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Hey Tony

Jun 01, 2013 -- 4:13pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

Photo/Getty

OTAs are done and only a minicamp remains before the Browns go on summer recess. Thus, vituperativeness was down in the Hey Tony inbox this week. There’s not too much rankling Browns fans right now.

Hey Tony: How many Browns players not named Joe Thomas would start on a championship calibre team.

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: A championship-caliber team should not be confused with an all-star team. So your question shouldn’t limit the answer to proven Pro Bowl players. That said, here goes: Joe Haden and Mitch Schwartz could start on a championship-caliber team. Paul Kruger already did, so he would belong on the list, too. Next in line would be Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Ahtyba Rubin, D’Qwell Jackson and Alex Mack.

Hey Tony: If Tim Tebow agreed to play tight end, do you think he would be a good fit to bring to Cleveland?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: No.

Hey Tony: I am beginning to think that MOST of the expected improvement from the Browns in the coming 2013 season will be because of the new improved coaching staff and "big jumps" that will be made by players drafted or signed by Tom Heckert over the previous three years. I am REALLY still at a loss to understand why Heckert was not retained by the new Joe Banner led regime - so sorry to say that this still "bugs" the heck out of me, a life-long Browns fan and season ticket holder. Heckert had an incredibly high success rate with his drafts. He signed some really good free agents that will make their presence known more and more in the future. He left the team with a great salary cap situation. Just what else was the man supposed to do? Mr. Banner has never given specifics about why Mr. Heckert was not retained and that's his rightful option going forward. But I think it will become a growing point of big regret if Mr. Lombardi and company don't match or exceed what Tom Heckert accomplished in his short tenure here with the Browns.

-- Tim, Irving, TX

Joe Banner     Photo/AP

Hey Tim: Banner’s beef with Heckert centered on a difference in philosophy of how to build a team. Banner believes that everything in 2013 revolves around the quarterback position – finding one and supporting him, and stopping the opposing QB. Banner would never have drafted a running back third overall, as Heckert did with Trent Richardson. Banner is of the opinion that the running game is secondary to the passing game. He believes that resources devoted to running the ball and stopping the run are wasted resources that could be used on rushing the passer and protecting the passer. Banner disagreed with the larger contracts that Heckert dispensed to Frostee Rucker and Chris Gocong. I believe that Banner would not have drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round and would not have bid a second-round pick for Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft.

Hey Tony: One of the questions I have involves Josh Cribbs. It seems like I read where he was a really good leader in the locker room and Josh's influence helped Josh Gordon stay clean. Did I read Josh Cribbs' positive influence correctly? Are there some issues concerning some of the new Browns players? One was caught selling drugs, one was arrested trying to buy the services of police officer posing as a hooker, one guy got drunk and was arrested because he was pounding on the wrong door thinking it was his, I was listening to half of a story involving one of the running backs traded from the Eagles telling how he and his brother were arrested following a holdup, I don't know all the details to the holdup so this guy could be completly innocent, but the moral is, there are some issues here that may or may not just go away. A guy who likes hookers may continue to like hookers even after he makes the team,a guy who gets drunk and does stupid things may continue to get drunk and do stupid things. Do you agree or disagree that Josh Cribbs could have helped these guys? Am I reading too much into his infuence on his fellow teammates?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: Yes, I think you are giving Cribbs too much credit. Cribbs’ benefit in the locker room was based on the fact that he gave everything he had in every game he ever played. He did not “police” the locker room or keep other players in line.

Hey Tony: What's the deal with all the running back signings? Are the Browns just trying to play it safe with multiple backups or are they a little worried about the durability of Richardson and Hardesty? Could they possibly be thinking of one of these backs as a fullback? Jacob Hester was with Norv Turner in San Diego and surely wasn't a classic fullback. I would rather see Hardesty as a fullback than Marecic.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I think some of it has to do with Richardson’s injury history. I also think some of it has to do with uncertainty about the fullback position. Keep in mind, however, that training camp rosters are 90 players, so it’s not uncommon for teams to stock up at every position and then whittle down the depth chart as camp unfolds.

Hey, Tony: I know you generally avoid political stuff, but I’m having a hard time not connecting the dots between two hot topics, Mr. Haslam’s issues with the IRS and the FBI, and the problems the IRS is having as a result of targeting conservative groups. A simple search on the Federal Elections Commission website shows a long history of Mr. Haslam and Pilot-Flying J contributing to individual Republican candidates and Republican or conservative political action committees (PACs), including at least $75,000 to American Crossroads in 2012 alone. It is also noteworthy that Mr. Haslam's company was raided until after he was divested from his Steelers ownership shares, despite the alleged offenses occurring while he was a partial owner in Pittsburgh. Dan Rooney, another long-standing Republican but Obama supporter, served as the Ambassador to Ireland in the first Obama Administration, presumably for his assistance in getting Barack Obama elected. Is there anything to the idea that Haslam’s alleged business malpractices were uncovered as a result of investigations into Republican or conservative donors by the IRS? If so, what is the likelihood that Mr. Haslam could invoke the sketchy actions of the IRS to escape punishment?

-- Ashley, Columbus, OH

Hey Ashley: Wow, you’re really getting into conspiracies with your question. If you read the affidavit for the FBI search warrant, the investigation was launched when an employee raised concerns about the alleged business practices under question. I don’t believe the investigation is politically motivated. The fact that Jimmy Haslam’s brother, Bill, is the Republican governor of Tennessee is merely coincidental, I believe.

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 tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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