Tag Archives: Ray farmer

Browns Hope to Spoil the Steelers Season

 (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

While most 3-12 teams don’t have many reasons to play hard in week 17, the Browns have plenty of incentive to give their last game of the season everything they have.

First the Browns are going against their biggest rival in a game where they have the chance to keep them out of the playoffs. Second rumors are running rampant that Ray Farmer and or Mike Pettine could get fired, so players will go all out to help their coach, and put more good plays on tape for the potential new staff to look at.

There are some other factors that could keep this game close as the Steelers struggle on the road and they have a porous defense.

When the Browns have the ball:

The Browns are going to need to attack the Steelers through the air as they struggle in pass defense. One player to watch in the Steelers defensive backfield is corner Antwon Blake who is on pace to allow more receiving yards than any corner in Pro Football Focus’ records (since 2007). Odds are even Austin Davis can find ways to exploit this secondary. The Steelers run defense is better than average, so establishing the run could prove challenging. Overall, I feel that the Browns have enough firepower to put 20 or more points against the Steelers. After all Ryan Mallett, Buck Allen, and Kamar Aiken were able to.

When the Steelers have the ball:

The Browns need to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger if they’re going to have any chance. Tramon Williams and Charles Gaines stand no chance against Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton  and Martavis Bryant if Big Ben has a clean pocket. Last time these two teams played the Browns did a good job limiting DeAngelo Williams to only 54 yards. Perhaps the Browns can duplicate those results.

Prediction:

Steelers look rusty again (as they normally do against lousy opponents) but the Browns give up some late touchdowns and lose in some typical Cleveland Brown-like way.

Steelers 26 Browns 24

Job Security, Health, and Midges Dominate Cleveland

Welcome back to my little corner of More Than a Fan. I took last week off from the column for the holidays, but don’t worry, my terrible record of picking games this season kept right on chugging.

On Johnny ManzielHis time in Cleveland is through. Maybe he’ll end up on the field in a Browns uniform at some point to finish out 2015, but I can’t see any plausible scenario in which Johnny sticks around, regardless of anything at all that takes place on the football field…

…Unless Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer get fired. I have flip-flopped on my opinion of whether these two should get canned, whether only one of them should be shown the door, and, if one of the other, I can’t decide which should get the pink slip1Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned..

[Read – The Browns Broke Me – by Jeff Rich]

Sometimes I think that Pettine really has the veterans in the locker room. That he gets their respect because he holds players accountable and rewards guys who work hard. The flip side of that coin is the perception2/pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. that Pettine won’t play Farmer’s guys out of spite, because the two can’t get on the same page.

Oh, there’s also the terrible clock management, his buddy Jim’s terrible defense, and the offensive coordinator doing everything he can to not pass the buck while passing the buck.

Let’s also not forget that this headline happened today; “Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges discussion about his future could be in Jimmy Haslam’s plans.3This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.

Ray Farmer is terrible at picking players, and considering that’s his most important job, things aren’t looking good the former prodigy. No, Bernie Kosar could not be the GM of a football team. I would love to see him working with scouts, though.

[Subscribe – Railbird’s Nest Podcast. Recent guests include Ken Carman, Hayden Grove, and Tony Mazur.]

Someday the Cavs will be healthy. With health will come more meaningful rest for LeBron James, Love, and the back court crew that started the season playing heavier than normal minutes due to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert‘s injuries.

When isn’t important. There are plenty of things that happen in losses that can be pointed to and harped on for improvement, and the Cavs five losses so far this year are no exceptions to that rule4Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.. The Cavs are NOT a perfect team that sometimes takes a loss just because. Yes, there is real room for improvement.

That improvement will come. The players and coaching staff will settle in more each week, especially as the team’s health starts to improve. Glorious revenge will be ours.

Alright. Maybe I’m getting carried away.

I think Timofey Mozgov‘s knee is still messed up. This is a completely unsubstantiated opinion based on nothing but the fact that I’ve wasted thousands of hours watching basketball games. Maybe Mozzy’s knee is fine, but I remember trying to tell people Kevin Love looked like an old man with a back issue last season, and it turned out he was. 

The Indians signed Joba Chamberlain.  There’s no punchline.

Mark Shapiro lured Indians VP of Player Personnel Ross Atkins away to become the General Manager in Toronto. This is a cool promotion for Atkins, who gets to put GM in front of his name, and work with a colleague with whom he’s comfortable in the process.

This looks like bad news for Blue Jays fans. Don’t believe me?

“But increasingly, front-office executives with GM experience, like Shapiro, are hiring GMs who function, in many ways, like an assistant would in the old model.” – Brendan Kennedy Toronto Star

Mark Shapiro, the not-GM who will act like a GM, even though he hired a GM.

I’m sorry, Canada.

Picks

Packers @Lions
Jets @Giants
Cardinals @Rams
Falcons @Buccaneers
Panthers @Saints
Seahawks @Vikings
Texans @Bills
Ravens @Dolphins
Bengals @Browns
Jaguars @Titans
49ers @Bears
Broncos @Chargers
Chiefs @Raiders
Eagles @Patriots
Colts @Steelers
Cowboys @Redskins

 

   [ + ]

1. Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned.
2. /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
3. This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.
4. Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.

Does Ray Farmer Text Too Much?

Well, according to the NFL, yes.

On Monday, the NFL announced that it was suspending Browns’ GM Ray Farmer for the first four games of the 2015 season, as well as fining the Browns $250,000, as punishment for violating the NFL’s electronic device policy during the 2014 season. Now, if you’re like me, you vaguely recall this texting scandal coming to light sometime around the middle of February. However, again if you’re like me, you probably never really understood what exactly occurred, or why it was that relevant. And honestly you probably didn’t care that much since you figured that it was inconsequential. Well, now is the point where I admit that I was wrong to assume that this scandal meant nothing. But for you all that still aren’t really sure what exactly happened, here’s the gist of it:

During a number of games last season, Ray Farmer exchanged text messages with former Browns’ QB Coach Dowell Loggains. Why? Well, they were supposedly talking about the ongoing games, as Farmer attempted to discern upcoming decisions by Loggains and former OC Kyle Shanahan and potentially influence ones he did not agree with.

But why? As in for what reason?

By the time that Farmer is able to compose a text message, send it, have Loggains read, and then have Loggains come up with a cogent and convincing argument to present to Shanahan as to why a certain decision should be made, the relevant decision is already null as the situation will have already passed. I mean, we are talking about the NFL here. There isn’t really time for a long back and forth arguing over playcalls and the like – those are kind of split-second decisions. And there really is no use in sitting around actively criticizing the calls of your OC during the game. I mean wait until Monday morning in the meeting room, or postgame in the locker room. Hell, if the calls bother you that much then fire the bastard, but don’t sit around texting the guy one rung below him on the ladder. That’s just stupid, and nowhere close to worth the associated risks.

At the same time though, four games?!! Are you serious!?! For using a mobile device during a game?! I mean correct me if I’m wrong here, but what is essentially happening is that a General Manager is being punished for being too involved in his team. That is, because he was attempting to manage his team in a close and hands-on way (and not in a general manner I guess?), he is being forced into missing one quarter of the season. And this is by no means the least important quarter of the year – this is the first quarter of the regular season. You know, the time of year when coaches and managers are still working out the kinks and quirks in their rosters and are having to cut players and sign casualties of preseason roster cuts. So yeah, now the Browns get to go through that without Ray Farmer. So yay for that dumb decision.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love Ray Farmer. I personally think he is among the top tier of managers in the League right now, and although he is still working out being in the position in which he is, I trust his decision making abilities, and he very clearly has what is best for the time at the forefront of his mind. Who knows, maybe this texting thing was a whole elaborate hoax designed to make Shanahan angry and to force him to leave of his own decision. He could be taking one for the team right now, knowing that Shanahan wasn’t the correct fit for this team and that wasting another year with him running the offense would be a waste of time. I mean yes, that is a bit farfetched, but you never know…

Anyway, the point is, Ray Farmer made what appears to be a real dumb decision that will hurt the team somewhat next season during the suspension. But he is still a hell of a manager, and him and Mike Pettine are the future of this team. So, just as you did in February, go ahead and sweep this whole texting thing under the rug and forget about it. Come our wildcard victory over former Browns QB Brian Hoyer and the Texans, none of us fans are going to remember or care.

Browns' Free Agency 2015: The Last Minute Preview

On Tuesday afternoon, the 2015 NFL free agency period officially opens. Since Saturday, teams have been able to begin talking to free-agents-to-be, however without agreeing to terms or explicitly discussing potential numbers. Nonetheless, expect to see a slew of big signings in the 15 minutes after free agency officially opens. It will be unlikely that any of these quick signings are by the Browns, as General Manager Ray Farmer tends to be a bit slower and more deliberate with his signings, although I guess you never really know. Do expect to see the Browns sign a few players over the next week though. If last year was any indication, a lot of these signings will be veteran players who can serve as role players and mentors and who will be on the somewhat cheaper side, although with just short of $50 million in cap space, the Browns could surprise everyone and make a big splash with a monster signing. Again, you never really know, definitely with a young GM at the helm. Anyway, here is who to keep an eye on this free agency period when discussing the Browns:

Browns’ Free-Agents-To-Be That Need To Be Re-signed:

Before we look at new players who the Browns could potentially sign, we need to take a quick look at players that the Browns need to keep in Cleveland. These are all guys who the Browns could let walk, but really shouldn’t:

CB Buster Skrine

Skrine reportedly wants to test the open waters, which seems to be a good decision. The Browns, however, need to keep him around. They will have to pay more for him than they otherwise would’ve, but I think he is easily worth the $8 million or so a year that they will have to dish out. Skrine has started the past two seasons and has been quite solid across from Joe Haden. As a bonus, he is an extremely talented nickelback, so if Justin Gilbert ever decides to start playing actual football, he can easily slide inside. Additionally, replacing him would end up costing just about as much as resigning him if the Browns want to sign a player close to his caliber. I expect him to be resigned, with a deal to the tune of 4 years and $30 million.

DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

I like Kitchen a lot. He played well last year when everyone else on the line went down with injuries. He wouldn’t cost that much to retain. And he is an Ohio native who would most likely enjoy remaining close to home. Plus he is the owner of what was voted the best sack dance in the NFL. Offer him a nice little 2 year, $1.5 million deal, and let him stick around.

 S Tashaun Gipson

He is one of the top safeties in the league, has an absurd affinity for creating turnovers, and is only  24. There is no doubt in my mind that he will remain among the top players at his position for at  least the next five years, and as such, the Browns need to sign him to a long term deal as soon as  possible. It would be cheaper to do this now, and they could probably keep him around for as little  as $4 million a year, which in a couple of years will look like a steal.

S Johnson Bademosi

Although he made a couple of really stupid mistakes during games last year, he still is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, and would be simple to retain.

LB Craig Robertson

He played well last year. He will play well this year. And he will serve as a good backup when Christian Kirksey is fully ready to start. He should remain on the team next year.

TE Andre Smith

Depth is always appreciated. There is no need to show him the door.

WR Miles Austin

He played well last year until his kidney decided to misbehave. He obviously is not a long term option, but he is a serviceable role player and can serve as a mentor for whichever receiver the Browns draft this year.

Now that we have handled that, and maintaining the assumption that all of those players are resigned, the Browns have a few areas of need that they can address in free agency…

Wide Receiver

This is clearly a monster need for the Browns, especially with Josh Gordon suspended once again. Currently, the Browns have Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin as the only experienced receivers on the roster. They will also should have Austin. It is safe to assume that the Browns will probably spend at least one pick in the Draft on a receiver, leaving them with five players who can have impact at the position. They will, however, still be looking to sign another one in free agency. The question is merely “who?”

Randall Cobb (Packers)

Cobb is clearly the best receiver on the market, but it would be stupid to bring him too Cleveland. At 5’10” and 192 lbs, Cobb is another slot-type receiver, of which the Browns already have two in Hawkins and Gabriel. Although Cobb, being the best slot receiver in the NFL at the moment, would clearly be an upgrade, he would not be a practical or smart use of what would amount to a lot of money.

Torrey Smith (Ravens)

Pair him with a talented first round pick and Hawkins and Gabriel inside, and the Browns suddenly have a rather potent group of wideouts. Smith would essentially be a more versatile and effective version of Benjamin. Speedy as all hell (4.43 in the 40), Smith is a receiver who specializes in the deep ball and would be able to stretch out defenses so that Hawkins and Gabriel could work underneath. Personally, I think he would be a great player to bring in, although he will be on the slightly costlier side. It would be cool to use an old Ravens player against them though. There is nothing worse than seeing a player you let go of completely wreck you twice a year.

Michael Crabtree (49ers)

Crabtree is an option, but not a great one. He’s been largely ineffective since tearing his achilles in 2013, and even before that he was pretty consistently disappointing. He may come on the cheaper side though.

Cecil Shorts (Jaguars)

The Cleveland-area native is ready for a change in scenery from Jacksonville, and may be drawn to come home. The Browns have shown heightened interest in him, and might even be willing to fork over a few extra dollars to bring him onboard. The only hurdle is that Shorts has said he is tired of losing and that he just wants to win. Cleveland isn’t usually viewed as a team that wins a lot, but there is the chance that the blind faith that Clevelanders and Browns fans learn could make him turn a blind eye to the fact that the Browns aren’t sure-fire winners. I think that this is the receiver the Browns are most likely to sign. Even more so if they decide to not bring Austin back.

Hakeem Nicks (Colts)

Nicks was clearly talented at some point, and someone is going to sign him hoping that they can find that talent again. But it shouldn’t be the Browns. The Browns need to take safer steps that clearly move them forward, and signing a player who sat behind an aging and less effective Reggie Wayne for the past year doesn’t fit into that category of decisions.

Brian Hartline (Dolphins)

Only a year removed from consecutive 1000-yd campaigns, Hartline could be a nice option for the Browns. Despite his ineffectiveness last year, expect Hartline to bounce back and put up respectable numbers no matter where he lands this year. He has already visited with the Browns, but has also been the subject of interest from a number of other teams. I don’t think the Browns like him enough to engage in some kind of bidding war, so unless he comes cheap, expect him to land somewhere else.

Defensive Tackle

Without a doubt the Browns’ biggest area of need this offseason. Luckily, there is a slew of talented players available both in the Draft and in free agency. Ahtyba Rubin likely on the way out, the Browns will need to pick up a big body during free agency.

Ndamukong Suh (Lions)

There is not a better tackle on the market. There is no arguing with that statement. However, Suh will not land in Cleveland. I would really love him to, as it is extremely rare to be able to sign a hall-of-fame caliber player in his prime, but I don’t see Farmer being willing to spend the cash that would be necessary. Suh is looking to become the highest paid defender in the league, and there are teams who are willing to grant him his wish, just not the Browns.

Nick Fairley (Lions)

Suh’s soon-to-be-former teammate might be second to only Suh in terms of talent among free agents at the defensive tackle position. When he’s motivated, he can play like one of the best linemen in the league. However that whole “when he’s motivated” phrase is key. Fairley has shown a history of getting easily discouraged, and when that happens his level of play falls substantially. Playing for a program with the ups and downs that the Browns have probably wouldn’t be the best fit for him. Additionally, schematically there are better options.

 Terrance Knighton (Broncos)

A better option schematically. Knighton is one of the top nose tackles in the league  and is stellar against the run. After housing the worst run defense in the NFL in  2014, the Browns need to focus on picking up a run-stuffing tackle more than a pass-  rushing one, and Knighton would be a great option.

 Dan Williams (Cardinals)

Another great option, and one that might come slightly cheaper than Knighton. He  has gotten better every year that he has been in the NFL, is just hitting his prime,  and seems to be the kind of high value signing that Farmer likes to try to make. I  could see the Browns spending a few dollars to bring him in.

 BJ Raji (Packers)

Although he hasn’t really been effective since 2011, he is a player that is talented  enough that he could bounce back. If he does, he could be a bargain.

Barry Cofield (Redskins)

At 30, he is past his prime and is coming off an injury-plagued season. Nonetheless, he is still one of the better run stuffers in the NFL. Also, having grown up in Cleveland Heights, he may be interested in coming home.

Stephen Paea (Bears), Henry Melton (Cowboys), Kendall Langford (Rams)

While all talented, they are more pass-oriented linemen. None would be a great fit in Cleveland.

Kendrick Ellis (Jets)

He has worked with Pettine before, and thus might be inclined to come play for him again. He would probably serve in a backup’s role as he never has really had a large impact in the NFL.

Tight End

If the Browns are going to spend heavy money anywhere during free agency, it will be here. With Jordan Cameron out due to concussion issues and only Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and Andre Smith on the roster, the Browns need to pickup a high impact player who can spark their offense and give them a reliable option in the middle of the field.

Julius Thomas (Broncos)

He is one of the top 3 tight ends in the NFL and, at 26, is in his prime. It is unusual for a player of his caliber to hit the open market, and as a result he will demand big bucks. He has had some ankle issues over the past year or so, but still creates absurd mismatches over the middle. He isn’t the best blocker though, so he might be better suited for a more pass-oriented offense.

Virgil Green (Broncos)

Thomas’s sooon-to-be-former teammate is also set to hit the open market, although the Broncos seem to be trying to keep him in the Mile High City. He’s a decent enough blocker, is athletic enough to make an impact, and could come on the cheaper side due to his limited playtime and experience.

Rob Housler (Cardinals)

 Personally, I think that he is the most exciting tight end available this year. At 6’5″  and 250 lbs, he can run a 4.46 second 40. So basically he’s a freak athletically who is  going to emerge over the next two years to become one of the top 5 tight ends in the  NFL. Underutilization in Arizona due to his poor ability to block stymied his  development a little bit, but used in tandem with a better-blocking tight end such as  Jim Dray, I think Housler could be a very effective option.

 Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)

On the other end of the spectrum, Gresham is just about the blandest option at this  position. He has always been alright, but never special. Unfortunately, he has been  linked to the Browns more than any other tight end this offseason.

Pass Rusher (OLB/DE)

With Jabaal Sheard‘s likely departure, the Browns need to secure themselves a new outside linebacker. Pettine wouldn’t be too opposed to bringing in a strong pass-rushing defensive end as well, and there are plenty of options on both fronts.

Trent Cole (Eagles)

Although he is on the older side, he has the versatility to serve as a DE or an OLB in the Browns system. He still is a solid player, although he would only be able to contribute for a couple of years. He visited the Browns this weekend, so a deal may be in the works.

Jerry Hughes (Bills)

A soon-to-be-former member of the talented Bills defensive line, he has been overshadowed by his teammates. Despite that though, he has still racked up 10 sacks a year over the last couple, and he might could be interested in a reunion with his old boss.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins)

His career has been marred with injuries, but when he is healthy he is still one of the better players at his position. His injury history could make him a bit cheaper, but he is definitely a risky signing. High reward is everything works out though.

Brandon Graham (Eagles)

At 26, he is just entering his prime. He has shown that he can be an effective pass rusher when utilized, racking up 5.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season for the Eagles. His ability to create turnovers makes him an enticing option that Farmer and Pettine might be drawn to.

Pernell McPhee (Ravens)

The highest-rated outside linebacker available this year, he racked up 7.5 sacks in limited (540) snaps last season. Although there is a risk that he is simply a product of the system, he has shown an immense amount of talent and his just entering his prime. I think that he would be a high-impact player for the Browns, although he may take a season or so to fully develop into an effective player in the Browns system. Nonetheless, the combination of him and Paul Kruger (or Barkevious Mingo if he finally breaks out) has the potential to be rather lethal.

Quarterback

I still would like to see Hoyer remain in Cleveland, but with the Josh McCown signing that is unlikely. That, unfortunately, means that the Browns have no starting-caliber quarterbacks on their roster. So that will be fun…    There is still the possibility that the Browns sign another signal caller in free agency, and they will no doubt take a quarterback at some point in the Draft, but I honestly cannot really tell what Pettine is planning here.

Offensive Line

The right side of the line is not the strongest, and I would love to see someone like Bryan Bulaga come in and take over for Mitchell Schwartz. Pettine, however, has suggested that he doesn’t see a huge need to upgrade the position, so don’t be expecting to see any big signings in this department. A few depth-oriented signings could be made here, definitely at the center position.

…And that’s about it folks. There will no doubt be players signed that I didn’t cover here, since that is just how the NFL works. However, above are lists of some of the better options in the areas where the Browns most need help. Hopefully Farmer can repeat the success that he had last offseason, when he made a number of smart signings that didn’t break the bank. I guess we will see soon…

The Browns' QB Situation…Next August

The Draft is Here! The Draft is Here! The Draft is Here!

…Kind of. Ok, not really. But it is never too early to talk about the Draft, especially for the Cleveland Browns, who are still (as they have been for the past forever) in rebuilding mode. And, speaking of the Draft, the NFL Scouting Combine started on Tuesday, as Offensive Linemen, Kickers, and Tight Ends all arrived in Indianapolis, and will continue through Monday, when the defensive backs finally make their ways home. And so, with all the Draft-related happenings this week (and because I love love love the Draft), I am going to focus on the Browns on the Draft today. However, I am not going to look at everything. Instead I am going to focus on what everyone is really most interested in right now – the QB situation. So, without further rambling, here is what the Browns will do when it comes to the quarterback position over the next couple of months…

First off, Brian Hoyer is remaining at home. This is kind of a no-brainer to me. With Johnny Manziel in rehab and really just questionable overall when it comes to his ability to play at the NFL level, the Browns have to keep at least one quarterback that is familiar with the team and personnel and who is capable of winning games. While I like Connor Shaw, the only guy that fits this description is Hoyer. Hoyer still has an interest in remaining in Cleveland, and the Browns shouldn’t have too much trouble inking him to a rather cheap deal, although they have the room to give him more if necessary. But either way, he stays in Cleveland for at least one more year.

Second, Ray Farmer is not trading up to draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Winston will be off the board to the Bucs at #1, and it would be incredibly stupid to package a boatload and a half of picks to move up and grab another project QB in Mariota. I don’t care that our new QBs coach has been working with him; it simply isn’t going to happen. Instead, the Browns will draft a quarterback in the later rounds. I’m thinking someone like Brett Hundley (UCLA) or Garrett Grayson (CSU), but more on that in a couple of weeks. Anyway, the bottomline is that the Browns have way too many other important needs (e.g. Wide Receiver) to idiotically trade up to grab Mariota.

Third, the Browns will pursue a quarterback other than Hoyer in free agency, but fail to be willing to fork over enough to sign him. This quarterback will be one Ryan Mallett, if only for the simple reason that there is no one else worth pursuing. The Browns won’t be looking for a backup in this search, instantly ruling out the perpetual backup who goes by the name of Matt Moore. The Browns aren’t looking to bring in somebody who seems to always be injured, so knock Jake Locker off the list too. The Browns won’t pursue either of the aging options that are barely worth mentioning, meaning one can ignore Shaun Hill and Josh McCown. And, finally, the Browns won’t be looking to sign a QB who couldn’t manage to lead an offense with more weapons than the Browns into the playoffs despite being in prime position to do so, so take Mark Sanchez off the list as well. So that leaves only Ryan Mallett. However, that leaves only Ryan Mallett, meaning a lot of other teams will be looking for his services, and the Browns are going to lose a bidding war over him.

So, come the end of the Draft this coming year, the Browns will have 4 quarterbacks on the roster. Three are old, one will be new. And all will appear to be equally poor options to the average fan. However one, and I’m putting my money on Hoyer here, will emerge during training camp and take control of the team. It will be hard for Pettine to begin another season with Hoyer at the helm, as the average fan is likely to be very unhappy. But Pettine has not been one to give into fan pressure much at all so far, and that isn’t changing this coming season. Anyway, with a more explosive set of receivers, some dude named Julius Thomas, and a stronger offensive line in front of him, Hoyer will quickly silence the critics. The only difference is that in 2015 he won’t fade after 8 games.

At least that’s my take on it. Over the next few weeks I will take a closer look at what the Browns will be doing in free agency, and then will move into the ever-exciting Draft. Stay tuned folks, for the Browns are never boring, and this offseason won’t lack news.

This, That, and Some More: Happenings with the Browns

Just like normal, the Browns’ offseason has been surprisingly action-packed thus far. I mean, why watch of focus on the playoffs and another occurrence of Brady and Belichick unnecessarily cheating their way to the top when instead we can focus our attention on yet another coaching search and our own inflated (unlike the Patriots’ balls) rumor mill. Screw the playoffs, we don’t need them anyway…

On Our New Coach…

So who exactly is he? I mean, who the hell is John DeFilippo? What kind of team goes to Oakland to scrounge for a new offensive coordinator?!?!

Wow, that kind of escalated quicker than I expected. I apologize. Despite the seemingly negative tone of the above, I think I kind of like this hire. At least compared to other options, which were slim and temporarily consisted of the likes of Marc Trestman. Sure, DeFilippo’s resumé consists of working extensively with (the bad version of) Carson Palmer, Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin, and Derek Carr, which isn’t the strongest group of quarterbacks (although what he did with Carr this past season was impressive). And sure, his name is much harder to write and pronounce than Shanahan. But despite the name problems (which I’m sure I’ll get over at some point), DeFilippo is an exciting hire. He has been widely lauded across the league as the next Adam Gase (the former Broncos OC), which is a very nice comparison to have. If he can come anywhere close to that, I think our offense will be vastly improved next year. Actually, even if he can’t come close to that, our offense should vastly improve next year. Alex Mack will be back. We have a high draft pick we can comfortably spend on a wide receiver. And we maybe will have a functional quarterback, depending on how well DeFilippo does his job. There are lots of reasons for hope. Maybe…

On Manziel…

Rumor has it Manziel is basically a god-awful teammate. So that’s nice, I guess.

An ESPN report that came out last week revealed that close to 20 Browns sources that were interviewed discussed Manziel’s “lack of commitment and preparation, failure to be ready when given his chance in his first start against Cincinnati and continued commitment to nightlife.” According to the report, Manziel was consistently late to practice and meetings, and wasn’t a positive presence in the locker room. On the one hand, I mean we all kind of expected that – one doesn’t really grow up in a year, definitely at the age of 21 and with boatloads of fame and money. But on the other hand, we all have a right to be disappointed. He was drafted with the expectation that he would grow into the role of starting quarterback in the NFL, both in terms of on-field and off-field ability. Though he consistently presented his desire and efforts to do so in press conferences, he never managed to actually translate those words into actions, as evidenced by his being confined to the locker room for the final game of the season. DeFilippo has been extremely noncommittal about Manziel’s future as quarterback of the Browns, and rightly so. Unless Manziel has some sort of epiphany this offseason and comes back to camp as a newly focused and committed player, the Browns are going to have another Josh Gordon situation on their hands. Speaking of which…

On Josh Gordon…

If you were to put money on why Josh Gordon is in the news, what would you say?

If you answered “he probably failed another drug test”, then you would absolutely be correct; Josh Gordon is once again up for a year-long suspension. Now I have supported Gordon through this past year. I mean, he is an incredibly talented player, and he just had to grow up and realize what he was throwing away at some point, right? Nah, that would be too much to ask for these Cleveland Browns. He had a whole season to prove to coaches and fans that he was growing up and would be a valuable asset to this time, but once again he failed to do so. I believe that Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer have no choice but to cut him as soon as possible. If some other team picks him up and turns him into the best receiver in the NFL then great, but that is no longer a realistic expectation for the Browns. He is a bad stock that needs to be dumped, regardless of return on investment. He is a toxic asset that no longer belongs in Cleveland. It is time to move on, once and for all.

And yeah, that’s what’s up with the Browns. At least for now. This weekend I’ll be trying to focus on the Superbowl, assuming no more Browns-related drama pops up. Anyway, here’s to my least favorite NFL team going down in similar fashion to the Broncos last year. Cheers and Go Seahawks!!

Leadership at the Top Gives Browns Future Hope

Another Cleveland Browns season has come and gone without a playoff appearance. Despite an AFC North leading 6-3 start, the home team finished with a 7-9 record—good enough for last in the division while losing their final five games. Many fans are angry, myself included. However, I am choosing to focus on some positives rather than tearing down every position, as easy as that would be. I feel we have great leadership in place at the top that allows me to feel hope for the future of the Browns.

Mike PettineWe were once again dealing with a rookie Head Coach and rookie GM this year. However, Mike Pettine took this team to a 7-9 record when many national pundits predicted the Browns would with four or less games again this season. Before the season began, I know many Browns fans would have called me crazy if I said this team would win seven games.

Pettine is also establishing a no-nonsense culture in the locker room. While it is tremendously beneficial to have veteran voices like Donte Whitner and Joe Thomas in the locker room, the leadership and discipline needs to come from the Head Coach. Mike Pettine decided to sit Justin Gilbert and Josh Gordon for violating team rules. Regardless of it being a meaningless game for the Browns, the message was sent that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you were drafted, get it together or you won’t be playing for this team.

FarmerIt was also the first year for Ray Farmer to hold a General Manager position. I believe he did very well and look for him to improve in the years to come—especially in the first round of the draft. While I’m not quite ready to give up on Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, there definitely needs to be significant improvement from these two to salvage the TWO first round picks we had in 2014. Johnny is a knucklehead that needs to grow up, but I both of these players have the talent needed to succeed in the NFL. The question is, will they apply themselves to realize their potential, or will they be names in the long list of poor Browns draft choices?

While the first round is still undetermined, the rest of the draft as well as the undrafted players that Ray Farmer brought in have already made significant contributions. Joel Bitonio (2nd round), Christian Kirksey (3rd), Terrance West (4th) and Pierre Desir (4th) all had pretty decent rookie years—especially Bitonio.

Let’s also look at the notable undrafted players that Farmer and his scout team deemed worthy to bring in this year. Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel, Connor Shaw and K’Waun Williams. That is pretty impressive, considering a few of these players arguably performed well above veterans or those that were actually drafted this year.

Add these rookies along with free agent signings Andrew Hawkins, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, I believe Ray Farmer gets an A for this rookie year. This, as well as adding an additional first round pick in the 2015 draft, which we now know the Browns will be picking 12 and 19.

I believe a bit more praise is in order for Ray Farmer. This time, for realizing just how valuable Alex Mack was for this offense. I remember many fans and media members bemoaning the Browns matching Jacksonville’s 5-year, $42 million offer to resign the center. After Mack went down for the season, you would have to be blind to deny the impact he makes on the offensive line. It was a brilliant move to use the transition tag and allow another team do the negotiating for them.

Looking forward, while there are a few holes that need to be addressed (unfortunately we still don’t know who will be our starting QB), I see the Cleveland Browns future is bright. You can call me a blind, hopeless optimist. You can say I’m suffering from some morbid sports Stockholm syndrome. Call it whatever you’d like, I enjoyed watching the Browns this season and I’m positive to see how this team grows under the current leadership.

Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine are exactly what we needed in this organization. Also, the very last thing that should happen is to get rid of them, so any talk of firing either of them needs to stop. You get rid of them, who would want to come to Cleveland in a situation like that?

What Cleveland needs is continuity for multiple years. No knee-jerk reactions. Stay the course.

Go Browns.

Time for the Browns to Start Manziel?

We finally have seen it. Johnny Manziel replaced Brian Hoyer Sunday at Buffalo and put together a very impressive first drive resulting in his first NFL touchdown. Whether or not this will be a permanent replacement has still yet to be determined (as of writing this article), but I think the switch should have been made a couple of games ago.

While I can appreciate Mike Pettine not having a knee-jerk reaction to more off than on QB play, I am hoping the pending decision to proceed with Johnny Manziel for the rest of the season isn’t too little too late. In a tight AFC North and Wildcard race, it is only natural to wonder what could have been if Johnny Manziel started against the Texans or Bills.

“Who gives us the best chance to win?” That has been Mike Pettine’s mantra and deciding factor since training camp. I’m not so sure the answer to his question is Brian Hoyer anymore.

Aside from a delightful beat-down on the Bengals during Thursday night football, we have seen Brian Hoyer regress week by week since mid-October, which has been very frustrating to watch. He did not throw a TD pass in the blowout win against Cincinnati. In fact, Brian Hoyer has only thrown one touchdown in the last four games, compared to six interceptions in the same time frame. That is not going to win you very many games, folks.

“You don’t get to 7-5 in the NFL just by lucking into it.” This seems to be Brian Hoyer’s biggest argument to save himself from being benched. Now, you would be ignorant to say that Hoyer had nothing to do with the wins the Browns have accumulated, as he has made some throws when he needed to as well as being the unquestioned leader on offense. However, I believe his success has stemmed more from exceptional defensive play. As a matter of fact, I have been preaching all year that the Cleveland Browns winning record is more a product of the defense creating turnovers, giving Hoyer and the offense more opportunities to score.

Brian Hoyer has proved to be a serviceable stop-gap for this season, waiting for Manziel to get ready to take over. Many fans believe Brian is the real deal, I just don’t see it. Hoyer is a great backup QB, but I don’t think settling for mediocrity is going to get the Browns into the playoffs.

During Monday’s press conference, Mike Pettine mentioned Ray Farmer will be in on the discussion whether to make the switch to Johnny Manziel and will lean on the people he trusts to help make the difficult decision. Just a hunch, but I’m going to say Farmer likes the guy he traded up to draft in the first round in May. Going out on a limb, here.

Johnny3Enter Johnny Manziel. Johnny came into the game in the 4th quarter after another Brian Hoyer interception that led to a Bills field goal and a 20-3 lead over the Browns, putting the Browns down by three scores. With twelve minutes to go. Manziel put together an impressive drive, topped off with a 10-yard scramble for the touchdown. He looked quick and efficient in this small sample-size we got to see.

However, the next drive left something to be desired, as there was miscommunication and Johnny received the snap before he was expecting it, resulting in a touchdown that was thankfully (wrongly) overturned to an incomplete pass. Manziel then proceeded to play dead in the end zone, hoping if he stays still enough, no one will be able to see him.

Not a good look, John.
Not a good look, John.

Despite this hiccup, the offense seemed to have a little spark lit under them when the QB change was made. Manziel brings a different element to the offense. Brian Hoyer was terrific with the intangibles, but seeing overthrown passes to wide open receivers and more interceptions as the season went on has begun to cost the Browns wins—and maybe their chance at the playoffs.

In a week where both the Steelers and Ravens lose, it is tough to look back at this week against the Bills and the Texans game, at what could have been, only to give first place up due to turnovers. I say turnovers, because Terrance West’s fumble was just as damaging as Hoyer’s two interceptions. The Browns needed one of those two games.

I am a Browns fan. I hate the revolving door at the quarterback position just as much as anyone in Cleveland, but I think Brian Hoyer is doing more harm than good being the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns lately. The defense (secondary especially) has worked too hard in too many games to either lose, or barely squeak out wins that should have been won by two scores or more.

If it turns out that Brian Hoyer will continue to be the starting QB, I won’t understand it, but you better believe I will be cheering just as hard for him to succeed. I root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.

But if the switch is made, I don’t expect Johnny Manziel to be perfect, especially in the early-going, but I do expect him to provide a whole new element to the offense that will bring more wins and hopefully a playoff berth to the Browns and the city of Cleveland.

Go Browns.

A Cleveland Browns Thanksgiving

After years of mediocrity, it finally looks like (knock on wood) Cleveland Browns fans have a team they can be thankful for and proud of this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the team is currently 7-4 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt. All of this got some of the Browns writers here at More Than A Fan: Cleveland thinking, what should the Cleveland Browns be thankful for this year? Here is what we came up with.

Dave Jack

-For starters, the Browns as an organization should still be thankful for the Indianapolis Colts. While the current administration had nothing to do with executing the Trent Richardson deal, they certainly did benefit from it. It’s far too early to determine whether the trade ultimately worked out in their favor, but the added first round pick allowed the Browns flexibility to move around in that round and do what they wanted.

-To piggyback off of that, Ray Farmer and company should propose a Thanksgiving toast to Joe Banner. Banner wasn’t perfect, but he did have the foresight to stockpile draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft (much to the detriment of the 2013 draft), one that he predicted (so far, correctly) would have much more talent. He also left the new regime in a very good position financially.

-We found out the hard way that everyone should be thankful for center Alex Mack. The offensive line as a whole took a noticeable step back in the couple games following his injury. This was no doubt partly due to chemistry, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that was it. Joe Thomas is probably the better lineman at a more integral position, but Mack was the general and possibly the best run blocker out of the bunch. Missing him shows that Mack is worth every penny of his $42 million contract.

Andy Metzger

First and foremost, the Browns should be thankful for the defensive secondary unit. If it hadn’t been for their stellar play all season, the Browns record would be much different. The secondary has collected 13 total interceptions this season, led by Tashaun Gipson with six of them. Joe Haden has played lights out this season and is earning that big contract. While he had early struggles, Justin Gilbert has shown tremendous progress the last few games and made a huge pass defense against the Falcons in a tight game. It is because of the secondary unit that Brian Hoyer has had extra opportunities per game.

Second, the Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel *ducks*. Now, hear me out on this. When the Browns selected Johnny Manziel in the first round in the draft, the Browns suddenly became a relevant team in the NFL in the eyes of the national media. With that, Brian Hoyer knew he needed to work his butt off to be the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns. This is just speculation, but I assume Hoyer also brought his game up on the intangibles that rookies have a hard time with. Namely, leadership. There’s no doubt that Brian Hoyer is the leader of the offense. He has command of the huddle and the respect of his peers. Sometimes it is that confidence that boosts your game to another level. The Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel, it lit a fire under Brian Hoyer. I just hope his inconsistent passes don’t lock us out of the playoffs *ducks*.

Last, but certainly not least, the Browns should be thankful for Ray Farmer. More specifically, Ray Farmer and his scout team. Where older regimes refused to bring in free agents because “they’re free agents for a reason,” Ray Farmer brought in Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Jim Dray, Ben Tate, Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins. As for the draft, they snagged Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, Pierre Desir as well as gaining extra 2015 1st, 4th and a 6th round draft pics. For undrafted rookies, the Browns collected an impressive haul that are major contributors on both sides of the ball. Cleveland signed Ray Agnew, Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel and K’Waun Williams. Without the players Ray Farmer signed, this would be a very different looking team. So, not only the Browns, but I, too, am thankful for Ray Farmer and his scout team. They did a fantastic job in the first year and cannot wait to see what they can do in the years to come.

Nico Ericksen-Deriso

Local(ish) High Schools – With four players from the Youngstown and Cleveland areas, the Browns ought to be thankful for the local talent that has reached them. Brian Hoyer went to high school at local powerhouse St. Ignatius. After spending time working behind Tom Brady in New England, Hoyer has emerged in Cleveland to lead the team’s offense, racking up 2864 yards through the air on a 55.9% completion rate to go along with 11 touchdowns thus far this year. On defense, one of his counterparts is also a Cleveland native. Donte Whitner attended Glenville High School before heading to Ohio State. In his first year with the Browns, he has been instrumental so far, finding himself second on the team in tackles with 73. He also has an interception and a forced fumble to go along. Two Browns linemen hail from the Youngstown area: Ishmaa’ily Kitchen on defense, and John Greco on offense. Kitchen attended Cardinal Mooney High before pursuing a career in the NFL. After seeing little time on the field in September, Kitchen has stepped up to the tune of 23 tackles since Week 6 as injuries have slowly decimated the Browns’ defensive line. On the other hand, John Greco, who attended Boardman High in Youngstown, has started every game for the Browns this season, primarily at right guard.
A Kyle Shanahan Offense – Shanahan’s offense has created a functional unit for the Browns. Despite losing one of their best players in Alex Mack, Cleveland has still been able to produce at a greater rate than last year, often powered to victory on the backs of their duo of rookie running backs and Hoyer’s mistake-minimizing arm. However, I can’t say that this has been all good, as their have been a few games when the offense has just straight up failed. However, overall, Shanahan’s presence in Cleveland has been a blessing.
The Cincinnati Bengals – “Wait what?! The Bengals? That makes so much sense, being thankful for one of our rivals and the division leader. Except not!”…Well, if you really think about it, it does. The Browns have three big reasons to be thankful for the Bengals. First off, former Bengal Andrew Hawkins leads the team in receiving with 50 receptions for 694 yards and two touchdowns. Secondly, the Bengals were kind enough to drop a huge deuce on Thursday Night Football. And lastly, the Bengals were dumb enough to help make sure the Browns improved this year by signing Greg “Brickhand” Little, guaranteeing that Cleveland’s worst nightmare would never haunt the team again. As hard as it is to admit, the Browns owe the Bengals a polite nod at dinner this Thanksgiving.

Stephen Thomas

I’m thankful that Mike Smith knows less about clock management than Andy Reid.

I’m thankful for reactionary Browns fans on Twitter, who handle each third down failure and incomplete pass with the grace and tact of a sorority girl in a zombie apocalypse movie.

I’m thankful for Joel Bitonio and Joe Thomas, who could block their way out of Nakatomi Plaza.

I’m thankful for Steelers fans, because as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack “The world needs ditch diggers, too.”

Ryan Jones

Mike Pettine – I routinely make jokes about the corpses that have roamed the sidelines for the Cleveland Browns over the past two or so decades, but know that I make those jokes in the most masochistic way imaginable. It kills me every time that I do it, but I think we might just be able to move on from all of that. Granted, Mike Pettine has had a couple time management blunders during his rookie campaign, but I get the feeling that he is an actual NFL caliber head coach. It’s a relatively small sample size but I’m absolutely loving him at the helm of my team thus far.

Josh Gordon – Quite simply the most talented football player that I have ever seen play for the Browns during my lifetime. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Josh Gordon was the singular reason that I was able to watch and enjoy the second half of last season. He is that good. And the Browns were that bad. There were quite a few local media members who advocated for his release this offseason. You most likely won’t hear them address that, but you will hear me reaffirm my love of Josh Gordon and the fact that I wrote a series of articles championing the fact that releasing him would have been a disastrous mistake. Seeing number twelve out on the field in Brown and Orange might just be the best thing in my life right now. Please don’t tell my girlfriend.

Seven and four. Seven wins and four losses. Seven wins at Thanksgiving and a team that is squarely in the mix for a playoff spot. I’m sorry, but after the putrid and depressing football that I have been subjected to my entire life, that is definitely the thing that I am most thankful for. Again, please don’t let my girlfriend or loved ones read this. Or, actually, let them read this. They know I have an irrational love for this football team. They’ll understand. All of us understand. Or, at least, should. The Browns have a huge game against Buffalo on Sunday, and they are poised to enter the month of December fighting for the division and the playoffs. How can we not be thankful for that?


 

As you can see, the Browns organization has a lot to be thankful for. One consensus among all of the writers was that the Browns should be thankful for their fans. These are fans who have stuck it out through multiple two, three and four win seasons. Fans who have begged just to have a team with a .500 record. Fans who can boast that they are some of the best fans in the NFL, as well as the most numerous.

The staff at More Than A Fan: Cleveland would like to wish all of you, our readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Even if you’ve only read one post or disagree with everything we say on a regular basis, we are still thankful for taking the time to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving