By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
A scent of optimism was palpable in this week’s Hey Tony. Must have been because of all that positive press the team received during minicamp. The column was compiled prior to news of Josh Gordon’s two-game league suspension for a substance abuse violation.
Hey Tony: Now that OTAs are wrapping up, what do you see as strengths and question marks (weaknesses?) regarding the head coach now vs. a year ago?
-- Tom, Charlottesville, VA
Hey Tom: I’m upbeat about Rob Chudzinski and his overall staff. The minicamp practices were impressive because it looked like the team had been together a long time, not just a few months. That’s a credit to the coaches. You never know how a first-time head coach (at any level) is going to turn out, especially when he is faced with rapid-fire decisions from the sideline during a game. But I like what I see from Chud so far. It’s important that a coach doesn’t change his personality when he is promoted from assistant to head coach. I’ve seen so many coaches try to be somebody they aren’t. So far I think Chud has stayed true to himself.
Hey Tony: Your article this morning (June 7) was an absolutely excellent analysis of where the Browns stand at this point. Thanks! I get a sense you are cautiously optimistic about how this season unfolds.
-- Gavin, San Francisco, CA
Hey Gavin: I am. But I was at this time a year ago, too. You’ll know when my feelings change. Last year reality set in at the third preseason game.
Hey Tony: I was reading with great interest your article about Brandon Weeden being the only quarterback to work with the first team. In the practices the press could attend you used the word extraordinary to describe the play of Weeden. I was curious about the word "extraordinary" so I Googled it and it said, uncommon, unusual, rare, special and not typical. Has Weeden been playing that good? When I look back over the last two or more seasons the Browns have had poor win loss records but there were many close games that with an extraordinary quarterback could have easily gone our way. Brandon Weeden stated he thinks the Browns could be really special this year. I know you never know for sure until they put the pads on and start playing for keeps but from what you've seen, should we be excited about this team?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: The word I used to describe Weeden’s work in minicamp was “exceptional,” not “extraordinary.” While exceptional is less than extraordinary, it still is unusually good, or outstanding. Which should be the case during a minicamp, in my opinion, for a quarterback with a big arm and a year’s experience. It is reason for optimism but we will take a new read on Weeden when the rush is live, the pace quickens and hitting is permitted.
Hey Tony: I agree with you on the tight end position. It just seems weak. I'm also concerned about fullback. Would the Browns consider free agent Mike Cox from Atlanta? A 27 year old fullback wouldn't break the bank. How about bringing back Evan Moore? Not the best blocker and injury prone, but he's tall and has good hands. Maybe I'm just feeling optimistic, but I feel the team is getting close. By filling in these two pieces, the Browns would add some security.
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: I think the Browns want to take a close look at Owen Marecic in training camp. The minicamp doesn’t give them a true demonstration of his lead blocking. If he fails to impress, they will either pick up a fullback during roster cuts or compensate by using another back (Chris Ogbonnaya) or tight end (Kellen Davis or Brad Smelley). As for Moore, his nagging ailments in Cleveland were reminiscent Jordan Cameron’s. Moore was released by Seattle and Philadelphia last year and is currently an unsigned free agent.
Hey Tony: From BALTIMORE! Season tickets holder since 1996! Loving OUR 2ND WORLD TITLE! C-ya opening day!
-- Bill, Baltimore, MD
Hey Bill: Enjoy. Better not look in your rear-view mirror. Someone might be gaining on you.
Hey Tony: I was at the soccer game at First Energy Stadium and I didn't see that Browns Hall of Fame area in the stadium. Did the team take it down? If so, it is a shame.
-- John, Cleveland, OH
Hey John: The Browns don’t have a Hall of Fame, per se. They have a Legends club and a Ring of Honor. They are still in operation. In fact, the new management is having ongoing discussions on how to proceed to make them a better part of the fans’ game experience.
Hey Tony: I am surprised that no one is mentioning that even Jon Bon Jovi is just another import from Philadelphia to Cleveland. The Jon Bon Jovi who use to own a Philadelphia arena football team. Is there anyway the Cleveland Browns can form their own identity and actually embrace the great city of Cleveland? Also, I heard a rumor that excited me that stated you had a role in the new Kevin Costner movie "Draft Day" but then I heard you were replaced with a wet blanket on a coat rack. Any truth to these rumors? Thanks.
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: I am surprised that you didn’t catch the fact that Michael Stanley and The Resonators will play as opening act to Bon Jovi. There isn’t a rock act more associated with Cleveland than Michael Stanley. As to your rumor, I will neither confirm nor deny.
Hey Tony: Every year, the Pittsburgh Steelers open up their training camp at Latrobe high school with an inter-squad scrimmage. Old school roots to start the year. Why don't the Browns begin a similar tradition by hosting a scrimmage at the beginning of camp at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon? Bus the players down for one night (no Mangini jokes, please), make it a community event. Perhaps send the players to the Hall of Fame, (the league has seen the value of this by sending players there at the player synposium) educate them and fans about the proud history of the Browns not just in Cleveland, but in Ohio overall. Yes, I know, the team has a scrimmage at First Energy Stadium that is a revenue stream. But these can be separate events. Make the Massillon event more about autographs and football roots. Another advantage to starting this tradition?
We have lost an entire generation of young fans to the Steelers. So many young fans in that Canton/Akron region root for the Steelers rather than the Browns, due to the move and the lack of Browns' success in the past generation, paired with the Steelers' run of success. Why not hold an event like this to help create some memories in young fans and educate fans and players about the proud history of the Cleveland Browns?
-- Mike, Cincinnati, OH
Hey Mike: An excellent idea that the club should explore.
Hey Tony: Bit of an odd question here, but let's just say I wasn't around before the Browns moved after the 1995 season. I was wondering if you (Someone who actually watched the Browns at the time) could give me some info on some of their top draft picks, specifically: Eric Turner, Tommy Vardell, Patrick Rowe, Steve Everitt, Derrick Alexander, Clifford Charlton and Dan Footman.
-- Alex, New Brunswick Canada
|Eric Turner Getty/Dunn|
Hey Alex: Here are my snapshots, reduced to Twitter length. Turner: Turned in perhaps the greatest season ever for a Browns safety in 1994. Class act. Vardell: Good guy, but never should have been drafted in first round. A short-yardage specialist. Rowe: Draft bust. Everitt: Good guy who was as outraged over the team move to Baltimore as any fan. Alexander: Had his moments, but his drops in 1994 playoff game in Pittsburgh led to Art Modell’s emotional demand to find a new WR in free agency (Andre Rison). Charlton: Draft bust. Footman: Had 8.5 sacks in three years with Browns, 10.5 one year with Colts.
Hey Tony: Like many long time Browns fans, I have major concerns about Jimmy Haslam surviving the criminal charges and civil law suits against his company. Is the wealth of the Haslam family great enough to pay off and settle all the suits, huge legal fees, and potential fines -- assuming Haslam is proven innocent of the criminal charges? There is no doubt that Pilot Flying J will take a major hit to profitability with all the expenses associated with this mess and potential significant loss of revenue and market share. I know that you are not privy to Haslam's financial statements, but do you think his ownership and future payoff to Lerner is tied directly to the company and not personal wealth accumulated over many years? My fear is that in 2015 Haslam is forced to sell due to being found guilty and/or money problems and the new owner brings in his own new regime with Banner shown the backdoor and here we go again. I have been caught up in Browns preseason optimism for decades but this pending nightmare is hanging over the team less than a year after Haslam came riding into Cleveland on his white horse to save the Browns franchise.
-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA
Hey Tim: First, Haslam doesn’t have to be proved innocent. He is innocent, unless proved guilty. So far, no federal charges have been brought against him. It’s possible – but not probable – that the FBI investigation could result in charges brought against his company, not him personally. In any case, I believe Haslam’s future ownership is tied to his financial ability to sustain the franchise. If Pilot Flying J is devastated financially as a result of this mess, it could lead to an ownership change of the Browns. I think you’ve adequately summed up the concerns of the majority of Browns fans.
Hey Tony: In what playoff game from the 1986 season did Marty (Schottenheimer) blow a 10-point lead?? Not The Drive.
-- Mike, Boston, MA
Hey Mike: I mistakenly recalled the Browns holding a 20-10 lead in the game. In fact, it was 20-13. Your question enabled me to post this correction.
Hey Tony: Any news on Alex Mack, TJ Ward contract extension?
-- Nick, Akron, OH
Hey Nick: No. The priority now is to sign all the draft picks (only Garrett Gilkey is under contract). Then the excess cap room may be used to re-sign potential free agents. Others besides Mack and Ward who are in the last years of present contracts are: Shawn Lauvao, Chris Owens, Montario Hardesty, John Greco, Oniel Cousins, Chris Ogbonnaya and David Nelson. The Browns have until the end of the 2013 season to negotiate new deals with their potential free agents.
|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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