April 24, 2014

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.

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

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]

[Read more...]

Scott Raab on the Browns trade of Trent Richardson – WFNY Podcast – 2013-09-19

WFNY Podcast LogoThere’s very little to say about this in terms of show notes. I wanted Scott’s take on the Browns trade of Trent Richardson and I didn’t think it should wait until the following Monday morning. Scott and I talked about the trade itself, the spin job that’s brewing in the media and just how shocked that we’re even shocked as a Cleveland sports fan base seems to be a way of life.

Check out this episode

NFL Breaking News: Trent Richardson traded to Colts for first round pick

The Cleveland Browns have announced that they have traded 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.

“Trent’s a great player and we expect him to have success in this league,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. “Right now, based on how we’re building this team for sustainable success, we’re going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins.”

Additionally, the Browns also announced that they are bringing to Cleveland for a physical RB Willis McGahee.

McGahee, a two-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2011), is 6-foot, 235-pound veteran in his 11th year out of Miami (Fla.). He has four 1,000-yard rushing seasons during a distinguished career.

You have to assume that Trent’s comments and disappointment with his playing time on third down had something to do with this move.

[Related: The Brian Hoyer roundtable]

 

The Indianapolis Colts game presentation is impressive

Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium

Despite an awful Browns performance on Saturday night, I came away envious of the dome in Indianapolis. This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, and it probably won’t be the last, but it’s really a great way to take in a game. Lucas Oil Stadium is bright, clean, loud and really does a lot to help bridge the gap between watching the game live and the kinds of things you don’t want to miss at home.

The HD video boards in the corners are well-placed and run impeccably so that even if action is on the other side of the stadium you get a chance to see the replay without trying too hard. Instead of having them on the ends, they have their two video boards in two corners. It might sound like a small change, but instead of having to look all the way right or all the way left, they’re more conveniently placed pretty much for everyone in the building by being in the corners, I think. The cell service worked perfectly with a capacity crowd1 on hand as I uploaded picture after picture to the WFNY Facebook page. Pretty cheerleaders danced to a nice variety of songs which were all blasted from a centrally located speaker system in the middle of the roof. Again, it’s a little thing, but having the sound hit every person from the front is nice. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. 65,626 according to the box score and I believe that number to be accurate. Despite the picture I used as the Browns were coming out of the tunnel, I looked around during the second quarter and the place looked almost totally full. Listed capacity online is 67,000 []

NFL Preseason: Colts 27 Browns 6

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

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

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

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

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