By Tony Grossi
This week’s Hey Tony column is a mixed bag, including questions on the Browns’ undrafted free agents, their front office, and, of course, the quarterback competition. Our column last week on the Browns’ evaluation of available quarterbacks in the offseason brought several responses, and two were used here. Mike of Dover, Ohio, checked in with another blistering missive.
Hey Tony: I was wondering about the status of the late round draft picks and the undrafted free agents on the roster this summer. How are guys like Brad Smelley, Josh Cooper, Jermaine Saffold, Emanuel Davis, and Mike Allen doing? I watched some Bama games and liked Smelley and he would seem to be a better use of a roster spot than Owen Marecic. Also having a sure hands guy like Cooper in the slot would be great. His familiarity with Weeden must be a big help too. And I'm just curious about the other guys mentioned because I haven't heard too much about them. How are they doing in minicamp and OTA's, and who do you think will make the roster come Week 1? Thanks!
-- Jacob, Lakewood, OH
Hey Jacob: Of the undrafted guys (Allen was released), Cooper is sticking out. We won’t know his chances of making the team until seeing how he reacts in the exhibition games. Smelley appears to have the versatile skills the Browns favor in their fullback, though he’s more of an H-back. I don’t know if he would knock Marecic off the roster; the Browns were really high on the fourth-round pick a year ago.
Hey Tony: As much as I value your opinion and insight on the Browns I think you may be wrong about the QB plans for this season. We both agree that Brandon Weeden will be the the week 1 starter, but you think Seneca Wallace will be the backup whereas I'm more convinced it will be Colt McCoy. Colt may not be the future, but he is more than capable of being a very solid backup for years to come and also is a good locker room guy. He is cheaper, younger and has better intangibles than the aging overpriced Wallace.
-- Alex, Orlando, FL
Hey Alex: The Browns have stated that McCoy is “competing” for the starting job, but have not mentioned their plans at the backup role. I believe the position is being given to Wallace. But I must admit we in the media have not pressed coach Pat Shurmur about the No. 2 job. That will change on Tuesday at Browns OTAs.
Hey Tony: The Heckert and Holmgrem regime gets a lot of criticism, some of it justified, but how would you compare the overall talent and depth on the current Browns compared with regimes past? While I understand the Browns have a long way to go to be considered a good football team and compete in the rugged AFC North, it seems to me that the team overall has a lot more talent when compared to years past thanks in part to good drafting and an emphasis on developing young talent -- especially on the defensive side of the ball. Am I just viewing the team through Orange-colored glasses? Thanks.
-- Kevin, Chicago
Hey Kevin: I think you’ve made a fair assessment of the situation.
Hey Tony: About a week ago San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was now infamously caught on camera demanding “…I want some Nasty!” I fear that our roster may be a relative upgrade to the humiliation known as the 2011 season, but lacks that “nasty” attitude. Competing against vicious playmakers on the Ravens & Steelers squads, our beloved Brownies feature the sheepish Mo-Mass, the irrelevant Owen Marecic & the 81-year-old Sheldon Brown -- just to name a few.Aside from the beastly Greg Little & the unapologetic T.J. Ward, have you seen any newcomers during the recent OTAs that may possess this critical trait?
-- Dan, New York City
Hey Dan: I think I see some “nasty” in Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitch Schwartz – even Josh Cooper. Like everything else, however, we won’t know much until they put on the pads and play the practice games.
Hey Tony: I would hate to harp on the same subject regarding the WRs, or lack thereof, but why doesn't the front office support the idea that having a veteran WR, even if not #1 or even #2 on the roster, could help teach these young athletes how to play the game? It seems like we haven't really had a strong leadership at that position for a while now and it is probably the reason why we have had such a poor showing at that position and why players aren't getting considerably better at that position. Thanks.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral FL
Hey Eliot: Good points. I can’t disagree with you. I can’t explain the team’s blind spot at the receiver position.
Hey Tony: I feel as a fan that there are square pegs in round holes when it comes to the Browns org chart. You have a team president that is acting as the team owner, but is best suited by far as a head coach. You have a HC coach who is probably best suited as a coordinator.You have a team owner who is best suited as a #1 team fan.It feels like no one is in their natural position and that is coming from a fan so I have to assume the players are bright enough to think this thing is built a bit crazy.
-- Michael, Galena, OH
Hey Michael: Well, at least Tom Heckert is in his natural role as GM.
Hey Tony: Enjoyed your article this morning on Brandon Weeden’s progress. My question: what was your source re: the Browns’ assessment of Matt Flynn (Colt McCoy redux), Robert Griffin III (not focused enough on learning the job of being an NFL quarterback), and Ryan Tannehill (lacking leadership skills)? Not asking you to reveal anything that you obviously chose not to include in your article. It just seems to me that if you are hearing this feedback directly from team sources, the Browns may be embracing the need for greater transparency with local media. That’s a win for all of us -- the Browns included, in my opinion. It also says to me that the Browns are very pleased with what they see in Weeden.
-- Keith, Old Saybrook, CT
Hey Keith: Several people emailed or Tweeted me wondering my sources for my column on Weeden and the other QBs the Browns looked into. All I can say is there were multiple sources. The fact I didn’t identify them means they wouldn’t share information without anonymity. There’s only one thing I wrote that I had not said previously on ESPN 850 WKNR, and that was the information on Tannehill because I only recently came across it. The info on Tannehill also was expressed on the Browns daily radio show on WKNR, by the way.
Hey Tony: In a recent podcast on nfl.com, Steve Wyche and Jason Smith absolutely trashed the Browns front office. They relied on your story entitled, "Brandon Weeden's maturity, essential as much as his arm strength and accuracy, is showing up already" as proof that Holmgren and Co. are basically morons.They also said that the Browns would compete with the Vikings for the worst record in the league. First off, are they really that bad? Secondly, what's your feelings about how the Browns evaluated the quarterbacks available to them this offseason?
-- Rob Keel, Oak Hill, WV
Hey Rob: I don’t know why my column on the Browns’ QB situation fueled so much national attention. Maybe it’s because I referred to Robert Griffin III as a “media darling.” I’m astounded at how many in the national media are anointing Griffin as the next superstar quarterback in the NFL. Many of the same media members blasted Cam Newton a year ago and had to eat their words when he turned in the greatest rookie season of any NFL quarterback. I don’t believe the Browns will compete with the Vikings for the worst record in the league. I think they will be improved. As for their evaluation of the QBs available to them, their lofty opinion of Brandon Weeden so far looks on the mark.
Hey Tony: Congratulations on the new gig. Have a question I hope you'll answer Sunday: Advanced statistical analysis is used by baseball GMs to assess individual players, to decide how to spend money, and to envision future player performance. It's much more difficult to assess in football, for sure, yet Football Outsiders, Smart Football and others try to quantify a player's individual value along with a team's likelihood of winning (Football Outsiders was very down on Browns and Colt McCoy before last season). Is it common for NFL front offices to employ analysts? If so, how do these folks influence play calling, personnel packages, free agency/draft decisions? Or does the old school (scouts, film study) rule the current NFL? Seems like the Browns could use any competitive advantage they can find and many current moves were based on replacing positions they were weakest based on advanced analytics (QB/RB/DL/OL), though they were rated poorly at every position group except the kicking game. Thanks for taking a minute to read my question.I believe this question is a better use of page space (and your knowledge) than more from Mike in Dover. Cheers.
-- Bryan, Delaware, OH
Hey Bryan: Detailed statistical analysis is more prevalent in Major League Baseball than in the NFL. NFL teams believe more in film study and the trained eyes of scouts and coaches. However, some teams are slowly embracing the technology available to assist in player evaluations.
Hey Tony: There was mention on how the Browns train their receivers to catch balls behind 4" stationary posts. Can you take picture of this post or explain how it is made. This will also help our high school football team by using a similar device.
-- Bill, Rochester NY
Hey Bill: We’ll try to get a photo posted at the final OTA session open to media on Tuesday. If something prevents that, remind me when training camp starts.
Hey Tony: It seems that Roger Goodell has gone power mad with the new CBA. Does he really believe that the players should have called out the coaches for the "Pay to Injure" plot?Or is it just all just to CYA because of the pending lawsuits. Let me preface this with that I think "Pay to Injure" scheme is despicable, and the coaches should have LIFETIME bans for implementing it (College and Pro). But, I mean, Roger does realize that coaches can CUT the players at ANY time for no good reason at all. For example, drawing up a better play (than his) and winning the game? (You know what I mean) I can only imagine the fallout if a player, let alone a team captain, in the locker room shared is disagreement with the "merit based motivational strategy" the coaches were selling to the players. Even if they did disagree with it.
-- Brian, Akron
Hey Brian: Fair enough. I’m not sure I understand your point, though.
Hey Tony: “The infamous 10-hour bus trip of Browns rookies to Mangini's annual football camp in May was the stain on Mangini's national image that he never was able to wipe away." it was an issue b/c you and other dinks in the cle media made a huge deal out of it ... out of nothing ... again your agenda blasted thru..a national stain? ... wtf does that mean? i doubt anyone outside of cle gave a crap... the more i read back of your articles the more ridiculous you sound. but by all means....remain silent about idiot handoffs to the third string te.
-- Mike, Dover, OH
Hey Mike: Bartender, cut him off.
Hey Tony: Obviously we're all excited and hopeful Trent Richardson is everything the team wants form the number 3 pick, but in all the recent draft madness I forgot all about Brandon Jackson, the free agent Running Back the Browns signed last year that sat out last season with an injury. Jackson was a solid running back in Green Bay and hardly ever turned the ball over. Where do you see him fitting in during 2012 if he's healthy? On a side note on the receivers I'm betting barring injury Josh Cooper makes the team and actually has some decent playing time in 2012, assuming Weeden starts. What do you think? Thanks, so glad you're back online.
-- Doug Shaffer, Orange, CA
Hey Doug: Jackson was signed a year ago for the role of third-down back, but that was before the drafting of Richardson, who may never leave the field. So Jackson is competing for a backup role now. Cooper has been impressive so far in the offseason practices. The big test for him will be how he performs in the practice games when safeties and linebackers are free to hit him.
We all know all of the press and media’s answer to the question Why not try Cribbs at safety. BUT I'm dying to know what the Browns answer is to why
they are watching his career wind down without ever once at least trying this. I’ve asked this question for literally years and bemoaned at the whole WR experiment and now all I hear is they’re wanting him to spend more time on special teams because he's a tackling machine? All the more perplexed I am now if they’re admitting he’s such a great tackler why on God’s green earth don't they allow him to play defense then?
-- Russ, Las Vegas, NV
Hey Russ: For seven years, I’ve heard fans clamoring for Cribbs to play running back, quarterback, safety – anything but receiver. I myself have yearned to see him as a third-down back. But it’s not to be. It’s too late in his career, in my opinion, to ask him to change positions now.
|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