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Browns Training Camp Preview: 25 questions about the roster

Jul 23, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Welcome back, football: The Browns open the Mike Pettine coaching era with the start of training camp this week. Rookies report on Wednesday, veterans on Friday. Saturday is the first practice open to the public.

Our week of previews continues.

Monday: The 10 most important Browns heading into training camp.

Tuesday: The top position battles.

Wednesday: Twenty-five questions from every angle of the Browns’ roster.

Thursday: Ranking the top 50 Browns entering training camp.

Friday: Our favorite Browns training camp memories.

25 questions from every angle of the Browns’ roster

In the preseason “power rankings” professed by various football Websites, the Browns have registered as high as No. 22 and as low as No. 31. Neither placing is much to brag about.

The optimists point to expected improvements in the running game and defense, and a revamped football operations department now united in one goal instead of infected by personal agendas.

The pessimists see a team disjointed by another coaching change, and lacking offensive playmakers and stability at the quarterback position.

By virtue of their last-place finish (again), the Browns are one of eight teams that can go from worst to first in their division. It has happened 11 consecutive years in the NFL.

For the Browns to be that team, the majority of the following questions at each of their position groups have to be answered affirmatively.

Quarterback

1. Can Brian Hoyer’s body hold up over training camp and a full regular season?

2. Has Johnny Manziel put in the study time to make up ground on Hoyer from the beginning of their competition?

3. Does Tyler Thigpen or Connor Shaw have enough game to merit a roster spot or does a new No. 3 candidate need to be found?

Running back

4. Can Ben Tate have an injury-free camp?

5. All things being equal, can rookie Terrance West really challenge Tate for the starting spot?

6. Can Dion Lewis impress the new coaching staff like he did the last one?

7. Will the coaches utilize a hybrid fullback or finally relocate a traditional one?

Offensive line

8. Can Alex Mack become a mobile force in the running game, like the coaches expect, in the zone-blocking scheme?

9. Will right tackle Mitchell Schwartz be challenged by Chris Faulk or someone else?

10. Will Joel Bitonio’s nastiness rub off on the rest of the starting unit?

Wide receiver and tight end

11. Will Josh Gordon’s agent be able to negotiate an agreement with the NFL that allows him to play at least a portion of the season?

12. Can anyone emerge as a dependable outside threat in Gordon’s expected absence?

13. Can the Browns sign Jordan Cameron to a new deal or does he parlay a big year on the field into a free agency payday in 2015?

Defensive line

14. Do the Browns re-sign Ahtyba Rubin to lower his cap number, or will this be his last season in Cleveland?

15. Is this the year Desmond Bryant pays dividends on his big 2013 contract?

16. Does Jabaal Sheard line up more as a defensive end or as an outside linebacker in Mike Pettine’s defense?

Linebacker

17. Can the new coaches get more production out of Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo?

18. Will Karlos Dansby be a force in the middle like he was with Arizona?

Defensive back

19. Will Justin Gilbert be signed to avoid missing any practice time?

20. How long will it take for the Joe Haden-Gilbert tandem to resemble the Hanford Dixon-Frank Minnifield dynamic duo of the 1980s?

21. Is Donte Whitner’s bite bigger than his bark?

22. Can Tashaun Gipson elevate his game and become a turnover-maker in the Pettine defense?

Other

23. Can Travis Benjamin, a.k.a. the Rabbit, return from ACL surgery and electrify the team with many happy returns?

24. How many game-winning opportunities will Billy Cundiff get this year?

25. Will Pettine and his staff beat the odds and make it to a second season?

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns Training Camp Preview: The top position battles

Jul 22, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

The Morning Kickoff …

Welcome back, football: The Browns open the Mike Pettine coaching era with the start of training camp this week. Rookies report on Wednesday, veterans on Friday. Saturday is the first practice open to the public.

Our week of previews continues.

Monday: The 10 most important Browns heading into training camp.

Tuesday: The top position battles.

Wednesday: Twenty-five questions from every angle of the Browns’ roster.

Thursday: Ranking the top 50 Browns entering training camp.

Friday: Our favorite Browns training camp memories.

The top position battles

For a team that has lost 11 or more games for six consecutive seasons – and is embarking on its fifth coach in the last seven years – the low number of legitimate position battles at Browns training camp is amazing.

I count three – quarterback, inside linebacker and wide receiver.

Some might include No. 2 cornerback, running back and guard. While I will review those “battles” in this story, I don’t consider them legitimate. I feel the starters at these positions are pre-determined but could change if the favorites falter in training camp.

As usual, the marquee position battle is at quarterback. I think it’s the fifth “quarterback competition” in 16 seasons since the Browns were reborn in expansion in 1999. (It’s hard to keep track.) This one will trump all the previous ones because of the presence of TMZ icon, leading NFL jersey-seller and emerging local pitchman Johnny Manziel.

Manziel’s enormous national celebrity has dwarfed the local storyline of Brian Hoyer finally getting his first career opportunity to take over a team – and it being his hometown team, to boot. This strange dynamic has cast Hoyer in the role of underdog, if not nonentity, nationally.

Most national analysts casually dismiss Hoyer’s chances of winning the starting job because of the palpable perception that owner Jimmy Haslam and President Alec Scheiner want Manziel on the field for marketing purposes. After all, the Browns were promoting Manziel jersey sales on their official Website less than an hour after he was drafted 22nd overall on May 8. Within days of drafting Manziel, the club reported a 4,000 increase in season ticket sales. Convesely, prior to the draft and the arrival of Manziel, positive reports of Hoyer’s recovery from ACL surgery barely nudged the ticket meter.

Objective analysts see Hoyer clearly ahead of Manziel as the two meet on level ground at the start of training camp. But even the staunchest proponents of Hoyer acknowledge the challenge ahead for the Cleveland native entering his fifth NFL season.

Joe Linta, Hoyer’s agent, asserted in an interview with ESPNCleveland.com in June, “I think the way it’s going to go, Brian’s going to have the first at bat and the leash will be short.”

1. Quarterback: Brian Hoyer v. Johnny Manziel

They are polar opposites in experience, background, public persona and playing style. They share one common trait on the field, however – an ultra-competitive gene that compels teammates to follow them. Coach Mike Pettine has stated that Hoyer was clearly ahead in the minicamps, but his lead was not insurmountable. The new coaches were won over prior to the draft by Hoyer’s commitment to his profession and his fierce determination to seize the opportunity of his first NFL starting assignment. But there is no denying the coaches were smitten by Manziel and, in fact, were influenced by his draft-day texts to trade up and select him in the first round. This quote from QB coach Dowell Loggains should not be forgotten: “I knew, as soon as I decided to come take this job in Cleveland, I knew that our owner liked Johnny a lot.”

2. Inside linebacker: Craig Robertson v. Chris Kirksey

Entrusted with myriad responsibilities by former coordinator Ray Horton, Robertson suffered in pass coverage. So much so that Pettine and his defensive staff identified a coverage linebacker as a dire priority. Kirksey played outside linebacker at Iowa but timed well enough to be projected as an instant contributor on third-down coverage packages. When GM Ray Farmer selected Kirksey 71st overall in the third round, he consciously assessed the linebacker a surer contributor than any of the wide receivers left on the board from a deep crop.

3. Wide receiver: Nate Burleson v. Miles Austin v. Travis Benjamin v. Charles Johnson v. Anthony Armstrong v. five undrafted free agents

If you subtract Josh Gordon, who probably will be lost to an NFL suspension, and Andrew Hawkins, who is fairly restricted to the No. 3 (slot receiver) position, this is what’s left. Burleson will be 33 by season’s start and Austin is 30. Benjamin and Johnson are returning from ACL surgeries and may be limited at the start of camp. Armstrong is 31 and has 10 receptions in NFL games in the past three years. Without Gordon, this position group is the weakest on the roster. The possibility of a trade for a surer thing exists, but Pettine and Farmer have repeatedly expressed nonchalance about reaching for one.

4. Cornerback: Justin Gilbert v. Buster Skrine

Pettine drove the move to trade down in the first round and pass up stud receiver Sammy Watkins to select Gilbert as the press-corner opposite Joe Haden. Theoretically, Gilbert’s arrival enables Skrine to concentrate exclusively on the slot cornerback role. If Gilbert doesn’t nail down the starting spot from Game One, it will be a huge disappointment.

5. Running back: Ben Tate v. Terrance West v. Dion Lewis v. Isaiah Crowell v. Edwin Baker

Tate was considered the automatic starter and rescuer of the running game until West was drafted in the third round and impressed in the minicamps. Farmer also endorsed the undrafted but talented Crowell as a contender. Lewis was impressive last preseason, conjuring images of scatback Darren Sproles, until he broke a leg. No returning player suffered more from the coaching change. Hard to believe, but Baker finished the 2013 season as the starting back and co-led the team in rushing TDs with two.

6. Guard: Joel Bitonio v. John Greco v. Paul McQuistan v. Jason Pinkston v. Garrett Gilkey

Bitonio, the second-round draft pick, and Greco, are the clear favorites to start at the guard spots. Bitonio suffered a high ankle sprain in OTAs and was shut down in June, but is expected to be ready to compete at the start of camp. If not, any delay from the practice field will cost Bitonio dearly and give McQuistan, a 40-game starter at three positions the past three seasons for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the upper hand to start with Greco. Gilkey took reps at center in OTAs, a signal he is being groomed as a backup at three interior positions.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns Training Camp Preview: The 10 most important Browns

Jul 21, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

The Morning Kickoff …

Welcome back, football: The Browns open the Mike Pettine coaching era with the start of training camp this week. Rookies report on Wednesday, veterans on Friday. Saturday is the first practice open to the public.

A week of previews begins today.

Monday: The 10 most important Browns heading into training camp.

Tuesday: The top Browns position battles of training camp.

Wednesday: Twenty-five questions from every angle of the Browns’ roster.

Thursday: Ranking the top 50 Browns entering training camp.

Friday: Our favorite Browns training camp memories.

The 10 most important Browns players heading into training camp

These aren’t necessarily the 10 best players in camp, but due to circumstances in and out of their control, they could have the biggest impact on the 2014 Browns season.

1. QB Brian Hoyer: Every NFL locker room prefers a proven leader over a rookie at the sport’s most important position. If Hoyer picks up where he left off prior to his torn ACL in October, the team will be in its best position to avoid a typically slow getaway. The first three games before their early bye are against Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore – playoff contenders who would feast on a rookie quarterback. Every returning player believes in Hoyer. But he has to prove he can compete at a high level for 14 or so games – something he has not done in his four-year NFL career.

2. RB Ben Tate: He displayed an attitude and an edge in the minicamps, perhaps provoked by a city-wide love affair with rookie third-round pick Terrance West. The fact is Tate fits the Kyle Shanahan running scheme like a glove and has been very productive in it in Houston – a 4.7-yard rushing average in 10.5 carries a game over three years. Like Hoyer, however, Tate’s durability issues are real. There will be enough attempts for more than one back, but if Tate can seize this career opportunity, he can be the most valuable of all the newcomers on the roster.

3. OLB-DE Jabaal Sheard: Pettine predicted Sheard would have the greatest impact on his defense. Sheard wasn’t awful in his transition to a 3-4 linebacker under former coordinator Ray Horton, but his sacks hit a three-year low and the new coaches surmised Sheard is much better moving forward (rushing the passer) than backward (covering backs or tight ends). Sheard is the hands-down favorite to lead the team in sacks in the new defense. For that reason alone, he is a very important player. Plus, there’s that new contract opportunity dangling out there.

4. CB Justin Gilbert: Make no mistake, Gilbert was drafted to start from Day One. Pettine was the driving force to forsake Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and trade down with Buffalo to draft Gilbert. The coach saw Gilbert as the missing piece in the defensive puzzle. The starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden is going to get thrown at a lot. With his athleticism and the opportunities awaiting him, Gilbert easily can lead the defense in interceptions.

5. TE Jordan Cameron: There are three reasons for Cameron to be the most popular Browns player in fantasy leagues. One, his breakout 2013 season signaled his maturity as an NFL playmaker. Two, the team’s sorry situation at wideout makes Cameron a No. 1 read in the passing game. Three, he’s playing to secure his future financially in his contract year. The key to Cameron’s 2013 season was keeping himself on the field and out of the trainer’s room. If he can do it again, he will lead the team in receptions, yards and touchdown catches.

6. C Alex Mack: While the old regime held Mack in high regard as an upstanding character and dependable anchor on the offensive line, the new one saw him as a certifiable force in the Shanahan zone-blocking scheme. There may not be a returning player who benefits more from the change in coaches and systems.

7. ILB Karlos Dansby: With Arizona, Dansby was the rare inside linebacker who actually made plays, not just tackles. That production from the inside can turn a decent defense into an elite one.

8. OG Joel Bitonio: GM Ray Farmer evaluated this offensive tackle from Nevada ahead of all the second-rung receivers after the top five. The coaches believe Bitonio’s athleticism makes him an ideal pulling guard in the zone-blocking run scheme. Frankly, they want his nasty edge to rub off on the too-docile unit.

9. SS Donte Whitner: Coordinator Jim O’Neil already has labeled him the defense’s “enforcer.” Whitner’s local roots (Glenville HS and Ohio State) and age (29 on July 24) give him an emotional stake in winning now.

10. QB Johnny Manziel: It would not be a failure if Manziel did not win the starting job because it would mean Hoyer is at the top of his game. Manziel is infinitely important, however, because he does represent the future. How he handles the backup role, soaking up Hoyer’s approach to the professional job, will say a lot about Manziel’s ability to lead an NFL team. Given the Browns’ recent history at the QB position – and Hoyer’s lack of proven record – it’s reasonable to assume that Manziel’s time will come sooner than later.

Honorable mention

* WR Nate Burleson: Somebody has to pick up the slack on the outside if Josh Gordon is suspended.

* CB Joe Haden: Taking his game to the next level – added to Gilbert’s emergence – results in a stellar secondary.

* WR Charles Johnson: The unknown quantity of the receiver roster. He looks the part. If he came through, it would lessen the expected loss of Gordon.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Johnny Manziel: 'I'm not going to change who I am'

Jun 27, 2014 -- 12:23pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Johnny Manziel said he is tired of the hype, tired of getting photographed everywhere he goes, tired of seeing his images circulated all over the Internet.

But he’s not going to change his weekend partying lifestyle.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong,” Manziel said at the NFL Play 60 youth clinic at Browns headquarters on Friday. “I’m going out. I mean, everybody on the weekends goes out and enjoys their life and lives their life. Just, for them, they don’t have people that when they walk into a place, they pull out their phones and all they want to do is follow me around and record everything. But my situation is unique and different.

“Now, more than ever, I’ve seen it’s an every weekend thing wherever I’m at, people want to record what I’m doing because they think it’s a story. I’m not doing anything that’s putting me in a harmful situation. I’m not doing anything that’s putting my team or jeopardizing what I do here throughout the week or what I’m looking forward to doing this season.”

For five weekends in a row, Manziel’s images of partying, swigging bottles of champagne, sometimes spraying them, have been recorded from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and Austin and Houston.

The images have raised some concern that Manziel can’t temper his partying. And they have brought an onslaught of advice to slam the brakes on that lifestyle from Hall of Famers such as Joe Montana, Emmitt Smith and Warren Moon.

“Those are Hall of Famers, guys I’ve grown up watching play, that I absolutely respect and have been through this and know what’s going on,” Manziel said. “Just because of what’s reported in the media or what’s getting out on social media doesn’t mean that’s all I’m doing in my life. Just my weekends aren’t what I’m doing seven days a week. That’s two days out of the week and there are five or six other days that I’m here at this building going through my playbook and working out just like every other rookie is.

“Nothing that I’m doing on the weekend is affecting my job, nothing on the weekend that I’m doing is hopefully hurting any of my teammates in the locker room. I think more than anything my teammates are tired of getting asked about me because I’m a low man on the totem pole. I’m just like any other rookie out here that they haven’t been asked about a thousand times. So more than anything I think they’re tired of that. They’re tired of the hype. Which I am as well.

“I want to wake up with a week and not have my name going through something and I’m working on getting better on that. But if I want to go back home and spend time with my friends or go out and enjoy my weekends I absolutely have the right to do that. We’re going to get a little bit of a break here and I’m going to still continue to work out and do the things I need to do and hopefully not let that come between me and my teammates or anything like that.”

Manziel did admit he needs “to have a better understanding” of his surroundings and those around him when he parties.

“(But) I’m not going to change who I am for anybody,” he said, reiterating comments he made after his very first weekend off from Browns’ OTAs last month. “I’m growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again.

“But am I going to live in a shell or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don’t think that’s the way I should live my life and I’m not going to do it. I’m here and I’m very committed to football. And on weekends I’m going to enjoy my time off. I think we deserve it. We work hard here. We’ve worked hard since the draft. We worked hard to get drafted and put ourselves in a good position at the combine, even after that.  I am going to enjoy my time off. I’m very about football, very about my job, which doesn’t get reported. But I am going to enjoy my time off. I think that’s what everybody else does and should do.”

Manziel declined to comment on the most recent video image of him flaunting a wad of money like a cell phone and voicing an expletive while holding a champagne bottle in his other hand. He said he was not going to address “something very far in the past.”

He said he listened intently to words of advice from speakers at the NFL Rookie Symposium and took particular interest in breakout sessions from last year’s rookies and their experiences in their first NFL seasons.

Like all Browns rookies, Manziel will be dismissed from club activities after his four-day orientation at the symposium concludes with a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. He said he will spend parts of his vacation visiting friends and family in Texas, working out in San Diego and fulfilling commitments to LRMR, the marketing firm headed by LeBron James’ childhood friend, Maverick Carter.

When Manziel returns to his first Browns training camp in late July, he said he will be better prepared to compete against Brian Hoyer for the starting quarterback job. He said Browns coach Mike Pettine was “spot on” in analyzing that Hoyer has the lead in the competition but it’s “not insurmountable.”

“I’m still learning. They know that. They know where I’m at. They know it’s hard as a rookie coming from a system that I had – a very simple system – to an NFL complex system,” Manziel said.

“You look at Brian, a guy that’s been in the league 6-7 years and has been with the Patriots, and obviously they’re very regimented and on top of their stuff up there. I look at it more as what I can learn from him from a routine standpoint, from a knowledge standpoint, and where I need to get to. I think when camp starts, I’ll have a better grasp of the playbook. I won’t feel like I’m brand new to everything.

“But still, I think everything coach Pettine said was spot on. That Brian is obviously ahead. He’s been doing this a lot longer than I have. I am a rookie. I have a lot of ground to catch up.”

Manziel said that if he doesn’t win the job right off the bat and has to sit his first season, as he did behind Ryan Tannehill in his true freshman season at Texas A&M, it “wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

“But to say I don’t want to be the starter would be ridiculous. That’s my goal and hopefully I can achieve that,” he said.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns change in communications director reflects another regime change

Jun 27, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

The Morning Kickoff …

More change: The Browns are changing their team spokesman again after the resignation of Zak Gilbert on Thursday.

Gilbert held the position only one year. He was hired by former CEO Joe Banner and fell victim to yet another regime change.

The NFL team public relations director – or director of communications, which was Gilbert’s title – may have the most challenging job in the sport. He or she has to answer to many bosses, but ultimately works most closely with the head coach, who is the team’s face and voice on a daily basis.

The PR director has to toe a fine line of serving the head coach while trying to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of the media who cover the team. The proliferation of social media and Internet Websites, and the over-saturation of network coverage of teams, present even more challenges.

Issues such as media access to players and team personnel and the reporting of injuries place the PR director in a firing line that never ceases. If the PR director tries to be an advocate for the media, he clashes with the head coach. If he merely follows the wishes of the head coach, he clashes with the nattering nabobs of media. It’s a thankless job.

The arrival of Johnny Manziel and the national media circus expected this season creates a whole new layer of challenges for the Browns' communications department. Managing Manziel Mania alone can be a full-time job. Make no mistake, Gilbert's successor will be an important hire for the club.

Why should fans care? The PR director is the conduit between team management and the media. While winning is always the most important thing, an effective PR director can have a positive influence on how a team is covered, and thus, perceived by its fans.

Also, constant change at the PR director level disrupts the consistency of the message the team seeks to send to its fans.

Constant change, of course, has been a hallmark of the Browns since their expansion re-start in 1999.

Here is a snapshot of the changes at the more notable positions in the organization over the past 15 years:

Quarterbacks (started at least one game), 20

1. Ty Detmer (0-2 record), 2. Tim Couch (22-37), 3. Doug Pederson (1-7), 4. Spergon Wynn (0-1), 5. Kelly Holcomb (4-8), 6. Jeff Garcia (3-7), 7. Luke McCown (0-4), 8. Trent Dilfer (4-7), 9. Charlie Frye (6-13), 10. Derek Anderson (16-18), 11. Ken Dorsey (0-3), 12. Brady Quinn (3-9), 13. Bruce Gradkowski (0-1), 14. Jake Delhomme (2-2), 15. Seneca Wallace (1-6), 16. Colt McCoy 6-15), 17. Brandon Weeden (5-15), 18. Thad Lewis (0-1), 19. Brian Hoyer (3-0), 20. Jason Campbell (1-7).

Head coaches, 7

1. Chris Palmer (5-27 record), 2. Butch Davis (24-36), 3. Romeo Crennel (24-40), 4. Eric Mangini (10-22), 5. Pat Shurmur (9-23), 6. Rob Chudzinski (4-12), 7. Mike Pettine (0-0).

General managers, 7

1. Dwight Clark, 2. Pete Garcia, 3. Phil Savage, 4. George Kokinis, 5. Tom Heckert, 6. Mike Lombardi, 7. Ray Farmer.

Public relations/communications, 7

1. Alex Martins, 2. Todd Stewart, 3. Julia Payne, 4. Bill Bonsiewicz, 5. Lisa Levine, 6. Neal Gulkis, 7. Zak Gilbert.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns director of communications resigns

Jun 26, 2014 -- 4:56pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

In the history of the Browns’ expansion era, the least secure positions have been quarterback, head coach and general manager. Throw in head of public relations, too.

We were reminded of that on Thursday when Zak Gilbert resigned as director of communications – just two days removed from his one-year anniversary on the job.

In a statement released by the club, Gilbert said:

“After a lot of thought and discussion, I’ve come to the difficult decision to resign my position as head of the Browns’ communications department. I want to thank everyone in the organization, most particularly Jimmy and Dee Haslam. I’d also like to extend my appreciation to Alec Scheiner, Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer, and thank members of the local media for the relationships we enjoyed. Working for one of the great franchises in pro football, the team with the league’s most loyal fans, was a genuine privilege. I wish the Browns and all of my teammates inside the building nothing but success.”

In the club statement, Scheiner said, “We greatly appreciate Zak's efforts, work ethic and contributions to the Cleveland Browns organization. He has been a true professional, and we wish him and his family the best moving forward."

Gilbert was named to the post on June 24, 2013 by former CEO Joe Banner.

Since that time, the Browns have: Endured another 4-12 season; fired coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff after one season; replaced him with Mike Pettine; fired Banner and GM Mike Lombardi; promoted Ray Farmer to GM; and selected quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft.

After owner Jimmy Haslam “streamlined” his organization with the firing of Banner, Gilbert reported directly to Haslam. Traditionally, team PR chiefs report directly to the head coach or GM because they work so closely with the football operation.

Since 1999, the Browns have had seven different men or women head their public relations or communications department. The demands of the job seem to multiply by the year, and the new challenges of managing Manziel Mania figure to be a priority in filling Gilbert's shoes. 

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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