By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
As Jason Campbell becomes the third Browns QB to start a game this year – and the 20th since 1999 – he goes under the microscope of Hey Tony readers.
Hey Tony: I am completely dumbfounded. It sounds like Jason Campbell doesn't want to play from what I heard on your podcast today. Really! Even for a team that once drafted a stuttering signal caller, this is a new low. Why are they not signing a veteran and a rookie to replace the two they have now. You have at least one game and the bye to get them ready for the rest of the year. They can't do worse than we have seen to this point. Then hope Brian Hoyer gets well soon.
-- Rich, Schaumburg, IL
Hey Rich: I have a theory that will be tested in Sunday’s game in Kansas City. My theory is that Campbell hasn’t been the same since he suffered a broken collarbone at the hands of the Browns in the 2011 game in Oakland. He cuts off his read progressions and dumps off the ball or leaves the pocket prematurely to avoid being hit. I’ll be watching this closely Sunday. I thought the Browns should have signed another quarterback the weekend after Hoyer’s injury in the event the QB situation came down to this. Apparently, nobody interests them. Hoyer is expected to be ready for the onset of the 2014 OTAs in May or June.
Hey Tony: Whose decision was it to start Jason Campbell, the coaching staff, or the front office? Is there no one else to bring in at quarterback, Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, or someone from the CFL, or on an NFL roster? It seems as though the front office has no answer for this problem.
-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH
Hey Kevin: The coaching staff made the decision to start Campbell. The front office does not dictate who plays. I venture to say that if Campbell were unsigned and “on the street,” everyone would have him at the top of their list of QBs the Browns should sign. Everybody always wants something the Browns don’t have.
Hey Tony: What great news. Now when the Browns lose they will not be able to pile on Brandon Weeden. Grossi won't be able to say that the QB play brought down the defense. Be careful for what you wish for. I am so happy Weeden is now done with the Browns so when this team's offensive line still blocks like a sieve and receivers still drop passes they will have to try to blame someone else because the favorite whipping boy is on the bench. Now when we still lose fans will have to try to find someone else to bury. I hope Weeden never plays another down for the Browns. I hope he moves on gets a chance to back up on another team, get more experience and live to play again.
-- Jim, Twinsburg, OH
Hey Jim: Quoting you: Be careful of what you wish for.
Hey Tony: What happened to the team that played in games 3, 4 and 5? The games 6 and 7 were about 180 degree apart is it the QB turn the team around? In game 3, 4 and 5 both sides of the ball were playoff contenders but in the games 6 and 7 they look like a confused team.
-- John, Laughlin, NV
Hey John: Simple answer. Hoyer’s play at quarterback in Games 3-5 energized the entire team. He gave it reason to believe it could overcome anything to win. Granted, he was injured early in Game 5 and left with a deficit. But I think the carryover of Games 3-4 still prevailed in Game 5 after Hoyer left. The second half of Game 6 with Weeden at QB sucked all the positive energy out of everybody.
Hey Tony: Well, here we go again, another first round draft pick quarterback bites the dust. My question concerns the coaching staff. One of the things I kept reading was how successful Chud and Norv Turner were at developing quarterbacks. In your opinion, was Brandon Weedon just a big mistake from the very beginning? Couldn't they coach him up, or was Weeden just not coachable? For all intent and purposes is Weeden done as far as quarterbacking the Browns, barring injury?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: Chudzinski and Turner have impressive resumes in developing quarterbacks. Weeden wasn’t uncoachable. He didn’t resist coaching or not put in the work. He did all of that. He just wasn’t good enough to catch up to the speed of the NFL game. I wouldn’t expect him to be on the Browns’ roster in 2014.
Hey Tony: As another odd season is unfolding before my weary eyes, I find the bulk of my concern is for the coaching staff. I truly believe that we've got the right pieces in place in that department, but fear this strange and disappointing season may end up being looked at ultimately as their responsibility. Do you feel the coaches will be held accountable for yet another bizarre season?
-- Buzz, Ames, IA
Hey Buzz: I don’t know what the final nine games will bring, but I get no sense that the coaches are under fire. A 3-4 record heading into the final nine games was better than most anticipated. There has been noticeable improvement in several areas.
Hey Tony: I've heard some broadcasters say that teams have found a weakness in the Browns defense with the middle linebackers’ inability to cover the TE. Isn't that true of all teams that utilize this new fast, athletic TE? Don't the linebackers need safety help? I can't think of too many ILBs that can keep up with a fast TE. With teams getting away from the running game, will the linebackers start to look more like safeties?
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: Two defensive trends I’ve noticed are: 1. using a safety-sized linebacker in pass coverage, and 2. using an extra cornerback rather than a free safety in some defensive packages. But downsizing for speed may leave a defense vulnerable to the running game. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Ideally, you field linebackers who can run and hit. That fit the description of Craig Robertson, which is why coordinator Ray Horton put him in that role. He’s a young player and should improve.
Hey Tony: Given the context of the situations, the decisions by the front office make sense to me. At the start of the season Weeden is named the starter because the Browns have a first round pick invested in him, he looked solid in the pre-season and no other quarterback really stood out. Makes sense. Weeden has an injury and Hoyer is into the lineup because the team needs to know if they need a Quarterback in 2014, and we all know what Jason Campbell can do. Makes sense again right? In hindsight the Richardson trade looks pretty good and now starting Campbell after Weeden has had a few games to prove himself (or fail) works for me as well. Do we finally have the front office Cleveland needs, one with thick skin that tunes out the noise?
-- Doug, Orange, CA
Hey Doug: They’ve made more right moves than wrong ones. But the first draft was a downer. The 2014 draft will tell us a lot.
Hey Tony: What do you think about drafting QB Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois? He's a big kid, has decent speed and a lightning fast release, his stats are pretty impressive and I've read some glowing assessments of his abilities from football big shots. Have you heard any mention of him in the Browns organization?
-- Jeff, Grove City, PA
Hey Jeff: Garoppolo is an intriguing prospect whose phenomenal statistics surely have him under radar of NFL scouts. Playing against College Football Subdivision competition and in a simplified offensive system, however, will require a lot of good scouting to project his potential in the NFL. Garoppolo will be put through the pre-draft meat grinder, like all the big-name QB prospects. I’m sure he will be a legitimate prospect and the Browns will examine him as closely as the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Taj Boyd, Derek Carr, AJ McCarron and all the others. I have no idea at this time where Garoppolo ranks on the Browns’ early draft board.
Hey Tony: Lost in the nightmare that is the QB position for the Browns is the D. I wonder about our OLB's, Mingo and Kruger. Mingo hasn't flashed to me in several games. I wonder, has he already hit the wall? I keep thinking about your point in regard to his weight. I'm sure he is lighter now than when he came in. I recall reading, nationally, that we overpaid for Kruger. I am starting to believe it. If I'm Jabaal Sheard, I want a raise! Your thoughts?
--Craig, Atlanta, GA
Hey Craig: Mingo does appear to have hit a wall. He definitely has to add weight and strength in the offseason, and I’m sure that he will. Kruger was a complementary player in Baltimore. I know that the Ravens did not rue his departure. That said, it doesn’t mean that those two players will not grow into the Ray Horton defense and be playmakers. When the Browns have an offense capable of putting points on the board, more pass rush opportunities for the defense will bring more plays from Mingo and Kruger.
Hey Tony: Your final comment in your column "nearing a decision on the quarterback" is without a doubt coming soon. In my opinion, if the Browns loose to Kansas City the remainder of the season will not be about Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell or making the playoffs, it will solely be about the 2014 season. Every decision made or considered from that point forward by Browns Management will be about 2014. As the losses keep mounting, I am very concerned about the emotional effect it will have on the team and specifically on individual players as the season progresses. With loosing, attendance drops, tempers get short, finger pointing begins and player behavioral issues appear.
If the Browns loose to Kansas City they should consider moving Josh Gordon before the trade deadline arrives for the following reasons. First, I don't think Josh will emotionally survive the remainder of the season if the team continues to loose. Second, there is no question he is an elite wide-out with first round capability that could provide "value" for the Browns and any play-off bound team, that are currently dealing with season ending injuries at the wideout position. Lastly, without a franchise quarterback to get him the ball I don't see Josh lasting (eligibility) long term with the Browns and there is no guarantee the team will have one in place for the 2014 season. Move Josh while he is a "hot commodity".
Your thoughts and opinions on this would be greatly appreciated.
-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA.
Hey Joe: As the deadline approaches, I make it a 51 percent chance the Browns do trade Gordon for the reasons you have outlined.
Hey Tony: A couple of what-if scenarios for you. Could the Pats or Redskins be the mystery teams in the Josh Gordon rumor mill? Could Ryan Mallet or Kirk Cousins be that unidentified player being talked about in the trade? If so, could the Browns enter 2014 with a combo of Mallet/Hoyer or Cousins/Hoyer and feel that they do not need to draft a 1st round QB, thus allowing them to use all these acquired draft picks to bolster the roster and add lots of skill players and depth? Curious as to your thoughts.
-- Sean, Phoenix, AZ
Hey Sean: I don’t foresee a trade for a quarterback. I believe the Browns are committed and determined to find their franchise quarterback in the draft, even knowing that Hoyer should be fully recovered by the start of the 2014 training camp.
Hey Tony: Has Mike Lombardi ever had any real interest in Ryan Mallett? It seems Lombardi was right in signing Brian Hoyer, and Hoyer and Mallett have both been groomed by Tom Brady and the Patriots. Surely he would come less than a 1st round pick, has all the physical attributes and is young enough to be a long term answer. Plus, we could probably trade for him this year. What are your thoughts?
-- Bryan, Belpre, OH
Hey Bryan: A source told me months ago the Browns had no interest in Mallett. I don’t believe he “has all the physical attributes.” He is slow afoot and there are questions about the quickness of his release and his ability to read the field quickly. Mallett is not a consideration.
|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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