By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Former GM Tom Heckert became a topic again this week when CBSSports.com analyst Jason LaCanfora lambasted Heckert’s work with the Browns. LaCanfora, who formerly worked alongside Heckert’s successor, Mike Lombardi, with NFL Network, wrote that the current Browns’ management regime inherited an offensive team bereft of talent. His theme was that Browns fans must have patience because Lombardi couldn’t possibly undo all of Heckert’s poor work in one season.
Hey Tony: I read the Jason LaCanfora piece about the Browns you tweeted and, although I despise it when national talking heads scrutinize the Browns talent, or lack thereof, as if this criticism is something novel or insightful, I have to agree and wonder if Tom Heckert was as good a GM as we thought. Apart from the wishful thinking that Heckert's last draft will drastically improve the offense, it is yet to be seen, and his previous drafts either completely ignored the offensive side of the ball or just did a pretty bad job at picking players to play offense. Standing back and looking at what we have do you change your views at all concerning Tom Heckert as our previous GM? Do the lack of job opportunities for him and his final landing spot with the Broncos make more sense now?
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: The Browns’ record with Heckert as GM was 5-11, 4-12 and 5-11. Every GM has hits and misses in acquisitions, but his team’s record is the truest barometer of his work. As for GM job opportunities, most were taken in the latest hiring cycle by younger up-and-comers who had not previously held the position of GM. Heckert, whose contract with the Browns had two more years to run, landed a nice transitional position as pro personnel director of the Denver Broncos. I mean, it’s not like he had to flee to the studios of NFL Network to stay in the loop of the NFL.
Hey Tony: Have the Browns fixed the problem with cell phone use I could never get a signal.
-- Angelo, Cleveland, OH
Hey Angelo: I’m told that this problem will be fixed for the coming season.
Hey Tony: After reading ESPN's story and your disagreement over who should be regarded as the best all-time NFL coach, I was wondering, based on what you've seen so far how good of a head coach do you predict Rob Chudzinski to become? Was the success of the offense in 2007/2008, particularly the play of Derek Anderson, due to the coaching of the Offensive Coordinator, who was Chudzinski, or were there other assistant coaches who were unsung heroes helping the cause? I'm reading so many positive comments about Chudzinski from different players that I was curious as to your opinion?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: Chudzinski’s work with the 2007 Browns’ offense speaks for itself. That offense as more productive and prolific than any I’ve seen with the franchise. The possible exception was the 1987 Browns, whose season was skewed by the three-game players strike and one game lost to the strike. But I’ve found it nearly impossible to use past performance as an assistant coach to gauge future success as a head coach. You just never know how the assistant is going to perform when he has to make all the decisions – not just those on one side of the ball.
Hey Tony: What do the Browns see in Tashaun Gipson that I don’t? He’s not a ball hawk (1 int. last year) and I don’t recall much in the way of impactful tackles/collisions.
-- Brad, Westlake, OH
Hey Brad: What the Browns see is a young, eager player with athletic skills. He was an undrafted rookie last year and played a few games. Don’t judge him solely on that.
Hey Tony: My question is about the defensive line. The previous regime used a lot of resources to bring in a lot of talent among that group. Next to our offensive line I think it is the most talented on the team with lots of potential. With the new regime’s emphasis on linebacker play, there are obvious impacts on who will make the team from the D-Line. I think Taylor and Rubin are locks but who from the remaining group will be on the team at the beginning of the season? Also, can we get any trade value from some of the other quality line players that aren't going to make the team. Thanks, and keep up the great work.
-- Ronnie, Madison, AL
Hey Ronnie: The new regime, particularly defensive coordinator Ray Horton, does not de-emphasize defensive linemen. On the contrary, Horton’s scheme emphasizes the front seven – linemen and linebackers – so he is appreciative of the fact the team was well-stocked on the D-line. That said, simple arithmetic would suggest the team doesn’t need as many linemen in a 3-4 system than in a 4-3. Of the linemen who finished the season on the roster last year, I would put Ishmaa’ily Kitchen as a player who might be a longshot to make the team in September.
Hey Tony: I feel the browns FB position is the biggest weakness on the team since it wasn’t addressed and all we have is one guy who can’t blow open holes or catch! After using draft picks last year to trade up to get your franchise RB why, in your opinion, wasn’t this position addressed?
-- John, Tampa, FL
Hey John: Fourth or fifth round are good rounds to address the fullback position, but the Browns chose to trade picks in both of those rounds for better picks in the 2014 draft. I thought the Browns might bring a veteran fullback to training camp, but that hasn’t happened yet, either.
|Josh Gordon Photo/Getty|
Hey Tony: What did I miss? When was Josh Gordon's first NFL suspension? I don't remember it occurring during last season and I also believe that College transgressions don't apply when you coming to the NFL. So how do we get to two failed drug tests? Thank you for the information.
-- Robert, Parma, OH
Hey Robert: I had heard that Gordon failed a drug test as a Browns rookie last year, but couldn’t verify it. In retrospect, however, the information looks right on. One failed drug test automatically puts a player in Stage One of the NFL substance abuse program but does not result in a suspension. When this happens, it is kept confidential and not announced. Per the NFL substance abuse policy, a player receives a suspension only if he violates the program while already enrolled in Stage One. Thus, it can be deduced that Gordon was in Stage One when he tested positive recently (for codeine, according to Gordon’s statement). Also per the policy, a suspension – usually for four games – can be reduced when a player in Stage One tests positive for a drug or banned substance other than the one that qualified him for Stage One. Once again, we can deduce that Gordon received only a two-game suspension because he tested positive for codeine after entering Stage One for testing positive for something else (possibly marijuana).
Hey Tony: Whenever I read or hear pundits (local & national) talk about the Browns, no one sees them better than 8-8 - and that's if Weeden plays well under Turner, Richardson stays healthy, and Gordon stays out of trouble. If these things do, in fact, happen, what makes the Browns roster so weak that it couldn't contend for the playoffs? The offensive line is pretty good and may be the best in the division. The receivers appear to be talented and improving. To my eyes, there is quality depth at running back as well as on the defensive line. The linebackers look to be decent at the very least and there's potential to provide a good pass rush. Yes, there's concern in half the secondary. But I'm not seeing the dearth of talent that others claim that makes the Browns a .500 team at best. Every team has their weaknesses. Of course, it's a new coaching staff, new systems, but my question is about the roster which others claim is full of holes. Am I missing something?
-- Paul, Seattle, WA
Hey Paul: It’s all about the quarterback. While I agree that Weeden has the best shot under Turner and Rob Chudzinski to improve substantially, he has to do it on the field for the Browns to compete with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, and all the other AFC playoff contenders. I would also say that the Browns’ roster lacks quality depth, but the QB issue is the single most reason to lower expectations.
Hey Tony: ProFootballTalk.com is running a series on each NFL team’s "Mount Rushmore". I have 3 of the 4 that I think should be on the Browns, Paul Brown, Jim Brown and Otto Graham. Not sure of the 4th one (possibly Ozzie?). Anyway, who would you choose to be on the list? And thank you for the great coverage and insights on the Browns, Living in Florida makes it a bit tough to get Browns news.
-- Jim, Coral Springs, FL
Hey Jim: The contenders for that fourth head on Browns Mt. Rushmore should be from the following: Bill Willis, Marion Motley, Paul Warfield and Lou Groza.
Hey Tony: If the Browns had never left town in 1995, what would the hypothetical 2013 Browns organization look like compared with the current day Ravens?
-- Scott, Los Angeles, CA
Hey Scott: Impossible to answer. I can only speculate that Ozzie Newsome would have a prominent role.
|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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