July 24, 2014

Game 13 : Browns vs. Chiefs open thread

The Browns possess their first winning streak of the year heading into Sunday’s matchup vs. Kansas City. Cleveland has won two in a row, and four out of their last seven.

The Brownies are 6.5 point favorites against the 2-12 Chiefs. The Chiefs have been the NFL’s worst team, but played their best game in a 27-21 win last week over Carolina. [Read more...]

Crennel told players not to respond to Joe Thomas comments

ESPN Cleveland’s Chris Fedor is reporting that in a team meeting this week, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel specifically instructed players not to respond to comments made by Browns all-pro Joe Thomas.

Thomas described Chief’s running back Peyton Hillis’ time in Cleveland as “toxic”.

Hours after the meeting, Hillis went to the Kansas City media and fired back at Thomas’ comments.

This isn’t the first time a story has broke of Hillis ignoring team leaders. In 2011 Hillis drew criticism for leaving the Browns midweek to attend his own wedding back in Arkansas.

Read all about the Hillis and Thomas soap opera at WFNY.

Chiefs vs. Browns Reader Survey

It’s a good thing I won’t be doing the pre-game television production for this game.

Peyton Hillis (cannon sound effects.) Joe Thomas (fireworks noises.) Pat Shurmur (kazoo.) Romeo Crennel (sad trombone.)

It’s the Chiefs and the Browns! Only on CBS!

That’s just for the national audience. I know Browns fans are amped for this game. The Browns are coming off two wins in a row and are looking to make it three. It would be the first three game winning streak (I think) since Eric Mangini was fighting to keep his job on the heels of Mike Holmgren’s Berea employment. Just like then, there are lots of jobs on the line. More importantly, this is a young Browns team that is looking to get experience and get a taste for winning, even if in less-than-spectacular fashion.

So now’s your chance. Weigh in! [Read more...]

Peyton Hillis to Browns’ Joe Thomas: “Get over it”

Former Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hilis fired back at All-Pro offensive lineman Joe Thomas on Thursday, responding to allegations that the former Madden coverboy created a toxic situation during his contract dispute with the team.

“He can have his opinions, but it’s kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend,” Hillis said of Thomas’ remarks. “It’s been over a year. Get over it. I guess when you get paid over $100 million by one team, it’s kind of easy to point the finger at other guys and try to hate on them for trying to get another contract.’’

Hillis’ mention of Thomas’ hard-earned contract may speak volumes as 2011 provided a year where the Browns extended the left tackle for seven years and $84 million while Hillis reportedly shot down an offer that would net him $3 million guaranteed. Thomas stated that Hillis created a tough situation for the entire Browns locker room by leaving them depleted at running back while other players nursed legitimate injuries.

“It was just the fact, he decided his contract was more important than coming out and playing and helping his team win,” said Thomas.

During the offseason heading into 2012, Hillis signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs, netting him $3 million. On the season, he has 59 carries for 193 yards and one touchdown.

“I don’t have any bitterness or resentment or regrets,” said Hillis. “I did what I did.”

[Related: Joe Thomas’ Peyton Hillis comments just felt like the truth | Hillis photoshop]

(Source: Kansas City Star)

Joe Thomas’ Peyton Hillis comments just felt like the truth

I was glancing through the headlines yesterday and today of all the places covering Joe Thomas’ comments on Peyton Hillis and something just didn’t sit right with me. ESPN said Joe Thomas “blasts” Peyton Hillis. Dawgs By Nature said that Thomas “Rips Into” Peyton Hillis. ESPN Cleveland said Thomas “tees off” on Peyton Hillis. This is not to criticize any of these outlets either as many of them (especially Dawgs by Nature) are great sources who do valuable work. Even when Scott headlined the news yesterday he used the word “venom” to describe Thomas’ comments. These comments could easily be viewed as venomous or cutting or blasting or ripping or any other adjective you might be able to think of, but they still didn’t feel like that to me. Something about Joe Thomas’ comments seemed too truthful and pure to be as salacious as any of those other words would describe.

It’s the source of the comments as much as anything. Joe Thomas doesn’t hop up and down angry ranting and raving about anything. In fact, he rarely speaks at all in front of the microphones. Thomas is quietly known for his leadership on the offensive line including under-reported stories of him hosting the unit at his house for cookouts and unofficial team-building. He’s also been known to do this very early on in the off-season to include undrafted free agents who are unlikely ever to make the team. The one thing that it seems everyone has gotten right in this story is that when Joe Thomas speaks it means something because he doesn’t flood the universe with quotes on a weekly basis. [Read more...]

Browns’ Joe Thomas calls Peyton Hillis’ time in Cleveland “toxic”

Hall of Fame-bound offensive lineman Joe Thomas pulled no punches this afternoon when describing his time with former running back Peyton Hillis, stating that the big-biceped back created a toxic environment in the Browns’ locker room.

Per essentially every beat writer and radio/television reporter in Cleveland, Thomas stated the following:

“I think it was better for both sides [that Hillis left]. At that point the situation with him here was toxic, and he didn’t want to be here and players didn’t want him here. It was better for a fresh start at that point. [...] It was just the fact, he decided his contract was more important than coming out and playing and helping his team win, and it left us without a running back and then we had a few injuries that hurt us further, with Montario [Hardesty] being down and Brandon Jackson, losing him in training camp. He went about trying to get a contract a certain way, and it ended up hurting the other 52 guys in the locker room. That was his decision.”

Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealerhas a fairly lengthy transcript of what Thomas had to say in addition to the venom spewed above. There were multiple rumors that surrounded Hillis falling out of favor with the Browns, going as far as stating that the team had to have an intervention of sorts on a flight back from a game. While the opinions surrounding Hillis are not surprisng, these words coming from Thomas will raise some eyebrows as the left tackle is typically very reserved.

Hills was acquired in a deal that sent then quarterback Brady Quinn to Denver. After rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2011, Hillis was a monumental disappointment in 2012, leading to his departure to Kansas City this past summer, uniting both players.

[Related: Tom Heckert’s future may rest in his own hands]

Browns fans can make Trent Richardson “Rookie of the Week”

This week I contrasted Peyton Hillis and Trent Richardson. One of the biggest contrasts was based on expectations. Specifically, I wondered if Trent Richardson had put up the same 1177 yards that Hillis did whether fans would have overreacted to the point they did in the Madden voting.

Well, now’s your chance to start that ball rolling again Browns fans.

Trent Richardson is up for the “Pepsi Max NFL Rookie of the Week.” He’s up against punter Johnny Hekker, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson.

I wonder if Jim Brown would vote for him?

[Related: Jim Brown re-uniting with the Cleveland Browns this weekend]

Trent Richardson, Peyton Hillis and Watchable Football

For all the explosion that Trent Richardson was missing against the Eagles, he seemed to have in excess this week against the Bengals. Sure the numbers were great. Over 100 yards on the ground, over 35 receiving and a touchdown in either category, but it was what you can’t see in the box score which is most exciting. Trent Richardson made guys miss. He seemed quick to the edge. He was physical and domineering when he needed to be.

Somehow with all the violence, there is something much smoother about watching Richardson than the last hopeful Browns running back Peyton Hillis. When Hillis ran you sometimes held your breath wondering if he was going to get hurt or fumble the ball. Hillis was electric, don’t get me wrong, but it was so very unconventional watching a man of his size hurdle defenders.

It just doesn’t feel at all similar watching Trent Richardson, even at this early juncture in his career. It probably has a lot to do with him being drafted so high. Despite the Browns well-documented history drafting busts toward the top of the draft, it still feels much more comfortable to place expectations – even high ones – on a guy like Trent Richardson than it did on Peyton Hillis even after his extraordinary year. [Read more...]

Two Cleveland Browns highlight Grantland’s “NFL Trade Value Rankings”

A couple of Cleveland Browns made the first list of NFL players ranked by level of trade value. The list has become a staple of Bill Simmons’ NBA coverage mostly due to the fact that the NBA is like the stock market. Let’s hope that this, combined with the moving of the trade deadline doesn’t turn the NFL into the NBA with teams constantly “loading up” for playoff runs. A couple of Browns are on the list written by Bill Barnwell and footnoted by Bill Simmons.

Joe Haden makes the inaugural list even though he’s a player on the old rookie wage structure system. He comes in at #34

The scary thing is that Haden, at 23, might be better than either Webb or Flowers. Judging cornerback play is an inexact science, but Haden’s reputation is right there alongside that caliber of player. His big rookie contract guaranteed him $26 million off the bat, so he’s not exactly a bargain; he’s also likely to be subject to a four-game Adderall suspension this season. But Haden just submitted an age-23 season that was better than Darrelle Revis’s age-23 season … and Revis broke out as a superstar the following year.

Big Joe Thomas comes in at lucky #13 ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, RG3, Mike Vick and Jay Cutler.

Thomas is actually the best player on the Browns and they stink, but the problem is that the Browns have two great players — Thomas and Haden — and haven’t gone out of their way to get Barry Church from the Cowboys yet. (Sorry.) Thomas is the league’s best left tackle and, by acclamation, the league’s best offensive lineman. You think Peyton Hillis got close to 1,200 yards by himself?

Of course, Bill Simmons footnoted Joe Thomas in his often-imitated style…

The best two Browns are a cornerback and a left tackle? The lesson, as always: God hates Cleveland.

It is an entertaining list and worth the read. They not only take into account talent, but also contracts. It is an unbelievable advantage to have drafted someone after the rookie wage scale was in effect. Pay special attention to the Cam Newton vs. Matt Ryan section. If you were starting a franchise from scratch without money being an object, it’s pretty clear that there’s a debate between Ryan and Newton. With money being a factor in a salary cap league? It becomes a lot easier to grab Newton, even after only one solid year in the league.

Maybe next year Trent Richardson can be on the list too.

[Also see: Montario Hardesty: I Think I Played Well]

Mike Holmgren changes Browns public relations course

Chuck Booms holding a birthday cake for Mike Holmgren? Who saw that coming? (Photo Chris Allen / 92.3 the Fan)

Up is down. Black is white. Dry is wet. Most importantly screaming is quiet. That’s what happened this morning when Mike Holmgren visited Kiley and Booms at 92.3 the Fan this morning for an interview. You know Booms as the screaming lunatic that has accused Mike Holmgren of not caring and just looking to collect his huge paycheck in his nicer moments. Is it safe to call Mike Holmgren’s strategy switch a complete success if even Chuck Booms can’t muster a guttural grunt of disagreement when he had “The Big Show” sitting a few feet away from him in studio this morning?

Look, I don’t want to be too hard on Booms. I know he is a fan of the Browns and I truly think he is a funny guy. The fact that Booms referred to Mike Vick as just, “The Dog Killer” to Mike Holmgren’s face made me laugh.1 Still, to think that this is the same guy who wanted to run every member of this staff out of town screaming about nepotism and everything else he could possibly think of, is astonishing.

In fairness to Kiley and Booms, Mike Holmgren walked into their studios today with something of an attitude adjustment. Long gone is the angry presser when he spoke of playoff tickets. Holmgren admitted that that whole presser was fueled by anger. He was angry that his team could not only be failing on the field but be steeped in controversy over something that he just couldn’t seem to get his arms around and control. I’m guessing that press conference was one of the key catalysts that led Mike Holmgren to his decision to change and really be out front more. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Of course Mike Holmgren had no reaction to the Mike Vick / “Dog Killer” reference. []

Trent Richardson generating rookie fantasy excitement

Many Cleveland Browns fans have taken to their fantasy football teams for enjoyment since 1999 as the real Browns have struggled. For the first time in a long time, fantasy owners might just be looking to the Browns for excitement.

Here’s the thing with Trent Richardson: He projects as a true workhorse running back in his rookie season, and there just aren’t many guys like that in the player pool. It would be a huge surprise if a healthy Richardson failed to finish with 300-plus touches. Yes, he’s tied to an underwhelming offense — his team averaged just 13.6 points per game last year — but he’s such a massive upgrade for Cleveland. Just two years ago, Peyton Hillis topped 1600 scrimmage yards for the Browns, crossing the goal line 13 times. Richardson is a more talented runner, by orders of magnitude.

Just to put things in perspective, 300+ touches is Frank Gore territory. Maurice Jones-Drew led the league with 343 rushing attempts and added 43 receptions if you want to see the extremely high numbers. In Peyton Hillis’ breakout year in 2010, he carried the ball 270 times and also had 61 receptions. That just goes to show how involved the outside world expects Trent Richardson to be in the Browns’ offense this year. Let’s hope those touches turn out to be yards and TDs too, by the way.

And to think all we can do is seemingly talk about quarterbacks, none of whom were drafted anywhere near as highly as Trent Richardson.

[Related: Colt McCoy Through the Lens of Brady Quinn]

A Farewell to Armond Smith

I don’t know if it is unique to Cleveland that Armond Smith could be such a big topic of conversation, but it sure feels that way. Smith was cut in favor of Adonis Thomas yesterday after apparently getting beat out in rookie camp with shorts on. This morning on Kiley and Booms I heard Bud Shaw once again mention that at least we wouldn’t see Pat Shurmur running Armond Smith on 4th and 1 again. It goes to show that the more I mature, just how far I still have to go because it made me angry. I know Bud was just going for an easy punchline, but let’s not re-write history here.

First of all, I need to talk about a comedy rule of three that I have been obsessed with lately. I heard Aziz Ansari talk about it and I think he was paraphrasing Joe Rogan. Or maybe he was paraphrasing Louis C.K.’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast? Anyway, I am continuing the game of telephone and paraphrasing the paraphraser. The idea in writing jokes is that you have to go three levels for truly good and original comedy. When a topic comes up, the first thought you have is the joke that everyone comes up with. The second joke is better than the first, but it is still probably a bit facile. The third joke will be truly original. It isn’t a hard, fast rule, but that’s the idea. References aren’t jokes and are rarely good punchlines. Using Armond Smith’s run on 4th and 1 is quite simply the first crack available and as I think I proved it is nothing more than just second-guessing the coach because it happened not to work.

So let’s get back to that play one final time as we bid farewell to a 4th string running back that won’t even be a footnote in Cleveland Browns history. [Read more...]

Are the Browns overrating their own running backs?

How much of the plan includes Brandon Jackson in 2012?

One thing that persists as a dark cloud over the Browns is the wide receiver situation from last season. The Browns drafted Greg Little and brought in Jordan Norwood, but the statements that will forever hang in the air are words of confidence in a depth chart featuring Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie at the top. Of course MoMass suffered through some injuries and went on to combine with a battered Colt McCoy for a pretty bad passing attack while Robiskie was cut loose altogether. I still have hopes for Massaquoi when he’s cast in the right spot in the offense, but there’s really no doubting that overall Tom Heckert and company mis-read the abilities of the receiver group as a whole a season ago. When Brian Robiskie got cut, it was pretty much an admission of guilt by the Browns brass, I think. Which brings me to the question about running backs coming into 2012. The Browns have let Peyton Hillis go without much fight and they are rumored to like Trent Richardson, but what do you think they’re thinking for real with regard to their own depth chart? I have a sneaking suspicion that their confidence level is higher in the existing crew than fans might think. If I am right, I think the Browns could be headed for another mistake.

In fairness, my inkling could be totally false. The draft season is the season for misdirection, obviously. The Browns were reportedly impressed by Trent Richardson. Also even if they bypass Richardson or miss out on him with the fourth pick, they’ll have chances at some other pretty highly ranked running backs. Point being, I might be sounding the alarm for no reason. But follow me for a bit.

[Read more...]

A vote for Aaron Rodgers is a vote for the Cleveland Browns

I don’t believe in curses except when I do. I’ve said it a thousand times. Luck, jinxes and things of that nature are good in theory, but if they actually existed, I’d be a rich man because I would use them constantly for personal gain. Then again, if it doesn’t cost me anything to pretend like curses are real, why shouldn’t I just be a good little boy and play along? [Read more...]

Guessing what the Browns’ moves mean… so far

These are allegedly tea leaves

Even without a ton of movement in free agency, I think we’ve seen and heard enough to start at least making some educated guesses about what the Browns are thinking and doing. Please save me the cheap jokes about them doing “nothing” in the comments.

Defensive line – Regardless of what you think about Frostee Rucker or Juqua Parker, their signings say a few things. First of all, the Browns probably won’t spend one of their high draft picks on a defensive end. It seemed like even the best defensive linemen in the draft were reaches at #4 anyway, so this is good news. The Browns have Sheard, Taylor, Rubin, Rucker, Parker and holdovers like Marcus Benard, Scott Paxson, Brian Sanford, Brian Schaefering, Emmanuel Stephens and Jayme Mitchell. Hold on there, Jayme Mitchell.

Will Burge from ESPN Cleveland reported on the first day of free agency that Mitchell’s people were trying to contact the Browns, presumably to figure out his future. My guess is they were trying to secure his release. Regardless, the Browns will probably draft a defensive end somewhere in the draft, but it won’t be all that high, considering their signings. [Read more...]

NFL Free Agency: Peyton Hillis got paid… a little bit

When Mike Holmgren stated that sometimes it is good for both sides to have a fresh start, he really meant it. Right or wrong, there should be no question going forward just how little the Browns wanted Peyton Hillis back. The Chiefs got themselves a really good speculative bargain in their reported 1-year $3 million deal.

Per a source with knowledge of the contracts, Hillis receives a fully-guaranteed base salary of $1.4 million, along with a $1 million fully-guaranteed roster bonus that comes due over the weekend.

The only fluff comes from $400,000 in per-game roster bonuses.  If he has, say, strep throat and can’t play in a given game, he won’t earn $25,000.

PFT are the masters of getting down to business when it comes to NFL contracts. The good news for Hillis is that $2.6 million of the $3 million is guaranteed. The bad news is that it is a far cry from the offer the Browns reportedly offered to Hillis during this past season.

Remember that Tony Zarella reported the Browns wanted to sign Hillis to a 3-year deal guaranteeing $3 million, but dangling as much as $16.5 million total in front of him. Granted those incentives could have been hard to earn, but it sure sounds better.

Just goes to show how much the Browns soured on the distracted, injured back.

[Related: Browns offer to Hillis guarantees $3 million]

For the Browns, the plan must be revealed at some point

I’ll buy that it was too expensive to bring back Eric Steinbach at his exorbitant cap number. I’ll also buy that Peyton Hillis is more trouble than he is worth. Yes, even at a one-year $3 million price tag. In all honesty, neither one of those players did anything to help the Browns win a game last year. O.K., that’s not 100% true. Hillis did play in one game last year in which the Browns were victorious against Indianapolis, but you know what I mean. I’m a reasonable man and I’ll buy that the Browns would be better off spending that $9-ish plus million elsewhere. But, today I’ll admit it is really tough to swallow.

Yesterday there were rumors of the Browns trying to trade for Ben Tate. That’s really exciting. That is more exciting than a one-year deal for Peyton Hillis for $3 million. In Tate, the Browns would have a potential top half of the league NFL starting running back to put in front of Brandon Jackson, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and whoever else ends up being in the mix at running back. (I’m still hopeful for Armond Smith, but I know that’s kind of a personal lottery ticket kind of situation.)

The point today though is that the Browns do not even have Peyton Hillis let alone Ben Tate. The Browns don’t have Eric Steinbach or anyone even rumored to replace him. [Read more...]

NFL Free Agency: Browns Didn’t Offer Contract to Peyton Hillis

Despite the Cleveland Browns front office claiming to have desire to retain running back Peyton Hillis, reports are circulating that the team never made an offer prior to Hillis’ acceptance of a one-year deal in Kansas City.

Hillis had rehired his old agent Jimmy Sexton with hopes of staying in Cleveland. He had also gone on record to state that he would be willing to take a “hometown discount” with the front office insinuating that the parties would look at terms that were financially feasible for both sides. Less than 24 hours into the free agency period, the back who amassed over 1,200 yards in 2010 agreed to a deal that would pay him $3 million in a reserve role.

The Browns running attack will enter camp with Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, and any off-season additions. They will likely also need help on the offense of line having recently released Tony Pashos and Eric Steinbach.

Presently, the only speculation involving the Cleveland backfield regards interest in Houston Texans running back Ben Tate. The team has also been linked to running back Trent Richardson whom the team could potentially select with the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. 

[Related: NFL Free Agency: Where’s all the Browns money?]

(Source: Mary Kay Cabot)

NFL Free Agency: Peyton Hillis to visit Chiefs

Finally some Browns free agency news. Oh wait.

Peyton Hillis might be looking to re-unite with the only guy not named Shanahan who made him successful as he’s reportedly set to meet with Brian Daboll’s Kansas City Chiefs.

The Peyton Hillis saga has been a roller coaster for a long time. The Browns have most recently been on record saying they’d be interested in bringing him back despite not getting a deal done before he became an unrestricted free agent.

Hillis is also on record saying he wants to be back in Cleveland. Whether he decides to give the Browns another look after Kansas City remains to be seen.

Hillis might be a nice counter-balance to Jamaal Charles for the Chiefs.

[Related: Peyton Hillis Tries to Set The Record Straight, Professes Love For Cleveland]

NFL Free Agency Rumor: Hillis back to original agent, Sexton

The Hillis game of musical chairs appears to be coming to an end once again and Jimmy Sexton seems to have found a chair again. According to a source who talked to ProFootballTalk, Hillis will welcome back his old agent.

Now, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Hillis plans to re-hire Jimmy Sexton, who has since joined CAA. Per the source, Ben Dogra of CAA also will be involved in the representation.

Again, nobody knows exactly what any of this means for Peyton Hillis and his future with the Cleveland Browns. All we know is that the Browns will have an “exclusive” window to negotiate before next Tuesday March 13th. Of course exclusive goes into quotes because there is all sorts of alleged tampering that takes place in supposedly exclusive negotiating windows, so we’ll see.

[Related: Is Hillis' agent change good for the Browns?]