August 26, 2014

Should the Browns take a look at Stephen Hill?

As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver issues continue into the fourth week of the preseason, one interesting name is bubbling up in the NFL trade rumor mill in the New York Jets’ Stephen Hill. ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini believes the Jets should and will try and trade Hill, with the player potentially being a roster casualty if a deal is not consummated.

The disappointing wide receiver is expected to play Thursday night in the final preseason game, a clear indication his roster spot is in jeopardy. Starters and key reserves don’t play in the annual Backup Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. Hill was granted that status is his first two years, when he was a big-shot, second-round pick with a bright future. Now he’ll be grinding with the other marginal players, trying to convince the Jets — or another team — he still can be a legit player in the league.

Ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made Hill—a player who many Browns fans coveted over their eventual second-round pick in tackle Mitchell Schwartz1—the 43rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and traded up to do so. He has since missed nine games in two seasons, and has just 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jets and Browns do not exactly have the best relationship at this point following comments made by head coach Mike Pettine. It’s also believed that New York (while not exactly being the model franchise for offense) is looking to move Hill for a cornerback though a late pick would be more likely. Hill should not cost more than a late-round pick, and he has all the measurables, boasting a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound frame with 4.36 speed. Unfortunately for the Jets and Hill, the Georgia Tech product has shown terrible hands and has had a penchant for injuries.

He’s been brutal over the course of his first two seasons, but he’s still young and let’s be honest: The Browns are in no position to be picky when it comes to potential receiving threats.

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Footnotes:

  1. Alshon Jeffrey, in hindsight, wouldn’t have been a bad move, eh? []

Despite Sam Bradford injury, Pettine doesn’t think Hoyer is back too soon

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In the wake of the Rams losing Sam Bradford to an ACL tear, it’s natural to wonder if the Browns’ own QB isn’t coming back too quickly. It hasn’t even been a year since Brian Hoyer tore his ACL against Buffalo and he’s back out there as the Cleveland Browns starter. When talking about the situation, Mike Pettine said he doesn’t think Hoyer’s back too quickly.

“The circumstances of all the cases are different. I have a daughter that’s done both ACLs, so having gone through it and knowing the rehab and knowing the process and how it gets repaired, a lot of times it comes back stronger than it was before,” he said. “I think that’s difficult to make a blanket statement on all the knee injuries. Certainly what happened to Sam is so unfortunate, but we feel confident with where Brian is and I think he’d be the first one to tell you that his knee feels strong.”

The fact is that it’s impossible to draw conclusions about Brian Hoyer from Sam Bradford. While I certainly can’t speak to an NFL player’s experience coming back from an ACL, I can speak to just how different each injury is. In my two ACL surgeries, one was a pretty clean injury and the other included cartilage damage as well. When you casually talk about these things they all get called “ACL injuries,” but it only makes sense that each injury and each patient experiencing the injury are different.

One thing that’s for sure is that NFL players are at risk of these injuries as much as any athletes in the world in all likelihood. Let’s be frank. NFL players are humans – albeit well-conditioned humans - running around a field with extra pounds of equipment on their bodies while being blocked and tackled by giants. Point being, there’s no way to conclude that Sam Bradford or any other player is or isn’t ready simply because they get injured again any more than a player is unprepared for the season because he tears an achilles or some other muscle.

I feel awful for Bradford who has to stare down another year of rehab. While it’s natural to root for and against professional athletes, I never want to see a player lose because they can’t even stay on the field.

(Photo – Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Preseason Game 3 Preview: Cleveland Browns vs. St. Louis Rams

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Even after last Monday night’s lackluster passing performances by Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, head coach Mike Pettine called for an end to the quarterback competition, naming Hoyer the starter. Whether you believe the he “won” the job rather than had it handed to him, only one thing seemed clear: Manziel is not ready to start week one. While re-watching the game, the thing that struck me about Hoyer was his ability to stand in the pocket, go through his reads, and deliver the ball.

Against the St. Louis Rams, the opposing offenses must focus on neutralizing the pass rushers and staying in the pocket. However, with Robert Quinn and Chris Long rushing from the outside while Aaron Donals and Michael Brockers come up the middle, standing tall against the rush is a daunting task.

[Read more...]

Browns’ Manziel fined $12,000 for giving Redskins bench the finger

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Johnny Manziel’s $4.3 million signing bonus just took a small hit on Friday as the league fined him $12,000 for the Finger Seen ‘Round the World. Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Manziel is allegedly weighing an appeal.

Why would the rookie appeal something that was captured on live television and retweeted at an epic volume? The fine given to Manziel is just a hair above the standard fine for such an incident.

Hashtag TheBird. Hey, did you hear? There’s a game tomorrow? There will be a football and everything.

[Related: Johnny Manziel can’t call a play?]

 

A two-QB system for Johnny Manziel? Not so fast.

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Mike Pettine isn’t buying in to the hype. With rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel losing the Cleveland Browns’ preseason competition, many throughout the league expected the team to utilize a two-quarterback system that would allow the mobile, play-making Manziel to have a package of plays designed for his unique skill set, subbing him in for Brian Hoyer when needed. Pettine, the first-year head coach, is firmly backing Hoyer, the St. Ignatius product, stating that the first portion of the season will be for his quarterback to build chemistry that he may have lacked during the first two weeks of the preseason.

“People have asked me about potentially a two-quarterback system and having a package for [Johnny Manziel]. That is on the table,” Pettine said in an interview with “The Opening Drive” on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t know if that’s anything that we want to commit to just now, because I think Brian—because of the competition—is a little behind with the chemistry and continuity in working with that first group. I think that is something that we can potentially look at down the road.”

Since awarding Hoyer with the starting quarterback spot, Pettine has been the recipient of both criticism and praise. Rather than caving to the pressure of starting a first-round quarterback, he has opted to roll with the veteran. Earlier this week, Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario in which Manziel, the focus of plenty media attention, does not play at all despite being the No. 22 pick by the Browns.

Several teams have opted for two-quarterback systems over the last several seasons, including the San Francisco 49ers (with Colin Kaepernick) and the New York Jets (with Tim Tebow). Pettine, having ties to the Jets, was able to see first-hand how disruptive such a spectacle can be.

For now, it appears that those wishing to see Manziel take the field will have to get all they can during the final two weeks of the preseason, because if Pettine has his way, the rookie will not see the field for quite a while.

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Mike Pettine says Johnny Manziel may not play at all in 2014…Sort of.

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In what is bound to be the most blown-out-of-context quote of the week, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario where Johnny Manziel does not take a live snap during the entire 2014 season. Take a look for yourself (emphasis mine).

“Give me a crystal ball and I’ll give you that answer,” Pettine said. “The season is so long. So much can happen, and we don’t want … Brian looking over his shoulder thinking, ‘Hey, I make one bad throw and I’m out.’ But over time, if you feel you need to make a change — it’s not just at quarterback, it’ll be at other positions as well. You have guys that you have penciled in that you hope can be that guy for you for the year, but that rarely works out in the league. Time will only tell.

You could see a scenario where he doesn’t play this year, and then there are other scenarios that are absolutely possible as well. It’s hard to tell.”

Which then leads to this:

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Realistically, there are two scenarios in Pettines range that would keep the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on the sidelines holding a Microsoft Surface for all 16 games, both of them bordering on extremes: 1) A flawless effort from Brian Hoyer and the Browns’ offense or 2) a season-ending injury suffered by Manziel during a practice session. The scenario where Hoyer keeps his job out of merit would include the Browns avoiding an 0-3 start—a tough task given the gauntlet of Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore during the first three weeks leading into the team’s bye. Even following the bye, the Browns go on the road to Tennessee before hosting the Steelers where they could conceivably be staring at an 0-5 start.

The latter scenario, the one which would have to be considered more likely given the way the team has played through the first two weeks of the preseason, would be devastating from a media and hype standpoint, and would certainly not guarantee anything in the way of wins—but it would keep the one they call Johnny Football off the field.

Every head coach, if placed in an ideal scenario where grapes are fed to you and the media doesn’t exist, would love to have a rookie quarterback take mental reps for 16 games. Unfortunately for Pettine, his rookie quarterback has catapulted over Tim Tebow on the list of global headline (and Google search) infatuations.

The quote Pettine gave will likely be cut and streamed across the bottom of televisions across the country as everyone outside of Cleveland is in a hurry to see what the Heisman Trophy winner can do at the next level. When one looks at it from Cleveland’s point of view, however—the one where said Heisman Winner still can’t call every play in the playbook—things become a lot more obvious. Grantland’s Andrew Sharp may have put it best in his latest Triangle submission, stating “LeBron is in Cleveland, the Browns aren’t being idiots, and the world is upside down. It’s crazy enough already. Now we just gotta wait for that Jags game.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

The Curse of Paul Warfield — A loving look at a 45-year slump: Reliving Yesteryear

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Our gazes remained fixed, for an extra moment. As he began to realize, my trivia question wasn’t merely rhetorical.

“Rocky Colavito to Detroit, for Harvey Kuenn. April 17, 1960.” His countenance had morphed into a half-smile/furrowed brow combo. He was clearly thinking: “You’re really coming at me with the easy, ‘what’s the worst trade in Cleveland history?’”

[Read more...]

Johnny Manziel called out by Hulk Hogan (for ALS Ice Bucket Challenge)

“Whatcha gonna do?” We now know that Johnny Manziel won’t be starting against the Pittsburgh Steelers, assuming Brian Hoyer is healthy. We also haven’t seen Johnny Manziel in any non-football videos lately. Sure one of the football-related ones will presumably get him fined for flipping the bird. But now, Johnny has all the excuse he needs to make an off-the-field video that won’t earn him any trips to the principal’s office. All thanks to the immortal Hulk Hogan.

Forbes says the Browns are the 22nd most valuable NFL team

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We already knew the Browns were valuable because Jimmy Haslam paid a big price to buy the team from the Lerner family. Just how valuable are the Browns relative to the rest of the league? Forbes says the Browns are 22nd.

Team value: $1.12 billion
Revenue 2013: $276 million
Operating income 2013: $35 million

There’s also no secret why the Browns sought the services of Alec Scheiner. He came to Cleveland after working with Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. According to Forbes, that team is the most valuable with an estimated team value of $3.2 billion.

All the numbers seem pretty crazy and high, but just think about it from Jimmy Haslam’s perspective. The best way to ensure your investment of $1 billion is to find someone who can grow that number. In the NFL that’s absolutely possible, even in a small market. The Packers are the 13th most valuable team, for example.

Now, if they could just get Johnny Manziel to win the starting quarterback job, how much would that boost the value of the franchise?

Matt Dery talks Cleveland sports vs. Detroit sports – WFNY Podcast – 2014-08-19

Matt Dery from 105.1 FM in Detroit jumped on the podcast to discuss lots of Cleveland sports topics.

  • Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer
  • The QB curse and Matt Stafford
  • Does Detroit appreciate Matt Stafford?
  • The Cavaliers getting LeBron James
  • The Dolan “cheapness” bit
  • The Cleveland Indians in 2014
  • Indians trade deadline

Check out this episode!

Cedar Point, Johnny Manziel, LeBron James, and the Indians playoff chances with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2014-08-14

WFNY Podcast LogoI got a chance to talk to TD about all three Cleveland teams. That’s always a blast for me. Today we spent a good amount of time talking about the Tribe and the season they’ve put together.

We also talked about LeBron coming home and what that means for a sports family like TD’s that is baseball, and football first.

Lastly we talked about Johnny Manziel, the Browns and what it must be like for Brian Hoyer to try and win the starting job. We talked about how even as we expected hype around Manziel that it’s surprising just how crazy things are around him.

Oh, and we led off talking about Cedar Point, which rules.

Check out this episode!

Rex Ryan and the Jets poke fun at the Browns, give ALS ice bucket challenge

Rex Ryan challenged the Browns to an ALS ice bucket challenge today. He also seemed to be taking a typical, fun Rex Ryan swipe at his former underling Mike Pettine. About a minute in…

“The last challenge is to the Browns. Let the Browns take a page out of our playbook, if you will. Play like a Brown, so to speak.”

As to why Rex Ryan might have called out Pettine for copying him, see this. “Play like a Jet” has apparently been a Ryan motto for a while.

Mike Pettine’s Secret Weapon: Hand-written notes, history lessons

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Barkevious Mingo may not be the world’s next award-winning long-form scribe, but it won’t be for lack of note taking and tutelage. The second-year linebacker, along with 88 0ther Cleveland Browns teammates, were the recent subjects in a Wall Street Journal article that focused on the team’s use of pen and paper—as opposed to more tech-friendly mediums—under new head coach Mike Pettine.

The NFL has become an iPad-driven world, but Pettine may be singlehandedly keeping Mead and Bic in business.

Armed with science and a little common sense, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine is stressing to his players the old-school notion of writing things down. The strategy is backed up by new academic studies that say writing by hand instead of typing improves your chances of learning something.

For an NFL team, which spends hours upon hours explaining plays in team meetings, this can be crucial. A coach, giving a broad directive about a play, must run through numerous small tasks the players must do on a single play—like watching the right guard’s left arm at the snap. Good memory is crucial.

Pettine said the players’ notebooks feature countless “graduate-level” details about the team’s plays in their basic, Browns-themed notebooks, which are something of a secret weapon. [...]

‘To write is to learn,’” Pettine said. “When you write stuff down, you have a much higher chance of it getting imprinted on your brain. We leave it up to them—their job is to write down all the intricate things, and hopefully they get out the pen and get going.”

Rookies carrying around notepads is nothing new—every member of a rookie camp can be seen in Berea toting around spiral notebooks with a pen harnessed above their ear, waiting for the next nugget of wisdom to come from coaches or teammates. For an entire team—one littered with countless veterans—to adhere to similar practice, however,  appears to be rare. The 47-year-old Pettine is old school through and through, gaining the majority of his knowledge (and how to learn) from his father. It should come as little surprise that Kyle Shanahan, despite being just 37, also prefers the handwritten ways, having utilized such a medium for years.

This “secret weapon” goes beyond just the plays themselves. When teaching a goal-line defense, for instance, Pettine will start with the history of the tactic. Then, after he tells the players all the history of the play, Pettine will reveal the changes he has made and help the players understand their role. Mingo, still a rookie in many ways, speaks highly of the practice, but so do veteran teammates Karlos Dansby and Desmond Bryant (who, as the WSJ made sure to mention, went to Harvard). “They’ll say, ‘But if you tweak this person’s responsibilities just a little bit, you’ll be able to run [the play] more effectively,’” said Bryant. What sort of fruit these history lessons bear will be seen as early as September 7.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Gilbert, Desir and veteran additions give Browns depth in secondary

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Pierre Desir has an incredible backstory. Born in Haiti, Desir found himself a standout athlete with a pregnant girlfriend at age 15. He didn’t back away from his responsibilities, and went to small Lindenwood University while he took care of his wife and family, including working part time jobs that included removing human feces.

Despite being handed life lesson after life lesson, the tall, lanky cornerback has had much to learn coming to the NFL after being selected by the Clevland Browns in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

[Read more...]

LeBron James attends Browns practice, takes photos with Joe Haden, Phil Taylor and Buster Skrine

LeBron picked a day to come to Browns camp when fans wouldn’t be there, but he took some photos with fans, just the same. It turns out that those fans are also professional athletes.

No Art Modell, LeBron James front-running and sports movies with @dimoko – WFNY Podcast – 2014-08-06

The fine people at the Anything to Add Monty podcast were kind enough to have me on to discuss Draft Day a few months ago. I’m a disorganized fool and never reciprocated, but I was more than happy to have Dave Sterling on. When I did that podcast there was really good chemistry as we went from liking Draft Day to nearly despising it as we talked about it.

Here’s what else we talked about…

  • Dave decides to become an Uber driver
  • Anything to Add Monty and sports movies like Ladybugs and Goon
  • Art Modell doesn’t belong in the hall of fame ever
  • Being a Cavs frontrunner now that LeBron is back
  • How to root between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer
  • General bitterness from Craig
  • Other Pleasantries

Check out this episode!

Dick LeBeau expects Johnny Manziel under center on Week 1

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Could the Cleveland Browns really consider starting a rookie quarterback against Dick LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Week 1? LeBeau appears to think so, taking what has recently transpired in Browns Training Camp and extrapolating it toward the first week of the 2014 regular season.

“I’m expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter,” LeBeau told Cleveland.com’s Tom Reed. “That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams. [...]

“I think he is going to be a handful for all of us,” said LeBeau, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. “You watch all his games and he created plays, he made plays, he kept plays alive.

“He has the ability to see people and the touch with the football to get it in there late in the down. I think he will be successful at this level.”

Could there be some gamesmanship taking place? Reed added that other organizations, while not as willing to go on the record like LeBeau, privately believe that the Browns are slowly moving toward making Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Opening Day starter.

While Brian Hoyer is presently listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the team’s depth chart, and is expected to start this weekend against the Detroit Lions, Manziel has been picking up steam, flashing his ability to create on the run, make smart decisions—throwing out of bounds, sliding before contact—and general growth when it comes to the team’s playbook.

General belief remains that Hoyer will start the season under center, allowing Manziel to take over at some point down the road as the team’s schedule becomes less onerous.

[Related: The Johnny Football smokescreen is covering the Browns]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Josh Gordon hearing to continue on Monday

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Read into this what you will, but the Josh Gordon-NFLPA hearing is officially To Be Continued. After convening at 9:30 a.m. EST in New York, New York, the two sides reportedly departed at 7 p.m. EST and will gather again on Monday, August 4.

Gordon’s attorneys, Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, will reportedly argue that the wide receiver—who is looking down the barrel of a season-long ban for violating the NFL’s drug policy—is the victim of inconsistent test results. His “A” and “B” specimens turned up different amounts, one below league threshold, leading  to a huge public relations push under the belief that Gordon should not be subject to banishment from the NFL having allegedly passed 70 additional tests.

No NFL player is believed to have won an appeal with a second-hand smoke defense, but with the PR push and mounting evidence, Gordon’s chances appear to be better than any of those who were heard before him. (He could still face discipline for his July 4 weekend DWI. That hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 26.)

A look at Kyle Shanahan’s Zone Run Game, Part II: Cleveland Browns Film Room

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(If you missed Part I, make sure to check it out here.)

The idea that the NFL has become a passing league does not phase new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. While many other teams turn to more pass-oriented offenses, Shanahan prefers his offense has a similar run-to-pass ratio to teams before the thirty-four year-old was even born. Only in one season since 1982 has the number of rush attempts exceeded the amount of passes thrown in the NFL. Prior to that year, the average number of passes had never once exceeded the amount of rushing attempts.

However, in 2012, Shanahan’s most successful season as an offensive coordinator, the Washington Redskins passed the ball on just 45.99% of their offensive snaps, placing them as the second least frequent passing team in the league, according to Sporting Charts. So, the question must be posed: Why run the ball so often when passing oriented offenses like that of the Broncos are smashing single-season records? For Shanahan, this answer to this question comes down to deceiving the defense.

[Read more...]

Watch: Johnny Manziel “Money Pose” done on an Etch-a-Sketch

 

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Looking to land a one-of-one piece of artwork depicting Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel? Set to the tune of—what else?—”Johnny Be Good,” GV Art & Design’s George Vlosich III bangs out the rookie quarterback’s infamous Topszn “money pose” on an Etch-a-Sketch, and captured it all on time-lapse video.

This rendering is merely the latest addition to an already incredible collection and is being given away on Twitter. Check out the entire video below.