By Tony Grossi
Joe Banner’s comments in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine seemed to get Browns fans off his back – for the time being. Returning to the hot seat was quarterback Brandon Weeden. There were also questions about the draft and why Tom Heckert hasn’t landed a GM job this year.
Hey Tony: What is the intrigue with Ryan Mallett? What has he done to speculate he would be better than Brandon Weeden? To my knowledge, Mallett has played fewer professional snaps and is slower afoot. Am I missing something?
-- Wes, Dunnellon, FL
Hey Wes: Mallett, a strapping 6-6 with a big arm, was considered one of the top quarterbacks of the 2011 draft, but he slid into the third round. By the time the New England Patriots tabbed Mallett with the 74th overall pick, the following quarterbacks were selected: Cam Newton (first), Jake Locker (eighth), Blaine Gabbert (10th), Christian Ponder (12th), Andy Dalton (35th), and Colin Kaepernick (36th). After the draft, Mike Lombardi, the Browns’ VP/player personnel who then was an analyst with NFL Network, opined that Mallett was better than any of them. Two years later, it is obvious that Locker, Gabbert and Ponder were over-drafted, but Mallett hasn’t proved anything sitting behind Tom Brady. The amazing success of Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000, has given Bill Belichick an almost legendary status as an evaluator of quarterbacks. It is a myth, however. Belichick has achieved only one playoff season with a quarterback other than Brady – and that was in Cleveland in 1994 with Vinny Testaverde, whom he did not draft but signed in free agency. Besides Brady and Mallett, the quarterbacks drafted by Belichick include: Keithen McCant (1992, Browns), Eric Zeier (1995, Browns), Rohan Davey (2002, Patriots), Kliff Kingsbury (2003, Patriots), Matt Cassel (2005, Patriots), Kevin O’Connell (2008, Patriots), and Zac Robinson (2010, Patriots).
Hey Tony: What is the difference between a quarterback competition and a quarterback controversy? Is a quarterback controversy ever good?
-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY
Hey Paul: A competition is when one QB clearly emerges as the better choice to start. A controversy breaks out when the competition fails to produce a clear winner and the starting QB struggles. Or when the loser in the competition gets an opportunity to play and he performs better than the starter. A quarterback controversy is never a good thing.
Hey Tony: Seems to me Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson had similar rookie seasons, looking really good sometimes and not so hot at others. So why is TRich the assumed starter at RB (as he should be), while Weeden "needs to work harder" and will have to compete for his starting role? What did you or Banner/Chud/Lombardi see or not see that the rest of us missed?
-- Kevin, Detroit, MI
Hey Kevin: They obviously have more confidence in Richardson as the starting running back than they do in Weeden as the starting quarterback. Plus, there is about a seven-year age difference between them.
Hey Tony: Can you ask Chud if theres any chance Earnest Byner will join the Browns as an RB coach? It appears he did a good job in Tennessee and Washington. I just think it would be awesome to have him return and redeem himself vicariously for the fumble.
-- Mike, Vacaville, CA
Hey Mike: I talked with Byner at the combine in Indianapolis. He is RB coach with Tampa Bay. But I like the thought.
Hey Tony: I liked your consideration of Ziggy Ansah for the Browns #6 pick for their key OLB-DE need. For your Mock Draft #2, let us assume to go to a 3-4 Defense that the Browns like your longstanding free agent rules of seeking excellent veteran starters from 25 to 28 years old and fill their key OLB-DE need that way. Which Free Agent would you go for without using TOO MUCH cap space …and how would you then use your #6 pick for your next need – a CB or a TE?
-- Alan, Manassas, VA
Hey Alan: At this point in the process, I would use free agency for CB, OLB and TE, and still draft Ansah. That could change by April 25.
Hey Tony: Assuming the Browns go defense with sixth pick and that we don't add any free agents, what would be your top five defensive picks for the Browns? My order would be; 1) Dee Milliner (tall, fast CB), 2) Dion Jordan (3-4 OLB with size and speed) 3) Ziggy Ansah ( potential with upside from size and speed, but raw) 4) Mingo (same as Jordan above) 5) Marcus Trufant (CB with good cover abilities). I'd stay away from Jarvis Jones. The spinal stenosis would scare me with the collisions in the NFL.
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: I know this is sacriligeous, but … I wouldn’t take a CB in the top 10. The best pass defense is a pass rush. The Browns have never figured that out – even in the 1980s. No CB can cover these long, rangy, elite WRs, in my opinion. Given time, the best QBs always, always, always beat the best CBs. I’m not saying you can win with just anybody playing cornerback, but I would devote the top resources to the pass rush.
Hey Tony: I reviewed the stats on Dion Jordan and wonder with what the Browns want to do defensively as Ray Horton stated attack, 4-3, 3-4, or 2-5 that Jordan would be the best pick because of his ability to do play in multiple defenses? Also it would ensure he will be here for at least four (4) years as the defense grow. It would also be cost effective which is a large upside for more signings in other areas.
-- James, Cleveland, OH
Hey James: Jordan would have to be under consideration, for sure. But everything you say about him could be said about Ziggy Ansah.
Hey Tony: Two years removed from the Julio Jones trade debate and I think we might be on the brink of another. Now I did agree with you at the time we should have stayed at where we were, I disagree with you now that we should do the same. I feel if we trade down we can still get a good DE/OLB, possibly really good, and a good CB/TE wherever ever we might draft next. With a draft universally agreed upon that it has more depth than elite talent will you sway to the trade down scenario closer to the draft? Is there always a possibility of a trade down regardless of draft or will it be much more difficult because of the nature of this particular draft? Thanks.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: 1. I hated passing on a blue-chip, elite WR like Jones; 2. I hated dropping so far down in the first round, and 3. I hated having to give up a third-round pick then to move up to select Phil Taylor. If there is no absolute elite player OF NEED at No. 6, trading down A FEW NOTCHES would be OK, I guess. I don’t think the pick will attract a team wanting to move up. But that could change.
Hey Tony: As I watched the last game against Pittsburgh I thought with more 1st team reps Thad Lewis could be our answer at QB. He looked very decisive and ran well. Do you think they could give him a real shot at starting?
-- Dave, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Dave: I don’t think Lewis’ sub-par arm strength appeals to the new coaches. Do you know Eliot from Cape Coral?
|Tom Heckert Photo/AP|
Hey Tony: I thought Tom Heckert would find another 2013 GM or personnel job quickly. What are your thoughts on why he did not fill one of the openings around the league?
-- Eric, San Jose, CA
Hey Eric: After Andy Reid snubbed Heckert in favor of John Dorsey (formerly of Green Bay), the hiring cycle seemed to shift to untried, up-and-coming GM-types, such as Tom Gamble (Eagles), David Caldwell (Jaguars), Steve Keim (Cardinals), John Idzik (Jets) and Dave Gettleman (Panthers). Hopefully for Heckert the cycle will return to him next season.
Hey Tony: I am sure you have a lot to review post combine but I wanted to ask what you think about Ryan Swope? He showed some impressive athletic ability at the combine. I hadn’t heard of him prior but went back and watched some of his games last year and thought he showed promise. However it was hard to get a gauge on him with Jonny Football running around all the time. Then I went back and watched his game against Baylor in 2011 with Ryan Tannehill as the QB and WOW! He dominated the game, showed great route running and an ability to find open spaces in zones. He has breakaway speed and while he is no Tavon Austin he has very good agility and was able to juke defenders. Like Greg Little he is a former RB and has that aggressive streak not common in WRs. He is a willing blocker and has some power to break tackles from DBs. Do you think the Browns would be open to taking a WR in the 3rd round? Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if NE or even Miami at #56 takes him in the bottom of the second.
-- Este, San Francisco, CA
Hey Este: Swope’s 4.34 clocking at the NFL combine may have lifted him into the second round. Even if not, I don’t see the Browns using their third-round pick on a wide receiver.
Hey Tony: Love the insight and podcasts. Best inside info on the Browns in the press today. You must talk to a lot of reporters and contacts at other NFL teams. Just curious, what do the people in Philly think of the Chip Kelly hiring, Shurmur as OC, and the impact Heckert leaving had on drafting, and all the back and forth with the Browns? I assume they are not moaning the loss of Banner and he is as popular there as here. And are you surprised that Heckert did not get another offer, or is he just happy scraping in dollars from the Browns for the next few years. Oh, and thanks again for your heavy lifting on the HOF vote. At least one piece of justice was done that weekend.
-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC
Hey Tom: Kelly’s hiring has been popular in Philadelphia and has overshadowed the additions of ex-Browns Shurmur and Bill Davis as his coordinators. Reviews on Heckert in Philadelphia were mixed – which is better than the generally negative reviews of Banner. I think Heckert is a bit disappointed in not getting another GM job immediately – especially the one in Kansas City that went to Andy Reid associate John Dorsey. I’m confident he’ll be back in the mix next season.
Hey Tony: I read recently that Browns CEO Joe Banner said in an interview in Indianapolis that a quarterback at No. 6 in this year’s upcoming draft "is not the focus of our thinking". Additionally, he indicated that the Browns are leaning toward Brandon Weeden as their starter for 2013. Could you not argue that making these statements at this time prior to the draft is a major error in judgment on his part? I would think the standard "playbook" of deceit, deception and misdirection by team owners, CEO's, V.P. Player Personnel and coaches would be the rule of thumb here and in the best interest of the team. What effect could those statements have on a "potential draft day deal" of trading down for an additional draft pick with a team who may be wanting one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft?
-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA
Hey Joe: My take was that Banner was just being honest. I’ll never criticize a news source for being honest.
Hey Tony: With the NFL Combine coming to a close, I was wondering if you heard of any names in which the Cleveland Browns have interviewed pertaining to the draft. If so, would you be willing to tell us? I believe I heard from other media outlets that something like three Kickers (so long Dawson) and Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado interviewed; but other than that, I am in the dark. Please help shed some light on this.
-- AJ, Canfield, OH
Hey AJ: Every NFL team was allowed to interview 60 prospects at the combine. (I incorrectly stated the number to be 30 previously). Considering most teams have only seven draft picks, it’s obvious that every team conducts interviews with players they have no intention of drafting. They keep these interviews on file and may refer to them in four years when the same players become eligible for free agency. My point is, the interviews themselves are not a tipoff to the team’s draft plans because every team interviews basically the same players throughout the process.
Hey Tony: How is anyone confident having Banner, who's billed as a "shrewd negotiator," completely running a team who most likely will have to overpay to sign anyone, won't end up worse than a diabetic snorting fun dip?
-- B, Willoughby, OH
Hey B: A diabetic snorting fun dip? Really?
Hey Tony: I was wondering how it is that teams are signing players right now when free agency hasn't started yet? For instance, we signed a punter, George Wilson signs with the Titans after being cut by the Bills, KC signed safety Hussain Abdullah, etc. How does that work? I was also wondering about your thoughts on the Browns looking at Reggie Bush as a change-of-pace back/returner? Montario Hardesty finally showed some flash this past season, and Travis Benjamin could step in for returns, but I think Bush could be a solid acquisition of talent, considering he could step in as both and be more of a proven quantity. Your thoughts? Keep up the good work!
-- Todd, Fairview Park, OH
Hey Todd: Players that were released can be signed by other teams at any time. (Receiver Steve Breaston, who visited the Browns last week, would fall into this category.) The March 12 signing period is effective for free agents – players whose contracts expired at the conclusion of last season. Bush is going to be a sought-after, high-priced running back. With Trent Richardson already on the roster, it would not be a wise investment for the Browns to pursue Bush.
Hey Tony: I thought it was telling the other day that Trent Richardson mentioned Chudzinski had personally spoken to him about being a leader on the team next year whereas I can't remember reading that Weeden has ever had any personal communication from the coaching staff.
-- Erick, Brooklyn, NY
Hey Erick: I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from it.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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