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#HeyTony: Would a full year suspension of Josh Gordon benefit the Browns more in the long run than a partial one?

Jul 26, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Until other football issues arise in the new season, the dominant themes of Hey Tony remain Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer.

Hey Tony: I appreciate your support of Josh Gordon. Cutting him seems ridiculous. Why give up so early on such a promising athlete's career? The benefit of his potential impact on the team in future seasons far outweighs the minimal cost of keeping him on the roster now, not to mention the personal benefit he gains from the support of the organization and his teammates. In regards to Josh Gordon's contract, I believe you stated a one-year suspension would essentially extend his contract another year. Given our (Browns fans') paranoia about losing our players to free agency, is the extension of Gordon's contract a silver lining to the loss of his impact on the roster in 2014? Of course the best-case scenario involves him playing as many games as possible, but having him only play a couple games this year would essentially eliminate the possibility of extending his contract due to a year-long suspension. Thanks for the great work.

-- Nick, Charlotte, NC

Hey Nick: That’s an interesting question – is it better to have Gordon suspended 16 games and owe the Browns two more full seasons under contract, or have him be active for, say, four games and owe the Browns only one more season under contract? The problem with an indefinite suspension is that, per rules, the Browns would be prohibited from having contact with Gordon during the suspension and in order for him to be reinstated he would have to pass drug tests along the way. If the suspension is for less than “indefinitely,” Gordon would be able to practice and play in pre-season, as the suspension would begin in the first week of regular season. Thus, they would have more time to surround Gordon with their support group and keep him focused on staying clean. I don’t know the answer.

Hey Tony: I agree completely with your Tweet on the subject. The Browns should not cut Gordon only to watch him "find himself" and then post All-Pro numbers for another team. This position is selfish, yes, but one that Browns fans are entitled to. The front office must handle Gordon with continued patience and strive to provide him with as much professional help as possible. 

-- Joe, Lakewood, OH

Hey Joe: I just don’t see how releasing Gordon is good for him, no matter the shock value. Plus, they have to consider what’s best for the organization, also.

Hey Tony: Contrary to what many fans think, if the quarterback competition is close, don't the Browns have to go with Hoyer because if Hoyer later struggles and needs to be replaced it will seem to be a natural progression at quarterback and no reason to worry? While if Manziel is named the starting quarterback and later struggles and needs to be replaced, it will look like panic time with another bust quarterback and the franchise again set back years?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: I think the competition is like a heavyweight prizefight. A draw goes to the defending champion, or, incumbent. The challenger has to score a clear, decisive win or knockout.

Hey Tony: I don't have a major problem with Johnny Manziel getting his picture taken with Justin Bieber and I don't have any problems with Johnny having a few too many beers. I do have a problem if Johnny is getting behind the wheel of a car after some of these parties. I'm also not happy if he's not working. I read where that Johnny says the parties are on the weekend after a full week of studying film and working out. Do you believe Johnny is hard at work during the week or is this just something he is saying to keep the press off of his back?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: I have not heard anybody question Manziel’s work ethic during the work week. The thing he must come to realize is that an NFL quarterback does not have off days when other position players do. It’s part of the job description.

Hey Tony: Excellent interview with Pettine. Great to see a coach actually answer a question. Like every other Browns fan, I really hope he succeeds but I keep getting these Shurmur/Chud comparisons in my head, (rookie head coach, surprise pick, nobody else interested and going to call his own plays). I know there hasn’t been a snap but is there anything to suggest that the optimism isn’t misplaced.

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I always think the newest coach will be the one to turn things around. If that is misplaced optimism, then I plead guilty.

Hey Tony: What is Dick LeBeau's record against rookie quarterbacks?

-- Marvin, Cleveland, OH

Hey Marvin: Quite good. The point is, of course, that Pettine knows the numbers, which adds to the prevailing sentiment that the starting job will be Hoyer’s.

Hey Tony:I think most people are surprised about the extension talk for Hoyer as am I. To me there can only be three reasons. One, Hoyer has looked amazing in practice so far (and Manziel hasn't). Two, extension talks with Cameron have gone nowhere all but guaranteeing the franchise tag be put on him which would force the team to either let Hoyer go to another team for nothing next season or sign him to an extension. Three, the front office is sending a message to Manziel that he isn’t guaranteed the starting spot and Hoyer isn’t necessarily going to be jettisoned to make room for him so he better be careful how he behaves off the field and he better perform on the field. Out of the three possibilities the most likely to me is that the FO is just sending a message to Manziel. What do you think? Is this just mostly meaningless posturing by the FO or are they seriously trying to resign Hoyer?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: It’s more than posturing. At best, Hoyer will be a winning starting QB for many years. At worst, he is a perfect role model for Manziel and invaluable backup. The Browns would have been smart to re-sign Hoyer right after his knee surgery in October, when his market value was at its lowest. Every win that Hoyer posts as a starter increases his marketability in free agency after the season.

Hey Tony: I read your pre-camp articles and had a few thoughts for your response. 1. Gilbert vs. Skrine: I agree that Gilbert should win out based on his draft position but, beyond your point, I have to admit I am excited to see how Skrine performs. To state that another way, I ask you which player on the Browns' roster improved more in one season, from 2012 to 2013, than Buster Skrine?  Perhaps Jordan Cameron? Last year Skrine held his own and was clearly much improved. Skrine might have a big year. 2. Jordan Cameron: I understand your enthusiasm for him to do well, especially with Gordon probably gone, and I hope he does just that. However, a concern I have when it comes to Jordan, what I wonder, is how much Norv Turner's influence will missed with Jordan: it is clear that Norv was highly-skilled at making TEs into superstars? Not to say Jordan is not very talented, just some coaches highlight certain positions more than other positions. How has Shanahan used TEs? Has Shanahan adapted his plan to the talent on his roster in Houston and/or Washington?

 -- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: 1. In my opinion, Skrine is most valuable when trained exclusively for the slot cornerback role. Gilbert’s physical dimensions – and obvious ability – make his “ceiling” far higher than Skrine’s. 2. Tight ends are in vogue no matter the coordinator. Shanahan will maximize Cameron, believe me. But some of that falls on the quarterback, too, and I think Hoyer showed in two games that he will deliver the ball to him and not merely hone in on Gordon play after play.

Hey Tony: Do you think there is a tendency by the media to overreact to off field incidents during the offseason because there is nothing else happening? Beat reporters and radio personalities have to talk about something every day, and as a result we are about ready to run the Browns' most talented wide receiver in 30 years off for failing a pot test and driving after two drinks, and all at the tender age of 23. If you guys ALL took vacations during the Summer, would there be less controversy surrounding the team?

-- Tony, Washington, DC

Hey Tony: I think everyone is fed up with off-the-field incidents – media, fans, coaches, owners, teammates. I think there is no sport in the United States reported more comprehensively over the calendar year than pro football, so that fact also contributes to the intense reaction to any off-season incident.

Hey Tony: How do you think the contract situation with Jimmy Graham will affect what happens with the Browns and Jordan Cameron? They are very similar players, although Graham has a longer track record for sure.

-- Scott, Conneaut, OH

Hey Scott: Graham’s record contract won’t help the Browns negotiate a long-term deal with Cameron. I believe he is destined to be the team’s franchise player in 2015.

 

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

 

 

 

#Hey Tony: Who else but Johnny Manziel leads off this week’s Hey Tony?

Jun 28, 2014 -- 5:50pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Grossi

Who else but Johnny Manziel leads off this week’s Hey Tony? This will be my last column for three weeks, when I return from vacation. By then, Browns training camp will be around the corner.

Hey Tony: Johnny Manziel says he's not doing anything wrong and he's not changing for anyone. He also says that he's doing everything he can to be the best he can be in football. Really? Earth to Johnny … to become a great QB you must be a leader! I can't see Joe Thomas following Manziel if he keeps this up. The players will have to make excuses for the drinking, partying and antics of their QB. There is a big difference going to Vegas and being seen drinking and out of control in Vegas. He's just not the same Manziel that was interviewed by Jon Gruden. You're a professional Johnny! Start acting like one!

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: One thing I agree with Manziel on is that his weekend partying has not affected his job. Everyone with the Browns attests to the fact that Manziel has been exemplary in the meeting room and on the field. I would say that he has been highly professional in that respect. He also has palpable leadership qualities. The off-the-field stuff will subside, I believe, once training camp starts.

Hey Tony: Since Jacksonville took a couple receivers highly in this year’s draft, it would seem Cecil Shorts is a bit of an afterthought. Any chance the Browns could trade for him?

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: I don’t believe the Jaguars want to enter the season without their Shorts.

Hey Tony: What's next in your opinion? As the Browns continue on the path to relevance in the NFL, it seems that ownership is the true difference, despite any legal issues it may face. To attain the irrelevant status of the Randy Lerner era, we needed lack of accountability and football acumen in many areas. The Haslam years haven't gotten everything right immediately, but a driving force at the top has taken up the fight for excellence on many fronts: stadium sponsor and renovation, game day fan experience, hiring of Banner to provide sound financial footing and draft picks, while realizing that one, real key to success was the talented recent hire (Farmer) who might have been lost. Immediate, intuitive action taken on all fronts Banner/Lombardi gone … no lingering doubts … hands on management. Some moves didn't work out (coaches), some procedures need improvement (coaching search). But it seems the organization is on the verge of becoming much more than just  relevant. Now a new communications guy to be named.  hanks for helping us follow and understand all the developments with your insight and perspective. You told us "organizations win Super Bowls".  What organizational shortcomings has Mr. Haslam not yet addressed?

 -- Mark, Branford, CT

Hey Mark: First, the organization has to develop a franchise quarterback. Second, it must develop continuity and stability. Once you get the quarterback, continuity and stability usually follow.

Hey Tony: I’m most pleased with TE Jordan Cameron’s prospects for this season. Given the probable suspension of WR Josh Gordon and no guarantee that he won’t fall off the wagon again after suspension, why not with Cameron’s speed and pass catching skills, move him to be lead WR that would truly overmatch most of the NFL CBs? Further, since Cameron isn’t a starter for his blocking skills and the Browns are really working to improve their ground game, which of their TEs could step up as a great blocker … and be a reasonable receiver?

-- Alan, Manassas, VA

Hey Alan: Cameron may be fast for a tight end, but not for a wide receiver. He is effective as a tight end because he is able to beat defenders who cover tight ends, i.e., linebackers and safeties. Converting him to wideout would eliminate the matchup problems that Cameron presents as a tight end. What happened to Saints TE Jimmy Graham when Bill Belichick assigned CB Aqib Talib on him for an entire game? Graham didn’t catch a pass because he couldn’t get open.

Hey Tony: Thanks for keeping us fans, especially those of us that don’t live in C town anymore, up to speed with the latest Browns info. My question has to do with Johnny Football and the wildcat. Do you think that would be a good way for the Browns to get him on the field this year and get him involved in the offense? Or could it hinder his development and put him at too high a risk for injury? What side are you on?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: The Wildcat is pretty much a dead issue. That fad has been replaced by the zone read option play, in which the quarterback lines up in the shotgun or pistol formation and reads the defensive end before pitching the ball to his back or running it himself. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan used this formation to make Robert Griffin 3 a rookie phenom in 2012. Shanahan worked a lot on the zone read with Manziel and Brian Hoyer in OTAs and minicamp. I believe we will see some of this in a typical gameplan, but making it a staple of the offense would subject either quarterback to injury issues.

Hey Tony: I am overseas at the moment and have all your latest podcasts ready for the flight back home. I was wondering what is going on with the Josh Gordon verdict. I was quite confident the suspension would have been handed down while I was away, especially after reading that a few other players were. Do you think this works in our favor? It almost seems like the league is stalling for a reason. Last I read the appeal has not even been scheduled. What are your thoughts? Thanks. Also, can you confirm a report I read that there were actually two tests given and that Gordon passed one and failed the other, leading some to believe it was second hand smoke that lead to the failed drug test.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: I am surprised the Gordon case has not been resolved by now. I have no insight on what is going on. I can’t confirm any report. Everything written about the case is pure speculation. Nobody knows the facts but Gordon, his representation and the NFL medical director.

Hey Tony: I'm wondering if the Browns are considering a trade to acquire Andre Johnson from the Texans. Do you believe they might attempt this if Josh Gordon is suspended for the year? Do you think he might be worth a high draft pick and if so, what do you think the Browns should be willing to give up?

-- Dave, Akron, OH

Hey Dave: As long as Johnson boycotts Houston’s training camp and persists in his protest to get out, a trade is possible. I doubt new Texans coach Bill O’Brien wants to kick off his regime with a major player making a bad vibe in the locker room. What is a (soon to be) 33-year-old receiver with a history of leg muscle injuries worth in a trade? I might offer a third-round pick, but I doubt the Browns would go that high.

Hey Tony: Over the weekend I read a column by a sportswriter in St. Louis who, like you, has an NFL Hall of Fame ballot. He said Kurt Warner is likely to be elected to the hall, maybe not in the first year of eligibility, but that he will be elected. Seriously? He had what, four good years? I know his is a wonderful story, but is he hall worthy? Would you vote for him? I'm curious?

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: Sometimes I have a pre-conceived opinion on a prospective Hall of Fame candidate and it is changed after hearing the arguments presented in the marathon meeting on the eve of the Super Bowl. In the case of Warner, my opinion is he is a deserving candidate. I look forward to the debate on his qualifications when he is eligible.

Hey Tony: Any chance the delay in Gordon's suspension is tied to Nike and/or NFL pressure to start Manziel and that if the Browns start Manziel, Gordon's suspension would be reduced? A caller on a local radio show said there was a rumor about this, but the radio host just brushed it off. I could see where, behind the scenes, these kinds of discussions/negotiations go on. If Manziel starts, his chances of early success increase significantly with Gordon to throw to. Everybody wins in that scenario. Nike, the NFL, the networks, etc.  It was said the one of the main reasons RGIII rushed back last season was due to pressure from his sponsors of his endorsement deals. Thoughts?

-- Paul, Seattle, WA

Hey Paul: I think there is no substance whatsoever to your points.

Hey Tony: I hope your vacation was swell. Wondering if you think the new renovations will affect the weather and noise conditions inside the stadium. Just from the pictures, it appears that they are closing off a bit more space of the open end of the stadium, which I would think help keep the noise IN the stadium, and have less (ok, it's still on the lake) wind. 

-- Nick, Chicago, IL

Hey Nick: The easy answer is we won’t know the impact of the stadium renovations until we get to November and December. In the meantime, I would love to hear Phil Dawson’s take on the subject. Nobody knows the intricacies of FirstEnergy Stadium better than the former kicker of the Browns.

 

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

 

 

 

#Hey Tony: The Browns' deficient situation at wide receiver has made virtual unknown Charles Johnson an urban legend

Jun 14, 2014 -- 5:03pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Morse

The Browns’ deficient situation at wide receiver has made virtual unknown Charles Johnson an urban legend. Fans are hoping he is a diamond in the rough. Coaches are just hoping to see him on the field.

Hey Tony: Charles Johnson is a height-weight-speed freak at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds with 4.39 jets. Do you think Johnson will compete for a roster spot in camp or is he still on the IR? Do you have any insider information on him? It would be nice to get lucky here.

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: I know that GM Ray Farmer liked Johnson, and his opinion was one reason the Browns signed Johnson off the Green Bay practice squad last year. Because he arrived with a torn ACL, however, nobody has seen Johnson even practice, much less play. These new coaches have very little knowledge of Johnson and are waiting to see him on the field before projecting him on the roster. Pettine said the coaches looked at game tape of Johnson at Grand Valley State to get a picture of what he might bring to the team. The Browns hope that Johnson will be cleared to practice at the start of training camp.

Hey Tony: Why do unsigned rookies participate in OTAs and mandatory minicamps but then later refuse to report to training camp? It doesn’t seem to make any sense. If they’re going to refuse to play because they have not signed, why not apply their “holdout” status to the other offseason activities? What makes training camp different in this respect than the other camps/OTAs?

-- Xavier, Bulgan, Mongolia

Hey Xavier: Players can not participate in training camp without a signed contract. Unsigned players should not be regarded as “holdouts,” even though that term has been commonly applied. A truer definition of a holdout is a player who is under contract and decides to withhold his services as a form of protest.

Hey Tony: With the endless waiting to hear about what happens with Josh Gordon and the understanding that the NFL will not make an announcement unless a suspension is in effect, will the Browns eventually make an announcement if somehow the suspension does not come to be? It seems they need to know at some point that he is in the clear if that ever comes to be the case.

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: Most suspensions are announced seemingly out of the blue because the news doesn’t usually get out that the player had flunked a test. The fact ESPN reported Gordon flunked a test for marijuana has made his eventual fate a daily question. Ordinarily, the NFL wouldn’t announce if a player’s appeal of a failed test was successful. The NFL would only announce terms of a suspension. In other words, no news on Gordon is good news.

Hey Tony: Do you think the NFL is looking for a way to get Gordon off the hook because he is a rising star? Seems to me as a business, they would want to do everything possible to have their young superstars on the field rather than handing down suspensions.

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: No, the NFL can’t pick and choose the players it disciplines. Its attitude has to be: You do the crime, you do the time.

Hey Tony: Can you explain to me how Gordon is allegedly in Stage 3 when he has only failed one drug test while in the NFL, NCAA suspensions didn’t carry over for Pete Carroll why for Gordon?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: The league does not announce when a player enters a new stage in the drug program. A player can be moved to another stage without an announced suspension. Again, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Hey Tony: I've been so impressed with Mike Pettine during his press conferences.  He comes across as a very knowledgeable, articulate guy who knows where he's going and he seems to have a plan to get there. As a long time Browns fan I have wanted them to settle on a coach and stick with him. Is the guy possibly Mike Pettine or is the jury still out because it's too early?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: I agree that the early returns on Pettine are extremely positive. But he hasn’t even coached a game yet. Not only is the jury still out, it hasn’t been summoned yet.

Hey Tony: You've been through more Browns minicamps than anyone. Setting intensity aside, how did the new coaching staff appear compared to the Chud and Shurmur crews?

-- Rob, Cleveland Heights, OH

Hey Rob: Pettine scores high marks in communication and organization. I can’t analyze how the other coaches and their staffs compared at this point. Remember, the only thing that matters is wins and losses, and Pettine is 0-0 at this point.

Hey Tony: Haven't heard much about the Browns’ new look uniforms.  Has it all been just rumor or is the organization keeping it all "under the cuff"?  Thanks and GO BROWNS!!

-- Angelo, Punta Gorda, FL

Hey Angelo: The Browns’ new uniforms will be introduced some time before the 2015 draft. Until then, they are keeping the NIKE-produced uniform samples under wraps.

Hey Tony: Your talk of Jordan Cameron's contract situation got me thinking of who else is entering their final contract year. Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine, Ahtyba Rubin, Brian Hoyer and Jason Pinkston are all in their final year. It seems to me that the Browns have to sign Cameron and Sheard before potential breakout seasons. Skrine and Ahtyba should be high priorities in the offseason but not right now since there is depth at their positions. Pinkston likely would be allowed to leave via free agency if he isn’t able to make an impact this season and win the starting RG spot. I am sure the Browns are planning to franchise Hoyer if he plays well so that they can trade him which raises the importance of extending the contracts of Cameron and Sheard so they have the tag available for Hoyer. Does this sound right? Have you heard any contract talks for Sheard or any other players? Which players do you expect will be here next year? Most importantly do you think the Browns will trade Hoyer even if he plays well in order to clear the way for Manziel?

-- Este, San Francisco CA

Hey Este: The Browns will not use the franchise tag on Hoyer. It’s too costly for a quarterback without a proven record. I predict they use it on Cameron if a new deal can’t be reached because it’s much cheaper for a tight end and Cameron will have two good years under his belt when the decision is made. There is some indication that negotiations with Sheard are underway..

Hey Tony: I saw your tweet last week about no 'A Football Life' on Paul Brown.  There's also a good article on MMQB this week about 'Paul Brown and Football's Forgotten Dynasty'. Paul Brown was an innovator and pioneer and his Browns were a powerhouse. With NFL Network's recent features on the 1960s and 1970s, why such little (or no) attention given to Paul Brown and the Browns of the 1950s? Is it just Browns karma ... wrong place at the wrong time?

-- Matt, Poughkeepsie, NY

Hey Matt: I’ve always been puzzled why the NFL glamorized Vince Lombardi and other coaches yet give Brown such short shrift. I think some of it has to do with the perception the NFL has come to disregard league history prior to the invention of the Super Bowl following the merger with the American Football League. Since Brown doesn’t have a “Super Bowl championship” on his record, his place in the sport’s history seemingly has diminished. Sad.

Hey Tony: Love your column and long time suffering Cleveland fan in Las Vegas here. My question is, any idea on the situation on the signings of the two first round draft picks since only 12 are unsigned and the Browns have two of them?

-- Scott, Las Vegas, NV

Hey Scott: Fear not. They will get signed before training camp.

Hey Tony: You have mentioned a few times that the Browns will decide whether to keep Tyler Thigpen or Connor Shaw. Why not keep Thigpen as the third QB and assign Shaw to the practice squad? That gives Shaw a chance to grow as a QB in the system and the Browns a veteran presence in Thigpen should the third QB be called into action.   

 -- John, Woodbridge, VA

Hey John: It may very well turn out the way you suggest. But let’s get a closer look at Thigpen and Shaw before making roster predictions.

Hey Tony: A hypothetical but I think probable scenario: After three pre-season games Hoyer has the higher QB rating, consistent play, good TD to interception ratio in other words has been a very good game manager. Manziel has suffered picks and inconsistencies but has also had several spectacular plays for key TD and/or third down conversions. They both post victories. Who would you prefer to see as opening day starter?

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: Trust your eyes, not the statistics. It’s impossible for me to answer your question without actually seeing them perform.

 

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: Could Jordan Cameron go down the same path as the Saints' Jimmy Graham?

Jun 07, 2014 -- 7:08pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

As the agonizing wait for an announcement on Josh Gordon proceeds, Browns fans turned their focus to other matters in this week’s column.

Hey Tony: Jordan Cameron has turned down not one, but two contract extensions from the Browns. How concerned are you the Browns will be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, a la Jimmy Graham with the Saints? No need to convince me how large a year Jordan is going to have. Thanks.

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: Cameron changed agents, so that should bring a new dynamic to negotiations with the Browns for a long-term contract. This is going to be interesting. By all accounts, Cameron should benefit more than anybody from the Shanahan offense and the potential loss of Gordon. Given good health, he could reasonably expect to have a bigger season statistically than last year. The risk of turning down offers now, of course, is the possibility of an injury disrupting his season. Also, if he doesn’t agree to a deal, the Browns can “franchise” or “transition” him. Those designations would result in a much higher one-year guaranteed salary for 2015. But, as Alex Mack could attest, the stress of going through the transition process might not be worth it. Meanwhile, Graham’s grievance with the Saints over whether he should receive the franchise value for filling the position of receiver ($12.312 million) rather than tight end ($7.035 million) will be heard by an arbitrator on June 17-18. A possible compromise would be for the Saints and Graham to split the difference and Graham receive a franchise value of $9.7 million. In any case, surely the Browns and Cameron don’t want to engage in a similar legal faceoff next year.

Hey Tony: There has been plenty of press on the rookies, their talents, backgrounds and how each would fill a need on the depth chart. The possible exception has been Chris Kirksey, an outside guy, who has been drafted to fill an inside linebacker need, or so we read. Can you shed some light on Kirksey? There were other "pure" inside linebacker candidates available when he was selected, and he seems to be "undersized" for the targeted position. How is he shaping up?

-- Mark, Branford, CT

Hey Mark: Kirksey appealed to the Browns because of his ability to run and cover backs and tight ends. Every addition the Browns have made on defense is geared to contribute on third downs -- the money down. Kirksey last week became the second rookie draft pick to agree to contract terms. He will compete against Craig Robertson for a starting spot beside Karlos Dansby.

Hey Tony: Maybe I am a blind optimist but I am actually feeling OK about the Browns right now. The loss of Gordon hurts and was tough to take right in the middle of the good feelings during an otherwise solid draft. However Farmer and Pettine seem to have a unified vision for team that Banner/Lombardi/Chud never were able to manage. Their vision sounds awfully similar to the Seahawks, a very strong defense with excellent corners and an offense centered around the run game with strong leadership from the QB spot. How does this year compare to last in regard to your expectations? I know it is very early so I am not asking for a win/lose prediction but do you expect improvement this season vs. last?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: Last year at this time, the Browns were coming off a draft that I labeled “A for awful.” Part of that evaluation was due to the fact the Browns seemed to write off the 2013 draft and rolled a few picks into 2014. That facet of their ’13 draft strategy benefitted the new regime. This year I have ranked the Browns’ draft in the top five of the entire league. Two of the future picks acquired in ’13 resulted in the drafting of Johnny Manziel. Yes, the new group is unified in the personnel department. There are no hidden agendas driven by ego. At least none detected, so far. The quarterback position appears to be solidified and competitive. The running back situation has been upgraded and there is a commitment from the coaches to run the ball. So, yes, I am expecting major improvement in the coming season.

Hey Tony: Is it possible Johnny Manziel was signing autographs somewhere in the stadium after 9:30 p.m. during the Indians Game rather than skipping out? I attended game 5 of the Washington Wizards-Indiana Pacers game in which RG3 and his mother were honored and sat courtside. After the 1st quarter, RG3 left his seat and never returned, despite a close game with a tight finish. At first people thought he had abandoned his mother, who remained in her seat, but later we found him in the hallway outside his section signing autographs for free. Maybe Johnny was being equally selfless?

-- Tony, Washington, DC

Hey Tony: I don’t know of anyone who believes Manziel purposely skipped out during the Indians’ rain delay on the night Manziel and Justin Gilbert were slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. I believe it was the Indians’ call to not have Manziel and Gilbert throw out the first pitch in a rain delay. Manziel and Gilbert were part of the total Browns’ rookie contingent at the game, and they did have an early wake-up call for OTA practice and meetings the next morning.

Hey Tony: I read your piece this week on the current state of the Browns WR position & agree how glaringly suspect this group seems. I'm curious if you could now think outside the box with me here to address our team's sudden deficiency on offense and avoid this humiliating tradition of parading out feeble pass catchers in orange helmets. Instead of just being content with our current pro-bowler TE, how about complementing Jordan Cameron with another athletic Tight End? Belichick showed us a few years ago how quickly to get vertical on offense by pairing Rob Gronkowski with Aaron Hernandez -- so clearly a two tight end set like that can work to move the ball when your squad lacks a true number one Wide Receiver. Obviously these guys don't grow on trees & I am not dreaming of some crazy trade for overpriced guys like Jimmy Graham, but I must imagine Farmer can fill that spot with a Ben Watson type of serviceable pro from either the deep pool of undrafted or (reasonably priced) veteran Free Agents.  Simply put, would you concede that Gordon's absence from the offense makes it suddenly clear that you can never have too many pass-catching Tight Ends?

-- Dan, New York, NY

Hey Dan: Yes, I agree that we will see more multiple tight end looks in Kyle Shanahan’s offense as a result of the potential Gordon suspension and the general state of the wide receiver position. Simply throwing tight ends at this lineup deficiency, however, doesn’t automatically correct it. They have to make plays, too. I would suggest that after Cameron, the tight end roster is just as suspect as the wide receiver roster is beyond Gordon.

Hey Tony: Looking back to the ESPN report regarding Josh Gordon’s failing the drug test, do you think there is any chance that the report was not accurate? I would think in this scenario the Browns are the only ones that know the true severity of the findings. Obviously I am trying to be optimistic here but if I remember the league announced Gordon’s 2-game suspension right away last year plus Daryl Washington who was already given his suspension for 2014 for the same offense. Do you know if Gordon is gone for sure? Or do you know any inside information from the Browns that may have you wondering the same thing?

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: The timetable of NFL action on Gordon is similar to last season. In 2013, Gordon failed a drug test in February and the announcement of his two-game suspension was made in June. That is why I believe an announcement from the NFL will come any day now regarding the newest failed test. Could the ESPN report be inaccurate? Sure. We don’t know what we don’t know. But I believe the Browns’ actions of stocking up on veteran receivers were a tipoff that a suspension of some length is coming.

Hey Tony: I would expect Jabaal Sheard to be the best LB for Pettine's hybrid defense. Pettine doesn't like to label his defense as a 3-4 or 4-3 and Sheard has excelled in both systems. Kruger and Groves seem solid but not spectacular.  Mingo is the wildcard. He has that freaky athleticism and speed to be a difference maker. However, his frame may be a liability against the run. I'm a little surprised that Mingo didn't put on weight. Tony, have you heard If Pettine wanted Mingo to get bigger or did he want him lean and fast?  The problem with a situational LB is the no huddle offense can keep them off the field.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Pettine has said he is OK with Mingo’s current weight and that he preferred Mingo add bulk over time – not just in one offseason. Mingo has sort of a weird build. He may be comparatively thin in his upper body but not so below his waist. His legs are powerfully-built – not skinny. Mingo has said that pass rushing is all about leverage and his lower body gives him that ability to win the leverage game. I’m not ready to count him out as a key contributor. But he will have to work his way up from a situational player at present.

Hey Tony: Just a question about QB depth chart. Does it make sense to keep Connor Shaw as the 3rd QB. I would imagine that the game plan for Manziel and Shaw would be fairly alike due to their similarities. Does this give him an edge?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: It makes sense to make Shaw the No. 3 quarterback if he proves better than Tyler Thigpen. Thigpen has the same physical skills – mobility being the most obvious. From what little I have seen of both Shaw and Thigpen, however, their arm strength is questionable.

Hey Tony: I really enjoy reading your articles and listening to your podcasts. I just read that former Giants safety Will Hill was suspended for six weeks for a third violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Do you see this as a possible precedent for Josh Gordon? I really hope this is a wake-up call for him to get his act together and also hope to see him play at least some of the season (especially in the latter half).

-- Chris, Bochum, Germany

Hey Chris: It’s hard to say whether Hill’s penalty is a precedent for Gordon because we don’t know the specific facts of either case.

Hey Tony: I would consider myself a decently knowledgeable and relatively "plugged-in" football fan, particularly when it comes to the Browns, but I just can't seem to wrap my head around the whole "Johnny Football" phenomenon. I understand that he was an electric college football player, the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy, and the proverbial dragon slayer who toppled Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa in 2012, but what exactly is it about Johnny's persona that transcends his play on the field? Is it his swagger? His lifestyle/image? When I look at him, I just see a regular old 5'11'' 21 year old guy, so the whole Johnny Football Mantra just doesn't register with me. I didn't get the Tebow-Mania thing a few years ago either, so maybe I am just the kind of fan who puts more stock into a player's ability to perform on the field, than their perceived celebrity status. 

-- Matt, Columbus, OH

Hey Matt: All I can say is keep an open mind until you see Manziel perform on the field. On film study, Manziel may not grade out as anything special with people who put no added value on the intangibles that Manziel brings. I am of the opinion that a player with limited physical skills has to be extraordinary in other facets to compensate. And sometimes those extraordinary intangibles lift the player to great deeds. We will all learn together about Manziel as the preseason unfolds.

 

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

 

 

 

#Hey Tony: Josh Gordon continues to be a hot topic for the wrong reasons

May 31, 2014 -- 6:56pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

 

Josh Gordon continues to be a hot topic for the wrong reasons. It’s not easy to get Johnny Manziel off the top of the Hey Tony column, but Gordon did it again.
 
Hey Tony: With the recent news of Josh Gordon still hanging with friends that smoke marijuana, he has shown that he has not learned any lessons or learned from previous mistakes. While the minimum would be a one-year suspension, is it possible he could receive a longer punishment?
-- Jim, Benicia, CA
 
Hey Jim: If Gordon were in Stage 3 of the NFL drug program, he could be subject to an indefinite suspension. That penalty would allow him to merely apply for reinstatement after 12 months. Reinstatement would be up to the league and whether he followed terms of reinstatement set forth by the league’s medical director. It’s possible Gordon’s most recent episode (ticketed for speeding while a passenger possessed marijuana) would not impact a decision on his pending case. However, it possibly could come into play if he were in the position of having to apply for reinstatement in a year’s time.
 
Hey Tony: I do not understand the NFL's policies at all.  Can you explain to me how Josh Gordon can smoke pot (or be in a room where that occurred) and as a result be suspended for a year, but Aldon Smith once again is arrested for far more serious charges again and will likely just miss a few games? Or how about Ray Rice beating his fiancée unconscious and likely to be suspended for far less time than Gordon. It seems to me that the morals of the NFL are far different than the rest of society. Do you think this will change someday soon? Can you explain how this makes sense and why there seems to be no push to change this upside down sense of justice?
-- Reggie, Los Angeles, CA
 
Hey Reggie: The NFL levies discipline for off-field violations under terms of three policies – Personal Conduct Policy, Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances, and Substances of Abuse Policy. Each policy has its own rules and penalties based on their violations. There is no rhyme or reason over what is the greater violation – an actual crime v. use of a performance-enhancing drug v. use of a recreational drug. The only consistency is that each policy comes down hard on repeat offenders. The league currently is in negotiation with the players association to amend its policies. It is doubtful that a new policy would be negotiated in time to have any bearing on the Gordon case.
 
Hey Tony: I just read your “New Direction” article. It appears that most reporters who cover the Browns have a positive feeling about this new front office and coaching regime. However almost all the new front office and coaching changes initially emitted hope and a change for the better. Why does this new management and coaching team seem to provide this feeling – more so than Banner/Lombardi, Holmgren/Heckert, Savage/Crennel, et al.? Thank you for your insight and keeping us connected to our beloved Browns.
-- David, Virginia Beach, VA
 
Hey David: I plead guilty to always believing the next regime will be the one to figure it out and rebuild this franchise the right way. The positive signs of this regime are 1. The players added in free agency and the draft, and 2. The people added in the personnel department. Only time will tell if they are any better or smarter than their predecessors.
 
Hey Tony: No question – just a quick note to compliment you on a nice piece of analysis on the competitive situation at the quarterback situation in Berea right now.  Amid all the hoopla and hyperventilation, it’s good to get something insightful as your piece Thursday.  With the managed access you guys have to deal with, it’s nice to get a peek behind the “protective layer” for a change. Keep it up.
-- David, Vista, CA
 
Hey David: Thanks for your kind words.
 
Hey Tony: With all the talk about Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel I was wondering if any of the coaches have had anything to say about the offensive line?
-- Greg Middletown, OH
 
Hey Greg: They are reserving judgment in this stage of the offseason, as the line adapts to coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. I can tell you the coaches think that center Alex Mack and rookie guard Joel Bitonio fit the scheme perfectly and that they believe Joe Thomas can fit any scheme. Coach Mike Pettine also has expressed a high opinion of Mitchell Schwartz. But, to their credit, they haven’t over-hyped the unit as a whole because they haven’t blocked anyone yet.
 
Hey Tony: If the Shanahans are good at one thing, it’s finding running backs to be very productive in their zone-blocking scheme. That’s no doubt why the Browns put a lot of emphasis on the O line and RB in this off season. This zone-blocking thing takes athletic guards that can move & block well in space, as I understand it. My question, though, has to do with the screen play. It’s shocking how bad the Browns have been at this the past few years. It would seem this new O line would to be better at this, right? It also seems the new running backs we have as well as Lewis would be ideally suited to run screen plays? Your thoughts?
-- Jeff, Denver, CO
 
Hey Jeff: Two reasons for the poor screen game in recent times were unathletic linemen, notably the guards, and poor accuracy on screen throws by the quarterbacks. I would expect the screen game to be improved dramatically – if Shanahan uses it enough.
 
Hey Tony: Do you think Johnny Manziel was really surprised by all the attention he received by going to Vegas?  He loves the spotlight! Manziel is smart and he realizes that this will keep his image marketable. That means money in his pocket from endorsements. Tony, can you ever remember a player getting this much attention before they even played an NFL game?  I thought RGIII was big, but Manziel seems to be everywhere. I know Hoyer would disagree, but I believe he would be much better off by starting the season as the backup QB. Everyone loves the backup and starting in front of Manziel could get ugly, even for a hometown boy.
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
 
Hey Rick: Manziel might be the first star player borne from the social media era. He is more savvy in personal branding and social media than any player I’ve seen entering the NFL. As for the QB competition, I would expect Hoyer to stave off Manziel, as long as he can remain healthy. Hoyer’s experience in the NFL game should prevail. Manziel would have to be exceptional instantly to unseat Hoyer. If Hoyer does win the job, I would expect the won-loss record to dictate how long he keeps it.  
 
Hey Tony: Why haven't the Browns signed any of their draft picks yet?  Do you foresee any problems getting any of them signed before training camp?
-- Steve, Georgetown, TX
 
Hey Steve: Since your email arrived, the Browns did come to terms with fourth-round pick Pierre Desir, the cornerback from Lindenwood University. I don’t know why the Browns have lagged behind other teams in signing their rookie class. I don’t expect any problems in getting all six under contract for the start of training camp.
 
Hey Tony: Any chance Manziel's very public Vegas trip was an "in-your-face" to the Browns' front office for their very public "back-up" and "substantially behind" comments? Thanks.
-- Paul, Seattle, WA
 
Hey Paul: No chance of that.
 
Hey Tony: Dino Hall wore No. 1 in his first regular-season game of 1979 -- against the Steelers on 10-07. See photo on page 94 of "The 1980 Kardiac Kids, Our Untold Stories." When laying out the book, I chose that photo from contact sheets of a photographer who shot the game. Also, you're getting comments about No. 6. I believe Seneca Wallace was the first player in Browns history to wear the number. Thus, your pickings were slim.
-- Bob, Columbus, OH
 
Hey Bob: Thanks for clearing up Hall’s use of No. 1. Prior to Wallace, two other players wore No. 6 – wide receiver Remi Watson, a replacement player in 1987, and Lang Campbell, a never-used backup quarterback in 2006.

 

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

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Are the Browns doing the right thing by pressing the brakes on the Johnny Manziel bandwagon?

May 24, 2014 -- 2:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Cleveland Browns

In spite of all the criticism, could the Browns actually be doing the right thing by pressing the brakes on the Johnny Manziel bandwagon? Also, lots of speculation about Josh Gordon.

Hey Tony: What’s all the complaining of the Browns’ handling of Manziel? I think the worst thing they can do is rush him in. QB play is so dependent on knowledge and pattern recognition -- recognizing defenses, where your receivers are, timing.  I think the worst thing that can happen is to have him come in without the adequate preparation/practice that make rapid decision-making automatic when the “game slows down” for a more experienced QB. In the absence of this experiment, my concerns are he will have to hold onto the ball too long and get killed by the next James Harrison. Even if he is more talented than Hoyer (unknown), that is not a reason to have to play him right away. Also I don’t see the trade for Kirk Cousins as a knock on Hoyer. This was before the draft and before they knew they had Manziel. It may very well have happened that they did not get a “top” QB prospect in this draft.

-- Thomas, Durham, NC

Hey Thomas: I agree with you that the Browns are doing the right thing in not rushing in Manziel in ahead of his time. Whenever a team drafts a quarterback high, it is incumbent on the organization to support and develop that player – not just to play him. I believe the Browns have a plan and will stick to it. As for Cousins, I think the Browns just wanted an insurance policy in case Hoyer’s knee suffered a setback.

Hey Tony: I've read where different sports writers think Johnny Manziel needs to improve his field vision and I've read where some people think he has excellent field vision. My definition of field vision is when the passer can find the open receiver with consistency. Do you agree with my definition of field vision? And do you think Johnny Manziel has excellent field vision?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: I think the criticisms of Manziel center mostly on his occasional practice of turning his back to the defense while circling away from pressure, perceived or real. Most experts believe he will have to curb this practice to succeed in the NFL. I’ve also read the usual criticisms – missed seeing open guys, merely threw it up toward Mike Evans and relied on the receiver’s phenomenal athletic ability to haul in passes, etc. Manziel’s record over two seasons in the toughest conference in college football speaks for itself, in my opinion.

Hey Tony: Since the NFL likes good publicity, having highlights of long touchdown passes from Manziel to Gordon looks much better than highlights of Manziel throwing the ball out of bounds since he can't find anyone open. Do you believe the potential good PR of Manziel throwing to Gordon might have any effect on lessening Gordon's possible suspension?

 -- Rich, Columbus, OH

Hey Rich: No effect. None.

Hey Tony: I read an article talking about the Josh Gordon suspension and that the appeal process might take a long time. Long enough for Gordon to maybe play the first few games of the season while the appeal process is still going through the NFL. Could this actually happen? And also, any more news on his suspension/appeal?

-- John, San Luis Obispo, CA

Hey John: No, I would expect the NFL to issue a statement on Gordon in the very near future. Like any day now.

Hey Tony: I loved your article on the pistol formation. I never understood all of the real value of it until now. One of the advantages you point out is that the defense doesn’t know if the QB will be running, handing off or throwing out of it. However, as long as Hoyer is lined up back there one of those options should be off the table, right? I mean there is no way the Browns will have Hoyer running that read option running play you described, is there? I would also think that Shanahan would be very cautious about calling that play even with Manziel given what happened to RGIII. Can you imagine the wrath he would feel from the fans (and the rest of the football world) if Johnny football got hurt on a read option running play?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: I wouldn’t expect Kyle Shanahan to use much read option with Hoyer on the field. We might see Manziel doing some. Shanahan says the pistol can be an effective formation even without the read option. I don’t see the Browns ignoring Manziel’s running ability. I just don’t see them making the read option a mainstay of the offense – as it was with RG3 in Washington.

Hey Tony: Do you believe the reason Josh Gordon has yet to be suspended might has anything to do with the Jim Irsay situation? I wonder if Gordon’s suspension is going to be reduced because the league is concerned about looking a bit hypocritical and have concerns of a possible media bashing if the punishments don't fit the crimes.

-- Dave, Akron, OH

Hey Dave: I don’t believe the case of Irsay has any bearing on Gordon’s case. Two different men, two different violations, two different sets of circumstances.

Hey Tony: Just happened to be looking at the draft recap and noticed that when we traded up from 9 to 8 to grab Justin Gilbert, that the Lions were RIGHT behind us.  Do you think we jumped up a spot because we were worried about the Lions doing what we did and taking Gilbert? You had the Lions taking a CB in every mock draft, if I'm not mistaken.

-- Tom, Akron, OH

Hey Tom: Yes, I had the Lions taking Darqueze Dennard in each of my 12 mock drafts. I don’t think there’s any question the Browns feared the Lions taking Gilbert and that’s why they gave the Vikings their fifth-round pick to assure getting him. The Lions wound up taking tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina – which nobody saw coming.

Hey Tony: It seemed that when the Browns traded the late round picks in the draft, they left me with the impression that they didn't like the players available.  However, I've recently read that possibly up to five undrafted free agents may make the team. Ray Agnew (FB), Isaiah Crowell (RB) and WRs Jonathon Krause, Chandler Jones and Willie Snead have decent chances. Does that indicate that there is a lot of talent not drafted or that the Browns are scrambling to fill positions? The bios I've read on these five players are quite impressive to be undrafted. Which players do you feel have a good chance to find a spot on the team? Is it easier to find offensive skill position players as undrafted free agents?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I know that GM Ray Farmer and the coaches consider Crowell a highly skilled running back. The others … let’s just see them play a little before sizing their busts for Canton.

Hey Tony: As the Browns’ quarterback competition dominates the sports news in Cleveland what other position battles do you see developing? I was wondering what they plan to do at right tackle. Will they hand the job back over to Mitchell Schwartz or does he have any legitimate competition? Is there any chance that  Chris Faulk, whom they signed last year from LSU and was touted as a possible first or second round pick out of college until he tore his ACL, has a legitimate chance to unseat Schwartz for that job? Also, what is the status of Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson in regard to when they may be able to return from their leg injuries? Do you see either one of them as major contributors in 2014?

-- Doug, Ashland, OH

Hey Doug: I will have complete analyses of the position battles when training camp arrives. Until then, I would say Faulk and/or Paul McQuistan could be competitors with Schwartz for the right tackle job. The Browns refuse to give updates on the health status of Benjamin and Johnson. Neither play has been cleared to join teammates so far in spring OTAs. The Browns will have to establish their statuses when training camp begins.

Hey Tony: With all the instability at wide receiver, is it possible that Travis Benjamin will see action at wide receiver in anything but four receiver sets? How is his recuperation from knee surgery coming? Has he officially been removed from kick return duties (in favor of Gilbert)?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: Benjamin’s status and future roles won’t be clarified until training camp. If healthy, I can see him as a part-time offensive player and punt return specialist.

Hey Tony: Is this new "Play Like a Brown" mantra that Head Coach Mike Pettine keeps saying a product of a desperate marketing department or a head coach who doesn't know our history? Don't get me wrong, I love the Browns and am feeling optimistic for the first time in a long time, but when I hear the coach say OVER AND OVER "he needs to learn how to play like a Brown" it is just odd to me.  If not laughable. Look, I would be able to get over how cheesy a saying like that is if the Browns have not been the most incompetent franchise in the NFL over the last 15 years (sadly). I mean, if I heard "play like a Patriot" or God forgive me "play like a Steeler", I would at least understand what that means because those organizations have identities and Championships.  Still corny and cheesy, but at least it makes more sense with a team like that right? "Play like a Brown"? Do we really want them to do that? What am I missing?

-- Chris, Columbus, OH

Hey Chris: When Pettine served under the wing of Rex Ryan with the New York Jets, Ryan changed the losing culture almost immediately by setting a vision of what he wanted his team to look and play like. Hence, Ryan talked constantly of “playing like a Jet.” Pettine is doing the same thing. He is merely articulating the vision of what the Browns will look like when he gets the program rolling.

Hey Tony: Regarding Josh Gordon's upcoming suspension and his future with the Browns organization one must realize this young man is only 23 years old. Obviously at this time the Browns must wait and see how the NFL will rule in this matter. I have no doubt that GM Ray Farmer will continue to support Josh throughout this process and provide him the best assistance program during his suspension. There is no question this organization took a big chance on Josh and gave him this one in a life time opportunity to play in the NFL, most only dream about. He assured all of us at the time of his signing that he would prove every doubter wrong and to trust him. My question Tony as an insider, can you tell us at this time where is Josh emotionally? After given this opportunity does he understand the significance of his actions, upcoming suspension and his obligation owed to this organization and his teammates? Will he ever mature enough emotionally to deal with his "life issues" and become a "True NFL Pro Football Player", before it’s too late?

 -- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: After last year’s setback, which resulted in a two-game suspension, Gordon said all the right things and had many convinced (me included) that he turned the corner and truly learned his lesson. As his outstanding breakout season unfolded, I and many others raised the question of whether Gordon could handle success. Apparently not. As for his emotional makeup right now, I have no clue. He’s a tough guy to get to know, very shy and introverted, and has not agreed to interviews since this recent news.

Hey Tony: I'm a huge fan of yours and I really enjoy your frankness when letting fans know what's going on with the Browns. Today you put out a feature article titled "Browns talk of toughness revolves around running the ball in 2014." I do agree with the premise behind the article but I'm really scratching my head that the same week you write this article the Browns release the much needed fullback, Chris Pressley, that they just picked up a month ago. Any idea what the thought is behind this is? Any chance of bringing our last decent fullback (Vickers) back to Cleveland? If not Vickers, then who? Or do they try to have an effective running game with formations that don't use a fullback? As always thanks for your insights Tony.

-- Rick, Orrville, OH

Hey Rick: I am always baffled when NFL teams, not just the Browns, spend time on trying out a player and then signing him, only to let him go before he really has a chance to show himself on the field. Sometimes these signings are merely extended workouts and teams evaluate a player’s practice and study habits and then have a different opinion of them. I’m not saying that’s what happened with Pressley, but it does happen. If the Browns don’t replace Pressley with another lead-blocking fullback, they will compensate with a tight end. It’s not ideal, but we’ve seen it happen before. I don’t believe Vickers will be making a comeback here.

Hey Tony: With free agent pickup Ben Tate likely to emerge as the team's starting running back and with all good signs pointing to the rookies Terence West and Isaiah Crowell making the team, throw in one or two fullbacks, in your opinion, where does that leave the once promising Dion Lewis? It would appear he is the odd man out in an already crowded backfield. Sure, lots of things such as injuries can factor in, but Lewis' stature doesn't seem to align with what Pettine and Shanahan have in store for a power, one-cut running game.

-- James, Dublin, OH

Hey James: You’ve pretty much sized it up the way I see it. Lewis could be a victim of the regime change. When a team changes regimes so frequently as the Browns, players come and go through a revolving door.

 

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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