Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Thanksgiving week brought a veritable cornucopia of topics to the Hey Tony in-box, starting with a Hall of Fame question about Ray Guy. There was more pro-Tom Heckert conversation, some more anti-Joe Banner fallout from our three-part conversation with him, and no love for Brandon Weeden and Buster Skrine.
Hey Tony: A non-Browns question to give you a bit of a break: Peter King has opened a can of worms about Ray Guy and the lack of punters and specialists in the HoF. What are your thoughts? How difficult is it to separate the media-hyped modern players from the older players and fairly evaluate each on their merits? There seems to be a backlog of worthy players and non-players. Do you think it is possible for the selection process to be adjusted so that senior candidates and non-players are not included in the limited numbers permitted for each year?
-- David, Joelton, TN
Hey David: In the past, I have sided with Peter on Ray Guy. He may be one of those mythical figures in NFL history, but the fact is he participated in only about 2 percent of his team’s plays. I find it hard to justify selecting Guy as one of the select few Hall of Fame players in history. Was Guy the sport’s all-time best punter? That’s debatable. Even so, does being the very best at a such a limited specialist role merit the Hall of Fame? So whom does Guy keep out? Was he a better football player than receiver Cris Carter, who has over 1,000 career catches and still hasn’t been elected? At least with a place-kicker, one can argue with very clear data that he was directly responsible for winning games. I have covered hundreds of NFL games and I can point to only one game that I can say was won by a punter. It was a Browns game in the Superdome where Saints punter Brian Hansen had two punts downed inside the 10-yard line. Each resulted in Saints’ safeties in the fourth quarter of a close New Orleans win.
Hey Tony: Why do you think the Browns have such a hard time in the second half? They seem asleep almost. Do you think Coach Shurmur is much at motivating his players at half time? I don't think you have to be overly loud or emotional necessarily but you do need to have a personality that motivates people to follow him through the fires of hell figuratively speaking. Also, do you think the Browns are regretting letting Lawrence Vickers go? Fullback was once one of the few strengths on the team. He proved last Sunday he could make a catch which I thought Owen Marecic was supposed to provide but hasn't. Has anyone expressed regret? I always enjoy your columns.
-- Glenn, Tucson, AZ
Hey Glenn: The Browns have appeared to have been asleep at the beginning of games as well at the end of games. Keeping the team on point for four quarters is a prime function of the coach, of course. Vickers’ high catch for a first down in the fourth quarter was a huge play for the Cowboys. I’m not aware of anyone with the Browns expressing regret that they allowed him to move on.
Hey Tony: What are your thoughts on Buster Skrine? Week after week he seems to get toasted by opposing receivers or commit a penalty. Inevitably, the following week Dick Jauron and Pat Shurmur praise his "toughness" and "heart" in their press conferences. Has it ever crossed their mind that he's just not that good? Why not give Trevin Wade or Johnson Bademosi his reps? I doubt they could do much worse. Rudy had "toughness and heart"- that (rightfully so) got im all of two snaps at Notre Dame.
-- Anthony, Youngstown, OH
Hey Anthony: The coaches love Skrine’s competitiveness, toughness, practice habits, attentiveness, quickness. My feeling about Skrine is his lack of height will always put him at a severe disadvantage against larger receivers, of which there are more than ever. I would like to see more of the bigger, longer Bademosi at cornerback.
Hey Tony: I am not a fan of Joe Banner already. I have been optimistic of every new regime that we have had so far, but I don't like this guy. I have been wrong about every regime so far also, so let’s hope that continues. But the Eagles have been stale for years now. They have not had one good draft since Tom Heckert left. I don't like his comments about Brandon Weeden. Who on the staff is qualified to make the determination if he is the quarterback of the future if he fires Heckert? He certainly is not. Look at the quarterback situation that he left Philly with. Terrible.
-- Brad, Austin, TX
Hey Brad: Banner was a lightning rod in Philadelphia and it appears he will be the same here. He seems to enjoy that role.
Hey Tony: A recurrent argument to keep Tom Heckert at year's end points to his success in revamping the Browns' roster. When you're comparing Tom to drafts by Clark, Garcia, Savage, and Kokinis/Mangini, that isn't much of a stretch. Couldn't Heckert have drafted all of "his guys" at their ACTUAL draft projections and still had the opportunity to improve the Browns with higher rated players that he passed on (J.J. Watt vs Phil Taylor, for instance)?
-- Mark, Martinez, CA
Hey Mark: In the example you cite, would you take J.J. Watt over Taylor AND Brandon Weeden? By trading down with Atlanta, Heckert acquired the 2012 first-round pick which he used on Weeden. I’ve always judged that trade against receiver Julio Jones, whom Atlanta took in the Browns’ No. 5 position. Watt was picked 11th by Houston and has been fantastic, a co-favorite to win defensive player of the year honors in his second season. I do know that Watt was seriously considered at No. 5 by the Browns before they made the trade.
Hey Tony: There is a play called the “quarterback sneak” that the Browns seem to have forgotten about. I am not advocating using it on third and 2 or fourth and 2 but certainly they have had enough third and 1 situations that it should be used. Why do you think they haven’t tried it considering a first round center with a good size quarterback behind him?
-- Ray, Mansfield, OH
Hey Ray: The Browns have used Weeden on QB sneaks four times on third-and-1 and have converted each time. The play call crossed my mind when they faced third-and-1 in the fourth quarter against Dallas, I must admit.
Hey Tony: Ever think about starting a fan forum on your site for fans to post/vent? Seems many fans enjoyed the forum of your former employer but that was until they changed the format. The new forum in my opinion is very unappealing and no longer a good form of therapy. A new and simple forum addition to your site would be pretty cool and probably get a lot of traffic.
-- Mike, Vacaville, CA
Hey Mike: You’re welcome to post comments beneath all of our stories on ESPNCleveland.com.
Hey Tony: Is it a battle for you to watch the Browns?
-- Ben, Indianapolis, IN
Hey Ben: Always.
Hey Tony: It was nice to see Lawrence Vickers on the field. He looked good catching that first down. It is a shame we had to get rid of him because his hands weren’t sure enough, and replace him with Owen Marecic. I wonder if he would help with our longest yard problem. Also, assuming Shurmur doesn’t pull off a miracle finish and is replaced, why is no one mentioning the name Jim Tressel?
-- Gene, Copley, OH
Hey Gene: Vickers was the best short-yardage blocker I’ve seen covering the Browns. That includes prior to the expansion era. So, yes, I believe he would help them attain “the longest yard.” As for Tressel, I’ve reported before that he told friends while he was Ohio State coach that the only job he would leave OSU for would be to coach the Browns. I’m not sure how the situation has changed since: 1. He has been out of coaching for 2-plus years, and 2. The Browns were sold to Jimmy Haslam.
Hey Tony: After watching Andrew Luck and RGIII a few times this year and then watching Weeden I am left feeling like the teenager who asked for the brand new Ford Mustang for his birthday but instead got an old used Ford Taurus. Weeden might have the height and NFL arm, but he seems to lack that killer instinct and the "Win at all costs" quality. The Browns have been leading in so many games this year and all he had to do was close out the games and he just couldn't do it. There have been countless of drives were we just needed points to win and he couldn't deliver. I guess now I see what all the fuss was about when talking about RGIII. I love Trent and Gordon and think they will be an intricate part of the team for many years, but if we could go back and had a second chance at getting RGIII for the picks would you pull the trigger? I think I would.
-- Alex, Orlando, FL
Hey Alex: Luck and Griffin have been tremendous as rookies. Weeden and Richardson have not. Still, I’m not quite ready to say the Browns would have been better off making that trade with the Rams. It would have amounted to this – Griffin for Richardson, Weeden, Mitch Schwartz, and the Browns’ No. 1 pick in 2013.
Hey Tony: Out of all the regimes since '99, which one were you most excited about at their respective date of hire? Where does the current one rank? Keep up the good work Tony.
-- Jon, Las Vegas, NV
Hey Jon: The exciting thing about this regime change is it starts at the top with a new owner, Jimmy Haslam, committed and energized to change the team’s fortunes. The addition of Joe Banner as CEO assures an experienced administrator to rearrange the business side, but it also raises concerns about interfering with football decisions. The full potential of this regime won’t be known, however, until Haslam and Banner make changes on the football side. Their hires will determine how excited I am about the future.
Hey Tony: After watching another uninspired effort by Weeden I can't help but think he isn't the answer. You mention in "Tony's Take" he disputes the ball sailed on him all night? His accuracy was horrible all game. They were high, behind, low, you name it. The Big Show (what a joke), said a couple of weeks ago he feels he is leaving Cleveland with their QB issue resolved. Why does Haslam keep this clown around? Let him take "his QB" to Dallas with him! I get not wanting to get into the coaching thing right now but you have to see what I see about Weeden, no?
-- Craig, Atlanta, GA
Hey Craig: Weeden had been improving week to week until the last three games. Like most rookies, he is inconsistent from game to game, even from quarter to quarter. I’d like to think his accuracy will improve as he keeps playing. As for the Big Show, many have asked why he has not had his parking space and card key revoked by now. I don’t know the answer.
Hey Tony: With the regression of key players is it possible the assistant coaches are more to blame rather than Shurmur? I can't believe it is another season and another story of a young QB losing his heralded accuracy. Fault QB coach. Richardson continuing to dance around the line and search for contact instead of hit open spaces. Fault RB coach. Wide receivers never develop. Fault WR coach. CBs can't do anything right. Fault CB coach. You get the idea. Is it possible Shurmur could be a sympathetic figure and should get more slack despite his poor play calling?
-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: I would dispute the general premise of your question. Yes, Weeden and Richardson have had up-and-down rookie seasons, but I wouldn’t say they are regressing. The receivers? Josh Gordon has continually gotten better and Greg Little has made noticeable strides the past three games. The cornerbacks? Two weeks ago we were all praising Buster Skrine for playing well after the move to the slot position. No, I would not agree that Shurmur is laden with a poor coaching staff. I might argue the opposite, in fact.
Hey Tony: Can you please explain what possible good can come from retaining Shurmur until the end of the season? I really believe the only reason Haslam has exercised restraint is because he stated early on he would not make changes until the conclusion of the 2012 season. Shurmer has implemented one of the worst offensive systems I've ever witnessed out of a professional ballclub, and he lacks the intangibles needed to make the team believe they can win. Everyone on the Browns bench looked utterly deflated during the overtime period in Dallas as if losing was a foregone conclusion. That's a direct reflection on the coach. Give Jauron the team and let Chilly call the plays from the booth for the remainder of the season. It can only help at this point.
-- Greg, Durango, CO
Hey Greg: I agree with you that the main reason a change hasn’t been made is because of the pledge Haslam and Banner made to make no changes until after the season. They would not look good in going back on their first major announcement since taking over as owner and CEO.
Hey Tony: I share your belief that the next head coach chosen by Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner will be a rookie NFL coach and will emerge from the current NFL coordinator ranks. That being said, do you have a personal short list of the aforementioned and preferences from the top down?
-- Chris, Louisville, KY
Hey Chris: I have not made a short list of potential head coach candidates. There will be a time for this. When I compile it I will write about it.
Hey Tony: I am worried about losing Heckert. If we had a coach, we would be at least 4-5 with a totally revamped younger promising team. Maybe you could argue that he could have done a better job putting together a team and not just talent, but talent is the sine qua non any successful team. Also we have plenty of experience that shows that sometimes people grow into the job over time, and why can't Banner, who seems to know everything, help him in this regard? I have a feeling he will be responsible for a Super Bowl team somewhere else someday.
-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC
Hey Tom: Given Banner’s total experience with Heckert during seven years together with the Philadelphia Eagles, I just think if Heckert were going to stay, Banner would have endorsed him by now. I just hope the rumors about a possible Mike Lombardi candidacy for Browns GM are unfounded. Banner hasn’t done a good job of refuting them, however.
Hey Tony: While having too many young players creates a lot of problems for a team, on possible upside is less injuries. I’m a believer that the older a player gets, the higher the probability of injury. If you compare our injuries this year to Mangini’s team comprised mostly of tried and true (and some over the hill) veterans, I suspect we’re ahead of the game. I wonder if this contributed to Heckert’s thinking in loading up the team with so many youngsters. Your thoughts?
-- Paul, Rochester, NY
Hey Paul: There is no doubt that younger players tend to stay healthier longer than veterans over the course of a typical season. In fact, Heckert has acknowledged this as one reason he favored a youth movement. The downside, of course, is a team loaded with inexperienced players generally doesn’t win a lot of games. So there is a price you pay. And when your team is ready to win, those players are older and fall into the category of players more likely to suffer injuries. Kind of a Catch-22.
Hey Tony: I have been reading up on some of Cribbs' ranting about not seeing the field enough and I believe he is correct. But why not pull an Urban Meyer (Zach Boren) and move Cribbs from receiver to a defensive back? He has the size and speed to keep up with top receivers. What do they got to lose other than seven more games, right? I am by all means no expert but just a thought.
-- Adam, Lima, OH
Hey Adam: A lot of fans seem to think you can put an athlete at any position and expect him to compete at the highest level of professional football against athletes who have been trained at a certain position their whole careers. It’s just not that easy. Look how long it’s taken Cribbs to play wide receiver in the NFL after playing quarterback in college. He still is not refined enough to break into the top four at the position on a team with sub-par receivers. Putting Cribbs at safety or cornerback in the middle of the season is not going to solve the Browns’ woes in their secondary.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
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