July 22, 2014

Brandon Weeden visiting Dallas today

Weeden working out wearing his signature series watch

In my experience, Dallas Cowboys fans have some consternation with regard to Tony Romo. In Romo, they’ve got a guy with some clear ability and talent, but he never seems to put them over the top. Romo is nearing his mid-30′s now as an NFL player and makes a ton of money and it’s reasonable to assume that the Cowboys might need to start thinking about the future. It’s hard to believe that thought process begins today when former Browns first round draft pick Brandon Weeden is reportedly visiting Big D.

I’m really trying to be kind to Brandon Weeeden, or at least leave him alone. He tried to be a good quarterback here in Cleveland and much like most players who’ve worn the orange and brown, the organization wasn’t exactly conducive to elevating players. Just consider that Weeden was (over)drafted by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, before they gave way to Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi – the latter of whom everyone knew didn’t like Weeden – before finally being released by Ray Farmer. Names like Pat Shurmur, Norv Turner, Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Davone Bess litter the box scores that make up Brandon Weeden’s time in Cleveland as well.

Sure, there’s no defending Weeden’s record in Cleveland in the end,  but it seems cruel and unusual to keep harping on it. So, I’ll stop. For now.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it funny that someday a Dallas Cowboys fan might be grimacing through some heart-wrenching turnover-laden Tony Romo performance in the near future and look down the bench at Brandon Weeden to provide some relief.

[Related: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has “invitation” to visit Browns]

Browns’ revolving door costing Haslam $50 million

Haslam2Candidly, Jimmy Haslam wasn’t lying when he called the firing of Rob Chudzinski an “expensive decision.” Following the dismissal of the first-year head coach, plenty of talk surrounded the $10.5 million buyout that the Toledo-native would receive along with his pink slip. What didn’t get as much attention was the fact that Chudzinski was simply one line item on the ledger of previous head coaches and front office members to still be on the Browns’ payroll.

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports that this current coaching search will merely be an addition to the $50 million due to those who have been shown the door.

A year prior Haslam decided to part with team president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert, coach Pat Shurmur and their staffs as well, a move that several sources have estimated at having cost him roughly $30 million in all.

Firing Chudzinski, and letting go of high-priced coordinators Norv Turner and likely Ray Horton, will likely cost another $20 million, sources said, and then Haslam is obviously going to have to now pay an entire new coaching staff that is coming on board.

As with most NFL contracts for front office members (and more recently, high first-round draft selections), there is offset language that would allow a bit of a reprieve in the event those who were fired find work elsewhere. La Canfora estimates that even if Chudzinski, Turner or Horton find work as coordinators or collegiate coaches, the amount they will be paid will barely dent what Haslam will be paying for the next several seasons.

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(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

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...]

Counting Down the Worst Cleveland Browns Christmas Gifts – #8

When you live in a world with Amazon.com and professional sports, you just know that you’re going to end up with some really bad team branded products. Those products get searched out this time of year as potential presents for giant sports fans, no matter how ludicrous. In fact sometimes the more inane they are, the more likely they’re chosen as gifts. With that in mind, I decided to identify these gifts and open them up for commentary by WFNY writers and alumni.

Without further ado, I bring you the second of this series… “Browns Crock Pot.”

Browns Crock Pot

Craig: Look, I promise this is the last of the cooking items for a bit. [Read more...]

Video: Cleveland Browns fan burns Brandon Weeden jersey

Nobody in Browns town likes it when the Browns lose, but one fan apparently hated it so much that he filmed the burning of his Brandon Weeden jersey. As I stated on Twitter last week, I haven’t bought a Browns jersey since my Kellen Winslow one was rendered useless. I bet this Browns fan wishes he could say the same. Or maybe pyromania is more exciting than not wasting money on jerseys that are likely to become irrelevant.

[Related: Browns defense disappointed following loss to Detroit Lions]

What do you make of Brandon Weeden? – Cleveland Browns Roundtable

WFNY_roundtable

Craig: The takeaways from this week’s game seem to be setting the tone for the rest of the season. We’re going to continually look to define Brandon Weeden. On one side there will be those who seem to defend him out of hope, those that will bash him out of preemptive judgement, and those that continue to sit and watch and take it all in.

Where are you guys on Brandon Weeden at this point? Do you still have hope and expectations of Weeden that he can be the Browns quarterback? Have you given up on the guy and just wish the Browns could move on right now? Are you in the middle hoping that Weeden somehow proves to be a decent placeholder?

Andrew: Well, first things first, it’s been one game. I have to keep telling myself that, because every last fiber of my instinct is telling me that what we saw is reality. [Read more...]

Scott Raab discusses Bernie Kosar, Peter King, Johnny Manziel and the Tribe – WFNY Podcast – 2013-08-12

WFNY Podcast LogoScott Raab (@ScottRaab64) and Craig Lyndall (@WFNYCraig) talk about all the Cleveland sports topics from Bernie Kosar to the floundering Cleveland Indians. Here’s what else we talked about.

  • Marketing 101 with Brian Spaeth (@brianspaeth)
  • Bernie Kosar’s comments about Kellen Clemens and the Pope
  • When you take local comments national the context changes
  • NFL AM hypocritically mocks Mark Sanchez after slapping Bernie Kosar’s wrists
  • Wolf Blitzer vs. Walter Cronkite
  • Casa D’Barons memories from Scott Raab
  • Peter King and Jeff Fisher sharing the same agent
  • Nate Jackson’s book and how they worked with the same editor
  • Bernie’s demons and how fair game they are
  • Should Joe Banner have apologized for Bernie?
  • Sports has turned into a reality TV show
  • Johnny “Football” Manziel and Scott’s thoughts on that
  • The hatred for people with money from Manziel to Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton [Read more...]

NFL News: Tom Heckert joins Denver Broncos as Director of Pro Personnel

We’ve all just had a lesson in how front offices turn over in an off-season. It feels like a relatively new lesson here in Cleveland. The Browns have decided not to renew some contracts of scouts that were in Berea under former General Manager Tom Heckert.

The timing of waiting until after the draft is apparently pretty commonplace. In Denver the Broncos let Keith Kidd depart after being there since 2009 with Josh McDaniels. That vacated a spot for Tom Heckert who has reportedly joined the organization as Director of Pro Personnel.

In Denver, that position means that Heckert will be underneath John Elway who is the executive vice president of football operations and also the general manager. There’s little doubt that wherever Heckert goes he will have plenty of influence with his resume. Still, it’s interesting how different organizations choose to organize and function.

It will also be a very different task in Denver than it was in Cleveland. Heckert will look to help make every second that’s left of Peyton Manning’s career successful while also helping to plan for the day that Manning can no longer play. It’s not exactly like dealing with Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy, Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur on the way to seeing the team sold out from under your five year plan.

[Related: Browns thoughts on Terry Pluto, ProFootballTalk, “black boxes,” and draft strategy]

Banner Report: Defensive Line

Banner Report LowYou may remember back in 2010 (you know the last time there was a complete overhaul in Berea) we wanted to give incoming President Mike Holmgren a hand evaluating the roster. We are nothing if not equal opportunity. The Browns have a completely new group in charge this year. Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Ray Horton take over a 5-11 team. They have plenty of important decisions to make about the roster between now and the 2013 NFL Draft. WFNY wants to offer our assistance with The Banner Position Reports. Previous reports:LBQBRB, DBs

Let me just crack my knuckles a little bit as I take on the position group that might need the smallest amount of work for the Browns this off-season. If there is any debate at all about Tom Heckert’s ability to acquire talent, I don’t think we should look at this position as proof that he needs to improve. Heckert inherited the premier player on the defensive line in Ahtyba Rubin, but other than that it was all Tom Heckert’s work.

Tom Heckert acquired Phil Taylor with the 21st pick in the 2011 draft after trading with Atlanta, who picked wide receiver Julio Jones. Regardless of whether you like that trade or not, Phil Taylor has done his part to make it look better. Despite being injured last season and only appearing in eight games, the talented mix of size and speed in Taylor is unmistakable. Watching a 6’3″ monster at 335 pounds chase plays down from behind is astonishing. Beyond that, Heckert found really good value in the draft with John Hughes (3rd round) Billy Winn (6th round,)  and undrafted Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. Even with the departures of 4-3 scheme players like Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker, the Browns’ defensive line appears to be in pretty good shape going into 2013. [Read more...]

NFL Rumor: Brandon Weeden could be traded

You never want to be a guy drafted by the previous regime when your future is in doubt. Brandon Weeden had a pretty typical up and down rookie year for a relatively bad team last season. He also played for a pretty questionable (at best) coaching staff and was surrounded by fellow rookies in key skill positions. Still, it seems that the new Cleveland Browns brass might have already seen enough. There are apparently some league rumblings that Weeden could be traded this off-season.

The tidbit from the National Football Post indicates that Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi “don’t think much” of Brandon Weeden. While, they haven’t said much about Weeden recently, we certainly know that Lombardi wasn’t a fan of the selection at the time Tom Heckert1 made the selection. So that’s not at all unreasonable to assume that they “don’t think much” of him.

The Post also says that they could trade him “when they can get something for him.” Not if, mind you, but when. This indicates that either the sources of the rumor, or the writer himself still thinks that Weeden, coming off a very rookie-like season, might still be able to give them something back of value. Then again, “something” isn’t exactly indicative of anything substantial.

One thing’s for sure. Quarterbacks are always in demand in the NFL and someone will always give more than they are worth in trade. Still, it is highly doubtful that the Browns can get anything close to an approximation of the value of the 22nd pick they used a year ago to draft him.

[Related: NFL Draft: Browns should avoid selecting a quarterback early per Mel Kiper]

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Footnotes:

  1. I still always assume Mike Holmgren made the Weeden pick. Sue me. []

Browns Joe Haden on Michael Lombardi criticism, “People make mistakes!”

Joe Haden is far more established than first-year pleasant surprise receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon tweeted earlier “uh oh” upon hearing that Michael Lombardi had been hired for the Browns personnel department. Joe Haden apparently feels much more secure in his spot with the Browns. He seems more forgiving too of some of the pre-draft rhetoric out of Mike Lombardi that maybe Joe Haden wasn’t fast enough.

Michael Lombardi has a lot to prove to Cleveland Browns fans

Michael_LombardiI’ve come a long way with the Cleveland Browns since I started writing about them in the Romeo Crennel era. The hope of being a fan seeped strongly into everything I did and I always looked for ways to think about things working out. I wouldn’t say all that hope and patience is gone, but it is decidedly muted from where it was. It has been replaced by what I think is a healthy dose of skepticism. It isn’t negativity, but when the risks of a situation reveal themselves to me, I now find it most important to point them out. When I wrote about Joe Banner earlier, I had concerns about him not because I don’t believe he’s qualified to be the CEO of the Cleveland Browns, but because he was overseeing another period of massive change. Today, he made another big move when he replaced the recently departed Tom Heckert with Mike Lombardi.

Tom Heckert was a General Manager and Michael Lombardi has been named VP of Player Personnel, which obviously means the position could be slightly different, but Jimmy Haslam used the two job titles pretty interchangeably in press conferences this off-season. It stands to reason that there won’t be any other significant changes to the personnel department and that Michael Lombardi will fill the void between the scouts, coach and CEO that Tom Heckert once did between the scouts, coach and Mike Holmgren. We obviously don’t know exactly how decisions were made with Heckert and company manning the draft and free agency. We also probably won’t know exactly how decisions will be made with Lombardi, Banner and Chudzinski. Point being that there’s really no reason to hit the panic button or call this thing a colossal failure. At least not yet.

Still, I think it’s fair to at least say that Michael Lombardi has a ton to prove. [Read more...]

Browns Josh Gordon on Michael Lombardi, “Uh oh.. Am I in trouble??”

Josh Gordon was selected by the Browns with a second round supplemental draft choice by Tom Heckert. Michael Lombardi wasn’t a big fan of that move as a media NFL critic, and now he finds himself in one of the top positions in the Cleveland Browns organization on the football side. Apparently Josh Gordon has taken notice.

Now whether Gordon was kidding or not, remains to be seen. Gordon had a lot of Browns fans nervous too when he was selected. Gordon had a big rookie season, so it’s easy to go back and call Lombardi out on it now, but it’s also hard to kill him for pointing out that risk and saying a second rounder was too high.

Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong when it comes to evaluating talent and picking players. Lombardi apparently got that one wrong. And I don’t know about you, but I think he got the Joe Haden one wrong too when he said Haden was too slow. But who knows? Lombardi never had the benefit of the scouting and personnel staff that the Browns retained from Tom Heckert’s tenure.

[Related: NFL News: Cleveland Browns Hire Michael Lombardi as VP – Player Personnel]

While We’re Waiting… Francona brings swagger to Cleveland

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.

“There is a new feeling around the Cleveland Indians. It isn’t a feeling of cockiness, but confidence. It’s a feeling of pride in what has been accomplished since the end of a 94-loss season in 2012, and also a focus on the work that is left to be done. It’s a feeling of comfort and trust, while starting so many things different and new. However you try to describe the feeling, it is one created by new Manager Terry Francona.” [Mike Brandyberry/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?] [Read more...]

Browns’ exhaustive coaching search is refreshing

It came out this morning that the Browns’ brass interviewed former Arizona Cardinals coach (and former Pittsburgh coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt. This, on the heels of their interview with Ray Horton and news of their forthcoming interview with Chip Kelly. Those are just the names of candidates that we know of since Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam stationed themselves in Arizona around the Fiesta Bowl where Kelly’s Oregon team is set to face Kansas State tonight. The Browns have been linked to other names as well. Obviously their first move to go to Arizona shows that their first priority is Chip Kelly. Whether or not you like or agree with that, compared to the last two coaching searches in Berea, this one definitely feels different. Different in a good way.

Randy Lerner hired Eric Mangini nine days after he was fired by the Jets. He did so only after failing to land Scott Pioli as his general manager. Lerner spoke to other candidates like Steve Spagnuolo, Josh McDaniels and outgoing Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker before hiring Mangini.  [Read more...]

NFL Rumors: Heckert, Shurmur Could Be Reunited With Andy Reid In Arizona

Mike Jurecki, a talk show host and reporter out of Phoenix, is reporting that not only are the Cardinals closing in on hiring former Eagles head coach Andy Reid for their head coaching opening, but they are looking at former Browns general manager Tom Heckert for their general manager vacancy as well. There’s one other nugget too: Pat Shurmur might be reuniting with Heckert sooner rather than later.

Heckert, you will recall, spent nine years in Philadelphia in various positions, while Shurmur was there for ten seasons as a tight ends and quarterbacks coach under Reid.

Jason La Canfora also supports these rumors and adds that Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress could be headed there as a quarterbacks coach.

However, not so fast, says Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

Related: #1 Moment of 2012: Haslam and Banner Replace Lerner and Holmgren

Browns will hire a head coach, then a GM/director of player personnel

Today Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam spoke to the media about the firings of Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. In that press conference, Jimmy Haslam said the Browns will hire a head coach first, with final say over the 53 man roster. They will then hire a general manager or director of player personnel.

Joe Banner spoke about getting the right fit, the right combination of men in the organization-

“The skill set of the coach should drive the eventual structure of the football department.”

Jimmy Haslam said the primary characteristic he was looking for in the head coach was “strong leadership”.

Banner on the team in place-

“I think we have a foundation to move forward. I think the team was better than it was, but it’s got a ways to go.”

Of course, they mentioned that they will not make any comments on potential candidates during the process.

[Related: Heckert on difference between Colts and Browns]

Haslam: Browns scouting staff will all be retained

One of the biggest concerns about the Browns during the transition is what would happen to the draft if Tom Heckert was let go. This morning the Browns confirmed that they were parting ways with Heckert, so that asked the obvious question about how the Browns would be prepared for the draft. Now, we have an answer.

Before opening up the press conference to questions from the media, Jimmy Haslam made perfectly clear after saying they would allow members of the coaching staff to interview and look for their next jobs that the scouting staff will all be retained.

That’s good news, at least initially. Banner and Haslam also said that they would hire their coach first before looking to the general manager. So, that intimates that the coach will have a whole lot to do with the acquisition of new personnel. That’s Joe Banner’s M.O. in the past with Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

[Related: NFL Report: Trent Richardson admits he played with broken, not just bruised ribs]

Browns Release Statement on Firing of Heckert, Shurmur

Here is the statement from the Browns regarding the firing of GM Tom Heckert and Head Coach Pat Shurmur-

Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur were relieved of their duties as general manager and head coach, respectively, of the Cleveland Browns today, the team announced.

“We felt that these moves were in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns and our future,” said Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam. “I enjoyed getting to know Tom and Pat over the past several months, and want to thank them, not just for their contributions to the Browns, but also the insight they were able to provide. They are both fine men and hope they have the best of success as they move forward with their careers.”

“This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. “Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships. I have a great deal of respect for Tom and Pat, and I want to wish them and their families nothing but the best.”

“I leave the Browns feeling very good about many of the things we accomplished here and the direction in which I believe this team is headed,” Heckert said. “Having been around this franchise growing up, I was really excited for the opportunity to come here three years ago, and I want to thank Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren for making that possible. I also want to acknowledge many of the hard-working people in the Browns organization, especially our player personnel staff, who are outstanding at what they do and supported me immensely in my role. I wish the team nothing but the best as they move forward.”

“I am extremely proud of the players on this team, who I felt made tremendous strides and helped to make the Cleveland Browns relevant again,” Shurmur said. “I want to thank them, as well as my entire coaching staff for making the past two years enjoyable. My coaches are outstanding teachers and even better men. They helped me lead these players through a unique time of transition. This group of players will achieve success soon, and there will be a part of me that will feel very good when that happens.

“I want to thank Randy Lerner, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert for bringing me in and having the faith in me to lead this football team. I am disappointed that we did not win more games, but I do know the Browns are on their way to becoming a consistent winner. I appreciated the time spent with Jimmy (Haslam) and Joe (Banner), and wish them all the best as they provide a new vision for the Cleveland Browns.”

[Related: Shurmur and Heckert have been fired]

Glazer, Mortensen reporting Shurmur and Heckert have been fired

The worst kept secret in Berea is that Head Coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert will be fired.

Jay Glazer and Craig Mortensen are now reporting that the pair have been let go and the team will make an announcement at 9:45 this morning to make the firings official.

The Browns were 9-23 in two seasons under the 47-year-old Shurmur. His status became tenuous once new owner Jimmy Haslam III took over the team and president Mike Holmgren exited the organization.

FoxSports.com earlier reported Shurmur’s dismissal. The Browns have a Monday morning news conference scheduled.

In his first season as coach, Shurmur didn’t have an offseason to get to know his players, much less install an offense, because of the lockout. In his second season, he started three rookies on offense, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson.

“We felt that these moves were in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns and our future,” said Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam. “I enjoyed getting to know Tom and Pat over the past several months, and want to thank them, not just for their contributions to the Browns, but also the insight they were able to provide. They are both fine men and hope they have the best of success as they move forward with their careers.”

“This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. “Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships. I have a great deal of respect Tom and Pat, and I want to wish them and their families nothing but the best.”

Stay glued to WFNY today for more details as they emerge.

[Related: NFL Draft- Browns picking 6th]