By Tony Grossi
Fans responded favorably to the acquisition of Jason Campbell this week. They also expressed much interest in the Browns’ research of a uniform change. On the negative side, a lot of fans can’t understand the team’s unwillingness to sign a starting-caliber cornerback prior to the draft.
Hey Tony: I would like to comment on the Jason Campbell acquisition. I for one think it's great. Living in the south now and following Auburn Football, I have been a fan of Campbell since day one on the plains. Every year there he had a different OC, he has had several OC's in Washington and when he was in Oakland, he had them looking great until his injury. Your comment that he will not take the Browns anywhere I think is a little naïve. Campbell kind of reminds me of a better Doug Williams, both are about the same height, weight with big arms and the same type of mobility. Yet Campbell has a better career QB rating 82.5. Remember what Williams did late in his career as a "Journeyman". There is no telling where the Raiders might have been in 2011 if he would have stayed healthy. I believe that IF he is the same Jason Campbell he was in 2011, he will be the best QB on the Browns roster. Now I’m not saying he will be the Browns QB of the future (neither is Weeden) but I believe he can win next year and the year after. I also believe that if given a fair shot to compete, he will beat out Weeden for the starting job.
-- Will, Montgomery, AL
Hey Will: I share some of your thoughts about Campbell. I don’t think it’s a longshot for him to win the job. I just think that would be a disappointment to the Browns because they need Weeden to be better than Campbell – no matter how good Campbell plays in camp -- for the team to be sure about its quarterback position moving forward. One thing about QB ratings: they have become inflated since Williams’ playing days. Back then, 70.0 was considered average. Now it’s 80.0 that is average.
Hey Tony: I really like the Jason Campbell signing. He's a big, strong armed quarterback that can run when needed. Weeden better be ready because I feel Campbell has that added dimension of running. They're also basically the same age with the experience going to Campbell. However, I still believe for the quarterbacks to be successful a veteran receiver is needed. Tony, do you think Banner will sign a veteran receiver to a short contract? How about Brandon Lloyd? Are there any other receivers still out there that you like?
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: My choice for a one-year contract to a veteran WR is Dominik Hixon, formerly of University of Akron and the New York Giants. If Lloyd couldn’t last more than a year with New England and Tom Brady, that should be a red flag.
Hey Tony: I am very nervous about how many games the Browns lack of emphasis on the kicking game will cost the team this year. Can you find anything in their past that makes them think a team doesn't need a good kicking game? I'm concerned.
-- Tom, Kirksville, MO
Hey Tom: The other argument is the Browns have fielded special teams in the top third in the league in recent years – certainly since 2005 – and it hasn’t helped them get over the hump. One of the myths of sports is that special teams is one- third of the game. I calculated the number of special teams plays in one season and it came out to about 19 percent of all the Browns’ plays – making it one-fifth of the game. True, the Browns have been lax in replacing Phil Dawson. There’s still time for that to happen, so I wouldn’t be concerned yet.
Hey Tony: Would the NFL ever consider setting up a Pay-per-View of your team's war room during the draft? I think it would be very entertaining and informative and potentially be a huge revenue stream opportunity. If they can now televise the Combine on the NFL Network and stretch the Draft over 3-4 days, don't you think the NFL would consider this next potential revenue opportunity.
-- Stan, Atlanta, GA
Hey Stan: Don’t think the NFL hasn’t thought of that. The problem is finding a team to agree to allow the cameras to show, unedited, its draft decision-making. It would make for compelling TV.
Hey Tony: It sure seems like a lot of the excitement and optimism has faded since the ownership change took place. Do you think it's warranted? I mean really what "bad" moves have they made? I was sad to see Dawson & Cribbs go, but it's not like keeping them would have made us a contender next season. They signed Kruger and a few others FAs that may help, but they haven't even gotten through their 1st draft yet. The offense should be considerably better for a number of reasons including a better system for Weeden, a healthy Richardson, and the Norv & Chud combo. Who knows about the defense, but it's not like there wasn't room for improvement last year. How's your level of optimism this time of year?
-- Jeff, Denver, CO
Hey Jeff: I think what’s happening is this: The scrutiny of the Browns – and every NFL team – has magnified so much more because of social media and the Internet. Every move is analyzed 10 times more than before. So, if they make a move that is poorly received – i.e., the Dawson non-offer – the team has to live with it 10 times longer than before. I’m optimistic about some things about the Browns and pessimistic about others. I think I was more pessimistic at this time last year and then their draft changed my outlook.
Hey Tony: It seems that in every year's draft there are a lot of run-stopping, in-the-box strong safety types but far fewer pass-defensing, center-fielding free safety types. Does this mean that teams need to look sooner in the draft if they need a free safety? Do you like any free safeties for the Browns in the first or third rounds?
-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY
Hey Paul: The trend in the NFL is to use a third cornerback playing a deep safety position.
Hey Tony: The Dolphins just came out w/ a new logo and are unveiling new unis at the draft this April. Can you ask a colleague that covers the Phins how long it took them to freshen up their look. Certainly not two years like the Browns are saying, right?
-- David, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Hey David: I was told by an NFL marketing official that the Dolphins chose the 12-month process option. That option is reserved for teams that simply tweak a logo or uniform without undergoing market research. The Browns originally chose that route and then opted for the more involved 24-month process after consulting with the league marketing department. Often, these processes don’t even come to light until the team announces a change – such as the Vikings’ recent accouncement to introduce a new logo and uniform. We have been reporting on the Browns’ intent to modernize their uniform look since before they initiated the process.
Hey Tony: I enjoyed learning more about the uniform change process. As a lifelong Browns fan, one of my earliest memories was the Kardiac Kids. I would like to make my views and opinions on uniform changes known to the Browns, Nike and the NFL doing the research. What do you suggest is the best way to do that? Is there a website, email address or phone number? Thank you for the great reporting.
-- Brian, Dublin, OH
Hey Brian: I would send a letter with your thoughts to Alec Scheiner, president, at Cleveland Browns at 76 Lou Groza Blvd., Berea, OH 44017.
Hey, Tony: Since you brought it up in a recent article, I'll ask: Why not have a dramatic uniform change, including the helmet? In the past few decades, that's been done by the Patriots, Broncos, Chargers, Falcons, Buccaneers and Rams. Shortly before each made a trip to the Super Bowl. I know it's a weak correlation, but given the numbers, why don't we go for it?
-- Terry, Fairfax, VA
Hey Terry: I’ve come to be an enthusiastic proponent of a uniform change and even would be open to something dramatic. But I am staunchly opposed to changing the helmet (which owner Jimmy Haslam vows not to do) or the basic colors (which Haslam said he is open to considering but not committing to). You’re right, of course, to point out changing a team look has no correlation to performance on the field. But I think the ownership change is an opportunity to emphatically state a new era is indeed upon the franchise and changing the uniform look can do that without changing colors and logo. The franchise has been stagnant and stale and a dramatic uniform change would be in line with the new energy Haslam and his new staff have brought. It’s just too bad it takes two years for the new look to be properly researched, selected and introduced.
Hey Tony: Seems the Browns are getting a tad tardy with announcing the financial terms of the free agency deals they’ve been making. For example, I’ve not seen any numbers for the new contracts for RB Ogbonnaya, TE Davis, or QB Campbell. Could you see if you could get them to announce those? It would also be interesting to see how much cap space the Browns have left after their 9 FA signings to date.
-- Charlie, Sheridan, WY
Hey Charlie: Most teams don’t announce any financial terms of free agency deals. Some convey the info on background. The Browns protect terms of their deals like a state secret. As far as cap space, I recently saw a report the Browns are second behind the Bengals with $28.7 million of cap space.
Hey Tony: I have lived in Cleveland all my life and once has season tickets for the Browns I watched the NFL Network's show about the Browns 1995 season and it got me to thinking I took an old 20 lb. camcorder to the last game at Cleveland Browns Stadium against Cincinnati to record what I thought would be the last game I would see the Browns play. The game I believe was blacked out locally. I have footage of the entire game as well as in stands fan reaction, conduct, and disappointment to what we thought would be the Browns last game. I know your cameras were there, but might not have what I have. Is this footage that you would be interested in or do you believe it is worth anything?
-- Marcellus, Streetsboro, OH
Hey Marcellus: I’d love to see your video. Why don’t you convert it and email it.
Hey Tony: Where would Josh Gordon be in ranks of WR if he was in this draft? Was he worth the second round pick? Did they make a good decision on using that pick on him?
-- Dan, Brunswick, OH
Hey Dan: The problem with the question is this: Do we consider where Gordon would rank if he attended Utah, as he anticipated before entering the supplemental draft, in 2012? Or where Gordon would rank if he played 2012with the Browns, as what happened? Either way, it’s hypothetical. Let me pose the question this way: Would you rather have Gordon or any receiver in this draft? My answer would be Gordon.
Hey Tony: With all the talk about QBs and having competition for Brandon Weeden, why wouldn't the Browns consider bringing in Vince Young? He has certainly run offenses like Chud wants to operate.
-- Steve, Austin, TX
Hey Steve: Young is not nearly the downfield, pocket passer that Jason Campbell is. You may be typecasting Young as a read option-type QB, but his overall skills are less than those of Cam Newton, whom Chudzinski coached for two seasons in Carolina. Chud created read option schemes for Newton solely because of his amazing skill-set. I think Chud still favors the convential strong arm, deep dropback passing scheme – unless he has another QB with Newton’s arm, legs and body.
|Jason Pinkston Photo/Getty|
Hey Tony: What's your analysis of the guard position, both current roster and potential upgrade strategies ? How did Jason Pinkston grade out before his illness? It seems John Greco is a very capable swingman. You have said a high round pick is not likely. A trade maybe? Hopefully we won't need to delete screens and sweeps from the playbook.
-- Mark, Branford, CT
Hey Mark: I agree that Greco is a very capable swingman. If he is your line’s sixth man, you are in good shape. The knock on Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao was that they weren’t agile enough to pull on perimeter runs or get downfield on screen plays. If the new offense intends to do a lot of that stuff, I’m sure they could upgrade the position in the middle rounds of the draft.
Hey Tony: I was looking at the Browns roster. It seems to be set up so that "Experience" includes this coming season. For example, Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden are listed as having two (2) years of experience. However, there are numerous players on the roster listed as one (1) year of experience, implying they are rookies this year. Have I misunderstood something? How can there be players on the roster with no experience in the NFL prior to the NFL draft in April?
-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY
Hey Erol: Players listed with one year of experience are those who spent the previous year on an NFL team’s practice squad or have attended previous NFL training camps but have not been on a team’s regular roster for a minimum of four games.
Hey Tony: All this concern about CB and what we do if neither Milliner or Grimes don't become Browns could have been avoided if the front office had CB as the #1 priority in free agency, followed by Kruger and Bryant. If financial considerations wouldn’t allow them to get Kruger after getting a top-rated CB, the strength of the draft is Kruger-type players. They would have had a #1 CB from free agency, Bryant, and a top-rated OL or DE from the draft. Would love to hear how the front office explains why they didn't go in that direction. What are your thoughts?
-- Barry, San Francisco, CA
Hey Barry: I don’t understand the Browns’ allergic reaction to the cornerback position in free agency. I felt the team would have been in a strong position entering the draft if it had acquired a starting-caliber CB in free agency. When I asked CEO Joe Banner about the team’s philosophy about the CB position in free agency, his answer was lame. Something like, “If we find someone who can help our team we will pursue him.” I would like to ask the GM the same question, but, well, he is not available for on-the-record interviews.
Hey Tony: How are you going to save face in Cleveland if Lombardi / Banner make all the right moves and take us to championship after lobbying against their abilities to run football operations? Are you forced to hope they fail? Lastly, do you think reason Cleveland will draft a cornerback and pay rookie wage scale rather than OLB is because cost for elite CB in free agency would be much higher than what it cost to get someone like Kruger?
-- Kevin, Columbus, OH
Hey Kevin: I’m not about “saving face.” I’m all about seeing this football team winning something so that it could be the catalyst to an economic revival in Cleveland. If Banner and Lombardi can do that, I promise you they will get their fair share of credit. As for the LB v. CB pay scale, the contracts of Kruger and Desmond Bryant came in much higher than the majority of contracts given to the free agent cornerbacks.
|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 firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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