Bewildered in Berea
The mess in Berea reached comical levels yesterday with the abrupt firing of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi by an owner who acknowledged he pretty much screwed up the first year and a half of his ownership. I’m really not sure how to react to all of this, except to say that Jimmy Haslam may have finally stumbled into a situation that has a chance of working, with competent football people coaching the team and running the front office. None of us really knows whether Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine can work well together, let alone turn the Browns into a winning franchise. But both seem to be hard working and well respected in their fields, so at least that’s a start.
As Browns fans we’re all numb to this nonsense at this point, and the Browns continue to be a laughing stock as fans and reporters chronicle the decades of futility along with the past 14 years to complete turmoil. In the end, however, all that matters is whether Haslam has finally put together an organization that has a chance to succeed.
The most troublesome part of the organization, however, is Haslam himself. It’s clear now that he and Banner were a poor fit, and adding a toxic character like Mike Lombardi to the mix only made things worse. Banner and Lombardi obviously made some smart moves, like bringing in Brian Hoyer and parlaying a disapointing Trent Richardson into a first rounder, but the coaching fisacos trumped all of that along with some very questionable personel decisions.
But we’re also hearing troubling reports about Haslam. Reportedly he listened to glowing reports from Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer about Greg Schiano and was very impressed with him after a pointless interview while Banner stewed and basically refused to participate. How could anyone want to consider Greg Schiano after his disatrous tenure in Tampa? I don’t care if Vince Lombardi’s ghost recommended him. He clearly was in over his head in the NFL, and from a PR perspective even talking to him made the Browns look like clowns. The fact that Haslam’s braintrust couldn’t stop him from seeking out Schiano drives home the point that Haslam had lost confidence in Banner and Lombardi. The main job for Ray Farmer now is controlling his owner, who seems to seek advice from everyone who has a big name in the NFL and changes his mind constantly.
Meanwhile, Banner seemed obsessed with repeating his self-proclaimed Andy Reid triumph, looking for every young coach that was building a reputation. The idea of putting so much stock in Adam Gase seemed absurd. Meanwhile, Mike Lombardi was apparently angling to bring in Josh McDaniels, someone who had a reputation of being just as toxic as him. Looking back, it shouldn’t be surprising that the coaching search looked chaotic, as the Browns had three guys with diverging agendas involved in the search.
Somehow, however, this “braintrust” settled on two solid candidates with Mike Pettine and Dan Quinn, though we now know that Haslam and Banner had different ideas on whether to wait for Quinn.
So where does this leave the Browns? On the one hand, we have an owner that looks like a poor imitation of buffoons like Daniel Snyder. On the other hand, the revolving door of people running the Browns have somehow managed to leave the franchise in a position to improve dramatically heading into this offseason. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert certainly made some mistakes, but they cleared out an old roster and started a youth movement while protecting the team’s cap situation, leaving the team with young stars like Josh Gordon, Jordon Cameron and Joe Haden. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi spent more money but still have the Browns in a favorable cap situation with multiple picks in the first round following the Richardson trade. The team has some young stars and is poised to draft a potential franchise quarterback in a draft stacked with talent.
Now it’s up to Farmer and Pettine to take the next steps. Farmer is respected around the NFL, but he’s a first-time GM and he faces some huge decisions on resigning players and picking a quarterback. Then we’ll see if first-time head coach Pettine can take the team Farmer assembles and starts winning.
If the Browns hit on a good quarterback and Pettine turns out to be a good coach, fans will be able to laugh about the drama of the past several years. But if things don’t pan out, how can anyone have confidence that Jimmy Haslam can fix the situation? Let’s hope he’s found a GM and coach that can stay in the job for a while.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Daniel Snyder, Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, Joe Haden, Jordon Cameron, Josh Gordon, Mike Holmgren, Mike Lombardi, Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer, Tom Heckert
Josh Gordon continues to dominate
On a day when the Browns found even more interesting ways to lose a football game, Josh Gordon erased any doubt that the Browns have one of the best receivers in the NFL. Gordon can do anything on the field, and he gives the team a lethal weapon can can carry this offense for years.
In another season marred by quarterback injuries, it’s easy to get depressed about a loss like this one versus the Jaguars. But as one fan pointed out on Twitter, the Browns lost being led by a quarterback that isn’t a part of the future. Brandon Weeden had his moments out there, but his meltdown before the half was comical. I had hoped he had the tools to develop as a good starting quarterback but reality set in a while ago.
Watching Gordon gives me hope that this offense can be pretty good once the new regime adds some more weapons and a quarterback. We should come away with an excellent receiver and a running back in the early rounds of the next draft, and I’m hoping Brian Hoyer can start next year so we don’t have to push a rookie to start before he’s ready.
After having recent “meaningful” games turn into nightmares, it’s obviously disappointing that we’re now stuck thinking about next year . . . again. But the Browns have some young talent led by Gordon, and now we’ll see if the new regime can add the necessary pieces to finally make them a contender.
Brandon Weeden takes a step back
It was particularly hard watching the Browns today. Brandon Weeden came out and didn’t even look like “bad” Weeden – he looked more like a bad Brady Quinn. His accuracy was nonexistent. As the game went on he started playing a little better, but he had already dug a hole for himself, and the defense was having trouble containing Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy. Meanwhile, the receivers started dropping passes.
Weeden needs to make progress, for this week he regressed instead. It’s going to be a really long season if he keeps this up, though at some point Chud will lose patience and he’ll have to go to Campbell. There are two tough games with KC and Baltimore before the bye week, and Weeden needs to regroup and find a way to regroup and win at least one of them. If he can’t rebound soon I think the coaches may give up.
As for the rest of the game, here are some observations:
- In the old NFL, the Tashaun Gipson hit on Jermichael Finley would have been called a fumble as opposed to a ridiculous penalty. The NFL needs to think about these rules and whether the ref in the booth can overturn a penalty like this. Gibson hit with his shoulder and actually tried to avoid a helmet hit.
- It was nice to see Travis Benjamin return that kickoff, but I was disappointed the coaching staff didn’t have any set plays for him. Every game the Browns should have several plays like reverses and bubble screens set up for Benjamin. He’s a real weapon – use him!
- Josh Gordon seemed a little out of it today. I guess everyone is entitled to a sub par game every once in a while.
- I can’t blame Chud for going for it on 4th and 15. The field goal wasn’t easy from that distance on that side of the field. He rolled the dice and it just didn’t work out.
- The Packers seemed to be holding on every play. The refs only seemed to call it when it was so blatant people in the cheap seats could see it.
This season has been a roller coaster, and now we’ll see if we can get out of this valley, either with Weeden or without him.
Chud won’t overreact to Browns struggles on offense
Fans and pundits can overreact to one half of preseason football, but Rob Chudzinski seems determined to keep things in perspective. Maybe the film wasn’t as bad as some feared. Chud initially said he would have Brandon Weeden and the first team offense get some reps against the Chicago Bears in the last preseason game, but now he has changed his mind. Weeden, Trent Richardson and the other Browns starters will sit for the game, with only guys like Josh Gordon and Oniel Cousins getting in the game. Cousins needs reps at guard to get ready for the season opener.
I would have liked to see Weeden and the offense play better against the Colts, but progress will not occur in a straight line for this young team. Last week was a setback, but it’s important to look at everything we saw in the preseason. Richardson looks ready and healthy, and it looks like Weeden can flourish in the new offense.
We won’t know anything, however, until we see several regular season games. The NFL is so unpredictable these days, and the Browns are a young team that will probably be inconsistent even if they improve dramatically. The national media types seem to be giving the new regime the benefit of the doubt, but Weeden will have to prove things on the field. This seems to be highlighted in the odds, with Cleveland’s odds to win the Super Bowl ranging from 80/1 to 150/1 at online bookmakers.
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Jason La Canfora needs a better editor
Jason La Canfora created quite a buzz in Cleveland last week with a column that basically ripped the personnel decisions of Tom Heckert. Here’s the most damning paragraph in the article.
So, while the previous brain trust in Cleveland — president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert — received praise (some in the local media took Heckert’s departure particularly personally), the reality is this: Aside from center Alex Mack and left tackle Joe Thomas, the new regime didn’t inherit one above-average offensive talent. No one has proven he is, as training camp looms, a standout skill player.
Yes, from a personnel standpoint, it really is that bleak.
On it’s face this quote seems ridiculous. When one considers whether a player has “talent,” most interpret that as having the physical tools and skills necessary to have significant upside in the sport. With that in mind, the young Browns offense is loaded with talent, with Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, Greg Little and Josh Gordon. Now, La Canfora can rightly point out that none of these guys are proven talents, but that’s not what he said in that blurb above.
Later in the article, he does address the players I mentioned. He calls Greg Little an “inconsistent but talented receiver.” He says that “Gordon clearly has talent.” So which is it? You can’t say they have no players beyond Mack and Thomas that are above-average talent players, and then turn around and point out that Little and Gordon have talent.
As for Richardson, sure there are questions about injuries and whether he was drafted too high at #3, but many pro scouts called him the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. La Canfora may not agree with that, but his argument that Richardson isn’t even an “above-average talent” seems ridiculous.
He does lay out the challenges facing the Browns on offense, but he completely misses the mark on the nature of those challenges. The Browns have plenty of young talent. The key is developing that talent and overcoming the inconsistency issues that plague most young players. La Canfora is confusing the issues of talent and youth.
Posted in: Cleveland Browns
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alex Mack, Brandon Weeden, Greg Little, Jason La Canfora, Jason La Canfora Browns, Jason La Canfora editor, Jason La Canfora rips Tom Heckert, Jason La Canfora writing style, Joe Thomas, Josh Gordon, Mitchell Schwartz, Tom Heckert, Trent Richardson