August 15, 2014

While We’re Waiting… Franonca Begins The Process.

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

“As they go about putting that game plan together this off-season, Francona feels confident in the front office but understands they have to back it up with good, solid decisions. “The people that are in place here are off the charts,” Francona said. “Now we have a responsibility to put a team on the field. And the more consistently you do that, the better chance you give yourself to win.”

But what about the team he currently has in place? Roster turnover is on the horizon, but how much and in what areas does Francona feel those changes need to come?” [Zuppe/ESPN Cleveland]

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Much love for Kipnis- “Kipnis stole 31 bases in 2012, the most of any second baseman in the American League. He also stole them at an 82% success rate, which rates among the top 25% of all players with at least 20 attempts. When you factor in his ability to go from 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home on singles, take a base on an out, etc., Kipnis led all A.L. second basemen in the base running component of bWAR and finished 2nd at Fangraphs.

Kipnis does a lot of things well. If I had to pick one member of the Indians to improve their hitting numbers in 2013, it would be him (and they weren’t bad in 2012). A strong bad with a decent glove and great work on the bases, you’ve got the recipe for a top five player at the position. We’ll have the chance to cheer for Kipnis in All-Star Games, maybe as early as next summer.” [Lukehart/Let's Go Tribe]

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On Joe Banner- “That is what I don’t get — people freaking about him “making final decisions.” Wouldn’t that be expected? He’s the boss. Before, we had an owner who handed off any and all decisions to an end-all, be-all looming ‘President’ (who didn’t exactly have the best judgment based on cronyism). I’d much rather see this be a chain of command where people are collaborating and communicating. There’s been no cohesion since the Browns came back — between Policy and Davis and Mangini and Holmgren, it’s been micromanaged into an unrecognizable entity.” [Rickman/SB Nation Cleveland]

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Remember Lydell Ross? He’s a firefighter now. “I think just being able to make mature decisions and being proactive in planning my life and job have helped me the most. I learned to take all aspects of a situation into consideration and come up with the best solution possible. Also, from playing football I learned how to be part of a team and how important having your teammates’ backs is, so that has helped me a lot. The physicality of the game of football also prepared me for the physicality of what it takes to be a firefighter.” [Gleitman/Eleven Warriors]

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“After a shaky first half, the Browns defense finally settled down in the third quarter. No longer were the Colts methodically marching downfield scoring touchdowns. With 3:19 left in the third quarter and trailing 17-13, the Browns took control at their own 20-yard line.

Four plays. Four passes. One first down. Punt. The Colts went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but the Browns offense countered with pass-pass-pass-punt.

Those were two critical possessions when the momentum turned in Cleveland’s favor, and plenty of time left in the game. No need to develop a sense of urgency to score in less than two minutes. Yet the Browns abandoned the running attack.” [Delco/The OBR]

  • Harv 21

    “There are plenty of smart football people. Heckert isn’t amazing, he’s okay.
    But because he’s just okay in an organization filled with ‘awful,’ he seems better than that. He’s made a couple decent picks, a couple no-brainer picks, a couple bad picks. He’s completely average.”

    Exactly. My brain tells me there are GMs better than Heck. My ingrained Clevelandness murmers that a replacement could be worse and chosen in part because Banner knows he will dominate him. Go brain go, squash the fear, let the fresh air do its cleansing. Thirteen awful years does not change by an iota the best course of action for the team today.

  • mgbode

    well, the Clevelander inside us sees that we have had 5 GMs since ’99 (Policy, Davis, Savage, Kokinis/Mangini, Heckert). 4 were abject disasters at the GM position. Heckert is a quality NFL GM.

    Are there more quality GMs to be found? Of course. But, we finally have one and they are not to be taken lightly (see NE’s recent drafting for an example of what happens when you lose quality out of our FO).

    This is all banter for the electrons though. I firmly believe that Banner already knows what he will do with Heckert as they have enough history and he can see enough results at this point from his drafts to know if he trusts him or not.

  • mgbode

    BTW, that is awesome about Ross. Athletically gifted guys are great fits for the fireman life. It also shows that he’s a mature man as well as it’s a mentally taxing job. My grandfather was a firefighter for Youngstown FD and those bonds are still strong today for him.

  • porckchopexpress

    One thing that has been rattling around in the conspiratorial part of my head for a month or two now is this. Was Heckert given an edict from above to not pursue any free agents last spring as a means to make the team more attractive to the potential buyer? Selling the Browns was always going to be a sale on their potential. A young bad team with tons of cap space leaves the door open for new owner to do what he wants. Which to me is better than a young mediocre team that is stuck for 2-3 years because of cap obligations.
    Heckert really does remind me of a slightly more reigned in Phil Savage. I think both of them have a real eye for talent, but they are both prone to tunnel vision, which leads to trusting their gut too much, or overpaying, or making rash decisions to get “their guy”. Basically I think Heckert lacked a fresh set of eyes to give perspective on his choices. Unless you count Holmgren popping his head in the door only on draft day and only to tell Heckert he was going to take a QB at specific times – oh and that the daquiri machine was empty.
    I do believe Heckert is on his way out, and I think its kind of a shame, if the 3rd year is the magic year for QBs, and HC’s, I think the same must be true of GM’s. I’d like to see what he can do with a few years of experience, a full grasp of what the team needs, and a strong, stable, management above him.

  • Harv 21

    accord, including that Banner already knows whether he’s keeping Heck or not. But these guys point out that there are better (not equal) GM candidates out there, and this is probably true.

    Seems to me the post-’99 Browns have been a two-fold disaster: 1) The absence of checks and balances within the organizational structure that let Butch bring in flunkie Garcia as GM, let Savage essentially take over as pres when Collins was ousted, and let Mangini choose Kokinis, and; 2) Choosing people unqualified for the position in which they were inserted (Clark, Garcia, Romeo, Mangini as personnel guy, Holmgren as a president, Shurmur as HC). I trace both these probs to Lerners’ desire to hand off the franchise to a Magic Man, any savior they could find, rather than devoting competent oversight themselves. They were repeatedly susceptible to bad advice or public pressure.

  • mgbode

    possibly but that flies in the face of everything that seems like Holmgren didn’t know anything about the sale until just before we all did.

    also, every NFL team is going to need to be within 99% of the cap next year and we can rollover our cap one more time. it seemed like Heckert was saving our cap space for one push when most teams were going to be up against the cap.

    I agree on your view on Heckert. Reigned in Savage is right in line with his methodology (trading up or down based on what seemed to be a small set of players he targeted). I think he did a better job than Savage at picking the players as well though.

  • mgbode

    I often wonder what Collins real plan was from that time. Was he merely trying to setup the structure of a NFL organization or would he have been just as bad.

  • Harv 21

    agree with some of what you say but not the FA conspiracy. When you sell a franchise for $1B a few more million in payroll is a deck chair on the Queen Mary, especially when contracts aren’t guaranteed. This isn’t baseball, this is the NFL money machine, where a hard cap and slotted rookie salaries make the biggest issue for an owner how not to be out-bid and how to raise the purchase price.

  • Harv 21

    suspect Collins’s downfall was to attempting to assert control over cap and payroll, like the premature extensions Savage ultimately tossed around so freely. When Lerner promised the latest Magic Man (Butch, Savage, Mangini, Holmgren) that their wish is his command they naturally got pouty whenever anyone challenged them, even the fans.

  • Natedawg86

    Wouldn’t one strong push screw the team for the future? Or would most of the cap hit go towards that one year with bigger bonuses and first year salaries if we are pursuing FAs.

  • Hopwin

    At the risk of being accused of wearing a tinfoil hat, I honestly don’t believe Holmgren was caught flat-footed on this. I would imagine that in the months and years to come we will discover that he was hustling behind the scenes to help orchestrate this (possibly on behalf of the other owners).
    Rationally, if Lerner wanted out as soon as his mandatory 10 year sentence was up he would not have given Holmgren a 5 year contract when he only needed another 3 to run out the clock. At the bare minimum I just do not see how there is any way the other owners did not know this was coming and since Holmgren served as the point of contact for the owners committee it just feels like a helluva stretch to think he knew nothing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great points I’ve been saying this kind of things when it comes to teams in Cleveland for years now. There is a difference between being good or great on these teams but when compared to similar teams in whichever sport those same people/players are far more ordinary. As far as Heckert goes he’s done well I just don’t know if it was all him or just how much Holmgren contributed/interfered or did whatever he did. Also if Heckert did so well then clearly if you go by the win-loss record Shurmur dropped the ball. Somebody did that much is certain.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “Choosing people unqualified for the position in which they were inserted,” amen!
    “I trace both these probs to Lerners’ desire to hand off the franchise to a Magic Man, any savior they could find, rather than devoting competent oversight themselves,” amen amen. The ironic part of this is Randy Lerner should have been a dream owner. An owner with an expansive checkbook who stayed out of town, who never appeared on camera, an owner who clearly didn’t know or didn’t care yet since 1999 noone could make it work. Amazing when you think about it.

  • porckchopexpress

    Its not the money, its the flexibility that’s important in not having signed free agents. The contracts aren’t guaranteed, but the signing bonuses count against the cap even if you cut a player (Albert Haynesworth in Wash).
    If the Browns had signed Garcon or Jackson and Eric Winston, or a top flight CB, they would have been selling a better version of their team, but they would be stuck with that team for at least 2-3 years. I feel like it is tougher to sell a 7-9 win team with no flexibility than it is to sell a 2-4 win team that can molded anyway new ownership desires.

  • mgbode

    with Banner as our president, I am confident that he would structure the contracts to eat up our cap for this upcoming year while not killing us down the road. if nothing else, he has done good work with the cap in his past.

  • mgbode

    Schwartz > Winston this year (by alot)
    Gordon > Garcon (can’t help the club from the tub)
    Vincent Jackson is awesome.

    yes, that is pure hindsight (though I was down on Winston in general and Garcon’s contract), but it is also true. We ended up with the optimal flexibility and play on those particular decisions (and I’m not sure how much more than the $11mil/year VJ is getting that we’d have had to give him to convince him to play here)

    ————

    overall, agree with your point though. having some flexibility to do things does make sense for a new ownership group.

  • Harv 21

    whoa, even if we were close to the cap you’re saying Haslam would have passed up the chance to buy an NFL team b/c of a few years of less than optimum flexibility? These franchises don’t go on the market often, the NFL is at the peak of its popularity and if you want in you get in where you fit in. Another franchise might not be available under any circumstances for another 5 years. Don’t think your conspiracy fits the situation.

  • Porckchop

    Counterpoint: These opportunities dont come along every day is Randy going to risk missing out or at the least losing a few 100 mil because he left the team in terrible shape? I agree the sale was a given but the premium price comes because the team has flexibility.

  • mgbode

    most likely. not sure if it was a pure cap-strategy or if he also wanted to put a tamper on the trades (ridding of draft picks) that Savage also liked (so full scale organizational building philosophy differences). would love to get the inside scoop on how that all went down, but it’s a story unlikely to be told.

  • Harv 21

    yeah, we have zero idea. Could have been a much more pedestrian philosophical difference, something like “Look at the chart, Phil, you need to consult me” v. “Talk to the hand, John, I only left the Ravens because Randy promised that I’ll only answer to him and he doesn’t care what I do.” And then Collins morphed into Dwight Schrute and yelled, “Michael!!”