August 26, 2014

Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and the undelivered quarterback mandate

Hoyer Pass 140726

Brian Hoyer has been named the starter for the Cleveland Browns as they head one step closer toward the start of the regular season. If you really think about it, it’s not all that surprising. The Browns basically named Brian Hoyer the starter heading into camp. Basically. Nearly. Almost. Not quite. In a lot of ways, Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan would have made their lives infinitely easier if they had just gone that next step and named Hoyer the starter back when the veterans reported for camp, but they seemed to want someone to prove it. That’s understandable.

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Jerry Jones’ son “snatched” the Johnny Manziel draft card away on draft day

Manziel draft

Have you guys heard about how the Dallas Cowboys almost drafted Johnny Manziel? I thought everyone had, but it’s come up again, this time with even more details. Jim Dent has written in his new book that Jerry Jones’ son “snatched” the Manziel draft card from his dad’s hands, otherwise Johnny Football would be in Brandon Weeden’s spot, presumably.

Jones made his “that close” comment on NFL Network on July 28. And in a new book, “Manziel Mania,” author Jim Dent reveals that Jones couldn’t resist himself from drafting Manziel. Instead, his son Stephen, the team’s executive vice president, held his father back from drafting Manziel.

Instead of grabbing one of the most decorated college quarterbacks in the draft, the Cowboys executed a decidedly less “sexy” draft maneuver. The Cowboys drafted offensive guard Zack Martin. By all accounts the Cowboys are very happy with their first rounder and how he’s picking up the NFL game, but it makes you wonder if Cowboys fans will always wonder what could have been.

We’ve been through that in Cleveland as the Browns pretty well passed on Mark Sanchez via trade-down in order to eventually get Alex Mack. Obviously the situation is a bit different as the Cowboys flat passed on Manziel for Martin, but the equation works out the same now that the chips are on the table. If Manziel goes on to become a superstar franchise quarterback, the Cowboys will probably regret it and look back at stories like the above with a burning fire of anger.

Browns fans seem content with current quarterback competition


Manziel and Hoyer

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

Dez Bryant says Brandon Weeden “was doing some great things out in Cleveland.”

Weeden

Dez Bryant is a great receiver and it’s in his best interest to pump up anyone who has the potential of throwing him a football in the NFL, but this is ridiculous. Maybe he meant on the golf courses of Cleveland? Brandon Weeden joined the Cowboys this off-season and Dez Bryant spoke with the Dallas Morning News about the former Browns QB.

“He’s been doing an outstanding job since he got here,” Bryant told the Dallas Morning News. “In my honest opinion, I feel like he was doing some great things out in Cleveland.”

Now, obviously it’s easy to understand why Dez Bryant would talk so glowingly about Brandon Weeden, as I said in the open. And we’ve seen it a hundred times in Cleveland with the likes of Charlie Frye and Colt McCoy in addition to Brandon Weeden. I remember watching the national publications come to training camp to excitedly tell the story of Colt McCoy as he headed into his second year in the league having been named starter of the Cleveland Browns.

Still, it’s tough to stomach anyone praising Brandon Weeden and his history in the NFL. The fact is that Brandon Weeden’s reign in Cleveland has me questioning the very value of judging quarterbacks in practice conditions during training camp. Weeden passed every eye test imaginable last year during camp. He looked far and away like the best quarterback on the Browns roster, including Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell. It just so happens that you don’t get to play quarterback in live NFL games at three fourths speed with only seven defenders running vanilla defenses against you.

So, we’ll see if there’s anything to Brandon Weeden’s NFL career with a change of scenery, but I’m not buying the OTA observations of Dez Bryant. I’ve been fooled by that look before.

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Quarterbacks

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The season is just 100 days away. Enthusiasm is growing with each 140-character update from OTAs. The Cleveland Browns have had a very busy offseason in terms of the roster, coaching staff, and front office. Making big splashes both in free agency and the draft, they’ve completely revamped the roster. Each week from today to the beginning of training camp, I will examine the state of one position on the Cleveland Browns. The first position I will look at is the highly talked about group under center.

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

Little2

And so the Greg Little era in Cleveland has come to a close. It’s not a day worth celebrating, that’s for sure. It’s never a good day when your team gives up on a second-round draft pick who was still playing under his rookie contract. It’s never a good day when your team is cutting a player under the age of 25 who has good size and passes the eye test as an athlete. Then again, all said and done, if you are a fan of a team and have any aspirations for that team to be successful, you might not want to get all caught up emotionally over a move like the Browns cutting Little. In the end, it’s just not that big of a deal.

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Terrell Pryor to be cut or traded by Raiders

Terrelle Pryor Ohio State Sugar Bowl

Former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Terrell Pryor didn’t have an awful year last year, but he apparently isn’t going to be a part of the future in Oakland. It certainly sounds like if you’re a bettor that you should probably assume he’ll get cut.

It seems unlikely that anyone would trade for Pryor when the word is out that he’s about to be cut. Then again, he did show flashes of promise last season, and he’s only due a salary of $750,000 this year, so it’s possible that some team might think he’s worth a seventh-round pick.

I certainly don’t think this is the kind of thing that the Browns should pursue, but you never know where Ray Farmer and company might think to look for a backup to replace Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. Terrell Pryor might not excite Browns fans, but in a field that includes Rex Grossman, it’s probably not the worst idea ever.

Pryor’s highlights from last year were mostly plays he made running the ball, but he did have two games where he had a QB rating over 100. He also had two games with over 100 yards rushing.

Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés

2012 NFL Draft

Leading up to an NFL draft, there are a lot of hackneyed conversations that will drive a fan absolutely crazy. It seems that some fans want to rely on simplistic rules to simplify the NFL draft for themselves. It’s a coping mechanism to help deal with the fact that most fans have do not possess nearly enough information to truly decide what their team needs or how they should build for the future. It’s not an indictment of fans to not know, but it is an indictment for fans who pretend like they do.

Know what, exactly? It’s infuriating this time of year, but how many fans do you come across — at the bar, calling sports talk radio or on Twitter — who think of themselves as the only one qualified to run the war room of their favorite football team? Imagine every nugget of their “wisdom” being delivered with a confident, smug smile that says, “I just know I’m right.” Instead of looking at each team like a complex system that needs lots of different pieces, we get a lot of vague, simplistic misconceptions. And with that, here are my least favorite draft clichés.

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Colt McCoy signs with the Washington Redskins

coltsnake

Colt McCoy wasn’t out of work long. The former Browns quarterback has never been able to find tons of success in the NFL, but the backup QB game isn’t so bad. Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy? All of them have been able to find rosters at least for this year’s training camp.

I’ll never get used to NFL teams reporting their own news with “BREAKING” as a descriptor. Anyway…

The financial details haven’t come out yet, and McCoy will certainly have his work cut out for him on a roster featuring RG3 and Kirk Cousins already. Even if he doesn’t make it to the roster for the regular season, I wouldn’t bet against Colt McCoy getting a job as a backup somewhere.

For all the warts on his résumé, I will always consider Colt McCoy a player of value. No, he’s apparently not starter quality in the NFL, but for whatever reason, I’ll always look back on his tenure more fondly than that of Brandon Weeden’s or even Derek Anderson’s. That’s not much of a contest to win, of course, but congrats to him for winning it just the same.

It must be the snake-wrangling photo.

[Related: Browns brass becomes bystanders for Blake Bortles’ ballgame]

Josh Gordon thinks Browns will draft a QB at No. 4

Gordon catch sm

Josh Gordon might not know a whole lot more about the Cleveland Browns’ draft plans than we do. That has to be stated first and foremost. Still, Gordon’s opinion on the matter is interesting just the same. On Thursday, the Pro Bowl wide receiver told ESPN that he believes the Browns will call a quarterback’s name with the fourth pick of the 2014 NFL draft.

We won’t go so far as to speculate that this is something that Josh Gordon wants as a receiver. I’m guessing the guy who was able to go for over 1,600 yards in only 14 games while catching passes from Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell feels pretty comfortable in his ability to get open enough for just about any quarterback.

[Related: Johnny Manziel will wear helmet and shoulder pads at pro day]

(Photo by John Cole/WFNY)

Jason Campbell signs on with Bengals for one year

campbell

Being a backup quarterback in the NFL isn’t such a bad gig. Despite lackluster performances, former Browns like Brandon Weeden and Derek Anderson are never going to be out of work, it seems. Jason Campbell had a pretty bad year for a starting quarterback in the NFL, but it was apparently good enough to get him another job in the league as he signed with the Bengals yesterday.

It’s shocking that the Bengals of all teams would have signed Campbell. Why? Consider that Campbell helped author a 41-20 loss to the Bengals this past November when he threw three interceptions and finished the day with a 44.3 QB rating. The game featured so many check-downs that even Colt McCoy was embarrassed for him.

The terms of the deal aren’t available yet, but you have to assume it’s a pretty modest veteran salary.

The Campbell signing also goes to prove just how strange a little place the NFL can be. Jason Campbell reunites with former Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who happened to be coaching the Raiders when Jason Campbell hurt his collarbone after starting the season 4-2.

What happened next? The Raiders traded for Carson Palmer.

Anyway, in case you want to remember just how bad the Browns loss to the Bengals was this past season, check out the first paragraph from the recap. Remember this is a game where the Browns gave up 31 pointsin the second quarter.

The Cleveland Browns had a meaningful game against the division leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and responded very poorly. They started the game great going up 13-0, but quickly imploded into a cornucopia of bountiful gifts for the Cincinnati Bengals to feast upon. Interceptions, punt blocks, fumbles and offensive ineptitude took the place of pumpkins, grapes, apples and squash. I’m thinking of so many bad jokes about the Browns getting squashed that I’m not even going to bother. Given a chance to respond to opportunity, the Browns failed on this day.

[Also see: Brandon Weeden, Dallas Cowboy]

Image via Rick Grayshock/WFNY

Brandon Weeden, Dallas Cowboy

Well, that didn’t take long.

Brandon Weeden ThumbGood ole’ Brandon Weeden, everyone’s favorite whipping boy here in Cleveland during his two year stint as Quarterback, has officially found a new home. The Dallas Cowboys have announced they have given the former Browns first round pick a two-year deal. Terms have not yet been disclosed.

The 30-year old Weeden will join a club that is already set at QB with Tony Romo as the starter and veteran Kyle Orton, who started week 16 for the injured Romo and played well, as the top two. This essentially means that Weeden will be joining the Cowboys as a third string insurance policy. Keep in mind that most clubs these days are keeping two QBs so there is no guarantee that Brandon even breaks camp with the Cowboys.

I guess what they say is true. Once a Cowboy….always a Cowboy.

Brandon Weeden visiting Dallas today

Weeden working out wearing his signature series watch

In my experience, Dallas Cowboys fans have some consternation with regard to Tony Romo. In Romo, they’ve got a guy with some clear ability and talent, but he never seems to put them over the top. Romo is nearing his mid-30′s now as an NFL player and makes a ton of money and it’s reasonable to assume that the Cowboys might need to start thinking about the future. It’s hard to believe that thought process begins today when former Browns first round draft pick Brandon Weeden is reportedly visiting Big D.

I’m really trying to be kind to Brandon Weeeden, or at least leave him alone. He tried to be a good quarterback here in Cleveland and much like most players who’ve worn the orange and brown, the organization wasn’t exactly conducive to elevating players. Just consider that Weeden was (over)drafted by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, before they gave way to Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi – the latter of whom everyone knew didn’t like Weeden – before finally being released by Ray Farmer. Names like Pat Shurmur, Norv Turner, Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Davone Bess litter the box scores that make up Brandon Weeden’s time in Cleveland as well.

Sure, there’s no defending Weeden’s record in Cleveland in the end,  but it seems cruel and unusual to keep harping on it. So, I’ll stop. For now.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it funny that someday a Dallas Cowboys fan might be grimacing through some heart-wrenching turnover-laden Tony Romo performance in the near future and look down the bench at Brandon Weeden to provide some relief.

[Related: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has “invitation” to visit Browns]

Your 2014 (Offseason) Champion Cleveland Browns: While We’re Waiting

WFNYBanner www

Tell me how my Ben Tate: So how about these free-spendin’ Browns? While some national types will want to parse apart the $7 million given to Ben Tate this past weekend  (Phil Dawson money!), Cleveland locked up a 25-year-old without much in the way of mileage on his tires. Sure, those tires have had trouble staying affixed for the last few years, but we’re talking about a guy who thrived in a zone blocking scheme in Houston, who will now be given feature-back carries in a similar offense with chip on his shoulder and a chance to prove his worth. Plus, HE’S ONE OF US.

Sign me up.

Speaking of, this may deserve more in the way of an in-depth discussion, but there’s something to be said about the front-loaded nature of these Browns free agent deals. The bulk of Karlos Dansby’s money is up front; Donte Whitner’s appears to be relatively similar. Same can be said for the two-year deal given to Isaiah Trufant and the four-year deal offered to Andrew Hawkins where $10.8 million (of the $13.6 million) will be provided to him in the first two seasons. I don’t have the energy or desire to analyze what the Browns’ situation looks like beyond 2016, but things appear to be mighty flexible. I would imagine this means good things for the Josh Gordons and Joe Haden’s of the world.

Ouch: Talk about a bi-polar road trip. While you were counting sheep, the Cavaliers were shocking the world on a West Coast swing, coming up with wins against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately for Cleveland and any remote playoff hopes, not only did they fall victim to the always dangerous Los Angeles Clippers, Kyrie Irving may be done for the season with a biceps injury. Brother left Staples Center on Sunday night with his left arm in a sling. Also not helping matters: This week’s schedule brings both the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder to The Q.1 Enjoy the road show, folks.

Ohio State: I’ll obviously be pulling for the Buckeyes this weekend when they look to escape the first two rounds (Yes, they’re the first two rounds—nothing the NCAA will change what normal—read: non-paid individuals—call them), but it will certainly be a tough road. If they can scrape past the Dayton Flyers, they’ll be forced to tackle the zone defense of Syracuse. They may not score 40 points. Someone has to provide the Scarlet and Grey with a consistent scoring option—you can only live on Aaron Craft’s defense for so long. The missed free throws certainly will not help. Here’s a March Madness prediction: Several shades of red emanating from Thad Matta’s high-definition face this weekend. Book it.

And just because… Cricket: A sport Brandon Weeden could actually be good at.

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Footnotes:

  1. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Tristan Thompson who bottomed out in Sunday’s loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with one rebound and three personal fouls in 20 minutes of action. Over the past four games, shooting 8-of-28 from the field with more fouls (12) than combined assists, steals and blocks (nine). Come celebrate his birthday this Thursday! []

Animated: Brandon Weeden’s career in Cleveland … in gifs

Has any one NFL player provided as much giffable content as Brandon Weeden has in his two (was it really just two?) seasons with the Browns? Weeden was cut loose on Wednesday afternoon, set to take advantage of other opportunities. But today, we take a look back at Weeden’s career in Cleveland, one gif at a time.

Before the quarterback even took his first snap in the league, he was a widely-shared graphic interchange file. #USA

And somehow, in that very same game (one where the Browns lost by one point) this happened:

Little did we know, Game One would merely foreshadow. This one, from SBNation, is aptly titled “Weeden No Care.”

Remember all of those batted passes? Here’s this beauty, in a game the Browns managed to actually win (largely thanks to eight Steelers turnovers).

Whoops!

Remember that winnable game against the Jacksonville Jaguars?

Late in 2013, after being benched, the Browns were forced to go back to Weeden to close out the season. Here’s how he capitalized on that moment.

And the pièce de résistance:

Weeden's Bad Pass

Browns release Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell

"Back-handed? Really?"

“Back-handed? Really?”

The unemployment rate amongst gingers just experienced quite a bump as the Cleveland Browns, in one of their more anticipated decisions, have parted ways with former first-round pick Brandon Weeden.

After a season filled with back-handed passes, game-changing interceptions and incredible amounts of booing, Browns general manager Ray Farmer decided that Weeden’s future would not include the city of Cleveland. Farmer released the following statement:

“First and foremost, the Browns would like to thank Brandon and his agent for being true professionals. The circumstances in which he found himself were not easy for him or the team. After discussions with Brandon and his agent, we’d like to give him the ability to pursue other opportunities.”

After two incredibly difficult seasons with the Browns, the 30-year-old quarterback will enter the free agent market having thrown for 5,116 yards, 23 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and a passer rating of 71.8. In what was supposed to be a Weeden-friendly system in 2013, the Oklahoma State product regressed mightily, completing just 52.8 percent of his passes—a league-worst 28.2 percent when under pressure. Pro Football Focus ranked Weeden 31st among 42 eligible passers, behind such accomplished talents like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kellen Clemens, Thaddeus Lewis and Matt McGloin.

In addition to Weeden, the Browns have released last season’s second-string quarterback Jason Campbell.

“We appreciate Jason’s contributions to the Browns in 2013,” said Farmer. “He’s a respected veteran player in this league. We felt like at this time, early in the free-agency period, we would give him a better opportunity to move forward. We wish Jason the best in his future endeavors.”

The Browns are widely considered to be one of the handful of teams to use a first-round draft selection on a quarterback in addition to being linked to Houston’s Matt Schaub.

Ray Farmer already speaking like a seasoned General Manager

Ray Horton Dustin Fox

Ray Farmer has been an NFL general manager for a little less than two weeks, but he already has one part of the job down: He has learned the art of speaking without saying anything.

On Thursday, Farmer met with the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. As you would expect, Farmer was asked about Johnny Manziel and the rest of the quarterbacks in this draft class. Like a true front office veteran, Farmer spoke for five minutes without giving away anything at all. [Read more...]

Browns expected to release Jason Campbell

campbelldownFind me another profession where you can be considered elite one week1 and unemployed just a few weeks later. Such could be the case for Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell who, per ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi, is expected to be released due to triggered escalators in his contract.

Campbell, who was leapfrogged by Brian Hoyer after Brandon Weeden’s first bout with the injury bug, played more than 45 percent of the team’s snaps in 2013 and, in turn, is due a crispy $3.25 million in 2014. While we may never know if the escalator played into the initial decision to start Hoyer prior to his injury, the 32-year-old Campbell was just 1-7 as a starter and regressed mightily over the final few weeks of the season as the team spiraled into a place that ultimately cost their first-year head coach his job.

Campbell is, however, expected to be joined by former first-round quarterback Brandon Weeden whose contract contains $2 million in guarantees, leaving the Browns with Hoyer—coming off a torn ACL—and whichever quarterback they land in the offseason. They are widely expected to use their first-round pick on a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Joshua Gunter/Plain Dealer

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Footnotes:

  1. On November 8, as things were looking a bit brighter for the Browns, Campbell was in the midst of captaining a team that was considererd (by at least one person) to be the best in the AFC North, and was given the “elite” tag. This column also stated that the Browns “hit a home run” with Rob Chudzinski… []

Video: Davone Bess says “ask Brandon Weeden” about tweets

The Davone Bess story isn’t all that important, but man is it strangely entertaining. This video taken as Bess was walking away from jail includes a lot of non-answers, until someone asks him about the “weed tweets.” Bess replies, “ask Brandon Weeden. I don’t know.” The quote is at about 1:20 of the video.

Did he just mis-hear the question? Doubtful. Strange, strange stuff.

Video embedded from NBCMiami.com

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Brian Hoyer

The hometown kid rejuvinated a bitter and beaten fan base (Diamond Images/Getty Images)

The hometown kid rejuvinated a bitter and beaten fan base
(Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given 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 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by a WFNY writer.

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