By Tony Grossi
As the fates of GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur become clearer, readers of Hey Tony turn their attention to the Browns players – particularly the quarterbacks. It won’t be long before almost every question focuses on the 2013 draft.
Hey Tony: You've said how much you like Weeden's big arm and that the days of a Sipe or Kosar type QB are long gone. I believe it is more important to be able to identify when and where to throw the ball as opposed to throwing it harder. What has changed in Cleveland that means a QB like Brian or Bernie couldn't win? Does the wind blow harder now than it did in the '70's and 80's? Does it snow more? I know the game has changed. They pass more now than they did then, but that just means the older QB's would have more attempts. Are you saying their numbers would suffer with more passes? Can you explain why a smart, accurate passer could not succeed in Cleveland anymore? Or is the Browns management just incapable of identifying a capable QB? And between you and me, the next person who calls a screen pass for the Cleveland Browns should be fired on the spot.
-- Nick, Tucson, AZ
Hey Nick: I guess my comment was based on the fact that all players are bigger, stronger and faster than they were in the 70s and 80s. What this means to a quarterback is his throwing “windows” are tighter than ever, his time to scan a defense and deliver the ball is shorter than ever. While anticipation, smartness and timing remain essential qualities for a quarterback, I believe for the reasons I mentioned that arm strength has become more important than ever. Especially in this climate and in this division. I know this is blasphemous, but keep in mind that Sipe never won a playoff game and as great as Kosar was, once his right elbow was wrenched in the 1988 season opener, severely weakening his arm strength, he was never the same.
Hey Tony: The two constant rumors that seem to never die are that they will be looking for a college coach to make the jump to coaching the Browns and that Nick Saban is at the top of the list. I'm not opposed to Saban, but have you heard anything about Chip or Brian Kelly? If you were Banner and equally (we assume) determined to make a move on a new GM and head coach who would you tab as your pair to lead the Browns next? The 2015 Super Bowl is the same day as my 30th birthday. Do you see me getting my birthday wish of the Browns in the Super Bowl that year with the way things are heading?
-- Matthew, Cumberland, ME
Hey Matthew: Chip Kelly is expected to be a candidate for several NFL openings. Brian Kelly is not held in the same esteem at this time in the NFL community. I would not consider any college coach who does not have some NFL experience; Saban, of course, does. Will the Browns reach the Super Bowl in two years? My guess is no.
|QB Josh Johnson Photo/Getty|
Hey Tony: Why Josh Johnson? Could it be because the next coach of the Browns drafted him in 2008 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Things that make me say hmmm. Thanks for coverage over the years.
-- Dale, Barberton, OH
Hey Dale: A lot of people in the NFL like Johnson’s athleticism. Translating that into playing QB in the NFL is a challenge, however. I think he might be invited to next year’s training camp whether or not Jon Gruden is coaching the Browns.
Hey Tony: As we embark yet again on the most exciting part of the year for Browns fans (that would be the offseason, not the playoffs), I have a suggestion that would show this new organization has some class. Why don't they give Josh Cribbs three or four series at QB in his last game as a Brown? It would put some fannies in the seats, catch the Steelers off guard, and would certainly endear us suffering fans to this latest management iteration. If anyone deserves a crack at sweeping the Steelers, it's Cribbs. Happy New Year, Tony. And thanks for always keeping us displaced Browns fans in tune with the other side of the story.
-- Pete, Danville, CA
Hey Pete: I think the last pass Cribbs threw was intercepted inside the 20 in a 2010 game in Pittsburgh. I’m not discounting seeing him run some Wildcat on Sunday, but it won’t be a decision made by the front office and it won’t be done as a parting gift to Cribbs.
Hey Tony: I know the fear of Mike Lombardi coming has made many embrace Tom Heckert. However, if you take “the next” GM out of the equation I do not think Tom Heckert has brought in many impact players over 3 years. In fact I could argue only Joe Haden is in the top 7 or so players on this team with Thomas, Rubin, Mack, Jackson, Cribbs and Dawson all up there as the most consistent players and not Heckert picks. Seems many fans get young mixed up with great in this case. Am I not being fair or do you really think Tom Heckert has hit on most of his players for us through the years?
-- Michael, Galena, OH
Hey Michael: My official season-ending player rankings – from 1 to 53 – will be unveiled later this week. I would guess that Haden, Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon might make the top 10. They are all Heckert picks. Has he hit big on most of his players? No. Has he improved the team? Yes.
|QB Zac Dysert Photo/Getty|
Hey Tony: I'm interested what you would do with Colt McCoy. If you were in charge would you keep Colt as the backup? I used to say definitely, but now I'm not so sure. A premier backup has to be a good team player, smart enough to step in without many reps, a leader and has enough ability to win while the starter is sidelined. Sounds perfect for Colt. However, I have significant doubts about his reliability due to durability. That might be unfair but I worry every time he gets hit that he's hurt. I'm also fairly certain that Colt will always be a backup. So why not draft and groom a bigger, stronger armed quarterback later in the draft for that role. Mike Glennon from NC State or Zac Dysert from Miami of Ohio are possibilities. This way you may have the quarterback of the future learning the system before being thrown into the fire on day one!
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: I’ve said the same things about McCoy for two years. I believe Cleveland needs a strong, big-armed QB to compete in this climate and in the AFC North division. That’s why I favored Weeden. Now they’ve got to teach him to read the field better and not get bogged down in checking down over the middle. With a young starting QB, I’m more inclined to favor an older, experienced backup.
Hey Tony: How do the outcomes of NFL games with similar records affect our draft status for this week? What is the range that we can choose from? It's unfortunate that this is all I have to look forward to, again.
-- Pat, Charlotte, NC
Hey Pat: The difference between 5-11 and 6-10 theoretically can be from No. 3 in the order to No. 13. It’s impossible to calculate until all 16 games are played because ties are broken by strength of schedule (composite records of all opponents). We’ll have a clearer picture on Monday.
Hey Tony: Firstly, you are hands down, the go-to guy for Browns info, especially since joining the "Worldwide Leader in Sports." The old newspaper definitely feels your absence. Flattery aside, though, it seems like to me the name Josh McDaniels hasn't really been linked to the team without the inclusion of Mike Lombardi as GM. Is there any way to get the coach without the GM, or do they have to come as a package deal? One more question: Cleveland is without a doubt one of the most intense, dedicated sports towns in the country. Yet we have no representation on any of ESPN's afternoon lineup of talking heads. Now that you are playing in the "Big League," is there any chance we'll be seeing you on Around the Horn or getting one of the guest spots on PTI? I'd love to see it.
-- Dave, Killeen, TX
Hey Dave: McDaniels fits the bill as “up-and-coming offensive assistant coach,” which is the probable preference of CEO Joe Banner. However, Banner has pointed out that in the NFL, owners pick the coach, so it’s a little hazy where owner Jimmy Haslam will come down on him. And, no, McDaniels and Mike Lombardi don’t have to be a package deal. Thanks for your compliments. The national ESPN platforms are not in my present job description.
Hey Tony: I think despite being force fed the West Coast Offense Brandon Weeden has shown enough to stick as the starter for another year, especially if the Browns get a Head Coach in 2013 that can play to his strengths, but “if” Weeden is shown the door by whatever regime we have next season is Mark Sanchez worth a look? I agree with Joe Namath, I think Sanchez was handled horribly in New York. Thanks and Happy New Year.
-- Doug, Orange, CA
Hey Doug: I agree with you on Weeden. I agree with you on Sanchez. But given the choice, I would stick with Weeden over Sanchez.
Hey Tony: You have written at length how the next GM will essentially be a Director of Pro Personnel as Joe Banner will hold final say over the roster. Do you expect Banner to truly act as a full-time GM (e.g. run the draft, make final decisions on free agency) or do you expect him to act as Mike Holmgren did when he would "break ties", perform the occasional overrule during the draft (i.e. force Tom Heckert to take Colt McCoy) and assist with pivotal personnel decisions? If he were to truly take on full GM responsibility, how could Jimmy Haslam ever sign off on this move given Banner's lack of football operations experience? Wouldn't this portend continued ownership/front-office ineptitude along with increased fan frustration/indifference?
-- Tim, Long Beach, CA
Hey Tim: I’m reserving judgment until I see the final front office set-up put in by Banner. I think he would back off if he were able to hire a well-qualified, prominent, respected personnel director. Then again, by having the position report directly to him reduces the hiring field considerably. It’s almost as if he deliberately structured the chain of command to fit the qualifications of only one person. That’s a concern.
Hey Tony: Looking to 2013, is Osi Umenyiora a possible pickup? We need a pass rusher and could then use the draft to target a CB to improve our defense. I realize he is on the tail end of his career and may want too much money, but it is time to start competing and he should be able to give us a few good years as a starter. Your thoughts?
-- Grant, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Hey Grant: Any speculation about free agents or draft strategy is premature until we know 1. Who’s picking the players, and 2. Who’s coaching the players. Do the Browns need another bona fide pass rusher? Yes. Umenyiora’s health and price tag will dictate how much action he receives in free agency.
Hey Tony: It looks like Norv Turner will get the axe in San Diego. Sure would love to see him as our offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Do you think Joe Banner might be interested in him?
-- Steve, Georgetown, TX
Hey Steve: Turner is one of the best offensive coordinators of his generation. I don’t think he will have trouble finding a job in that role. I’m not sure about him here. It depends on who’s the head coach.
Hey Tony: I went into this season knowing Weeden would struggle and tried to come to grips with it. I can look past his struggles in the pocket with the rush, his interceptions, and his mental rookie lapses, but his inability to hit wide open receivers, often time for touchdowns and his inability to control his nerves really really worries me. When a new coach comes in what do you think might be the one thing that coach can't overlook about Weeden and will force his hand in to going after a new QB? What could save Weeden's job come next season? Thanks.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: I think the Browns owe it to themselves to give Weeden a thorough re-evaluation in training camp, perhaps in a new offensive system better suited to his talents. I’d like to see the next coach reduce the verbiage of the play-calls, severely reduce the rampant personnel groupings after every play, and perhaps even reduce his reads to a maximum of three. It’s obvious he has had trouble reading the field as a rookie. I suspect he has been overloaded by the West Coast system.
Hey Tony: Why do people keep hiring Butch Davis? Merry Christmas!
-- Bob, Solon, OH
Hey Bob: Davis reportedly is up for the head coach job at Florida International University. The athletic director there is Pete Garcia, the same man who assisted Davis at University of Miami and then in Cleveland as his top personnel aide. That said, I happen to think Davis has done the best job coaching the Browns in 2001-02 of anybody who’s come through here since 1999.
Hey Tony: Regarding Coach Shurmur's awareness of media critique: it seems that Shurmur tends to let what is written about his offense influence (to a certain degree) play-calling in the following weeks. This appears to be a serious case of rabbit ears from a NFL Head Coach. Have you noticed this and is this something that is more prevalent (on other teams or in previous regimes) than I'm aware of?
Another quick one, what is the external/league opinion of Heckert and the job he's done?
-- Jake, West Chester, OH
Hey Jake: Shurmur talks frequently about having a thick skin, but his actions sometimes suggest the opposite. It’s part of growing into the job. Unfortunately for him, improvement on this issue will have to wait for his next opportunity. On Heckert, opinions are mixed.
Hey Tony: The Colts go from 2-14 to the playoffs - in one year. Yet, Shurmur says a team must become “relevant” before it can be a playoff team. Do you have to stifle a laugh when you sit in these press conferences?
-- Kevin, Cincinnati, OH
Hey Kevin: It’s never pretty watching a coach in his final days. Many times things said don’t make much sense.
Hey Tony: I have two questions. The first is the power move Joe Banner did with Dimitri Patterson. Will anyone in the media step up and point the finger at Banner for contributing to the loss in Denver because of his childish actions in cutting Patterson. This is not a time for him to have a tantrum with Heckert. If Heckert is gone at the end of the season then Banner should of just of been the bigger man and ignore Heckert’s outburst a few weeks back. This just makes the fans dislike the guy (Banner) more. The second is I am not happy with our starting guards, Pinkston and Lauvao. The Browns line played much better when Greco replaced Pinkston, that is not saying much though. The guards’ run blocking has been inconsistent this whole year. Is this because of coaching, play calling or the guards are not that good? How do you rate our starting guards? Thanks, and have a great Holiday.
-- Tom, Parma, OH
Hey Tom: I’m not sure Patterson was waived out of spite. I believe the team was upset Patterson milked a high ankle sprain injury for seven or eight weeks. A major problem with the guards is they are not very athletic and it’s difficult to create a perimeter running game when the guards can’t pull. It also makes screen passes problematic.
Hey Tony: I am assuming tomorrow (Monday) Heckert and the Browns will mutually part ways. Do the Browns own all the scouting materials generated by Heckert and his team? Will Heckert be able to bring copies of his scouting work out the door with him or is that info strict property of the Browns?
-- Greg, Chardon, OH
Hey Greg: I believe all of that is intellectual property 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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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