The Browns look like a real team again
It’s only one preseason game, but watching the Cleveland Browns last night against the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl favorite, had to make Browns fans feel better for a change.
What we saw was a team that belonged on the field with their opponent. We also saw a team that had two NFL quarterbacks. Jake Delhomme looked like a solid veteran, and Seneca Wallace looked like a potential weapon at that position. We don’t have to hold our breath any more and hope that Brady Quinn can hit a wide open receiver or that Derek Anderson can stop throwing the ball right in the hands of defensive backs.
We still don’t know how good this offense can be, but we do know that they probably won’t looked like a bunch of over-matched amateurs when trying to throw the ball. Mike Holmgren realized that a change needed to be made, and I suspect that Eric Mangini was all for a change as well.
The running game also didn’t miss a beat. It was a joy to watch the Browns pound in that first touchdown from the four yard line. Lawrence Vickers is a beast at fullback, and Jerome Harrison showed again that he can gain tough yardage. With a solid running game, Delhomme should be able to have a solid season. Also, we didn’t even see the Wildcat last night and Josh Cribbs didn’t touch the ball!
Peyton Hillis showed that we now have several weapons coming out of the backfield. This kid is a great receiver, and I loved seeing the screen pass. We haven’t even seen Montario Hardesty yet.
The defense could stop one of the best offenses in the league, so let’s hope they play better against more typical NFL offenses. That said, the young DBs looked pretty good. T.J. Ward looks like a real player, even with some of the mistakes. Joe Haden looked solid, and we saw a glimpse of his athletic ability and speed on the kickoff return.
Bottom line – the Browns looked like a team that can play with the better teams in this league. Let’s see how they do next week at home against the St. Louis Rams, a team that seems to be starting over.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Eric Mangini, Green Bay Packers, Jake Delhomme, Jerome Harrison, Joe Haden, Josh Cribbs, Lambeau Field, Lawrence Vickers, Mike Holmgren, Montario Hardesty, Peyton Hillis, Seneca Wallace, T.J. Ward
Mike Holmgren is keeping Eric Mangini a head coach of the Browns
I have mixed feelings about this. In one sense, Eric Mangini gets the chance to build on the progress made this year. Also, with Holmgren and a GM calling the shots on the roster, Mangini can focus solely on coaching and leave the rest of the stuff to real pros. The Josh Cribbs situation comes to mind, and obviously the draft.
On the other hand, Mike Holmgren might be wasting a year of this doesn’t work out.
One positive is that you have a team president who really understands the offensive side of the ball, and a head coach who has experience as a defensive coordinator. If they can work together, they might compliment each other.
Hopefully, Holmgren is going to have serious input going forward on the offensive strategy. I’d like to hear that he and Brian Daboll spent time together as well. Ideally, apart from bringing in a new offensive coordinator, I’d like to see Holmgren add someone to the offensive staff to help Daboll with the passing game. The Browns need to develop a quarterback, whether it’s Brady Quinn or a new guy, and right now it’s hard to have much confidence in Mangini and Daboll. If they can leverage Holmgren’s expertise, their chances of success will improve.
Brady Quinn done for the season
WKNR is reporting that Brady Quinn is done for the season due to a
leg foot injury he suffered against the Chiefs. Derek Anderson will start the last two games of the season. The Browns offense has been playing better, and Quinn has done a good job managing the offense, but he’s continued to struggle with his accuracy.
New Browns president Mike Holmgren will need to assess whether Quinn can be his quarterback next season, and this cuts short Quinn’s audition period. That said, Holmgren will probably hire a coach that runs the West Coast offense, so Holmgren has probably seen enough to evaluate whether Quinn deserves a shot. I suspect that Derek Anderson will not be in Holmgren’s plans as he’s not at all suited for the West Coast offense. Anderson is a much better fit for a vertical passing game similar to the offense the Browns ran in 2007 under Chud.
Eric Mangini has to be disappointed. Quinn has been able to manage the offense, and now he has to shift gears for the final two games that might decide Mangini’s fate as head coach.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Brady Quinn, Brady Quinn foot injury, Brady Quinn image, Brady Quinn injured, Brady Quinn injured reserve, Brady Quinn injury, Brady Quinn IR, Brady Quinn photo, Brady Quinn West Coast offense, Derek Anderson, Derek Anderson vs Brady Quinn, Eric Mangini, Mike Holmgren, West Coast offense
What should Mike Holmgren do with Eric Mangini?
Most of us are assuming that Mike Holmgren is going to accept the position of football czar with the Cleveland Browns. Naturally I’m relieved, as it’s painfully obvious that owner Randy Lerner is incapable of managing the Browns organization. His only hope is to pick a smart, experienced guy like Mike Holmgren and pray that Holmgren can do it. Lerner adds nothing to the mix, other than his willingness to write checks, which is obviously an important factor.
If Holmgren comes to Cleveland, we’ll find out soon what role he intends to play. Despite the speculation that he will want to coach the team as well, I’m assuming for now that he intends to run the show but have someone else be the head coach on the field. Which then brings us to Eric Mangini.
The season has been a complete mess, but it’s clear that the team has not quit on Mangini, and he deserves some credit for winning the last two games. So, many are asking the obvious question – should Holmgren keep Mangini?
Terry Pluto suggests that Holmgren ought to consider keeping Mangini.
Yes, the Browns need changes. Yes, they need impact players. Yes, Mangini made mistakes, his biggest being the failure of his friend George Kokinis as the general manager.
Where he needs help is with the draft and acquiring players to fit an overall vision for winning formulated by a front office and coach working together. Picking the right players is a full-time job, one that often has been done poorly since the Browns returned in 1999.
Holmgren should concentrate on making the roster stronger, the scouting staff better, the organization run more efficiently. Because on the field, the Browns are a well-disciplined and determined team. They could easily have quit during a season that started 1-11 amid reports that the coach would be fired when it was over.
These are good points, and generally I agree with Pluto about Holmgren’s role. But, can he work with Mangini?
On a personal level, none of us have any idea. The two men both like having control, but they both work hard and it’s clear they have mutual respect. Until they get together and discuss it in detail none of can know the answer here.
The two men, however, have very different football philosophies, and this is where I think there’s no way Mangini stays without making some significant adjustments.
First, Holmgren is one of the premiere experts on the West Coast offense. Mangini is from the Belichick/Parcells coaching tree and I can’t think of any coach from that group who has ever used the West Coast offense, let alone embraced it. Under Mangini and Brian Daboll, the Browns offense has been a joke. I defy anyone to explain the philosophy behind this offense. The emergence of Jerome Harrison is exciting and infuriating at he same time, as Mangini squandered game after game with Harrison on the bench, or worse yet on the inactive list.
It makes no sense to make Mike Holmgren the football czar and expect him to pick players for an offensive system that is new to him. The first order of business would be to see if Holmgren and Mangini could agree on a new coaching staff on offense that would run the West Coast offense. This obviously would be an adjustment for Mangini, but he’s the one with the 3-11 record and one of the worst offenses in recent memory. Without an agreement here, Holmgren should let Mangini go.
Some might argue, as Holmgren even acknowledged, that this isn’t fair. As Pluto pointed out, Mangini has restored discipline and the players are playing hard despite a poor record. But have we ever seen a Mike Holmgren team that lacked discipline or didn’t play hard? Doesn’t Holmgren know practically every coach from the Bill Walsh coaching tree? I would expect him to find a coach that would be inclined to enforce discipline, so this factor shouldn’t carry the day.
The offense should be non-negotiable. With Holmgren’s system, he’ll know which coaches to hire, which free agents to sign, which players to keep and which college kids to draft. More specifically, he can make a decision on Brady Quinn. I suspect Quinn would do better in a West Coast offense, but would anyone question Mike Holmgren’s judgment? Can you think of anyone better to make that assessment?
If they can get past this hurdle and come to an understanding regarding the offense, then Holmgren should seriously consider keeping Mangini. Despite the problems on defense this year, there have been some good signs, and Mangini’s expertise is on defense. Also, the special teams have been excellent this year.
Regarding personnel issues, Mangini has made plenty of mistakes, but he’s made up for some of them as well. For example, David Veikune looks like a bad pick, but the Browns picked up Matt Roth on waivers who looks like a steal. Mangini has found ways to use a number of different players on defense, and the team seems to be making progress in that area. Most of the Jet players have been solid contributors, if not Pro Bowl players. Everyone ripped Mangini for getting old players, and now everyone is surprised to see the team playing hard. Isn’t it possible that the former Jets helped Mangini set the positive tone?
Also, Mangini resisted the urge to go after high-profile free agents, as he’s clearly taking the long view with the Browns. I still think the decision to draft center Alex Mack was a good one. He gets better every week, and the offensive line deserves much of the credit for Jerome Harrison’s monster day yesterday. For years everyone in Cleveland wanted to Browns to draft linemen, but Mangini got little credit for the kind of move that helps the team in the long run. This move saved significant cap space and the Browns are in a good position on that front. Guys like Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow were shipped off as well. Again, these are moves that hurt the Browns in the short term but should help in the long term.
Holmgren is a smart guy, and he’ll see the positives. He won’t be distracted by the record. He’ll dig deep and see the good along with the bad. If he and Mangini can settle on a strategy on offense and forge a working relationship where they compliment each other, then this marriage just might work out well for the Browns. The good news is that Lerner will be putting Holmgren in charge, and Holmgren will not hesitate to cut his losses if the marriage doesn’t work. That’s the critical issue. We can’t count on Lerner to oversee the situation, so one of the two has to be the ultimate boss. If that guy is Holmgren, then he has to have the final say on Mangini and everything else about the Browns.
UPDATE: It’s official. Mike Holmgren has accepted the position of team president and he will not be coaching the team.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Alex Mack, Belichick/Parcells coaching tree, Bill Walsh coaching tree, Brady Quinn, Brian Daboll, David Veikune, Eric Mangini, Eric Mangini offense, football czar, Holmgren and Mangini, Jerome Harrison, Matt Roth, Mike Holmgren, Mike Holmgren and Eric Mangini, Mike Holmgren Browns, Mike Holmgren czar, Mike Holmgren GM, Randy Lerner, Terry Pluto, West Coast offense
Brady Quinn takes a step back
Many of us were pleasantly surprised by Brady Quinn’s impressive performance last week against the Detroit Lions. Sure, their defense is terrible, but NFL quarterbacks are expected to tear apart bad defenses, so Quinn’s performance represented real progress.
Unfortunately, reality set in this week, as Quinn had trouble hitting his receivers today in Cincinnati. Of course, the play calling sucked (the Browns abandoned the Wildcat) and several receivers dropped passes, but Quinn had serious trouble again with his accuracy. He had trouble with all his throws – short, medium and long. The long throws were laughably off target.
I’m not sure what’s going on here. Perhaps all the problems on offense are making him rush his throws and hurting his accuracy. Maybe it’s the terrible protection (by the way, why does Daboll keep spreading the field on third down when our quarterbacks often end up getting pounded) or bad play-calling. Last week was the only game so far where Quinn looked comfortable and it helped his accuracy.
He certainly needs to stay in there. The Browns need to figure out whether he can be the starter next season. If the Browns make an adjustment, they should focus on offensive coordinator Brian Daboll who is absolutely clueless.
Peter King offers up some bad advice
Peter King was down on the Browns before the season started, and given the terrible start, he looks pretty smart. Now he’s revisiting the topic, and his opinion hasn’t changed much, though he focuses on some irrelevant points like the 6-3 score of the Browns victory over Buffalo and Derek Anderson’s 2-17 performance. As stated on this blog, anyone who watched the football game knows that Anderson was not the problem on offense.
To his credit, King speaks with George Kokinis and Eric Mangini to get their thoughts on where the roster is now, and King acknowledges that the Browns were smart to trade Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.
So, I asked Mangini and Kokinis in separate interviews, do the Browns have a better 53-man roster than they did at the end of the 2008 season?
Kokinis: “I think so. But it’s different. To go forward, the environment here had to change. We aren’t in this to put band-aids on the problem. We’re here to solve the problem. When you establish a system, it’s all about building a disciplined program conducive to winning, and you’re going to have people at first who fight the system. But we’ll find the true Browns who buy into what we’re doing. The one thing people need to understand is this situation wasn’t like Atlanta, where you can draft Matt Ryan and sign Michael Turner in free agency and win your division. This team was a long way away. Some free-agency periods and some drafts need to happen for the right amount of change to take place.”
Mangini: “Yeah, I think the roster’s better. I think we have a much better chance of getting where we want to be with this roster moving forward. But it’s not going to be easy. What gets lost a little bit with our draft-day trade is how much money we saved over the long term by trading down — maybe $40 million. And those resources will be spent to build a better overall football team. That’s cash we’ll spend on more players.
“For now, we’re making improvements. Some of the improvements aren’t sexy — more energy at practice and in games, more intensity, playing complimentary football. But regardless of external perception, we have guys who care. And next year, we’ll have 11 draft picks instead of the four we had this year. That’s when you can do some building.”
My take: The roster is absolutely not better because no player of the skill level of Edwards or Winslow has been added. But I would have done all three deals that ManKinis did, because Winslow and Edwards were never going to buy into any long-term rebuilding program, which this has to be. There comes a time when team and player have to divorce, and if player has great success after the trade (Roger Clemens when he left Boston), it doesn’t mean he’d have had the same success in his original place.
Mangini’s point is critical here, and it displays the winning philosophy employed in places like New England. You judge a player not just by his talent and contributions, but also by the cost of keeping him on the roster. The Browns are building the team from the bottom up, with players who don’t have big names (or big salaries) but who play within the system. We’re seeing some of that displayed on the defense and on special teams. Also, the offensive line is starting to come together. The roster is better.
Also, King ignores the biggest issue that Mangini and Kokinis had to face – the collapse of Brady Quinn as the possible franchise quarterback of the future. They inherited Quinn, and Quinn worked hard and earned the chance to start, but he was beyond terrible. He didn’t make stupid mistakes, but he was unable to move the offense. Defenses dared him to throw downfield, and that also hurt the running game. Despite that, the Browns were competitive for most of their games, despite facing teams with a combined 14-2 record in the first four weeks.
That said, it was still an informative article, until of course King decide to dispense some advice – advice that Kokinis and Mangini will hopefully ignore after having a good laugh.
Because of the startup nature of the program, Kokinis said he’s been spending time in and around the team this fall, instead of concentrating his efforts on on-campus scouting. He said he’d do that after the college season. If I were him, I’d accelerate the process. I’d be spending three days at Texas turning over every stone on Colt McCoy, and three in Norman looking at Sam Bradford — as well as extensive time looking at the other quarterbacks in the 2010 draft, like Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead. That’s more important than whatever’s happening in his building right now.
This is amateur hour coming from a writer whose been around the NFL for years. Picking a young quarterback in the draft is the kind of pie-in-the-sky magic bullet that know-nothing fans think about. This approach might make sense if there was a Peyton Manning waiting to be drafted, but the four guys King mentions are more in the Tim Couch mold. Now, Couch wasn’t terrible, and the Browns didn’t help him much as he took a beating for years, but Couch was not worth the #1 pick in the draft.
Regarding Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, I doubt either of them can even start in the NFL. McCoy reminds me of Brady Quinn, too small and below-average arm, and Tebow is a battering ram, not an NFL quarterback. He might be worth a pick as a future Wildcat quarterback, or as a project on a team that has an established starter, but he’s not the answer for a rebuilding team like the Browns.
Bradford is also another bust-in-waiting. he racked up big numbers throwing to wide open receivers in a conference that doesn’t play defense as Coach Stoops ran up the score hoping for a chance to redeem himself in the BCS championship game. When Bradford faced a real defense, he looked pretty average. he’s a second-rounder at best.
Snead is another guy getting lots of buzz, but he’s having a terrible year.
Snead has completed just 65 of 139 passes (46.8 percent) for 868 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ranks 11th out of the league’s 12 starting quarterbacks (and 97th in the nation) in passing efficiency.
He’s no Eli Manning.
Based on what I’ve seen so far from Kokinis and Mangini, I don’t expect them to waste a high draft pick on any of these guys. There may be a quarterback they like in the draft, and we saw Kokinis draft Joe Flacco in Baltimore, but that team had everything but a good quarterback, so that made sense.
I expect the Browns to keep stockpiling workers like offensive linemen or impact players on defense – the kind of unsexy picks you see from teams who want to be good year after year. Another possibility would be a running back, as they can contribute right away.
So, I’m pretty confident they will ignore King’s advice.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Alex Mack, Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, Colt McCoy, Colt McCoy Browns, Derek Anderson, Eric Mangini, George Kokinis, Jevan Snead, Jevan Snead Browns, Joe Flacco, Kellen Winslow, Matt Ryan, Peter King, Peter KIng Browns, Sam Bradford, Sam Bradford Browns, Sam Bradford photo, Sam Bradford pic, Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow Browns
Here’s a joke getting emailed around the web – don’t know the source.
A guy walks into a bar wearing a Browns jersey and carrying a cat that also has a Browns jersey on with a little Browns helmet on his head, too.
The guy says to the bartender, “Can my cat and I watch the Browns game here? My TV at home is broke, and my cat and I always watch the game together.”
The bartender replies, “Normally, cats wouldn’t be allowed in the bar, but it’s not very busy in here right now, so you and the cat can have a seat at the end of the bar. But, if there’s any trouble with you or the cat, I’ll have to ask you to leave”
The guy agrees, and he and his cat start watching the game. Pretty soon the Browns kick a field goal and the excited cat jumps up on the bar and walks down the bar and gives everyone a high five.
The bartender says, “Hey, that’s pretty cool! What does he do for a touchdown?”
The guys answers, “I don’t have any idea, I’ve only had him for 2 years.
Funny but painful Maybe things will change now that Derek Anderson is getting the start over Brady Quinn. It can’t get much worse.
Photo by Bill Moore. Copyright Bullz-Eye.com, LLC
Derek Anderson will start against the Bengals
The Plain Dealer is reporting that Derek Anderson will get the start at quarterback for the Browns against the Bengals.
This is the right call. After watching the first three games, I don’t think Eric Mangini had much of a choice. I supported the decision to start Brady Quinn, and I fully expected him to get a fair shot to show what he could do. I think Mangini expected to give Quinn plenty of time as well. Unfortunately, Quinn has been absolutely terrible. After watching the first three games, it’s hard to imagine how Quinn ever becomes a consistent starter in the NFL.
NFL coaches are often criticized for becoming enamored with big-arm quarterbacks, but after watching Quinn for several games, followed by just one half by Anderson, it becomes very clear why arm strength is critical. NFL quarterbacks have to be able to consistently hit receivers on the deep out pattern, and they have to be able to rifle passes down field. Without that, defenses can cheat by having a safety play up in the box, which then places great pressure on the running game. Quinn has trouble making those throws, but even worse, he will usually pass up opportunities down field and take the easy dump-off throw.
We were having similar conversations last season with a different offense and different coordinators. Was the offensive scheme different for Brady Quinn? Were the Browns going more with a short-pass strategy when Quinn was in the game? The coaching staff always said that was not the case. I didn’t really believe them last season, but now we’ve been seeing the same thing.
As soon as Derek Anderson entered the game, it looked like we had a completely different offense. Anderson was able to get the ball down field, and he was able to move the offense.
Now, we all know that Anderson has his own problems, and the three interceptions looked terrible. But at least coaches can work with him on those problems, and at least the defenses will now have to respect his arm. With Quinn, however, no amount of coaching is going to improve his arm strength or accuracy on the loner throws. With time he might gain some confidence and be more aggressive with his first or second option, but the opposite seems to be happening.
With Quinn, there seemed to be little upside, and we ran the risk of having the entire season become a disaster. Other players would also be affected. The young receivers wouldn’t develop as fast if Quinn wasn’t getting them the ball. The running game would also be a huge problem as defenses would continue to crowd the box and dare Quinn to throw deep.
Mangini did what he had to do. Now let’s hope Anderson takes advantage of the opportunity.
Photo by Bill Moore. Copyright Bullz-Eye.com, LLC.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Brady Quinn, Brady Quinn benched, Browns QB controversy, Browns quarterbacks, Browns vs Bengals, Derek Anderson, Derek Anderson interceptions, Derek Anderson named Browns starter, Derek Anderson vs Brady Quinn, Eric Mangini, Mangini, Quinn arm strength, Quinn vs Anderson
Same old Browns?
Yesterday’s loss was naturally disappointing, but hearing guys like Tony Grossi say that these are the “same old Browns” is just ridiculous.
First, it’s one game against a team that has Super Bowl talent. They got beat by the best running back in the NFL, and they held him in check in the first half. The Vikings made good adjustments and with the Browns offense folding in the second half the defense was put in a tough spot.
Next, the defense is completely new. The Browns got great pressure and they got four sacks. The vanilla defense from the Crennel years is gone. Kamerion Wimbley looks like a real player again, and Shaun Rogers was also a stud again. Also, we saw the cornerbacks playing the receivers very tightly. I thought I was looking at Dixon and Minnifield from the 1980′s. That was very refreshing.
The offense was a problem, and Brady Quinn looked terrible. We can’t draw too many conclusions after just one game, particularly against a tough Vikings defense. That said, he needs to bounce back and start looking like a pro quarterback very quickly. Hopefully he’ll get better with time, but if he doesn’t make real progress by week 4, they need to take a look at Anderson.
It was, however, refreshing to see them run the no-huddle offense. They also introduced a Wildcat formation with Josh Cribbs, though they made a mistake running it twice in the red zone, particularly on the one yard line. Why couldn’t they run a QB sneak with Quinn?
Things change dramatically from week to week on the NFL. The Browns have a new regime and a new starting quarterback, so drawing the Vikings in week one was a tough one. Next week they have the Broncos, we were lucky to beat the lowly Bengals yesterday, so the Browns have a chance to show what they can do next week.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Brady Quinn, Browns defense, Browns vs Broncos, Browns vs Vikings, Derek Anderson vs Brady Quinn, Josh Cribbs, Josh Cribbs wildcat, Kamerion Wimbley, Mangini vs Crennel, Romeo Crennel, Shaun Rogers, Tony Grossi, Wildcat formation
Don’t get too excited about the first preseason game
Eric Mangini should be pissed off. He’s the coach and it’s his job to hammer his team when they don’t play well. The Browns made plenty of mistakes against the Packers, and Mangini will have plenty of work to do.
That said, everyone else will overreact to this first preseason game. The talk radio guys will do their thing, and the angry callers will chime in as well. All of this means nothing.
There are only several important things to take from this for Browns fans. First, you don’t build a team overnight, so early mistakes are to be expected. The key is whether Mangini helps the team learn from their mistakes. Given his past history on team penalties, we can expect the Browns to make progress here.
More importantly, however, is the quarterback situation. Most of us think Brady Quinn will win the starting job, so we should get too worked up watching Derek Anderson repeat mistakes we’ve grown accustomed to over the past several years. Ratliff’s performance is even less relevant.
But Quinn’s performance is important, and he moved the team on both of his two drives. He was comfortable in the pocket and he made solid decisions. He should have had a field goal on the first drive, and he would have had a touchdown before the half running the two-minute offense if stone hands Edwards hadn’t dropped a perfectly thrown ball from Quinn. On the next play Brady made a bad throw and threw a stupid interception, but that play never should have happened.
The kid can play. None of us knows how good he can be, but Browns fans should feel good about the fact that they have a young quarterback with talent who has two years of learning under his belt. Quinn should be ready, and the quarterback competition is probably a good thing. By the time this is over there should be little doubt that Quinn earned his job, and that will make it easier for him to grow into the job without looking over his shoulder.
So, don’t get too riled up about this first game.