July 31, 2014

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.

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Cleveland Browns don’t get a second chance at a first impression

FirstEnergy Stadium Steelers

I really wonder how much of Joe Banner’s legendary arrogance is dripping over in Berea right now. We’ve all heard the stories from Philly about power struggles and ego that I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume the Browns are operating with a fair amount of arrogance, do you? How else can you explain the fact that the Browns – despite losing one of their QBs to an ACL injury in early October – are headed into a week of regular season NFL action with their third ((used to be first, but currently is undoubtedly third)) QB slated to start with no actual backup on the roster? (Caleb Hanie might be signed by the time you’re reading this, but the point stands.) How else do you explain some trading maneuvers, that even if smart in the long run, have left their team woefully thin at the end of their very first NFL campaign at the helm? Regardless of how you feel about the future and how the Browns have set themselves up, there’s no denying that this year’s team has under-performed in a down year in the division with a somewhat easy schedule.

This isn’t to question all the Browns’ moves or their future. The Browns don’t need Shamarko Thomas (the guy who was taken with the draft pick they traded to Pittsburgh) and hindsight proves pretty well that they didn’t need Trent Richardson. That doesn’t mean that the Browns don’t need a running back at all, however. Further, their game on Sunday against a largely disappointing Steelers team indicates they’re in need of plenty more. [Read more...]

NFL News: Kellen Winslow Jr. suspended four games for performance enhancing substances

Former Cleveland Browns first round draft pick tight end Kellen Winslow has reportedly been suspended for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. It was just this past week that my Twitter timeline came alive as Jon Gruden called Kellen Winslow a good story on Monday Night Football. Apparently it was too good to be true.

Winslow has battled injuries his entire career thanks to a devastating motorcycle crash that likely still sits fresh in Cleveland Browns fans’ minds. Even still, Winslow was a beast for the Browns in 2007 catching 82 balls for over 1100 yards and five touchdowns. Winslow was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Eric Mangini took over for Romeo Crennel. It was a painful trade for Browns fans, but many understood the need for it as Winslow had been rumored to have an attitude problem in the huddle and elsewhere. The Browns received a second rounder in 2009 and a fifth rounder in 2010 for the battered target.

Winslow’s comeback this year was an interesting story. After playing only one game and making one reception for the Patriots, Winslow had played in the Jets’ first five games and had 17 receptions and two touchdowns. It’s still interesting, I guess, but for wholly different reasons now.

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

Cleveland Sports Life Boat – Browns Head Coaches

Browns Coach Life Boat

I am a huge fan of the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM Satellite radio. They do a bit on the radio called life boat, and I’m borrowing it for Cleveland sports. Here’s how it works. There are four people and only three seats remaining on the life boat. You must work your way through the list of candidates and, unfortunately, someone is designated to try their hand at long-distance swimming.

A couple rules.

1. You MUST pick three people to ride in the boat. “Let them all drown!” isn’t an interesting answer and frankly, you’re not funny. It’s been done, so skip it.

2. Don’t use an overly silly premise for your answer. Life boat is a silly enough premise where you aren’t going to “wow” anyone with your take that you should “keep the fatter guy because at least when we turn to cannibalism, we’ll have someone tasty to eat!”

So, this Cleveland sports life boat is Browns coaches. The candidates are:

Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur  [Read more...]

Browns fans are very familiar with ugly season-ending games

So who is the backup for the backup?

As Scott told us today, Thad Lewis, recently called up from the practice squad, got the first team reps today in Berea. That’s right. Not Brandon Weeden with a bum shoulder. Not Colt McCoy, also with a bum shoulder. Thaddeus Lewis. Just a reminder, Lewis is a 25-year-old from Duke with a much-heralded arm and some decent athletic ability. He’s been with the Browns since Pat Shurmur arrived having originally been with the Rams via undrafted free agency in 2010.

Although not the exact same scenario, this reminded me of another season-ending game against Pittsburgh when the Browns had no healthy quarterbacks left and signed Bruce Gradkowski to play. Obviously this is a bit different because Thad Lewis has been with the Browns, played with them in pre-season and has been in practice all year. Regardless, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember what that final day of the NFL season was like. [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...]

Quinn: Romeo Crennel has been a “steady force” in wake of tragedy

Romeo was huge [this past week] — he was kind of that steady rock. In the midst of everything, he obviously witnessed it so he knew he had to put it on himself to not only communicate what happened, but at the same time, lead us because there was going to be so much emotion involved — a lot of guys searching, seeing how they should respond. He was obviously emotional, and rightfully so. After that, he was able to be that steady force on this team.

– Former Cleveland Browns quarterback on head coach Romeo Crennel, Wednesday, via conference call. Crennel had been largely criticized for having lost the locker room in the wake of the 2008 collapse when both men were with the Cleveland Browns. “You have to be willing to climb to get a higher vantage point,” added the quarterback when talking about dealing with adversity throughout his career. Crennel credits his parents’ strength helped him get through last week’s tragedy.

[Related: TV Review: “Road Tested” entertaining, unfocused, and effective]

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...]

Bills vs. Browns – Reader Survey

Last week Browns fans thought the team would lose 24-20 to the Bengals. In the end the Bengals won 34-27. All things considered, that doesn’t seem like an awful prediction. The Browns finished within a score even if everyone scored more than Browns fans thought they would. So this week, the Browns have the Bills coming in. The Bills got torched by the Jets in week one, and torched Romeo Crennel’s KC team in week two. So, it will be interesting to see which story you’re believing about the Browns’ opponent and the Browns themselves.

Colt McCoy Through the Lens of Brady Quinn

Browns fans are understandably terrified of a QB controversy. The days of Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn (not to mention Charlie Frye) will do that to you. I’ve already been on record that I think it is a possibility that Colt McCoy might beat out Brandon Weeden, at least initially, because of his experience in the Browns’ offense. Still, despite all the moving parts and an ultimate desire to win ASAP, some Browns fans are so bitten by the Brady Quinn past that they think the only option is for Colt McCoy to be gone.

They might be right. I might be missing the boat completely on this thinking that this mix of quarterbacks can coexist. It does seem similar to Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn in some ways. On the one hand you have the somewhat smaller guy with questionable arm strength with Colt McCoy and Brady Quinn. On the other you have a guy who fits the stereotypical QB mold in terms of height and ability to hurl the ball like Derek Anderson and Brandon Weeden. And other than that, there just isn’t much similarity between the controversies of the past and potential conflict now.

One of the biggest problems with the D.A. vs. B.Q. situation was that Browns fans kept echoing the sentiment that “we need to see what we have in Brady Quinn.” That phrase became so common at one point that it made me want to scream just because everyone was using the same exact phrase. Is there anything worse than a localized cliché that peppers sports talk radio and website comment sections? I digress. The current situation with Colt McCoy is totally different than when we had to see “what we have in” Brady Quinn. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting…Grading The Sessions Trade, Tribe Bullpen Battles, Browns Quarterback Questions

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

Grading the Cavaliers’ trade of Ramon Sessions: “I was on the fence about their move of Sessions, because I’m so high on him. Yes, he was expiring and would be leaving. Yes, they only had 20-some-odd games left with him. But couldn’t they get better value than terrible contracts with another year left on them and a 25-plus pick? Then I thought more about it, and saw that the Cavs also got the right to swap their Heat pick obtained in the LeBron James sign-and-trade in 2013 with the Lakers’ pick, which could be substantially worse if the Lakers don’t improve considerably on their older core.

The Cavs now could have four first-round picks in 2012 and more picks in the future. They can package to move up or for a player. If yoiu’re rebuilding, this is the way to go. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and picks on picks on picks.

It’s a big-picture plan, and a good one.” [Eye On Basketball/Matt Moore]

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While We’re Waiting…Quiet Browns Offseason, Indians Offseason Improvements, Romeo Crennel Returns!

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

Can there really be such a thing a a quiet offseason in Browns town? “When did this become Browns fans’ last stand at the Alamo?

Are we really wondering about blowing everything up, or spending a bazillion dollars in free agency next year, or intimating that Pat Shurmur should be fired?

Maybe the news that they plan to hire an offensive coordinator isn’t enough to satisfy the bloodlust we’ve developed over the past four years.

Think about it—this very well could be the most boring offseason the Browns have had since 2008. We’ve seen a major player get hired or fired every year since then. Here’s a recap of that carnage up until now, starting in 1999, and getting pretty aggressive as we arrive at the present.” [Jimmy Weinland/Dawg Pound Daily]

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Former Brown Says Mangini “was a bad head coach.”

Vince Grzegorek at Scene posted a quote yesterday from a former “player” for the Cleveland Browns, Nate Jackson.  You don’t remember the tenure of Nate Jackson as a member of the Cleveland Browns?  I am guessing I might be able to find him if I search old roster moves on NFL.com, but he doesn’t have any stats applied to his name since 2008.  Apparently, though, he was on the roster of the Cleveland Browns last year in Eric Mangini’s final year in Berea.  Here’s the quote.

I was only in Cleveland for one week, but as I wrote last year, I was there long enough to figure out that his coaching style was so interactive as to be intrusive. He peppered his players with fourthdownulator-esque studies, made them memorize those figures, then called upon them in meetings and forced them to stand and recite them. Players were visibly shaken by the process. This was not the football they knew. They had notes scattered about their laps and desks, nervously hoping they wouldn’t be asked to stand and tell Mangini what percentage of the time field goals are made by a left-footed kicker from the right hash-mark facing south with an east-to-west wind in the second quarter of Thursday night games in November. It’s hard to play your best with these things on your mind.

Mangini was a bad head coach. He couldn’t reconcile his scientific approach to the game with the real-time lack of science that was needed to play it. He took it too far and lost his team. [Read more...]

For the Browns, Pat Shurmur’s Debut Just the Latest In a Long Line of Rough Starts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The Cleveland Browns, coming off a couple disappointing seasons, make a coaching change. The new coach comes in, the front office is happy, the players are excited about the change, the fans are fired up with all the hope and optimism that this new coaching regime is going to bring.

And then the season starts. And without fail, it starts with a spectacular display of failure. A stagnant offense that seems incapable of converting 3rd downs in the 2nd half when just one measly TD would seemingly put the game away. And then there’s the bizarre/boneheaded play that turns the game in the opponents’ favor, and just like that everything seems exactly the same as it has always been. [Read more...]

Time to Forget the Wildcat

I know it seems like I am really trying to rain on Josh Cribbs’ parade lately, what with my talk about kickoffs, etc.  I still love Josh Cribbs as a player and certainly as a Cleveland Brown off the field.  Unfortunately, I need to say that the wildcat formation is over.  You never want to be the last person sporting your “Where’s the beef?” t-shirt.  At least the wildcat fad will be able to say that it lasted longer than Charlie Sheen’s “winning” catch-phrase, right?  It was a gimmick that worked in Miami for the Dolphins and showed a bit of promise on occasion for the Browns with Josh Cribbs.  That being said, it is a gimmick for teams that have trouble moving the ball in a traditional fashion.

Look at the place where it was most successful.  The Dolphins employed the wildcat in the third game of the 2008 NFL season to provide a spark to the offense with a different look.  In this case, the Dolphins were having trouble generating offense in the passing game between Chad Pennington and receivers Ted Ginn, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, and Anthony Fasano.  It helped the Dolphins get to the playoffs where they lost in the wildcard round to the Baltimore Ravens. [Read more...]

The Browns and Their New Plan

I don’t want everyone to jump on me for this post as if I am supporting Mike Holmgren and the Browns blindly.  I am not.  The Browns have done a few things that leave me scratching my head.  I am still a little befuddled that they hired Pat Shurmur and immediately allowed him to call his own plays.  The overall timing of letting Eric Mangini stay a year before the potential lockout is also a beard-tugging maneuver.  Even with some of those things, I think I do understand what the Browns are trying to accomplish and why they made the moves they did.

I still think Eric Mangini has a future in the NFL.  I also think he did more good than bad in his time in Cleveland.  As it turns out, Mangini caused a lot of his own problems and simultaneously found himself the victim of circumstances created by Randy Lerner.  Life isn’t fair.  Life in the NFL isn’t fair either, but at least you get a lot of money for putting up with it.  If Eric Mangini did more good than bad with decidedly little talent, then how can I say that I understand the Browns and their new plan?

Again, I am not saying it is a lock to work, but I understand the thinking.  Consider the Browns as a factory.  They produce widgets and their success is determined by the number of widgets they produce on an annual basis. [Read more...]

Coaches Are Made, Not Hired

(Update: The hiring of Pat Shurmur is official)

As the Browns are reportedly on the verge of hiring Pat Shurmur to be their next head coach, most Cleveland fans don’t get it.

The hand-wringing and sniping reminds me of all that TV footage of Jets fans complaining about their team’s draft picks live on TV over the years.  Point being, just because you don’t know anything about Shurmur doesn’t mean that he isn’t the right guy for the job.

“But he doesn’t have a track record that we can look at like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher!”  Neither did Mike Tomlin or John Harbaugh to name two men who we see a combined four times per year.

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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...]

Breaking News: Eric Mangini Has Been Fired

Whether it is fair or not will probably be debated for a long time, but we finally have word that Eric Mangini is out of a job in Cleveland.  

Mike Holmgren reportedly made the move this morning, in a meeting with Mangini who has two years left on his contract with the Browns.  

Mangini leaves behind a mixed legacy with two 5-win seasons of work that will appear sub-par in the record books.  He will also leave some with the negative images of Randy Lerner fumbling a major organizational hand-off.

Eric Mangini was fired from his previous head coaching position with the New York Jets on December 29, 2008.  Mangini was then interviewed and subsequently hired by Randy Lerner and the Cleveland Browns on January 7, 2009.  This was on the heels of Lerner’s housecleaning sweep of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage. [Read more...]