Jimmy Haslam won’t have to rebuild these Browns

Ahtyba Rubin 1

Here we go again. Randy Lerner turned over the team how many times since he took over? And now that he’s sold the team, he’s given us yet another chance at turning over the team to someone with a different vision. Browns fans will yet again be left holding the bag of patience. At least this time, the bag is lighter as the patience supply is dwindling, right? Wrong. Jimmy Haslam will most likely replace Mike Holmgren. He very well could decide to replace Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur too, but my fears aren’t anywhere near the same this time around.

Love or hate Eric Mangini, but we’ve discussed the herculean task he faced time and again on this site. When Eric Mangini arrived he inherited a Romeo Crennel team devoid of discipline. There was talent around, but talent was brittle bone in bodies full of bad attitude in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Mangini looks smarter and smarter regarding those two as the years go by. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow have become journeymen fighting for their jobs annually at age 29. They were both in Seattle for training camp, but just last week Winslow was cut and is available. The point is that that was a rebuild.

This time around the Cleveland Browns are different. They’ve got young players all over the field. They have a secondary that, outside of Sheldon Brown, is probably among the youngest in the NFL. Their offensive and defensive lines are young as well. They’ve got some up-and-coming prospects in Trent Richardson, Greg Little and Josh Gordon. They’ve even got some marginal prospects in quarterback Brandon Weeden1 and tight end Jordan Cameron. They have all their draft picks intact other than the second rounder they used on Gordon. They have cap space for days. My point is that this team is set up well for the future even if the front office and coaching staff changes over night.

Instead of having to deal with bad attitudes and Shaun Rogers not living up to the hype, you have Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. Instead of desperately trying to make Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald work, you’ve got Haden, Dimitri Patterson, and some young prospects like Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade. Instead of importing Abram Elam because he knows what it means to practice hard, the Browns have T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg. In addition to that, for all the criticisms that have been lobbed at Pat Shurmur, by almost all accounts he isn’t running a country club completely off the rails like Camp Romeo, embodied by Braylon Edwards’ barefoot heel injury debacle.

None of this is to say that the Browns are a finished product. Given the schedule and the youth all over the roster, I could easily see this Browns team succumbing to inexperience and injuries and only winning four or five games. You don’t take results like that and just stand pat when you take over a team. Still, you have to feel like there is a foundation. Jimmy Haslam and whoever he hires might still need to find the right quarterback. They might need to find an entirely new linebacking or receiving corps too. What they won’t have to build is an entirely new foundation or broken culture. Obviously the culture is suspect until the team starts winning for real, but I just don’t get the sense that this is a team out of control.

So have faith Browns fans. This team could benefit from Jimmy Haslam making changes, but it really shouldn’t require the wholesale rebuild that we’ve gone through so many times before.

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Footnotes:

  1. Age makes him a marginal prospect for me. Not saying I don’t like the guy, but a 28-year-old prospect is not a 22-year-old prospect. []
  • JK

    If they bring in a completely new regime.. Those people will almost definitely draft “their QB” unless Weeden is the second coming this year, in which case nobody up top will lose their jobs.

    Anyway, if we turn over everyone, and then draft a new QB, that will be just as big of a re build as it ever was.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    dimitri patterson?

    oh right. he’s the undrafted 29 yr old who’s started 10 games in six years and who our GM signed for 3yrs/16M with 6MM guaranteed.

    i forgot about him in my dreary assessment of the team and coaching.
    feel much better now, thanks craig.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    That was just a quick mention before talking up young prospects like Trevin Wade and Buster Skrine. I don’t love Patterson like love love him the way Heckert apparently does, but even still, if that’s the worst contract that Heckert gave out, they’ll be OK and it won’t set the team back much.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    A new QB next year wouldn’t be much of a big deal. The larger concern would be a new coach(es) looking to install a different scheme, as that is when we see the most roster turnover in a effort to match players strengths to the scheme. A staff that is comfortable with this west coast-ish style offense already being implemented here and the 4-3 defense could mean a guy like Heckert can stay (and I hope he does), which would offer some stability. If we can take Haslam at his word, he doesn’t seem interested in becoming the Jerry Jones type or the Al Davis type. That could be good for stability as well, rather than someone looking to make sweeping changes just to get his fingerprints on things for his ego’s sake.

  • maxfnmloans

    6 million guaranteed for a starting* CB on the right side of 30 is a pretty good deal in the NFL

    *- whether Patterson is of that level is another debate entirely. I say “not really. and that’s way too much for a nickel. Especially when you’re already paying Sheldon Brown 5 million to do that. Oh my god, 10 million on the 2nd and 3rd corners?!? Does any other team have 20 million locked into 3 corners this season? The Jets maybe? Denver?

  • dwhit110

    If they have the year that many are predicting, they’ll probably end up taking a guy like Matt Barkley at the top of the 2013 draft anyways.

    Point being, it’s useless to do a bunch of hand-wringing at this point. Need to watch it playout at this point.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    This town knows all too well. Even when you think you have a guy (Derek Anderson) you might want to keep looking until you’re sure as in SURE SURE…

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    he isnt starting is he? doesnt matter anyway, i was picking nits on patterson.

    on craig’s greater point, the probability we will have a reload because i dont think shurmur is a good coach. hope i’m wrong.

    as hard as it is to undergo ‘rebuilding’ it doesnt get easier by hoping a 10 year QB coach will suddenly demonstrate head coaching traits of leadership and strategic acumen when he hasnt in the past.

  • boomhauertjs

    A new QB would be a big deal because they threw away a 1st round pick. It looks even worse if Julio Jones becomes a star and Josh Gordon is a bust.

  • MrCleaveland

    Yes we have lots of young talent. I just hope those younger guys with “character issues” keep their minds right.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    In my mind there’s about a 60% chance that the Browns have a new coach next year. If Shurmur can merely avoid losing the locker room in what could turn out to be a lame duck campaign, he’ll leave a team that’s not really in that bad of shape for whoever comes next.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Well the lost pick is unfortunate, but I’m talking about the impact of change on what we have, not what we could have had. Weeden isn’t ridiculously expensive, and we’d only have one year of development in him. From that perspective, a new coaching staff/FO going after someone else at QB is not a big deal.

  • mgbode

    isn’t Greg Little tied to Julio Jones more than Josh Gordon?

  • mgbode

    depends on the other guys as well though. if Rubin, Phil Taylor, Sheard, JMJ, Ward, and Haden anchor the defense and JoeT, Mack, Schwartz, Richardson, Little and Gordon anchor the offense, then even if we struggle with wins in 2012 and Haslem decides to go another route, then we still have a much better base of players than what was here beforehand.

  • Steve

    30 is not a good number to use. Especially for a position so reliant on speed and quickness. Peak age in the NFL is dragged up by QBs and O-lineman. If you’re looking at guys on the perimeter, you need to compare to other speed related sports. Say track sprinters, who peak around 25.

  • Harv 21

    Would like to believe, and want to believe, in this talent analysis but it’s way too early. We all thought we had that talent foundation in ’07, and even the early Butch years looked promising. But we’ve never had the foundation. So I think this project must be called “building” and not “rebuilding.” There turned out to be nothing there at the end of every previous regime.

    It will be interesting to see the result of Heckert’s veering away from Mangini’s heavy emphasis on “character guys” to the physically talented guys who sometimes have character concerns. A bunch of high picks – Sheard, Taylor, Little, Gordon – had college issues and this team has not a winning culture with strong veteran leadership presence. Heckert took a long look at the DB Mays this camp, and he had a serious issue. I’m all for using a second rounder on a Gordon rather than a clean-as-a whistle but talentless Robiskie, but every team must strike the right balance. This team needs talent and player leadership. It’s not good when the leaders are the talented but immature types, like Braylon and Winslow.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I would think so, along with the success of Phil Taylor and Brandon Weeden. If Taylor ends up a mediocre defensive lineman, Weeden is the next Chris Weinke, and Little ends up being an athlete without a true position, then the Julio Jones trade will look pretty bad for this regime. But the fools who want to poop on that trade now are just plain wrong… need 2 more years to see how it turns out.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I don’t know, I think there are good leaders with talent on this squad. Josh Cribbs, D’Qwell Jackson, Joe Thomas, Sheldon Brown… these are older players who have been pretty squeaky clean. Aside from the youthful and stupid decision to take Adderall as a party drug on a What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas weekend, Joe Haden has been bright in the community as has TJ Ward as has Colt McCoy. So I guess my point is that I think there is already some good balance between strong leaders and knuckleheads with talent (who aren’t really in positions of leadership).

  • Bryan

    Good thoughts Craig.

    It seems like everything hinges on how the young talent develops. As Frowns notes in his post today, adding youth to a roster is easy and anyone can do it. In and of itself, it doesn’t really mean anything. To take it to the extreme, Heckert could cut everyone tomorrow and hire St. Ignatius’ team. We would have the youngest roster in the league! And be terrible.

    So what matters is whether the youth actually pan out. A lot of the young guys on our team you identify are players drafted in late rounds who have yet to do anything in regular season games and who have not had to compete against accomplished veterans to earn their spots. Yes, its great they will get big minutes this year, but until we see their performance we won’t know if their minutes are because we have absolutely no talent internally to challenge them or whether its because they are true NFL talent. If its the former, we may be facing a total rebuild again.

  • Kildawg

    You forgot about Phil Dawson, aka Mr. Automatic. He’s been a leader on this team since 1999. It will be extremely hard to replace him when he retires from his should-be Hall of Fame career.

  • WC

    All depends on Heckert’s ability as a talent evaluator. We’d all like to believe these young (or 28 yo) guys have a lot of talent that will develop. If they do not – and it’s got to start showing this year, possibly in the form of winw – then Boom. There’s no benefit to having a lot of young guys if youth is all they’ve got.
    So another re-build is entirely within possibility. And contention another 4-5 years out. Depressing, because that will mean the career of Thomas, Cribbs, Rubin, and maybe even Haden will have been largely wasted.
    If it comes to that, we can only hope that “the plan” this time is one that actually works… as opposed to those rolled out by Carmen Policy, Butch Davis, Romeo, Phil Savage, Mangini … and H&H?

  • Harv 21

    There is a difference between being community accessible and friendly to the media and being a leader and inspiration for teammates. Players usually follow guys who are performing well now. According to his teammates, Rubin seems to be one on the d-line in a quiet way. Thomas is good for quotes about new linemen, but you really don’t hear “it’s (o-lineman name)’s team.” Jackson – maybe, but he was totally out of the picture for 2 full years and is, at just the best of a bad group of LBs.

    Cribbs: totally disagree. Maybe young guys now know how to use the media to leverage new contracts and playing time, but never heard any teammates refer to him as a leader. Publicizing your grievances, like Braylon and Winslow did, just makes you a mouth, not a positive example or inspiration for your peers. Who says Ward is a leader? When I watch games I don’t see him pumping up teammates or directing traffic on the field. He was brought here to be an intimidator but he’s been out a lot and hasn’t made a notable hit since his rookie year. Sheldon Brown – why, b/c he’s older? Playmakers like QBs are natural team leaders, but they have to play well.

    Frankly, the Browns have been so bad I don’t know how anyone can identify any team leaders.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Love Phil as much as the next guy, but HOF is a bit much unless he plays for another 4-5 years with no drop off and makes a few couple memorable clutch playoff kicks. That, and I’m not sure how much clout is given to the kicker in a locker room…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I respectfully disagree (because I do respect your opinion), but I think you are looking for something that is really rarely evident in a game atmosphere or in newspapers. With notable exceptions like Ray Lewis and Drew Brees, who is the emotional leader who pumps up teammates on the Giants now that Strahan is gone? What about the Texans? The Falcons? They win but their QBs are not vocal leaders. I think that guys like DQ and Joe Thomas have proven to teammates to be someone the younger guys look up to who takes on the challenge of teacher. Isn’t that a leader? Sure they’re leading by example, but it’s still leading. You think they don’t have someone pumping them up in the huddle? I don’t know who it is, but that is only because I’ve never bothered to find out. He exists. I think you’re trying to take something and make it fit the way you feel about the team on this one.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah sorry… I have to agree with BuckeyeDawg even though I love some Phil Dawson. Even Phil the Great can’t make up for the fact that he’s a kicker and those guys don’t get the same respect in the locker room.

  • Harv 21

    maybe

  • Dr. Bones

    Regarding our up and coming prospects, Phil Taylor is done; he will never play again. On that note, Trent Richardson’s injury is also career-ending. The next time he takes the field will be his last.

  • Harv 21

    Don’t have time to go through every winning team, but my point was not that leaders are all emotional rah-rahs, though some certainly are. On offense the primary leader better be the QB. Last year the Texans was pretty clearly Demarco Ryan, the defensive QB, 2-time all-pro; that’s why the Eagles went and got him when he became too expensive for the Texans to retain, that leadership is what the Eagles knew they were missing. On the Giants, Strahan was vocal but they have a lot of leaders now, long-time successful veterans starting with Tuck. Overall it’s Eli’s team now, he’s the engine in his no-panic way. Think of the successful Browns teams of the 80s and the leaders were obvious: Bernie, Clay Matthews for a decade, Hanford forcing Minnifield and Felix Wight to study film to get better, and Golic come to mind immediately. If you throw a bunch of money-first veterans together you get the Redskins of the last decade.
    Having said all that (more than I ever intended), still think it starts at the top. The owner and the right FO, a coach who sets the culture, a GM drafting guys who the coach and veterans then inculcate into that team culture. Can’t work if you keep changing the coach and keep losing, losing, losing. Because winning makes the players buy in.
    Ok, last word is yours if you want it.

  • Scott Smith

    It’s time to stay the course and not blow this thing up once again. I hope Haslam and his team demonstrate patience and at least keep Heckert long-term. Shurmer deserves at least this year and possibly next to prove himself. The team needs continuity to grow.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m good, I think I said all that I’ve got to say.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Dr. Bones, you seem to be delirious. I’ll have Spock bring you some water and give you a nice “shoulder massage”.