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#HeyTony: Why wouldn't the Browns give Terrelle Pryor a shot at backup quarterback?

Jun 27, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Before departing on summer break, the Browns sneaked in a waiver claim of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and announced he would try out for the team at wide receiver. It raised the eyebrows of readers of Hey Tony. Like the NFL in general, this column is going on break and will return on July 25. Questions submitted in the next three weeks will be saved for that date.

Hey Tony: There's a lot of chatter on Terrelle Pryor being brought in as a WR, but also a backup QB for the Browns. I don't buy it. This team, for some reason, is sold on Johnny Manziel. This subject won't go away because of the lack of quality at the QB position. I feel that most teams have a backup QB that would probably start on the Browns. Connor Shaw was undrafted and showed more playing ability than Josh McCown or Manziel last year. The Browns keep talking about an eight game stretch where McCown played good in Chicago. I would hope that a 36 year old QB would have some good games on his resume. I also remember a good season that Derek Anderson had with the Browns and he's four years younger. McCown was brought in to play short term and tutor Manziel. Why isn't Connor Shaw getting significant reps? I believe that the Browns don't want the controversy if he outplays Manziel in practice. I would be shocked if Pryor is allowed to play any QB and create friction for Manziel. This is Manziel's team! Like it or not, Ray Farmer has cleared the deck for Manziel. Do you believe Farmer had any intention on drafting a QB before the coaches allowed Manziel an opportunity to play?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: The Browns explicitly stated in their announcement of the Pryor waiver claim that he would try out for the team at wide receiver. I predicted on the Hey Tony show that we will see Pryor under center at some point in training camp. That is strictly my opinion and is based on my point that for all the reasons you can argue that Pryor deserves a shot at WR – athletic ability, lack of depth at the position, etc. – you can make the same argument for QB. Plus, that’s what he plays. He doesn’t play wide receiver. As for Farmer’s plans for Manziel, I believe he will go to the wall to give Manziel another opportunity to earn the starting job. At some point, however, the team has to prepare the best quarterback for the No. 2 job.

Hey Tony: If Terrelle Pryor was trying out as QB for the Browns, would he be last on their depth chart; i.e. are the other 4 QBs on the roster better than Pryor?

-- Dave, Cedar Park, TX

Hey Dave: Remember that coordinator John DeFilippo worked with Pryor as Raiders QB coach in 2013 when Pryor won three of nine starts. I am sure that DeFilippo’s evaluation of Pryor – positive or negative – would dictate whether he is given a shot at QB. That said, I would put him fifth, mostly because he joined the team after the installation period of the offense and has a lot of catching up to do.

Hey Tony: I read about Johnny Manziel’s high school football coach coming to stay with him in Johnny s house. How long is coach supposed to stay? Are they spending time learning the playbook? Is coach working with Johnny concerning some erratic throws in minicamp?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: It’s my understanding that moving in Julius Scott, who was offensive coordinator at Manziel’s Kerrville (TX) Tivy High School, was more a personal matter with Manziel than a football matter. Scott was an influential figure in Manziel’s high school years. Interestingly, Manziel declined to say why Scott joined him in Cleveland when he was asked about it. Nevertheless, bringing in Scott was considered a positive step for Manziel by the Browns.

Hey Tony: At the beginning of the offseason, John DeFilippo insisted that he would incorporate successful elements of last year's offense into this season's. I'm specifically concerned about the zone-blocking scheme. I know media access to OTAs/practices has been limited, but have you seen evidence that he'll keep his word? Can the zone scheme provide some continuity for the upcoming season?

-- Robert, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Robert: The linemen have said that elements of the zone-blocking scheme are in place for the running game. But DeFilippo will incorporate other blocking schemes for pass protection. When a coach says he will continue doing something that was the expertise of a coach before him, sometimes it is easier said than done.

Hey Tony: With the possibility of losing two safeties in the next couple seasons (to age and free agency) and with extra depth at cornerback, are any of the current corners candidates to be shifted to safety?

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: Because of his size (6-2, 206), Pierre Desir might be a candidate to move to safety. But when a player with that size can play cornerback at the NFL level, that is something special that you want to capitalize on. The Browns are better off concentrating on developing backup safeties Jordan Poyer and Ibraheim Campbell, or drafting new ones.

Hey Tony: Would love to see our Coach and GM stick for a couple more years (at least) and continue to build a Browns team to compete long term. I feel that Pettine is better at his job and will prove that throughout this coming season. Could you give an assessment of Farmer's draft now that spring practices have ended. In particular, have these draftees moved the Grossi needle in a positive direction over your draft grades from a few months ago?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: My instant impression of the Browns’ 2015 draft was positive. It’s too early to re-evaluate it. The next checkpoint will be heading into the regular season after we have seen the players in preseason games.

Hey Tony: Should the Browns use Johnny Manziel as QB in a 2-point conversion package?

-- Daniel, Washington, DC

Hey Daniel: I said that last year and it fell on deaf ears. Maybe with the change in the PAT line of scrimmage, the coaches will attach greater emphasis to a 2-point conversion package and maximize Manziel’s skill set in it.

Hey Tony: Is finding a franchise QB even harder for the Browns than the average team due to the demands of playing in a cold weather stadium and the perpetually-competitive AFC North? Some "franchise QBs" in warm climates or indoor stadiums may be much more successful than they would be playing in Cleveland, arguably due to the weather and division rivals. Do you agree? Will these challenges further increase the degree of difficulty in finding a (legitimate) franchise QB for our beloved Browns?

-- Nick, Charlotte, NC

Hey Nick: I have consistently maintained that the Browns need to seriously consider their geography and division opponents when evaluating prospective quarterbacks. It is unceasingly amazing to me that so many of their GMs failed to do that. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Tom Brady (northern California) and Brett Favre (Mississippi) were raised in relatively sunny climes and became two of the best cold- and bad-weather QBs in NFL history. Brady, however, did play at Michigan to “transition” to colder weather. The nature of the AFC North also dictates a quarterback with size and a stronger arm, in my opinion. Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are prime examples. This is one reason I did not particularly favor the drafting of south Florida-native Teddy Bridgewater. His rookie success with Minnesota, however, is another exception to the rule.

Hey Tony: Considering the way the Browns fell apart after starting 7-4 last season, and the fact that there have been additional bonehead moves made in the offseason (disregarding WR in the draft, dissing Gipson, etc), do you really expect a better showing this season? If so, why?

-- Ervin, Lancaster, PA

Hey Ervin: To be honest, I don’t know what to expect at this point. The offseason concluded on a relatively positive note. I’ll have a clear outlook on the 2015 season after training camp.

Hey Tony: Should we find out if Cam Erving can catch so he can play some TE in short yardage (2 point conversions)? Would be great seeing Terrell Pryor QB keeper with 6 good offensive lineman blocking for him. 

-- Chris, Montville Township, OH

Hey Chris: You’re including Pryor as part of a 2-point package. Another reader mentioned Manziel. I think the point is the Browns better address this new component of offense that has resulted from the PAT rules change.

Hey Tony: Do you think based on your observations last week that Connor Shaw will be afforded the opportunity to compete for the No. 2 QB position when training camp opens next month?

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: If you strip the names off the back of their jerseys, the fact is that the quarterback who played the final game in Baltimore (Shaw) was much more in command of the position than the one who played against Cincinnati and Carolina (Manziel). If the Browns can’t see and accept that fact, then nothing is going to change.

Hey Tony: If there was an AFC North players-only Pro Bowl team for offense, defense, kicker, punter, returners, which Browns players would be starters on the team?

-- Rick, Strongsville, OH

Hey Rick: Start with LT Joe Thomas, CB Joe Haden, FS Tashaun Gipson and SS Donte Whitner – who all made the AFC Pro Bowl team last year. I would then add LG Joel Bitonio, ILB Karlos Dansby and P Andy Lee. If WR Josh Gordon were not suspended, it would be a close call for him against A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Alex Mack v. Maurkice Pouncey would be another close call.

 

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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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Who's right in the Tashaun Gipson contract dispute?

Jun 20, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Readers of Hey Tony continue to choose sides in the Tashaun Gipson contract dispute with the Browns. Gipson’s hamstring injury swung the PR pendulum in favor of the Browns this week.

Hey Tony: Now Tashaun Gipson shows up with a hamstring issue. Is everyone still clamoring to "Pay the man"? How do you think it's been handled?

-- Tom, Washington, IA

Hey Tom: I thought it was interesting that Mike Pettine took umbrage with Gipson showing up at minicamp with a minor hamstring injury. To me, it reflected a bad vibe between the player and management over Gipson’s contract dispute. It’s not like Gipson refused to honor his contract by staying away during OTAs. The fact is he was not under contract, so it was his right not to attend. Of all the problems the Browns have, Gipson’s minor hamstring injury in the month of June ranks about 50th.

Hey Tony: In the second round of the 2015 draft, three teams opted to rely on uncertain draft picks to fill a need at safety instead of trying to sign Gipson for $2 million-plus. So why is everyone so hard on the Browns for the second round tender? Seems like the market puts his value at less than $2 million a year.

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: Any team trying to sign Gipson knew it would have to approach Devin McCourty’s five year/$47.5 million contract given him by the New England Patriots. And if the Browns chose not to match, the signing team also would have to give up a second-round pick. That price tag is too steep for any team. That’s partly why Gipson was upset. The Browns had the leverage this year to severely restrict his ability to move. The leverage moves to Gipson’s favor next year. So what can happen? Gipson balls out, enters unrestricted free agency in 2016 and the Browns may get a compensatory pick in the third or fifth round in 2017. So they have to replace him. How does that make the Browns better?

Hey Tony: Good piece on breaking down the position groups Friday, seems like the Browns are ominously solid & deep at multiple position groups including O-Line & Secondary. Curious if you agree on three roster observations as we enter camp in August with this 2015 squad: 1) Weakest spots seem like the opposite of what most good offenses possess: QB and TE (see New England with healthy Gronk, New Orleans with Graham, San Francisco with Vernon Davis. 2) We are trying to salvage another franchise QB-lacking year by resembling a 2014 Bills-esque team (play lights out D and grind out a 9-7 record with low scoring, ugly wins. 3) Manziel is not even qualified to be a backup QB in the NFL (let alone a starter) and like his grinning gimmick laden stunt-double, Tim Tebow: will be essentially out of the league in a booth by 2017.

-- Dan, New York City, NY

Hey Dan: 1. Agreed. 2. Agreed. 3. Very harsh. Don't necessarily agree.

Hey Tony: I don't understand the obsession with the strength of schedule. The strength is based on last year's results. Look at the Saints last year, what was marked as a game for a loss when the season started, look what happened.  Having said that, for me it is more of what version of McCown we will have, the 2014 or the 2013. Plus, we will have an improved OL, an improved backfield, and watch it, maybe better WR production. Yes, that means without Gordon (addition by subtraction). On Defense, the same good backfield and maybe a better run defense (can't be worse). On Special Teams, a better return game (can't be worse). Are you telling me we can't start the season 3-0? Or you say the Jets, Tenn, and Oak are that superior? Did I missed something? In the division, we can win 2-3 games, plus 1-2 home games (STL, SF), add a surprise win on the road like San Diego … that's 7-9 games folks. I don't see what is the big deal in achieving something like that, so I don’t understand why so many “experts” say we will win only 4 or 5 games. We have improved in the offseason, plus the Manziel circus is under control, so I don't understand the negativity. Your thoughts?

-- Carlos, Panama City, Panama

Hey Carlos: You are committing the same mistake you accuse others of making. You are looking at the roster on paper and projecting an end result. The beauty of sports is that the games are played by human beings. Anything can happen, positively or negatively. Let’s just live it out. Making provocative predictions are part of sports conversation. Don’t let them interfere with the joy of the real thing.

Hey Tony: Who is less consequential but getting inordinate attention: Johnny or Tiger?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: Tiger’s historic demise is not exactly inconsequential, in my opinion.

Hey Tony: I was surprised that you didn't list Justin Gilbert as a return specialist. The Browns might as well use his talents in the return game, especially if he can't crack the starting defense. Have they even considered Gilbert returning kicks or punts. Field position will be essential for this offense. I hope the Browns spend a lot of time working on the special teams. There's quite a bit of speed on the Browns and hopefully they use the talent on the roster and don't let it waste away on the bench.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Gilbert had six kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career at Oklahoma State. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the Browns did not tap that potential last year. Now they are saying he is “in the mix” as a kickoff returner in his second season. But he certainly is not at the forefront of those competing for the role. Forget Gilbert returning punts. He doesn’t take practice reps there.

Hey Tony: Could the Browns place Johnny Manziel on season-long inactive list while he continues his recovery?

-- Bill, North Olmsted, OH

Hey Bill: They have chosen to keep him active. If something were to happen that affects Manziel’s ability to compete, there are several lists available for the Browns to consider.

Hey Tony: Nice write up on Johnny today. I’m glad to see him taking steps to get his personal life in order and taking his professional commitments more seriously.    While I understand why he believes it’s necessary for him to divorce himself from Johnny Football, do you get the sense he’s lost some of his moxie and swagger?  In my opinion a huge part of his success in college was his confidence and attitude and I’m not sure he can become a great or even good player in the NFL without channeling some of the Johnny Football attitude on the field.

-- Matthew, Richmond, VA

Hey Matthew: Manziel’s moxie and swagger were knocked out of him by the Bengals and Panthers last season. Once you lose that, it’s hard to recapture.

Hey Tony: Here are 2 scenarios I have envisioned for the Browns next year. The first, which is far more likely, is for the Browns to maybe win 3 of their first 4 games during the softest part of their schedule then maybe only winning 1 or 2 more games he rest of the season if things go well. This is based on their tough schedule and what I foresee as a strong potential for a weak passing attack due to their QB and WRs. If this were to happen, what would Mike Pettine's chances be to continue as their coach? I think he is a good choice for the job and just think it'd be a mistake to keep the pattern of changing coaches constantly. I like the direction he's taken. My 2nd scenario which is born of my eternal optimism, would be for Josh McCown to have a career year with the Browns kind of like Derek Anderson had back in 2007 I think. If he did play that well, how do you think that would affect the Brown's QB position in the coming years? In my mind, even if he turned out outstanding this year that due to his age he'd have a very limited future. Thanks for your insights.

-- Glenn, Melbourne, FL

Hey Glenn: 1. You’re playing the schedule game. Don’t. 2. This is an interesting scenario. McCown will be 36 during the 2015 season. If he has a career year, it should not alter the Browns’ mission to continue the quest for a franchise quarterback.

 

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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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: What's next for Tashaun Gipson and the Browns?

Jun 13, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Without too much else to complain about at this early point of the season, readers of Hey Tony took aim at the Browns’ handling of the Tashaun Gipson contract dispute.

Hey Tony: Ray Farmer did not want to invest in a wide receiver because he prioritizes players who "impact every play." Yet he trades a future draft pick and invests millions in a past-his-prime punter, even when we had a serviceable punter on the roster. Meanwhile, Gipson remains unsigned and likely feels disrespected due to our low-ball second round tender. Seems inconsistent. Please share your thoughts. Also, GO CAVS!

-- Nick, Charlotte, NC

Hey Nick: Since your email arrived, Gipson signed his second-round tender, assuring he will play at least the 2015 season with the Browns. The Browns have explained all the moves you point out as means of improving their team. I have railed about the Browns not re-signing players they have developed and giving them more lucrative second contracts, such as Buster Skrine, Jabaal Sheard and Jordan Cameron. Those decisions are mostly the product of changing regimes every couple years.

Hey Tony: So NFL.com is doing the 100 best players from last year. So far they have gotten to 42-100.  We have exactly ONE guy listed so far and that is Tashaun Gipson whom the Browns act like they don't want. I can't imagine we have many in 1-41. All this to say, how in the world does that front office think they are getting anywhere?  Tony, are these people really this dumb? 

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: I would expect Joe Thomas and Joe Haden to finish in the top half of the NFL.com list. Possibly Alex Mack, too. As for Gipson, who was a restricted free agent (three years in the NFL), he signed the second-round tender given by the Browns on Friday. It means he can play the 2015 season for $2.356 million and become an unrestricted free agent in 2016. It also means he and the Browns have this year to negotiate a long-term agreement that would keep Gipson with the Browns for multiple years. A third option would be for the Browns to give Gipson the franchise tag in 2016.

Hey Tony: With the Tashaun Gipson contract issue, I can't help but think of Coach Pettine's motto: "PLAY LIKE A BROWN." To me, this brings to mind unheralded players who play their hearts out and do their job with or without personal glory.  You know, players like Gipson ... or Hoyer. What does "PLAY LIKE A BROWN" mean to you? Shouldn't it be valued and rewarded?

-- Eric, Ottawa, CA

Hey Eric: I have stated repeatedly that Gipson is one player who personifies Pettine’s “Play Like a Brown” mantra. Considering Gipson, 25 in August, is still on the rise as a Pro Bowl safety, I would expect the Browns to work feverishly to secure him to a long-term deal. You did a good job of defining “play like a Brown.”

Hey Tony: Unless something significant changes, it looks like Josh McCown will start the season at QB. I've heard Farmer and Pettine say that Johnny Manziel will have to earn the job. However, the QB position is hard to earn after the season starts. The practice reps go to the starter and unless he gets hurt or plays poorly, it's hard to earn that job. I believe that if the competition is close in preseason, Manziel should be the starter. I don't see the long-term benefit of developing a 36 year old starter while you sit a first-round draft pick in his second season. The only way I would have Manziel sit the bench is if there was a wide gap between between the two. How would you handle the QB position? Why haven't we heard anything about Connor Shaw? He outplayed Manziel last year and may be better than both McCown and Manziel this year. Is Shaw actually competing for the starting position or is he just considered a backup?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: The Browns appear to be doing this year what I thought they should have done last year – declare the veteran quarterback the starter and let the younger quarterbacks learn behind him. Coaches always want competition at every position, but I have always found quarterback competitions to be counter-productive. They confuse the offensive team and get in the way of the No. 1 task of training camp -- preparing the team for the season opener. The reason McCown must play is because the coaches have to put the best quarterback on the field to show the team that winning is the No. 1 priority. As for Shaw, although he showed more as a rookie than Manziel, the coaches have buried him at No. 3 and recently reduced his reps at OTAs. Maybe they will pick up in training camp, but for now it is obvious the coaches consider McCown one, Manziel two, and Shaw three.

Hey Tony: As a Cleveland native living in Tampa, I'm curious to see how Josh McCown does this year. Tampa had one of the worst O-Lines in the league last year, which a lot of Cleveland fans blame for Josh's bad season. Have you seen any stats on how McCown did last year while under pressure compared to when he had time to throw? I hope they show that his play was solid with good O Line play, which Cleveland should have this year. Thoughts?

-- Ray, Tampa, FL

Hey Ray: McCown said he chose to sign with the Browns mostly because of the quality of their offensive line. So he must have been scarred by the protection problems Tampa Bay had last year. The Browns are hoping that an improved offensive line will allow McCown to make smart decisions and distribute the ball with his still-live arm.

Hey Tony: Do the Browns have to waive Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and have him clear waivers before they can put him on IR? If so, couldn't another team claim him and violate the "gentleman's agreement" similar to how the Browns claimed Michael Bowie from the Seahawks? Thanks.

-- Glenn, Greer, SC

Hey Glenn: The Browns can choose to simply place Ifo on IR without subjecting him to waivers. The reason teams risk losing an injured player by waiving him is to preserve a spot on their roster for a healthy player. Which I could never understand because rosters are at 90 during this period and you would think they could find another player to cut rather than a higher-rated one who is injured. The last time the Browns did this and lost a player was a defensive back by the name of Don Carey. Carey was claimed by Jacksonville and is now with the Detroit Lions, though he was subsequently waived by both teams.

 

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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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Can Josh McCown be the next Bill Nelsen? Or even Earl Morrall?

Jun 06, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

In a late-spring lull in Browns news, readers of Hey Tony took a positive – and hopeful -- outlook on quarterback Josh McCown taking over the team in 2015.

Hey Tony: When the Browns acquired Josh McCown from the waiver wire, many groaned about why the Browns would acquire a player of such mediocre talents.  Many don't remember former Browns QB Bill Nelsen who was acquired from Pittsburgh in 1967. Bill Nelsen was a heady veteran who while not flashy, led the Browns for the better part of four seasons with retwo seasons of a least nine wins.  McCown has many of the same traits of the pro's pro Nelsen, but is blessed with much more athleticism. Don't sleep on this acquisition. The Browns have quietly built a solid team on both sides of the line, and if they get decent play from their skill players, they could surprise with a season of nine or ten wins as well.

-- Rob, Dayton, OH

Hey Rob: A few differences between Nelsen and McCown: Nelsen was 27 years old when the Browns traded for him in May of 1968. McCown is 35. Nelsen’s W-L record as a starter with the Steelers in five seasons was 6-15-2, which is actually worse than McCown’s 17-32 in 12 NFL seasons. Also, Nelsen had a pair of bum knees from his days with the then-inept Steelers. Upon joining the Browns in 1968, Nelsen had a remarkable transformation. He replaced Frank Ryan after three games and led the Browns to 9-2 over their last 11 games and the playoffs. In 1969, Nelsen made the Pro Bowl after the Browns went 10-3-1 and another postseason berth. He had similar good runs in 1970 and 1971 in between more knee problems before retiring in 1972. In Nelsen’s five seasons with the Browns, the team was 34-16-1 with him as the starting quarterback and lost in the conference championship game twice – one victory from appearing in the Super Bowl. That offensive team was blessed with three future Hall of Famers – Paul Warfield, Leroy Kelly and Gene Hickerson – and a brilliant offensive head coach in Blanton Collier. Nelsen had limited physical ability but was a tremendous field general. The game was different then, less dependent on passing. Nelsen’s record of 70 touchdowns v. 70 interceptions in his Browns years does not seem that impressive. Nevertheless, I have always listed in him my top 5 of the most under-rated Browns in franchise history. If McCown could put together just one season like Nelsen did the Browns would look like geniuses.

Hey Tony: Can McCown be our Earl Morrall? Morrall a 20-year career backup did not have a good season till his 10th year. He twice led his team to the Super Bowl BOTH with Don Shula a Paul Brown disciple. Shula's Dolphins under Morrall won with a strong running game and good defense. Sound familiar? Morrall coached Kelly, Testaverde, and Kosar at Miami University. Wonder what Bernie thinks? Thanks for your time.

-- Darrell, Maple Heights, OH

Hey Darrell: This comparison is no less fascinating – and another stretch. Morrall was 34 when he joined the Baltimore Colts in 1968 after playing for four teams in 12 years (30-32-2 record as starter). Morrall took over at the beginning of the season for injured Johnny Unitas and promptly led the Colts to Super Bowl 3, which they lost to the famously underdog New York Jets. Morrall earned the league’s MVP award. Two years later, he subbed in Super Bowl 5 for Unitas, injured again, and led the Colts to a 16-13 win over Dallas. In 1972, Morrall, then 38, was reunited with Shula in Miami as the backup QB. After the fifth game, Morrall had to replace injured starter Bob Griese. Morrall completed the Dolphins’ undefeated season, winning his 11 starts, including the Super Bowl. I can point out that in each example, Morrall joined teams positively loaded with talent. The 1968 Colts had five future Hall of Fame players and two coaches; the 1972 Dolphins had eight future Hall of Fame players and one coach.

Hey Tony: That fumble in 1987 was probably my worst football moment that I can remember. How can Earnest Byner fumble that ball? Do you think Seattle was thinking about that play when they called a pass on the one yard line? What if the Browns would have thrown the football? Oh, I forgot, Red Right 88!  That was my second worst football memory.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Byner didn’t just lose the ball by accident. It was pried loose by cornerback Jeremiah Castille. The reason Castille was even in the area was because receiver Webster Slaughter missed his assignment. He was supposed to run a route to the left corner to take Castille out of the play. But Slaughter was caught in the moment and stopped to watch Byner, as everybody felt he was going in for the tying touchdown.

Hey Tony: After reading about the Browns teams in the AFC championship games, and the strike year with the "replacement players", I'm wondering if any replacement players on any team ever made on to an NFL roster ?

-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH

Hey Kevin: Several players survived the stigma of “replacement player” and stayed with their teams after the strike and beyond. The Browns, in fact, had two – linebacker David Grayson and defensive tackle Darryl Sims.

Hey Tony: After Dwayne Bowe tweaking his knee and how the season went down after Alex Mack was injured, what one player going on injured reserve would condemn the season. Thomas, McCown, Kruger?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I would say McCown.

Hey Tony: Please comment on Jimmy Haslam the billionaire owner of the Browns greeting you as "Mr. Positive".  He obviously reads your stuff. What a nightmare it has been for longstanding and loyal Browns fans. The Manziel selection has been a money-making move for the Browns organization in terms of jersey sales, marketing, and pre-2014 excitement - and an absolute disaster for Browns wins and losses last year. The audacity of this rich guy has no boundaries.  Please do not stop telling it like it is Tony.

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: I wasn’t the least offended by Haslam’s off-handed remark. I wouldn’t expect him to enjoy the tone of coverage his team has received during his time as owner. It comes with the territory, and he understands that. I found it refreshing that he would acknowledge it.

Hey Tony: Why was Johnny in Texas when the team is in the middle of OTAs? Disturbing. In my opinion, that is the most overall disturbing aspect of the Manziel bottle-throwing incident? He once again missed his target! Must not have set his feet ... again.

-- Mike, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Mike: The majority of players, if not all, scramble to return to their homes after a week’s commitment of OTAs is completed. Manziel should not be begrudged the right to do the same.

Hey Tony: The Browns’ 2nd round tender of Tashaun Gipson struck me as Ray Farmer again trying to let someone else set the market for his contract. No one would give up a 1st round pick and big money for him, but a team drafting late just might give up a #2. Then the Browns could decide whether to keep him, depending on the contract, or keep the pick and replace him. Now they have alienated him and either will have to pay Top 3 safety money or let him walk along with Mack, Taylor, Winn, & Schwartz for the 4 compensatory picks they will bring in return. Your thoughts? 

-- John, Huntington, WV

Hey John: My position has been stated before: I felt the Browns should have gone the extra distance and given Gipson the first-round tender (additional cost: $1 million) to set a positive tone for talks for a long-term deal. They could even had made a public case for rewarding a player for doing things the right way for three seasons. But they chose the path they took. The situation could still be resolved amicably.

 

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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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Why don't the Browns go the extra mile to keep their best players?

May 30, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photos/Getty

OTAs are in full swing and summer recess is a month away, and the questions to Hey Tony just keep on keeping on.

Hey Tony: One of the frustrating things about watching the Browns struggle to gain respectability is the steady loss of good players. Right now it looks like the Browns will lose two Pro Bowlers (Mack and Gipson) next year because the Browns don’t seem to understand that their chronic losing is a disincentive for player loyalty that has to be overcome. That means retaining quality players will cost more for the Browns than it would for the Steelers or Patriots. Until they accept that, they will continue spinning their wheels by drafting to replace rather than improve. Hiring older free agents with a year or two left to fill isn't progress.

-- Bill, Springfield, NH

Hey Bill: Spot on. Replacing good players is another offshoot of constant regime changes. New GMs and coaches simply don’t show loyalty to the players they inherit. Mack and Gipson are exemplary players whom the Browns should strive to retain at virtually any cost. Good teams don’t let good players leave, unless there are extenuating circumstances. For that matter, I would include Jabaal Sheard, Jordan Cameron, Buster Skrine and Brian Hoyer in this discussion, too. This is the treadmill effect I have referred to often in the past. Resources are spent on replacing foundation players instead of building on them.

Hey Tony: I suppose this is a fruitless request, but can you make your articles and interviews on ESPN Cleveland a Johnny-free zone? I am beyond tired of reading/hearing about him. I chose the Browns as my team more than 35 years ago. In that time we have seen a number of highly committed players, and a ridiculous amount of crap from the front office. To have this guy come in last year and display the utter lack of professionalism, to say nothing of an ordinary commitment to his job is a slap in the face of every Browns fan who has remained loyal to a team that has done nothing to deserve it. At best he is a borderline backup QB. Write about players who will matter...and who care. GIven the choice, I'd much rather hear you talk BBQ with RBS than talk Johnny.

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: I hear you. In all honesty, I try to limit my writing on Manziel to relevant commentary. Like it or not, Manziel’s attempt to come back from a miserable first year followed by a rehab stay is a story that will be scrutinized locally and nationally in the coming year. I have never seen a Browns player command so much attention for doing so little on the field.

Hey Tony: They drafted Chris Kirksey to get more speed and athleticism at ILB.  Does he claim the starting role from Craig Robertson this year?

-- Dennis, San Jose, CA

Hey Dennis: I wouldn’t count out Robertson. I would imagine they would start off sharing time just like last season.

Hey Tony: Why can't the Browns negotiate a new deal with Marvin Demoff now for Alex Mack?  If he refuses to negotiate, he wants out.  If it's about wins next season, he's gone.  With the Browns’ QB situation, I can't see more than 8 wins and that's being optimistic. The O-line will then be completely disrupted in 2016.    Cam Erving will have to play a new position.  Someone will have to fill his spot on the right side of the line.  If the Browns want to build for the future, put Cam Erving at center immediately.  He'll be much better in 2016 with a year under his belt at his primary college position. Let Mack play right guard in 2015 if he won't sign an extension making him the highest paid center.  This would allow a lot less turmoil in 2016 when Mack bolts.  I can't imagine a rookie like Cam Erving benefiting from playing multiple positions as soon as he enters the NFL.  I want Mack to stay, but if he won't take the money now, he definitely won't at the end of the season.  I really think he's ticked off at the transition tag that was used and has no intention on staying a Brown. The best offensive lines in the NFL have stability with few moving pieces.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: The Browns are 30-66 in Mack’s six seasons in Cleveland. The reason Mack and his agent insisted on an opt-out clause is because he is tired of losing and tired of continual front office tumult. Think about it. He was drafted by Eric Mangini and has played for Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine. A player has only so long to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship. When he has the leverage to leave a losing situation, money is not going to sway him that much. By drafting Erving, the Browns delivered the message that they aren’t going to get into another bidding war to retain Mack.

Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns coaches will allow Josh McCown to do some audibles at the line of scrimmage this year? They seem to like his experience and knowledge. It seems like past seasons the QB runs the play that was called, even if it seemed doomed to fail from the start. Can you ask or provide your thoughts?  Thanks!

-- Feraas, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Feraas: I don’t think I’ve seen a Browns quarterback audible since Bernie Kosar. It takes a true field general to earn the trust of coaches and have the fortitude to truly change a called play at the line of scrimmage in a key situation. Some of the Browns’ biggest runs from scrimmage in the Kosar years were the result of him changing the play from pass after making his pre-snap read. Those were the days.

Hey Tony: Prior to the draft some teams will have a "detective" follow around prospects with off field issues to track and find more about what they do away from football. Have the Browns ever considered doing this currently with Manziel to insure he is in fact trying to right himself?

-- Jason, Aurora, OH

Hey Jason: I don’t know. I know the Browns have made many changes in their security department. I also know they were lax in monitoring Manziel, and others, notably Josh Gordon, last season. You’d never know that the Browns were the first NFL organization to employ a security director full time back in the 1980s.

Hey Tony: I see ESPN released their uniform rankings. Funny, they didn't like our new "creation" either. The other observation I had was the top 5-6 were classic 1950's style i.e. Steelers, Packers, Bears etc. I can't wait until 5 years from now when we switch back to the originals. Heaven knows we won't have won anything in those 5 years and hopefully Haslam will have either sold, or gone broke. 

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: I actually was surprised how much I like the new uniforms. I think the Browns accomplished their goal of respecting their tradition but modernizing the look. I think having nine different uniform options was a brilliant move that will be appreciated over time. Utilizing the different options is kind of a built-in source of energy that will keep the look of the team fresh. And now the Browns can resort to the old plain whites, or brown on white, as a retro, throwback look.

Hey Tony: I'm trying very hard to understand why the Browns feel a kicker is so unimportant. Can you offer any insight?

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: Sorry, I can’t. Truly baffling. Think about it. A kicker is one of the few positions on the field that has an inordinate impact on winning or losing games. Even at maximum market value, the investment in a kicker is such a small percentage of a team’s overall salary cap, I can’t understand why the Browns treat it like an afterthought.

Hey Tony: I have been hearing a lot lately how people believe Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time, most recently by Mike Freeman. Come on! There have been way better coaches than cheater Bill in the NFL. I may be prejudice but I believe our own Paul Brown makes Belichick look like a bumpkin. What do you think?

-- Don, Neffs, OH

Hey Don: I agree with Mike Brown, Paul Brown’s son. Paul Brown was the best coach of his time and Bill Belichick is the best coach of his time.

 

 

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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Why wouldn't the NFL deflate footballs to inflate offense?

May 23, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

With a lull in Browns news, the Deflategate scandal involving Tom Brady and the New England Patriots rose to the front of the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: Over the years the NFL has changed many rules, primarily limiting the defense, to bring more offense and scoring to the NFL games. If deflating the footballs under the lower limit of 12.5 PSI make it easier to throw, catch and hold on to, then why does the NFL not change this rule and make it between 11.5 to 13.5 PSI, depending on team preference? You'd think this slight rule change would mean more completions, but also more interceptions, adding to the game excitement.

-- Rich, Columbus, OH

Hey Rich: Excellent point. I don’t know the answer, other than increasing the PSI range would be an admission that Tom Brady’s alleged rules infraction wasn’t such a monumental crime, after all.

Hey Tony: The NFL is making a decision on something that it has no solid proof of and a lot of contradictions. I am not saying that Tom Brady is innocent. Just not enough credible evidence. If this would be tried in a court this case would have been thrown out because of lack of evidence. I believe the NFL is behind the hole Deflategate. They are using Tom Brady and the Patriots to get more profit and more ratings in their offseason to compete with NBA and MLB. Drama and controversy brings in dollars. The league will do anything including throwing their best players under the bus. They have their own agenda. It’s all about the dollars and ratings. Just look at the NBA with the overly ruff plays, poor officiating.

-- Doug, New Philadelphia, OH

Hey Doug: I don’t think the NFL wants a star player like Brady embroiled in an ongoing scandal such as Deflategate. It is not good for the game. I think the NFL was hoping that the Wells Report contained less evidence against Brady than it actually revealed. The fact is that many teams have been complaining about the Patriots’ rule “bending” for a long time, and the Wells Report certainly found enough evidence to take action.

Hey Tony: I've compared the Browns to the Bills in the past. I just saw a recent article on Bleacher Report listing the Bills as the team with the worst QB rosterand the Browns next. I actually think Matt Cassel and Josh McCown are mirror images of each other and prove that neither team trusts their young QB.  E J Manuel has the size and arm to play outdoors in the cold, but has yet to prove he can succeed as a starter. Kyle Orton retired after taking the Bills to a respectable 9-7 record last year. Playing these old starters is like putting a band-aid over a serious wound. The teams will have some success, but will be searching for a QB the following season. The most amazing thing is that neither team drafted a QB last year. Can you explain that? They didn't have to use a high pick to find a QB with potential. Many teams are eyeing the 2016 QB prospects.  Good luck if you're not selecting in the first few picks. I would suggest starting EJ and Manziel from day one and then you will know what you have to do in 2016.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I would disagree with your assessment of Cassel and McCown by pointing out that Cassel has won 10 games with two different teams (Patriots, Chiefs) while McCown’s career season high is six wins and otherwise never won more than three. I also think that Manuel and Manziel are in different situations. Manuel does not have the added stress of recovering from a 73-day drug and alcohol rehabilitation, as does Manziel. I am amazed by how fans don’t seem to acknowledge that as an obstacle for Manziel.

Hey Tony: Why haven't the Browns signed Tashaun Gipson to a long-term contract and now would he ever sign one from us?

-- Greg, Toronto, Canada

Hey Greg: Gipson may be intent on entering the free agent market in 2016 and scoring a big deal while the Browns may have concerns about Gipson’s 2014 knee injury. A long-term contract is still possible, but I don’t like the vibe coming from this dispute.

Hey Tony: You've been very critical of how this regime has handled the QB situation and has downplayed the importance of the position. However, isn't fair to say that the Steelers and the Ravens, two very successful organizations, both approached the position in the same manner? The Steelers were successful for years running the football and having Neil O'Donnell, Kordell Stewart, and Tommie Maddox as their QB before landing Ben. The Ravens ran the football and had Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller, Elvis Grbac as their QB before finding Flacco. My point being, don't you think there is some legitimacy to building around the position first until you find that QB?

-- Chad, Wadsworth, OH

Hey Chad: I don’t believe you necessarily build the team first. I think you build the team while continually looking for the opportunity to find your franchise quarterback. Believe me, the Steelers and Ravens did not want to suffer those non-championship years before finding Roethlisberger and Flacco, respectively.

Hey Tony: One thing I noticed from the Browns uniform unveiling as well as an observation as a season ticket holder. The Browns seem to be showcasing some "superfans" lately. Pumpkin Head, Macho Man, Transformer Guy, etc. Just wondering if you have any info on the whereabouts of Big Dawg? He seems to be missing at home games lately. Do you think he was phased out by the Browns as they try and usher in a younger generation of fans, or maybe Big Dawg is just another one of the many casualties of the 100 years war? 

-- Rich, Hudson, OH

Hey Rich: Last I heard was Big Dawg retired from superfandom, partially because of health problems, which would qualify him as a casualty of the Hundred Years War.

Hey Tony: Your article about the other AFC North teams' draft inspired me to call my shots re: Steelers' draft: Sammie Coates, barring injury, will be a star and perfectly fills that Wallace/Nate Washington role of stretching the field.  Also, Doran Grant will be a better player than his draft round suggests.

-- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith:You’re on record.

Hey, Tony: I saw an article (for reference: http://espn.go.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/12842476/drew-brees-veterans-notice-based-their-team-draft-picks-nfl) stating that starts by rookies are up 20% since 2011. I find this interesting because I thought the rookie wage scale would reduce the pressure on teams to start rookies right away. Have we seen an end to the days of giving players a couple of years to develop, or are more rookies simply that good?

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: It’s simple economics: As a result of the rookie wage scale, rookies are cheaper than 4-, 5-, 6-year veterans. The 2011 CBA changes created an upper class (high-priced stars) and a lower class (rookies) and the players in between became expendable.

 

####

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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