for any more than he wants to think that’s how he got the job. For what it’s worth, I don’t know that rolling the dice on Dan Quinn accepting the job after the Super Bowl was a prudent gamble. That’s not exactly selling any level of confidence in Mr. Pettine, I know.

From the Foyer to Hoyer

A lot of people have pointed out how Brian Hoyer greeted the new boss in Berea before Pettine even took his coat off. The question was asked and acknowledged at his introductory presser, the quarterback position is important. It isn’t important because the fans want a name at the position. It isn’t important because the head coach paid the question lip service either; he wasn’t going to get away with hemming and hawing around the issue on Day 1. It’s important because this is the NFL in 2014, and I couldn’t find a playoff team with a quarterback worse than Andy Dalton, who is 0-for-3 in the post-season, so that caliber has to be the lowest common denominator on a potentially successful team.

As far as the Hoyer, the Ignatius product is concerned, the thing he’s got going for him is that no can definitively say he stinks. He may not be good, I’d be fairly certain that being local doesn’t make him the next Bernie Kosar, but it does put him in Berea on January 23rd, so that helps his cause. We all have to figure that he won’t be alone in camp, but this someone that the organization can sell to us with some level of confidence, which isn’t to say their confidence equals our approval, but it’s a step.

Statistically, it’s easy to join the naysayers on Hoyer, but the fact remains, they won every game he started. Granted, one of those games came at the hands of Brandon Weeden making an extended relief appearance out of the bullpen, a game against Pettine’s defense, so pick your poison on that one. Never you mind that Travis Benjamin returned a punt for one score, that TJ Ward returned an interception for another, or that the Bills defense was on the field every time Buffalo’s rooke third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel failed to get first downs or give the visiting team the advantage in field position. Just look at the 37 points the Browns scored in that one, and bury your head in the sand when the mitigating details come out in Pettine’s favor. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

 PettineHoyer

Anyway, back to Hoyer. If he has to be a place holder for Bortles, Manziel, or whatever next big thing the brain trust plans to go with, with any one of their five picks in the top 83, so be it. You could do worse than a guy who has learned offense from Chico Kyle, Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, Ken Whisenhunt, and even Norv Turner. Five years in some pretty good systems might make for one of those coaches on the field type of deals. I have no question in my mind that Hoyer can accept the role without losing the fire to be a starting quarterback, the jury is still out on whether that fire can actually add up to a regular job, but he definitely has his fair share of people pulling for it to be so.

Not a Suit, Able For Work

So, he’s not comfortable wearing a suit and he’s not interested in winning the press conferences. That’s cool in my book, I’m not interested in those things either. I’m glad that he’s telling us that he knows the obvious. Without saying it, it’s clear to me that Mike Pettine knows and expects everyone to expect the worst until he shows them a reason not to. He doesn’t earn that faith on Draft Day, at OTAs, or Training Camp. Goodwill is earned from September to February.

I think he knows the score. If you look at the bright side of being the guy after the one-and-done, you get a guy who understands there is no grace period. After 2013, one cannot assume anything less than winning in Cleveland will be interpreted as an acceptable result. To me, that’s 7 wins, come hell or high water. There are too many worst-to-first occurrences to believe that’s impossible. If the need is indeed a shift in attitude, the man who despises the suit and tie might be the man for the job. The number of players representing the orange and brown in Hawaii has been brought up to much for us to not think of the Chiefs turnaround in 2013.

Don’t Hurry to the Tee Box, Just Yell Four

I am nothing, if not agnostic on Johnny Manziel. Hell, I’m on the fence about the legitimacy of the rumors we’ve been bludgeoned with about the club’s interest in the dynamic Texas A&M sophomore; it could be real and it could just as easily be a smokescreen. If it’s the latter, I find it to be silly, since I’m sure the people around the league who matter would see right through it. Lies like that only affect how the media reports this perceived nonsense; ultimately, it’s the fans who lose out in the end. If true, fine. I think I’d be okay with an athletic quarterback who can extend plays in their current position, the 4th pick in the draft, but I can’t sign off on surrendering additional assets to improve their position.

We’ve been through that with Trent Richardson, have we not? They were shut out of making a similar move Robert Griffin III, but that’s looking like a pretty solid loss for the Browns as I type this. I’m struggling to find a precedent, where moving up from a place already in the Top 5 has paid off in a big way. Doing what the Jets did in 2009 or Atlanta did in 2011 as trade partners with the Browns, moving up 10 spots or more to #6 for Mark Sanchez and Julio Jones respectively, made a lot more sense. There aren’t any Andrew Lucks in this draft and Richardson wasn’t an Andrew Luck type of sure-fire thing either.

Been There, Done Tate

The scuttlebutt regarding Gary Kubiak as a candidate to be the Offensive Coordinator on Pettine’s staff has fueled the overwhelming speculation that Ben Tate, Arian Foster’s understudy in Houston, would be a free agent target. Tate played with broken ribs last year in his walk year to prove his worth on the open market, so he won’t come cheap, and I believe there’s some type of Cleveland tax that comes with free agents demanding to be overpaid to take on the stigma of the Cleveland Browns. Recent history supports the myth of that, while the Browns can open the checkbook on defense, we haven’t seen too many offensive skilled players, sane ones anyways, committing to the Browns.

The Kubiak talk has lost momentum, and I’d personally hope that Kyle Shannahan isn’t really in the mix. With those rumors going by the wayside, it might be time to consider that Tate will not be house-hunting in Bill Cowher’s Strongsville neighborhood either. Tate will be 26 when the season starts, and he comes with a price tag. Now, it’s true that the Browns have cap space, and four seasons is a good get before that dreaded NFL running back expiration date hits on Tate’s 30th birthday in August of 2018. Unfortunately, Tate and any good agent knows that too, so this will be the contract that gets negotiated with the Auburn product’s nest-egg for 2020 and beyond in mind. Only once do I recall a home run being hit at running back in free agency, and that was a few good seasons of Lewis. This is an area the Browns should look to fill at the draft in May.

Catch and Carey

We could have just as easily titled this section “Hyde and Seek”, I suppose. Even Mike Pettine didn’t seem to know exactly what type of system this offense is going to run, but it’s clear that he plans to have his hands on whatever the plan is. By the way, you can put me on the list of people support the words he offered about making the system fit the players, as opposed to doing it the other way around. There’s a lot of Banner behind those words, which is anti-Holmgren, and anything that goes against our Seattle friend can’t be all bad.

Looking for a gamebreaking back in this quarterback-friendly NFL requires a certain skill-set, since there are only so many Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch types, and they aren’t available in every draft. The people I monitor on various sites (Brendan Leister, DraftBrowns; Josh Finney, DawgsByNature) seem to be in agreement that the draft is the route to go to upgrade the backfield, and the prerequisite for that upgrade should be a physical runner that can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Carlos Hyde’s name rolls off the tongue easily, but anytime you start tying the Buckeyes to the Browns, the assumption of homerism comes to mind. Brian Robiskie and Craig Powell scare off the casual fan, because it’s just been so long since Paul Warfield set a positive precedent. Really, none of those Buckeyes/Browns have anything to do with each other, let alone Carlos Hyde. People need to understand that Carlos Hyde is a viable name, and that this isn’t going along the same path as suggesting Lombardi take Kenny Guiton at #4, or worse yet, bringing Troy Smith back to the States.

Let me throw a real name out there, at the risk of having homerism towards Arizona implied, how about Ka’Deem Carey? Scouting reports knock his ability to run away from NFL defenders, but he has the explosiveness to run between the tackles, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can run in the open field, and though he’s a little undersized at 5-10, he’s 21, so he can still bulk up and play at 215 with the same skills. I think he’s the player to get if he falls, but he’ll be competing with Charles Sims (West Virginia) and Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) and everything changes after the combine.

It’s a long way to May, and an even longer way to September. However, Opening Day is right around the corner, so expect some Tribe talk in this space next week. Enjoy the time you have to kill between now and next weekend.

Cleveland Needs Real Change

Hiram Boyd may be one of Cleveland’s most controversial personalities, but he struck a chord with me the other night.

If you follow me on Twitter, or simply know me, you’ll know that my good friend, Jake Dungan, and I hosted a weekly radio show for Indians Baseball Insider throughout the summer called Call to the Bullpen.

Hiram would chime in week-after-week, as he normally does with Cleveland radio shows, and offer his thoughts or opinions on the Indians. Hiram seemingly enjoyed calling our show because we wouldn’t cut him off and we’d debate with him for an extended period of time before he insisted on simply listening.

Well, this past week, Jake and I hosted a special offseason edition of Call to the Bullpen, as we will sporadically throughout the winter, and, of course, Hiram called in.

We were in the midst of a conversation about the Indians and closer-extraordinaire, Brian Wilson. I offered my thoughts on WIlson said something along the lines of, “we don’t need a distraction like him on this team.”

“Hayden,” he said. “You disappointed me with something you said earlier. I would love to have Brian Wilson on this team.”

Of course, I was willing to listen to his point and ready to hear out his argument when he said something that struck me to my core.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” Hiram said. “Clevelanders are so afraid of change. Cleveland is afraid of stuff that is different. They’re afraid of people that are different.”

Instantly, the bells and whistles started chiming in my head. The proverbial lightbulb went off. Suddenly, I heard Drew Carey- the newly appointed, Cleveland-born host of “The Price is Right”- say “Hayden, come on down!”.

It all made sense.

Hiram Boyd, Cleveland’s “craziest” fan, made a point that I think hits the nail on the head.

Let me preface this argument by saying that Cleveland fans are the best fans in America. Undoubtedly.

Maybe not the smartest, maybe not the quietest, but they are certainly the most involved, loyal and passionate fans anywhere. Period.

That being said, I want to delve in to Hiram’s point and why it makes so much sense to me and why it’s absolutely true.

Cleveland is afraid of change. It’s afraid of the truly new and uncomfortable. It wants new faces, but the same attitudes and ideals.

Let’s start with the Browns.

How can you say that Browns fans are afraid of change?

The Browns have had 20 different quarterbacks and 7 different head coaches since 1999. How are they afraid of change?

Look at the 20 different quarterbacks we’ve had. Was any one of those guys different than the other in terms of performance or demeanor?

Was Tim Couch any different, really than Derek Anderson? Was Derek Anderson any different than Brady Quinn? Was Brady Quinn any different from Colt McCoy? Was Colt McCoy any different than Brandon Weeden?

Of course, they all had different styles of play, but they were all cut from the same mold. They were all “safe”. None made any trouble, kept their mouths relatively quiet, etc, etc. None was really a risk taker, on or off the field.

Look at the couple of times when the Browns did take “risks” in the draft. Braylon Edwards was probably the best receiver the Browns have had since 1999 and Kellen Winslow was certainly a playmaker and the best tight end since Ozzie Newsome.

Ultimately, they didn’t pan out for a while, but that’s because Cleveland fans helped to drive these “risks” out of town.

Interesting.

Lets move on to Browns head coaches.

If you really, really look at it, was Chris Palmer different from Butch Davis? Was Butch Davis any different from Terry Robiskie? Was Terry Robiskie any different from Romeo Crennel? Was Romeo Crennel any different from Eric Mangini? Was Eric Mangini any different than Pat Shurmur? Was Pat Shurmur any different from Rob Chudzinski?

Again, they all had different styles of coaching and treated the media differently, but again, they were all safe. Nothing exciting, nothing different. Cut from the same cloth.

Rob Chudzinski, in his first season, has shown an aggression that we’ve never seen from Browns coaches prior. Is it a coincidence that the Browns are 4-5 and on the brink of a winning record against the AFC North division for the first time since 1999?

Again, interesting.

Finally, when the Browns regime was finally changed, as the Lerner’s left town, Clevelanders, for the most part, were already skeptical of Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi. They wanted change, but at the same time, they really didn’t. The Lerners stunk, but at least they were comfortable.

They “understood” us. That’s another phrase that’s comfortable for Browns fans. It makes outsiders immediately disliked and makes Browns fans feel as if they are somehow special, despite never having seen a Super Bowl appearance.

Anyways, as soon as the new regime took hold, Browns fans became uncomfortable and at the slightest sign of trouble from Haslam, were already calling for his resignation. “Bring back the Lerners,” they said, despite the years of misery caused by Randy and the family.

Already, with the new and uncomfortable regime, the Browns have shown signs of vast improvement in just one season. Again, looking at a chance to have a winning record in the AFC North for the first time since 1999.

Alas, interesting.

Even the other day, as the Browns announced big time stadium renovations, fans were already pointing out the flaws with the system.

Again, just another example of Clevelanders and their inability to cope with change.

The Browns are the most glaringly obvious example of this attitude problem in Cleveland, but it comes with the Indians and Cavs as well.

Many fans clamored for Sandy Alomar Jr. rather than Terry Francona to manage the Indians.

Francona won the Mananger of the Year award.

Fans whined about Nick Swisher’s massive contract.

Swisher lead the Indians in home runs, despite dealing with injury throughout the season.

Cavaliers fans wanted Mike Brown fired when LeBron became a free agent.

Three years later, we welcome him back with open arms.

Kyrie Irving was far too risky a pick to make over the established Derrick Williams.

One is Uncle Drew and one rides the bench.

The bottomline is this: no fan-base is more vocal about change but less willing to actually change.

Browns fans are constantly calling for a new quarterback, yet, won’t consider Johnny Manziel or anyone out of the ordinary to do the job. We constantly bash the quarterbacks that come in and yearn for the old days with Bernie.

Indians fans are constantly calling out for big time free agents, yet complain when we finally bring them in. We constantly say, “why can’t we just develop talent in the 90’s?” rather than appreciating the big time free agents we bring in.

Cavs fans constantly called for a new coach, yet missed the old one when they realized what they had. We say, “why did we get rid of Mike Brown in the first place?” when just years before we said, “get rid of Mike Brown, he’s obviously not a good coach.”

It’s not even simply the sports teams that Clevelanders complain about. When city officials want to bring this city to the 21st Century, add new buildings, create parks and opportunities for employment, many argue and complain. When there’s an election and many complained about mayor Frank Jackson, they re-elected him anyway. Even something so trivial as a name change for Cleveland Browns Stadium created an uproar, despite the fact that it brought in added funds for the organization.

As Hiram said, Clevelanders clamor for change yet change nothing. They do the same things over and over again, without any difference in their actions. As Hiram said, this is literally the definition of insanity.

I just want to thank Hiram for helping me to see what I was completely blind to before. Again, this doesn’t go for all Clevelanders, but there’s certainly a large majority to whom it applies.

I love Cleveland and that’s why I’m saying that it’s time for Cleveland to actually change. Change the mentality, change the city and change the culture.

Accept the change and embrace it.

Cleveland’s best times weren’t in the past. They lie directly in the future.

 

 

Can the Browns Make the Playoffs?

This year was supposed to be a step in the right direction for the Browns. Thus far, in many ways, it has been.

The defense, lead by Ray Horton, is truly an attacking defense that gets its hands on the quarterback more than we’ve ever seen in First Energy Stadium.

Head coach Rob Chudzinski seems to be the guy for the job. He’s gutsy when he needs to be and seems to be genuinely loved and respected by everyone around him. He makes changes when things seem to need fixing and keeps the status quo when overreaction gets the best of those around him.

Offensively, the Browns are a mess, but you can’t argue with the success of Brian Hoyer, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Jason Campbell. Essentially, in the short term, the Browns are ok.

With a 4-5 record, the Cleveland Browns currently have the best divisional record in the AFC North with a 2-1 mark thus far- a very, very rare occurrence since the return in 1999. They beat the Ravens for the first time since 2007 on Sunday evening and are heading into a bye week to prepare for another AFC North matchup.

Normally, by this point in the season, we’re scratching our heads and looking at potential draft picks. Heck, we’ve started that already, (remember Green Bay?).

The Browns, however, are now in second place and with two consecutive Bengals losses- one coming against Cleveland in two weeks-could be sitting atop the AFC North for the first time in goodness knows how long.

The matchup with the Bengals could be a crucial one in terms of the playoff picture, but the Browns might still be able to make it to the postseason with an 8-8 mark.

Let’s take a look at how the Browns could do this, in a somewhat realistic way.

The Browns remaining schedule looks like this:

@Bengals

Steelers

Jaguars

@Patriots

Bears

@Jets

@Steelers

All of these teams are beatable with the exception of Brady and the Patriots. The Steelers are sub-par this season and the Browns play them twice, the Jaguars are football’s worst team, the Bears don’t have Cutler and even if they did, they don’t play defense, the Bengals have lost to the Browns once this season, all-be-it thanks to Brian Hoyer and the Jets can be just as bad as they are good.

Let’s say that the Browns go four and three over the last couple of games. They lose to the Bengals, Jets and Patriots and finish at 8-8. In that case, the Bengals will have won the Division and the Browns will have finished in second place.

At 8-8 and in second place, the Browns surely have a shot at the postseason. While one of the AFC Wild Card Spots is all but locked up by either the Chiefs or the Broncos, the other spot is certainly up for grabs.

The Jets, Chargers, Titans and Dolphins are all hovering around the .500 mark with the Browns and will certainly compete for that other spot.

The Jets do have a somewhat easy road the rest of the way. It looks like this:

@Bills

@Ravens

Dolphins

Raiders

@Panthers

Browns

@Dolphins

The good news is, the Jets are maybe the most inconsistent team in football and they play the Dolphins twice, therefore knocking one of those two teams out of the race in one form or another. The bad news is, the Jets could very well win their next four games and be a nine-win football team, essentially getting the Browns out of the way with three games left. Again, however, the Jets have lost to the Steelers and Bengals this season in somewhat embarrassing fashion. It’s hard to tell with them; we’ll see where it goes.

The Chargers have a much tougher road:

Broncos

@Dolphins

@Chiefs

Bengals

Giants

@Broncos

Raiders

Chiefs

I think you can take the Chargers out of the playoff picture, just based on the fact that they play four games against the Broncos and Chiefs. Sure, they might win one of those battles, but ultimately, there won’t be three AFC West teams in the playoffs.

The Titans are sort of the in-between. They play some crucial in-conference games, but take on some cupcakes as well:

Jaguars

Colts

@Oakland

@Indianapolis

@Denver

Arizona

@Jacksonville

Houston

This might be the most enigmatic of the playoff contenders, as they’re schedule could really take them either way. If they get a win against the Colts, they could win five or six games. They could also blow it and come away with three. This, in my opinion, is the team to keep the closest eye on, as the Browns don’t have a chance to face them head-to-head.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins:

@Tampa Bay

Chargers

Panthers

@Jets

@Steelers

Patriots

@Bills

Jets

They do have a head-to-head victory against the Browns that could push them over the edge, but overall they seem to have a ton of locker-room problems. Either the Dolphins or the Jets will push themselves out, but I do see a sort of epic meltdown coming from the boys from South Beach.

Ultimately, I think the Browns have an uphill battle to make the playoffs. There are plenty of teams out there that have looked better than the Browns, but maybe this team is hitting it’s stride.

Either way, I think it’s going to come down to an in-season, pseudo-playoff game between the Jets and the Browns on December 22nd. If the Browns come into that game 7-7 and come away with a victory, they’re going to be playoff bound. If they lose, they’re out and the Jets are in. It’s that simple.

It’s year one of the Haslam, Banner and Lombardi regime and we’re already looking at potential playoff scenarios. I’d say, regardless of what happens, that’s a pretty darn good start to a new era of Browns football.

Catching Up Cleveland Style

After taking a couple of weeks to myself to reconfigure my schedule and alleviate some of the stress that comes with heading back to school, I’m back and ready for another big run here at More Than a Fan.

I know you all didn’t miss me too much, but I missed a lot of action, so I guess it’s time to play some catch up.

Let’s start with the Tribe.

Here we are, just six games away from the end of what has truly been a magical run for the Indians in the 2013 regular season.

In a weird way, this Indians season has gone exactly how many people imagined it would.

Most Tribe fans and baseball analysts alike thought the Indians would finish at anywhere from 80-90 wins and would compete for the Wild Card until the very end. Well, as you can tell, that’s been exactly the case as the Indians are now 86-70 and could win as many as 92 games, should they win every game for the rest of this season.

While the record has been parallel to our collective thought process as a fan base, the the reasons for our accurate prognostication has been completely contrary to our previous beliefs.

Coming in to 2013, the Indians looked to win games thanks to their revamped offense and shutdown bullpen.

Clearly neither has been as good as advertised and instead, the pitching staff has blown everyone away and taken this Indians team to this playoff-caliber level.

Unbelievably, it all starts with the resurgence of Ubaldo Jimenez.

If you were to tell Indians fans that Ubaldo Jimenez would guide you to playoff contention in late September, they simply would have laughed you off and looked for other pitching options.

Well, it’s happened. Ubaldo Jimenez is earning major money in his contract-year, as well as the trust to pitch in some big games for the Tribe down the stretch.

The massive divide between Jimenez’ pre and post All-Star numbers is absolutely staggering.

Before the break, Ubaldo allowed 94 hits, 53 runs, 13 homers, and 53 walks while striking out 94 batters and posting a 4.56 ERA. Oddly, however, Jimenez had a 7-4 record heading into the Midsummer Classic.

After the break, again, Ubaldo has been a completely rejuvenated pitcher.

Thus far, Ubaldo has allowed only 59 hits, 19 runs, three home runs and 23 walks and has 80 strikeouts with a 1.77 ERA.

He’s truly been the Indians second-half MVP and if the first half of the season went the same way as the second, we might be talking about Ubaldo Jimenez as the unanimous AL Cy Young award winner.

It will be interesting to see what the Indians will do with Ubaldo next season. He’s certainly earned the opportunity to put on an Indians uniform in 2014, but the cost-benefit may not favor the Tribe, as he will be looking to make big money next offseason.

The Indians are so close to the playoffs you can almost taste it, but we must be patient. Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. There are six games left and anything can happen. If we are patient and let things fall where they may, the taste of victory and a playoff berth will be that much sweeter.

I hope you’re ready for a wild week, Tribe fans. It all comes down to this!

While the Indians have filled the heart of Cleveland with hope and pride, the Browns front office did the exact opposite on Wednesday evening.

Seemingly out of the blue with no trace of a previous mention of the deal, the Cleveland Browns traded away 2012 first-round pick and number three overall selection, Trent Richardson, to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first-round pick.

On the surface, it seemed as if the Browns were giving up, cleaning house and upsetting their fan-base all at the same time.

Callers made their way through the airwaves to tell local sports-radio hosts that they were “done with this organization” and “had enough” with the way the Browns handle their business.

It was a sad day for many Browns fans, but not for me.

I was never a Trent Richardson fan from the beginning. This has been well documented.

Consider this Browns fans, Trent Richardson absolutely could have been- and was- a product of one of the best offensive lines in the history of college football.

It was Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, and DJ Fluker lead the way for Richardson to be the back he was, yet no one realized that until it was too late.

Richardson proved from day one that he was a product of the men up front, as he danced and juked his way to one-yard gains, two yard losses, and three-yard dives.

When the hole is there, he absolutely is one of the better running backs in the game, just based on his toughness and incredible agility. The problem is, however, that those holes don’t exist at the NFL level. The defensive players are too good to allow for the gaping holes that paved the way for Richardson’s success at Alabama.

While Browns fans whined and moaned that this team gave up too soon and Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Jimmy Haslam should all be fired immediately, the Browns got a first round pick for a backup backup running back.

The Browns absolutely won the deal.

If anything, this trade proved the inability of the previous regime. Holmgren and company moved up in the draft to acquire Richardson, who is no longer with the Browns.

Do you sense a problem there?

There are other moves that further the trend, but watch this move play out in the Browns favor and watch the ineptitude of the previous regime become more and more obvious as the new regime settles into place.

Of course, after the Browns trade Richardson and start Brian Hoyer, they win a game.

It’s typical, as nothing ever seems to make sense in Cleveland.

Except that it does.

The Browns got a win Sunday because Minnesota struggles through the air and struggles on defense. The Browns have an strong front seven, an awful secondary and a struggling offense. If they were going to win a game this season, it was going to be against the Vikings.

While the Browns did have to pull some trickery to get the job done, they did come away with a victory and Chudzinski proved that he has more guts and more determination than any coach we’ve seen in Cleveland since 1999.

I wouldn’t expect too many more W’s from the Brownies this season- unless Brian Hoyer proves that he’s the real deal- but expect more moves from the front office and expect them to make this team better in the near future.