By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
By Josh: Josh Gordon’s 14-catch, 237-yard receiving day against Pittsburgh has thrust the precocious receiver – he’s 22 years old – into select company.
* He matched Ozzie Newsome’s Browns franchise record for most catches in a game and shattered the Hall of Fame tight end’s mark for receiving yards.
* His fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season set a Browns record.
* His season average of 18.3 yards per catch moved him a decimal point ahead of Detroit superstar Calvin Johnson for second place in the NFL. Philadelphia’s Riley Cooper is first with a 19.1-yard average (but with 23 catches fewer than Gordon’s 54).
* His per-game average of 109.8 yards receiving is second in the league to Johnson’s 119.8.
* At his current outrageous pace, Gordon would finish with 1,537 receiving yards. That would shatter the franchise season record of 1,289 held by Braylon Edwards in 2007.
Two things to keep in mind: 1. Gordon missed the first two games because of an NFL suspension for testing positive for codeine, a banned substance, and, 2. He has posted these impressive numbers while receiving passes from three quarterbacks – Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell.
Which leads to the conclusion: What a brilliant move it was to not trade Gordon when playoff-contending teams came calling last month.
A closer look: OK, that conclusion is laced with sarcasm.
Truth is, when assessing the hits and misses of the Browns’ football operations department (CEO Joe Banner, GM Mike Lombardi and assistant GM Ray Farmer) in its first year together, simply not trading Gordon qualifies as a hit.
There’s the low-budget signing of Hoyer … the out-of-leftfield trade of running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for the Colts’ 2014 No. 1 draft pick and … (crickets).
Let’s examine some of the major issues confronted by the front office this year:
Revamping the defense: Hired Ray Horton as coordinator, signed in free agency linebacker Paul Kruger, defensive end Desmond Bryant, linebacker Quentin Groves and cornerback Chris Owens.
The numbers characterize these efforts as a hit. The Browns are fourth in total yards allowed, sixth against the run and fifth against the pass. Not all the pertinent numbers are as impressive, however. They are 18th in points allowed (skewed by a rash of offensive turnovers), 26th in defensive turnovers, 31st in red-zone defense and 27th in third-down defense.
Overall, you’d be blind not to see that the defense is on the right track.
Revamping the offense: Hired Rob Chudzinski as head coach and Norv Turner as coordinator, signed Hoyer and Campbell, and traded for receiver Davone Bess.
Except for one game (the win over Baltimore), Bess has been a huge disappointment. Hoyer looked to be a savior at quarterback until his season-ending injury in his third game. Campbell’s results have been mixed, and were trending down before his concussion injury.
In nine games with Indianapolis, Richardson is averaging 2.8 yards a carry and has two touchdowns. For that pedestrian production, the Browns will receive (currently) the 25th pick in the first round. That is fabulous value, of course.
But the Browns failed at replacing Richardson with a productive back. The running game is languishing 28th in the league at a rate of 81 yards on the ground per game. And the Browns are dead last with one rushing touchdown. One!
The injuries to Hoyer and Campbell submarined any hopes of the offense developing beyond mediocre. After Hoyer went down with a knee injury on Oct. 3, the front office failed to add a third quarterback. This put the team in position of having to call on the defrocked Weeden for a third time when Campbell went down.
Only this week did the Browns sign another quarterback, Alex Tanney, off the Dallas practice squad. Two weeks earlier, they tried to sign Scott Tolzien off the Green Bay practice squad, but were blocked.
The draft: The Browns earned the sixth spot in the selection order after a 5-11 record in 2012. Here’s what they have to show for it:
First round: Barkevious Mingo; 26 tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed.
Second round: Used by the previous regime in the July 2012 supplemental draft on Gordon.
Third round: Leon McFadden; four special teams tackles.
Fourth round: Traded to Pittsburgh for Steelers’ third-round pick in 2014.
Fifth round: Traded to Indianapolis for Colts’ fourth-round pick in 2014.
Sixth round: Jamoris Slaughter (practice squad).
Seventh round: Gilbert Gilkey; three game appearances on special teams.
Seventh round: Armonty Bryant; 10 tackles, two sacks, one pass defensed.
Other notes: When guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston were sidelined with ankle injuries in training camp, the Browns initially traded with Seattle for veteran guard John Moffitt.
But the team abruptly canceled the trade reportedly because of concerns about the health of Moffitt’s knees. Moffitt was traded to Denver instead. Recently, Moffitt announced his retirement and alleged the Browns lied to him and failed his physical after he refused to take a pay cut.
On Oct. 12, the team signed receiver Charles Johnson off the Green Bay practice squad, only to discover, after the fact, that Johnson needed surgery for a torn knee ligament.
On Oct. 18, the team waived running back Bobby Rainey. Signed by Tampa Bay, Rainey has 243 yards, a 4.23 average, and three rushing touchdowns for the Buccaneers. Those figures would rank second, second and first on the Browns.
Overall, the performance of a football operations department is summed up in one statistic – wins and losses. The Browns are 4-7, which puts them on par with the three regimes directly preceding the current one.
At least they didn’t trade Gordon.
|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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