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Hey Tony

May 18, 2013 -- 5:54pm

By Tony Grossi |



I’d like to congratulate the Browns for rekindling discussion on the quarterback position. Just when it appeared that talk was quieting about displacing Brandon Weeden, the Browns added local product Brian Hoyer to the mix. It roused up the Hey Tony faithful.

Hey Tony: So the Browns signed Brian Hoyer this week. I gotta figure 1 of the 3 prominent QBs in camp -- Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Hoyer -- will not be around at the start of the season. In your opinion who will it be? My thinking is, Weeden comes out of camp as the starter, Hoyer as the backup and Campbell is cut loose. Your thoughts?

-- Greg, Chardon, OH

Hey Greg: If Weeden plays up to his capabilities, he will win the starting job. Campbell would figure to be the pre-camp favorite for No. 2, given his NFL experience, but I wouldn’t count out Hoyer. My gut feeling is that all three quarterbacks could make the final roster. Whether they all do stick will be determined in camp and preseason – and injuries at other positions at QB around the league.

Hey Tony: Knowing what we do about Jimmy Haslam and his legal trouble, do you feel we are in a better spot now, or a year ago before Lerner sold the team?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: That’s a loaded question. I think things are going in a better direction now, but if the Haslam ordeal results in another organizational blow-up, we are back to square one. It might be next year before we really know.

Hey Tony: Has anyone asked Joe Banner for his perspective on how to manage someone who may have too positive of a perspective on decisions made by a competitor? Obviously I'm talking about Mike Lombardi and Bill Belichick.

-- Jonathan, Minneapolis, MN

Hey Jonathan: No, the question has not been asked. It’s obvious that Lombardi draws much of his football knowledge from Belichick. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But we have seen several other Belichick disciples flounder when forced to think independently of their leader.

Hey Tony: I have been following you for your entire career. You have been right in your analysis almost every time. Recent proof is your prognostication that Lombardi loved recently released QB Hoyer and we should "stay tuned." Lo and behold, Hoyer is subsequently signed to a two year deal. So my question is ... would you consider starting another column that would be titled "Hey, I told you so!"? Thanks for the analysis you provide. It is entertaining and insightful.

-- John, Brooklyn Hts., OH

Carlton Mitchell    Photo/Getty

Hey John: If I wrote a column titled “Hey, I told you so,” it would consist of about three sentences. But thanks for noticing this one I got right. Of course, there was the selection of Barkevious Mingo for the Browns … and picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl in September of last year … and tabbing Carlton Mitchell as a player to watch in 2012. Oh, wait.

Hey Tony: Despite an off-season featuring the concerning Haslam accusations, a lackluster draft, and some head scratching personnel moves, I'm curious if we can rationally conclude that this team is not far from competing in 2013. We lost games last year because we had too many rookies that couldn't finish (see IND, PHI) & our head coach lacked the swagger of a champion to close out a game. Those rookies now have a full year under their belt & Pat Shurmur is gone. While we clearly still have needs in the secondary & lack a proven pass catching TE, our front seven can control their territory & the offense is undeniably capable, maybe even potent. Can we agree there is a strong argument here for rationale optimism as we approach the regular season?

-- Dan, New York City, NY

Hey Dan: Yes, of course. Three things stand out early to me: 1. The coaching staff is a good one. 2. All those rookies force-fed into the lineup last year should make significant improvement in their second season. 3. The defense, while making a major transition in style and complexity, could be a rabble-rousing unit.

Hey Tony: It seems like statistical analysis is driving more football decisions. Is this a big part of the new regime and Lombardi's focus as GM? League-wide trend? Has the front office explained how they're now using stats more to the media?

-- Steve, Hong Kong

Hey Steve: The Browns’ increased use of statistical analysis – or analytics – is a joint decision of CEO Joe Banner and President Alec Scheiner. The team has named a director of football research, Ken Kovash, to spearhead projects using analytics. I’ve inquired about examples of how analytics assisted the recent draft and was politely turned down.

Hey Tony: I have a question about the Browns free agency "moves" as of late. They drafted McFadden seemingly to be the starter across from Haden so my question is this: Would it be better to sign someone like Jammer who is still available to a two year deal knowing he will be nothing more than a stop gap to groom McFadden or do you just put McFadden right in to give him more experience but possibly run the chance of hurting his confidence being an undersized rookie on a thinner secondary if he is overwhelmed out of the gate?

In my opinion I feel pretty safe saying we aren't going to make the playoffs this year so the more starting experience we can give the younger players the better for the 2014 season when the Browns win the division

-- Matthew, Cumberland, ME

Hey Matthew: I believe the Browns are in concert with your way of thinking. Of course, the old regime did the same thing – force-feeding rookies rather than acquiring a veteran to fill a gap for a year.

Hey Tony: I enjoy following your columns on the internet and hearing your reports on the radio. The thing I am wondering about is the supplemental draft. Is it possible that trading for the extra picks in next year's draft could pay off this year with a supplemental pick, like the previous regime did with Josh Gordon? When is the supplemental draft, and are any decent players available? Also, is it possible we have had a draft that produces zero starters? Has that happened before in Browns history?

-- Ron, Macedonia, OH

Hey Ron: Each supplemental draft is different. Few have a player that makes an impact such as Gordon did. The draft usually is held in July. The league doesn’t announce the players eligible – sometimes as few as one – until sometime in late June. As for a draft that produces zero starters, it happened last in 2008 – when the Browns didn’t have a pick in the first three rounds. The only player left of the five the Browns selected is Ahtyba Rubin, who became a starter in his second season.

Ryan Mallett    Photo/Getty

Hey Tony: I hope you're wrong about Lombardi still wanting Ryan Mallett. He reminds me of Tyler Bray in this draft. Big arm, slow footed, not good under pressure, threw too many picks and had a bad attitude. If they wanted that type of player, they should have drafted Bray in the seventh round and had him sit the bench. I don't believe for a minute that Belichick would allow a potential superstar QB to walk with Brady turning 36 this summer. I believe Chud will want his QB to have some escapability along with the arm. Maybe not a Cam Newton, but with some ability to run. That seems to be what's coming out of college in the next few years. Those QBs are much harder to defend. Tony, if Chud and Lombardi are not on the same page with a QB next year, who decides? The national media would make you believe it's the Banner, Lombardi, Norv Turner show with little mention of the head coach.

-- Rick. Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I’ve been told by a high-placed source that my speculation about the Browns’ infatuation with Mallett is unfounded. So I will back off for the time being. If Weeden is replaced next year, I would expect Chudzinski and Turner to have the biggest influence on identifying his replacement. I agree with you that it’s likely that Chud would favor a QB with more mobility than what Mallett possesses. I do not believe at this time, however, that Chud would look for a pure read-option QB.

Hey Tony: What I find most disturbing about the Browns' draft was that they traded their 4th round pick to Pittsburgh and then Pittsburgh drafted a safety which was an area of great need for the Browns. At the time I had this sick feeling that this safety would one day go on to make the pro bowl year after year and possibly even make it to the hall of fame while the Browns struggle to find a decent safety. If they hadn't traded with a division rival I might not feel as bad. Do you think others share my fears? Do you think Joe Banner will cringe every time this guy intercepts Brandon Weeden?

-- Glenn, Tucson, AZ

Hey Glenn: Let’s be clear about one thing: Shamarko Thomas, the safety the Steelers coveted and selected through the trade with the Browns, would not fit what the Browns needed at the position. Thomas is a hard-hitting strong safety – perhaps a future heir to Troy Polamalu. Thomas at the least will be a special teams core player for the Steelers in his rookie season. I would be surprised if Thomas is making interceptions v. the Browns in 2013 (famous last words). The Browns needed a free safety to roam the middle of the field and disrupt deep passes, cause turnovers, etc. So my disagreement with the trade was NOT that the Browns passed on a player that could help them. I disagreed with the trade for two reasons: 1. Never hand-deliver a player to a division rival. 2. Use the pick on a player to help the Browns.

Hey Tony: With all the talk about is Brandon Weeden a franchise QB or not, I was wondering if you would put a list together of your Top 25 Franchise QBs of all time? Some great names from the past (Otto Graham, Y.A. Tittle, Bart Starr) come to mind, but I would like to see your take on it. Keep up the good work.

-- Lawrence, Powell, OH

Hey Lawrence: I anticipate putting together a series of lists for posting during the days leading up to the opening of training camp later this summer. Usually, that is when I formulate my lists of the top 10 active players at every position. As for an all-time list of franchise quarterbacks, my top 10 would include: Otto Graham, Joe Montana, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw – in no particular order. I’m sure I left somebody out. I’d need much more time to assemble a final list.

Hey Tony: Really enjoy your work. With all the focus and talk about the new 3-4 "attacking" defense, I can't help but wonder -- how do they plan to stop the run? Clearly an area this team has mightily struggled with since the '99 return and now with our new front seven stacked with undersized OLB's and pass rush specialists (not to mention our best middle linebacker who didn't exactly excel in last iteration of the team's 3-4), aren't teams going to just line up and ram it down our throat? Please tell me I have nothing to worry about!

-- Bob, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Bob: I’ll have much, much more to say and write on this subject during training camp. For now, let me just say that if it seems as though the Browns consider stopping the run an incidental part of NFL football in 2013, well, that’s not by accident. They simply don’t believe devoting resources to the run translates to wins in this era.

Hey Tony: You know the history of the Cleveland Browns as well as anyone. If you were constructing a Mount Rushmore for the Browns who would you pick? I'm thinking Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Otto Graham, and Lou Groza. What say you? Keep up the good work covering the Browns. People call you negative, but considering how poorly the organization has been run since it returned to the NFL, I don't know how anyone could be otherwise. Thanks.

-- Frank, Duryea, PA

Hey Frank: My Mount Rushmore – four cornerstones of the Browns franchise -- definitely would include Paul Brown, Jim Brown and Otto Graham. The fourth piece would be open for debate. As much as I’d like to include a player from the more modern history, it’s not right to include a popular player at the exclusion of a Hall of Famer. Thus, the candidates for the fourth piece, in my opinion, would have to include Bill Willis, Marion Motley, Groza, Paul Warfield, Dante Lavelli, Len Ford, Frank Gatski, Leroy Kelly, Mike McCormack and Gene Hickerson. I may ask for help in filling out the fourth piece.

Hey Tony: When the Browns hired Ray Farmer, the move didn’t make a lot of noise, possibly because free agency and the draft were dominating the news cycle. Prior to Ray coming to Cleveland, however, he was considered to be a GM candidate for many of the openings after the 2012 season. Given the baggage with Lombardi (even Banner admits he’s on a limb here) is it possible that Banner hired Ray to hedge his bets should Lombardi fail?

-- Derek, Findlay, OH

Hey Derek: I don’t know for sure. I do know that on at least two occasions, Haslam has expressed supreme confidence in Farmer as a future GM. That seemed like excessive praise at the time, given Farmer’s low profile.

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. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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