August 27, 2014

I’m not cheering the Greg Little release, but it’s no big deal

Little2

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.

Not. Good.

Not. Good.

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.

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Footnotes:

  1. Via Pro Football Focus. []
  • BenRM

    Fare thee well, Greg. I didn’t dislike you as much as manny…but I wish you could have learned to catch the GD football.

  • MrCleaveland

    “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.”

    I don’t know, Craig. Is that what Little should aspire to be now? A No. 4 receiver with no pressure to produce?

    There are no excuses. Little was given every opportunity in the world to succeed. He got more playing time than he earned. But he didn’t get it done.

  • Harv 21

    “The Browns have made it look difficult to find wide receivers, but it just shouldn’t be this hard.” Amen, brother.

    We’ll always have that game against the Ravens last year when he plucked some passes in traffic with real ball hunger. And he seemed to play better when Gordon was in the lineup and covered by the better cornerback. But I’m not sure what team he can really help. He has bad hands and after 3 seasons still ran bad routes. If this FO can’t find a Greg Little upgrade the FO is just not very good.

  • Harv 21

    yep, he was just about handed a starting job 3 straight seasons.

  • RGB

    Who is manny?

  • BenRM

    He’s probably some dude who isn’t very good at spelling :)

  • bossman09

    How long has this article been written waiting for the day to publish it?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Julio Jones wannabe?

  • Pat Leonard

    I’m not even sure as to the validity of Craig’s statement. That was exactly the scenario he was in this past season with the Browns. He was the 3rd option behind Gordon and Cameron. You could probably argue 4th option during the games when Bess was at least trying to be productive.

  • Pat Leonard

    Be honest, we all hated Manny a little bit for grabbing the cash and leaving the Tribe even if we all would have done the same thing.

  • mgbode

    hope he catches on somewhere, but I don’t think this affects our team

  • subadai

    big fat…MMMMMEEEEEEHHHHHH

  • 6thCity

    Ultimately, cutting an underperforming guy after a few years of trying him shouldn’t be reliant on having other, better guys lined up. I’d rather free the spot for a “known unknown” by getting rid of the “known to be bad”

  • Jagsteele

    Here’s the question I have. Would you rather have Little or Austin on the roster? I don’t think it’s a clear-cut victory for Austin.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    He was the third option this year if you count the TE, but he was miscast as a #2 WR. He’s not that and was always being counted on to be at least that. Pierre Garcon for example, didn’t have to play WR at all his rookie year as he watched and played special teams. In year 2, he played with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Peyton Manning.

    I’m not saying Greg Little could have been Pierre Garcon, but who knows if Garcon becomes Garcon if he has to play for the Browns with Mo Mass, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter. The Browns aren’t making a mistake moving on from Greg Little.

  • @ScottyB330

    Great post, Craig! Really appreciate your last paragraph about how other teams approach the WR position (or most other positions, for that matter). The Browns must be open to cutting ties with any player who does not produce at an acceptable NFL level. Cutting Little is in the same lane as the TRich trade, although I hesitate to give the recent Browns braintrusts too much credit, as they also stuck with Willis McGahee for far too long last season. Here’s hoping Farmer and Pettine are much more consistent in this regard. Far too much time and money has been wasted on the North Coast on players whose names carry more impact than their current contributions.

  • @ScottyB330

    Love this point! Every snap a below par player takes is an opportunity not given to another who may well prove themselves to be better. W/r/t Little who, despite his talents as a blocker, was an atrocious receiver, his presence on the field and on the roster was preventing the next Miles Austin or Julian Edelman from getting the reps and opportunity necessary to turn heads.

  • mgbode

    “if healthy” it is undoubtedly Austin. and, I guess we are banking on the health since we signed him.

  • justsaying

    Yeah but that “if healthy” doesn’t have good odds. Austin missed 11 games over the last 3 years, and played unhealthy in a bunch more. From 2011 on, he just has been injury riddled. Listed on the injury report 26 times from 2011-2013, the vast majority for Hammy issues. Odds are, he’ll never be 100% again. Little had better stats 2/3 years than Austin, who had a little bit of a better QB than Little did. Little did little to impress me in a bad situation. Replacing him with an injury riddled, to be 30yr old? Probably a worse decision than it seems on the surface.

  • subadai

    He was a RB for most of his (limited) time at North Carolina.Only played a handful of games as WR. I wonder if someone will try to move him into the backfield. That’s probably his best shot. But that is for someone else to figure out. Not our problem now.

  • mgbode

    more upside with Austin, but I agree that he likely won’t be healthy all that long.

  • PeterA

    I hate to admit it, but I’m overjoyed. I’m tired of stone handed recievers making our QBs look even worse than they are. Killing drives….adding to my misery. Good riddence.

  • Pat Leonard

    Bess and Little were about even in targets per game, but I’ll give you 3rd option, #2 WR :) In the end I agree with your main point that it’s a move that doesn’t make a huge difference.