With much of the focus this week centered on who’s going to what NFL prospect’s Pro Day and who isn’t, the Cleveland Browns remain very much in the headlines and hearts of local sports fans, months after their regular season expired once again rather uneventfully. But this is Cleveland, and in Cleveland, football reigns supreme. So even though the Cavs are limping home toward the finish-line of yet another busted season, and the Indians are gearing-up for another crack at the American League postseason (and hopefully a much longer stay in it), the most popular discussions on Cleveland sports social media this week all centered around the Browns, various NFL prospect Pro Days and the Browns, and the Browns pattern of attendance at those Pro Days.
So…we’ll spend more time than is rationally deserved talking about the Browns, touch on the Cavaliers closing the season-out with a whimper for the fourth consecutive season, the Indians and Justin Masterson, your tweets, and more as the Cleveland Sports Week in Review: We’re Experienced Fans in the Subject of Suck rolls on, here on a chilly and cloudy Sunday morning in Cleveland Ohio…with a nagging cold and a freshly repaired laptop ready to take on the world…right now.
Alright, so here’s the scoop as I understand it. Basically, the fans are in an uproar (surprise, surprise) because Ray Farmer and the Browns top brass seem to treat top-level NFL prospect Pro Days in the same manner that single guys treat the churchy-part of a wedding.
“I’d really rather not go to that…”
To that end, the Browns have bucked conventional NFL wisdom in this department, and have been fairly anonymous at some top-level quarterback Pro Days this week…
And have attended some others which my surprise you, given the profile of the two examples mentioned above…
Now look, I’m a guy who’s currently sitting in a 24-hour greasy spoon attached to a T/A with a laptop at 7am, opining about sports from a healthy distance away from any real responsibility, so take my opinion for what it is. However, it seems to me that the Browns aren’t acting like a team that is picking #4 overall, at least not yet. Now granted, a lot can change between now and May (stop me if you’ve heard that before) but I just don’t think that the Browns are paying a lot of attention (at least outwardly) to their top pick, and are spending more time (again, outwardly) on other things.
This could mean a few different things:
1) I’m stupid, and the Browns are doing plenty of homework on the quarterbacks / Sammy Watkins / etc. at the top of the board.
2) They’re going to trade the pick, move down, and use the extra picks acquired in that trade to bring even more new blood into the roster than they were going to anyway.
3) The Browns (Ray Farmer, really) don’t care for the scripted nature of the NFL Combine and individual player Pro Days, and want to bring the candidates in for a private workout that they control before they judge anyone.
4) The Browns think that they’re smarter than everybody else.
5) The Browns are smarter than everyone else.
All of this is made even more relevant because of the shake-up in the Browns Front Office a few weeks back. Quite frankly, we have no idea how “good” Ray Farmer is at this whole NFL Draft thing. As fans, we look at these unusual tactics (like interviewing no quarterbacks at the Combine) and immediately get that sinking feeling, like “Oh, another ‘regime’ that thinks their smarter than the rest of the League. Yay”. And it’s not our fault, the past decade plus of botched off-seasons and GM’s that have it all figured out that go 4-12 every year has auto programmed us to think this way. We’re experienced fans in the subject of suck, that’s for sure.
As I mentioned, we have absolutely no idea how Ray Farmer approaches an NFL Draft, and consequently, no idea whether or not he’s going to pick good players. We hope that he will, as well as hoping that another unknown (first-year Head Coach Mike Pettine) can “coach ‘em up” and use the players he’s given to have a little success on the field. But we’re a long, long way from that. Hell, we’re still a long, long way away from the damn Draft, which is in freaking MAY this year. MAY! That’s like practically next year as we sit here in March. So there’s a lot of time left for debate on this, as well as a lot of time for the Browns to talk to whomever it is that they want to talk to. I’m not sounding an alarm here, but I feel like I can speak for other Browns fans on this and mention that just once..one time…we’d like a Front Office that behaves like other NFL Front Offices. You know, the teams that have had success. Recently. It’s alright to have your own ideas and vision for how a football team approaches an offseason, but when you’re taking over a team like the Browns with their decade of disfunction (over a decade, really), you can’t be tone deaf toward outward appearances. And after countless regimes in which all kinds of funky things happened both in front of the fans and behind the scenes, we as Browns fans just want some damn normalcy in our team’s approach to…well…everything. And until Ray Farmer and his crew prove that they can turn .25 into a phone call, we will continue to be (and have every right to be) skeptical. Or not…depending on who you ask…
So who knows, maybe I’m crazy. I sincerely hope the Browns know what they’re doing, that’s all. For all their faults, the previous regime set-up the current regime pretty well this offseason with crazy cap space (hello Andrew Hawkins and Ben Tate), a ton of draft picks, and low expectations. So lets see what happens from here. In Ray Farmer we trust, because we really have no other options available.
Other Browns news:
As mentioned above, the Browns signed two new free agents this week.
Andrew Hawkins (CIN failed to match the Browns offer)
I like both signings. In the pre-draft configuration of the Browns roster, Hawkins is a great compliment to All-World WR Josh Gordon, and Lord knows we’ve needed some real talent at running back since Jamaal Lewis was here, so having a guy like Ben Tate taking the pressure off whomever the QB is by being able to establish the run is a great plus.
Let’s play word association. All of these images have one theme in common. Can you guess what it is?
Did you guess it?
Yep. The word is “tank”, and even though they’re starting a bit late this season, with Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, and CJ Miles all out with injuries…maybe for the rest of the season (if they’re smart)…the annual post-Lebron Winter / Springtime ritual has begun.
Look, whatever. I think the Cavs made an honest attempt at it this season, and it just didn’t happen, for whatever reason. I don’t feel like debating the “why’s” right now, there will be a proper post-mortem for that once the regular season is over, but with Luol and Kyrie hurt and the chance of sneaking into the playoffs all but gone…screw it, go ahead and tank. Why not? It’s probably the smart thing to do. And who knows, with the Cavs Draft Lottery luck…well, let’s just say that stranger things have happened. Get me?
Yeah, so, about that “Justin Masterson hometown discount” thing…
My thoughts on this are the same that they’ve been since the beginning. There is so much distrust and ill-will in this town toward the Indians Front Office that has built-up over the years, that they absolutely cannot afford to blow this opportunity to lock Masterson in – especially when he’s making it very agreeable to do so, and is basically bending over backwards to try and get something done to stay here, in Cleveland, with the Indians. Last year’s spending spree was great, but years of penny-pinching and trading established franchise cornerstones for prospects because we can’t pay them market value isn’t undone with one offseason. And while nobody expects the Indians to compete with the top-level free agents and the insane contracts that those players get, you have to capitalize on opportunities to keep yourself relevant to the fans and rebuild a little of the trust that has been lost since the mid 1990’s. This is an opportunity to do that, and the consequences for squandering this chance to sign a fan-favorite (and your staff ace, I might add) could be devastating for the Tribe long-term. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate this point. They have to sign Justin Masterson, and they should probably do it quick, before this situation continues to grow and becomes a distraction. Not necessarily to the players, but to the fans.
Now having said all that, let me just point-out that I am not naive, and I realize that all the public posturing by Masterson to get a deal done probably centers around the fact that he knows that he’s not a “true” ace, and that he most likely won’t get ace money next year on the open market. I understand that this is a negotiating tactic, and a damn fine one too, I might add. But…so what. It is what it is. In any business, there are fixed costs that are required for continuing to stay in business in a community, and in some cases, keeping up with your competitors. This is one of those fixed costs. The downside of not signing Just Masterson to a deal here is just too great. Maybe it’s not fair, and maybe you think that Masterson is being a bit dis-ingenious and whatever, and that’s fine. But all that being as it may, and all excuses aside, just pay the man and give your fans something to be proud of for a change. Please.
Cleveland Sports Week in Pictures
That’s it, see you guys next week! Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Cleveland media personality in MTAF: Cleveland Media Madness! The Sweet 16 is going on now through March 28th. Vote here: cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/20688/fan…