Waiting For Next Year http://www.waitingfornextyear.com ...a tradition of hope, passion, and misery Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:28:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Joe Thomas responds to environmental violations http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/joe-thomas-responds-environmental-violations/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/joe-thomas-responds-environmental-violations/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:59:06 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136632 (Insert dramatic laser sound effects.) “Is Joe Thomas guilty of polluting the earth? We’ll have more on this on the 11 o’clock news!” That’s all I could think of when I saw the AP headline on Joe Thomas that said, “Browns’ Thomas accused of environmental violations.” The state Department of Natural Resources sent the former

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(Insert dramatic laser sound effects.)

“Is Joe Thomas guilty of polluting the earth? We’ll have more on this on the 11 o’clock news!”

That’s all I could think of when I saw the AP headline on Joe Thomas that said, “Browns’ Thomas accused of environmental violations.”

The state Department of Natural Resources sent the former Wisconsin Badgers standout and seven-time Pro Bowler a letter Wednesday accusing him of 11 violations. They range from building bridges and dams and enlarging a pond without permits to tearing down a barn without notice of intent and discharging manure into a wetland.


“In the end it’s just rabbit turds here.”

DNR officials want to meet with Thomas on Jan. 6 — after the regular season ends — to discuss the allegations. Some of the violations are punishable by fines of $10,000 for every day in violation, the letter says, but doesn’t offer details on the number of days.

Ack! That sounds horrible and awful and scary. I can’t believe Joe Thomas would do something like this and pollute the earth! What does Joe Thomas have to say for himself?!

“I know it sounds horrific when you see the list of violations,” he said, “but in the end it’s just rabbit turds here.”

I don’t have Joe Thomas’ eloquence, but it seems he might be right that there could be a lot more to the story. This could be more about permits and paperwork than anything else. If you believe Thomas and his contractors, despite not having all the proper paperwork, they’ve done nothing but try to fix up a dilapidated property that was littered with old farm equipment when Thomas bought it in 2012.

Sure, it’s a good idea to get all the proper permits, but let’s just say it would seem odd that a rich guy like Thomas who loves outdoor sports would buy an ugly property with dilapidated buildings and old equipment with the idea of making it worse.

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Kyrie Irving’s Extension — WFNY’s Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2014: No. 6 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-cavaliers-kyrie-irving-extension/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-cavaliers-kyrie-irving-extension/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:15:22 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136592 If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last

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If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last six years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

One of the great things about sports is that you can watch them any way you want. You can follow the ball or you can focus on one player. You can get deep into X’s and O’s or make baseless assumptions from snippets of body language. You don’t even have to watch the players to enjoy a game. You can look at the refs, the coaches, or the fans, and you can change your view multiple times during the course of a single game. The possibilities are endless.

WFNY’s Top 10
Stories of 2014

No. 10: Progressive Field’s Facelift
No. 9: Michael Brantley’s Breakout
No. 8: Cavs fire Mike Brown—again
No. 7: No Braxton, No Problem
No. 6: Kyrie signs for the long term
No. 5: Monday, December 22
No. 4: Tuesday, December 23
No. 3: Wednesday, December 24
No. 2: Friday, December 26
No. 1: Monday, December 29

Sometimes I like to change up the angle when I watch the Cavs. Sometimes I worry about substitution patterns and personnel groupings, trying to figure out the team’s ideal calibration. I often realize it’s foolish to do so, as the people making such decisions almost certainly know more than me about the subject. I might get one right every now and then, but so what? Then I get to brag that I’m right, and everyone gets to rightly tell me to shut up.

In lieu of being told to shut up, sometimes I just like to watch the action passively, quietly. Sometimes I like to absorb a game like the TV show that it is, gently tracking the plotlines with a lazy finger: Who’s winning that matchup? What plays are leading to open threes? Who’s got his mind on the cheerleaders instead of the huddle?

Often, I just watch to admire. Some NBA players are simply brilliant, and sometimes it’s best to simply drink it in. Individual games are rarely as meaningful as we like to think they are, and thus it’s not worth getting all up in arms about them. Sometimes the only thing to do is shut up and enjoy the show.

Kyrie Irving is a show unto himself, as engrossing a player as there is in today’s NBA. He is naturally gifted and athletic, yes, but his greatest gifts were purchased through years of practice. Kyrie is not Russell Westbrook. He is not (healthy) Derrick Rose. He isn’t John Wall or even Jrue Holiday. His game is not built on a foundation of tomahawk dunks or freakishly long arms. It’s just built on basketball skills.

His dribbling is a sight to behold. Amid some 400 professional basketballers, his command of the pill is beyond reproach. You don’t just become a great ballhandler. Like any basketball skill—any life skill, really—you improve dribbling through practice, practice, practice. Kyrie has put in as much work as anyone, and that’s why he’s so damn good. That’s why he’s so fun to watch.

His finishing is just as spectacular. I can’t remember the last time he dunked that wasn’t on a Nerf hoop, but he has made me believe that layups can be just as exciting. His layups are as artistic as LeBron’s dunks as industrial. If LeBron’s dunk music is Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” Kyrie’s layup music is Bill Withers’ “Do It Good,” smooth and measured as a cup of powdered sugar.

His shooting form is simple, efficient, replicable. Much was made of his poor catch-and-shoot numbers on threes last year, but he is shooting 42 percent on such shots this year, and a solid 46 percent on all field goals. Even when he’s spinning and fading and otherwise violating John Wooden’s ideals of the game, his fundamentals would make the Wizard of Westwood proud.

He’s a charming, likable kid, too. His Uncle Drew spots are as inspired as any bit of advertising out there. He can handle himself in an interview. He can press the flesh and smile for the camera at any press obligation.

The day that really sold me on him was October 23 of this year, the day of the Cavs’ Wine and Gold United meeting. Kyrie was among those on the panel at the Cleveland Convention Center, smiling and nodding and laughing at billionaires’ bad jokes. When the Q&A began, a gentleman asked Kyrie what advice he would give to two young girls, the gent’s daughters, who want to be great basketball players. I’m gonna plagiarize myself:

“[The] girls were invited onstage, and Kyrie swiveled in his chair to directly face them. He looked them straight in the eyes as he dispensed sound-if-recycled advice about practicing hard and pursuing what you love. The girls blushed and looked at the floor as they nodded. It was adorable. I hope he writes a children’s book one day.”

He’s just a good kid.

I’ve buried the lede here. As soon as was legally allowed, the Cavs locked up Kyrie’s services until the year of Barbara Walters, 20201, in the form of a five-year contract extension.2 Barring the unforeseen and the unfortunate, we get to watch this guy until the end of the decade. In a league and an industry prone to migration, we get to watch the young fella grow up before our eyes. We get to enjoy watching him scores of games every year.

Though we are a sure bet to, we don’t need to tear apart every tiny hole in his game. We don’t need to turn one bad game into a thesis on why he’ll never be the best point guard in the league.

We can, at least every once and a while, shut up and appreciate his skills. We can admire his ballhandling, his finishing, and his shooting. We can treasure the fact that his skillset is unique, even among the NBA’s elite. We can rejoice in watching a basketball artist.

The best part: Kyrie Andrew Irving doesn’t turn 23 years old until March.

____________________

  1. See what I did there?
  2. He can opt out after the 2018-19 season, but I’m conveniently ignoring that for the moment.

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WFNY’s 12 Days of Christmas, 2014 Edition: Day Ten http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfnys-12-days-christmas-2014-edition-day-ten/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfnys-12-days-christmas-2014-edition-day-ten/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:30:39 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136623 The Holiday Season is upon us, and for many, the holidays are a time of rituals and traditions. Here at Waiting For Next Year, we believe in tradition as well, and one of our personal favorites is the annual WFNY 12 Days of Christmas contest series! This is now the seventh year in a row

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The Holiday Season is upon us, and for many, the holidays are a time of rituals and traditions. Here at Waiting For Next Year, we believe in tradition as well, and one of our personal favorites is the annual WFNY 12 Days of Christmas contest series! This is now the seventh year in a row we have done this contest, as hard as that is to believe.

How does it work? It’s simple. Every week day from now through Christmas, we will have a different contest with a different prize package to give away to you guys. It’s our small way of showing our appreciation and saying thanks for hanging in there with us for another year. Each day will feature a different, unique contest. Some will require getting a correct answer, some will be selected randomly among all entries, and some will feature haiku writing, of course. So check back every day for your chance to win one of our prize packs!

Previous Day’s Winner

Congrats to Pete Rich who channeled the power of the random number generator and willed himself to a win. It’s hard to really tell what qualities the random machine looks for in a winning submission, but he/she really enjoyed Pete’s answer to the contest: “Keep building a team around him. Replacing him after 3 games puts the next QB in the exact same situation. Let’s get the rest of the team square and see what he can do. We arent in a position to draft the big 2 this year and the FA class is arguably headlined by Brian Hoyer. See what the available QB’s look like draft/FA time for the 2016 season if he lays an egg next season.”

So congrats to Pete and another thank you to everyone who entered!

day_threeToday’s Prize Pack

On Day Ten, WFNY is once again looking to provide a basic commodity to one lucky winner. So we have a gas card from Get Go ready for you. And after you fill up your tank with all that gas, where are you going to drive to? Why not drive to Two Bucks and get yourself a nice lunch or dinner? Sounds like a plan to me! So today’s prize package is a Get Go gas card and a gift card to Two Bucks.

Today’s Contest

Well, we only have three more contests to go, and this is the last one that falls over a Browns game day. With that in mind, I think it’s time for one more guessing game for the Browns. So here’s the question: The Browns play the Panthers this Sunday. Who wins the game, and what will the score be? The winner of this contest will selected from those who pick the winning team. The winner will be the person closest to the Browns’ point total. If nobody picks the winning team and/or there is a tie, the random number machine will be used to select the winner. All entries must be received prior to kickoff of the Browns vs Panthers game.

To enter, simply leave a comment in the Comments section below1 with the answer to today’s question. For example, if I were entering the contest, I would say: “I think the Browns will play much better than last week (heaven help us if they actually play worse), but still fall short in the end. I say 23-10 Carolina.”

See? It’s that easy. So what are you waiting for? Go get your best guesses in below, and good luck!

The Fine Print (in normal sized font) and Rules

Only one entry per person per day is allowed. This is very important. Anyone who submits more than one entry is immediately disqualified. Only one winner per household per year is allowed. Winners will be notified via email. Prizes will not necessarily be delivered by Christmas, but we will try our best to make it happen.

  1. and as always, please be aware of our Before You Comment guidelines and technical information

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Board Game Review: Alhambra http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/board-game-review-alhambra/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/board-game-review-alhambra/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:45:06 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136582 Think you can build the most extravagant and beautiful palace? Grab a starting tile and hire your best contractors. This is Alhambra… Theme: Palace building Number of Players: 2-6 (Best with 2-4) Game Time: 60-75 minutes Age Appropriateness: 10 and up Game Type: Hand management, set collecting In Alhambra, you are adding buildings and gardens to your palace/complex/Alhambra. (Hence the

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Think you can build the most extravagant and beautiful palace? Grab a starting tile and hire your best contractors. This is Alhambra…

Theme: Palace building

Number of Players: 2-6 (Best with 2-4)

Game Time: 60-75 minutes

Age Appropriateness: 10 and up

Game Type: Hand management, set collecting

In Alhambra, you are adding buildings and gardens to your palace/complex/Alhambra. (Hence the name.) You collect different currencies in order to pay for these buildings, as each builder wants to be paid in their native currency. It has an element of luck to it, but it is also strategic and somewhat puzzle-y.

Game Play: On their turn players may either collect money from the bank, buy and construct a building, buy a building and place it in reserve or swap a tile from their reserve into their Alhambra. If a player can pay for a building with exact change, they get a bonus action. Thus a player could actually purchase all four available buildings on their turn and still collect money from the bank to end their turn. Rare, but possible.

There are rules governing where certain building tiles can be played, including the walls that line most tiles. There are three scoring phases in the game, two of which are activated by cards shuffled into the money deck. The final scoring phase is triggered when the last building tile has been taken from the bag and placed on the market.

The game is scored according to who has collected the most of each type of building and who has the longest continuous wall surrounding their Alhambra. There is a TableTop episode of Alhambra if you are interested in seeing the game played.

Component Quality: The components are good quality, even if they aren’t that exciting to look at. They aren’t unattractive, they are just pictures of different buildings. The look of this game will not entice your 13 year-old to the table for game night.

The board in the picture is from the ‘gold’ edition. It is not included in the standard game, nor do you really need it. It is nicer than the components in the regular edition (which is the one I own.)

My Take: Alhambra is a good game, and can be used as a gateway game for new gamers. It isn’t generally the kind of game that is going to grab people and get them excited—unless they enjoy puzzles. I’m not really talking about jig-saw puzzles, but figuring out how things best go together. Designers will likely enjoy this game.

The game can move along fairly quickly if you are playing with those that know how the game works. If you are playing with a group of newcomers it can slow down a bit. In a large game your turn can seem to take a little while to come back to you.

There is some light tension in the game, mainly from hoping a building available in the market makes it through to your turn. Players that recognize your need for a certain type of building may block you from it by buying it ahead of you. (I’ve been known to do that on occasion.)

Affordability: $35-55 (Depending on edition.)

Expansions and Replay-ability: There are actually a number of expansions available for Alhambra, most of which add buildings to the game or add another component for scoring. Disclosure: I have not played any expansions for this game, nor do I have any interest in paying around $20 for an expansion that contains 8 new tiles and a few new rules. You can purchase a Big Box edition that includes the base game and expansions together. The base game I find very enjoyable to play still.

♦♦♦

Board Game News and Notes:

I wrote Wednesday morning’s While We’re Waiting.., and mentioned a few items I will bring up again here.

The Malted Meeple is a new game café coming to the Hudson, Ohio area. They are calling themselves a local hangout for craft beer, board games and mega milkshakes. The word is they hope to open in January.

The TableTop Café in Ohio City has been working towards opening for a while now, and hopefully are getting close. The owner tells me that they have just been waiting on a few permits and licenses from the city. No grand opening date has been set yet.

– When either of these two places opens I would LOVE to host a WFNY gaming night. Who’s in?

– I am in the process of converting my old thoughts from previous WWWs on games to this game review format, so you will see more of these in the coming weeks as well as some reviews of all-new games. You can bookmark the board game tag if you are interested in these types of posts.

– Eldritch Horror released an expansion, Mountains of Madness. While Eldritch Horror isn’t really my kind of game, I know it has been immensely popular and many have been eagerly awaiting an expansion.

Cheesonomics is an Eagle-Gryphon game that was successfully kick-started and I believe is in production now that looks like a really interesting family style game.

Remember, the holidays are a great time to play some games with your family!

 

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My Sportsman of the Year: Joe Thomas http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/sportsman-year-joe-thomas/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/sportsman-year-joe-thomas/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:06 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136581 Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Sadly, that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2014’s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.

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Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Sadly, that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2014’s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.

There are not many positions in any sport that impact a game more than left tackles on a football field, yet receive less praise and recognition for excelling at their job. But, this never seems to bother Joe Thomas. The former Wisconsin Badgers lineman spent the day fishing with his family and close friend rather than attending the NFL Draft in New York City. He has played under five different head coaches and countless quarterbacks, general managers and offensive coordinators, yet never publicly says a negative word about the organization. Thomas simply goes to work sixteen Sundays a year and plays his position better than anyone else on the face of the earth.

WFNY’s Sportsman of the Year
_________________________

WILL: Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao
JACOB: AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber
KYLE: Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer
KIRK: Buckeyes next man up JT Barrett
TD: AL MVP candidate Michael Brantley
MITCH: Browns ball hawk Tashaun Gipson
CRAIG: Joe Banner-ousting Jimmy Haslam
ANDREW: Captain Cleveland, Joe Haden
JON: Tribe skipper Terry Francona
JOE: Cavaliers forward LeBron James
BEN: All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving
SCOTT: David Griffin, Ginger Godfather
COLIN: Mr. Under Apprecaited, Joe Thomas

As of Thursday morning, Thomas was the leading Pro Bowl vote-receiving tackle in the league. If he wins, it will be his eighth Pro Bowl appearance in eight NFL seasons. He has also been named an All-Pro four times with a likely fifth selection to be announced after the season commences. Even in the seasons which he was not a first team All-Pro, he was placed on the second-team. Simply put, the thirty year old tackle has had one of the greatest careers of a left tackle of all-time. And all this success has come despite blocking for thirteen different starting quarterbacks including Brandon Weeden, Charlie Frye, and Seneca Wallace.

But, the consistency of Thomas’s immaculate career is not why he is my Sportsman of the Year. I chose Thomas because this may be his best season of all. Before the Buffalo Bills game in which he uncharacteristically committed three holding penalties and struggled with Buffalo’s elite defense, this claim was nearly indisputable. He has only allowed one sack in fourteen games and has stuffed the opposition’s pass rush every single week. This is not surprising. The area that improvement in was unexpected is in his run blocking.

Perhaps Kyle Shanahan’s new zone-blocking running scheme suits Joe Thomas better than any system the many other coaches have run. Maybe, having rookie phenom Joel Bitonio playing beside the veteran has helped. But whatever the reasoning, Thomas has become a dominant run-blocker. It is no surprise that Pro Football Focus gives him the highest overall and run blocking grades of any offensive tackle thus far in the 2014 season. It is hard to use numbers to explain how well an offensive line plays, but before center Alex Mack broke his leg, we received a brief glimpse of what the best offensive line in the league looks like. When everything clicks, as it did in the first two games of the season, the zone running scheme is beautiful. Despite the running game steeply declining, Joe Thomas has continued to dominate and become arguably the best left tackle in pass protection and run blocking.

When Mack got hurt against the Steelers, the offensive linemen were not only hurt as a football team, but as a group of friends, nearly brothers. After the game, Thomas gave stood at his locker to speak to the media, but had tears in his eyes. He spoke about the effect of the injury saying, “There’s no more Alex Macks in the NFL. When you’re the best center, it’s going to be a step down no matter who’s coming in to replace you.” And, he was right. The Browns have gone 4-5 since their star center went down and will likely miss the playoffs once again. Of course, not all of their losses have been due to Nick McDonald, Paul McQuistan, and Ryan Seymour failing as they attempt to replace Mack. But, they do not come close to have the impact of Mack in the middle of the line. The entire offense has nosedived.

I want to mention this disappointing part of the season to help dictate the impact that great offensive linemen have on the success of a team. It is so easy to take for granted the Joe Thomas’s and Alex Mack’s of the world since no play they make directly makes it on the stat sheet. Heck, even during the telecast the offensive line is usually ignored unless, of course, they get penalized, give up a sack, or whiff on a block. Browns fans have, unfortunately, seen many of these low-lights in the past couple months. But, in the nearly eight seasons, no one has complained that Cleveland’s long line of terrible quarterbacks have not succeeded due to over-whelming pressure form opposing pass rushers. No one has moaned about the lack of talent at left tackle, arguably the second most important position on offense. Maybe, fan outcry is the public measuring stick and if that’s the case, Thomas dominates the metric. He likely has two or three more seasons as a great left tackle before starting to decline. In the meantime, appreciate the level of greatness that Joe Thomas displays because he is the best offensive lineman to ever play for the Browns and is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

Obviously, since Lebron James exists, Joe Thomas does not have a chance at winning the vote to become WFNY’s Sportsman of the Year. But, considering he is playing, quite possibly, the best football in this, his eighth season, he needs to stay in the conversation. Some day, the Browns will not have the best left tackle on the face of Earth. In the meantime, let us cherish my WFNY Sportsman of the Year, Joe Thomas.

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Joe Thomas on the difference between player and fan perspective http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/joe-thomas-cleveland-browns-fans/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/joe-thomas-cleveland-browns-fans/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:30:44 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136616 The differences between how NFL players and NFL fans look at a game, season, or even an NFL career are endless. Obviously NFL fans are the ultimate outsiders no matter how much they love the team they watch every week. This isn’t groundbreaking or even all that novel a concept, but Joe Thomas’ session with

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The differences between how NFL players and NFL fans look at a game, season, or even an NFL career are endless. Obviously NFL fans are the ultimate outsiders no matter how much they love the team they watch every week. This isn’t groundbreaking or even all that novel a concept, but Joe Thomas’ session with the media yesterday served as another stark reminder of the differences.

Fans have nothing but time to stew between games and I believe Joe Thomas when he says NFL players can’t really live that way during the rigors of an NFL schedule.

“To me, each week is a block and you approach it. It goes back to the whole concept of compartmentalizing. It’s hard, and I just addressed it here with Jeff is that it’s hard to look back and reflect at this point. We are, week to week, trying to stack as many wins as we can. Then, when the smoke clears we’ll do our evaluations and act accordingly. When you get into the routine of an NFL week it is really hard to do anything other than that normal routine to prepare for the opponent.”

“I just think when you get in coach mode that each week is a new challenge, and you get what’s thrown on the table, here’s what’s available to me. I’ve got to find a way to take what we have and look at what problems or what challenges the opponent presents, and you formulate a plan to be successful. When you go through that week you go out and give the best effort you can. Then, you’re onto the next one. Then, like I said, there’ll be a time and a place to look back on all of it and deal with more of the big picture stuff.”

My fan relationship with Joe Thomas has changed a bit over the past year. More and more I try to take what he says with a grain of salt because Joe Thomas is the ultimate teammate. He seems like an optimistic guy and he can talk himself into anything potentially working out. That’s not a bad thing for an NFL player, but it gives me pause when he talks about coaches, executives teammates or otherwise. When he speaks highly of Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy, or endorses Pat Shurmur, he lacks the “big picture” mentality when he’s saying those things in all likelihood.

That’s not a knock on Joe Thomas, but he just told us that he needs to have a short-term perspective during an NFL season. I don’t need to take that with a grain of salt. I believe that.

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Kozmo, Brian Hoyer for one more year, and Royal Blood: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/kozmo-brian-hoyer-one-year-royal-blood-waiting/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/kozmo-brian-hoyer-one-year-royal-blood-waiting/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136588 Welcome to the Friday before Christmas my fellow WaitingForNextYear-ians. WFNY’ers. To my Christmas-celebrating folks, congrats, you made it. To my Jewish friends, know that I’m jealous and wish I was at the movies with you next Thursday. When I got to college and a couple of my new Jewish friends let me in on the

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Welcome to the Friday before Christmas my fellow WaitingForNextYear-ians. WFNY’ers. To my Christmas-celebrating folks, congrats, you made it. To my Jewish friends, know that I’m jealous and wish I was at the movies with you next Thursday. When I got to college and a couple of my new Jewish friends let me in on the cliche of getting Chinese food and going to the movies, I was ready to turn in my Christmas stockings and tree altogether. Anyway, enough about the holidays.

In 2014, Amazon.com is finally catching up to Kozmo.com 15 years later…

I was reading about Amazon.com’s new “Prime Now” service in New York City where they’re doing deliveries of certain products within an hour for a fee. It sounds so novel and new, except that it brings me back to my college days with Kozmo.com. We used to order all kinds of electronics, movies, tobacco products and even small containers of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a dude on a bike would show up a short time later with our stuff. Of course Kozmo was ahead of its time as many companies were way back when the dot-com bubble burst. The company folded in 2001.

It just makes me wonder if those Kozmo founders are feeling vindicated that their plan was a good one, just that they needed to survive long enough to be gobbled up by the internet commerce wave.

Anyway, I miss Kozmo. I still remember Kozmo and I have all four of my promotional Kozmo plastic cups to prove it.

10858477_10152934640867148_5274233941663588692_n-compressor

The real point of what Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch are saying is being lost…

Most who have heard what Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch have had to say reflexively want to dismiss it. Some attack Kosar as a bitter, distanced former player. Some paint Tim Couch as an excuse-making never-was who failed out of the league, but I’m not willing to simply leave it at that. This isn’t even really about Brian Hoyer, but we kind of have to talk about him because he’s the current guy here.

I take exception to the idea that I might have some kind of preference for Brian Hoyer because he’s a Cleveland guy or that he might be associated with any kind of “lunch pail” as Denny sometimes comments. I really have grown to despise the local preference for players and staff. At this stage of the game, whether we’re talking about Chud’s proclivity for dog biscuits or Brian Hoyer’s roots at Ignatius, it’s just meaningless to me. I mean when you talk about a team in a town that once pumped up the local flavor of punter Dave Zastudil, LeCharles Bentley and Joe Jurevicius all in the same off-season, it’s all just finished by the time you get to Brian Hoyer and Donte Whitner. At least it’s over for me. The real reason that I’m thinking long and hard about Brian Hoyer right now has everything to do with actual football.

It’s easy to look at the most recent sample, but I’d also like to look at the most recent samples from all other quarterbacks in Cleveland. Other than Tim Couch, who the team committed the better part of four seasons to as the starter, the only other quarterbacks that had more than one season were Derek Anderson and Colt McCoy. I can hear you all saying, “But Craig, those guys stunk! Are you suggesting we should have committed to them even longer?”

Maybe.

All I’m saying is that the Browns need to have a better perspective on the big picture and we as fans need to have it too. Everyone knows how fickle the NFL can be as coaches and quarterbacks find themselves on hot seats from week-to-week. It’s also easy to get embroiled in a current season when things start to go badly as the Browns have this season. Let’s remember who Brian Hoyer is though.

We spend so much time thinking about what Brian Hoyer isn’t, that I think we forget what he is. Brian Hoyer is a player of value in the NFL. You will be sorely disappointed if you expect him to be your offensive MVP, and that seems problematic at the QB position, but not as disappointed as you’ll be if the QB position is filled by a person of even lesser value than Brian Hoyer. Brian Hoyer was a welcome relief to Brandon Weeden. He was a superior player to Jason Campbell. He’s shown the ability to understand the game in front of him. He’s shown that he’s a better quarterback, currently, than Johnny Manziel. Johnny Manziel has two more starts, of course, but I don’t think it’s even remotely controversial to say that Hoyer’s experience makes him better right this second, warts and all. For all the physical advantages that Johnny Manziel has – and I’m a loud fan of Manziel’s – he lacks experience and knowledge about running a pro offense.

I’ll say it again. Right now, Brian Hoyer is a better NFL quarterback than Johnny Manziel, even if he’s a far worse prospect.

We constantly talk about the Browns committing to a quarterback or a coach, or to an idea, but the mere mention that they actually commit to the idea of consistency is so foreign to this fanbase that I’m almost afraid to bring it up sometimes because I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m talking about something more though. If the Browns re-signed Brian Hoyer and named him starter for next season, it would show me something.

To me, it wouldn’t be them saying they don’t believe in Johnny Manziel. It wouldn’t be them giving up on finding a quarterback capable of winning the Super Bowl. It would be a commitment to consistency. It would be a commitment to Joe Thomas. It would be a commitment to Miles Austin, should he return. It would be a commitment to Alex Mack. Most importantly, it would be a commitment to the Cleveland Browns’ defense that should hit their stride right out of camp next year in their second year in Pettine’s defense. The Trent Dilfer in Baltimore example is too well worn by this point, but for one year with everything else shining in Baltimore, Trent Dilfer managed to keep from being an impediment.

None of this is to say that Brian Hoyer is Trent Dilfer, let alone Tom Brady. That pre-season storyline was as vomit-inducing as the oversold “blue collar lunch pail” thing. It’s simply to say that Brian Hoyer, with all his faults, limited upside, and physical limitations probably still gives the Cleveland Browns the best chance to win for another season. He’s a known quantity and even if that’s a half-filled cup, it’s sometimes easier to build around something that is known. We’ve seen the alternatives too many times, but we live in denial. We’ve seen Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, and Colt McCoy and Brady Quinn. For all that Brian Hoyer can’t be, he can be something more worthy than a great many alternatives. Why is it that we’re so quick to forget that? He can at least be a known quantity that the Browns can plan around to help try and maximize all the other stocks in the portfolio… for one more year.

Your weekly moment of soccer zen…

Some nice highlight passing on this exchange before the goal.

How did I miss out on the band Royal Blood this year?

I paid more attention to music this year than any year in the past decade I think. Still, even with all my paying attention, I missed out on the band royal Blood until just this week. They’re a bit like the Black Keys or White Stripes because they’re a drummer and a (bass) guitar player / singer. Still they’re different because they feel a bit more consistently hard rock to me. There’s a bit of a Queens of the Stone Age aesthetic to the sound. Regardless of how you categorize it, it’s good rock and roll music and I am happy I found it, if late.

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JT and Cardale to the Rescue — WFNY’s Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2014: No. 7 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/ohio-state-buckeyes-cardale-jones-sugar-bowl/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/ohio-state-buckeyes-cardale-jones-sugar-bowl/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:00:51 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136427 If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last

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If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last six years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

Three losses. Maybe more.

That’s what I said on August 18, upon hearing the news that Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller was injured and out for the season.

The Buckeyes had lost Carlos Hyde to the draft. They lost back-up sensation Kenny Guiton to graduation. Now they were losing their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback to a shoulder injury.

The silver lining — if there was such a thing — was that J.T. Barrett (who had leapfrogged Cardale Jones on the depth chart in the spring) had taken the majority of the first-team snaps all off-season because Miller was recovering from the shoulder surgery he had at the end of last year.

The performance against Virginia Tech in the second week of the season made me think that I had set the over-under for losses too low. Barrett looked like a red-shirt freshman against the Hokies. He completed just 9-of-29 passes and threw three interceptions. The last one was a pick-six in the final moments with Ohio State trailing by one score.

WFNY’s Top 10
Stories of 2014

No. 10: Progressive Field’s Facelift
No. 9: Michael Brantley’s Breakout
No. 8: Cavs fire Mike Brown—again
No. 7: No Braxton, No Problem
No. 6: Friday, December 19
No. 5: Monday, December 22
No. 4: Tuesday, December 23
No. 3: Wednesday, December 24
No. 2: Friday, December 26
No. 1: Monday, December 29

And then something amazing happened. The Buckeyes rallied around their young quarterback.

Starting with a 66-0 beat down of Kent State in week three, the Buckeyes scored 50 points or more in four straight games. It was the first time an Ohio State team had scored 50 or more in four straight since—well ever. The offensive line was coming together, and Barrett threw for 1,170 yards and 17 touchdowns in the four-game stretch.

Then came the game I started to believe in J.T. Barrett.

On the road against Penn State, facing a loud and lively crowd for the first time in his career Barrett and the explosive Buckeye offense sputtered. A 17-0 halftime lead was erased and the Buckeyes found themselves tied with Penn State after a 31-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with seconds to go in regulation. Barrett had been banged up during regulation. The passing game wasn’t working. So Barrett took the game over in overtime with his legs. He ran for both Ohio State’s scores in the double overtime win. More than that though, he put the team on his shoulders and refused to lose.

The Penn State game did not look on paper to be a “good win”, at least not in the eyes of the Playoff Committee, but it was the game that Barrett proved he was the leader of the team.

Fast forward through the rest of the regular season. Wins against Michigan State and Minnesota highlighted Barrett’s season heading into Michigan week. Three more touchdowns for Barrett in the rivalry tilt gave Barrett 45 total for the year.

And then everything came crashing to a halt when Barrett fractured his ankle in the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes would ride the legs of Ezekiel Elliott the rest of the game, but would have to insert yet another quarterback into the starting mix in the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin.

This is where the story gets really interesting.

After losing Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller two weeks before the season began, and Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett the week before, all Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes did was destroy the favored Badgers. It is still one of those games that doesn’t make any sense. It may have been the most dominating performance in a championship game, conference or otherwise.

Cardale Jones — the quarterback who slid from second to third on the depth chart during the spring — made his first start and led the offense to 52 points, with a defensive touchdown thrown in for a 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin. Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns. All three touchdowns were 39 yards or longer. The win was impressive enough for Ohio State to make their way into the College Football Playoff. They take on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

So here’s the question: Do the Buckeyes have three Heisman Trophy level quarterbacks on the roster, or is the offense of Urban Meyer and Tom Herman so dynamic that they plug in the next quarterback and success follows?

We may find out. Alabama will be favored and will be a stiff test for the Buckeyes. Tom Herman has reportedly agreed to become Houston’s next head coach. Will that prove to be a distraction for his preparation against Saban’s defense?

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WFNY’s 12 Days of Christmas, 2014 Edition: Day Nine http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfnys-12-days-christmas-2014-edition-day-nine/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfnys-12-days-christmas-2014-edition-day-nine/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:30:35 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136575 The Holiday Season is upon us, and for many, the holidays are a time of rituals and traditions. Here at Waiting For Next Year, we believe in tradition as well, and one of our personal favorites is the annual WFNY 12 Days of Christmas contest series! This is now the seventh year in a row

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The Holiday Season is upon us, and for many, the holidays are a time of rituals and traditions. Here at Waiting For Next Year, we believe in tradition as well, and one of our personal favorites is the annual WFNY 12 Days of Christmas contest series! This is now the seventh year in a row we have done this contest, as hard as that is to believe.

How does it work? It’s simple. Every week day from now through Christmas, we will have a different contest with a different prize package to give away to you guys. It’s our small way of showing our appreciation and saying thanks for hanging in there with us for another year. Each day will feature a different, unique contest. Some will require getting a correct answer, some will be selected randomly among all entries, and some will feature haiku writing, of course. So check back every day for your chance to win one of our prize packs!

Previous Day’s Winner

Ok, so, maybe we’re done with the Cavaliers guessing games. The first time we did it, nobody picked the right answer. This time, the Cavaliers went out and laid an egg and made this contest a lot less fun than it was supposed to be.

Anyway, two people picked the Hawks to win. One of them picked the Cavs to score 97 points, and the other picked the Cavs to score 98 points. Which is pretty amazing when you consider that the Cavaliers actually did score 98 points. You can’t get any closes than that. Anyway, congrats to Anomander for correctly guessing that the Hawks would win as well as getting the Cavaliers’ point total exactly correct.

Today’s Prize Pack

For Day Nine, it’s time to wreck this contest together! We have a Johnny Manziel “Wreck this League” T-Shirt from the fine people over at Tarnation! Sports. And as always, we also have a Two Bucks gift card for the winner of today’s contest. If you win this prize package you can wreck your hunger together with your gift card while wearing your Wreck This League shirt!

Today’s Contest

Since we’re talking about Mr Wreck This League, how about a contest question based around the Cleveland Browns QB situation? Today’s question is: Assuming Manziel more or less plays about the same as what we saw in his first game, what would you do about the QB situation next season if you were the GM of the Browns?

The winner of this contest will be selected at random among all legit entries received before midnight on Thursday, December 18, 2014. To enter, simply leave a comment in the Comments section below ((and as always, please be aware of our Before You Comment guidelines and technical information)) with your answer to the question. For example, if I were entering the contest, I would say: “I’m warming up to the idea of using every draft pick on a QB until the Browns finally find one who can actually play and make the team better. They can keep Manziel, just draft as many QBs as possible and may the best man win”. See? It’s that easy. So what are you waiting for? Go get your answers in below, and good luck!

The Fine Print (in normal sized font) and Rules

Only one entry per person per day is allowed. This is very important. Anyone who submits more than one entry is immediately disqualified. Only one winner per household per year is allowed. Winners will be notified via email. Prizes will not necessarily be delivered by Christmas, but we will try our best to make it happen.

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TD talks Tribe off-season and Browns quarterbacks – WFNY Podcast – 2014-12-18 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/td-talks-tribe-off-season-browns-quarterbacks-wfny-podcast-2014-12-18/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/td-talks-tribe-off-season-browns-quarterbacks-wfny-podcast-2014-12-18/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:08:37 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136577 The Cleveland Indians are under-represented on the podcast at times just because it’s not my main main focus. That’s what makes it so great when TD comes on to talk Tribe. Here’s all that we talked about. Indians off-season bringing in Brandon Moss Gavin Flioyd as Scott Kazmir Jose Ramirez and how Craig almost forgot about

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The Cleveland Indians are under-represented on the podcast at times just because it’s not my main main focus. That’s what makes it so great when TD comes on to talk Tribe. Here’s all that we talked about.

  • Indians off-season bringing in Brandon Moss
  • Gavin Flioyd as Scott Kazmir
  • Jose Ramirez and how Craig almost forgot about him
  • Josh Tomlin and the underrated parts of baseball
  • The Kevin Millwood gamble
  • David Murphy and his trade prospects
  • Finding a right-handed reliever for the back of the bullpen
  • Terry Francona overusing his bullpen in 2014
  • Can Zach McAllister make it in the bullpen?
  • Carlos Carrasco now back in the rotation
  • Can the Indians count on Nick Swisher ever again?
  • Would you trade Nick Swisher for Ubaldo Jimenez?
  • Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch’s comments
  • Can Brian Hoyer be a bridge still?
  • Doing away with the local player preference
  • Alex Mack love

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Cavaliers Film Room: First Quarter Love http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-cavaliers-kevin-love-film-room/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-cavaliers-kevin-love-film-room/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:00:29 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136536 When we last met in the Cavalier Film Room, we talked about Kyrie Irving’s defense. This time, we’re finally going to get into some of David Blatt’s offense. I’m going to start with what has become pretty obvious: Kevin Love is a really good first quarter player. Not only is Love an excellent first quarter

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When we last met in the Cavalier Film Room, we talked about Kyrie Irving’s defense. This time, we’re finally going to get into some of David Blatt’s offense.

I’m going to start with what has become pretty obvious: Kevin Love is a really good first quarter player. Not only is Love an excellent first quarter player, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are an excellent first quarter team (first in points – 28.5, field goal percentage – 51.8%, and three-point percentage – 50.4% in the first). That’s not a coincidence, but what are Love and the Cavaliers doing differently in the first quarter as opposed to the others where Love has ranged from timid to disengaged for stretches?

Let’s take a look at a couple of recent first quarters. We’ll look at last week’s first quarter in Brooklyn. Love scored 15 of his 19 points in the first quarter against Mirza Teletovic primarily. In the first quarter, early offense can be the best offense. As Kyrie brings the ball up the court, both Shawn Marion and LeBron James flash through right to left and out beyond the three-point arc. Love pins Teletovic as the ball gets passed to James on the left wing.


Teletovic doesn’t let Love stay on the block, but that’s fine with Love. Kevin reverse-pivots to turn and face the bucket. One of Love’s best skills is his believable ball fakes, both passing and shooting. Here, he gives one hard fake to his right to fake a drive, then pops the mid-range jumper. Being the skilled and smart big that he is, Love uses the glass and makes it. It’s simple, it’s not flashy, but it was quick, effective, and a high percentage shot early in the shot clock. Love just so happens to be shooting 60% on mid-range looks in the first quarter (21-of-35)

♦♦♦

Next, the first thing to notice here is Love running to get down the court rather than lolly-gagging as a trailer looking only for an outside shot. That has its time and place, but Love runs down to his spot here and immediately tries to fight for position on the high post. From this spot, the Cavs have had some moderate success with high low action between Love and Anderson Varejao, who both have been strong first quarter players this season.


Love gets pushed out again by Teletovic after some back-and-forth contact. Similar to before, Love reverse pivots to turn and face as he stands on the three-point line. It’s a ball fake to his right where he chops his right leg, followed by a quick shot fake, another fake to his right to freeze Mirza, and then he pops the long two pointer. We see this same process quite often with James where he has a defender on the island and lulls him to sleep with multiple fakes and/or dribbles to get his comfort zone before firing away with a shot. With Love, you can tell so much work has been put in to just use shot fakes by default that they are a near-constant in his game.

♦♦♦

All of those ball fakes pay off on this play. Once again, Love gets the ball in the mid-post. Notice how everybody clears to the other side of the floor to give Love space to operate. This time, Teletovic crowds Love to prevent another shot attempt from mid-range. As a result, Love takes him off the dribble with his left.

After dribbling left, Love backs him down with his right hand before turning to face the basket again. This time, it’s a quick shot fake up before he’s even fully turned that gets Teletovic leaning. Kevin then goes underneath him for the soft lay-in that just sneaks by the shot block attempt. The Nets had Love’s right defended quite well until that quick shot fake got Teletovic up and off balance. Then, it was all about Love quickly taking advantage of that momentary window and using his touch around the rim.

♦♦♦

Even when he’s not ball side, Love looks more interested in the first quarter. Here, he starts with the ball out top, and the ball is reversed to Matthew Dellavedova in the corner.

As the ball is swung, Love cuts into the high post area, but instead of staying in there, he fades out to the left corner as the Cavs have a five-out look for a brief moment as Delly begins to drive into the paint. Delly actually drives right into the spot where Love vacated, and the help defense required to stop Delly opens Love up for an open wing three, which he cashes in on. Love’s man lost sight of the ball-man-you triangle, and the Cavs made him pay for it with good spacing and movement.

♦♦♦

After all of that, what can we pinpoint about Kevin Love first quarters? First, it’s headlined by Love’s willingness to post up strong and his teammates’ willingness to find him down low. Next, when he’s not in the post, he’s screening on ball or at least on ball-side for good shot attempts. Finally, if he’s not on the ball-side, he’s fading or cutting, remaining open and ready to knock down an outside shot. Too often in the other quarters, Love will get lost in the shuffle on the back-side or be relegated strictly to outside looks. How does Love stack up with his teammates in terms of first quarter stats?

cavs1stq
Where’s Kevin Love getting his shots in the first quarter as opposed to the rest of the game? Well, as we can see below, a whopping HALF of Love’s looks from 8-24 feet have come in the first quarter this year. Love’s looks become more secondary (dump-offs of dribble drives from LeBron and Kyrie, for instance) in subsequent quarters, and he’s often drawing more contact on the move, which is sometimes not called. He’s also setting up shop on the three-point line, but he’s only a 24.7% shooter from deep outside that first quarter. love1stshots lovetotshots
What could be contributing to this huge dropoff in looks? Well, it is truly difficult to keep three players offensively engaged at all times when one of them isn’t a primary ball handler. It requires consistent pick and rolls and fluid offensive movement.

The Cavs seem to prefer Kyrie and LeBron penetration and isolation later in games rather than deliberate post feeds and a spread floor. It also seems as if the Cavs begin to look for both Varejao and Thompson to set more screens and roll for easy buckets more often than Love after the first quarter. Another contributing factor to this, in my opinion? The Cavs continue to get uneven three-point makes from their role players, which encourages spacing and potential kick-outs from the post.

After the Big Three-valiers, the Cavs have four guys with between at least three-point makes (Waiters, Marion, Harris, Jones), but none have more than 15 and a decent chunk of those have come in garbage time or in one-game mirages. What can the Cavaliers do to not forget about Kevin Love? Keep their spacing, get Love down on the block, and let him utilize his fakes and touch around the rim. If they don’t, the Cavaliers will continue to run into some offensive stumbling blocks after great starts.

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Columbus thinks it’s getting Cleveland Browns Training Camp http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/columbus-thinks-getting-cleveland-browns-training-camp/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/columbus-thinks-getting-cleveland-browns-training-camp/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:30:20 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136564 Complete with a lede that includes the “Johnny Manziel money sign,” we have reports out of Columbus that city officials (clad in Browns gear) believe it’s only a matter of time before Cleveland Browns Training Camp heads south on I-71. Mayor Michael B. Coleman, City Council President Andrew J. Ginther and Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady

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Complete with a lede that includes the “Johnny Manziel money sign,” we have reports out of Columbus that city officials (clad in Browns gear) believe it’s only a matter of time before Cleveland Browns Training Camp heads south on I-71.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman, City Council President Andrew J. Ginther and Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady showed up at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland to make a pitch for Columbus to become home to the team’s new training camp. Coleman, an ardent Bengals fan, even wore Browns gear. The Browns are exploring a new home away from their current facilities in Berea, and the Columbus group offered financial incentives of an undisclosed amount to entice Browns owner Jimmy Haslam their way. It’s likely the city and county would support the Browns’ new facilities, if needed. Two sources at City Hall said the group left the Sunday meeting thinking it was “a matter of when, not if” the team announces its relocation to Columbus.

Before me-first Cleveland-based fans get all in a tizzy because they may have to drive to see the team which they have ALL SEASON to see in Cleveland, they should note that the team has long been looking into ways to win back a generation of fans that swapped their rooting interests for teams that actually win football games. It wasn’t all that long ago that we saw maps of Browns fans becoming a dying breed in Ohio as Columbus became infiltrated with Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers fans. The team has already ramped up their advertising in the market. Moving camp to Columbus would be a logical step in regaining some traction in that area, especially among younger fans who have yet to plant a flag in the ground with regard to a specific team.

Factor in that the Browns have seemingly outgrown Berea as a hosting complex, and a move is imminent. Columbus as an ultimate destination would make the most sense.

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What happened to the defense? Cleveland Browns Film Room http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/happened-browns-defense-browns-film-room/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/happened-browns-defense-browns-film-room/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:00:36 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136519 The Cleveland Browns were blown out this week in the home finale versus in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals, 30-0. The team was completely outplayed by the Bengals in all phases of the game. The offense was shutdown, unable to score and even move the ball. But the real surprise was the fall of the Browns’ defense.

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The Cleveland Browns were blown out this week in the home finale versus in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals, 30-0. The team was completely outplayed by the Bengals in all phases of the game. The offense was shutdown, unable to score and even move the ball. But the real surprise was the fall of the Browns’ defense.

Over the past four or five games, the Browns’ defense had really turned into a tough defense that enabled a struggling offense to stay in the game. But this week, the Browns’ defense was unable to stop the Bengals’ offense, especially on the ground. The Bengals rushed for 244 yards in the game, including 148 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for running back Jeremy Hill. So what happened? The Browns early-season struggles defending the run arose again and was the main culprit for the decrease in performance by the defense. The lack of push by the defensive line, the poor play of the linebackers, and the lack of contain were three big reasons for the absence of the run defense in the game.

Take a seat and take a look through this week’s defensive film room. After you have read through my thoughts on this week’s game, let me know what you saw from the Browns’ defense this week. Roll the tape!

Cleveland Browns Film Room

Lack of Push by the Defensive Line

The Browns’ defensive line has played better over the last few weeks, but on Sunday, they reverted back to their poor play of early in the season. The defensive line was unable to pressure the backfield and blowup the running game for the Bengals. According to ProFootballFocus, the Bengals rushed 19 times between the tackles for 88 yards. That is a 4.6 yards per carry average for rushes between the tackles. The lack of push of the defensive line was a huge reason the Bengals were successful rushing up the middle. Here is an example of the lack of push the defensive line had versus the Bengals.

Full-Bad-DL-compressor

This touchdown run by running back Jeremy Hill was a 2nd and 5 play early in the second quarter. Here is how the play transpired.

lack of push preplay

The play is a designed run to the right by Hill out of the right I-Formation. The Browns have three defensive linemen down with an outside linebacker rushing on the ends of both sides of the line. The Browns also have two inside linebackers in the box to defend the run.

Bad-DL-compressor

As you can see here, the Browns’ defensive line of Desmond Bryant, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Sione Fua are completely pushed out of the way by the Bengals’ offensive line. There is no penetration and the line does not stay firm to stuff the gaps, allowing Hill to not be touched for six yards. Some of the blame can be placed on the injuries that the line has suffered this season, causing the depth to take a big hit. But, it was still a complete dominating performance by the Bengals’ offensive line. The Browns’ defensive line was unable to stay strong and be disruptive, making the whole defense vulnerable in run defense.

Poor Play of the Inside Linebackers

The inside linebackers have really played well in place of the injured Karlos Dansby over the last few weeks, but this week was not the case. Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey both struggled in run defense, grading out negatively in that area by ProFootballFocus. They were unable to get through the line and bring down the ball carrier in many instances. They were sometimes late in reading the play and got stuck on blocks. Here is an example of their poor play.

Full-Bad-LB-compressor

This 13 yard run by running back Giovani Bernard was a 2nd and 9 play late in the fourth quarter. Here is how the play transpired.

inside LB preplay

This was a designed run by Bernard up the middle out of the Single Back set. The Browns have defensive linemen with their hands in the dirt and an outside linebacker rushing off the edges on both ends of the line. The Browns also have two inside linebackers in the box to defend the run.

Bad-LB-compressor

As you can see here, the Browns’ two inside linebackers become blocked and allow Bernard to get past them. Craig Robertson immediately goes to the right and fills the wrong gap. This initial move to the right gets him caught in the line and causes him to get blocked from getting to the ball carrier.

Chris Kirksey is too patient in defending this run play. He sits back too long, allowing a blocker to get to him and block him from making the tackle. He should have hit the hole quicker. Robertson and Kirksey struggled getting to the backfield for most of the game, getting stuck on blocks in many instances.

Lack of Contain

Early in the season, the Browns struggled mightily in keeping contain on run plays. The defense shored up this area over the last couple weeks, but it sprouted up as a problem again this week. The Bengals rushed 24 times towards the outside of the tackles for 153 yards, an average of 6.3 yards per carry. A lot of that was given up because of the lack of contain by the edge defenders. Here is an example of the lack of contain.

Full-Contain-compressor (1)

This 20 yard run by running back Jeremy Hill was a 2nd and 7 play late in the first quarter of the game. Here is how the play transpired.

contain preplay

The play is a designed pitch by Hill out of the I-Formation. The Browns have three defensive linemen down with an outside linebacker rushing off the right edge and two linebackers rushing on the end of the left end. The Browns also have an inside linebacker and a safety in the box to defend the run.

Contain-compressor

The key to this long run is outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard getting caught with the fake, causing him to go inside a little and then stumble to try to regain contain. Sheard loses the contain on edge allowing Hill to have a huge open space for the long run. The Browns struggled throughout the game defending rushes on the edges. Losing contain was the big contributor to this this problem for the Browns’ defense.

Defensive Highlight

My defensive highlight of the game is cornerback Pierre Desir. Desir received his first real playing time this week after the multiple injuries in the secondary. He played pretty well in the game, displaying the promise he had coming out of college. According to ProFootballFocus, Desir was targeted once in his 40 snaps and did not give up that reception. He also had two tackles in the game. It was definitely a good start for the small school corner.

Defensive Lowlight

My defensive lowlight of the game was the decline in play from the previous weeks. The Browns’ defense had been pretty good over the last four or five games and was really turning into a top ten defense. But this Sunday’s game was a huge setback for the defense, returning to their early season woes of the defending the run. It was a big letdown after coming off one of the best performances of the year versus the Indianapolis Colts.

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MLB.com looking for “Stats Stringers” for the Tribe http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/mlb-com-looking-stats-stringers-tribe/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/mlb-com-looking-stats-stringers-tribe/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:52:52 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136558 Have you ever wondered how all that live game data gets updated on live game trackers? Well, wonder no more. MLB.com posted on Cleveland Craigslist that they are looking for “Stats Stringers” for the Cleveland Indians. Stats stringers are responsible for digitally scoring games from the MLB ballparks, which provides the data used in the

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Have you ever wondered how all that live game data gets updated on live game trackers? Well, wonder no more. MLB.com posted on Cleveland Craigslist that they are looking for “Stats Stringers” for the Cleveland Indians.

Stats stringers are responsible for digitally scoring games from the MLB ballparks, which provides the data used in the live content applications on MLB.com, including At-Bat, Gameday and MLB.TV, real-time highlights and text alerts, and by our business partners. This is a perfect part-time job for a responsible, computer-savvy person who happens to be a big baseball fan.

Responsibilities include:

  • Arrive at the ballpark no later than one hour prior to the scheduled start time;
  • Double-check and verify all pre-game information: rosters, umpires, weather conditions, etc.;
  • During the game, enter the results of every pitch and game event (plays, substitutions, etc.) using our proprietary software and coding language;
  • Work closely with our game-night support staff (via AOL Instant Messenger) to ensure proper scoring of all game events and accuracy of data;
  • After the game, enter all post-game information: winning and losing pitcher, saves, holds, time and attendance
  • Validate all stats and data in our scoring software against the official box score provided by the Official Scorer.
  • Qualifications include:

  • Exceptional (and demonstrable) knowledge of baseball and how to score a baseball game;
  • Strong computer proficiency (Windows OS and Windows-based software) and the ability to quickly learn and operate new software;
  • Previous experience (including pressbox exposure) with a professional or college sports team, preferably baseball;
  • Regular availability to attend games in-person as required by the schedule: weekdays, nights and weekends;
  • A “team player” with a great attitude, including but not limited to a willingness to make and learn from mistakes and the ability to work closely and cooperatively (and take direction from) our game-night staff;
  • Professionalism. It’s a fun job and we pay people to watch baseball, but it’s also an important job and we want people who will take the responsibility seriously.

It sounds like a good gig for any big Tribe fan. The only kind of weird thing? MLB.com with all their technical advancement and all their forward-thinking technology including the some of the best video streaming game infrastructure in the world still uses AOL Instant Messenger as an advertised communication tool in the job posting? I wonder if that’s just an outdated part of the job listing.

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Cleveland Sports Lists to Commemorate 2014: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-sports-lists-2014-while-were-waiting/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cleveland-sports-lists-2014-while-were-waiting/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136541 To celebrate 2014, I’ve created five top-five lists for your enjoyment. I’ve had fun writing the While We’re Waiting editions on Thursdays this year. Who knows if I’ll do one on Christmas or New Year’s Day in the next two weeks … so I thought I’d commemorate some of the bests of the year in

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To celebrate 2014, I’ve created five top-five lists for your enjoyment. I’ve had fun writing the While We’re Waiting editions on Thursdays this year. Who knows if I’ll do one on Christmas or New Year’s Day in the next two weeks … so I thought I’d commemorate some of the bests of the year in today’s post.

And. Away. We. Go. *cues Billy Eichner videos*

Five best under-the-radar Ohio sports moments of 2014

As you know, WFNY is counting down the top 10 Cleveland sports stories of 2014 right now. I wrote the nomination for the announced Progressive Field renovations. Here, I’ll share five other memories that didn’t make our final cut but stand out in my mind from the past year:

5: Drafting Justin Gilbert at No. 8: I present to you a short tale in two tweets.

4: That OKC game: Remember that fateful cold evening in late February? It feels like an eternity ago. But somehow, the Cavs pre-The Return scored 42 (!) fourth-quarter points to win at Oklahoma City. It was one of my favorite games from those dreaded four years.

3: Browns destroy the Bengals: Again, this feels like forever ago. Except this time, it literally was only five weeks ago on Thursday Night Football. The Browns won 24-3 in thoroughly dominating fashion. Andy Dalton was horrendous. Brian Hoyer was efficient. The running game was unstoppable. It was as much fun I’ve had watching a Browns game in a long time.

2: Lonnie Baseball beats Texas: A guy who barely snagged a 2014 starting job and might not have a 2015 starting role arguably had one of the best single-game hitting performances in major league history this season. It was Monday, June 9. Chisenhall finished 5-for-5 with a double, three homers and nine RBI in the 17-7 victory. Tom Hamilton’s radio call of that last homer in the eighth? Man, oh man. Doesn’t get much better.

1: Dayton makes Elite Eight: Sure, this is a homer pick for the UD alumnus. But it was just so shocking. The Ohio State game-winner? OK, you’ve got my attention. The Syracuse upset? Hello there, Sweet Sixteen. And then the convincing victory over Stanford.

I convinced several fellow recent graduates to join me in driving down to Dayton with this rallying cry: “Dayton last made the Elite Eight in 1984! If there’s another 30-year drought … we might have grandkids! We have to go!” That Saturday night on campus, even with the rain and the depressing Florida loss, was one of the most fun nights of my life. Chris Moorman sent in a great article on what it meant for the university.

 

Five fascinating random Cleveland sports stats of 2014

No rhyme or reason to these stats. Some are good, some are bad. But they all deserve the #fascinating tag.

5: Mike Brown’s playoff streak: The 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers were the first Mike Brown-influenced team to miss the playoffs since … the 1998-99 Washington Wizards. He had made the playoffs for three straight years on San Antonio’s staff, two on Indiana’s and then five straight with LeBron James in Cleveland. He coached the Lakers to the playoffs in 2011-12, then they later made the playoffs after firing him five games into 2012-13. There you have it, deservedly or not, it was 12 in a row for Mike Brown.

4: Browns and 4-4 at home: You can thank the Browns PR department for sharing this one: This year’s 4-4 home record is tied for the second-best in franchise history since 1999. Isn’t that unbelievable? They went 7-1 at home in 2007. And .500 at home in 2014, 2012, 2005 and 2001. Overall, the Browns are 48-80 (.375) at home since their return, by far the NFL’s worst. Every other NFL team has a .579 home win percentage since 1999.

3: Indians righty batters against southpaws: An easy place to pinpoint the Tribe’s slight regression from 92 to 85 wins in 2014 is the right-handed bats. In 2013, Cleveland righties ranked fourth in baseball with its .271/.348/.449 line against lefties. Obviously, Ryan Raburn’s hot season was a big part of this. In 2014? The Indians slumped down to a .249/.312/.373 line in this category, the No. 24 OPS. Raburn was bad. Nick Swisher was hurt. Yan Gomes was really the only reliable right-handed bat. It was a sizeable drop-off.

2: The Indians’ great finish: Despite the offensive struggles, this was still a really, really good team for four months. A statistical explanation in two tweets:

1: LeBron’s 40,861 career minutes: That’s including regular season and playoffs. He’s either No. 45 or No. 46 in NBA history right now, going back-and-forth with Jason Terry. Both just passed Magic Johnson and Allen Iverson in the past week. Up next are Walt Bellamy, Derek Harper, Larry Bird and Sam Perkins. This is kind of a big deal, folks.

 

Five best Cleveland sports Twitter accounts of 2014

Honorable mentions go out to @CSAviate (face tattoo!), @BrownsMemes (Kevin Love puns FTW), @Monte_Colorman (so, so, so good), @JohnAxford (despite the mid-season trade) and @Tooleyj24 (minor league shoutout).

5: @WayneEmbrysKids: The Godfather of Cavs Twitter. The creator of the legendary Cavs Zine. The founder of the #MEVSNUGGETS heart-attack-waiting-to-happen. He’ll occasionally go on rants related to The Decision, but it’s all worth it. Don’t forget: Jack Sanders also is a great person, too. So sad he left us here in Northeast Ohio.

4: @FearTheSword: Can I also give FTS writer Ryan Mourton the “Most Improved” award, too? My Sloan travel buddy has increased the frequency of tweets from the Cavs blog account and has really grown its popularity. There are so many *fire emoji* tweets here. Online Ryan can be intense sometimes, but so can in-person Ryan. It works really well.

3: @Sportsyelling: Yes, she has been doing some videos for WFNY, so you can blame me for some homerism here. But she’s great. I really don’t know what to say if you aren’t following her yet. Just be prepared for the … um … yelling. And lots of wine. And lots of fawning over Kevin Love. And, of course, lots of Indians talk 24/7.

2: @DionWaiters3: Dion hasn’t tweeted since the national anthem/religious controversy earlier this season. But this summer? Good golly. His signature Twitter move is a late-night spree of manual reply/retweets. Just take a look at this mid-July string of tweets. Nothing was more entertaining than watching Dion get going on Twitter.

1: @TheRealSlamtana: If you asked me in July or August, Dion would’ve had this in the bag. But Carlos had a fantastic close to the season with his Japan tweets and stole the show. He loves replying to everyone and also has goofy tricks up his sleeves. He even pays attention to WFNY, too.

 

Five most distinctive Northeast Ohio food locations

As you likely know, I moved out to Oregon this fall to start graduate school. I’m home in Akron winter break now, but was just thinking: What are the places that taste like home? What places did I miss the most? After polling on Twitter last night, here is my list.

5: Winking Lizard – Yes, it’s a regional chain. Yes, the food isn’t that great outside of a few classics. But to me, the popcorn and the menu and the lizard … that just feels like home. When I’m in town, I’m usually at the Montrose location a few times a week. When my Dayton friends are around, I’m at the Rockside location. The Lizard is just such a NE Ohio staple.

4: Pizza – I like pizza. This shouldn’t be surprising considering I run @PizzaRoundup, a Twitter account solely dedicated to pizza. So I had difficult picking which NE Ohio pizza to recognize. I’m partial to my hometown Luigi’s in Akron. On the east side, Mama Santa’s has long been a favorite. On the west side, I’ve gone to Angelo’s quite a lot. And in the south side, I’m hoping to give Romito’s another shot as it’s my buddy Ron’s favorite. #teampizza

3: Swenson’s – Akron’s classic drive-in burger and milkshake restaurant. A galley boy and teezers, thank you very much. If you live in the region and haven’t been to Swenson’s, I really don’t know what to tell you. Want to make plans? I’m in town for two weeks more and can’t really turn down any offers for Swenson’s.

2: Melt – A little Man vs. Food publicity has elevated Melt’s stature in the last few years. I didn’t really know much about it until the show, but now I almost feel obligated to go every time I’ve got a visitor in town. True story: I once tried to order the challenge grilled cheese with like 20 different cheeses. They told me no. they said it’d be disgusting to eat, would take an hour to make and just would not be enjoyable. I learned a valuable life lesson that day.

1: Sokolowski’s – Admission: I haven’t been here. But when you think of Cleveland, you think of a place like this. Pierogies. Polish food. All of the butter. I’m so pumped to finally go here soon. This is Cleveland on a plate.

 

Five great Cleveland sports bloggers that I met in 2014

One of my favorite things about writing for Waiting For Next Year is the tight-knit community. I’ve been super lucky to meet most of the long-time WFNY writers. Because of those connections, I’ve also chatted with lots and lots of other writers and Twitter personalities. In this section, I’ll recognize some of the fellow Cleveland sports bloggers I was able to meet in 2014.

Honorable mentions to Amin Vafa (@AminNBA), Scotty Barkett (@ScottyB330), Matt Borcas (@MattBorcas), August Fagerstrom (@AugustF_ABJ), Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade) and Joseph Mastrantoni (@WFNYJoe). And i’m sure I’m missing some others I met this year as well.

5: @wjcgibson: Can I call Will Gibson the new Denny Mayo? Who would that offend the most? Either way, Will has been a fantastic addition to the WFNY staff this year. I got to hang with him and David Zavac over drinks at Porco tiki bar last weekend. It was great. Will is much taller than I expected.

4: @nominataur: Jeff Nomina, king of some great #hotsportstakes on Twitter, is near impossible to track down sometimes. ‘Tis the life of a dad with a youngin’, but I was excited to finally meet him – and @CavsFangelo and many others from Cavs Twitter – at an Indians game earlier this season.

3: @cavsanada: Justin Rowan made his annual trek to Cleveland for a string of games in late March. There was some glorious Akron hanging out. It included the aforementioned Ryan Mourton, Patrick Elder and Zavac. I’m now pretty bummed I’ll likely be missing Justin’s visit this year. Winnipeg is close to Oregon, right?

2: @conradkaznba: The editor emeritus of Fear The Sword, Conrad Kazcmarek, has always made me feel really old. I point that out a lot because I was used to being the kid of Cleveland sports Twitter for so long. But Conrad really is super bright. I met him at Sloan in March. He landed a sweet gig with the NBA, so that’s why he’s no longer blogging.

1: @firejb_: My No. 1 choice is Zack Luby, a criminally under-followed fellow Oregonian-by-way-of-Ohio. Zack created the Fire Jon Barry social media personality for Haralabos Voulgaris’ contest a few years back. Zack follows the NBA intensely and is quirky, as you’d expect from a new Portland resident who spent a long time in Vermont. He also gave me a ride to the airport the other day, so I can attest that he’s an incredibly nice dude, too.

 

There you go, folks! In 2015, WFNY will celebrate its 7th birthday. We’re so very thankful to have you loyal readers and our incredible community here. You all really are the best.

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Cavs vs Hawks Behind the Box Score: Payback http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cavs-vs-hawks-behind-box-score-payback/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cavs-vs-hawks-behind-box-score-payback/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 03:06:37 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136531 Atlanta Hawks (18-7) 127 Cleveland Cavaliers (14-10) 98 [Box Score] Click here to sign up for WFNY’s Cleveland Cavaliers email newsletter At the end of the first quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers were leading the Atlanta Hawks by a 34-26 margin. In what was hoped to be a good matchup between two of the Eastern Conference’s

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Atlanta Hawks (18-7) 127
Cleveland Cavaliers (14-10) 98
[Box Score]

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At the end of the first quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers were leading the Atlanta Hawks by a 34-26 margin. In what was hoped to be a good matchup between two of the Eastern Conference’s better teams, the Cavaliers looked like they were up for the challenge.

From that moment forward, it was all Atlanta, though. The Cavaliers hung in there through the second quarter despite giving up 39 points to the Hawks, but in the third, Atlanta turned it on and the Cavaliers stood around and watched on defense as the Hawks got anything and everything they wanted. The Hawks outscored the Cavaliers 30-15 in the third and the rout was on.

Those who remember the Cavaliers’ first matchup with the Hawks this season might remember a similar type game, only the roles were reversed in that one. The Cavaliers were hitting everything and the Hawks looked like they were playing in slow motion as they could only stand and watch.

So was this just one of those games, or was it indicative of a lethargic, poor performance from the Cavaliers? I honestly don’t know. Those things are so hard to judge on a game by game basis. Atlanta shot 64.5% from the field in this game. Was that just bad defense, or were the Hawks just on fire? There were a lot of breakdowns in the Cavs’ defense, particularly on the back end. Shelvin Mack hit all six of his three-point attempts and scored 24 points off the bench. Was he just “on”, or is there something bigger going on?

Typically we use Behind the Box Score to isolate some stats and trends that illustrate a deeper of sense of what happened in a game. We’re not going to do that for this game. I don’t think there’s much value in that for a game like this. There’s nothing inside the box score that will tell the story of what happened in this game. Instead, we’re going to use this space to talk a bit about the Cavaliers at this point in the season.

The Cavaliers came into this game having won twelve of their last fourteen games. Over that stretch they were holding teams to around 92 points per game. The defense seemed to be coming around and the team offense seemed to be growing together. But in reality, the Cavaliers have now lost three of their last four games and there seems to be some kind of regression happening. Their opponents have gone over 100 points in four of the last five.

Those who have been reading these columns all season know that I’ve been preaching that there will be more highs and lows yet to come this season. None of this is unexpected or a surprise. The Cavaliers have a lot of work to do. And as I always say, things are never as bad as they seem after a loss. But having said that, there’s no question this is a frustrating period for the team.

The Cavaliers still have a serious bench problem, they still lack good post defenders and rim protectors, and their shooting has been wildly inconsistent on offense. But I think one of the bigger problems right now is the disappearance of Kyrie Irving’s offensive game. I know, I know, the Cavaliers just gave up 125 points and let a team shoot almost 65% against them and I’m going to talk about offense.

The thing is, there’s not much that can be done about the defense. Certain teams will just have the matchups to exploit the Cavaliers’ problems on that end. That’s not going to change any time soon. But I think Kyrie’s struggling offensive game, or at least his role in the offense, is somewhat alarming.

A few weeks ago against the Knicks in primetime, Kyrie scored 37 points and put on a show in Madison Square Garden. In the seven games since then, Kyrie has averaged only 13.85 points per game. He has only scored 20 once and has scored in single digits twice. He’s getting a decent number of assists, averaging 6.43 per game in that stretch, he’s not turning the ball over, and he’s been demonstrably working hard on defense. His all around game might be improving, but his scoring is really sagging right now and he seems to be disappearing in the offense.

Which isn’t to say Kyrie should revert to the over-dribbling version of his game. But the Cavaliers won eight straight games with Kyrie averaging 19.3 points per game and 5.4 assists per game. He was shooting 50.9% from the field over that stretch. In the games since his 37 point night in New York, he’s shooting 37% from the field. I’m not going to sit here and say Kyrie is the most important player on the Cavaliers, but the team needs him to be effective on offense. It feeds a lot of the style the Cavaliers play and when he’s struggling, it just makes things too easy on opponents.

Kyrie knows all of this. It’s why an hour after the game Wednesday night Kyrie was still on the floor practicing shooting. LeBron knows it, too. It’s why LeBron was out there on the floor talking to Kyrie, appearing to try to keep him loose and show him support. It was a great view of the chemistry of this team that seems to still be getting stronger despite the recent struggles.

Look, there’s nothing major to worry about right now. The Cavaliers don’t seem to be too discouraged or pressing. They don’t look like a team that isn’t in this together. This is just a tough stretch of basketball. The good news is that they are showing resolve to fight through it and keep getting better slowly over time.

I asked earlier if this Hawks game was indicative of a larger problem or just one of those games. We’ll never really know, but I tend to lean more toward the latter. All it takes is a few more wins and this game will be long forgotten.

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WFNY Board Game Review: Jamaica http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfny-board-game-review-jamaica/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/wfny-board-game-review-jamaica/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:00:11 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136342 Arrrgh, better get to your ship you filthy pirate, The race is on! Theme: Pirate Number of Players: 2-7 (Not so good with 2) Game Time: 30-45 minutes Age Appropriateness: 8 and up Game Type: Racing, set collection In Jamaica, each player is a pirate captain in a race around the island of Jamaica. Along the way you have to

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Arrrgh, better get to your ship you filthy pirate, The race is on!

Theme: Pirate

Number of Players: 2-7 (Not so good with 2)

Game Time: 30-45 minutes

Age Appropriateness: 8 and up

Game Type: Racing, set collection

In Jamaica, each player is a pirate captain in a race around the island of Jamaica. Along the way you have to manage the inventory of your ship’s hull, including food for your crew, gun powder for your cannons and of course gold. The pirate with the most gold and treasure at the end of the race is the winner.

Game Play: Each round is divided into day and night with an action taken by each pirate in both. The actions are determined by a pair of dice, the cards in your hand and the captain of that round. Move your ship or perhaps grab some gold or food. Make sure you have enough gun powder as well, as anytime another pirate ship occupies the same space, the cannons are firing.

The first player to the finish line at Port Royal gets the most points for the race, but the winner is determined by adding those points to the total amount of gold, so don’t forget to stop along the way and grab some doubloons.

Component Quality: Jamaica is a great looking game. The art and attention to detail in the board, cards and all the components are really top notch. The solid color plastic ships stick out a little bit as the rest of the components have the same style. The rule book is a fold out treasure map and looks amazing. It is not the easiest rule book to read because of that, but it is a simple game and after a few plays you won’t be referring to the rules much anyway.

My Take: I like Jamaica, especially for a family game that everyone can enjoy. The board and artwork on the cards is top notch, some of the best I’ve seen on a board game. I love how each turn is broken down into two parts, and that the captain for the round gets to choose which dice represent each half. Players get to make choices and aren’t just stuck with the luck of the dice so to speak. Sounds more complicated than it really is. Each player has an identical deck of cards to play. The primary difference in the game becomes when each player uses their cards. Different strategies and card shuffling ensures not everyone plays the same card at the same time.

Jamaica is a great light to medium weight family racing game. If you haven’t played a racing game other than say Sorry, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

Affordability: $40-50

Expansions and Replay-ability: No expansions. Fun for many plays, but the board and routes stay the same. If the game was purely a race to see who got to the finish first, I would say the replay factor would be lower, but adding the treasure to the finish position makes things interesting. The person that finishes ‘last’ in the race can still win if they collect the most gold. That said, after a dozen or so plays this one is suggested for play less frequently. We tend to use this one with guests who haven’t played many strategy games a lot.

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A whole slew of Cleveland Browns finished first in Pro Bowl fan voting http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/pro-bowl-voting-cleveland-browns-results/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/pro-bowl-voting-cleveland-browns-results/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:15:09 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136511 The fans have spoken. While Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers led all vote-getters, and Houston Texans’ defensive dynamo JJ Watt led all defenders, several members of the Cleveland Browns were ranked No. 1 in their respective positions. Perrenial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas leads the pack on the offensive side of the ball, but is joined by another

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The fans have spoken. While Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers led all vote-getters, and Houston Texans’ defensive dynamo JJ Watt led all defenders, several members of the Cleveland Browns were ranked No. 1 in their respective positions.

Perrenial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas leads the pack on the offensive side of the ball, but is joined by another lineman in rookie guard Joel Bitonio. On the defensive side of the ball, the backfield is well-represented as cornerback Joe Haden, strong safety Donte Whitner and free safety Tashaun Gipson finished at the top of their respective positions. Rounding out the group is special teamer Johnson Bademosi.

To shed some light on how fan voting compares to actual, in-game play thus far, it appears that those in the stands and at home did pretty well. Pro Football Focus lists Thomas, Bitonio, and Gipson on their squad. Thomas, despite his penalties as of late, still ranks as the top offensive tackle in football and is far and away the best run-blocking left tackle in the game. Bitonio is second to only to future Hall of Famer Marshall Yanda. Gipson, despite being injured for much of the second half of the season, is still ranked sixth among safeties. Haden has come on strong as of late, but hasn’t been able to climb back up PFFs rankings (currently 24th) after a dismal start to the season.1

Pro Bowl players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. NFL players and coaches cast their votes on December 19. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 86 All-Star players who will be selected in the Pro Bowl draft. Two additional “need” players will be chosen by each head coach and must be longsnappers.

The Pro Bowl will be unconferenced for the second consecutive year. Players are selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. Then the NFL’s All-Stars will be realigned through a fantasy football-style draft.

  1. We can chalk up Whitner and Bademosi to that whole “got Peyton Hillis on the Madden cover” voting ferocity

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The Cavs Change Coaches…Again — WFNY’s Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2014: No. 8 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cavs-change-coaches-wfnys-top-10-cleveland-sports-stories-2014-no-8/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/cavs-change-coaches-wfnys-top-10-cleveland-sports-stories-2014-no-8/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:00:18 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136465 If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last

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If you thought that 2013 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2014 once again proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, homecomings and award winners. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last six years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A sports team, coming off multiple seasons of bitter losses and a frustrating lack of improvement, fires its head coach. They hire a new coach who comes in with some expectations for immediate improvement. After some early ups and downs, the team collapses under its own swirling chaos and suddenly at the end of the season, the coach is stunningly fired after just one season in charge.

Such a story would be rather bizarre in and of itself, no? Now what if I told you that this story happened twice within five months of each other in the same city in two different sports? “Well, obviously that city would be Cleveland, right?” Right.

2013 and 2014 weren’t exactly great years for Cleveland coaches not named Terry Francona. After dealing with the years of frustration with Pat Shurmur and Byron Scott, both the Browns and the Cavaliers brought in Rob Chudzinski and Mike Brown, respectively, to turn around each franchise.

WFNY’s Top 10
Stories of 2014

No. 10: Progressive Field’s Facelift
No. 9: Michael Brantley’s Breakout
No. 8: Cavs fire Mike Brown—again
No. 7: Thursday, December 18
No. 6: Friday, December 19
No. 5: Monday, December 22
No. 4: Tuesday, December 23
No. 3: Wednesday, December 24
No. 2: Friday, December 26
No. 1: Monday, December 29

For the Browns’ part, their season flamed out in spectacular fashion and before the start of the final game of the season there were already rumors flying around that Jimmy Haslam and the Browns were set to fire Chudzinski. After one season. And that’s exactly what happened. It was one of the lowest points of my life as a Browns fan1. It was a miserable public display of the systematic failures of the franchise from the top to the bottom. It was a symptomatic referendum on everything that has ailed the franchise since the return in 1999.

None of us ever could have imagined that the Browns wouldn’t be the last team in 2014 to hire their third coach in three seasons. And for those of us who identify most as Cavalier fans, the situation with Mike Brown would actually be worse than what the Browns went through.

You might be shouting “Blasphemy!”, but hear me out. The Cavaliers situation was worse because they were firing the coach they had just re-hired less than twelve months prior. You want to talk about systematic failures and symptomatic referendums, this was an organizational case of dysfunction on a completely new level. It hadn’t been that long ago when Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert sat before the media and shamefully had to admit he had made a mistake in 2010 when he fired Mike Brown2. Now less than a year later, he was making the same “mistake” again, firing Mike Brown. Or maybe the mistake was saying that it was a mistake because it was never a mistake at all and the only real mistake was hiring Brown without even bothering to interview anyone else. Got that? Yeah, it’s tough to keep up with.

And that’s really the point and that’s why the whole situation was such a bummer. Mike Brown was hired most likely for three reasons. One, to turn around the Cavaliers’ atrocious defense. Two, to provide some stability and to oversee Kyrie Irving’s transition to superstar. And three, to get the Cavaliers into the playoffs. He did a pretty decent job on the first part3, but he failed pretty miserably on the second two points. But really, the whole tenure of Mike Brown’s season back in Cleveland was filled with pure chaos.

The Cavaliers had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and they used it to pick Anthony Bennett, an overweight player coming off surgery who also had asthma and sleep apnea. They also signed Andrew Bynum, who turned out to be every bit the locker room cancer he was rumored to be. By late December he was suspended indefinitely (and infinitely) from the team. The team also signed Jarrett Jack, who turned out to have arguably the worst season of his career. Eventually the Cavaliers traded Bynum for Luol Deng in an effort to finally address that gaping hole at SF in the wake of LeBron’s defection. Deng arrived in Cleveland and immediately regressed while leaking damaging stories to the press about Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers also made one last effort to make the playoffs by trading for Spencer Hawes. Hawes played pretty well for the Cavaliers, but the team still fell well short of their playoff goal.

I’m not sure if any coach could have weathered that storm. But alas, Mike Brown was the overseer of the franchise and the responsibility lies with him. The team routinely struggled at running even simple inbound plays and the offense completely fell apart. Even the hallmark of Mike Brown’s success, his defensive system, looked alarmingly outdated just four years after the team had so much success running it. It was pretty obvious Mike Brown wasn’t working, but no way would the Cavaliers also fire a coach after one season, right? Especially not after Dan Gilbert publicly gushed about the hiring of Brown and so sheepishly admitted firing him in 2010 was a mistake. Right?

On May 12, 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Mike Brown. It was big deal in and of itself for the reasons listed above, but more than anything, for Cleveland sports fans it was especially brutal to see two teams fire a first year head coach within a few months of each other. Whether Mike Brown deserved to be fired or not (he probably did), it was the circumstances that made the ordeal difficult to watch.

Then there was the question of who the team would hire to replace him. Immediately some really exciting names4 popped up as candidates. Names like Vinny Del Negro, Adrian Griffin, Lionel Hollins, and Tyronn Lue popped up. The Cavaliers gave a token interview to Mark Price seemingly just to placate fans. There was a lot of pessimism among fans at this time, as most people were wholly underwhelmed by the possibilities. Furthermore, with LeBron James being able to opt out of his contract, any hopes of a homecoming seemed laughable.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the name David Blatt popped up. I was aware of David Blatt, but not as the head coach of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club. I remembered him instead for his comments back in 2010, when he was coaching the Russian National Team. When asked about the controversial 1972 Gold Medal Game between the old Soviet Union and the US, a game which almost anyone with any sense of objectivity agrees that the US was jobbed, Blatt said he felt the outcome was fair. That simple comment drew the ire of Coach K who dismissed Blatt as being Russian.

I remember being mildly offended by Coach K’s comments. I think Blatt is nuts if he thinks the outcome of that game in ‘72 was fair, but having batshit crazy opinions is part of the American spirit. You can say what you want and believe what you want no matter how nuts you are. Regardless, that was what I remembered Blatt for. I didn’t realize the sheer vastness of his success overseas. The more I read about Blatt, the more videos I watched of his teams, the more interviews with him that I saw, the more I interacted on Twitter with people who covered Blatt, the more excited I got about the prospects of the Cavaliers hiring him.

The candidates were eventually narrowed down to Blatt and Tyronn Lue, a young assistant coach who the Cavaliers reportedly liked an awful lot. But rather than offering the job to Lue, the Cavaliers kept waiting for an answer from Blatt. For his part, Blatt was rumored to be deciding between taking the Cavs job and accepting a role on Steve Kerr’s staff in Golden State. That might sound crazy, but remember, at the time the Cavaliers were a franchise with Kyrie Irving, sure. But there was no LeBron James. There was no Kevin Love. Instead, there was still Anthony Bennett and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft (which would become Andrew Wiggins). The Cavs job wasn’t as attractive back then as it is now, and you could potentially see Blatt preferring to re-learn the NBA as an assistant for a year before chasing his dream of being an NBA coach.

Ultimately, Blatt made the decision he needed to make for himself and finally, on June 20, 2014, the Cavaliers officially hired Blatt, making him the first Euroleague coach to make the jump as head coach in the NBA. It’s safe to say Blatt made the right move. After coming to Cleveland, Blatt would eventually receive the best housewarming gift ever when LeBron James announced he was going back home. Then the Cavaliers would trade for Kevin Love, giving the Cavaliers one of the most potent (and youngest) “Big Three” superstar collections in the league.

It’s funny how it all turned out. Chaos often breeds chaos, but sometimes something rises out of the chaos that transcends the common narrative and changes the paradigm. Those shifts rarely happen in Cleveland, but for once, it did. The Cavaliers didn’t deserve any of this to happen. Teams shouldn’t get to be where the Cavaliers are when they re-hire a coach only to fire him one year later. That’s not how karma is supposed to work. But somehow, the Cavaliers landed one of the brightest and most well respected coaches available to them.

After the crazy year 2014 was for the Cavaliers in terms of their coaching situation, it will be nice to take a year off from the insanity and chaos. Because there’s no way 2015 can be anything like 2014. There’s no way David Blatt gets fired and the Cavaliers do the whole coaching search thing all over again in 2015. Right?

  1. Obviously there have been lower lows than that low…the team moving, the Drive, the Fumble, etc, but as far as embarrassing goes, this might have taken the cake.
  2. Of course, the funny thing is, nobody other than Gilbert seemed to think it was a mistake…if anything, common perception seemed to indicate that most felt the re-hiring was the mistake.
  3. The Cavs’ defense was by no means good in Brown’s one season, but he really did improve the defense and at least got them to play a little bit harder on that end.
  4. Sarcasm.

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Tim Couch joins the Browns QB chorus with Bernie Kosar http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/tim-couch-bernie-kosar-cleveland-browns-johnny-manziel/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/12/tim-couch-bernie-kosar-cleveland-browns-johnny-manziel/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:30:33 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=136504 Long-time quarterback Bernie Kosar lambasted the Cleveland Browns — across multiple ownerships and management teams — during an interview Mike Trivisonno on WTAM this week. Now, Tim Couch is in on the team as well, preaching continuity and sticking up for Brian Hoyer courtesy of Pat McManamon at ESPN. “I thought everything he said was right,” Couch

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Long-time quarterback Bernie Kosar lambasted the Cleveland Browns — across multiple ownerships and management teams — during an interview Mike Trivisonno on WTAM this week. Now, Tim Couch is in on the team as well, preaching continuity and sticking up for Brian Hoyer courtesy of Pat McManamon at ESPN.

“I thought everything he said was right,” Couch said. “It’s been a long 15 years of watching the same thing repeat itself over and over. The biggest that frustrates me is the lack of commitment and loyalty to let a coach see it out and a quarterback play it out.”

Couch likes both quarterbacks on the team, roots for the Browns and speaks as an interested observer who has been through it.

It echoes some conversations I’ve had recently with a friend of mine. This friend suggested to me — and I started to agree with him by the end of the conversation — that the Browns should honestly consider re-signing Brian Hoyer and naming him opening day starter. The idea being, that even as we know a whole lot about what Brian Hoyer and what he isn’t, at least it’s something that the coaching staff and teammates know. Even if a guy’s ceiling is lower than what you definitely want in the long-term, you should be able to build something worthwhile even easier than trying to build something over your head with unknown factors.

There are hundreds of cliches that can be tossed out to either support or deny the idea of continuity with a guy like Brian Hoyer. And all that assumes you can even get him to agree to come back with Johnny Manziel on the roster. But it’s interesting the one thing we haven’t seen the Browns try with any consistency is consistency. Continuity at the quarterback position is abandoned the minute a guy plays in any way hat gives anyone doubts that he might be good enough to win a Super Bowl. Never mind that the team around him isn’t showing that either.

As the Browns continually change management and leadership, the new guys frequently get a pass as not having been the guys who committed the previous sins. That makes sense, but then they all seem to go in and commit the same sins. One thing that Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch are 100% right about is that it somehow needs to stop. This team can’t devolve into chaos every time a season ends on any kind of down note. It cost Browns fans a coaching staff last year and bunches of quarterbacks who might have been able to become something had they been nurtured differently as part of a team concept with real continuity as opposed to lip service.

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