2012. The world didn’t end (yet), but other than some promising young players entering the fold and early hope from the Tribe, the Cleveland sports teams stunk on ice. We haven’t seen a playoff appearance since the 2010 Cavaliers. It’s been five years for the Tribe and ten for the Browns. The Buckeyes went 12-0, but with a bowl ban thanks to NCAA violations of Terrelle Pryor, Jim Tressel, and the rest, we didn’t get to see them in a BCS bowl, possibly even the title game. Truly, the Buckeye basketball team was the lone bright spot on the field in the lot (and some of you have made it abundantly clear that you could care less about OSU, especially the basketball program).
Are things starting to turn though? Are Chris Antonetti, Tom Heckert (for now), and Chris Grant acquiring more talent to sniff contention once again? Are Byron Scott, Terry Francona, and <Insert Browns Head Coach After Monday> the leaders to take their teams to the next level? Is there just a bunch of wishful thinking going on around here? While I don’t have a crystal ball, I will try to keep you here thinking and rooting that 2013 is getting closer rather than farther way in terms of “next year” arriving. Here’s five things that make me think 2013 should be better.
Browns: Pat Shurmur will not be the team’s head coach
Unless Jimmy Haslam spent a billion dollars to let the team’s worst coach since Chris Palmer get a third season, I’m pretty confident in saying that Pat Shurmur only has two days left as coach of the Browns. I really tried to remain patient for as long as possible with Shurmur, but truth be told, I had soured on him after 8-10 games last season. I wasn’t against giving him this second season1 due to the lockout killing his first training camp and given the state of the roster and the quarterback position.
Once again this season, however, Shurmur showed that he doesn’t have what it takes to be an effective head coach. He is part of the battery that repeatedly failed to get plays called in time to prevent penalties or timeouts being called. He constantly mismanages the clock and his timeouts. After seeing the error of not having an offensive coordinator in year one, he still failed to give Brad Childress the actual play-calling responsibilities. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Shurmur’s playcalling and misuse of Trent Richardson in particular with this pass-heavy offense cost them at least two games this season between Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Dallas, and the first Bengals’ game, take your pick. His press conferences are vanilla, and while we don’t see how he interacts with the players behind closed doors (much, thanks NFL Road Tested!), I don’t see him as much of a motivator.
In 2013, I’m looking forward to getting it right this time with another offensive mind that is a better game manager. While I’d love a high-profile college coach in either Chip Kelly or Nick Saban, I don’t think they are likely to come to the Browns. I would put three people on the top of my list right now: Colts interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely as a wild card who was incredibly popular here for two seasons as NFL teams begin to look at special teams coaches as legitimate options.
Tribe: With one more starting pitching signing, the team has a puncher’s chance at the Central
The Indians weren’t trying. The Casey Kotchman and Kevin Slowey signings and the left field internal stop gaps just didn’t cut it, and it’s alarming that the Tribe front office either didn’t realize it, could do nothing better with the payroll provided, or they simply didn’t care in their effort to turn a profit.
This offseason has been very different. From the hiring of Terry Francona to the free agent signings of Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher to the trade of Shin-Soo Choo for Trevor Bauer to the continued pursuit of another starting pitcher (so we hear, anyway), the Indians want to ante up and at least play a hand this year and in years to come. Take a look at the lineup below.
That lineup has a prayer. The ones with Duncan, Lillibridge, Hannahan, Marson, and Carrera 5-9 do not. It’s not left-handed lop-sided anymore with the new additions and the subtraction of Choo. They’ve added some speed with Stubbs.
Was Swisher a big splash of money that could backfire on those back two years? Yeah, it is, but the other option is to get up and leave the poker table as we did so many offseasons past. It’s refreshing to see effort and a little financial commitment. The Indians could just use some luck, unlike the fortunes when they gave Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner money for multiple years. In the end, it won’t matter if their drafts haven’t already improved and continue to improve in the future, but the trades and free agency need to be there to supplement things.
One more middle of the rotation starter and you never know. I would like to think this team could at least be on the right side of .500 then.
Cavaliers: No more lying in the weeds. The time to make the playoff push begins.
I think I touched on this a little bit earlier today in my Cavalier recap, but I’m done being patient after this season (in terms of excepting 7-24 records, anyway), one where I thought we could at least make some noise for the last playoff spot in the East2
The Cavaliers may very well have their fourth top-five draft pick in the last three seasons when the season ends and their fifth and sixth first-round picks in that same time to pair with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Tyler Zeller. They will also have about $30 million in cap space heading into the off-season. They could pull off quite a trade or a couple of big signings with that flexibility.
We all know the clock is ticking with Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers need to show progress and surround Kyrie with talent to keep a talent such as himself here in Cleveland. They have three more seasons after this one. It’s time to start making the ascent. Playoffs next year, past the first round the next year, etc.
There’s also those whispers regarding the summer of 2014 and a certain high-profile possible free agent. I suppose stranger things have happened.
Buckeye Football: No bowl ban. A favorable schedule sets up for Urban to make a run at it.
Urban Meyer stepped into the OSU program in year one and took a team that many had down for 8-9 wins and led them to an undefeated mark that included several close calls and thrilling finishes.
Next season, the Buckeyes return QB Braxton Miller, RBs Carlos Hyde (probably) and Jordan Hall, WRs Devin Smith and Corey Brown, TE Jeff Heuerman, and four starting offensive lineman, losing right tackle Reid Fragel on offense. On defense, they lose their starting defensive line, including John Simon and Johnathan Hankins and may still lose corner Bradley Roby. However, Ryan Shazier is back at linebacker, safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett return, and there is talented, Meyer-recruited talent on that defensive line with Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt, and Adolphus Washington.
The schedule also sets up for a run with the toughest out of conference game being a trip out to Cal most likely with home games against San Diego State, Buffalo, and Florida A&M. With Michigan State and Nebraska off the schedule, the Buckeyes get Wisconsin at home early in the season, and it could all come down to a trip to Ann Arbor.
Well, I hope that all keeps your chin up. It doesn’t take much effort at all to be negative and gloomy in the Cleveland sports blogosphere/Twitterverse. We all have our moments (I know I do.), but hopefully you guys enjoyed this look into my optimism.
- Not that I was exactly looking forward to it. [↩]
- Not saying that is the best thing for the rebuild long-term, but it would show the progress we were hoping for provided it was the young guys playing and leading the charge. [↩]