The Alabama – LSU matchup tonight has huge implications for the BCS Championship game, and plenty of Ohio State fans will be watching as they root for LSU to pull the upset. But the interest in Northeast Ohio goes beyond the implications for the Buckeyes, as both AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger will likely be getting plenty of scrutiny from Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.
Both McCarron and Mettenberger fit the mold of pro-style quarterbacks that tend to have the most long-term success in the NFL. Dual-threat quarterbacks are all the rage right now, but I’ll take someone who can win from the pocket any day over a quarterback who relies too much on using his legs. The pro game is just different, and when factoring long-term success the threat of injury is a huge issue facing dual-threat quarterbacks who don’t learn to go through their progressions in the pocket. Just look at RG3. Also, look at the history of quarterbacks who actually win Super Bowls. Guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning win games with their arms. Sure, some of them will scramble on occasion to pick up yardage or buy time in the pocket, but you don’t see them putting their bodies and careers at risk with designed running plays or reckless scrambling.
Both McCarron and Mettenberger are intriguing for the Browns because both of them would probably sit for a year or two under Hoyer/Campbell if the Browns take them, giving them to to develop properly. Both of course also come with plenty of question marks, and this is where Lombardi has to earn his paycheck. For example, McCarron has led a charmed life playing behind monster Alabama lines that create a real running game and also rarely give up sacks. So how does McCarron handle pressure? The Browns will need to scour the film to find out. Unfortunately with McCarron we aren’t likely to see him win a game on his own where he’s getting beat up all night. That’s one of the characteristics Ernie saw in Eli Manning when he was picked #1 in the draft. Perhaps we’ll see the LSU defense bring pressure tonight so we can see how McCarron reacts.
Mettenberger is getting plenty of love from the scouts as he’s improved dramatically this year. Let’s see how he fares against Alabama’s defesne tonight.
So I’ll be watching with interest tonight as I hope LSU gives Ohio State a roadmap to the BCS championship game with an upset. And I’ll also be watching to see if either McCarron are Mettenberger deserve serious consideration from the Browns.
Peter King’s new football site, MMQB, takes a looks at the latest reboot of the Cleveland Browns under Joe Banner. It’s a good read, even if the story is pretty familiar by now in Cleveland.
One topic involves the decision-making structure under Joe Banner. Many media types and fans were very concerned at first when it was reported that Banner would be involved in football decisions, but it seems like fans have begun to rally around the decisions made under Banner’s “consensus” approach to decision making. The fact that he listened to his coaches and decided to give Brandon Weeden another real shot at the QB position was a testament to Banner’s management style.
When a team loses consistently for years, it’s hard for fans and members of the media to be rational about anything. Everyone wants instant gratification, and any attempt to take the long view about a team’s roster is met with emotional outbursts about how people are tired of waiting for a winner.
I was waiting for this draft before making any kind of judgement about the new Browns regime. Like most I’m tired of the revolving door in Berea, and I wasn’t thrilled with some early comments from Joe Banner and his team that suggested they might blow up the roster, particularly at quarterback.
With that said, I’m very happy now that the draft and the first phase of free agency are completed. The biggest plus has to do with what the Browns didn’t do. Banner always said he would listen to his coaches regarding personnel and needs, and it’s clear that both Chud and Norv Turner told Banner and Lombardi that they thought they could work with Brandon Weeden. So, the Browns resisted any impulse to reach for a quarterback, and all the rumors about Geno Smith going to Cleveland turned out to be BS. That alone makes this draft a success.
I love the Barkevious Mingo pick. The Browns are obsessed with developing a pass rush, and Mingo will be another impact tool for defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing, per se, but the guy who will impact the Browns most in 2013 might not be the player they took at No. 6 overall. At No. 68 overall, they took Leon McFadden, a much-needed CB who knows how to operate on an island. As I look at the depth chart, I don’t see a reason why McFadden can’t break camp as the starter across from Joe Haden. That’s not a small deal because it also maximizes Buster Skrine, who will be able to spend more time in the slot, where he’s much better. Now, that first pick was Barkevious Mingo, a player I’m at once infatuated with as a talent, but skeptical of because of what I considered production that didn’t match up with his talent. Now, Mingo adds depth at outside linebacker, but he’s going to need some developmental work because he played with his hand on the ground at LSU. After that, there isn’t a lot here that you’ll see in 2013. Jamoris Slaughter could provide depth at safety. The lack of a second-round pick really hurt the Browns, who could have used a higher-rated guard — though I do think Garrett Gilkey has the chance to start eventually — and I thought would have been wise to add another inside linebacker. But Josh Gordon is developing and Davone Bess should provide Brandon Weeden with another solid target in the passing game. The hope is Mingo becomes a star, and McFadden can perform early. The good news is, both could happen.
I’m encouraged that the reviews on McFadden seem to be good. If he turns into a starting corner, either on the edge or in the slot, then that’s a very good pick.
Then we have the trades that brought out all the emotions from fragile Browns fans and media members. Basically, the Browns traded a 4 and a 5 and got back and 3 and a 4 for next year . . . and people complained. That’s just beyond silly. A third rounder in particular is a huge asset, as you can grab an excellent player or use it to jump up in the first round.
Our fourth round pick was also used to grab Devone Bess, which was another excellent move for the Browns. Bess gives Weeden a reliable option on third down, which was sorely lacking last year.
All in all, this draft was solid. They didn’t make the kind of headlines that impress draft graders, but who cares? Banner and company made very solid moves, and they avoided making a boneheaded move when they resisted reaching for a quarterback. Right now it looks like we can have a very disruptive front seven, and we have a young offense that has the potential to thrive under Chud and Norv Turner.
The news out of Berea has been much more encouraging lately with some of the statements coming from Joe Banner and Rob Chudzinski. Both seemed to make it clear that they saw some real positives with Brandon Weeden, and it appears Weeden will get every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job in the fall. They’re seeing what we all saw last year – a QB with a great arm that can make every throw, but also a rookie who made predictable mistakes. Many “experts” thought the Browns would be a complete mess last year, but they were in every game and often covered with Weeden keeping them close, so the sports betting world learned not to underestimate him.
Of course, they also challenged Weeden to step up and really work for it, and I have no problem with that at all. I also have no problem with them bringing in competition for him. For his part, Weeden is confident he will start and welcomes the competition.
Most fans and local writers seem to get this, and now the new regime seems to understand as well, though we still haven’t heard from Mike Lombardi. Chud and Norv Turner obviously saw all of this on tape, and hopefully they weren’t shy about letting banner and Lombardi know they had a guy that could run their offense. Banner seemed to state that the Browns will not waste the #6 pick on a QB, and that’s a very positive development. Of course Banner still needs to build some credibility with the media. He says he’ll never “lie” to the media, but do any of us think that his statements that Tom Heckert would be evaluated at the end of the year were honest? In hindsight, they had made up their mind, and the early rumors of Mike Lombardi were all true. Let’s hope this time he’s telling the truth.
There’s also the bizarre infatuation with the read-option that seems to unite Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner. Let’s hope this “trend” runs its course before these two shake up the QB position by trying to find running QBs.
Jim Nantz called in to the Bull and Fox show on 92.3 The Fan and delivered an epic rant about the new Browns organization. You can listen to it here.
His basic message was simple – Jimmy Haslam has assembled an impressive group of people to turn the Browns around, and that Browns fans will soon realize it as they get to work and start winning. He strongly defended his friend Mike Lombardi and took some tough shots at Tony Grossi without mentioning him by name regarding his harsh criticism of Lombardi.
Let’s consider some of the things Nantz said.
First, I agree with him that the overall team assembled by Haslam is impressive, and I’m optimistic about the future direction. This is coming from someone who thought Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert did a ton of the dirty work in turning around the franchise and were heading in the right direction despite some mistakes. Rob Chudzinski is an excellent coordinator, and he seems to have the charisma and leadership qualities necessary to make him a good head coach. I like Haslam’s general style and think he’s looking for the right qualities when considering head coached. Chud has also assembled a very impressive staff, with Norv Turner and Ray Horton leading the pack.
As for Mike Lombardi, I understand both the concerns expressed by people like Grossi along with the praise coming from people like Nantz. Still, Grossi’s comment on the radio the other day that Lombardi was not qualified for the job is ridiculous. People can question past draft picks but he’s certainly developed a resume that prepares him for this job. I also like the fact that Lombardi has been with the NFL Network for 5 years. Anyone with a brain would gain some excellent perspective from that job and would leave there knowing practically every coach and personnel guy in the league.
Also, it’s not like Haslam has handed Lombardi the keys to the organization. The biggest problem with Randy Lerner wasn’t necessarily the people he hired, but the total lack of oversight and accountability that existed after the introductory press conference. Guys like Butch Davis and Eric Mangini desperately needed a strong owner and GM to push back when their desire to control everything led to silly decisions. With Joe Banner and his “team” approach to decision making, no one person can make rash decisions without intense oversight, and you can bet Haslam will be in the room to make sure everyone knows they’ll have to answer for mistakes.
So I know Lombardi isn’t perfect, but I have no problem with a guy like him in the brain trust. Of course Jim Nantz is totally biased in arguing that Lombardi is a football genius. Nantz worships at the Bill Belichick alter, so he’s seems to see everything through that filter. Still, I’m more than comfortable giving Lombardi and the rest of the team a chance.
On the other hand, I think Nantz took some cheap shots at Tom Heckert. Of course Bull and Fox just gushed and didn’t push back on that, which is disappointing given that Heckert rebuilt an old, pathetic roster.
Now, there are legitimate debates on some of Heckert’s picks, and Nantz did raise good points as well. Taking Trent Richardson with the third pick after trading up is certainly debatable, as many believe drafting a running back that high is a mistake. Nance points out late round picks that did well, but pointing out a running back that scores touchdowns in the potent New England offense like Shane Vereen is ridiculous. The question is how would a guy like Vereen have fared with the Browns, who were desperate for some weapons on an offense that didn’t have a great quarterback. I think his point was more persuasive when he brought up Doug Martin who went to Tampa Bay. The Browns could have gotten him at the 22nd pick, and you could argue that young QB Ryan Tannehill at #4 and Martin at #22 would have been better than Richardson and a much older Brandon Weeden.
The real cheap shot was bringing up Russell Wilson, who was passed over by everyone and frankly dropped into the perfect situation. Wilson had a great first year, but he really didn’t flourish until Pete Carroll started running him, and that style of play doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term success.
These are all debatable points, and Nantz brings up a good point that Heckert’s record isn’t pristine. Still, he fairly noted that Richardson could be incredible under Norv Turner, and many think Weeden could flourish there as well. So it will take time to flush out Heckert’s record.
At least the Browns recognize that a foundation has been built, and hopefully the new brain trust can build on it. Overall, I’m glad to hear that Lombardi has guys like Nantz will to speak up on his behalf.
As for Tony Grossi, I understand his reservations, and it will be interesting to see how the soap opera plays out now with Lombardi, Grossi and Nantz. To his credit Grossi has said he’s giving Lombardi a clean slate. Let’s see if he lives up to it.
The Browns will announce Rob Chudzinski as their head coach today at an 11 am press conference. Here are some initial thoughts.
- After the Chip Kelly fiasco, I’m thrilled with this pick, but frankly would have been happy with any of the candidates the Browns were considering after they moved on from Kelly. The idea of watching a read option offense terrified me, and the RG3 injury last week sealed that thought, so I’m glad we’ll be running a pro-style offense.
- Chud is a very good offensive coach. He turned Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler here in 2007, and he seems to favor a vertical passing attack that would be ideal for Brandon Weeden. There are reports that Norv Turner would join the staff as offensive coordinator, and that’s a huge plus as well.
- I could care less that this isn’t a “wow” or “sexy” hire. The teams that win Super Bowls rarely make a splash with their head coaching hire. Look it up. It stuns me how few people understand that.
- Mary Kay Cabot has reported that the Browns are likely to switch to a 3-4. I’m not thrilled about this at all, but it isn’t confirmed so I’m not going to get all riled up about it until we hear it from Chud or the Browns. It seems foolish to take a step back on defense and retool at this point. That said, our defensive linemen other than Jabaal Sheard could easily transition to a new system, but Sheard and the linebackers would present the biggest risk/challenge.
I’m curious to see how Chud comes across in the press conference. The most important quality of a head coach is the ability to lead men. We know Chud is an excellent coordinator, and now we have to rely on the ability of Joe Banner and more importantly Jimmy Haslam of identifying that quality in Chud.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future for this young Browns team, and Josh Gordon certainly has emerged as a real weapon on offense. Tony Grossi elaborates on this in his latest column, where he also takes the opportunity to repeat his opposition to the absurd notion of having Mike Lombardi replace Tom Heckert.
Grossi points out that Lombardi mocked Heckert’s selection of Gordon in the supplemental draft, and Grossi is leading the charge for those of us who believe that Heckert has done an excellent job of rebuilding the Browns roster.
It will be fascinating to see if the reactions of Grossi, other writers in Cleveland and the fans will have any impact on decisions made by Joe Banner and new owner Jimmy Haslam regarding Heckert’s future. I’m taking them at their word, and assuming they will in fact wait until the end of the season to evaluate Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur.
Grossi has argued that there is little Heckert can do at this point to affect his status, and thus Banner and Haslam should have stated their intentions regarding the GM. I don’t buy that. First, they don’t want to treat Heckert any differently than Pat Shurmur in terms of deciding his future before the end of the season, so I don’t read anything into their silence. Also, Heckert is preparing for next year’s draft and free agency, so they are observing how he works in that lead role. And finally, Heckert’s resume evolves as young players like Gordon improve their performance through the season.
I’ve always thought this was a possibility, however remote, after Jimmy Haslam purchased the Browns. Mike Holmgren was still under contract, ans having him coach seemed like an interesting possibility in the even Pat Shurmur faltered. Then we had Joe Banner come in and Holmgren basically said goodbye to Cleveland, so it no longer seemed like it could happen.
Then the Dallas rumors started after Holmgren suggested he might want to coach again, and then we had this nugget from Pat McManamon.
Word is that Haslam did not have a pleased expression on his face as Holmgren chatted with Jones, and that there is a feeling within the team that this might hasten Holmgren’s departure. Some in the league would be surprised if he’s in Cleveland in December. Too, there are also rumors that Holmgren would be willing to coach the Browns if Joe Banner and Haslam decided to make a move. Holmgren can’t and won’t address this issue because the guy he picked is coaching the Browns. But if he wants to coach again, it would make sense for Holmgren to step down from the front office to coach in Cleveland. He knows the system, knows the players and knows the media. It would almost be seamless. And it might have been possible a month ago, but now that Haslam and Banner have been around Holmgren and seen this dance with Dallas, the feeling is there’s no way it will happen. Does any of this stuff happen with other teams?
McManamon brings up a good point – there’s no way Mike or the Browns would hint at this publicly while Shurmur is still coaching. But I don’t agree with the other implications from this blurb. If Haslam and Banner really feel that this team is close and that Holmgren could take it to the next level, then a sideline chat with Jerry Jones is totally irrelevant.
In another impressive news conference, Jimmy Haslam introduced Joe Banner to the Cleveland media today. We heard many of things that we often hear when a new regime takes over, but for the first time the chief executive was joined by an owner who is committed to being involved in the management of the franchise. After Randy Lerner’s absentee ownership, Haslam and Banner came across as a breath of fresh air.
Many in the media are quite giddy, and for good reason. Just having a leader like Jimmy Haslam coupled with a smart and capable NFL executive should bode well for the Browns in the future. That said, nothing Joe Banner said was materially different from what Mike Holmgren said when he took over as team president. The goal was to get a team of smart people who would all be on the same page working towards a common goal. Both emphasized building through the draft. Banner seems open to strategically using free agency, but he emphasized that free agents can be counterproductive if you sign them before a team is ready to compete.
Frankly, Holmgren has started a youth movement with the Browns that should provide a nice foundation for Haslam and Banner, regardless of whether they keep Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. On that front they seem genuine in their statements that both men will be evaluated at the end of the year. But assuming they don’t do something stupid, like bring in a GM and head coach who want to run the 3-4 over the 4-3, they should be fine as long as they can identify good coaches and GM candidates. I do hope they keep Heckert, and Shurmur should get consideration if he turns the season around, but Haslam and Banner need to get comfortable with these guys.
On offense, the system matters less, as all of these players can fit into another system. But on defense, switching to the 3-4 and in effect throwing away three productive drafts that have built the foundation of a good defensive front would be idiotic. I don’t expect that.
Many are enjoying kicking Mike Holmgren while he’s down, but his legacy is hardly set in stone. He and Heckert have gone with a dramatic youth movement. If the Browns are in the playoffs in the next couple of years with guys like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden leading the way, many of us will happily credit Holmgren and Heckert for building the foundation of that success.
It’s official. Jimmy Haslam has been approved by the NFL owners as the new owner of the Cleveland Browns, ending the disappointing Lerner era.
Now we can move from the silly speculation we hear every day on talk radio to hearing from Haslam himself along with Joe Banner.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what he’ll do. I’m just going to wait and listen. Based on what Haslam has said so far, he’ll probably make more changes to the business side of the Browns operation before he makes changes to the football operations. Also, he’s expressed his philosophy of building through the draft, so we can expect him to build upon the current youth movement.
It’s been reported that he’ll wait until the end of the season to make changes to the football operations. Let’s see if he confirms that today or tomorrow. It would be the smart thing to do. Regardless of your opinions of Pat Shurmur, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren, we should wait until the end of this season before passing judgement on the rebuilding process. Just several weeks ago, some talking heads were ready to write of Josh Gordon for example, but after the past two games he looks like a real threat at the wide receiver position. And of course we had some fans calling for Brandon Weeden’s head after his awful debut, but we’ve since seen him develop nicely.
I’m excited about the new ownership. Randy Lerner was loyal to Cleveland and he spent money, but the man was clueless. Let’s hope Haslam’s business experience leads to a better era for Browns football. It can’t be much worse.