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Hey Tony!

Jan 19, 2013 -- 6:00pm


By Tony Grossi

The Hey Tony inbox went haywire on Friday when Mike Lombardi was introduced as Browns vice president of player personnel. Later that afternoon, Ray Horton was announced as the new defensive coordinator. Those topics buried the news of Rod Chudzinski’s introduction as head coach earlier in the week.

Hey Tony: I understand the justifiable criticism of Lombardi’s past failures in the draft and his prognostications on TV, but there has to be some hits on his behalf. Please tell me some so I don't have to waste gas money getting to the 480 bridge.

-- Todd, Shelby, OH

Hey Todd: The first draft pick made by Bill Belichick in Cleveland was Eric Turner in 1991. He was the only player drafted by Belichick and Lombardi in five years that made the Pro Bowl.

Browns DC Ray Horton    Photo/Getty

Hey Tony: Just want to start out by thanking you for your coverage of the Browns. For a person that lives pretty far from Cleveland you are the top dog to get Browns news and opinions from. My question pertains to the defensive side of the ball. With the hiring of Ray Horton, who is undoubtedly a fantastic coach, brings with it a change to the 3-4 defense. My question is how do you see the current personnel on the defensive side of the ball fitting into this scheme. Could you see Rubin or Taylor starting at Nose tackle next year? And do you think Sheard can transition into a 3-4 rush linebacker?

-- Alex, New Brunswick, Canada

Hey Alex: Rob Chudzinski has talked of employing a “hybrid” defense, which would fluctuate from 3-4 to 4-3 based on opponent and other factors. That’s easier said than done. If Horton switches completely to a 3-4, I think Taylor or Rubin would be mainstays at nose tackle, but it wouldn’t be prudent to bench either. Could either play DE in a 3-4? Possibly Taylor, but not Rubin. Moving Sheard to rush linebacker is a projection. Nothing about switching to a 3-4 excites me.

Hey Tony: I'm 26 and part of the lost generation of Browns fans (I recall seeing 3 playoff games and 3 winning seasons my whole life). The thing that angers me most about Mike Lombardi's press conference is how insulting they were in saying this hiring just came about. When I wake up every morning the first thing I do, like many other Browns fans, is to check on Browns news. Not local or national news, you know the stuff that really matters, but Browns news. The Lombardi link has been reported both nationally and locally for months now and I feel like they are insulting my intelligence by saying otherwise. I've become apathetic to the Browns at this point and am strongly considering jumping on the Chargers ship. Similar situations, but they went in a new, fresh direction rather than resorting to the old boy's club of connections.

-- Andrew, San Diego, CA

Hey Andrew: Don’t jump ship. When the Browns win again, you will want to be a part of it.

Hey Tony: In all the confusion over Banner/Chud/Lombardi I have to say this is the best 2 coordinators we have had hands down since coming back. Norv Turner is no doubt a top 5 O cord in the NFL and Ray Horton would most likely be a head coach by now if not for the huge offensive collapse by the Cardinals this year. Very excited about the 2 men running the O and D this next year.

-- Michael, Galena, OH

Hey Michael: I’m confident in the coaching changes. The personnel department changes? Not so.

Hey Tony: Looks like the Browns will have new uniforms come 2014. Since the helmet won't be changed, my suggestion which reflects the current Browns is that the players keep their numbers but the name of each player simply read "Banner". Players will be identified solely by their number, which seems to accurately reflect what players are to the new Browns regime. TRich will now be identified as "Banner" 33, Josh Gordon's jersey would become, "Banner" 13, etc. Would this suggestion be accepted by the NFL?

-- Al, Seven Hills, OH

Hey Al: No.

Hey Tony: With the hire of Ray Horton as DC we'll be transitioning to a 3-4. I know you have mentioned some of the players being able to switch positions and I actually think Billy Winn will make a good DE in 3-4, right? What to you are the keys to being successful in the 3-4 defense? An OLB that can pressure the QB and a NT that can take 2 gaps? I feel like we'll be ok at ILB with Jackson and either Gocong or Fort or something. What about OLB? Could Robertson or JMJ possibly play there or no? I'm praying this works out and we don't go back to a 4-3 in 3 years.

-- Joel, Bowling Green, OH

Hey Joel: The key to the 3-4 is having TWO rush linebackers on the outside. I don’t see one on the current roster. Jabaal Sheard, in my opinion, is too big and still growing to fill the role of outside linebacker. Robertson or James-Michael Johnson are not candidates. D’Qwell Jackson in the 3-4 was not nearly as effective as in the 4-3. I just see no good reason to switch to a 3-4. In Kansas City, Andy Reid looked at his new roster and said the players are suited to what they were playing, which was a 3-4 in the Chiefs’ case. Hopefully, the Browns will assess their roster and keep the 4-3, but I doubt it.

Hey Tony: Do you think Derek Anderson could be our starting quarterback week 1?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Great Caesar’s Ghost, no!

Joe Banner

Hey Tony: When team owner Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns he made a promise to every Cleveland Browns fan, that as owner he would search long and hard seeking to find the very best and the brightest individuals the NFL had to offer with "dynamic leadership" qualities to run his organization. Additionally, he stated it starts by making the absolute right decision at Head Coach. Mr. Haslam continued telling Browns fans that his organizational business philosophy would be patterned and implemented based on what he had learned as minority owner with the Pittsburg Steelers organization. I expected as I think many fans expected that Haslam's CEO, V.P. of Player Personnel and Head Coach would all have been chosen based on their qualifications, experience, and their records of success. With Joe Banner, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Lombardi now in the fold did the Cleveland Browns organization get the "very best and the brightest" the NFL had to offer at each position? Will the Cleveland Browns now be run solely by one individual CEO Joe Banner, who will make the final decisions on re-signing of current players, free agency signings and each future draft selection? Will CEO Joe Banner be the face of the organization we look at in the future when we review the team’s successes or failures?

-- Joe, Palm Desert CA

Hey Joe: For better or worse, the Browns’ fortunes will rise or fall on the brain power of one Joseph Banner.

Hey Tony: Words can't describe how frustrated and utterly disappointed I am with the Lombardi hiring, but as a lifelong fan all I can do is let things play out (yet again!) and hope for the best. It's clear that Haslam has put all of his eggs in Banner's basket, but there's nothing that I've read about or seen in him that leads me to believe that he can turn Cleveland into a true contender. My question to you is if there are any other successful teams in the NFL with this sort of power structure? One with a power-hungry CEO calling all of the shots, no GM, a clueless Owner and an inept lackey for a personnel guy that was poorly regarded around the league. With the way that this inept organization is headed we should just change the name to the Cleveland "Banners" right now. Thank you as always for your great coverage!

-- Hòa, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Hoa: Aw, let the dust settle and give them a chance.

Hey Tony: I was very upset when the Browns fired Heckert, and upset again this morning when they finally admitted that Lombardi will be the guy picking the players. Should I just accept the things that the fans can't control? After all, the name on the door is "Banner."

-- Richard, Pasadena, CA

Hey Richard: See above answer.

Hey Tony: I hear the Banner/Haslam mantra of picking players versus building a team and fitting the pieces. This seems like a load of crap fed to them by Lombardi. Of course GM's and Personnel people must fit players together and be somewhat good at it, right? They don't think Heckert fit the pieces of Gordon, Richardson, and Weeden together? Haslam's quote "Mike, an outstanding evaluator of talent"? At least they had the guts of hiring him directly and not having him lurking about behind the scenes.

-- Tom, Santa Monica CA

Hey Tom: I admit I was surprised that they introduced Lombardi in a press conference. I expected him to be named “executive advisor” and not be subjected to media cross-examination. So there’s that.

Hey Tony: Holmgren came to Cleveland with a five year plan. Haslam and Banner said that was too long and promptly shortened Holmgren’s and Shurmur's opportunity. So far I have found Banner's decisions to be underwhelming. If we aren't knocking at the door of the playoffs in two years, I say Banner gets waived! How long will Haslam give Banner to turn this ship around?

-- Bill, Florence, KY

Hey Bill: On more than one occasion Haslam has said he is not a patient man. I would say two years is long enough to determine if things are going in the right direction.

Hey Tony: All I can really ask is what were the Browns thinking with Lombardi? Are we going to find a new era of drafting "Touchdown" Tommies and Craig Powells (Didn't we get rid of Metcalf to trade down with the 49ers for this pick as well)? He is terrible!?! Do you know if anyone will discuss his track record during the press conference? I'm guessing he has naked photos of Banner, to think that he is an improvement over Heckert. I just might finally come to the end of my time following the browns. Stupid decisions like this will always plague us.

-- Andy, Jacksonville, FL

Hey Andy: Even Banner was moved to say, “I understand that I’m going out on the limb myself by hiring Mike.” And that was after Haslam’s glowing appraisal of Lombardi.

Hey Tony: What the hell are Jimmy & Joe doing? Lombardi? Don't they know his history in Cleveland? This hire put us back to the dark ages of drafting. This is a mad dog in a meat market move. What are they doing?

-- Ken, Bristol, VA

Hey Ken: Banner said it won’t take long for Browns fans to see the smart decisions they are making.

Hey Tony: I am wondering as a lifelong Browns fan should I be concerned. Concerned that the team’s new CEO reminds me a lot of Dallas' president/GM/Owner/Czar. Things worked out pretty well for Dallas when Jimmy Johnson had player personnel authority, not so well since their czar took over. I have read many comments that Browns fans wanted an owner more involved. Well it looks like you just might have what you wished for. I for one like the guys who own a team and defer to people who know what they are truly doing, not just a salary cap guy as it seems here. Also, these Banner /Lombardi rumors worry me. I don't want either one of them anywhere around the draft room but hey I don't own the team; only time will tell but in my opinion, so far everything about this new ownership stinks. What do you think?

-- Will, Montgomery, AL

Jerry Jones   Photo/Getty

Hey Will: I wouldn’t say everything about this new ownership stinks. When Jerry Jones took over as owner of the Cowboys, he made some unbelievable unpopular moves right off the bat – firing Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt. In four years, his team won the Super Bowl. So let’s let it play out. I’m invigorated by the changes.

Hey Tony: Doesn't it seem like there are far too many doom and gloom sentiments during this offseason? Whether it's the perception regarding Banner, why we got this Coach but not that one, who's handling the draft, the uniforms or the turf, doesn't it seem like many people are missing the real story of this offseason? We have an actively engaged Owner! Doesn’t this trump everything else? I'm so glad our part time Ownership has been replaced. On the rest, let's wait and see for now.

-- Doug, Orange, CA

Hey Doug: You can’t blame the Browns fan base from reacting to each and every move with passion.  It’s what makes Browns fans unique, in my opinion.

Hey Tony: Is there any evidence to support the notion that the deal to sell the naming rights was in the works prior to the sale to Mr. Haslam?

-- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: I have heard that Jim Ross, the Browns’ executive who spearheaded the deal, actually started working on it in May. That would be a full month before the Lerner family initiated talks to sell the team, based on previously reported timelines. But I truly don’t know for sure. Ironically, it was Ross’ last major deal negotiated for the Browns. He is now leaving the organization.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


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