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Hey Tony

Feb 01, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



The Browns’ head coaching search ended after 25 days, but their assistant coaching search drones on. And that means more questions to the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: It seems to me that in all the noise with the coaching selections (toxic, etc.) one fact has been lost. There are some talented players on this team and a chance to substantially upgrade in the draft.  We do have a starting quarterback in Brian Hoyer and the league's leading receiver, Dion Lewis should be healthy.  I think there are a lot of positives that are being ignored. Am I wrong?

-- Michael, Sugarloaf, PA

Hey Michael: You’re not wrong. And they’re not being ignored by the team. If they find the right offensive coach, there could be a quick turnaround. Hoyer only played three games and still has to show he can do it over a full season, but I thought his play in his first two starts proved that good play at the quarterback position covered up a lot of warts.

Hey Tony: Chris Tabor must make a great first impression. He was kept on last season and same goes for this year. I am struggling to find a good source of info on him. Can you give me a rundown plus your opinion of his coaching?

-- Alex, Noveau Brunswick, Canada

Hey Alex: Tabor has had some highs and a lot of lows. A lot of the problems last year on special teams were caused by the constant change in the bottom of the roster. Whether or not the players added were better than the ones released, the revolving door made it hard for the special teams to develop any cohesion or chemistry. Last year Tabor was given a three-year contract. I think Mike Pettine just thought it would be best to keep Tabor and concentrate on the appointments on offense and defense.

Hey Tony: Whenever I hear that the Browns are interviewing a potential OC, I hear about the usual QB and OL coaches, as well as ex-offensive coordinators.  Why would the Browns not buck this trend, and go after an up and coming college offensive coordinator willing to jump for the NFL?  Think Chip Kelly before taking over at Oregon.

-- Derek, Findlay, OH

Hey Derek: The fact is most coaches who leave college break into the NFL as a position coach. To go from college to NFL coordinator is very out of the box. Kelly went from college to head coach, but he had some exposure to the NFL through coaches who had visited him over the years to learn of his offensive techniques. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but it is unusual.

Hey Tony: Is there an offensive assistant, from Chud's staff that could be Cleveland's offensive coordinator? The Browns would then be able to keep the players from having to learn the third offense in the last three years. 

-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH

Hey Kevin: No, that ship has sailed.

Hey Tony: The hire of Mike Pettine seems to have been fairly well received from the fans, and the storm of negativity and backlash has calmed somewhat. The great majority of comments from Browns fans seem to be very much in favor of re-signing T.J. Ward. I don’t think Haslam and Banner need the outrage that is going to come from not retaining a Pro Bowl safety entering his physical prime. Do you think they understand this, and will do what it takes to retain Ward, even if that means utilizing the franchise tag? I can live with  Alex Mack not being retained, but I think Ward is a must keep.

-- Josh Jones, Fullerton, CA

Hey Josh: I’m getting a sense that the Browns might be contemplating using the franchise tag on Ward.

Hey Tony: In preparing myself for the Super Bowl I had an observation and question, and am interested in your thoughts. Are the Seahawks the team that Browns fans have been pining for since 1999? My rationale is the following:

1. Tough running back and a commitment to the run.

2.  Aggressive defense that has a physical front seven and DBs that can tackle as well as defend the run.

3.  Charismatic coach that is fun to watch and does not appear to be above it all.

4.  A front office that turns over the bottom third of the roster but does it in the process of trying to upgrade, not trying to find diamonds in the rough.

5.  A great fan experience.

6.  A quarterback that can make plays and wins games.

 7. Oh and wins and playoff appearances three out of four years.

My question is this, the current Seahawks regime inherited a mess from Holmgren and Mora, they quickly turned themselves into something respectable going 7-9 and once they had a QB were NFC Championship game bound. Are these too lofty of expectations for Pettine? I agree that that there is talent on this team, they have picks and cap space. To me, this blueprint is not unattainable and maybe even a little too long.

-- Joe Carlton, Highland Heights, OH

Hey Joe: If there is a blueprint the Browns wish to follow, I believe you have nailed it. The fact is the Browns have a great deal of respect for the Seahawks’ football operation.

Hey Tony: With all due respect, Mr. Grossi, stop writing about Adam Gase. He’s irrelevant now. Stop beating a dead horse. There are other things to cover. Please do not take this as a slam, but no one really cares. He is just Manning’s glorified baby sitter.

-- Wayne, Uniontown, OH

Hey Wayne: Why wouldn’t I write about Gase at the Super Bowl? It’s the first chance to really hear his explanation for declining to interview with the Browns. He also is a national story, a relevant sidebar to Super Bowl 48. He is not just Manning’s glorified baby sitter.

Hey Tony: It seems that the 3 Stooges interviewed just about any coach that would answer their phone. Was any thought given to Rob Ryan? I think that he would be a perfect fit to this comedy! He has the pedigree and the knowledge to be a head coach but he's so off-the-wall that no one wants to take a chance on him. He did a great job with the defense while he was here and elsewhere. Your thoughts?

-- Jim, Wesley Chapel, FL

Hey Jim: Ryan’s defenses in two seasons here were no better than any others that have come through Cleveland. I don’t get the fascination with him, other than the almost cartoon image he strikes with the long silvery hair and the bowling ball tucked inside his shirt. I mean, really?

Hey Tony: The more and more this new regime plays out, the more and more I realize how valuable Tom Heckert was. Gordon, Haden, Cameron and Ward all Pro Bowl Players. Not to mention maybe the most dangerous on the field of them all (if used properly) -- Travis Benjamin. I think we can all agree that Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson were all pressured by Mike Holmgren. How can Haslam not realize the gem he had in Heckert? If Heckert was still on board, without influence from Holmgren, how much further do you think we would be in terms of wins/losses?

-- Patrick, Charlotte, NC

Hey Patrick: Heckert did accede to Holmgren on the examples you cite. He had his own misses, too; they all do. I would have liked to have seen Heckert stay and given the chance to hire his own coach and do the GM thing outside the domineering shadow of Holmgren.

Hey Tony: Coach Pettine’s daughter expressed that she doesn’t like the official colors of the Browns and Jimmy Halsam has previously said that although they are looking into making uniform changes, they will not change the helmet. Often it is said the Browns’ uniforms and solid orange helmets are “iconic” or a “tradition”. As a 30-year-old Browns fan these words mean so little to me as the only Browns’ tradition I am familiar with is constant losing. My question is why shouldn’t the Browns consider making some radical changes? I personally think there is an entire generation of younger fans that would welcome a change to the colors, logo and even the team name. Paul Brown himself didn’t want the team named after him. Ultimately the product on the field is the most important aspect of an NFL franchise, but since 1964 the Browns have done nothing significant enough for the fans to keep clinging on to such an unattractive combination.

-- Tony, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Tony: Whoa, let’s pull on the reins a little. First, changing the name and the colors is not going to result in a change of culture from losing to winning. If your son is on a losing streak in life, you don’t disown him and change his name, right? That said, I favor a uniform style change to inject new energy into the franchise and symbolize a turn of fortunes. I don’t think that is contradictory to what I said on top. The name, colors and plain helmet should not be changed. But the uniform should be modernized and a variety of uniform combinations should be introduced.

Hey Tony: I'm concerned we will have a second-rate offense with all the top coordinators already hired by other teams. Then I got a crazy idea: What if Adam Gase decides to step out of Peyton Manning's shadow, and prove himself by rebuilding the new Browns?

-- Mike, Willoughby, OH

Hey Mike: It’s not going to happen. Gase was perfectly clear during Super Bowl week that he considers it almost self-defeating to take over a team at such a late date. He will ride along with Manning as long as Manning plays, I believe. At the Super Bowl, Gase’s personality struck me as kind of blasé. Maybe he still needs to grow into the job as head coach before leaving the cozy confines of the Manning nest.


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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