July 31, 2014

Is this Trent Richardson’s last chance to prove he’s not a bust?

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This season marks Trent Richardson’s last chance to claim he isn’t an NFL draft bust. While many consider him an unmitigated bust already (“Two yards per carry!”), he’s still a physical specimen that will make just about any coaching staff think they can work with him. And there are some mitigating factors for his struggles including being traded in the middle of the season a year ago, but this year with a full off-season with the Indianapolis Colts, if T-Rich is unable to finally put it together, it’s hard to imagine there will be many in the league who will hold out hope. For Richardson’s part, he’s always sounded like a willing, coachable player.

“I’m learning a lot, as much as I’ve learned in this last week, [it's] much more than I learned last year,” Richardson said, via the Colts’ website. “The off-season is very important because you have a chance to vibe with your team, to build that respect, to build that trust and then to build that team chemistry with your offensive line, with your quarterback. Knowing the concept of a play is the biggest thing because when it comes down to it, if you just remember what you’re doing, that’s not good enough. I remembered the playbook last year. I know it now. I’m learning a lot this year.”

In a lot of ways I’ll always hope Richardson can prove he’s better than what he showed in his second year in the league. Despite his struggles and my hindsight happiness that the Browns have a first-round draft pick in their arsenal this year, it doesn’t have anything to do with disliking Trent Richardson. Richardson seems to work really hard and strives to be an elite player on the field. That’s really about as much as any fan can ask of any player.

So if he doesn’t reach that goal, even as he looks to attain it in a Colts uniform, my feelings will always be more of sympathy than anything else. I rooted hard for Richardson when he was a member of the Cleveland Browns, and he never did anything to make me root any less for him other than get traded. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Browns and Colts both “won” that trade.

I’m hoping that off-season education translates for Trent Richardson. His status as an NFL draft bust depends on it.

Making the case for the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel

This may now require a trade

This may now require a trade

It’s a divisive topic. Every time anything hits the WFNY Facebook page regarding Johnny Manziel, there’s an immediate split among fans who love the idea of Johnny Manziel becoming a Cleveland Brown and those who are as opposed to it as if Johnny Manziel is a fierce combination of Ryan Leaf, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick and Matt Leinart. The truth is that nobody knows for sure how Johnny Manziel will do as an NFL quarterback, but I’m ready to make the case that he can be a good one, worthy of Browns fans’ hopes and dreams for a franchise quarterback.

[Read more...]

Why I don’t like the Trent Richardson trade… yet

MMQB Hates Trent RichardsonI have the feeling that there are more fans of the Trent Richardson trade than detractors at this point in time. That wasn’t the case on the day that the trade occurred, I don’t think. Those who claimed that the Browns were tanking the season (like I did) have been treated to a three game winning streak. Those who liked the trade have been treated to the same winning streak, but also seem to be claiming they are now correct about the Trent Richardson trade due to the fact that the Browns are winning without him right now. Combine that with T-Rich’s continued difficulty running the ball in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck and you have a perfect storm of people jumping to conclusions. I might learn to love the Trent Richardson trade. I’m willing to admit it might be a good move for the Browns, but I’m just not sure yet.

Let’s talk about the three game winning streak. This piece of “evidence” as to why the Trent Richardson trade was good is flimsy at best. The Browns did go on a three game winning streak after the trade of Trent Richardson, but they also switched quarterbacks to Brian Hoyer and got Josh Gordon back. To think that Trent Richardson was somehow holding the team back from winning is silly. Beyond that, is there anyone who thinks Trent Richardson wouldn’t also have benefitted from the return of Josh Gordon and the switch to Brian Hoyer? The bottom line for me is that Trent Richardson – while maybe not good enough for his draft position – clearly makes the Browns roster better than what it is today with McGahee, etc. How much better is up for debate of course, but I think it would be pretty undeniably better. [Read more...]

What do you make of Brandon Weeden? – Cleveland Browns Roundtable

WFNY_roundtable

Craig: The takeaways from this week’s game seem to be setting the tone for the rest of the season. We’re going to continually look to define Brandon Weeden. On one side there will be those who seem to defend him out of hope, those that will bash him out of preemptive judgement, and those that continue to sit and watch and take it all in.

Where are you guys on Brandon Weeden at this point? Do you still have hope and expectations of Weeden that he can be the Browns quarterback? Have you given up on the guy and just wish the Browns could move on right now? Are you in the middle hoping that Weeden somehow proves to be a decent placeholder?

Andrew: Well, first things first, it’s been one game. I have to keep telling myself that, because every last fiber of my instinct is telling me that what we saw is reality. [Read more...]

NFL Preseason: Colts 27 Browns 6

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The Browns dropped to 2-1 on the preseason with an uninspiring 27-6 loss in Indianapolis on Saturday night.

As fun as the Browns starters were to watch during the team’s first two preseason games, Saturday night in Indianapolis was just the opposite. Through two and a half quarters Andrew Luck and the Colts outplayed the Browns starters  to the tune of 17-6.

Weeden and Company couldn’t muster much offense against a Colts’ defense that finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring and yards in 2012. Weeden finished 12-25 for 105 yards in a performance that surely will bring the hoards of Browns fans back to earth, following his two stellar games to start the preseason.

The team started the game strong on their first drive, featuring Richardson on three runs for 22 yards and a ten yard swing pass where he made a man miss on his way to a first down. Richardson’s fourth carry was called back on a questionable Joe Thomas holding penalty that ended up killing the drive.

The rest of the first half  the offense  couldn’t get going. Weeden was forced to throw into coverage several times with little room for success on the throw. On one in particular, Weeden threw a dangerous, but brilliant ball to Little out wide who caught it on his back shoulder and turned up field for a 14 yard game. That would be the last first down for the Browns offense in the first half, going three and out in their last three possessions. [Read more...]

I don’t feel like it, but let’s talk Browns

Brandon Weeden huddle 2People are always talking about the Browns, it seems. Usually I’m one of the ones talking the most, but I don’t really feel like it right now. So to prove it to you, I’ll talk Browns just enough to tell you why it’s kind of boring to me right now.

Brandon Weeden’s name has been in the news because nobody can predict the future. Really, that’s what it comes down to, right? Brandon Weeden is under contract for the upcoming season. He didn’t play well enough for the Browns to not consider alternatives at the quarterback position. The Browns don’t know how all the pieces will land between the draft and free agency, so they’re not in a position to make guarantees. Frankly, unless they have one of the top seven to ten quarterbacks in the league on their roster, they shouldn’t be making anyone any guarantees anyway. So, it is natural to not have much to talk about regarding Brandon Weeden. He might earn the job. He might not. Depends on how he plays and who he ends up competing against. So what is there to talk about? [Read more...]

Heckert on difference between Browns and Colts

Tom Heckert had a statement released by the Browns today, but he also spoke to WKNR’s Tony Grossi and gave this little nugget.

“The difference between us and the Colts is the Colts won the close games and we didn’t,” Heckert said. “We’ve proved we can play with anybody. I think the outlook is awesome.”

In many ways Heckert’s right, but if you look a little bit deeper and ask why the Browns didn’t win their close games you arrive at two things almost every time, in all likelihood.

1. Quarterback

2. Coaching

How much of those two things Tom Heckert had control over is anyone’s guess. Certainly Pat Shurmur was always mostly tied to Mike Holmgren who worked with Pat’s uncle Fritz. Additionally, it has always been speculated that Mike Holmgren was the driving force behind drafting Brandon Weeden. Even if Tom Heckert would have drafted Brandon Weeden, it is usually assumed that Holmgren drove the decision to do it with the second pick in the first round rather than waiting until the second round.

Maybe it’s one of those baseless assumptions and rumors, but it sure seemed that way with the press conferences after the draft.

[Related: Browns Release Statement on Firing of Heckert, Shurmur]

On Brandon Weeden’s rookie season, and other Browns rookie records

Over the past two weeks (part 1 and part 2), my good friend and colleague Rick has posted updates on some historic NFL records being accomplished by the current trio of rookies on the Browns offense: QB Brandon Weeden, RB Trent Richardson and WR Josh Gordon.

In his initial post, I helped to provide some of the backbone research. Yes, I never gave enough credit to Rick for his research and his writing as well, but I did help a little bit. This week, since we haven’t provided an update yet, I thought I’d swing back into the picture to provide the latest update and give some more historical context to Weeden’s rookie season.

Of course, this hasn’t been a perfect season for the much-maligned 29-year-old rookie from Oklahoma State (by way of the New York Yankees). He’s been highly criticized in many ways and certainly didn’t have a good performance against the Redskins in the home finale on Sunday. But, based on my research, he’s still OK compared to other QBs that have started every game of their first NFL season. [Read more...]

Browns lose very winnable game to Colts 17-13

Jimmy Haslam shows how he feels about the decision to punt in the 4th quarter

If Pat Shurmur thought he was embroiled when the team was 0-5 he ain’t seen nothing yet. Pat Shurmur will be able to say things to defend himself, but the second-guessing is just too obvious on this day to be baseless. Yes, Shurmur called what should have been a go-ahead TD pass to Josh Gordon on 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter with over six minutes remaining in the game. The Browns went to the line to go for it on fourth down and one from near the Colts 40-yard-line, ran out of time, had to call timeout and returned to the field… in punt formation. The TV coverage showed Jimmy Haslam and I’m just guessing because I am not a body language expert, but he didn’t look very happy with his coach’s decision.

Shurmur might even argue that it didn’t matter because the Browns got the ball back, but again, he’s wrong. Shurmur will say it isn’t his fault that Reggie Hodges only punted the ball only about 20 yards from the Colts 40 to the Colts 20. Technically he’s right. You always expect your punter to do better than that. Still, when given a chance on your opponent’s side of the field with a fourth and one and a chance to go ahead in the fourth quarter, punting is just abysmally depressing to fans and presumably his team and owner.  [Read more...]

WFNY Podcast – 2012-10-20 – Talking Colts with a Colts fan

When you write sports at a website like WFNY for a while you get to know your own kinds of fans. As many of you know my house is divided from a football perspective because my wife grew up in Indianapolis. I spared you my wife being on the podcast, but my brother-in-law is very much a similar kind of football fan to what I think we cater to at WFNY, so I talked to him for about ten minutes about the matchup and what it’s like to be a Colts fan on the heels of Peyton Manning and with Andrew Luck at the helm today.

  • How do Colts fans currently feel about Peyton Manning?
  • How much easier did Andrew Luck and the draft make Manning’s departure?
  • Are there any Colts fans that support the team losing this year?
  • Can the Colts actually make the playoffs?
  • What are the risks for the Colts with this Browns matchup?
[powerpress url="http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2012-10-20-WFNY-Podcast.mp3"]

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While We’re Waiting … BDL Previews Cavs, Colts Scouting Report, Jack Hannahan’s Future

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

Kickstarting their annual team previews, KD begins with at least some more optimistic words this year about Kyrie the Kid: “The Cleveland Cavaliers, once again, are a farm team. But unlike the one that put up with LeBron James’ growing pains and hanger-on demands before he skirted off to Miami, this one is essentially acting as a growing field for whatever the team’s front office decides will come next. The team’s rotation is almost entirely filled with players on rookie scale contracts, and while a good chunk of those youngsters won’t bowl you over, they have enough star guard Kyrie Irving to make up for any misgivings you might have about two-through-12.

Irving is an unabashed star. You could probably score on him in a pick and roll, and he doesn’t have John Stockton’s career assists record shaking in its mid-cut sneakers, but the kid is an All-Star level scorer and game-changer. … The other youngsters have a lot of explainin’ to do, though.” [Kelly Dwyer/Ball Don't Lie]

A fun back-and-forth begins with this skeptical outlook of Dion Waiters: “Look, I’m an optimistic guy. I was convinced LeBron would never leave Cleveland. If you dig hard enough, I’m sure you can find a post from my old blog where I predicted the Cavs would make the playoffs when he did leave because of JJ Hickson’s development. I thought the Indians were a lock for the World Series in 2008 after doing absolutely nothing during that offseason. I saw Revenge of the Sith on opening night. I’ve convinced myself of more than my fair share of totally absurd shit. That said, I’m freaking the hell out over Dion Waiters. Questionable (at best) shot selection, erratic drives to the rim, an ugly shot, limited range, the whole manner in which he was drafted, his past behavioral issues, all of it. I’m worried man. Talk me off the ledge.” [Angelo Benedetti/Fear The Sword]

An intriguing positive fantasy perspective on the Browns. You don’t hear that too often: “The Cleveland Browns may have only one victory this season, but in fantasy terms, this team has turned out some reliable contributors, and they’re all rookies. Brandon Weeden has tossed a pair of touchdown passes in each of his last two starts despite having two of his starting receivers watching from the sideline. As a bye week replacement, you could probably do worse seeing how Weeden takes on a soft Indianapolis Colts secondary that has failed to surrender two or more touchdown passes just once in five games.” [Jason and Justin Sablich/The New York Times' Fifth Down Blog]

Planning for the Colts begins with that No. 1 pick: “#1 – Going All-In For Andrew Luck: The decision to cut ties with Peyton Manning and banking on Andrew Luck being “the next elite quarterback” in the NFL was a major storyline this offseason. This isn’t a pick that can be evaluated fully in its first season. Luck has not shined above and beyond the other quarterbacks in this year’s class; even Brandon Weeden is having a comparable season to Luck thus far. … There are a few things to take into consideration with Luck: he is going to throw the ball…a lot. He is averaging 44 pass attempts per game, but he’s only completing 55 percent of those attempts.” [Chris Pokorny/Dawgs By Nature]

Hammerin’ Hannahan time might be over in Cleveland: “Jack Hannahan‘s days in Cleveland are likely numbered. At least, they should be. Hannahan, a journeyman third baseman, was picked up by the Indians before the 2011 season. He was tabbed to be a stop gap at the hot corner as well as a defensive specialist on a club seemingly with plenty of offense. Two seasons later, Hannahan is no longer needed as a bridge to the future. Young prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, if he can stay healthy, appears ready to be the everyday third baseman. The Chiz Kid’s bat, much stronger than that of the 32-year-old’s, is now needed in a batting order that has great need for a quality hitter or three.” [Craig Gifford/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?]

Surprising source here, but Boston scribe Dan Shaughnessy shares his thoughts on Terry Francona’s impact in Cleveland: “‘He believes in Mark Shapiro (president) and Chris Antonetti (GM) and what they are doing. You’ve got to have a roster and a payroll. It takes talent. Since the Indians took him on, he’s been harder to find. He’s been going at it 24/7 right from day one.’” [Bill Lucey/Huffington Post]

Preseason rankings spark Big Ten basketball storylines: “1. The Big Ten Is Under Immense Pressure: The good old phrase, “there is nowhere to go but down,” applies in this situation. Nobody is surprised to see Indiana ranked #1 but the Buckeyes and Wolverines’ rankings may raise some eyebrows. Both of those teams return three key starters from last season – Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith, Jr., for OSU and Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Jordan Morgan for Michigan. Returning starters and potential All-Americans will trigger a high preseason ranking but three teams in the top five is still a big deal for the league. Having said that, if any of the three teams slip during the early non-conference games, they will slide down the rankings fairly quickly which will eventually lead to “the Big Ten is still overrated” claims among many hoops fans.” [Rush The Court]

Browns vs. Colts – Reader Survey

Editor’s note: For those who are disappointed that we no longer do “The Browns Will Win If…” with discussion, etc. Have no fear. We’ll still be doing something like that via podcasting. Rick and I are planning on previewing the matchup this week. Plus, if you want to go ahead and break down the matchup otherwise in the comments, you are encouraged to do so.

I expect this to be a pretty difficult week to predict not knowing the health of Trent Richardson, but we’ll see. Maybe Montario Hardesty has some new believers after his relief appearance a week ago. [Read more...]

Richardson, Weeden in top five for rookie jersey sales

Dick’s Sporting Goods does the Jersey Report all season long indicating what jerseys are selling best nationwide. While Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning lead the overall list, the Browns are well-represented in the rookie list right now. Trent Richardson comes in at #3 maintaining the actual draft order of Andrew Luck, RG3 and himself. Luke Kuechly from the Carolina Panthers and Weeden round out the top five.

Most surprising fact? Brandon Weeden is allegedly trending upward. Maybe that doesn’t include data from after this past Sunday.

Other non-Browns related notes of interest include Rob Kronkowski out-pacing Tom Brady and Troy Polamalu leading all defensive players. Polamalu is also the only defensive player in the overall top ten.

(H/T to Garrett Downing – @gdowning14 on Twitter)

[ Related: Jimmy Haslam Hires His Replacement at Pilot Flying J]

Richardson and Browns Reportedly Negotiating

Mary Kay Cabot is reporting that the Browns and Trent Richardson’s agent Jimmy Sexton are in the same physical space and negotiating a contract.

The only possible sticking point left could be “offset language.” As we’ve discussed previously, the money shouldn’t be an issue anymore now that Andrew Luck and RG3 have both signed ahead of Richardson.

This offset language specifies that even if the player in question gets cut and re-signed by another team whether or not the cutting team gets credit for money in the new contract. For example, if the Browns cut a guy who is owed $2 million and he goes out and signs a deal elsewhere for $1 million, the Browns would love to have contract language that cuts their responsibilities in half. The chances of getting anything like that in Trent Richardson’s contract appear to be pretty slim.

Also, not so incidentally, Trent Richardson is represented by CAA as is Robert Griffin III, who was able to avoid any such offset language in his Redskins deal, as PFT pointed out on July 18th. So, I think we all know where this is headed.

[Related: For Browns, Youth Might be Painful at Times this Season]

Andrew Luck finally signs with the Colts

The wait is finally over now that Andrew Luck and his agent / uncle have had a chance to see what a real agent could get done for RG3. According to the Indy Star and Pro Football Talk, the deal is expected to be worth $22 million guaranteed.

The second year of rookie contracts under the new rules appears to finally (officially (really)) underway.

Now it is time for third pick Trent Richardson and 22nd overall pick Brandon Weeden to not only make progress, but get their deals with the Browns done.

[Related: RG3′s deal shows the way for the Browns and Trent Richardson]

NFL Draft: Five 2012 QB Draftees are better than Cam Newton

The quarterback position tops the list of needs for the Cleveland Browns and, per an anonymous NFL scout, the team could be in luck. In speaking with two scouts tasked with grading the upcoming draft class, Pete Dougherty from the Green Bay Press Gazette is told that there could be up to five quarterbacks selected in 2012 who stack up better than Carolina’s Cam Newton, last year’s first-overall selection.

To further the comparison, Dougherty writes that both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III represent a better top end at the position than the famed draft class of 2004 which featured Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger — the trio has four Super Bowl rings and plenty of playoff appearances between them.

“Both scouts rated Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill as the next-best [behind Luck and Griffin],” writes Dougherty. “One then had Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins next followed by Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, whereas the other had them vice versa. Cousins’ strengths are he reacts fast and he’s an impressive athlete. The big issue with Weeden is his age — he played minor-league baseball and will turn 29 in October of his rookie season. He’s got plenty of arm talent, but that age matters.”

[Related: Highlight Videos: 2012 Cleveland Browns NFL Draft Visits]

NFL Draft: The Browns can’t win a bidding war

It might be the most obvious thing ever, but it seems that we’ve been talking a lot of hypothetical game theory lately. The Browns are in a position of strength and if you were to believe the pundits around the sports world, they also seemingly don’t have enough to get a trade done with the Rams.  We’ve heard rumors of the Redskins giving up their entire draft this year as well as multiple picks next year. We’ve heard that the Browns might need to trade three overall first rounders (two this year and one in 2013) in order to entice the Rams into giving them the #2.  (Yes, I know some of you prefer to look at it like two first rounders and a swap of #4 and #2.  Whatever.) How is it that the Browns could be in a bidding war and yet have a position of strength?

Let’s talk a bit about the Browns’ options. What is the worst thing that can happen if the Browns do nothing at all? Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson, and Riley Reiff are all in contention for the top four. I would say that Reiff and Richardson are longshots for the top four, but they’re certainly going to be somewhere nearby on most draft boards. (Although Richardson is falling fast, it seems.) Point being that if the Browns do not make any kind of trade, they will get one of these guys. More important is what the Rams get. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Grading the Cavaliers, Robert Griffin’s 40 and Acta’s line-up

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

Mid-Season report card- “#36 Omri Casspi: Previous grade: D+ –> New grade: C- Good news: J.J. Hickson is downright terrible for Sacramento. Bad news: Omri Casspi isn’t much better for Cleveland. He’s starting to get a little more comfortable and rebound better, but his shooting is still pretty miserable. He’s shooting under 30% from deep and just a bit over 40% overall. His defense is questionable and more often than not, Scott turns to Gee when the Cavs need it the most. The Casspi-experiment has been slightly better than a trainwreck thus far.” [Kaczmarek/Fear the Sword] [Read more...]

NFL Draft 2012: Robert Griffin III Says He’s ‘Best Quarterback’ In The Draft

Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is in Indianpolis this weekend and doing a media tour as he prepares for the 2012 NFL Draft. As you’re all aware, many mock draft experts have your Cleveland Browns taking RGIII with the fourth overall pick in April’s draft. He sat down with Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks for an extensive interview, and made his case as the best quarterback in the upcoming draft, and why he should go No. 1 overall.

“I hate to talk about myself like that, but if I had to straight up tell a head coach or an owner why they should take me, it’s because I’m the best in everything I’ve done,” Griffin said. “I’m the most accurate. I have the strongest arm. I may not be the tallest. I may not be the heaviest. But I’m the best quarterback in the nation, and if they pass on me, then I understand. But I’m going to go out and be the best quarterback for somebody else.

“It’s about consistency. And I was able to go out and make the nation a believer. I was able to make my own teammates believers, too. And that means even more to me, that they regarded me as the best quarterback in the nation.”

Griffin also seems motivated to continue to use the highly-touted Andrew Luck as a measuring stick, and motivation.

“Perception is reality, and at the beginning of the year I wasn’t on many radars,” Griffin said. “I did have a lot more ground to cover than he did. He was the de facto Heisman winner and the de facto No. 1 pick. We already took one of those from him and we plan to continue to go out there and do that. Whether it’s with the first pick in the draft, a playoff win, or who goes to the first Super Bowl.

“I will use that as a driving force, whether I go first, second, third or fourth in the draft. The fact I wasn’t out there with people believing in me is going to be the key to drive me to be a better player. So it’ll always be a competition between me and Andrew, just because we’re in the same class and the media is going to paint it that way.”

Random Browns Thoughts on a Friday

This will be boring for those of you who follow along on Twitter, but that’s the way it goes.

This morning I listened for a few minutes as Kiley and Booms broke down (over) the Mike Holmgren press conference and I was left with a few thoughts, namely there was absolutely nothing that Mike Holmgren could have said yesterday for some people.  I would love to know what the perfect press conference from Holmgren and Heckert would have sounded like assuming there is one.  Sure, I bet the first choice would be for that “cash-checking, money-grubber who pines for his retirement in Seattle” to just not be here anymore, but let’s be adults and just go into it knowing that isn’t an option.

On the wide receivers, Holmgren said that Greg Little was a guy that he thought they could build on.  He said that they were going to “add to the pile” or bring in more players.  Can’t you just read between the lines with that?  They cut Brian Robiskie mid-season.  Is that not enough of an admission of guilt on pre-season evaluations of the roster?  Holmgren used the wide receiver question to say that the team needed to upgrade at every skill position on offense.  What else could you possibly want to hear him say about this horrible offense? [Read more...]