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Browns waive K Billy Cundiff, sign Garrett Hartley

Dec 13, 2014 -- 12:15pm

By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com

 

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Saturday signed K Garrett Hartley. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement.
 
To make room on the roster, the team waived K Billy Cundiff.
 
Hartley is a 5-9, 200-pound veteran in his seventh NFL season out of Oklahoma. Hartley has appeared in 57 games, all with the Saints from 2008-13. He has converted 82 of 101 (81.2 percent) field goal attempts and 176 of 177 PATs for 422 career points. Last season, he appeared in 14 games with New Orleans. A native of Southlake, Texas, Hartley graduated from Southlake Carroll High School.
 
He will wear No. 10.
 
Cundiff appeared in all 13 games this season and converted 22 of 29 field goals and all 28 PATs.

 

 

Pettine: Move to Manziel could bring "more energy" to offense

Dec 10, 2014 -- 3:24pm

By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

For the first time since naming Johnny Manziel the Browns' new starting quarterback, head coach Mike Pettine met with the media to explain the decision and how it affects preparation for this Sunday's game against the Bengals. Pettine's comments are below:

Opening statement:

“Certainly, a great challenge for us this week to be back in the division against the team that’s leading the division. Looking forward to being back out in front of the Dawg Pound. We’re expecting a high level of intensity for a lot of reasons. I think it’ll be a playoff type atmosphere. The margin for error for both teams is minimal. We also understand the Bengals’ mentality coming in. I asked the team this morning to put themselves in their shoes – times they’ve had a big game at home and high expectations for it, national TV audience and had the result not be anywhere near what they expected. We know the mentality that they’re going to have coming up here, but we can’t allow that to phase us. It’s going to be critically important for us to be focused and dialed in on the task at hand, in large part just because of the outside noise that has picked up significantly for obvious reasons. I talked about that with the team today, for them to understand that the move was made just because of the lack of performance at that position over the last four games. They have to understand it was as a unit, that if we don’t pick up our play around the quarterback, we’d be extremely foolish to expect different results. I challenged the team today that we all share in the joy of a win. We all share in the agony of a loss. Everybody has to pick up their play as we head down the stretch. (QB) Brian (Hoyer) got us to this point where here it is mid-December and we’re playing an extremely meaningful game. It’s important to recognize that. We know our goal is still very difficult to reach, but it’s still there. We don’t control our destiny. The only thing that we can do is prepare to go 3-0, and the only way to go 3-0 is to be 1-0. That’s why this Sunday is critically important for us.”

On if there was any reluctance this week in deciding to start QB Johnny Manziel:

“There was not. Basically after the Monday presser, got together with the group I was going to get together with. Meeting didn’t last very long, and went ahead and informed both players. We went on to the business of starting to game plan.”

On if Manziel will take the field with his teammates’ respect on Sunday:

"Yeah, absolutely. I think they’re going to see certainly how he was last week. They see how he’s practiced throughout the year, but I thought he ramped it up a little bit more last week. I’m sure they’ll see it this week. They’ll see him in a different light, just even being in the walkthrough this morning, you could just see the presence in the huddle and the command and how he was calling things. He spent a lot of time up here yesterday, wanted to get a head start on the plan. I’m sure it’ll show, and the guys around him will respect it.”

On if Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ comment about Manziel reflects the attitude towards Manziel in most defensive meeting rooms:

“I don’t know. This is a guy that had unbelievable college production, and he’s shown flashes of it at the NFL level. I know he’s apologized for it multiple times, and I have a conversation with him about it, but I don’t think teams necessarily look at him that way. I think they’ll try to look at the model of, ‘Hey, how do you defend a shorter mobile quarterback?’ Teams that defend the Seahawks have had issues, but I think it’s more of the mobility thing that defenses are worried about, not necessarily the height part.”

On what he’s learned from time around Bills QB EJ Manuel and Eagles QB Mark Sanchez that will serve him now with a rookie quarterback:

“If you want to have success you have to be great around them. I think if you get in the mode where it’s, ‘Hey, you have to take the team on your back and do it all yourself, and we’re just going to stand back at watch,’ you’re sadly mistaken. To me, it’s been our formula from the beginning. It’s play great defense, run the football, minimize the number of times where the quarterback has to make a play. Give him a chance with it third-and-2-5, as opposed to third-and-6-plus. Don’t put him in a situation where he’s got to lead you back from two scores down in the fourth quarter. I think if you keep those opportunities where he has to make plays at a minimum that takes a lot of pressure off. The quarterback is one-eleventh of the offense. It’s the most important position obviously, but at the same time – as I said in the team meeting – everybody has to elevate their play around him. To me, it’s a full team task.”

On how the decision to start Manziel changes what the other 10 players do on offense:

“We’re not trying to install a new playbook in a week. We had an inventory that we carried in training camp. We’ll just be highlighting a different portion of it. It’ll all be concepts that our guys are familiar with, but there are some subtle changes. Not to get into specifics of the game plan, but we’ll take advantage of the skill sets of the guys we have out there.”

On if making the change at QB could be a wake-up call to other positions on the offense to elevate their play and that there could be changes at other positions:

“I don’t know if that necessarily was the motivating force behind it, but I just think it’s a true statement. We need to play better. As I go back on the old cliché I’ve used a bunch of times, too much credit goes to the quarterback when you’re successful and entirely too much blame when you’re not. There were a bunch of plays that looked bad on the quarterback this past Sunday, for example, that weren’t necessarily his fault. Just overall level of play, I said before we pride ourselves on competition. We’ll be a little bit quicker to make changes at certain positions. Quarterback is one where you probably have to have, you do have to have, the most amount of patience. We just felt it just reached the point where we needed to make a change.”

On what Manziel’s day was like with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on Tuesday:

“I know that Kyle needed a good bulk of the day to get the plan formulated. I’m not sure of what time Johnny came up here, but then he was here for a good part of the afternoon into the night. I know a lot of people were looking for him at the Cavs game. He was here.”

On if three games are enough for him to get a gauge of what kind of quarterback Manziel can be:

“Probably a little bit in between, probably get a pretty good sense. It’s not a huge sample, and obviously we’re hoping it’s more than three.”

On if he had to ensure the team and fans that the decision to start Manziel was made solely because it gives the Browns the best chance to win and not just to evaluate him in the last three games:

“Absolutely, he does, and that was the crux of the conversation. We wanted to make a change to do some different things schematically and to maybe bring a little bit more energy. Just felt that, all things equal, he did give us a better chance. It’s certainly not something where it’s, ‘Hey, let’s go ahead and…’ If Brian had been playing well and we decided to do it, you could make that argument, but this truly is a week-to-week thing.”

On if it was hard to tell Hoyer about the decision to start Manziel:

“Very, very hard. Those conversations are the negative part of the business, especially as a coach, when you’ve got to cut a player or demote a player, a guy that we all know what his circumstances are. It’s the human element of it. It’s difficult to sit a guy down, look him in the eye and tell him that he hasn’t been playing well enough and we’re going to have to make a change. It’s not easy.”

On if it’s unfair to look at Hoyer’s body of work as just the last four games:

“Yeah, but the NFL is a ‘what have you done lately’ business. Like I said before, we’ll be more patient with the quarterback, but the body of work was trending in the wrong direction. That really prompted it.”

On his thoughts on what goes into having to be more patient with the quarterback:

“I just think that’s one position where you can’t really have a yo-yo on it. We didn’t hesitate... Center is probably one that’s up there, as well. You want to have patience, but we decided to make a move. It happened in-game due to an injury and went ahead and stuck with it. It’s a lot easier to make changes at other spots just because the quarterback is kind of the CPU of the offense. Everybody has got to go through him. It’s very difficult. If you can avoid changing there quickly and often, you’d want to do that. That’s why you doing see a lot of teams bouncing back and forth. You want to settle on a guy and go with it, but it had just gotten to the point where we felt a change was necessary.”

On if he at any point thought he waited too long:

“No, I said this on Monday; I’m not going to look back and second guess. That’s just time in my life I’ll never get back. It’s unnecessary.”

On if Manziel is any more ready for four quarters in a game this week than he was last week:

“Well, certainly he will be because he’s going to get the full week as the starter. He’ll definitely be prepared. We tell our guys that aren’t starting to prepare as a starter, but that’s difficult. It’s a lot easier to say than it is to do. The off-the-field part of it is important and how much time they’re spending, but it’s human nature. They’re not truly going to prepare. They’re going to have a good feel for the plan and, ‘Hey, if I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go,’ but when you’re the starter, especially this time of the year when we’ve trimmed reps back and you only get so much time out there...it’s not like training camp practice when we’re going to be out there for three hours. At this time of year it’s all about being fresh. We’re trying to balance that line, walk that line this week with the offense where they have to get reps as a new unit, but at the same time, we still want our guys to be fresh for the game.”
 
On if he felt like he had an advantage facing a rookie when he was a defensive coordinator:

“You do. A lot of it depends on the player and the system. A mobile rookie. whether it’s a rookie or not, a mobile quarterback presents certainly more challenges for a defense than one where you can pretty much draw an ‘x’ and know that he’s going to be within a yard or two from that ‘x’ on most pass plays. The ability to improvise, to make plays off schedule, to extend plays, that can be very problematic for a defense. You can defend the first part of the play very well, and then fall apart on the second part of the play when the quarterback has the ability to extend it. Then you also want to factor in the running aspect of it whether it’s zone read, whether it’s option whatever it is that a mobile quarterback can do that you have to take into account, that you have to defend. It’s very difficult. You end up watering down a lot of your plan. A lot of your calls end up kind of on the cutting room floor because if they run this quarterback run here, we’re in trouble. It presents problems, but at the same time, you feel good because it is a rookie in essentially his first start. I think it’s a balance. There will be some apprehension I’m sure on their part just because of not knowing what to expect.”

On if he’s willing to just let Manziel be Manziel:

“I think you’ve got to find some common ground there. It’s going to be more within the structure of our offense, but at the same time, if you have a guy that has a unique skillset, you don’t want to quell that either. You want to allow him to do it, but you’ve got to be able to pick and choose your times to do it. He can’t drop back...on every drop back pass he cannot look to turn it into a punt return. It’s got to be if the read is there throw it, take the yards and move onto the next one. Now, every once in awhile when it’s not there and the first read isn’t there, the second read isn’t there, now all of the sudden I have to get out of the pocket and make a play, then make a play. I think you need to find that balance. We just don’t want to turn it into, ‘Hey, let’s run his college offense and let it turn into street ball,’ but we also don’t want to say, ‘Hey listen, here’s the playbook. We need to follow this exactly to the letter.’ We’re not going to do that either.”

On if he’s excited or curious to see what Manziel can bring to the table:

“I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited about seeing him play because I’ve seen it in practice. Hopefully it can...then we got a small taste of it in Buffalo. You’d like to see it carry over when we build a game plan around it and how we go out and execute it. It’s just...I don’t think...I know that’s human nature, but I certainly don’t want the team to get caught up in that either. That’s what I talked about. We want to make sure that everybody is elevating their play and playing well around him to minimize the number of plays that the quarterback position has to make.”

On if building a foundation for the future is a bonus in his mind:

“I think that’s fair to say. It’s a positive by-product of doing this. We made the decision because it’s what’s best for the Cleveland Browns this week, but at the same time, a positive result of it is we do get a chance to see him. You can’t hid from the facts. He was a first round draft pick. We all know the circumstances with Brian. It gives us a chance, one, to win a football game this week - that’s our focus - but at the same time, to get a peek at potentially whether it’s a long-term solution."

On what the biggest unknown is with Manziel:

“It’s hard to say because I’ve seen him handle it all in practice. I think just handling a game against an NFL defense that’s schemed up to defend him. It’s just hard to predict what’s going to happen when the ball gets kicked off. You can only see so much in practice. You can only see so much in a preseason game. There’s no substitute for live game reps. We don’t know, but again, we want to minimize the times where he has to make plays for us. I think that’s when you get yourself in trouble.”

On if we’ve seen the last of Hoyer with the Browns:

“No, I wouldn’t say that. I certainly could envision a scenario where we go back. I don’t understand when some people say that’s a true one-way street. We don’t know the results. I hate to deal in hypotheticals with the negative, but I wouldn’t want to go on record saying we’ve seen the last of him.”

On if the decision to switch quarterbacks was pretty unanimous:

“Yeah, I didn’t talk to as many people as I did (last week), but everybody I talked to felt good about it.”
 
On if there was any pressure subtle or otherwise from ownership or the business-side of the building:

“Absolutely not.”
 

 

 

Browns announce Johnny Manziel is new starting quarterback

Dec 09, 2014 -- 4:24pm

By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine has announced that Johnny Manziel will start at quarterback.

Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine:

“We’ve made the decision to start Johnny this week against the Bengals. This decision is really not about Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, it is about the Cleveland Browns. We are always going to make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of the team. Brian has done everything that has been asked of him and he has done so as a true professional. It’s never just any one position when a unit is not functioning at the level you’d like. We are trying to get the offense to perform at a higher level. Johnny has worked very hard to earn this opportunity and it will be very important for every member of the offense to elevate their play for us to obtain our desired result.”

Browns QB Johnny Manziel:

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that Coach Pettine and the coaching staff have given me to be the starter on Sunday. I’ve tried to spend my entire season learning what it takes to become a pro and it’s been great to watch Brian because he knows what it takes. I’ve prepared every week to be ready to help the team however possible and my focus has been on improving every day.  I’m very excited to get out on the field with my teammates on Sunday and to have the opportunity to make the Dawg Pound proud.”

Browns QB Brian Hoyer:

“Although I am disappointed by coach’s decision, I respect him and his choice and will be there to support Johnny. As always, I will do whatever I can to help this team win.”

 

 

 

Browns waive Ben Tate

Nov 18, 2014 -- 11:15am

By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Tuesday waived RB Ben Tate. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement.

“With all the transactions we make while constructing our roster, it will always be our intent to do what is best for our football team,” said Farmer. “This move is no different and we wish Ben the best going forward.”

Tate started six of the eight games he appeared in this season. He rushed for 333 yards with four touchdowns and added nine receptions for 60 yards.

 

 

 

It's all about the bottom line

Nov 06, 2014 -- 8:48am

By Greg Brinda | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

Mike Pettine said it best. This is a pass/fail business. That's right. The NFL is and so are most other sports.

The problem is that some of you think otherwise.

Style points, great effort, coming close, not being embarrassed, it's a process, we're grinding and on and on and on just cloud what is truly important.

Did you win or did you lose?

That's it.

Look at the standings. Is there anything else that matters than the win-loss column?

Granted other numbers appear in the standings. Those have been added over time; such as last 10 games, points or run differential, points allowed or against, wins and loses in the division plus other things.

But in the end the only numbers that really count are wins and losses.

Over time people forget how you got there. Did you get there is recorded for all to see forever.

Because of the new world of ESPN, sports talk radio, saber metrics and analysis till the cows come home we get involved in many discussions that don't include the bottom line.

That's fine as long as you return to the bottom line.

I've always believed there is nothing better than winning and I really don't care how you get there.

We haven't won anything here in 50 years yet there are fans that aren't happy and won't be happy unless the winning is by their way.

Huh?

What does it matter?

Yes we can acknowledge any teams strengths and deficiencies. Most teams aren't good in all areas.

But if in the end you have enough wins to get into the post season, why would anything else matter?

It shouldn't.

This whole column refers to you know who.

To some Brian Hoyer can't win pretty enough.

To some Johnny needs to get a shot no matter what.

To not enjoy 5-3 right now is ludicrous.

To say Johnny needs to start immediately is borderline insanity.

To say Johnny should play because he's a number one draft pick is kind of ignorant.

The Browns quarterback situation will work its way out.

But right now the Browns are playing pretty well for the first time in a very long time.

Enjoy 5-3. It might get better and if not.... guess what?

The bottom line will take over. It always does.

 

 

 

Perfection Is The Answer

Oct 24, 2014 -- 9:23am

By Greg Brinda | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Once again for Browns fans it's our annual venture into a quarterback controversy.

This is so not new. We've come to expect it. And this just didn't start a few years ago, or since the Browns came back in 1999.

This goes way back. So let's start in the early 1960s when Jim Ninowski and Frank Ryan were battling to lead the Browns.

But it was different back then. There were just a couple of TV and radio guys and two newspapers. There was no social media, no blogs, no sports talk shows on radio, and no sports networks that could play up the battle ad nauseum. If you wanted to share an opinion you talked to your neighbor, went to the neighborhood bar, or wrote a letter to the sports editor of the paper. That was it.

Now it's a 24-hour blitzkrieg of information, discussion and opinion.

The Plain Dealer did an excellent story a few weeks back on how Ninowski thought he was going to be the QB in 1964. We know how that turned out.

Ryan led the team to the Championship. Cleveland's last one. Fifty years ago.

The quarterback situation remained calm until the mid 70s when fans got tired of Mike Phipps and his poor play and started clamoring for anyone else, including Brian Sipe.

We know how that eventually worked out with Sipe taking the team to the playoffs in the Kardiac Kids season of 1980.

But even Sipe couldn't hang on as coach Sam Rutigilano started going to Paul McDonald more in 1982 and 1983.

McDonald had 84 season all to himself because Tom Flick proved to be no challenge.

A unified fan base finally came to fruition when Bernie Kosar came along in 1985.

But like anything all good things come to an end

Bill Belichick dismissed Kosar in 1993 citing diminishing skills. There's no doubt Kosar had lost some mojo because of the pounding he had taken throughout his career. Problem was that no one better was around to take his place.

Vinny Testeverde played decently until the Browns left for Baltimore after the 1995 season. The fans, though, never bought into Testeverde.

When the Browns came back in 1999, Tim Couch assumed the reigns. But by 2001, fans weren't seeing a whole lot of progress and started pressing the team to play Kelly Holcomb. And when Holcomb played admirably in the 2002 Playoff game against the Steelers, Couch was finished according to popular opinion.

The top subject on sports talk radio in 2003 was the Couch-Holcomb debate, every day, every hour.

Holcomb's cache didn't last long and he was gone by 2004 when Jeff Garcia took over. He left after one year and Trent Dilfer took over followed by Charlie Fry and then Derek Anderson.

Three years followed with a very vocal fan-induced Anderson-Brady Quinn debate. It was as popular and heated as the Couch-Holcomb argument.

2010 saw the three-headed monster take form. Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace all appeased our quarterback debate appetite. The McCoy-Wallace debate lasted into 2011.

By 2012 the fans got a new whipping boy in Brandon Weeden. And we know how long that lasted with Brian Hoyer making a great play for the job last season.

So here we are in 2014. Johnny Manziel mania took off pre-draft, crescendoed on Draft night and still holds a huge place in some Browns fans hearts.

For some Hoyer needs to be perfect. For some Manziel should be the QB right now. There is a loyal Hoyer fan base however.

The battle rages on. It's a week-to-week fight.

The only way the battle subsides is if Hoyer and the Browns keep winning.

If not? We will carry on with what we are used to.

1964 seems like an eternity ago.

 

 

 

 

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