August 26, 2014

Johnny Manziel can’t call a play?

Manziel Pass 140726

Johnny Manziel joined Jon Gruden for ESPN’s Sunday Conversation leading up to the Browns clash with the Redskins on Monday. The interview followed the normal Gruden interview trajectory with the Super Bowl winning coach asking Johnny some generic questions, followed by a Gruden favorite, having Manziel call a play from his new offense.

Manziel bashfully, muttered out a bunch of verbiage which on the surface seemed to suffice Gruden’s request, but did the play Johnny call make any football sense?

Chris Cooley, former Redskins tight end who played in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in Washington, wasn’t buying it. In a guest hosting spot on ESPN Radio’s SVP and Russilo on Thursday afternoon, Cooley exposed Manziel’s “play call” to Gruden as a bunch of nonsensical words strung together without any real meaning.

“Jibber jabber. It means nothing. He used all lingo from that offense but it does’t form a sentence. If offense is a language that is supposed to tie together, that doesn’t fit. You’re bootlegging right with your tight end on the left, running a corner route while also sifting across the line. You’re tight end is doing two things. Your Z is supposed to slide across with your bootleg but he is split all the way outside the numbers. He just made up words […] none of it made any sense.”

Mastering the offense is one of the most critical aspects to being a successful quarterback in the NFL, while it also one of the greatest challenges. Cooley went on to speak with Van Pelt about the difficulty quarterbacks have coming from the college game where offenses are simplified to the pro’s where they reach a whole new level of complexity.

In the college game, coaches have a limited amount of time for implementation and defenses have limited amounts of time to dissect those offenses. That’s why you’ve seen the popularity of the giant play cards made famous at Oregon and Auburn, but in the pro’s these guys have all the time in the world to work which leads to more complex offenses and defenses.

Cooley elaborated on the expectations people have for quarterbacks from Manziel’s offensive background coming into an NFL pro-style offense.

“I don’t think you can expect him to understand it. You could give him a wristband. In the game he gets a speaker into his helmet and the offensive coordinator would repeat it and it would be up to him to thus repeat it into the huddle. But without a good grasp of the moving parts going in the right places, that’s an issue. You’re just out there flim flaming.”

An NFL playbook is no doubt a place of complexity, but that doesn’t mean simple concepts can’t work in the league as well. Bill Bellicek famously sought Chip Kelly’s help while still at Oregon to install a hurry up offense in which saying one word would let the whole offense know which assignment to run. Kelly has since brought some of these concepts to Philadelphia where his Eagles had the second most yards in the league last year behind Peyton Manning’s Broncos.

Cooley also clued Van Pelt in on some of the success they had in Washington during Robert Griffin’s rookie season. The former Redskins’ tight end claimed they completed 82 passes for over 1000 yards all off of the same play action pass. With Griffin a threat to run on every play it engaged the 11th defender on the field who is otherwise unaccounted for and opened up running lanes for Alfred Morris and then room over the top on play action.

As for the offense in Cleveland, schemed by Kyle Shanahan, Cooley added,

“I betcha Rex Grossman could call a play. He’s awesome to hang out with, he’s smart, he’s a dude.

[Related: Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and the undelivered quarterback mandate]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Video: Johnny Manziel talks with Jon Gruden on Sunday Conversation

johnny manziel podium

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel sat down to talk with ESPN’s Jon Gruden to discuss Monday’s preseason game against the Redskins and former Kyle Shanahan QB Robert Griffin III. Take a look.

Joe Banner, the 3-4 versus the 4-3 and agent Jimmy Sexton

Jimmy Sexton Hire My Clients 595

One of the scariest things for Browns fans in the transition from Mike Holmgren to Joe Banner was Banner’s decision to switch defenses. It isn’t that Cleveland Browns fans have that much of a preference, other than they have a preference against switching schemes all the time. You know, continuity and all that? The Browns were a 3-4 defense with Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini before switching to the 4-3 for Pat Shurmur’s two-year tenure under Mike Holmgren. That defense was young and thought to be on the rise when Joe Banner fired Shurmur, Dick Jauron and proclaimed to Terry Pluto that the Browns needed to run the 3-4. Now that the Browns have fired Rob Chudzinski and are again searching for a new coach, the rumor mill is churning out Jim Schwartz’ name. He’s a 4-3 guy.

[Read more...]

WFNY Debate: Do NFL coaches even matter?

chudzinskiIn case it hasn’t been clear yet, the WFNY writers email each other a lot. And I mean a lot. So on top of our two email-based roundtables already this week (post-Kelly rumors and post-Chudzinski hire), we bring you inside the famed Gmail inbox for a look at a Friday debate: This time, we’re talking about the possible impact of pro coaches.

Jacob: Hey guys, I’m considering writing a numbers article about Rob Chudzinski. I’m intrigued by the stats about his TDs, points and plays of 20+ yards with Carolina. Then maybe look at the Browns in ’07-’08, the Chargers, Miami, etc. Compare to league averages. His success with RBs (DeAngelo Williams in Week 17). Here’s a quick snippet of the stats that I had in mind for such a post:

2011: plays of 20+ pass/rush (total) —- Carolina: 66/24 (90); Cleveland: 32/7 (39)
2011: third down conversion —- Carolina: 75/185 (40.5%); Cleveland: 92/238 (38.7%)
2012: plays of 20+ pass/rush (total) —- Carolina: 58/17 (75); Cleveland: 50/7 (57)
2012: third down conversion —- Carolina: 88/204 (43.1%); Cleveland: 67/218 (30.7%) [Read more...]

NFL Rumor: Jon Gruden promised ownership of Browns in link with UT

A report out of WREG in Tennessee is circulating which states that former NFL head coach Jon Gruden would receive partial ownership in the Cleveland Browns if he were to take over the vacant coaching job with the Tennessee Volunteers.

Glenn Carver of WREG, the CBS affiliate of Memphis, Tennessee, writes that Jimmy Haslam III’s connection to UT would provide added perks to a contract offer “already in hand.”

“The NFL is looking into the conflict of owning part of one team while getting money from another,” writes Carver. “If NFL ownership is included in Gruden’s deal, it would have to be tailored to conform with NCAA rules.”

Carver is the sports director for WREG. While Gruden has already publically denied any truth to this story, the Browns recently released the following statement:

“Jimmy Haslam has no involvement in the University of Tennessee head coaching search, and the report that Jon Gruden would potentially have an ownership stake in the Browns is completely erroneous.”

Gruden has had two stints as a head coach in the NFL, obtaining a Super Bowl win in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. A resident of Sandusky, Ohio, he has long been linked to the Browns through his ties with former President Mike Holmgren.

[Related: Moving Forward in Berea: Mike Holmgren, legacies and dirty water]

Jon Gruden dangles the coaching carrot once again

Retired NFL head coach Jon Gruden is, once again, flirting with the idea of returning to the sidelines.

Charlie Campbell, via’s Gregg Rosenthal, reports that Gruden has already began the process of finding potential assistant coaches in the event that the “perfect opportunity” opens up. Becoming a bit of an annual event, as the NFL season wears on and coaching vacancies become more anticipated, Gruden — having the leverage of a plush ESPN commentary gig — leaves the door open for a potential return. In this instance, however, Gruden’s idea of a “perfect opportunity” does not involve his home state of Ohio as much as it does a large market like, say, Philadelphia and the struggling Eagles.

Given his name and successes as a head coach, Gruden has long been linked to potential jobs in Cleveland, though recently being rumored to have turned down any chances at coaching the Browns upon the arrival of Mike Holmgren. As rumors surrounding Pat Shurmur’s job continue to swirl, it is safe to expect Gruden’s name thrown into the mix despite the chances of him even considering the lakefront job being less than remote.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Film Room: Game 9, the Fullback Pass]

WFNY Podcast – 2012-10-10 – Browns, Tribe and Obama on sports talk radio

This week I had a chance to Skype with TD to talk everything that’s going on in Cleveland sports. Here’s a rundown of the topics we discussed…

  • Barack Obama scheduled to do Cleveland sports radio with Baskin and Phelps
  • Pat Shurmur and his media meltdown
  • Where’s Holmgren?
  • TD’s coaching fantasy of having three coaches with gravity at the same time
  • Tribe roster changes
  • Terry Francona and his employment ties to Shapiro and Antonetti
  • Perez, Choo, and Asdrubal and who else might or might not be in CLE next year.

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Francona, Scott, and Gruden? Could You Imagine?

Think back to 2008. It was a year removed from one of, if not the best year in the history of Cleveland sports. The Browns were coming off a 10-win season. The Indians had just won the AL Central and finished a game away from the World Series. The Cavaliers still had LeBron James and were one of the best teams in the NBA. We probably took for granted just how great that year was. It seems like a lifetime ago when you consider the sad state of affairs that we are currently subjected to.

Just a year later, the Tribe was beginning their downward spiral. The Browns proved to be a one-year, schedule-aided fluke. The Cavs were still great with LeBron, but we all knew his contract was just one year away from expiring.

In 2008 the three major sports teams in this town were led by Eric Wedge, Mike Brown, and Romeo Crennel. Let that soak in for a moment….. [Read more...]

Violent Hits Are Pretty Much Banned by NFL Rules

Last night watching Monday Night Football there were a lot of questions after a violent hit by Isa Abdul-Quddus on Hakeem Nicks was flagged for a 15-yard penalty.  Some people think that it shouldn’t have been a penalty.  Most notable among those people is Jon Gruden who claimed pretty flatly that he didn’t think it was a penalty.  At home, many (including this dork) were rewinding and examining the hit with their DVRs to see exactly what happened with a Zapruder-like level of detail.  I could see a lot of people working hard to find ways that it wasn’t a penalty.  Problem being that this iteration of the NFL is intent on looking at plays that result in ultra-violence in an attempt to justify throwing a flag not the opposite.

The NFL fan desperately wants to see a shoulder make contact first in attempt to prove that the referee was wrong.  It is an effort in vain though because the NFL has written the rules in such a way that they want referees to use their discretion to justify flags on any play that even approximates the hit that Abdul-Quddus put on Hakeem Nicks.  We learned this last year with T.J. Ward vs. Jordan Shipley.  The game has changed.  Just get used to it.  If you don’t believe me, check out the rules. [Read more...]

Terrelle Pryor Comes Off Fine on ESPN

I watched Terrelle Pryor go one-on-one with Jon Gruden last night on ESPN.  I didn’t even really plan on watching it, but then I saw it was coming on and decided to watch.  There were a lot of details of Terrelle Pryor’s end at Ohio State that were left out, but honestly, what’s the point anymore?  Once a guy leaves school, who really cares about what kind of arbitrary NCAA rules were trampled?

Pryor’s one statement was that of sorrow that it ended like that, but also that he had no other choice but to leave with the growing distractions.  I think there was a lot of selfish motivation in moving on, but he isn’t wrong in saying that it would only continue to harm his former team and teammates if he had stuck around.

Once it got down to football with Gruden, I thought Pryor came off reasonably well.  He said all the right things about being competitive, loving his teammates, wanting to lead, but being willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.  As with anyone, it could have been all lip service.  At this stage, though, why wouldn’t you take Pryor at his word?  He should feel pretty desperate right now as he stares at the supplemental draft and an uncertain future with more doubters than he’s ever seen in his entire life. [Read more...]

The Elusive Art of the Nickname

Nicknames are a funny thing.  Well, not all of them, I guess.  Some are just downright dumb.  I was just thinking a lot about nicknames as I woke up today.  It is random, but I arrived at the feeling that nicknames are somewhat inexplicable.  Some of them make sense. Some of them don’t.  Some are funny and don’t stick.  Some are unfunny and do stick.  Some are long-winded.  (I’m looking at you Chris Berman.)  But how, exactly do we arrive at them?  What are the various journeys?

Part of the fun of being on Twitter is trying to be a stand-up comedian of sorts.  As things are happening you can work out some material in an attempt to make people laugh.  Last night I was working on quips involving Jack Hannahan and the word defense after an outstanding play.  It didn’t end up in a nickname, but follow me here. [Read more...]

The Trip to Destination Shurmur

As Browns fans, we are certainly a reactionary bunch, aren’t we?  No sooner was Pat Shurmur hired that segments of the population were suspicious, irate, enraged, confused, or inconsolable.   I guess I should get used to it, but I remain surprised every time the Browns do anything at the wide-ranging emotions that are unnecessarily flung about.  Of course in Browns town you might as well throw in a bit of conspiracy theory to boot.  That’s right, a conspiracy theory was hatched with the vigor and energy of Oliver Stone a half a bottle of vodka in at a party of 9/11 “truthers.”

Bob Lamonte runs everything in the Browns’ organization now, according to some.  Instead of just a raise of the eyebrows and a couple of question marks about the connection between all these guys, a full-blown campaign against “nepotism” and “cronyism” has been hatched around the internet and on Cleveland sports talk radio.

You do all realize that this is supposed to be fun, right?  It is supposed to be a wholly welcomed distraction from politics, and other real news. [Read more...]

Petrak: Browns Coaching Search to “Gain Momentum”

As potential coaching candidates come in and out of Berea, Browns fans are left wondering where exactly the search stands. 

Cleveland’s front office has remained very tight-lipped throughout the first 10 days of the option exploration, confirming only the names and days of candidate interviews.  But as The Chronicle-Telegram’s Scott Petrak states, this could all change in the coming days as more candidates become available. [Read more...]

Finding Truth in Mangini’s Firing

Now that the initial dust has settled and we have heard from Mike Holmgren about the latest coach to hit the turnstiles in Berea, it is time to get down into some details.  

I keep reading and hearing the same things over and over again, and I want to at least do my best to set the table as I currently see it.  I am going to do my best to paraphrase the things that I have been hearing on Twitter, in comments sections and from some of my friends.

Question – “Stability is good.  How can Mangini’s firing be defended as Cleveland yet again tries to find their coach of the future?”

Mike Holmgren agrees that stability is important.  He said that in his press conference explicitly.  He clearly would like to find a coach who will be in Cleveland for the long haul.  You get the sense from listening to Holmgren talk about Mangini that he wishes Mangini had become the guy.  He obviously didn’t think Eric Mangini was the guy for the job after working closely with him this year.  Mike Holmgren can believe in stability as an organizational strategy and also fire Eric Mangini after only two years.  The two notions aren’t mutually exclusive. [Read more...]

Mangini, Truth, Death and Taxes

I am breaking my own moratorium.  I never did a good enough job explaining myself the first time around when I attempted to put a moratorium on the Mangini conversation.  It wasn’t really that I didn’t want to talk about it or want anyone else to talk about it.  I just hated to devolve into the “black vs. white,” “up vs. down,” “red vs. blue” conversation that it almost inevitably becomes.  I just can’t stand the clichés. I was wrong though.  We should talk about it because it is a complex topic, believe it or not.

I know a lot of you want to reduce it because it is easier.  “Mangini hasn’t won enough games, so he has to go.”  “Mangini can’t survive with superstars on his teams, so he has to go.”  On the other side, “Mangini’s teams play hard from the beginning to the end even after the playoffs are gone, so he needs to stay.”  “Mangini’s team has consistently improved despite a lack of depth and talent on the roster, so he needs another year.” [Read more...]

Rumor: Mangini Done According to WKNR Sources

I have been saying for a while that any talk of Mangini and the proverbial “hot seat” is silly. I still feel that way, but it is complex.

Sabrina Parr from WKNR reported this morning that regardless of what Mangini does in his last three games, he is out as head coach. Co-host Chris Fedor then added that the Browns are having difficulty finding a new offensive coordinator because there is a lack of willingness in candidates to work with Mangini.

Now, we have no idea whether this is true or not; I have no idea what confidence level to place on this rumor. But let’s just pretend that it is true for the sake of discussion. It is important to finally get this out there because I haven’t talked a lot about the raging “Mangini debate.” The reason is that the debate has been mostly flawed up to this point. Nobody can seem to figure out what they are really talking about and stay focused. Here are the various camps in the debate. [Read more...]

Sorry To Say It: Mangini’s On the Ropes

There are many in this town that aren’t, but I am. I am an Eric Mangini guy. He is a tireless worker who has looked in the mirror and made positive changes after earning a stay of execution last offseason from new Browns czar Mike Holmgren. He is a young quality NFL Head Coach who now understands that being just the Head Coach is best for him, not having his hands in roster maneuvering.

This years’ slimmer and more congenial Mangini entered the season on shaky ground. His new boss, a former Super Bowl champion, hovered over his shoulder riding around in a cart all summer with a nameplate that said “COACH HOLMGREN.”

He was handed the 35-year old turnover machine named Jake Delhomme and told “this is your quarterback.” The guy who was supposed to the centerpiece of the running game, rookie Montario Hardesty, was lost in the preseason with a torn ACL. The Wide Receivers read like a list of third and fourth options at best with no clear number one guy. On defense, Rob Ryan’s schemes were lauded, but the talent was still a question mark, especially with little pass rushing threat on the outside.  [Read more...]

NFL Rumors: Jon Gruden Linked to the Browns Yet Again

“I think I might.”

All it took was the above statement made by one Jon Gruden coupled with a one-win Browns team to get the rumor mill swirling.

Since his departure from the NFL coaching ranks, many have speculated that Gruden would ultimately return to the sidelines after a few years off.  Alas, with each additional week without a headset, the questions grow louder and more frequent.  And with each additional loss that is incurred by the Cleveland Browns, as well as the presence of one Mike Holmgren, Gruden’s name contiunes to surface as a possible longterm answer who would replace the revolving door of head coaches for the Orange and Brown. [Read more...]

Eric Mangini and the Proverbial Hot Seat

Every NFL season the perception is that a certain number of coaches are on thinner ice than the rest.  It seems that Eric Mangini a season ago, without a boss, was able to find himself on the hot seat just based on the media.  Pat McManamon told the Browns to “admit their mistake” and fire the coach after seven games, I believe.  Matt Taibbi, who is best known for writing about the 2004 presidential election, took to Rolling Stone magazine to compare Mangini to Augustus Gloop from Roald Dahl’s iconic book about a chocolate factory.  That was even before he had finished his first season as coach.

It was a confusing time for anyone and everyone who wanted to be a critic of the Browns.  There is little doubt now, in hindsight, that Eric Mangini needed to concentrate on doing one thing.  I was in favor of most of the moves made as personnel man.  Trading Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards were the proper moves for this team.  It was a bit tough to swallow because those players had God-given abilities, but in my heart I knew they weren’t good alpha dogs for this team.  I also think trading down out of Mark Sanchez and into Alex Mack was brilliant.  I don’t care that Ratliff and Veikune are gone.  I don’t care that some people have valid concerns about the abilities of Abram Elam.  That trade always works for me because of the money and because Alex Mack projects to be here for the next decade with luck and health. [Read more...]

Open Thread: Browns vs Baltimore Ravens


Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (1-7) | Cleveland Browns Stadium
8:30 PM EST | ESPN, WJW-TV (Ch. 8); WMMS FM/100.7. 
48 degrees, winds 13 mph | Line: BAL (-10.5)

[Read more...]