August 26, 2014

Should NFL owner misdeeds cost a team draft picks?

Irsay Crime and Punishment

I recently read a piece of commentary by ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha which pertained to the NFL and how it should punish Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for his looming drug-related issues. This isn’t specifically Cleveland-related just yet, but it’s no small stretch to think that it could be someday. I don’t think Jimmy Haslam is going to get pulled over with bottles of pills and enough cash to buy a really nice Hyundai, but let’s just say there might come a time when the league could be put in a position of discipline over the Browns owner due to his off-field issues.

But back to Chadiha’s commentary. I found it notable because it indicated that Irsay’s penalty should be draft picks. I found that surprising and after thinking about it for a bit, I couldn’t disagree with him more.

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The ends don’t justify means in Peter King’s defense of Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi

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Peter King is one of the best NFL writers in the nation and as a national guy his perspective can sometimes be instructive to help local fans take blinders off. As a follower of the Browns, it’s pretty easy to lose perspective on the more overarching story-lines that make up an NFL season or era as you’re consistently living and dying with week-to-week results. It’s with that in mind that it’s definitely worth considering when Peter King instructs Browns fans to “Stop cursing Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.” [Read more...]

2014 NFL Draft: Thoughts after the first round

Johnny and Gilbert

I have a lot of random thoughts after the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, so here goes…

“Johnny Manziel is a good draft pick regardless of how it works out if for no other reason than because of the rookie wage scale. In talking about this draft before it happened, there was a lot of talk about Brady Quinn at No. 22 in 2007. Of course it’s easy now to look back on that and say how stupid it was because Quinn never played well, but almost nobody said that on draft day. It’s with that in mind that I’m thinking about Johnny Manziel. [Read more...]

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.

D’Qwell Jackson follows Chud, T-Rich to Indianapolis Colts

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The Browns were kind to give D’Qwell Jackson a chance to sell himself around the NFL and make the best choice for himself. As it turns out, the best choice was in Indianapolis where Jackson is reported to be pulling a 4-year deal worth $22 million ($11 million guaranteed) with the Colts. Jackson follows former teammate Trent Richardson, who was traded this past season, and former head coach Rob Chudzinski who was hired as an assistant to the head coach after being fired by the Browns following the conclusion of the 2013 season. That’s a whole lot of Browns connections in the Indianapolis Colts for a house like mine where my wife is a Colts fan.

The Jackson move comes on the heels of a PFT report that the Colts had no intention of resigning oft-injured linebacker Pat Angerer. Angerer has shown tons of potential over the years, but between foot surgeries and the knee surgery he’s rehabbing now, it’s a story of injuries.

D’Qwell Jackson’s career was once thought to be something of a lost cause due to pectoral injuries that saw him play only six games over a two-year period from 2009 to 2010. Jackson’s seemingly on the other side of that storyline now. He’s played reasonably well the last two three years as he’s played all 16 games per season since 2011.

I obviously wish D’Qwell Jackson well, but I still wonder if he’s the answer for any NFL defense that aspires to be truly great. As productive as Jackson is and as good as he is as a leader, I still wonder if he’s good enough at such an important position on the field to truly raise the level of a team’s defense to a championship level.

[More Browns: Cleveland Browns have released Davone Bess]

(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

Indianapolis Colts hire Rob Chudzinski as special assistant

Weeden - ChudFormer Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski will be joining the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant, the team announced on Saturday.

The Browns fired Chudzinski, 45, on Dec. 29 after their final game of the season. Cleveland eventually replaced him with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Over in Indianapolis, Chudzinski will join the staff of head coach Chuck Pagano. The two previously worked together at The University of Miami and for the Browns in the early 2000s.

He’ll also be reuniting with running back Trent Richardson, traded in mid-September this past season. Offseason murmurs out of Indianapolis indicate that the team will not retain Donald Brown, who served as the starter for the season’s second half. They appear to be committed to Richardson’s long-term future.

Shortly after the firing, there had been previous murmurs that Chudzinski could be a candidate for the Miami Hurricanes, his alma mater program. Eventually, Al Golden decided to stay at The U and Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin instead.

Overall, Chudzinski’s resume isn’t too shabby and he should probably nab an assistant job of some kind next season. Recall that he did have four years of NFL offensive coordinator experience (two in Cleveland, two in Carolina) and five years of assistant jobs (one in Cleveland, four in San Diego) prior to his toxic one head coaching season.

For the comedic, this now means that former Cleveland athletes Richardson, Chudzinski and even Andrew Bynum are all employed by sports teams in the city of Indianapolis. There certainly are plenty of jokes to be made there (even if the Pacers are one of the NBA’s best and the Colts made the playoffs).

[Related: WFNY Roundtable: The Firing of Rob Chudzinski]

The Trent Richardson Trade — WFNY’s Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2013: No. 2

If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and appearances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

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On September 18, the Cleveland Browns traded 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the Colts’ 2014 first-round draft pick. The move was shocking. In-season trades rarely happen, and trading away a player drafted in the first round the year before is even more rare. In fact, only Richardson and John Matuszak were top three picks that played their rookie seasons and were then traded the very next year.

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For now, belief in Joe Banner overshadows Browns wins and losses

Joe BannerOne of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Cleveland Browns is that despite the losses on the field, I’m still very satisfied with the organizational structure that’s been built in Berea. The organizational structure they’ve put in place is by far the most comprehensive of any I can remember since 1999, and that starts at the top with CEO Joe Banner. I’ve said on a number of occasions that Joe Banner is likely the most qualified executive to ever be hired in Berea. After polling fans last week, it seems that my fellow fans are of the same opinion. Joe Banner had 47% of fans above the “No opinion” line and 84% were at least neutral or better overall. That really says a lot about the belief in an executive who has given Browns fans some very good sound bites and an on-field product with only four wins so far. And despite my continued criticisms of the won-loss record, I voted “Like him” at this point as well.

Despite the current optimism, the challenges awaiting Joe Banner this off-season are numerous. There are plenty of draft picks, including Indianapolis’ first rounder, that need to be chosen. Many fans will have a watchful eye on how the Browns handle their own free agents, namely T.J. Ward and Alex Mack. It’s very difficult to say just how good Mack and Ward are compared to what they’ll garner in their next contract, but it’s also very difficult to envision improving the Browns year-over-year while also allowing those two positions to become holes that need filling. [Read more...]

Jeff Saturday files suit against city of Cleveland over income taxes

The city of Cleveland taxes NFL players who earn paychecks by playing games on the shores of Lake Erie, but now it appears their methods are under fire. The Indiana Business Journal reports that former Colts center Jeff Saturday has filed suit against the city of Cleveland for their taxation procedures.

At issue is exactly when NFL contract dollars are earned. If a player makes $10 million dollars for a year of football, are they paid that money based on the number of workdays in their season or the number of games? The way the city of Cleveland figures it, a player on a $10 million deal is paid $625,000 per game, so when that player plays a game in Cleveland his taxable income is that whole $625,000.

The way Jeff Saturday figures it, he’s working 200 days a year as a part of being a pro NFL player. That means that he’s paid $50,000 per day of the NFL work year. If he gets to Cleveland on a Friday and leaves on a Sunday, his taxable income in the city is drastically lowered to $150,000. For the city, their revenue is drastically lower as well.

In my example, the city would get $3000 instead of $12,500 in tax revenue on a $10 million player.

One much easier issue to settle might be Jeff Saturday’s claim that he shouldn’t owe anything for a particular Colts game from 2008 when he wasn’t even in the city due to injury.

This is an interesting case. It also drastically changes the cost / benefit proposition of the entire relationship that the city has with the Cleveland Browns. If the law calls into question the very baseline methodology that determines city revenue, it fundamentally changes the landscape with which the city entered into many agreements in terms of costs.

[Related: 2013 In-Season Cleveland Browns Fan Survey]

NFL News: Trent Richardson demoted in Indianapolis

Trent Richardson has been officially demoted from the starting running back position in Indianapolis, reports NFL Network’s Mike Silver earlier this morning.

Richardson was traded by the Browns in mid-September for a 2014 first-round pick. In nine games with the Colts, he’s continued to struggle, rushing for 287 yards on 103 carries (2.8 avg) with two touchdowns and totaling just 127 receiving yards.

He will be benched in favor of Donald Brown, a 2009 first-rounder out of Syracuse, who has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in 57 attempts for the team. He’s been a much more efficient complement to quarterback Andrew Luck in his limited opportunities thus far.

NFL Network colleague Ian Rapoport shared, via a Colts source, that: “It’s a bottom-line biz. Change needed to be made. Donald is our most productive guy.” He said that the team still believes in the 23-year-old Richardson for its future.

Just a few weeks ago, Rapoport reported that the Colts still “absolutely” would make the trade with the Browns for Richardson. Yet with each passing day and with this news today, it’s continuing to look better and better for CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi.

[Related: Video: WKYC’s Trent Richardson trade reaction goes WFNY]

NFL Draft Rumors: Browns heavily scouting running backs

The Browns basically have no idea what they’re going to do in the draft because they have no idea where they will pick and are constantly analyzing their own roster. Having said that, it’s reasonably to assume with their moves this year – most notably with the Trent Richardson trade – that they would be preparing for the chance to potentially draft a running back. Now, Lane Adkins from the OBR (premium post) indicates that they are scouting that position almost as highly as quarterback.

“The Browns have been scouting running backs, nearly as heavily as they have quarterbacks and offensive linemen and the likelihood of seeing a running back, lineman and quarterback coming to Cleveland via the draft remains high.”

Of course, this still doesn’t mean a lot for the Browns first two picks in the first round between their own and the Colts’ pick. If you believe the early projections at places like WalterFootball, there are only a couple runners who might (emphasis) go in the first round at all. Still, even with all the moving pieces, it’s nice to get a little insight into what the Browns’ scouting priorities are like.

The Browns will also presumably get a healthy Dion Lewis back to compete for carries.

[Related: Video: Browns 2013 highlights so far]

Rick and Craig talk about the Browns headed into the bye week – WFNY Podcast – 2013-11-05

WFNY Podcast LogoRick and I talked about the Browns game from Sunday. We also talked a bit about the Browns heading into the bye week.

  • Is this one of the weirdest up and down Browns seasons in memory?
  • How did the Browns come to play the QBs they’ve played so far this year?
  • The nuance of talking about the running game issues without getting lost in the Trent Richardson debate
  • Willis McGahee and just how ineffective he’s been for the Browns
  • Davone Bess and how some people wanted to cut him just a week before
  • The reactionary nature of Browns fans
  • The hiring of Chud and comparing his handling of the Browns to Pat Shurmur
  • Norv Turner and his influence on the quarterback decisions
  • Ray Horton’s defense gaining traction


Check out this episode

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...]

Will Leitch talks Trent Richardson, Cleveland sports and an Indians Cardinals World Series – WFNY Podcast – 2013-09-23

WFNY Podcast LogoWe showed Will Leitch around when he was in Cleveland and now I got him to come talk on the podcast. This was scheduled for a while, and it was just dumb luck that there was something big like the Trent Richardson trade to talk about.

The USMNT and the hipster patriotism
Lee Greenwood and how that song sucks
The Trent Richardson trade after Will Leitch visited
The value of the trade and making that choice
The tone deafness of Trent Richardson trade
“It’s a business” for everyone but sports fans
The tone deafness of the Indians and the Thome statue
Rebranding the championship the Super Bowl
The dead jersey graveyard in Cleveland vs. the dead jersey graveyard in Indianapolis
The accountability punted down the road for Joe Banner
The parity of the NFL and how everyone gets a turn [Read more...]

Bill Simmons on Trent Richardson trade: It’s an NBA-like move

Grantland’s Bill Simmons wrote this afternoon about the blockbuster Trent Richardson trade. In the article, he shared a number of various reactions he had, with this being the headliner:

“Could Cleveland be the first NFL team to steal my NBA-centric concept of “It’s better to bottom out than be stuck in no-man’s-land?” In the NBA, you either want to be really good or really bad (with no in-between). … That concept never trickled into the NFL … Well, until this week. And that’s the most compelling part of this Richardson trade: For the first time, an NFL team is thinking like an NBA team. Fifteen years of futility nudged them there.”

Calling it the “ballsiest NFL trade in years”, Simmons did spell out a number of various scenarios that could happen with this trade. Notably, the Browns could be leading a new wave of established, accepted and value-added tanking in the NFL, much like the NBA. But the Colts also could be revving up for a new post-Peyton Manning dynasty.

All in all, Simmons was quite optimistic from the perspective of the Browns. He shared their frustrations and wrote again how only teams with elite quarterbacks contend in the new passing-oriented NFL. His research on when running backs have been drafted over time was really interesting. He also made a good point to share some of the pessimism about Richardson’s success so far.

Of course, anything The Sports Guy writes about the Browns has to be taken with a sizable grain of salt because of his long-time (and noted within the article) friendship with Michael Lombardi. Heck, before he even got into any actual unique analysis of the trade, Simmons pined in one reaction that, if all goes horribly, horribly wrong, “Lombardi will be back on my podcast in time for the 2014 draft!”

On a final side note, one of the neatest things about Simmons’ article: He cited the incredible website DraftBrowns.com at one point with reference to this article. Kudos to Justin Higdon and the gang for all their excellent work. They deserve the extra traffic there.

[Related: Rooting interests versus tanking interests: Keepin’ it Real]

Trent Richardson to Browns fans: “Don’t give up”

“Keep rooting for the Browns. Don’t give up on them. … It’s going to happen. It’s going to be big too. They got a program that’s going in the right direction. I hated to leave Cleveland. I loved Cleveland. I loved being around [the fans].”

“Their group [front office] there, they know what they’re doing. Browns fans, please be behind them 100 percent. Don’t lose the fan base over this. Still root for them. Keep hope, because it’s going to happen. The Browns are going to be good for a while when it does happen.”

– Trent Richardson’s various messages to Cleveland Browns fans, as shared by a number of different media sources, notably from 19 Action News‘ interview. Richardson said yesterday’s trade to Indianapolis “shocked” him, was “weird” and he didn’t see it coming. However, he did receive a phone call from the Browns before hearing it on the radio, contrary to previous reports. The 22-year-old back from Alabama said he had bought a house in Cleveland and had assumed he would have a long career with the franchise. Now, he says he does have a chip on his shoulder and looks forward to playing with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

[Related: Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt]

Browns will have $10 million accelerated cap hit after Richardson trade

The Cleveland Browns will see an accelerated salary cap hit of $10.1 million over the next two seasons as a product of Wednesday night’s trade of Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. In his assessment of the deal, Grantland’s Bill Barnwell digs into the pros and cons of the transaction from both sides.

The Colts are also getting Richardson at a greatly reduced price. While they do miss out on one year of a cost-controlled Richardson by trading for him during his sophomore season, they’re not forced to repay any of Richardson’s already paid $13.3 million signing bonus to the Browns, who will see the remaining unassigned (in terms of the salary cap) $10.1 million of that bonus accelerate onto their cap in 2013 ($3.5 million) and 2014 ($6.7 million). Instead, the Colts basically have Richardson signed to a guaranteed three-year deal for an average of about $2.2 million per season. If Richardson succeeds in his new digs, the Colts will get a franchise running back at less than half of his original price and at pennies of his true market value.

Richardson initially signed a four-year deal worth just over $20 million, all of which was fully guaranteed. The Browns, then led by general manager Tom Heckert, agreed to paying the running back a $13.3 million signing bonus which, from a salary cap standpoint, becomes spread out over the length of the deal. Given the trade, these portions get accelerated through 2014 rather than the initial 2015.

Per Mac’s Football, Richardson’s $6.7 million “dead” cap charge (money accounted for by a player no longer on the roster) is the third-highest in the NFL behind only Aaron Hernandez ($7.5 million, New England) and Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7 million, Buffalo).

[Related: Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt]

Tom Reed discusses the Trent Richardson trade by the Browns – WFNY Podcast – 2013-09-19

WFNY Podcast LogoTom Reed is a great reporter and always a really thoughtful podcast guest, so I wanted to get his take on the Browns trade, the mood in Berea following the trade and what it all means for the future.

Tanking and how the idea of it ever came to be
How did the Browns do selling this to the fans?
Giving up on Trent Richardson this early is truly shocking
The pressure that Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi just put on themselves yesterday
Brandon Weeden and what are the chances he’s going to be the QB
Could the Browns comment on how they feel about Brandon Weeden?
Michael Lombardi’s plans have all come to fruition
Ray Horton and his ability to keep the defense focused
What does this do to the Browns ability to keep their free agents?
Recommending everyone listens to “Sirens” by Pearl Jam [Read more...]

Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt

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At the heart of the Trent Richardson trade yesterday is pure emotional outrage. The Cleveland Browns should have been an eight-win team this year according to yours truly. As most of you know, my mantra has been that for this team, considering the development time on the roster and the amount of cap space available to them, eight wins is the reasonable expectation I put on this front office and coaching staff. That was going to be my standard. All through pre-season—including a fourth game where basically every starter sat out so as not to get hurt—we were sold that this team was ready to go this year and compete. I should have known that wasn’t the case when they dumped all their kickers and went after six new faces before the first game, I guess. It’s hard to believe that this team after only the second week of the season and a franchise-altering trade is an utter failure according to the standard I set.

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While We’re Waiting… Good luck selling this one, Berea

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links to Clevelandish sports stuff, or at least things I think are interesting. Links are the currency of bloggers. We give out five or so everyday. Sometime it would be cool if the sites we linked to reciprocated. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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It’s not just about selling this move to the fans: “Dumping the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, a player with nearly 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie, isn’t exactly a sign of confidence that management is dreaming of January. In the NBA, you can just play out the string. It’s basketball. Football in the NFL is way too demanding for that; physically, mentally, emotionally.

Naturally, Cleveland is trying to say they haven’t given up on the season despite starting the season 0-2 and announcing Brian Hoyer as the new starting QB.

Good luck to rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski on getting the locker room to buy into that.” [Dan Wetzel/Yahoo! Sports]

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