And so the Greg Little era in Cleveland has come to a close. It’s not a day worth celebrating, that’s for sure. It’s never a good day when your team gives up on a second-round draft pick who was still playing under his rookie contract. It’s never a good day when your team is cutting a player under the age of 25 who has good size and passes the eye test as an athlete. Then again, all said and done, if you are a fan of a team and have any aspirations for that team to be successful, you might not want to get all caught up emotionally over a move like the Browns cutting Little. In the end, it’s just not that big of a deal.
Greg Little wasn’t a perfect citizen in Cleveland. He had some minor distractions like speeding tickets and he came to the team with a somewhat checkered past. He missed time due to NCAA violations and there was a minor scandal involving excessive amounts of parking tickets in North Carolina. That stuff is barely worth mentioning though.
The only reason that I give Greg Little a second thought on the day he’s cut is because he worked so very hard. Little was a guy who wanted to be a great NFL player. He worked on hand-fighting drills with defensive linemen to try and be more effective in getting separation from corners. After staring down a reputation for dropping the ball, Little would obsessively stand in front of the JUGS machine working on trying to turn catching into a muscle memory that he wouldn’t be able to mess up on the field. He was a guy who never feared doing some receiver “dirty work” blocking down-field to try and help the team in any way possible.
Little also has plenty of built-in excuses. I’m sure whatever team acquires him in free agency will use these excuses to try and justify why he will work for their team. Excuses like coaching changes and quarterback changes aren’t exactly nothing. Playing alongside guys like Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Ben Watson in his rookie year didn’t exactly help set the tone for a successful NFL career. There’s a very good chance that Little could shine with a more limited role on a much better team where there would be almost no pressure for him to produce, except as a secondary player, but that’s not what the Browns drafted Greg Little to be.
The Browns drafted him to catch the ball and become more than what he was as a rookie when he caught 61 passes for 709 yards and two touchdowns. In subsequent years, however, Little’s production didn’t grow. He tallied 647 yards in 2012 and a measly 465 in 2013. As Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron soared to new heights with a wacky QB combination of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell, Little shrunk. Out of the 111 wide receivers who were on the field for at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps in 2013, Little was ranked dead last.1 He dropped 16 percent of the passes thrown his way and was targeted on just one pass deeper than 20 yards. Running 668 routes last season—and amassing just 465 yards—Little somehow managed to average just 0.70 yards per route run, good enough for the worst average in the league.
Despite all the hard work and being a relatively good citizen, Greg Little just couldn’t become a guy that the Cleveland Browns could count on. No matter where he was drafted, how much money he was being paid, or how much potential his size and athleticism should give him, it just wasn’t translating into reliable production. That’s toxic for a team that is looking to develop and get better and better on a consistent basis.
The Browns have made it look difficult to find wide receivers, but it just shouldn’t be this hard. Other teams throw a bunch of names at the wall every year and find a few that stick. The Browns will look to do that this year with a combination of undrafted rookies and veterans who they’ve recently signed. It’s almost a relief to me that we can move on from even thinking about Greg Little. I hope he figures it out in his next spot because he’s a decent guy who works hard. But I won’t spend another moment thinking about it as if it’s some sort of big deal for the Browns.
- Via Pro Football Focus. [↩]