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Hey Tony!

Feb 02, 2013 -- 6:16pm

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By Tony Grossi

More Art Modell was weeded out for this Super Bowl edition of Hey Tony. Readers returned their attention to the quarterback position and to Ray Horton and plans to switch to the 3-4 defense.

Hey Tony: When the new coaching regime basically says Trent Richardson is "a beast, a great player with great vision and a great future in this league," but then says "We haven't watched enough tape yet" about Brandon Weedon, is it fair to say that's the proverbial handwriting on the wall? Will Chud and Norv get sucked into the read-option trend and look for a more mobile quarterback, and who could that possibly be next year?

-- Jim, Boardman, OH

Hey Jim: My best guess right now is that the read option will be part of the Browns’ offense – but only if they find a quarterback capable of running it. Otherwise, I see an offense similar to what Chudzinski ran in 2007 as Browns coordinator. The addition of Norv Turner pretty much cements that. But they will bring in another quarterback, and my guess is they will pursue one who they evaluate as better than Weeden. So the competition talk, in my opinion, will be moot if they get the player they want.

Hey Tony: I really wish the Browns management would come out and support Brandon Weeden and name him the starter. It would be dumb to give up on him after one year under Pat Shurmur and go out and waste draft picks or whatever to pick up another unproven quarterback. Weeden has all the skills to be a good quarterback. If Chud/Turner can't make him a success then why do they deserve this job?

-- Bart, Columbus, OH

Hey Bart: I tend to agree with you. But they wouldn’t be the Browns without changing quarterbacks and lining up their seventh different Opening Starter in seven seasons, would they?

Hey Tony: Ray Horton seems to be a good hire at Defensive Coordinator. But he has made it clear that he wants to be a Head Coach--yesterday. What's the likelihood that he only stays for one season? If he leaves for a HC job after next season, would you still consider this a good hire?

-- Bill, Florence, KY

Hey Bill: For Horton to receive a head coaching job next year, the Browns would have to a. rank in the top 10 in defense, b. win a lot of games, or c. do both. If Horton is able to do that in one season, it would be worth it even if he leaves after one year. Yours was not the only email expressing this concern. I would say Horton needs to keep his career path on the upswing for him to remain in the head coach mix in 2013. A typical 5-11 Browns season will not do him any good.

Hey Tony: Now that a new ownership era has begun, I was hoping we can begin the dialogue to change the culture of & attitude towards our beloved Brownies. While our fans remain blindly loyal & most possess a high 'football I.Q.', our naivete seems glaring. Our expectations entering seasons that feature new Quarterbacks, new systems and new Head Coaches are far too high. It seems like the dialogue & dynamics you feature from the fan base are overwhelmingly impulsive and painfully, irrationally cynical. In finance we learn that “past performance is no guide to future results”- the same can easily apply here. Jimmy Haslam is not Randy Lerner & Norv Turner is not Maurice Carthon. There is no dark cloud hanging over Cleveland & if we all continue to expect to lose, we will always lose. I'm almost 30 years old & I too have suffered through the same painful, well-documented events of the past few decades, but may I suggest we now promote a more patient, optimistic, long-term perspective for this encouraging franchise?

-- Dan, New York City, NY

Hey Dan: If we as fans and in the media had the ability to control the Browns’ future with positive thoughts, they would have won something by now. Unfortunately, I am not of the opinion that the two things are related. I started the 2012 season with a positive outlook and it had no effect on the results. I don’t necessarily expect continued negative results, but I don’t pretend that my attitude is going to influence the team to make better decisions going forward.

Hey Tony: Where would you put the odds that Chud and Norv will take a meaningful look at Weeden, McCoy, Lewis, Johnson moving into the season?

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: I think Weeden and Johnson have a shot to stay. I am less optimistic about McCoy and Lewis.

Hey Tony: How about: Receiving team gets a play at the 20-yard line to replace the kickoff? They can run or pass. The result of that play is where first down starts. For example, receiving team completes a 10-yard pass. It's then first and ten at the 30-yard line. IF the pass is incomplete, it's first and ten at the twenty. If they run the ball and gain 5 yards, it's first and ten at the 25-yard line. Not as exciting as a kickoff, but it's somehing. It may encourage a lot of long passes, which would be exciting. What do you think?

-- Tom, Santa Monica, CA

Hey Tom: The challenge the NFL faces in eliminating the kickoff because of safety reasons is to replace it with something that has the most minimal effect on the game. I can’t conceive of that that replacement would be. Your idea is not bad, but the very elimination of the kickoff to me is so radical, no replacement for the play makes a great deal of sense to me right now. There will be further discussion on this subject at NFL annual meetings in late March. Stay tuned.

Hey Tony: I am reading Bryan O'Leary's "Spygate. The Untold Story. Interesting read. Curious of your thoughts on this subject.

-- Mark, New Castle, PA

Hey Mark: I have heard of the book but have not had the pleasure yet of reading it. So I can’t comment on “the untold story” of which you speak.

Hey Tony: Do you see the NFL adopting the college game's "one knee on the ground and you're down" rule as a way to reduce injuries?

-- Pat, Mayfield Hts., OH

Hey Pat: I haven’t heard that one, but I’ll ask about it at the next NFL annual meeting.

Hey Tony: I still can't get my head around the contradiction between all the great comments Mike Lombardi has received from quality NFL people about his talents and skills, and the horrible record he has in evaluating talent. In my opinion they are not just being polite as they are very effusive. Can you explain what they see and most of us don't?

-- Barry, San Francisco, CA

Hey Barry: No, I can’t.

Hey Tony: Your very rational Jan 26th HEY TONY Q&A focusing on going from an improving/stabilized 4-3 defense and going back to a 3-4 defense was most useful to Browns Fans. Given his experience and record, newly hired DC Horton could take us to the top 10 level next season by picking up just two star 25-28 year old Free Agents. I welcome your thoughts on the following appraisal: 1. Move LDE Sheard to LOLB and try for a star 25-28 year old 3-4 ROLB Free Agent with pass rush skills equal to Sheard. 2. Given that the three 3-4 linemen are more run stoppers than pass rushers, we already have this WELL covered by Rubin, Taylor, & Winn with depth chart backups led by Hughes, so no free agent or 1st round draft starter needs there. 3. This leaves us open to seek a star 25-28 year old CB Free Agent with pass coverage skills equal to Haden … and move CB Brown to either SS or FS to keep his veteran skills as a DB.

-- A.J., Manassas, VA

Hey A.J.: 1. It’s Scott Fujita’s opinion that Sheard should be moved to the weakside linebacker spot (away from the tight end), which usually is the right side of the defense. Fujita favors Chris Gocong moving in to the strongside spot. 2. The defensive ends in a 3-4 have to be stout against the run. I wouldn’t say that is Winn’s strong suit. 3. The need for another starting CB is strong. This is a very costly position to acquire in free agency. In any case, I believe Brown’s days with the Browns are over. He is a free agent and CEO Joe Banner traded him to Cleveland as Eagles president four years ago. I thought Brown should have made the transition to safety two years ago.

Hey Tony: Do you think switching Jabaal Sheard to outside linebacker in the 3-4 will have as much of an improvement on his career as it did with Kenard Lang?

-- Dale, Lorain, OH

Hey Dale: Some players can make that transition. And some players can’t. That’s the trouble with the 3-4. Some key players in it have to be “projected” as fits.

Hey Tony: I don’t understand the switching from 4-3 to 3-4, back and forth. When push comes to shove, doesn’t each game boil down to who blocks and tackles the best? What are the ‘pros’ & ‘cons’ of the 3-4 defense vs the 4-3 defense?

-- Bill, Tiffin, OH

Hey Bill: The pros are that the 3-4 offers coordinators some pre-snap deception in hiding where their pressure comes. It also puts a faster linebacker on the field in exchange for a lineman. I’m sure there are numerous other assets to the 3-4 that are way above the comprehension for me and the average fan. The cons are that it requires linebackers with a skill-set that are not necessarily seen in college because few schools employ the 3-4 system. So NFL scouts and coaches have to “project” how a college D-lineman will be able to perform the varied roles of the 3-4 outside linebacker, such as rushing the quarterback, sealing the edge of the perimeter run defense and dropping into pass coverage v. tight ends or backs.

Hey Tony: Like a fair chunk of the Browns fan base, I am unhappy with the talk of moving to a 3-4. Got nothing against that defense, but we don't have the personnel for it. If Jabaal Sheard can't move to OLB (and play in space), which I don't see as likely, I don't see him having a place in this D. I also think that Ahtyba Rubin's explosiveness is wasted if he spends most of his time taking on blockers to free up linebackers. Who among the Browns current D-Lineman has played either NT or DE in a 3-4 before?

-- Jim, Statesville, NC

Hey Jim: Rubin played the nose in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 and Phil Taylor was projected as a nose tackle coming out of Baylor. I suppose Billy Winn can play end in the 3-4, but everything else is a projection.

Hey Tony: Now that we have an "attacking defense" I guess we're all set on that side of the ball, but my question is on offense and specifically Weeden. It sure seemed to me last year that Brandon's game was really scaled back after the first month or so. He began checking down a lot more and stopped taking many risks for fear of incurring the wrath of the HC for throwing an interception. I think Shurmur stunted the growth of the rookie rather than letting him play through his mistakes. I think Weeden will excel under Chud & Turner. Your thoughts?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: I thought too much was asked of Weeden early on. Shurmur had him throwing the ball way too much and a lot of interceptions resulted. That caused Shurmur to put the handcuffs on Weeden and emphasize the checkdowns – to the point that they took away from Weeden’s gunslinger nature. I agree that Weeden has a better chance of showing his true stuff under Chudzinski and Turner – if Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi don’t send him packing first.

Hey Tony: I love your column and insight on the Browns, thank you! One question, since Jimmy Haslam owns the team now, has the Plain Dealer come back on their hands and knees begging you to come back?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: No, that is not going to happen. It’s obvious to me now that that Twitter flap happened for a reason. I am fortunate to be with ESPNCleveland.

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. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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