August 15, 2014

Grading Manziel vs. Hoyer: Still Too Close to Call

hoyer and manziel

The Cleveland Browns finally had their chance to play someone other than their fellow teammates. What many fans are watching, however, is the battle within the team as Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer both look to claim the team’s starting quarterback role.

On Saturday, both quarterbacks played about a quarter-and-a-half—or three-to-four offensive drives. Each player had his share of ups and downs during their time under center with the team finishing drives throughout the game, only making four field goals. As we will throughout the rest of the preseason, here’s WFNY’s breakdown of the performances of both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel in their first game in the battle for the starting quarterback job. [Read more...]

Browns Preseason Game 1: Winners and Losers


With the first weekend of preseason football in the books, we learned some thing about the outlook of the 2014 Browns, both positive and negative, but many important questions remain unanswered. The difficulty of the preseason remains that no one truly knows whether certain players are flashes in the pan or can be counted on in the regular season. But, this is the first opportunity to watch football since January, so overreactions are abundant and to be expected. I’ll try to avoid reactionary instincts, but when you’ve been trying to analyze pictures of your players to gauge whether or not they are engaging in illicit activities in a bathroom, finally being able to evaluate their actions feels like a blessing. Without rambling any further, lets get into the winners and losers of preseason Week 1.

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WFNY Exclusive: G.L.C. Song 2014

This year’s Great Lakes Classic is happening tomorrow night and it’s a pre-season all about Johnny Football. My friend is the creator of the original GLC song and he gave me the newest iteration today.


Preseason Game 1 Preview: Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions

GLC Barge

Rookies and a revamped offense: What we are watching during Week 1 of the NFL Preseason

Football in Cleveland is back and once again, the Browns have brought in a new regime. On Saturday, the Detroit Lions will host new Head Coach Mike Pettine and the new-look Cleveland Browns. Gone are Rob Chudzinski, Joe Banner, and the vertical passing game. In comes Kyle Shanahan and the zone run, play-action pass offense. Brandon Weeden, Willis McGahee, D’Qwell Jackson have been upgraded to Johnny Manziel, Ben Tate, and Karlos Dansby. Given the change in scheme and turnover in personnel at key positions, the preseason is of utmost importance.

[Read more...]

Nate Burleson on Browns-Lions preseason game: “I’m going to get a fine.”

Nate Burleson Cleveland Browns

On August 9, the Cleveland Browns will face the Detroit Lions in their annual Battle for the Barge—The Great Lakes Classic.  While this overblown preseason game will get lots of burn for its contrived tradition, it’s also going to be a focal point for Browns fans as wide receiver Nate Burleson plans on making the most of his return back to his former home stadium.

“Man, I’m wracking my brain figuring out what celebration I’m going to do — because I’m going to get a fine,” Burleson said, laughing, in an interview with “I’m going to get a fine, period. I’m going to go to my coach and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get a fine. I’m going to do something crazy.’

“It’s going to be a little bit of an appreciation celebration to the fans and the city of Detroit. But it’s also going to be a poke in the back, saying, ‘You should have kept me because I’m still balling.’”

Though productive when healthy, the veteran receiver played just six games in 2012 due to a broken leg, then just nine last year after suffering a broken arm. He’s currently rehabilitating an injury to the same arm that occurred earlier this offseason. Taking Burleson’s spot in Detroit—across from All-World receiver Calvin Johnson—is Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

Burleson was added to the fold in Cleveland to help mentor an otherwise young receiving corps that has since been subject to potential suspensions and releases. He’s expected to line up alongside fellow free agent additions Andrew Hawkins, Earl Bennett and Miles Austin, as well as holdovers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson. While a full season out of the oft-injured veteran would be nice, Burleson plans on making the most out of his preseason reunion, jokes and all.

“I plan to get off that game,” he said. “It might be the best game of the year for me. Guarantee it. I’m going crazy that game. Probably like 200 yards. Fantasy points through the roof, man.”

[Related: "Nate's Room" now resides in Cleveland]

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP

Cleveland Browns sign cornerback Aaron Berry

Aaron BerryThe Cleveland Browns are kicking the tires on cornerback Aaron Berry. The Browns signed him today and GM Ray Farmer made the announcement.

“Aaron Berry gives us both depth and competition at corner, and has the potential to upgrade our kicking game,” Farmer said. “He’s tough and relentless and his strength prior to his injury was man coverage. He’s also accountable for his past, which is well-documented.

“We recognize that he’s had missteps, as does he. Before and after that adverse period in his life, members of our coaching staff and players in our locker room worked with Aaron. From a communication standpoint, there’s a degree of comfort we have with him, and a degree of comfort he’ll have with the Browns. He has a chance to earn the opportunity to contribute to any success we’ll have this fall.”

Those missteps that Ray Farmer was talking about includes a three-game suspension for “violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.” Berry was arrested for a number of times, but most notably for pointing a gun at three people in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. In the age of the Internet the story actually became public via a Miami Dolphins message board, of all places. (All typos are authentic.)

At the end of the night as my buddies and i are walking back to the car we nearly get hit by this guy backing out of a parking spot.

Naturally we were yelling to get his attention so we wouldnt get hit. Well next thing we know theyre rolling down the back window and the front passenger points a laser at us and tells us to back away.

The one friend and I just brushed it off and kept walking after the car left only to turn around and see our other friend frantically ru.ning up to a cop. Turns out that laser was attached to a glock 45…

For the Browns, this is a really speculative signing. The 5-11 Berry has been in the league since 2010, but he’s only played 19 games and has one career interception. Maybe he will largely be a contributor on special teams as Farmer mentioned he can potentially “upgrade our kicking game.”

We’ll see. From my perspective, this is a very decent low-risk, medium-reward type of signing for the Browns.

Browns reportedly agree to terms with Nate Burleson


The Browns thought they had a reliable veteran receiver when they traded for Davone Bess last season. That didn’t work out all that well for the Browns as Bess turned into what appeared to be a pot-smoking rastafarian via his own social media presence. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Browns have found a new veteran as they’ve agreed to terms with Nate Burleson.

Burleson comes with his own problems, of course. He’s only been able to play 15 games in the last two seasons. Burleson has also only had one season of 1000 yards and that occurred an awful long time ago back in 2004.

None of this means Burleson can’t help for a year or so in Cleveland, of course. The 32-year-old former third rounder has had a long career and certainly knows what it takes to be a receiver in the NFL. We’ll see if he can find a way to contribute alongside Josh Gordon, newly signed Andrew Hawkins and whoever the Browns are likely to draft next month.

Speaking of Josh Gordon, he and Kyrie Irving are supposedly fighting.

[Related: The drama continues: Kyrie Irving calls out Josh Gordon]

(Photo Jason Miller / Getty Images)

Mark Cuban says NFL is “10 years away from an implosion”


How many non-Browns games did you watch this past season on Thursday night? How many weeks did it take for you to get burned out on the NFL this year? For me, with the number of games I can now watch per week having exploded over the past five years, I think the burnout rate is tangible. Apparently, what I’ve noticed in myself is also apparent to Mark Cuban who has some words of warning for the NFL.

“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion,” Cuban said Sunday evening when his pregame conversation with reporters, which covered a broad range of topics, swayed toward football. “I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way.

“I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule number one of business.”

While I don’t know if I buy the timeline and I’m sure Cuban was speaking generally, I think there’s something to this. NFL football used to be a Sunday and Monday night activity. In recent years with the expansion to Thursday night they’ve looked to cash in on more and more primetime TV deal money. It’s been very good for the NFL financially. Tell me that you’d have the guts to turn down a chance at $275 million from CBS.

But the NFL is a multi-billion dollar annual operation and Cuban has a point when he brings up the example of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” They took a show that had risen to absolute TV dominance and burned it out by extracting every penny out of it by having it on more than once a week and adding a daytime version. Maybe that show was always going to burn out, but it’s reasonable to assume they accelerated it.

When August and September roll around, I’m thirsty for NFL football. By Thanksgiving, I really didn’t care all that much about the Thanksgiving Day games. Those Thursday games used to be a special event while preparing and eating turkey. Now, with the proliferation of NFL football into the weekly schedule, it takes something that was more scarce and precious and makes it much less valuable.

[Also see: Ray Farmer Won’t Attend Manziel Pro Day]

(Photo by Chronicle / Kat Wade)


NFL News: Bills hire Jim Schwartz as Mike Pettine’s replacement

schwartzBuffalo fans had been nervous after the departure of their defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Yesterday, the Bills acted quickly to fill the vacancy in hiring former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz, only 47, had been previously rumored as a possible defensive coordinator candidate in Cleveland. He was a disappointing 29-51 in five seasons with the Lions. Before that, he served as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator for eight years. He’s been in the NFL since 1993 with the Browns.

It’s a savvy addition to replace Pettine, who made his mark in just one season over in Buffalo. In 2012, the Bills ranked 22nd in yards allowed per game and 23rd in forced turnovers. Then in 2013, led by the addition of rookie Kiko Alonso and Pettine’s guidance, the Bills ranked 10th in yards and sixth-best in turnovers. They were a very good unit, outside of that 37-point performance by Cleveland in Week 5.

Schwartz’s time clearly needed to be over in Detroit. They eventually replaced him with Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Former OSU coach Jim Tressel has not yet joined his staff, as was previously reported. But with Schwartz off the board, it seems the Browns are likely banking on Bills LB coach Jim O’Neill to be their new defensive coordinator. This now appears more likely.

[Related: Mike Pettine’s arrival likely means an upgrade at inside linebacker]

Photo: Mark Duncan/The Associated Press

Lions hire Jim Caldwell; Jim Tressel to follow?

jim caldwellThe Detroit Lions are set to hire Jim Caldwell as their new head coach and Jim Tressel could be on his way to Michigan as well.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news about Caldwell shortly after noon on Tuesday. Other confirmations continue to flow in.

On Monday night, Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan shared that if Caldwell were to land in Detroit, that we should watch out for Tressel to be named as his offensive coordinator. The two worked together when Tressel served as an Indianapolis Colts consultant in 2011.

Caldwell, 58, is most well known for his role as QB coach and offensive coordinator in Indianapolis from 2002-2008. After Tony Dungy retired, he was the head coach from 2009-2011. His final season was the team’s 2-14 season in between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

The coach landed back on his feet in Baltimore, where he again served as QB coach and offensive coordinator for the last two years. He earned his second Super Bowl ring last season with Joe Flacco and company.

The Lions appeared to be an enviable opening in the NFL landscape because of the presence of quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. They appeared to be the favorite to land Ken Whisenhunt, but the former Chargers coordinator decided to become the head coach in Tennessee.

Tressel was once a rumored candidate in Cleveland, but that never materialized. As of last reports, he had been interested in NFL jobs, but has not been contacted yet. The Caldwell-Tressel connection seems obvious—it’s just a matter of whether the 61-year-old Ohio State legend will make the job from University of Akron administrator to NFL assistant.

The Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings positions remain as the only two head coaching vacancies in the NFL. The Browns appear willing to wait until the Denver Broncos season is finalized so they can interview Adam Gase.

[Related: I want to be The Earthquake]

Photo: Kenneth K. LAM, Baltimore Sun

Tennessee Titans hire Ken Whisenhunt as head coach

NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at San Diego ChargersThe Tennessee Titans have hired three-time Cleveland Browns interview candidate Ken Whisenhunt as their new head coach.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen first reported the news on Twitter at about 6:15 p.m. Monday. Within the next hour, the Titans officially confirmed the move.

Whisenhunt, 51, had just finished his lone season as the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator on Sunday in the AFC Divisional Round. He had been the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2007-2012.

Last year, during the Browns coaching search, Whisenhunt interviewed for the position twice. Initially this time around, the Cleveland front office announced they wouldn’t be re-interviewing any repeat candidates. But as announced in the news on Thursday: The two sides met on Saturday in San Diego for Whisenhunt’s third and final interview of the week.

It had been assumed that the former Pittsburgh Steelers assistant was likely headed to Detroit for their head coach opening. The Lions have Matthew Stafford at quarterback and Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, making them a possibly enviable destination for a veteran head coach.

Additionally, Tennessee’s firing of Mike Munchak — also a reported new Browns interview target — was a bit suspect. The team was requiring their three-year coach to axe some of his assistants. But Munchak had spent over 30 years with the organization as a player and coach and was unwilling to do so. He was fired on Jan. 4.

Whisenhunt had moderate success with the Cardinals despite a rotating crew over at quarterback post-Kurt Warner. In Tennessee, he inherits a 7-9 squad that barely missed the playoffs. Young QB Jake Locker showed some signs of success this past year. The organization will have the No. 11 draft pick in April.

[Related: The Dude, Michael, and Joey…who loved bowling]

Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns drop embarrassing game to Lions 31-17

Weeden's Bad PassThe Browns weren’t going to win this game on this day with Brandon Weeden. Despite some moments that indicated the Browns might have a good chance to win their fourth in a row, Weeden unleashed one of the worst passes ever to help Detroit seal the victory. Weeden was getting some pressure in the pocket. He missed his chance to throw and got in-between being in and out of the pocket when he tossed an unbelievably stupid and awkward shovel pass. The universal sign of a bad shovel pass? One that has lots of air underneath it. That decision led to DeAndre Levy’s second interception of the game. It wasn’t just a bad play or an unlucky play. It was downright embarrassing for the Browns and their second-year quarterback. It also gave the Lions the ball back with good field position and a chance to ice the game. They were up 24-17 and did just that giving Joseph Fauria a third touchdown pass and the Lions an insurmountable lead. It was also the final score in the game sending the Browns home a 31-17 loser.

It was encouraging to see the Browns carry a 17-7 lead into halftime. After going down 7-0 the Cleveland Browns responded with 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Anytime you can have a quarter like that, you have to be elated. With so many questions surrounding Brandon Weeden and the offense coming into the game – and also after a slow start – it was quite a turnaround from quarter one to quarter two. [Read more...]

Animated: Brandon Weeden’s embarrassing shovel pass

In case you missed it (consider yourself lucky,) and want to see it (consider yourself a glutton for punishment,) here is the pass that pretty much sealed the Browns’ loss to the Detroit Lions today.

Weeden's Bad Pass


[Related: Browns drop game to Lions 31-17]

NFL News: Halftime score Browns 17, Lions 7

The Browns have held a lead going into halftime for all five of their games before today. They continued that streak with a strong second quarter.

The Lions’ big weapon Calvin Johnson was active, but played in probably a third of Detroit’s plays. He had one reception in the half for seven yards.

Detroit got a penalty aided first down in the red zone when Joe Haden was flagged for a phantom pass interference penalty on Calvin Johnson. Haden followed that with an actual pass interference in the end zone giving the Lions the ball on the one. The Lions got on the board first when Matthew Stafford threw a 1 yard touchdown pass to TE Joseph Fauria.

Travis Benjamin broke a huge run on an end around late in the first quarter. The 45 yard carry was Cleveland’s longest on the season. The Browns followed up with Brandon Weeden rolling out to his right and finding Davone Bess. After Josh Gordon made a nice grab and fought for the first down, Weeden threw to a wide open Chris Ogbonnaya for the tying touchdown. The drive was 8 plays and 74 yards.

The Browns defense really clamped down on Detroit after the first quarter. Several times the Lions went three and out.

A potential momentum killing interception from Weeden came on a pass down the sideline targeting Chris Ogbonnaya. It was a terrible pass, but the Browns defense got the momentum back on the next Lions possession. T.J. Ward knifed through and caught Reggie Bush in the backfield. After Durham made an acrobatic catch against Joe Haden, Ward knocked a pass loose from Calvin Johnson forcing a Lions punt.

The Browns then moved down field, going 84 yards in 9 plays culminating in a Greg Little two yard touchdown catch. The drive featured a little bit of everything including Weeden with big completions to Gordon and Barnidge. Willis McGahee had a nice run. MarQueis Gray took a direct snap run for a first down. The Browns led 14-7 after the score.

Detroit came up empty on three straight pass attempts giving the Browns another shot at a score before the half. Josh Gordon had a big catch to set the Browns up in striking distance. After a Billy Cundiff field goal, the Browns had a 17-7 halftime lead.

The big difference in the first half was the Browns ability to run the ball, as opposed to Detroit’s struggles. Cleveland eclipsed the 100 yard mark in the first half for the first time all season.

[Related: Browns vs Lions open thread]

Browns vs Lions Week Six Inactives include Winn, Sheard; Calvin Johnson will play

The Browns ruled Billy Winn out of today’s game during the week. Joining him on the inactive list today are LB Jabaal Sheard who went through a pregame warm-up routine but was scratched. It is his third game missed with the hamstring injury. TE Keavon Milton, OL Patrick Lewis, Martin Wallace, Garrett Gilkey and newly signed WR Charles Johnson are the other inactives.

Quentin Groves will be active today for the Browns. He will provide rest for Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.

The big news on the other side of the ball is Lions’ WR Calvin Johnson. The Deroit star was questionable all week long and limited in practice, but he will play against the Browns. He most certainly is not 100%.

[Related: Thoughts on the Cleveland/Detroit rivalry]

Thoughts on the Cleveland-Detroit rivalry


Pittsburgh gets most of the sports hate in this town thanks to the Steelers, but 2.5 hours the other direction sits Detroit, a city that collectively may be Cleveland’s biggest rival.

With Detroit sitting across the border in that state up North, it’s reason enough for Northeast Ohioans to harbor some hatred, but throw in the fact the Pistons were the a consistent roadblock for the LeBron era Cavs to overcome, and the rise of the Tigers meant the AL Central champion would have to go through Detroit as opposed to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and the plot thickens.

In college I had the misfortune of gaining a best friend from that state up North who rocked his Tiger’s hat proudly, believed in the “legend” of Mr. Big Shot, and hung a Barry Sanders poster in the corner of our living room. Perhaps the only reason we stayed friends was that he wore Sparty Green on Saturdays instead of Maize and Blue.

Luckily for me there were four other Cleveland fans in the house to pile on our poor buddy. Some of the most strenuous moments in all of our friendships resided over drunken debates between the collective sports successes of the two cities we supported. [Read more...]

NFL News: Calvin Johnson’s status is up in the air for Lions vs. Browns

Calvin Johnson will be a game-time decision this weekend when the Lions get set to face the Browns in Cleveland. The big, talented receiver missed a 22-9 loss to the Packers the prior week, but practiced on a limited basis on Thursday. His replacement, Kris Durham, caught three passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. It was the only passing touchdown of the day for the Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford, who has eight on the season. Four of those touchdowns have been caught by Calvin Johnson.

Johnson has been dealing with knee issues and whether or not he can go will certainly help determine the fortunes of the Browns and their defense that has been impressive so far this season. Of course, should Johnson not be able to go, the Browns will still have to contend with Reggie Bush running and catching passes in space. Bush has had some big games already, including his opening week against the Vikings when he went for 90 yards rushing and 101 yards receiving on 25 total touches.

Meanwhile, it might be pre-mature, but Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett is at least asking the question of whether Calvin Johnson’s durability is a concern following his signing a $113 million extension through the 2019 season.

Whether he ends up challenging Joe Haden and the Browns this weekend might help alleviate or contribute to those fears.

[Related: In praise of the Browns front office… so far]

NFL Draft: Browns currently picking 6th

According to the experts at after crunching all the numbers and considering the Browns’ season-ending loss to the Steelers, the Cleveland Browns will be picking 6th in this year’s NFL draft.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) .491
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) .541
3. Oakland Raiders (4-11) .470
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) .512
5. Detroit Lions (4-12) .569
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11) .506
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-10) .553
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10) .493
9. New York Jets (6-10) .516
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10) .538

Of course who the Browns take is still a huge mystery. Will the Browns still be running the 4-3 defense? Will they need a quarterback? Who is the best player available in that slot? Who will the general manager be?

[Related: Browns drop final game to Steelers and start off-season of change]

Former Brown Jerome Harrison featured in CBS Thanksgiving special

Today, before the first NFL game of the day on CBS, the network aired a special on former Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison during its pre-game show.

Harrison, who was Cleveland’s fifth round pick in 2005 and famously rushed for 286 and three touchdowns yards in a game back in 2009, later ended up as a member of the Detroit Lions. He was set to be traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in October 2011, but during the ensuing physical examination, it was shockingly discovered that he had a brain tumor.

The trade was called off and, ever since, the now-29-year-old Harrison has been on Detroit’s reserve non-football illness list. The Washington State product and his wife Michelle sat down with the CBS crew for the tale of this horrifying news, the scary surgery and his recovery over the past 13 months.

We all have much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, and this was a very emotional story to start off the day.

[Related: What We're Thankful For...]

NFL Week 4: Winners and Losers

So after each Browns game I pick my winners and losers for the game. Since the Browns played last Thursday, I thought we’d open up today with a league wide winners and losers piece. I mean hey, what else are we going to talk about this morning?

Alright. League wide winners and losers from yesterday. Go…

LOSERS: Detroit Special Teams. Wow. The Lions gave up a kick-off return for a score and a punt return for a score in their 20-13 loss to the Vikings. The Lions fall to 1-3 in a season they had playoff expectations. They four teams they played so far had a regular season record of 27-37 last year, and if you take San Francisco out of the equation, they were 14-34. Yikes.

WINNERS: The Usual Suspects. Brady, Manning, Rodgers and Brees combined for 1,443 yards passing (all over 300 yards), 13 TDs, 1 Interception and 3 wins. Why not 4? Well, Brees and Rodgers played each other. Think QB play is important in this league? Look at the rest of the QB numbers. Insane. [Read more...]