July 31, 2014

Browns fans seem content with current quarterback competition

Manziel and Hoyer

If this Cleveland Browns training camp continues the way it started, a true quarterback controversy will never develop. You get the sense that the national media has been gearing up for it all along because Johnny Manziel is popular. He is a high profile player who generates excitement whenever you talk about him. His jersey sales alone tell you that. Among Browns fans in Berea for camp every day, he’s the guy everyone wants to see. That said, I don’t get the feeling that Browns fans are all that eager to see him beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job. [Read more...]

Cleveland Plain Dealer rejects full-page ad trolling LeBron


On Tuesday, when I was driving around listening to the Dan LeBatard show, they were discussing a plan to buy a full-page ad either in Cleveland at the Plain Dealer or in Akron at the Beacon-Journal. From what I could gather, they were upset that LeBron James had not thanked Miami fans, either in his essay/letter in Sports Illustrated or in the Miami papers. You know what? They might have a bit of a point, but that’s not my fight. Word this morning on Cleveland.com is that the Northeast Ohio Media Group has declined to run the full-page ad, turning down the money.

Representatives of The Dan LeBatard Show called the Cleveland media outlet on Tuesday to purchase a full-page advertisement in this Sunday’s edition of the newspaper, Northeast Ohio Media Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Maleski confirmed. NEOMG sales staff are responsible for ads in The Plain Dealer.

The show’s request was “politely declined,” Maleski said.

This is what the proposed ad would have looked like according to Twitter-housed Heat fans.

Trolling LeBron

I have to say, I think it’s a funny idea. Throughout the whole LeBron returning saga, one major takeaway for me is just how good a radio show Dan LeBatard has in Miami. He’s funny, he has a great perspective and he doesn’t take himself very seriously at all. Once you realize how sarcastic and self-deprecating he is, it’s really a great show—there’s a reason he’s been picked up nationally.

And even allowing that I like LeBatard and I think he’s funny, good on the Plain Dealer for turning down the ad dollars that they could have made running this advertisement. I mean, it was probably an easy choice not to allow their pages to be used to taunt their readership, but still.

[Also see: Cavaliers to reportedly play in Miami on Christmas Day]

Art Modell’s grave waterer to be charged

Belichick and ModellI don’t believe we posted the video here, but I think most Browns fans heard about it. A Browns fan made a deliberate act of going to Art Modell’s grave and emptying out a catheter in order to urinate on Art Modell’s grave. Regardless of how you feel about the sentiment, there’s little debate as to the legality of such actions and Baltimore County authorities plan to take action. According to the Baltimore Sun, the man will be charged with some form of disorderly conduct which is punishable by a maximum sentence of two years and a $500 fine.

I just hope this all goes away quickly. As Deadspin pointed out at the time they posted the video, there’s no better way to make a villain look sympathetic than to overstep the lines of decency. It’s important to try and maintain a spot on the high road. I found myself straddling that line by actively rooting against Modell ever being included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and well short of traveling to his burial place to (ahem) make a statement of any kind.

The big problem with something like this is that it leads to quotes from David Modell that I can’t really disagree with.

“We agree wholeheartedly with the State’s Attorney that folks should have confidence that the final resting place of their loved ones is not defiled,” he said. “We are a country of laws and just because you’re angry doesn’t mean the law no longer applies to you.”

I prefer not to be put in a position where David Modell and I have to agree on much of anything.

[Also see: Josh Gordon has reportedly passed “at least 70 drug tests”]

Josh Gordon has reportedly passed “at least 70 drug tests”

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We found out recently that Josh Gordon hired Richard Sherman’s lawyer to help handle his appeal with the NFL. In that case Maurice Suh called into question the specimen collection process and created doubt around the “he-said, he-said” case between the player and the collector. Now, Pro Football Talk is reporting what Josh Gordon’s strategy heading into the appeal on August 1. No surprise, the argument will once again center on the sample.

In the NFL, drug tests are split into two samples. They test one and then depending on the result test the second to double check. Here’s what PFT has to say.

For Gordon, the “A” bottle showed a concentration of 16 ng/ml, only one nanogram per milliliter above the limits of 15. The “B” bottle showed a concentration of 13.6 ng/ml — less than the threshold.

But because the “A” bottle was labeled “A” and not “B” and because the “B” bottle was labeled “B” and not “A”, the end result is a positive and a minimum one-year banishment from the NFL. Flip the bottles when it’s time to apply the labels, and Gordon isn’t facing a suspension.

The really interesting thing to me was what PFT stated before these details: Josh Gordon has passed at least 70 drug tests according to PFT’s source and was really close to passing this test as well. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Gordon’s legal team is hinging their argument on the stated inconsistencies in addition to the potential for the test being skewed by second-hand smoke.

We will see how effective these defenses are. For Gordon, the stakes are high as he faces the road that Justin Blackmon has traveled with an indefinite ban requiring application for reinstatement. Josh Gordon and the Browns would rather see him win a fight over the sample collection process (and the potential cause) regardless of how minute the technicality might be.

Then again, even as Josh Gordon has passed over 70 tests, he’s always one test away from finding himself out.

[Also see: A look at Kyle Shanahan’s Zone Run Game, Part I: Cleveland Browns Film Room]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)


Running down the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the AFC North with @SteelersDepot – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-29

WFNY Podcast Logo

Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot is one of the most well-informed people when it comes to the AFC North. Steelers Depot might cover the Browns mortal enemy in football, but it’s really well done. Whether he’s breaking down players or their contracts, Steelers Depot does it right. So today we talked about the Browns, the Steelers and the rest of the AFC North.

Check out this episode!

LeBron James to appear in Judd Apatow movie, Trainwreck, starring Amy Schumer

LeBron James was caught on set of the new Judd Apatow movie Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer. TMZ (of course) has video of LeBron walking to a car. The film is being shot in New York city.

LeBron is far from the only cameo in this movie. Other names listed on the IMDB include John Cena and Method Man. The plot of the film is still a secret, but the movie stars Amy Schumer, Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, Tilda Swinton, Marisa Tomei, and Bill Hader. All I know of the plot is that Schumer plays a “basket case who tries to rebuild her life.” We’ll just have to see how LeBron plays into that.

The cameos give me a bit of pause, but if I had to bet on a comedy, I would be hard pressed to bet against Amy Schumer with Judd Apatow directing.

Michael Jordan is “cool with” LeBron’s number change

LeBron Tweet

I can’t believe we’re spending so much time talking about a uniform number, but that’s the case when it involves two of the greatest basketball players of all time. LeBron finally announced another decision over the past few days. He said that he would abandon the number six that he made famous in Miami and bring back the 23 that he wore from the time he was a kid in high school until he left Cleveland the first time. And His Airness, Michael Jordan, doesn’t have an issue with it.

“I’m cool with it,” Jordan told ESPN.com via text message Monday morning. “I don’t own a number.”

I swear the NBA is just the world’s longest running reality TV show with the most cast members ever. Whether we’re talking about free agency, the draft, or even in-season team dynamics, it’s got all the same ups and downs as one of the Housewives shows. The fact that we get to call it a sport is pure technicality at this point. Vince McMahon thinks there’s truly unbelievable amounts of drama in the NBA by this point.

It was much easier to complain and snipe about it before the Cavaliers were back at the center of the basketball universe.

Indians “very willing” to trade Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson

The Cleveland Indians’ season isn’t going according to plan I wouldn’t say. At the same time when they failed to reach a deal with Masterson and pay him as much money as he wanted to be paid, maybe they knew what they were doing. Masterson has struggled mightily this season – his last under contract with the Indians. Masterson was thought to be seeking $17 million per season from the Indians before talks broke off. Now, as Justin Masterson works a rehab assignment in Columbus, the Indians are reportedly “very willing” to trade him.

So maybe the Indians were right not to pay Justin Masterson. Maybe it was part of a self-fulfilling prophecy though. We’ll never know of course. What we do know is that the Indians are looking smart today at the expense of looking good in their quest to make it two years in a row in the playoffs.

Maybe it’s not fair to reduce the Tribe’s situation to that, especially as they’re only 3.5 games out of the wild card. Let’s just say that I find it very difficult to feel confident the way this season has unfolded with the team.

Former Cavalier Mo Williams to Minnesota doesn’t make the most sense

Mo Williams

Former Cavaliers all-star point guard Mo Williams signed a deal with Minnesota today. The deal is smallish for one year and $3.75 million. CBS’ James Herbert notes that it’s not the most obvious fit for the Minnesota Timberwolves which obviously has me thinking.

The cynical view here is that Minnesota doesn’t need a 31-year-old backup guard. The team probably isn’t going anywhere next season, and he’ll take minutes away from rookie Zach LaVine. The glass-half-full perspective is that Williams addresses the Wolves’ need for more shooting, and he will be able to play alongside Ricky Rubio for stretches. He’s a solid role player, and he’s on a favorable contract.

Of course back here in Cleveland, it’s impossible to think of anything in the NBA without trying to figure out how it relates to LeBron James. Yes, I’m partially making fun of myself, but I also am partially just speaking the truth. Let conspiracy theories reign. Until there’s some clarity in the saga of Cleveland and Kevin Love, I’m just going to continue to have lots of thoughts like this.

The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t really need Mo Williams. Mo Williams’ salary might be part of some eventual Kevin Love deal. The veteran guard – while past his prime – might give the Cavaliers some veteran presence and shooting depending on what they’re sending to Minnesota. Mo Williams played alongside LeBron James and they liked each other. Maybe another former James teammate speeds up the window of the team gaining on-court chemistry.

I don’t know if I believe all those things, but I’d also be lying if I said they didn’t cross my mind. Also after conferring with Andrew from WFNY, he tells me that Williams wouldn’t be eligible to be traded until three months after he signs or December 15th, whichever is later.

LeBron James, Johnny Manziel, boring Tribe and more with Chad Zumock – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-28

WFNY Podcast LogoChad Zumock joins the podcast for the first time. Here’s what we talked about.

  • Chad talks about his relationship working with Jim Florentine
  • We talk about LeBron James coming home and Chad reporting sports
  • Johnny Football vs. Brian Hoyer
  • Cleveland Browns training camp and zip lines
  • The boringness of the Cleveland Indians
  • Is baseball boring in general now?
  • The steroid era
  • The Jim Thome Statue

And much much more.

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Check out this episode!

Johnny Manziel, Ben Tate and more – Craig on “Browns Insider”

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It’s always nice to be asked to do different radio and web shows. Dan Labbe hosted Browns Insider for the Northeast Ohio Media Group / Cleveland.com last night and I called in and chatted with him about Day 2 of Browns Training Camp.

Other guests included Mary Kay Cabot, Tom Reed and Bud Shaw. If you just want to listen to me, forward to the 45 minute mark.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Browns issue statement on status of Jason Pinkston


Jason Pinkston was not in camp yesterday with the Browns. As the day wore on and as media asked media relations folks first, coach Mike Pettine second and GM Ray Farmer third with very little comment, it turned into a small issue. Pinkston is one of the nicest and most outgoing Cleveland Browns on social media and in person. Fans were deeply concerned about him when he was dealing with a blood clot in his lung a couple years back. And it made sense that there’d be more concern today when he wasn’t there and there weren’t any answers as to why.  Today we have a bit more clarity as the Browns say Pinkston “has not been medically cleared.”

That comes on the heels of Pinkston’s own statement via Twitter yesterday after the Browns basically issued “no comment” across the board.

I don’t fault the Browns for saying “no comment” by the way. This group that currently runs the Browns has been far more giving and open than previous management groups. They don’t seem to want to pretend that they’re running hyper-secret military operations. All that said, when it comes to health-related things governed by the actual law, I don’t blame them. Even today as they haven’t given us any detail, at least we know that Pinkston hasn’t been medically cleared.

[Also See: WFNY's profile of Jason Pinkston from August 2013]

Photos of Browns Training Camp from 2014-07-27

I’m not a good photographer by any means, but in case you couldn’t be there, here’s the way things looked from my vantage point. Look out for the “bro bump” between Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby. Plus a few shots of Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.

Dansby and Kruger smaller

The Browns have some veteran confidence… Training Camp Notes 07.27.14

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Sunday’s camp practice was kind of boring. I’ve been to enough of these now that I think I can get a sense of when the intensity is at a pitch and when it’s not. Maybe Day 1 was something of an energy dump, like a fighter who punches himself out in the first round and day two was a bit more relaxed, but the intensity just wasn’t totally there. It’s early though, so I’m not drawing any conclusions from that. The thing that I can’t help but come away from my first day covering camp is to notice the veteran confidence they have this year. [Read more...]

See how to make a Johnny Manziel jersey out of your old Tim Couch

Cleveland Browns fans are ready for football, and apparently in the recycling mood. One fan decided that the best way to show his support for Johnny Manziel was to convert an old Tim Couch jersey with a bunch of pasted on money signs. I love the enthusiasm and can appreciate a bit of creativity, but this is a bit embarrassing, I think.

[Also see: Brian Hoyer won’t be held back in training camp]

Brian Hoyer won’t be held back in training camp

In the talk about Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer, the one thing that has been talked about the least is Brian Hoyer’s ACL injury. With all the excitement that Johnny Football brings and with there not being any news of “setbacks” for Brian Hoyer – at least so far – it’s easy to sometimes forget that he needed a major surgery last year after being injured in Buffalo. The injury non-story will continue to be just that, it seems according to head coach Mike Pettine.

That’s great to hear of course. Whether Johnny Manziel beats out Brian Hoyer or not, it’s in everyone’s best interests if he’s forced to beat out a healthy, ready-to-compete version of Hoyer. Then again, if quotes are any indication, Brian Hoyer is always ready to compete. On Friday, Hoyer talked a bit about his confidence and what this competition will be like for him.

“I am confident that I am that guy, but in the same sense, I know that if it comes down to the fact that Johnny does beat me out, I will have given everything I have and he will have totally earned it,” Hoyer said. “That’s what you want, and like I said, for me, all you want is and opportunity and a chance to earn the job. That’s what I’ve been given, and for me, it’s about going out every day and proving that I can be that guy because I believe that I am.”

The fact that he believes he can be that guy should be bolstered by the fact that he won’t be held back due to his surgery last year.

[lso See: Browns think Johnny Manziel has regressed in practice, worry about partying]

Listen to Tom Hamilton call Ryan Raburn’s spike throw

WTF Raburn 140724

You’ve seen it all day in the Not Top Ten on ESPN and even here in GIF format. Now listen to how Tom Hamilton tried to describe another example of the Tribe’s “numbing” defense.

Browns think Johnny Manziel has regressed in practice, worry about partying


In a topic that’s been beaten to death, even on these very pages, we have something of an update. Mary Kay Cabot is reporting from sources within the Browns that they are “stunned” by Johnny Manziel’s non-stop antics during this off-season.

Manziel regressed in practice after the first week of organized team activities, and some in the organization attributed it to too much jet-setting and not enough dedication to the playbook.

Team officials had bought into Manziel’s pre-draft promises to tone down the partying and leave his frat-boy lifestyle back in College Station, Texas, and they’ve been stunned by his non-stop antics, sources said.

I know there’s massive disagreement on this issue and how big of a deal it is. There are questions as to if what Johnny Manziel is doing is even out of the ordinary compared to his peers. Is it just that Johnny has a bigger spotlight on him? These are the things we’ve already gone round and round on as the Browns approach training camp with the rookie. If you believe the reports prove the Browns have legitimate concern, then it’s troubling.

When these things are reported, however, you never truly know what the intent of the source. Maybe the Browns are leaking something like this to send a message to Manziel that party time is officially over with the start of camp. Maybe they’re simply trying to get him to be the best he can be and think this negative talk might just motivate him. Some believe that much of the chatter surrounding the team’s Week 1 starter was done with similar goal in mind.

But for those like our own TD who have said, “Call me when it impacts the Browns during the regular season,” it should at least be a concern that the Browns think that Manziel has regressed in practice while simultaneously partying all over the country.

The only one who could be happy with report like this has the last name, “Hoyer.”

Alex Mack and Paul Kruger named to “All-Bad Contracts” team on Grantland


I read articles like this the way some people slowly peak at a poker hand hoping to find aces, except opposite. I’m hoping beyond hope that as I scroll through a Bill Barnwell list of bad contracts that there are no Cleveland Browns on the list. Unfortunately, due to the way the Browns’ off-season unfolded with Alex Mack, they find themselves listed prominently. Here’s Barnwell’s explanation.

Mack’s five-year, $42 million contract guarantees him a staggering $26 million, $7 million more than any other center in football. He’ll have a 2014 cap hit of $10 million; no other centers cost more than $7.3 million. Because the Jaguars structured the deal to discourage Cleveland from matching, they also left Mack with a player option in 2016, which he can use to hit free agency again. No center is worth this sort of deal, even a good one.

Obviously I agree with him that Alex Mack is overpaid. I guess, I might try and lessen the blow of that by saying it’s not like overpaying a quarterback. I think even if Alex Mack is overpaid, he’s likely to earn somewhere around 80% of the money he’s been given. Also, giving that money to an incumbent player on the offensive line should be easier to project than using money on a receiver or other skill position player to come in from another system. Then again, I very well could be looking at this through Browns-colored glasses.

The Browns don’t go unscathed on defense either thanks to last year’s acquisition of Paul Kruger from Baltimore.

Cleveland saw the possibility to steal a young pass-rusher away from its rivals and gave Kruger a mammoth five-year, $40.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. He mustered up a mere 4.5 sacks in his first year with the team, often looking like their third-best pass-rusher behind rookie Barkevious Mingo and supplanted incumbent Jabaal Sheard.

There’s a silver lining here for the Browns on Kruger though. The team smartly front-loaded the Kruger deal and a quick look at my notes from back when Kruger was signed shows that it won’t be horrible if they have to cut him loose after this year.  The way the Browns designed the deal by front-loading it with a roster bonus, they can cut him heading into 2015 and it will only cost them $3.86 in dead money while saving them $4.34 million should they need it. There’s always a third option of converting some base salary to bonus to spread it out, but they’ll likely opt for just cutting him if he doesn’t play better in Pettine’s defense this year than he did last year.

I recommend reading the whole piece though. While it’s not fun to read about bad Browns contracts, it’s a gas to see Joe Flacco and Troy Polamalu listed prominently.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

It’s time to kill these lazy comedic sports references

we're not funny nfl

Sports and comedy don’t always have a comfortable marriage. As a rule, sports guys think they’re funnier than they really are and there’s one particular tool in the Sports Guy arsenal that I think needs to be melted down and buried. I could be talking about the incessant forced laughing that sports guys do to pump up all their bad attempts at jokes like on NFL pre-game shows. I could be talking about mis-guided skits wherein a former athlete dresses up like a woman for mild comedic effect. (I’m looking at you Larry Johnson.) I’ll save those for another day. Today I’m attacking the lazy reference.

[Read more...]