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Hey Tony!

Jan 26, 2013 -- 6:00pm


By Tony Grossi

This week, Browns fans show a lot of concern about the team’s desire to switch to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Ray Horton. There also was discussion about trading for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis or Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallet.

Hey Tony: I have a question about the recent behavior of Ray Horton. Ray seems like a loose cannon and it worries me. Already he has publicly contradicted Rob Chudzinski by saying he will run a 3-4 not a hybrid. Moreover, he said it in a way that really belittled Chudzinski in my opinion. In addition the way he said that Turner would be his OC if he got the HC job again made it seem that he was belittling Chud. Finally the way he ended his time in Arizona by freaking out and yelling and screaming and throwing a temper tantrum when he didn’t get his way is very unsettling. Being passionate and aggressive I think are great qualities as a coach but there is a point when those qualities stop being positive and turn negative. What is your take on Ray as a person and his behavior? What is your feeling on Ray's relationship with Chud? Are they on good terms or is Ray simply here because Norv is buddies with him? I can see this blowing up mid-season unless Ray calms down a bit and shows some restraint.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I don’t share your concerns about Horton’s personality. I simply don’t know him well enough to make any judgments. I do believe your remark about him throwing a temper tantrum when he didn’t get the Arizona job is completely false. My concerns center more on switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4. I’m trying not to be close-minded about it and understand it’s not the end of the world. I just don’t see the logic in scraping a system which was seemingly improving. I don’t agree that the players on hand are versatile enough to change to Horton’s 3-4. I think by switching systems, the Browns needlessly created a surplus at one position (defensive line) while making a weak position (linebacker) a much greater priority.

Hey Tony: We let the Holmgren regime come in and scrap the 3-4 that had been here for 6 years and no one said Boo about it. We let them scrap the QBs and bring in 4 of their own to start over the next 3 years and again no one had a problem with it because they were taking over for a 5 win program year after year. Well guess what … these guys are also taking over for a 4 and 5 win program and they have the right to put in what they want. I am sick and tired of hearing about Dick Jauron and his defense which was not nearly as good as Horton’s and Horton turned around a much worse D in Arizona much faster than Dick could here. Same as with us saying “they need to make Weeden work”, why? they did not go get him and it is not their job to worry about that, it is their job to win. I respect you a lot, but you gave the last regime way too much love, and it seems you are attacking this one a lot. Let’s let them play some actual games first and then see where we are before telling them what they should and should not be doing. Thanks.

-- Michael, Galena, OH

Hey Michael: I didn’t criticize the switch to the 4-3 because I welcomed it; the 3-4 wasn’t working well enough for six years and showed no signs of getting better. I am against this switch because the 4-3 was getting better and was only in its second year. To keep switching systems, which require specific-skill sets, is insane. They have to give them time to develop. Two years was not enough time for Jauron’s 4-3. Same thing, in general, about the Holmgren switch of QBs. The Derek Anderson-Brady Quinn tandem wasn’t getting it done. Weeden only had one year as a rookie. Nobody can make a sound judgment on a player after one year – and his wasn’t even all that bad. I’m always going to call them the way I see them.

Hey Tony: I got to thinking … an attacking/blitzing 3-4 … what would it look like? The blitzers in a 3-4 D, what do they look like? We keep saying that we are more set up for a 4-3 base defense (personnel-wise), which we are. HOWEVER, if we are blitzing a lot and we are blitzing with an OLB that really belongs as an end in the 4-3, is there really that big of a personnel difference? That guy will be rushing the QB instead of getting caught in coverage. Maybe the transition won’t be that bad? Please give me some hope on this because I feel like switching to a base 3-4 is a horrible idea.

-- Paul, Uniontown, OH

Hey Paul: I need to devote a whole column to the nuances of the two defensive systems. I intend to seek out more experts on this topic in the future and will report my findings at a later date. Like you, I’m trying not to over-react.

Hey Tony: Now that the Browns are switching to a 3-4 can you discuss who you think fits in each position from the current roster, who does not fit at all and what holes would need to be filled.

-- Reggie, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Reggie: One person I want to hear from first is Ray Horton. He will be introduced by the Browns on Tuesday.

Hey Tony: Here is what I am afraid of … in the past, Mike Lombardi has been given a lot of good scouting/personnel info from sources because he was a sports analyst. So he sounds very insightful and knowledgeable when he talks. Now that he is an NFL executive, his sources will disappear and he will have to evaluate talent on his own. I do not believe he has a good track record as a talent evaluator. I think the upgrade in coaching will mask Lombardi’s draft/talent evaluation flaws. The new coaches may get 2 more wins from the current squad and we will be hovering around .500 for a couple of years. It will take three-plus years for Lombardi’s underwhelming draft/talent selections to become apparent. And the Browns will be starting over, again. I know I should give the guy a chance, but I can only go by what I have seen (and heard). What are your thoughts? How damaging will it be to the Browns if Lombardi was just parroting back other sources? How long will it take for him to be found out? Can the organization have enough checks and balances to mitigate Lombardi’s weaknesses?

-- John, Brooklyn Heights, OH

Hey John: It may sound extremely cynical to the Browns and others, but you raise some valid points. The true test of the strength of Joe Banner’s organization will be the one you make in your final point.

Hey Tony: Who do you think are the top 3 players the Browns should have on their board for this year's NFL draft and do you think they would spend the money to try and sign Jairus Byrd from Buffalo to a free agent contract this year.

-- Bob, Erie, PA

Hey Bob: I’ll give you positions at this time, rather than names: outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end. Byrd is a great ball-hawking safety who will command a hefty price. He definitely offers a skill set not presently on the roster.

Hey Tony: Has there ever been a team with 2 players making the Pro Bowl that their team has no intention of resigning? Isn't every team in the NFL trying to get Pro Bowl caliber players? I just don't understand why the Browns would not want to resign both Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs? If we are truly trying to get better, aren't these 2 players worth keeping?

-- Tim, Sun Prairie, WI

Hey Tim: The good news is the Browns have not said they wouldn’t re-sign either player. The bad news is they probably would have done so before it got to this point.

Hey Tony: With the craze surrounding installation of the read option into NFL offenses, how has Tim Tebow not gotten more ink as a potential possibility for teams like the Eagles who plan on fully implementing the scheme? Tebow's entire draft mystique originated from his success at Florida running the read option. I'm not advocating for him here, but he seems tailor-made for The Next New Thing in the NFL.

-- Mark, Martinez, CA

Hey Mark: The read option – NFL style – is most effective when the quarterback is equally adept at running and passing. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kapernick, Robert Griffin 3 all possess good to great arms along with exceptional running ability. Tebow was a great college player at Florida, but he simply can’t make the throws an NFL QB needs to make.

Hey Tony: What's the status of the Browns' scouting department? Are the scouts who reported to Tom Heckert still in place and any idea if changes will be made? Thanks!

-- Tim, Westlake, OH

Hey Tim: Yes, all of Heckert’s scouts are on the job and have contracts through the April draft, which is the norm. Typically when there is a change at the head of the player personnel department, there are changes among the scouts, too. Those will come in May or June.

Hey Tony: Two questions for you. If Weeden was in this year’s draft, where would you rank him compared to the other QB's available; and two, if you could have Alex Smith, Ryan Mallet, or Weeden as your QB, which would you choose.

-- Mitch, Fairfield, CA

Hey Mitch: If Weeden were in this year’s draft -- and did not have a year in the NFL -- I suppose he would rank right there with Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of USC. Now, after one year in the NFL, I would definitely choose Weeden ahead of Mallet. The age difference is a major factor, of course, but if you’re talking about playing one over the other in 2013, my choice would be Weeden. Smith’s experience and production would put him ahead of Weeden.

Hey Tony: Bring out your crystal ball. With over 4,000 former NFL players along with their families filing lawsuits for injuries sustained during their playing careers most notably concussions and now a suit filed on behalf of Junior Seau, will they bring an ultimate end of the game as we currently see it being played today? The physicality of the game in itself is why the NFL is so popular. It is why millions watch on TV or attend games. With all the rule changes we are seeing will the game be so sterile and sanitized for player safety sake, that what has drawn sports fans to this game result in their losing interest in it? I am all for player safety and I realize that today we live in a litigious society, but don't tell me every player playing in the NFL doesn't understand the risk involved. When they sign their contracts they become willing participants and understand what types of injuries they can sustain.

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: I can see the NFL continuing to change rules in the name of player safety. Some could be drastic. It wouldn’t surprise me if the kickoff is entirely eliminated in the near future. There will also be a day when the league’s standard player contract includes language releasing the NFL from liability for long-term health problems.

Hey Tony: A rumor here in New York is that Darrelle Revis might be available in a trade. If you were the Browns front office what would you offer the Jets for him? Your first-round pick? Montario Hardesty? It would be great to have another shut-down corner. But at what price?

-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY

Hey Erol: A trade for Revis would be dictated by several issues. Revis is coming off a major knee injury and nobody yet knows how soon he can play and at what level. He also has wants a new contract that could approach $15 million a year. Further, the Jets may demand two high draft picks for him – two No. 1s or a No. 1 and No. 2. In my opinion, those issues make a trade for Revis a very risky proposition for any team. The right fit would be a team drafting low in the first round that feels it is one superb cornerback away from winning a Super Bowl.

Hey Tony: The Browns seem to be a graveyard for successful college quarterbacks like Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy and now Brandon Weeden. While some may have been lacking the overall tools to play in the NFL why are people so quick to want to pull the plug on Weeden after only one year of running an offense that was not tailored his skills? Wouldn't it be better to give him another chance with a new coaching staff than to start over again with a new QB?

-- Bob, Solon, OH

Hey Bob: I’m with you. I’m not sure that Weeden is the answer, but I’m also not sure, after one season, that he’s not. He deserves a chance in the new Browns’ offense with Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner coaching him.

Hey Tony: Why do you feel Weeden should be given the endorsement from the coach? I would probably start Weeden but would be looking for a quarterback in the third round to sit and learn the position. I agreed with Lombardi that the drafting of Weeden was a panicked move to land a quarterback. I'd give him another year because I'm not sure about his ability to be THE quarterback to build a team around. I cringe every time I see him leave the pocket. I would love to see his throwing stats when forced to scramble. If you were the coach, would you rather have Weeden or the backup quarterbacks in San Fran and Washington?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Weeden or Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins? I probably would rank them this way: 1. Smith, 2. Weeden, 3.Cousins. Cousins looked great against the Browns. That’s not enough of a sampling for me to make a reasonable judgment on him.

Hey Tony: At the end of 2009, both Cleveland and Seattle finished a dismal 5-11. We then hired Holmgren to right the ship while SEA brought in Pete Carroll. Fast forward three years and SEA has been to the playoffs twice, won a pair of playoff games and found their franchise QB, while CLE has gone nowhere and is once again retooling. With ARZ, JAC, KC, PHI and SD all replacing their Head Coaches and General Managers, I'm looking forward to comparing our future success (or lack thereof) with these teams in the exact same situation. I understand that there are many other variables to success, but don't you think that that's a pretty fair benchmark to help the fans and media grade this new Haslam/Banner regime? For too long now it's been nothing but excuses and very little accountability. Thanks as always for your great coverage and providing a forum for fans to vent!

-- Hòa, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Hoa: Throughout the Browns’ unending regime changes I have always felt that comparing their progress to that of other teams that changed management and coaching at the same time was a good barometer. I agree it would be fair to compare the current regime to the progress of the teams you mention.

Hey Tony: I am worried about the rumors of the Browns trading or swapping their 1st pick with New England for Ryan Mallet. If the rumors are true as they were with the Lombardi hire how much trouble would you say we are in draft and player acquisition wise?

-- Mike, Eastlake, OH

Hey Mike: Bill Belichick is not going to try to help Lombardi build the Browns into a winning team. He is not going to trade the Browns players of high value to him. If he trades with the Browns, it will be for the purpose of replenishing the Patriots with draft choices. I would just say this about trading with Belichick: Buyer beware.

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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