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#HeyTony: Does Josh Gordon owe the Browns a refund on guaranteed money?

Jan 31, 2015 -- 12:45pm

By Tony Grossi |



The news of Josh Gordon’s latest violation of the NFL substance abuse policy and impending indefinite suspension leads off the Hey Tony inbox during Super Bowl week.

Hey Tony: I was curious if Josh Gordon's contract was guaranteed or not. I know some of the early round rookie contracts are, and I was curious how the suspension affects a guaranteed contract. Does the suspension trump the guarantee, so the Brown's would only ever have to pay the rest of the guaranteed money if/when Josh would get reinstated? If Josh's contract is guaranteed, this could figure in on the Brown's decision to cut him or not.

-- Brian, Canton, OH

Hey Brian: Gordon’s four-year contract with the Browns contained a total of $3.727 million in guaranteed money, of which $2.324 million was paid upon signing in 2012. He has already received the remaining guaranteed money, based on the details of Gordon’s contract on There is a mechanism in the collective bargaining agreement by which the Browns could seek to recover a pro-rated portion of Gordon’s signing bonus because of games missed due to suspensions. That pro-rated portion in 2015 is $564,115. I don’t know if the Browns intend to pursue that process.

Hey Tony: The Josh Gordon suspension is another tough blow but sadly not a total shock. I don’t get a sense that he is an addict spiraling toward death but he may never play in the league again if he can’t turn his luck and behavior around. This latest suspension reminded me of when Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi almost successfully traded Gordon. Looking back on the trade of Trent Richardson and his lack of performance on the field, plus Gordon's inability to be on the field, I think an objective person can only conclude that Banner and Lombardi perhaps were not as dumb as they appeared to be. Personally, I really didn’t like them or their activities while in charge but in hindsight they seemed to have understood when it was time to trade a player away. We see it often with Belichick discarding once great players who go on to do more or less nothing after the trades. While I think their overall attitudes and personalities breed a dysfunction in the organization, they weren’t complete failures. So my question is do you think Ray Farmer has that same ability to know when to trade a player away and maximize their value? Also was Banner the driving force in those trades? Or was it Lombardi? I am curious to learn which one of them had the foresight to have known when it was time to pull the trigger.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: It is my understanding that Banner was the driving force behind the Richardson trade and the attempt to trade Gordon. In the case of Gordon, the Browns weighed a couple of offers before the 2013 trade deadline that included a low, second-round draft pick plus a player. Banner held out for a first-round pick. Reports later surfaced that owner Jimmy Haslam blocked a trade because Gordon was tearing it up at the time. Also, the coaching staff and locker room were already rocked by the surprise trade of Richardson weeks earlier and the Browns feared a trade of Gordon at the time would signal to the players that were giving up on the season. During his years as president of the Eagles, Banner earned the reputation of being proactive in dealing or not re-signing players earlier than later.

Hey Tony: Did the NFL ever want Josh Gordon to play in their league? Why aren't they giving him the benefit of the doubt? Why did they make him enter stage one when he was drafted? The NFL looks like a poorly run asylum, and Gordon is trapped in it. He may as well go play another sport.

-- Kevin, Salem, MA

Hey Kevin: The substance abuse policy clearly states a player’s history the two years prior to entering the NFL could be reason for admittance to the intervention program. Benefit of the doubt? I think a lot of people have given Gordon that since he’s been with the Browns. He just keeps “messing up.”

Hey Tony: Let me get this straight. Last year, Gordon got suspended for testing for marijuana at a level that would not be even close to the limit for most other sports and the Olympics and for a value that was not replicated in the “B” sample, and this year he gets suspended for alcohol? That has to be the most ridiculous double suspension in the history of sports. He loses potentially 60 million for passive inhalation (allegedly) of one legal substance and having a drink. What kind of players representation agrees to a policy does not allow grown men to drink a beer?

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: Evidently, there must have been a lot more evidence against Gordon than he is willing to admit. Otherwise, there was no reason to agree to the terms of reinstatement. If his legal reps thought they had a good case to sue the league, they would have. Nothing there apparently but smoke (sorry) and mirrors.

Hey Tony: C’mon man. Mike Lombardi being in the Super Bowl is a sucker punch to Cleveland? Move on man. He got a gig with his friend. It’s fine. And we supposedly don’t want him around here anyways, right? So not sure why you care. Also, I get a kick out of your “Caveman offense” references to Schottenheimer and 1985 Browns. Yes, that team ran the ball a lot and had two 1000 yard rushers. That was with a rookie QB still getting his feet wet, and they were 5-11 I believe in ’84. So they did what was necessary to win that year, and it got them to 8 wins. The following years (when Kosar flourished) they had one of the most prolific passing offenses in the league under Lindy Infante (NOT a caveman). So not sure why all the Caveman references, especially with how you repeatedly say how important it is to run in the AFC North, cold weather, Lake Erie winds, not to mention your affinity for fullbacks, who are generally associated with a  power running game. All good Tony. I would imagine covering this team for so long has got to be pretty rough.

--Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: Why do I care that Lombardi made it to the Super Bowl? Because he was the GM of the Browns one year ago, was fired after less than 12 months on the job, and is now in the Super Bowl. Why do things like that keep happening to Cleveland? Schottenheimer’s teams reached a higher level only after he hired Infante to take over the offense. The Browns were 12-4 and 10-5 the two seasons with Infante at the controls and were 8-8 and 10-6 without him. I love the running game, but I abide by the philosophy: Pass to score, run to win. You better have a good enough passing game to be able to pull out a game when behind in the fourth quarter.

Hey Tony: Forgive me for proposing a trade (I'm sure you get sick of such suggestions) but this makes so much sense to me. I believe reports Chip Kelly has a man crush on Marcus Mariota and would love to trade up to draft him. I also believe Mariota will not be drafted before No. 6 (New York Jets). That means Philly would have to trade with Washington at No. 5 to get their guy. According to the NFL draft value chart, No. 5 overall is worth 1,700 points. Philly's No. 20 pick is worth 850 points. Cleveland's No. 19 pick is worth 875 points. So if Philly were to package those two picks (with maybe a 4th and 6th rounder for the so-called QB premium), they should be able to get up to Washington's No. 5 pick and Mr. Mariota. So how about the Browns send their second first rounder (No. 19 overall) and those extra picks they own in the 4th and 6th rounds to Philly for Nick Foles. He's got the requisite AFC North QB size and arm strength and he's already built a pro resume that includes a playoff berth. Go ahead, Tony. Rip this suggestion apart.

-- Joe, Canton, OH

Hey Joe: When people propose trades they assume the other team in the deal will be on board. Sure, everybody wants to help the Browns find their missing pieces. So in your scenario, the Browns would not only have to satisfy Philly but also Washington. Lot of moving parts there. As for Foles, you are grossly overestimating his arm strength and his stature. He may be listed as 6-6 and 240 pounds, but I don’t believe he plays like it. He’s no, shall we say, Cardale Jones.

Hey Tony: If I were Johnny Manziel, I would literally purchase two houses in Northeast Ohio. The first would be next to or across the street from Mike Pettine and the other would be within walking distance of the team’s headquarters in Berea. I would be at 76 Lou Groza Boulevard every day working out and pestering every single coach for insights as to how I can improve. I would make it clear to everyone in the Browns organization that I intend to eventually lead the team and my offseason workouts would be the first sign of proof. Are there any NFL rules that prohibit contact between players and coaches in the offseason?

-- Rick, Chagrin Falls, OH

Hey Rick: One thing players “won” in the last CBA negotiations was restricted work rules during the offseason. Players can enter the facility to use the trainer’s room or weight room. But they technically can’t meet with coaches or study video with them until the team’s offseason program begins. In the case of the Browns this year, the start is April 15.

Hey Tony: I hope that the Browns pick another QB this year or trade back to get two first round picks next year.  Brett Hundley or Garrett Grayson are possibilities and will be available. Will they be good? I don't know, but the Browns have to keep trying to find one. My fear is that they build their team around Manziel and allow another year to be wasted. You can win with an average QB, but it's difficult to advance in the playoffs when you face a better QB. All you have to do is to look at Andy Dalton and the Bengals. My advice to Farmer would be to focus on the QB position until you're convinced that you have a premier player to lead the team. I would also bet that if they could do the 2014 draft again, Manziel wouldn't even be on their radar. Is there a chance that Hoyer is signed and beats out Manziel? Do you think that Farmer has told DeFilippo that he has to see what he has in Manziel? I'm usually optimistic going into the next season, but this situation at QB looks pitiful.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: If Brian Hoyer is re-signed by the Browns, there is no question who the starter would be. The question is how hard the Browns try to sign Hoyer.

Hey Tony: Can you tell us a little more about practice squad receivers Kevin Cone, Rodney Smith and Phil Bates?  With our top three receivers (minus Gordon) under 5’11”, it seems these guys – over 6 foot each – would be great additions to the active roster. Any chance we see more of them next season?

--Dustin, Columbus, OH

Hey Dustin: These were all “future” signings by Ray Farmer during the course of the past season, meaning, he gets them under contract to go through the team’s full offseason program and then adds them to the receiver competition in 2015. If one of them pans out as a contributor, they will be happy.

Hey Tony: If the Browns hire Kevin O'Connell as offensive coordinator how does that impact the Browns potentially bringing back Brian Hoyer? If I'm Hoyer and the Browns make this hire, I tell my agent to block Ray Farmer's number.

-- Charlie, Cleveland, OH

Hey Charlie: I don’t see why the hiring of O’Connell would impact the Hoyer situation in any way.

Hey Tony: In a lot of the Super Bowl pre-game hype, Bill Belichick is characterized as a failure in Cleveland before succeeding in his second chance with the Patriots. Is that revisionist history? Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly, but it seemed to me that he had built one heck of a team by 1994 and that things were looking good in 1995 until Modell announced that the team was moving. It was only then that things fell apart.

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: I haven’t heard any of the hype you refer to. These are the facts: Belichick had one winning, playoff season in 1994 – his fourth year as coach. The following year, Modell did what he did. The season quickly fell apart. At the end, Modell fired Belichick because he felt he needed a more popular coach to bring to Baltimore with his team. He chose Ted Marchibroda, a former Colts coach.


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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Shouldn't Brian Hoyer be better in his second season after knee surgery?

Jan 24, 2015 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Our story that the lines of communication have been re-opened between the Browns and the agent of Brian Hoyer brought a new batch of questions about the team’s uncertain quarterback situation.

Hey Tony: Considering who’s available as alternatives and for some continuity, aren’t you at least a little curious as to what Brian Hoyer could do after an entire off season of not rehabbing his knee and an entire preseason taking starting QB reps. Announce that Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and whoever else are competing for a roster spot. Period. It would at least bring some continuity that the rest of the offense would respect.

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: I think one of the overlooked aspects of Hoyer’s 2014 performance was that he was coming back from his first major injury and surgery. He surprised me by not missing a game – or a practice – due to injury. I believe the reason for this was Hoyer was afraid to miss any time for fear of having the job given to Manziel. I’m not sure if the mental and physical pressure took its toll, ultimately, but I would expect him to be better just naturally in his second year after the knee surgery.

Hey Tony: Given the renewed interest from the Browns, do you think Brian Hoyer’s agent has the power to demand that his client will return IF Johnny Manziel is not on the roster? Would the Browns consider cutting bait with Manziel to help lure Hoyer back? I want to give Manziel a chance, but the last straw for me was him bolting to South Beach at the end of the season to party, instead of Texas to work. Let’s get an adult to play QB.

-- Chris, Denver, CO

Hey Chris: Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta, would never make such a demand. Also, I don’t think the Browns would react well to any kind of ultimatum from the Hoyer camp that you suggest.

Hey Tony: If I were the Browns GM I would resign Brian Hoyer and cut Johnny Manziel as soon as possible. I would also push real hard to make a reasonable trade for Drew Stanton, Austin Davis or Mike Glennon. I think it is really key to continue to search for a 3 to 5 year unproven vet looking for his chance to break out.  

-- Mike, Richmond, VA

Hey Mike: Glennon is an interesting pocket passer who had moderate success as a rookie and then seemed to regress in his second season. He certainly is young enough to deprogram of any bad habits, situate him in your offense and develop. It’s not always the fault of these young QBs when they fail to develop. Their organizations often fail them by changing coaches, systems and philosophies.

Hey Tony: The Pat McManamon article about Manziel was very revealing.  One thing that it did not address was Manziel's leaving the Carolina game. Have you heard rumblings that the hamstring injury was not real? It does not pass the eye test. According to the story that was given to fans, Manziel allegedly hurt his hamstring a few plays before his last play vs. Carolina. Watching on TV, the play looked as if Manziel might have suffered a concussion based upon the hit. Clearly that was not case. Why was Manziel not limping? Why did it take several more plays for Manziel to leave the game? I contend one of two things occurred: 1) the Browns saw enough and pulled the plug on Manziel. He looked shockingly bad that it reflected badly on the team; 2) Manziel removed himself from the game knowing that he couldn't hack it this year in a feeble attempt to save further embarrassment. 

-- Dave, Cleveland, OH

Hey Tony: You refer to Manziel’s hamstring injury as suspicious. Can you elaborate on that?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Dave and Tim: Another reason I considered the injury suspicious was that I have seen a photo of Manziel being checked for a shoulder injury on the sideline. Nobody saw him limping at any time he left the game, or the day after. And, of course, while still rehabbing this “significant” hamstring injury, he went on weekend trips to Miami Beach, FL, Houston, and Aspen, CO.

Hey Tony: While it would have been amazing to get someone like Adam Gase to be our new OC that was never realistic so given the options out there I think the hire of DeFilippo was the best choice. I'd much rather have a young, innovative but inexperienced and untested OC than an older experienced but mediocre OC. So far he has said all the right things in being willing to adjust to the current schemes and hopefully he keeps the zone blocking scheme that was working so well when Alex Mack was in place. So my question is a strange one but I wanted to ask if you knew if the following was within the rules of the NFL. It seems to me one of the largest detriments to a young QB developing is a lack of reps in practice during a season which got me thinking: Do you know if it is legal to hire a full team of "coaches" to essentially play as a complete offense and defense to simulate game situations so that a young QB could get reps and learn the offense and work through the usual issues young QBs need to work on? While it would no doubt be a significant investment it wouldn’t hurt the cap and given the importance and difficulty in developing QBs I would think it would be well worth the expense.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I assume what you suggest is either illegal or impractical. But it speaks to a common complaint I’ve heard since I first covered the NFL 30 years ago – teams generally do a lousy job of developing their young quarterbacks. Once a regular season begins and coaches become immersed in week-to-week game-planning, there is no time to work on developing the young quarterback not playing, other than to throw him out on the scout team and replicate the other team’s quarterback at practice.

Hey Tony: Do you think that part of the problem with Kyle Shanahan and the Browns is that he's a rigid system guy who needs players that fit his system vs molding the offense around the skill set of the players? I like most of what I've read about John DeFilippo, it's just his lack of experience calling plays worries me. Very interested to see who the Browns bring in for offensive assistants to help coach the offense. Do you think they bring an experienced guy to help coach Flip with calling plays? Thanks for the great coverage.

-- Bill, East Hartford, CT

Hey Bill: Mike Pettine said that a veteran coach with NFL experience would be considered for the vacancy at quarterbacks coach, but he wouldn’t list it as a criterion for the job. I don’t think a rookie play-caller can be babysat on game days. You have to just throw him into the pool and hope he swims.

Hey Tony: Who do you see as potential quarterbacks for the Browns next year via either trade, fee agency, or the draft? Do you think that someone like Josh McCown (35 years old) or Mike Glennon (25 years old), both with Tampa Bay (who will likely pick Mariota or Winston #1) might be available and worth a try? Josh Freeman (another ex-Tampa Bay QB)? Or, do you think the Browns stick with Hoyer and Manziel with the hopes that a healthy Alex Mack, a good running game, and some additional weapons will provide the environment and support for one of those two to have “some” success? Finally, why didn’t the Browns choose Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr instead of Johnny Manziel? Just to sell tickets? What did the so called experts see in him that translates to the NFL?

-- Dan, Irvington, NY

Hey Dan: If the Browns decide to bring back Hoyer, I don’t see them signing another veteran quarterback. A guy like Glennon might be considered if they didn’t bring back Manziel, also. The company line on drafting Manziel was that he was the highest-ranked quarterback on the Browns’ draft board. The attraction of him was his play-making ability at Texas A&M, his mobility, and his leadership qualities. The major questions were of his size, his lack of experience in a sophisticated offense and reading NFL-caliber defenses, and his off-the-field shenanigans.

Hey Tony: Do we know if Josh Gordon did or didn't get credit for week 17 of the season where he was suspended? This was big talk right at the end of the season, but I've heard nothing since. Will he be a free agent in 2016?

-- Josh, Galena, OHual

Hey Josh: You’re right, that story has been somewhat forgotten. The Browns’ position is that because Gordon was suspended for the 17th game, he was active for only five games during the year and thus fell one game short of qualifying for a credited season towards free agency. Gordon and the NFLPA may file a grievance protesting the suspension, but so far there has been no news on whether they have done so. As things stands, Gordon is signed through 2015 and he would be a restricted free agent in 2016.

Hey Tony: What are your thoughts on the new OC John DeFilippo? What kind of run blocking scheme did he run when he was the OC at San Jose State?

-- Jeff, Estero, FL

Hey Jeff: DeFilippo said he intends to run a mixture of the zone blocking scheme already in place and the gap-blocking scheme he coached under in Oakland.

Hey Tony: Considering the Browns interviewed at least six or seven candidates for Offensive Coordinator, give us your gut reaction as to why they chose John DeFilippo? How much of a factor was Johnny Manziel in this decision?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: I think the biggest factor was Mike Pettine’s familiarity and comfort with DeFilippo, who is a young, hungry, energetic coach. Also, at least three other candidates interviewed chose to take other jobs – Greg Roman (Bills), Bill Callahan (Redskins) and Marc Trestman (Ravens).

Hey Tony: So living in Patriots country I'm used to the ribbing and teasing. I have always responded faithfully with an undying love for the Browns over the years but I'm burning out, Tony. I'm not about to jump ship but I'm starting to find I have fewer answers for why I continue to believe next year is actually going to be any better. Even 7-9, finally breaking the double-digit loss streak, seems empty in so many ways with the mess they have already made of this off-season. Give me something, Tony ... please? When is everyone's faith going to be rewarded? When are the Browns going to finally stop embarrassing themselves and their fans?

-- Matthew, Freeport, ME

Hey Matthew:Here are a few positives: 1. Strong, experienced offensive line; 2. Good, not great, defense entering its second season under the same coordinator; 3. Excellent defensive secondary with a number of players still with room to grow; 4. Head coach Mike Pettine should make fewer mistakes in his second season and take his program to the next level; 5. Plenty of salary cap space and two first-round draft picks. It’s not all doom and gloom. If that doesn’t help you feel better, try a glass of red wine at night.

Hey Tony: I appreciate your frankness and assessments about the state of our Browns, keep up the good work. Today I am asking about game balls, I thought the two teams in the game used the same ball. If not, why? It would seem that they should both teams should use the same ball during the game

-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH

Hey Kevin: About eight years ago, the NFL changed the rule and allowed visiting teams to bring their own footballs – 12 for game use and six backups – to be used by their offense. The theory was to keep those quarterbacks happy that preferred to prepare their footballs to their exact specifications. Ironically, New England’s Tom Brady was a driving force for this rule change, along with Peyton Manning.

Hey Tony: Soon the Titans will be going up for sale and Jimmy Haslam is scheduled to pay the Lerners $300 or so million. Don’t you think Haslam would rather own his home state team? How likely is it there might be a Browns/Titans ownership swap similar to 1972’s Carrol Rosenbloom’s Baltimore Colts for Robert Irsay’s Los Angeles Rams?

-- Chris, Miamisburg, OH

Hey Chris: The current ownership of the Titans has refuted the rumor that the team soon will be up for sale. It may be natural to assume Haslam would prefer to own the team in his own state; he inquired about buying it several years ago. However, I don’t have any reason to believe it. A team-for-team swap is unusual, but as you point out it has been done before. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Hey Tony: Any clues as to when the Browns will unveil their new uniforms?

-- Amy, Avon, OH

Hey Amy: The Browns intend to unveil their new uniforms sometime in April before the 2015 draft.


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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Fans are not thrilled with the early returns of the Browns' offensive coordinator search

Jan 17, 2015 -- 8:43pm

By Tony Grossi |



Respondents to Hey Tony were not thrilled with the early returns of the Browns’ offensive coordinator search. It is what it is.

Hey Tony: Bill Callahan, a former NFL head coach and OC, accepted a job with the Washington Redskins (another organization in constant disarray) rather than interview for the Browns OC position. Greg Roman also preferred Buffalo. Does that speak volumes to as to how the Browns are currently viewed around the league?

-- Bob, Solon, OH

Hey Bob: I think everyone would agree it is not a good sign.

Hey Tony: Any clues as to what the Browns will do for a placekicker next year?

-- Amy, Avon, OH

Hey Amy: On Dec. 30, the Browns signed two kickers – Travis Coons and Carey Spears. Coons was an undrafted rookie in 2014 out of Washington who spent training camp with Tennessee. Spears was an undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt who spent training camp with Philadelphia. Spears is a graduate of Mayfield High School. The Browns still have Garrett Hartley under contract and also may opt to draft a kicker.

Hey Tony: Here's an attempt to address the Browns' QB situation using a logical thought process: 1) Johnny Manziel is not ready to be an NFL starting QB (and might not ever be); 2) Therefore, the Browns must sign a credible veteran QB for, at very least, a transition period; 3) However, no veteran QB having any other options would be willing to sign with the Browns as long as that means becoming part of the Johnny circus; 4) Thus, the Browns have no choice--if they want to have quality play at the QB position next year, they must find a way to get rid of Manziel! Do you agree?  (And, how could the Browns come to any other conclusion?)

-- Rich, Shaker Heights, OH

Hey Rich: I don’t agree that no veteran QB would sign with the Browns because of the Manziel circus. Some might think the competition is so weak that signing with the Browns is the shortest route to a starting job.

Hey Tony: Maybe by Saturday this question will be moot and we will have a new OC but I haven’t been overwhelmed by the candidates so far. I get the need with a still green HC in Pettine who doesn’t have much of any experience on the offensive side needing a well-established OC with tons of experience at the NFL level, someone like Marc Trestman. However Pettine showed last year that he is ahead of the curve in terms of a first year HC. While he wasn’t perfect I think he did well overall and should only improve next season. That is why I wonder if instead of a safe but uninspired OC like Bill Callahan the Browns look to an innovative mind from the college ranks, someone like Oregon OC Scott Frost or even Jake Spavital, Manziel's old OC from college. Spavital has been able to turn every QB he has worked with, from Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel into very productive passers while under his tutelage. None of those QBs of course have done much of anything in the NFL to hang his hat on but if anything that shows that Spavital can turn chicken ... well you know into chicken salad. What do you think? Will the Browns shock everyone and go young and innovative?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: The NFL game is totally different from the college game. You swim with sharks in the NFL. The defensive coordinators are so much sophisticated than those in the college ranks. I would not be comfortable at all with a college coordinator.

Hey Tony: After reading your analysis of the Browns QB position posted on 1-15-15 it raises a few questions that I hope you can answer. If I remember right, Haslam mentioned the need for stability and continuity in order to change the culture of the Cleveland Browns. I am very much on board with that philosophy. In fact I think the constant change is the fuel for years of losing. The AFC North had three teams reach the playoffs, check the tenure of the HC & QB of each of those teams. If Haslam really believes in this philosophy; 1. Why would he draft  Manziel and drop a bombshell on the Hoyer development? 2. Wasn’t having a new HC, OC and overcoming an ACL injury enough? 3. Do we really know now, if Hoyer is capable of starting in the NFL? 4. What kind of plan allows a QB to only get 13 games to prove he can be a starting QB? 5. Is a 7-6 record a good first season? 6. Why would he not endorse patience in his front office and let Pettine do the job he was hired to do? 7. If in Cleveland do you think Joe Flacco would have made it through Cleveland’s QB grinder? How about Andy Dalton? I thought we were on our way to stability. This owner is starting to scare me.

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: I think you know the answers to your questions. As to your conclusion, I can only say that many NFL owners stumbled along a few years before they found their way and figured it out. Hopefully, the worst is over, but I can’t guarantee it.

Hey Tony: Do have a problem with trying to find an OC that can get the most out of Manziel? Marc Trestman might get creative with moving the pocket for Manziel and adapting the offense to overcome his size and arm strength.  However, I believe to win in the AFC North, you have a better chance to win with power football and a pocket passer. The analysts said that if you draft Manziel you have to be fully committed to change your offense to fit his style of play. How can the Browns change everything when Manziel is one of the least committed players on the team? Farmer said he still thinks Manziel can be a good QB. Based on what? If Farmer wastes next year to incorporate a Manziel offense, at least we'll have a top pick in 2016.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Team motto for 2015: Jonesing for Jones.

Hey Tony: I keep hearing the Browns are at the Shrine Bowl practices, as one would suspect. The one name that keeps popping up, Ray Farmer. What a great sign, right? I could argue this is a bad sign. Ray doesn't trust his scouts. Is GM Ray nothing more than a personnel scout? Is the atmosphere that foul in Berea? Is he merely networking for his next assignment? How many other NFL GM's are present for the Shrine Bowl practices? Most notably, this is the same process that resulted in the #22 pick last year. I have seen more than enough of GM's ignoring scouts come draft day. Establish a board, TRUST IT, STICK TO IT.

-- Michael, Blue Ash, OH

Hey Michael: Actually, I thought it was a positive sign that Farmer attended Shrine Bowl practices. Most of the GMs not involved in coaching searches are there. It’s not a matter of not trusting his scouts or networking for “his next assignment.” Farmer should be at the Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl and as many “pro days” as he can attend.

Hey Tony: If the Browns are considering Kosar bud Trestman for OC, why not eliminate the middle man and hire Kosar himself as OC? Is he that much on the outs with the Browns’ “braintrust”? Even if so, isn’t he still undisputedly an offense (not overly offensive) savant? I know he doesn’t do mobile QBs, but the Browns won’t have any of those by OTAs, anyway. 

-- Joe, Winter Springs, FL

Hey Joe: Kosar can analyze offenses and break down defenses as well as anyone. But in order for that expertise to be put to use, he has to want to put in the incredible hours of work that NFL coaches routinely do. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Kosar say he aspired to be an NFL coach.

Hey Tony: In your expert opinion, which includes what you see at practices and hear from coaches, team execs and other players on the team in addition to the handful of quarters that make up Manziel’s body of work in the NFL, what do you feel are the odds that Johnny will make it as at least a serviceable starter in the NFL?  50/50? 20/80 on the wrong end? 80/20 on the positive end? And if less than 50/50 and closer to 20/80 - does Farmer and the rest of this regime realize that with the track record that the Browns’ ownership has that they are pretty much fired men walking because of sticking with Manziel?  The heart of my question is, do you think any competent GM or Head Coach with a shred of common sense would put their job on the line over Manziel? I don't.  I think this is all Haslam.  I don't believe Farmer's "I love what Johnny can do" post season speech any more than his "I drafted Johnny not Haslam" or "We don't need to draft receivers high" speech. To me this really reeks of a pair of cover stories to deflect criticism from Haslam for ordering the over-drafting a questionable QB prospect instead of a much needed impact offensive skill player. And then giving a directive to start him over everyone else's better judgment including Shanahan's, Pettine's and yes Farmer's too. Your thoughts? P.S. Could you please ask Jimmy how many Johnny Manziel jerseys have sold since his game against Cincinnati?

-- Fernando, Parma, OH

Hey Fernando: The Browns consider it outrageous to give up on Manziel after a mere seven quarters of playing time. Me? I think it’s unrealistic to think a 5-11 ¾, 200-pound quarterback from a spread offense college system can win in today’s NFL. I should correct that. Unrealistic is not the right word. Insane is more like it.

Hey Tony: I know, another QB question. But since we STILL don’t have one, it kind of bears asking. From what I can tell you are not too thrilled with available options at QB, and with good reason. But being realistic with what’s out there, is Mark Sanchez really THAT BAD of an option? Who do you want them to get?

-- Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: I’m not a fan of Sanchez. I expect Rex Ryan to sign Sanchez to be the next quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. As for the Browns, I don’t have a major preference at this time. Let’s wait to see exactly which quarterbacks are available not only in free agency but also in trade.


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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Kyle Shanahan saw the Browns as a train wreck and he opted to leap off

Jan 10, 2015 -- 3:47pm

By Tony Grossi |



By Tony Grossi

Kyle Shanahan saw the Browns as a train wreck and he opted to leap off. That made him the No. 1 topic in this week’s Hey Tony.

Hey Tony: Your best guess? Who was the "high-ranking" member of the Browns’ front office to text down to the sidelines during games with opinions on play calling to OC Kyle Shanahan? Do you think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: What I know is that there were non-football personnel texting disparaging remarks about coaching decisions, play-calls and use of players to each other during games. It was like two fans holding texting conversations during games. The problem was the “fans” were team employees who exercised bad judgment. When coaches became aware of what was going on, they were understandably put off and brought it to the attention of GM Ray Farmer. From what I know, it was not a case of texting play suggestions to coaches. But what was going on was inappropriate and symptomatic of the counter-productive culture within the organization that keeps it from winning. I don’t believe it was the main reason Shanahan asked out of his contract, but rather a justification for his desire to seek greener pastures.

Hey Tony: I agree all the off season activity and turnover is about Johnny Manziel, but what does this now mean? His biggest supporter was fired. Jimmy Haslam is not a patient person and seemed fed up with him at the end of the season. Donte Whitner was told players who did not buy in would be gone. Why not get rid of Manziel and keep Shanahan? And now that Shanahan is gone, is Brian Hoyer potentially staying, since the alternatives (Kirk Cousins) were all tied to Kyle Shanahan?

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: I think the Browns want to bring back Manziel to give him another chance after a full off-season under their tutelage. However, I don’t think he’ll be given the job; he’ll have to earn it. The bigger question to me is what happens if Manziel has an offseason incident that is more than the typical social media melodrama? Would they treat him with zero tolerance and change their minds about him? I doubt it. By the way, I don’t believe Shanahan’s desire to leave was based exclusively on his opinion of Manziel. As for Hoyer, I don’t feel they want to invest a lot of money or commitment in him.

Hey Tony: Kyle Shanahan wanted out of the contract he signed. A portion of the money he got was for his three-year commitment to the Browns. Do the Browns get any of that money back? Maybe it's time to start asking for refunds! Let's see how badly they really feel about staying with the Browns.

-- Gary, Thousand Oaks, CA

Hey Gary: Unlike players, coaches don’t receive signing bonuses up front in their contracts. They earn their salaries from year to year. So Shanahan was paid for the 2014 season only. If the Browns agreed to release Shanahan from the remaining two years of his contract, it means they owe Shanahan nothing and he owes them nothing. He won’t be getting that nice severance package that they typical fired Browns coach or executive usually receives.

Hey Tony: Why not give Greg Roman a call. Jim Harbaugh skipped town on San Fran and he doesn't have a home. He had some real good success in San Fran. Charlie Weis is a total joke.  

-- Ryan, Avon, OH

Hey Ryan: Roman was actually on the Browns’ radar as a head coach candidate before they chose Pettine last year. I think Roman would be an excellent candidate and should receive an interview from Pettine.

Hey Tony: I was discouraged by the news that Kyle Shanahan resigned. I thought his zone blocking offense really produced results this season and that part of this was that the players fit the system. Is this an accurate assessment and would it thus be a good idea to pursue a replacement with the same philosophy as Shanahan? If so, are there any good coaches out there who fit this mold and are they on the Browns' radar? Keep up the great work!

-- Erick, Brooklyn, NY

Hey Erick: In the 2014 training camp Joe Thomas said there were only two teams that ran the zone-blocking running scheme as their base offense – the Browns (Shanahan) and Ravens (Gary Kubiak). Now, there are several teams that incorporate some aspects of zone blocking and it would appear the Browns will fall into that category after they find a new offensive coordinator.

Hey Tony: I think that the Browns will never solve their revolving situations,  Head coaches, GMs, QBs, RBs, Coordinators,  etc., until they obtain an all-pro line. Why cannot the Browns commit to having a dominant line? I think this would allow our backs to run, our receivers get open, and our QB to stay upright. Seems to have worked for Dallas. 

-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH

Hey Kevin: Until Alex Mack suffered a season-ending injury, I thought the offensive line was on its way to becoming a dominant line. Mack was lost in the fifth game – very early in the evolution of the Shanahan offense. The line and offense unraveled because there was no adequate replacement for Mack. The real problem now is changing coordinators and changing the offensive system again. The line might have to learn a new scheme next year. And on and on it goes. Constant change is the problem. It kills any chance of growth and development of the offense in general and the quarterback in particular.

Hey Tony: Where is Mike Pettine in all this mess between Shanahan and management? The story made it sound like Manziel was forced on all the coaches to start. There was no mention of Pettine telling Shanahan to start Manziel. Is Pettine just a pawn for management? Is he just a HC on paper only and is Haslam another Jerry Jones? The bad thing about this front office is that you never really know who's calling the shots. I don't believe for a minute that Farmer selected Manziel the way Haslam has stated.  The story by Loggains is too far-fetched to make it up. I also believe that Shanahan was pressured to play Manziel by Haslam.  What I'd really like to know is where was Pettine in all of this. Did he resist the execs or did he cave and tell Shanahan to play Manziel. Haslam is the Manziel of owners. He's all talk with absolutely no substance. The solid continuity he promised when taking over has turned into a yearly upheaval that has made the Browns the joke of the NFL!!

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I think Pettine held out on playing Manziel longer than anyone else in the building. Brian Hoyer’s slump made it difficult for Pettine to hold off the mounting internal forces to play Manziel, and Pettine ultimately caved. Nobody on the outside knew what the coaches and players knew – that Manziel was not ready to play. Obviously, it was a mistake. But at the time, Pettine probably felt he had little choice but to try Manziel.

Hey Tony: Not a great start to our offseason losing Shanahan. I thought he did a good job, especially in the second half of games. How many times have we seen the Browns struggle to make halftime adjustments in the past? Shanahan seemed to get the need and had the ability to make in game changes in strategy which I feel is essential in today's NFL. With Shanahan now gone is there any chance to maintain the system he installed this year? Do you think it is better to get a big name OC to come in even if he brings in a new system? Or would the Browns be better off just trying to get someone like Rick Dennison to try to keep some semblance of continuity in the offensive system?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I agree with you that Shanahan, generally, did a good job with the material he had to work with. There’s no question in my mind the Browns’ offense would be better if Shanahan returned. Now, I don’t know. I think it’s important that Pettine makes the hire and chooses someone he is comfortable with. It would be great to continue the Shanahan system, and Dennison would be able to do that. But I think Pettine will lean to familiarity over system.

Hey Tony: Ken O’Keefe ran a pro-style, zone blocking offense under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa from 1999-2011. He did very well with all different types of QBs with second-tier talent. Also loves TEs (had Dallas Clark). Would be a perfect fit. Is currently the WR coach with the Dolphins, I believe.

-- Adam, Iowa City, IA

Hey Adam: Thanks for bringing O’Keefe to my attention. I knew nothing of him before your question. On top of your short bio of him, it turns out he played at John Carroll. I’ve never heard him mentioned as a coordinator candidate, but you make a nice case for him.

Hey Tony: I appreciate you keeping us out-of-staters informed. I was especially interested in your season recap showing that the Browns were last in the league in completion percentage and first in the league in pass completion defense. Those stats contribute heavily to third-down success and really point out how many times the defense made plays to get the offense back on the field, but the offense then failed. Do you think the poor offensive completion percentage is due to poor QB play, lack of talent at receiver, or the decision to rarely throw to the running backs? Thanks.

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: I think you covered the main reasons for the Browns’ league-low completion percentage. Ultimately, it falls on the quarterback, and one of Hoyer’s great failings was inaccuracy. His numbers showed that at Michigan State, too. You would think a good QB coach could improve that part of his game.

Hey Tony: Does Jimmy Haslam realize how close the Browns are to losing an entire generation of fans? The team's play has been abysmal for nearly two decades, with the exception of a couple of seasons. The 2014 season looked promising enough, until it became a raging dumpster fire for the last 6 weeks. I am 30 years old, and I cannot remember the glory days of the late 1980s. The Browns will be unveiling their new uniforms in the spring, and will expect fans to buy the new jerseys. Why should I buy a new jersey, since whatever player is represented will be cut or traded within a season or two? Contrary to what Haslam promised after the final game, there was turnover in the coaching staff, and it appears that Pettine's status is tenuous at best. Does Haslam know that pouring gasoline on a fire won't put it out? #100yearswar

-- Kevin, Chicago, IL

Hey Kevin: Something in your question really hit home: You’re 30 years old and cannot remember the glory days of the late 1980s. Wow. If you were born in 1984, you’ve had two good playoff seasons to enjoy – 1994 and 2002. That’s sad.

Hey Tony: I reviewed your ratings and listened to most of the shows you've been on and everyone seemed surprised about how weak this year's Browns' roster was. When this GM goes into the season with 22 undrafted free agent players it doesn't surprise me at all. Perhaps Ray Farmer should concentrate and focus on getting players in the draft that can compete with other NFL teams.  We had a bunch of overachievers that did well in the first half of the year, but teams with superior talent levels normally rise to the top.

-- Steve, Georgetown, TX

Hey Steve: I think we can all agree that no playoff team is built in one offseason. The key is to keep the same people selecting and coaching the players for more than one year. But that hope was partially dashed when Shanahan was released from his contract.

Hey Tony: I have never understood how you could spend a roster spot on a long snapper. Given what happened to Alex Mack, I think the Browns should sign an experienced center that would be a legitimate back up to Alex Mack and have him function as the long snapper. He has probably done that from Pop Warner on up in his career. They should also draft another lineman for depth. If we were the Steelers or Ravens we would be looking for Joe Thomas' replacement about now. That should be enough to fix the running game for all 16 games next season

-- Cal, Willoughby, OH

Hey Cal: I agree with you on the long snapper issue. For the life of me, I don’t understand the evolution of using a roster spot on a dedicated long snapper when a backup center can be taught the task. As for your shot at Thomas, it is unwarranted.


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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Do you trust Ray Farmer with building the Browns' team?

Jan 03, 2015 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |




Ray Farmer’s season review press conference put the Browns’ general manager at the top of this week’s Hey Tony inbox. Happy New Year.

Hey Tony: Do you trust Ray Farmer with building this team? I am still confused at the questionable decisions from the last draft like not drafting a wide receiver in one of the best receiver classes ever, to ignoring their $100,000 study that said Bridgewater would be the best QB from the class (he was arguably the best in his first year), and drafting a cornerback whose biggest knocks were technique, physicality, and maturity when you are installing a culture of accountability and a defense that needs physical cornerbacks playing man coverage. The undrafted finds and the rest of the draft were good, but getting no impact from your 2 (!) first round draft picks is a tough pill to swallow.  Also, do you find it concerning that the Browns de-emphasize the QB position at times by saying things like QBs get too much credit and too much blame for wins and losses, respectively? It may be true, but everybody knows QB is the most important position in the sport.

-- David, Macon, GA

Hey David: Farmer had his hits and misses. Unfortunately, his misses were in the first round, where you can’t miss. I would try not to over-react to his first draft in charge. However, Farmer organized the search for the quarterback. He made QB coach Dowell Loggains the point man in personally trying out 14 quarterbacks. And that search produced Johnny Manziel as the organization’s top-rated quarterback. Now, THAT concerns me.

Hey Tony: When Ray Farmer says that WR is not as valuable as other positions because they only touch the ball 10x/game, do you think he is saying that he wants to build/strengthen the other units first and that the WR position is one of the final pieces, or will the WR position always be low on the priority list? (What a philosophical difference Farmer has compared to Banner; how did they ever coexist, and why did Banner sing his praises when they approach the game so differently?)

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: Farmer has made it plainly clear, most recently at his season wrap-up press conference, that he simply doesn’t value the receiver position enough to use a high draft choice on it. Perhaps if it was the final link, he might bend. But if he couldn’t justify using a high pick (first, second or third round) on the 2014 receiver class, I doubt that he will change his mind soon.

Hey Tony: I was disappointed listening to Ray Farmer's news conference on so many levels.  Overarching it all is his apparent inability to admit he's made mistakes and give any indication that he's learned from anything.  The man's a walking contradiction. On the one hand, he talks about not drafting a receiver in the first round because they influence only ten plays per game. Can't the same thing be said about defensive backs? He talked about getting behind his players and sticking with them until they make the determination that they can't contribute any more. Did this apply to Brian Hoyer? It seems to me Hoyer was the glue holding an offense of no names and rookies together until he was eventually undermined by the Josh Gordon/Johnny Manziel dual cancer. His defense of Manziel, a growingly obvious Farmer mistake in multiple dimensions, is absolutely frightening. My question is this: do you think Jimmy Haslam is astute enough to recognize and constructively address Farmer's shortcomings? And do you think Farmer is introspective enough to take the feedback and use it? I think this kind of dialog is a hallmark of all good organizations, and was a major shortcoming of Randy Lerner.

-- Pete, Danville, CA

Hey Pete: You make a lot of good points. I believe Farmer’s staunch defense of Manziel is rooted in Haslam’s fondness for Manziel. That’s the only way I can justify it.

Hey Tony: I've been reading a lot about Johnny Manziel, Justin Gilbert and Josh Gordon and the thing I keep thinking is, should we blame the players for their lack of production or should the organization share in the blame? I forget the exact wording but didn't you say when the Browns drafted Johnny that they needed to know what they were getting into? Didn't they know Johnny could be a heavy drinker ?  Now is Ray Farmer saying they were aware of Justin Gilbert’s attitude? Do you feel these players can be "coached up" during the off season? Is anybody in this group interested in being "coached up?"

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: Each case should be analyzed separately. In the case of Manziel and Gilbert, yes, the Browns’ background checks did reveal the problems that both players encountered as rookies. Coaches are aware of the background issues uncovered and often argue for the selection of certain players. That’s what apparently happened here. So they all deserve accountability for these lost rookie seasons – the organization, the coaches and the players.

Hey Tony: In hindsight, following the Alex Mack injury would the Browns have been better off sticking with their original plan of moving John Greco to center and using Paul McQuistan (or others) at right guard. It seems like they could have benefitted from a veteran presence at center and that right guard is a position that is easier to mask a deficiency.

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: Good question. I second-guessed myself for not including this question on my list of the 10 Great Mysteries of the 2014 season. In hindsight, keeping Greco at center may have been the better solution, for the reason that you cite. I asked Greco why he wasn’t kept at center and he said he was never given an answer. I understand the goal was to try to disrupt only one position (center) instead of two (center, right guard). But the drop-off from Mack to Nick McDonald/Ryan Seymour probably was much steeper than from Greco at right guard to Vinston Painter or McQuistan. In any case, the failure to adequately replace Mack haunted the team the rest of the season.

Hey Tony: Thanks for the continuous Browns coverage. Love it! Here's my question:  If the Bears want to move Jay Cutler, do the Browns look? Would you replace our starting QB (insert name) with Jay Cutler?

-- Jason, Tucson, AZ

Hey Jason: Is Cutler better than any quarterback on the Browns’ roster? Of course he is. But when you add other elements to this issue – Cutler’s huge contract, his personality, his apparent lack of leadership traits and, frankly, his history of losing – I don’t see how the Browns could justify adding him to the mix here.

Hey Tony: I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's. Have people gone crazy, when they talk about releasing Josh Gordon? As you have written, he is the most talented wide receiver the Browns have ever had recently and they have him under contract for 2015 (and possibly 2016) at a good price. If they cut him, they just reward him by making him a free agent early. Anyone wanting to become a free agent, can just act badly and get their freedom to go wherever they want. They can always release him later, but to release him at this time makes little sense to me. Yes, he has acted irresponsibly and needs to mature, but just cutting him seems irresponsible on the Browns part.

-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY

Hey Erol: I agree.It’s quite possible that Gordon will “cut” himself by committing another violation of the NFL drug policy. If that occurs, he will enter the “indefinite suspension” category of the NFL policy. If he doesn’t commit a violation, I would renew efforts to trade him. If that fails, I would bring him back.

Hey Tony: You've covered the Browns for a long time, I knew you'd love the reminder. Tell us your gut feeling about whether or not Jimmy Haslam was indeed involved in the decision to trade up for Manziel. I just don't know who to believe.

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: I don’t believe he wasn’t involved in the decision. The question is how much involved. Did he instruct, “Do whatever you can to draft Manziel”? Or, given the circumstances of Manziel falling down the draft order and the potential to move up, did he instruct, “Go get him”? I believe the latter. The trade and selection could not have happened without Haslam’s knowledge and approval. He had to sign off on adding a player with obvious baggage but one with rare marketability.

Hey Tony: If what Farmer said is true about Haslam not making the call for Manziel, how is Dowell Loggains still a coach on the Browns?  His comment about the text from Manziel and then saying Haslam made the pick should have infuriated Farmer and Haslam! If he fabricated the story, why would you want him on your staff? Why wouldn't Haslam have immediately said the story was a lie? He doesn't seem like the type of owner that would allow his coaches to lie about his involvement in the selection or did Farmer just take the fall for the pick? I like Farmer, but he just lost a ton of credibility as a player evaluator if he selected Manziel over Carr and Bridgewater! It was leaked to the media that Farmer preferred Bridgewater. I guess we'll never know now how it really went down. How can Farmer let Hoyer walk when Manziel will be the main man next year? What available veteran is really better than Hoyer and would you really want a QB drafted learning how to prepare from Manziel? 

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Loggains didn’t say Haslam made the pick. He said Haslam said, “Let’s make the trade and get this guy.” A few days later, Haslam told a luncheon audience that Farmer made the pick. If Farmer indeed had Manziel rated ahead of Carr and Bridgewater, it’s obvious that that was a grave mistake. As for Hoyer, as badly as his game spiraled downward at the end, he remains a tremendous role model and mentor for any young quarterback. I don’t get the un-love he receives from the organization.

Hey Tony: Do you know if the current Browns' players (and the new coaches for that matter) really understand the history of the Browns prior to 1999? I think these guys themselves really only associate the current Browns history to the last 15+ years of mostly losing. I almost think that it would be worth to have them all have the required homework of watching following video -- NFLHistory of the Cleveland Browns. I would even suggest them being required to read your book -- Tales from the Browns Sidelines -- at least to understand the excitement and energy the team used to have. Who could forget the "Baabarians" video for instance. Those teams had an identity. Maybe they should bring back former Browns players or coaches to speak about the rivalries and what it means to be a Brown (I can definitely see Marty Schottenheimer or Sam Rutigliano being a great resource or Jerry Sherk, Dick Ambrose, Robert L. Jackson, Tom Darden, Greg Pruitt, Clay Matthews, Hanford Dixon, Mike Golic and yes Bernie Kosar). They could bring them in to speak before Divisional Rivalry games to educate them on why the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals are hated. Heck, they could even tour the recent Case Western Reserve historical Society's expo on the Cleveland Browns. I believe this would help Coach Mike Pettine really convey what it means to "Play like a Brown" mantra. I just don't get the feeling that these young guys really understand what Coach Pettine really means.  When I hear that mantra it has added meaning to me. It's more than mental and physical toughness on the field. It's also about Northeast Ohio's history with football - winning football. In my opinion, the fans carry the history closer to heart because players/coaches come and go so rapidly lately that they don't understand why every time the coaches say it's a "process" or it takes time, we the fans get upset because -- "We know, we have over 50 years of time with the Browns - do you?"

-- Stan, Atlanta, GA

Hey Stan: I think it’s a good idea for the coach of the Browns to educate his rookies every year on the history of the team. I assume they do this. If not, it should be incorporated in their rookie orientation program at the start of every season.

Hey Tony: When Mike Lombardi called drafting Josh Gordon a "mistake" on the NFL network we all remembered.  When Joe Banner traded Richardson to the Colts we all were furious.  When we learned that Banner wanted to trade Josh Gordon last season but it was "vetoed" we all mocked him.  OK, I will admit "The Three Stooges" (2 of them anyway) may not have been our version of Larry, Curly or Moe.  Yes, I was wrong. You?

-- Chris, Columbus, OH

Hey Chris: I wouldn’t label the drafting of Gordon a mistake. He produced one All-Pro season out of three (so far). That’s better than any other second-round draft pick of recent vintage. The Richardson trade was a brilliant move. At the time, though, it contributed to a 4-12 season. Trading Gordon during the 2013 season for a second-round pick and a starting-caliber player would have further deflated the locker room in the middle of that season. True, that team went on to lose its final seven games. But trading Gordon, on the heels of trading Richardson, would have made that season even uglier.

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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#Hey Tony: What happens if Connor Shaw outperforms Johnny Manziel in his first NFL appearance?

Dec 27, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |




If this is the final week of another Browns’ season, it must mean their third quarterback is in the headlines. Yes, it’s time for some questions on Connor Shaw.

Hey Tony: If Connor Shaw starts this Sunday against Baltimore and performs very well, as Cleveland fans hoped Johnny Manziel would look, would this be good or bad heading into the offseason? It seems that if Shaw looks good it would provide some hope, at least for Shaw being a quality backup. But it would also make the Browns look bad for drafting Manziel. Your thoughts?
-- Rich, Columbus, OH

Hey Rich: If Shaw is impressive – or at the least if he performs better than Manziel – then it bodes well for Shaw heading into the 2015 offseason and promotes him into the mix for a backup roster spot next year. And it would bode not so well for the persons responsible for putting a first-round grade on Manziel. Both players will have taken snaps with the first-team offense only for a few practices prior to their first starts. There's no advantage Shaw takes into this game; in fact, he has to debut on the road against a team in a win-or-go-home mentality.

Hey Tony: Do you think if Connor Shaw looks like an NFL quarterback that may light a fire under Johnny Football to work and learn the playbook? I think it can only be win/win for the Browns if Connor plays well. 

-- Dave, North Ridgeville, OH

Hey Dave: Light a fire under Johnny Football? That should have been lit the night he was taken in the first round of the draft, should have been lit the day the Browns declared it an open competition for the starting job, should have been lit the day Brian Hoyer was named the starter, should have been lit the day Manziel replaced Hoyer, and should have been lit the day after Manziel lost his first start, 30-0. Time for him to buy a new lighter.

Hey Tony: Do you think Johnny Football's press conference comments this week about 'not taking this year as seriously as he should have and that he has learned his lesson' are really addressed to the owner and general manager? If so, do you think he is doing this because of real "vibes" of displeasure coming out of owner's box and front office? What do you think?

-- John, Brooklyn Heights, OH

Hey John: You may be right. I just think Manziel is extremely gifted at saying the words everyone wants to hear.

Hey Tony: I feel like Brian Hoyer didn't do well under pressure of competition within the team. In the offseason, he wasn't very good in his QB competition with Manziel. When he started to struggle late in the season and fans and media started calling for Manziel, he wasn't very good. I think this is something that can be improved as he deals with this more over time. I'm concerned that these struggles with pressure is going to cause the only QB we've had in 15 years with a winning record to be gone. I feel like he has a ceiling of Tom Brady. Many say he could only be a backup, but why? He's taken a bad offense and scored when he's had to, and most importantly, won. He has decent size, he is smart, he has decent accuracy, he scrambles as well as Brady, and his arm strength isn't that bad (he led the league for awhile in passing plays over 20 yards). Now with the talk from Pettine that Manziel will be back to at least compete next year, does this spell the end for Hoyer in Cleveland? Do you think there is any chance Hoyer would come back next year if he knew he'd have to compete with Manziel?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Comparing Hoyer to Brady is really unfair. He doesn’t have Brady’s size, arm strength or accuracy. I believe Hoyer feels unappreciated by the Browns. He would jump at the chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere, but is not averse to returning.

Hey Tony: Am I the only one who can see through Manziel? Before the draft all of the partying was supposedly behind him as he worked out in California. After the draft he went right back being the life of the party ... drinking champagne on inflated swans and such. Now when the Browns are beginning to make plans for next year (plans he may not fit in) he is once again saying all the right things. After reading Karlos Dansby’s quotes about Manziel and Justin Gilbert, I am convinced Manziel is not the guy and I have grave concerns about Gilbert. Do you think the Browns would be gullible enough to hand Manziel the job without bringing in competition to be the starting quarterback? Also, how can Ray Farmer be safe? He passed on Sammy Watkins and Teddy Bridgewater for two guys who couldn't crack the starting lineup of a 4-12 team. 

-- Tony, Bowie, MD

Hey Tony: The difference between Gilbert and Manziel is that Gilbert has so much more athletic ability and, because of that, probably has a greater chance at NFL success. I don’t believe the Browns will hand Manziel the starting job. As for Farmer, he may have foul-tipped his first two picks, but he saved his draft with the selections of Joel Bitonio and Chris Kirksey, and the free agent signings of undrafted players Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel and K’Waun Williams. Although Terrance West finished in the doghouse, he contributed to some wins earlier in the season. Pierre Desir showed some signs at the end of his rookie season of being a player, too. But you can't blow the first-round picks.

Hey Tony: When was the last time the Browns beat all three division opponents in the same year?

-- Wade, Fort Myers, FL

Hey Wade: Since NFL realignment created the AFC North in 2002, the Browns have never defeated all three division opponents in the same season.

Hey Tony: I think the Browns could solve a few of their problems all at once with the right deal. I think they should package Manziel, Gilbert, Gordon, and whatever draft picks it would take to trade up to get Marcus Mariota.  Heck, throw in West too. We need players with character and discipline led by a talented quarterback with character. That would squash the loser mentality that seems keep getting a grip on this team.You can't "play like a Brown" (whatever that means) until you have players that "think like a Brown" first.

-- Mike, Chesterland, OH

Hey Mike: Sure. Trade everybody. And then next year, trade more. On and on and on it goes.

Hey Tony: It seems to me that the rise of the Bengals to the top of the AFC North has coincided with their improved ability to draft impact players the last five years or so. What did they change in their drafting process and what could the Browns who continue to have poor drafts learn from them? Also, if the rumors are true that our owner picked Manziel then I think it portends very poorly for the future of the Browns.

-- Bill, Pepper Pike, OH

Hey Bill: At some point, coach Marvin Lewis acquired more authority in the Bengals’ draft process. It wasn’t too long ago, however, that the Bengals were excoriated for taking chances on bad character players. That continued in recent years (e.g. Adam Jones, Vontaze Burfict), yet it started paying off.

Hey Tony: Marc Trestman's tenure as HC in Chicago is in jeopardy. I think it will not be a bad idea to bring him in as QB coach with the Browns. We know he was Kosar's QB coach. I want Dowell Loggains out of Cleveland especially after the Johnny debacle. Your views?

-- Sam, New York City, NY

Hey Sam: I don’t know if Trestman would want a return to the assistant coach ranks if he is let go by the Bears. As for Loggains, I would guess that he could take the fall for the Manziel fiasco. Loggains was the point man in the hunt for a quarterback. He personally worked out each of the 11 quarterbacks the Browns showed interest in and also was the man texting back and forth with Manziel during the night of the draft.

Hey Tony: Hope you had a great Christmas with your family. The Browns run defense has historically been terrible since their return. There's an opportunity to get one of the premier defensive linemen in the NFL when Ndamukong Suh becomes a free agent after this season. His specialty is stopping the run, but he can also get after the passer. Do you think he'd fit in with the Browns defensive scheme? Do you think the Browns would shell out the big bucks to get him?

-- Steve, Georgetown, TX

Hey Steve: I have heard the Browns are considering Suh as a prime free agent target. They are once again among the league leaders in projected salary cap room and may be willing to make him the highest-paid defensive lineman in NFL history. That’s the type of contract it will take to attract Suh. His defensive line teammate, Nick Fairley, also is a free agent and would be considered a consolation prize to teams failing to land Suh.

Hey Tony: This Johnny Manziel injury has fake written all over it. I don't mean to to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it all seemed way too fishy. From him playing some of the worst QB play I've ever seen, to calling a sweep run while he was gimpy right towards the Browns sideline, to seeing no limp on the sideline as he headed to the locker room, it seems to me the coaches knew he was only hurting himself by leaving him out there. Do you think the coaching staff could have planned this to be his 2014 exit?

-- James, Collegedale, TN

Hey James: No, I don’t believe that at all. I think a quarterback sweep is one of the plays they may have felt Manziel could execute with some degree of success.

Hey Tony: With the season over on Sunday, would you be willing to join a moratorium on use of the name "Manziel" for at least one day, Monday December 29, 2014, when talking Browns? Maybe we can start something called "Manziel-free Mondays" through the Super Bowl where we know we can listen to or read sports talk knowing the name "Manziel" will not be used?

-- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: I would like to, but whatever Connor Shaw does in Baltimore is going to be compared to Manziel’s first game. Let’s start the moratorium a week later.

Hey Tony: Great job covering the Browns this year. I always appreciate your insights. Regarding the Browns’ 31st ranking defense against the run, do you attribute the poor performance to personnel or defensive scheme? Do you think Pettine will alter the scheme next year to better fit the personnel?  

-- Chris, Denver, CO

Hey Chris: Pettine will not alter his scheme. I think the typically poor ranking against the run is mostly attributable to injuries in the defensive front seven – Phil Taylor, John Hughes, Ahtyba Rubin, Karlos Dansby, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo. Every Browns head coach or defensive coordinator since 1999 has struggled to field a reputable defense against the run. You would think that one of them, purely by accident, would stumble upon a solution. But, no.

Hey Tony: You have noted that injuries have forced us to play our 3rd string QB at the end of the season several times over the last 7 or eight years. Why do you think that is the case? Do you think it is because our O-Line is not as good or deep as it should be? Do you expect us to draft an O-Lineman in the first or second round next year? Thanks again for all your good work. Happy New Year,

-- Brett, Duluth, GA

Hey Brett: It’s a function of bad luck (injuries), limited depth and the plight of following the Cleveland Browns, a.k.a. the Hundred Years War.


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

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


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