More whining about the Browns

None of us should be happy with the slow start by the Browns, but it’s boring as hell listening to the constant whining about the “negativity” surrounding the Browns and Eric Mangini. Chris Rose from the “Best Damn Sports Show” was just on Rizzo, and all he could focus on was the stream of negative stories, as if the James Davis situation is some sort of high crime that could bring down the Mangini regime. Good grief. Somehow, the fact that we don’t see George Kokinis is a “problem.” Who cares if we see the GM? He’s obviously busy doing his job, like dumping Braylon Edwards and ridding the team of a malcontent who was never going to re-sign with the team.

These guys love the “soap opera” angle on the Browns – how about focusing on football instead? That’s probably too much to ask.

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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.

Thinning the herd

I have to admit I like the purge that’s taking place under Eric Mangini and George Kokinis. The process may be painful to watch, as it may be some time before the Browns start winning games on a consistent basis, but the quick fix never works in the NFL. The Browns need to build a new foundation, and getting quality players who are selfless and buy into the system is a necessary ingredient. It’s also important to weed out the bad apples like Braylon Edwards, or inconsistent players who want too much money, like Kellen Winslow.

Some have whined about the number of former Jets on the roster, but those players are all contributing. Guys like Abram Elam are setting a very positive tone on the team.

Naturally, talent is also critical, and over time the Browns need players with the talent of a Braylon Edwards. But, the talented players need to be placed in a system that breeds success. Bill Belichick built the Patriots from the bottom up, often with players that most fans knew little about. meanwhile, idiots like Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones focus on big-name players, yet they always fall short.

Give Mangini and Kokinis time. One idiotic sportswriter called Mangini the worst NFL coaching hire ever. He may eat his words in time.

Dump Sean Jones

Tony Grossi is speculating that the Browns might be considering placing a franchise tag on Sean Jones, but I would be shocked if Kokinis goes in that direction.

The Browns have not negotiated with any of their 13 potential free agents and don’t appear willing to use the franchise tag on Sean Jones to protect themselves from losing the safety.

NFL teams have until Thursday to apply the franchise designation to one potential free agent. Doing so would guarantee the player the average of the five highest-paid players at his position and restrict his movement. The franchise number for safeties is $6.342 million. Jones had a base salary in 2008 of $2.145 million.

The Browns have not used the franchise tag since they were reborn in expansion in 1999.

Browns General Manager George Kokinis declined to totally rule out tagging Jones, saying, “Some things in this league are done in the 11th hour.”

Sean Jones was a disaster last season. Maybe his knee was still bothering him, or perhaps Mel Tucker was completely clueless, but there’s no way Jones merits a franchise tag. Next to linebacker, safety is the biggest need on this defense. We hear lots of talk about the corners, but the Browns desperately need an impact safety. It’s time to let Jones go.

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