Welcome to “Keepin’ It Real (and sometimes funny),” our weekly column highlighting relevant events in Cleveland sports.
In this space last Friday, I took a shot a Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi for executing the Trent Richardson deal with Indianapolis.
My fault with the trade had less to do with value, and more to do with me coming to grips with the fact that, at the time, I believed Banner and Lombardi were “waving the white flag” on the 2013 season. I asked what I was supposed to root for as a season ticket holder. I questioned my decision on purchasing tickets in the first place.
To be sure, it was an emotional reaction to a shocking trade.
Following Sunday’s win at Minnesota, I’ve had a chance to re-think my position. To be clear, the win itself had little to do with my perception of the trade. It was one win. There were, though, two things made pretty clear to me on Sunday that have forced me to re-evaluate the way I feel:
1) Any assertion that the team is “tanking” the season is false. Coach Chudzinski proved that with his aggressive and fearless play-calling. The defense proved it with their performance against a sure-fire Hall of Famer in Adrian Peterson. Brian Hoyer, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Davone Bess and Joe Thomas proved it on offense.
2) The Browns executed the offense on Sunday that I believe Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner want to implement. They’d like to be able to throw the ball in key situations without having to worry about giving “enough carries” to a power back. They want to spread things out and, in my opinion, value more of a speed back that can execute outside of the tackles, catch the football and run after the catch. Trent Richardson can do some of those things, but he’s at his best in a power-type running format.
Generally, it’s easy for people to take credit for things when they’re right. It’s a little more difficult for them to admit when they’re wrong. In this case, my emotional reaction was wrong. I see the thinking behind the trade, and I understand what Joe Banner was trying to accomplish.
I still maintain that the ultimate success of the deal will be in Banner and Lombardi’s ability to have an exceptional 2014 draft. Judging by Lombardi’s track record, which is all I can go on, I still question whether or not it will happen. But at the end of the day, Joe Banner and his team deserve to implement the plan they believe will make the Browns into a championship contender. I support that, and I wish I would have thought my opinion through a little more before writing last week’s column.
ON BRIAN HOYER……………….
How impressed was I of Brian Hoyer’s performance Sunday?
Well, let’s first consider the circumstances:
- Hoyer started the season as the third string quarterback. He was making only his second start in the National Football League, and there was added pressure because it’s his hometown team.
- Hoyer had absolutely zero running game, and was working with a shaky offensive line.
- He was dealing with an exhausted and weary fan base that just watched the front office trade away the guy who they thought was a “franchise player” on offense.
- He was playing on the road, in a dome, against a desperate Vikings team—that made the playoffs last season—that started 0-2.
- He was down a touchdown before he even took the field.
Honest question here: Has there ever been a quarterback starting a game with more factors against him than Brian Hoyer on Sunday? If so, I’d be interested to hear who that guy is.
Hoyer was fantastic in his command of the offense. He consistently moved the ball down the field in the first half. He understood who his playmakers were, and he found them time and time again.
Sure, he threw three interceptions. Two of those were clearly his fault. But I’d like to refer you to what I just wrote about everything working against him, and ask you what QB wouldn’t make a few mistakes in that kind of environment?
The bottom line is this: With no semblance of a running game, and with average blocking at best, Brian Hoyer moved the ball up and down the field, and made the plays necessary to win the game. That, in and of itself, is impressive, and that’s without even mentioning that he commanded a 4th quarter, comeback, game-winning drive to seal the deal.
With an apology to Brandon Weeden’s feelings, Brian Hoyer deserves an opportunity to lead this team in the short term. We’re still a long way from anointing him the franchise quarterback, and his performance on Sunday doesn’t diminish the fact that the Browns still have a significant need at the position. But it’s clear that right now, Brian Hoyer gives the Browns the best chance to win. Here’s hoping he can continue to do so.
Browns Quote of the Week:
“They just didn’t listen to any of the noise. They continued to believe and work hard. It says a lot about those guys. This team will not quit.” – Rob Chudzinski following Sunday’s 31-27 victory at Minnesota.
Joe Banner has been swearing up and down that Rob Chudzinski is a great leader. Sunday’s result was Exhibit A.
Browns Tweet of the Week:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Browns, Bengals, Indians and Reds won on the same day was Oct. 2, 1988.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) September 23, 2013
That is a long time.
ON THE INDIANS’ PLAYOFF CHANCES………………….
Following their four-game sweep of the Houston (Dis)Astros, the Indians enjoy an off day Monday and will then play the final six games of the regular season. With a 1.5 game lead over Texas for the final Wild Card spot, it’s hard to believe that four more wins won’t be enough to get them to the postseason.
Since April, I said that the Indians were a few pieces away from being a playoff team. Boy, was I wrong again. I undervalued Terry Francona’s leadership down the stretch. I undervalued the core group of players on the roster – Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Brantley and Santana – and their ability to produce in the clutch. I severely undervalued the bullpen, and the pitching staff as a whole, which has been incredible down the stretch.
Looking at the big picture: the Indians have beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat, and have generally struggled against teams with a better record. But at the end of the day, as a fan, all I can ask for is a shot at postseason play. As we all know (see: San Francisco Giants of 2012), anything can happen in the playoffs. No matter what occurs in the final week of the season, this year has been a success. Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti, and Mark Shapiro—a guy I’ve been critical of before—deserve a ton of credit.
Indians Quote of the Week:
“The Cleveland Indians’ road to October is all but free of impediment, a parade of cupcake opponents that Terry Francona’s boys are eagerly devouring as the season draws to a close.” – Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports
Ken wrote a column on the “fairness” of the wild card race in the American League. He takes issue with unbalanced scheduling and the advantage it’s giving the Indians coming out of the AL Central.
Rosenthal wants to talk about an “unfair fight” while failing to note that the Indians spend less in payroll than two of the three teams in the AL East he highlights in his column. For instance, the Yankees have a payroll of $255 million while the Indians are around $79 million. So, to recap, they get to spend more on players, but it’s unfair because the Indians are playing the schedule assigned to them by baseball.
I understand Ken’s point on the scheduling aspect. I have no issue with it. But he frames his piece on the notion that the Indians have an advantage of making the playoffs over teams that are spending tens (and in the Yankees case, hundreds) of millions of dollars more on players, and that’s just wrong.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK:
— NOTSCCleveland (@NOTSCCleveland) September 20, 2013
Regardless of the fact that the Browns clearly aren’t taking, this is still a hilarious and very well done photo that was brought to my attention by a friend who frequents the message boards at the Orange and Brown Report. I have no clue who spent the time on photoshop to create it, but whoever it is did an incredible job. Remember everybody, it’s more fun to laugh than cry.
Until next time……..
If you have a question or comment for Adam, email him directly at email@example.com.