By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com
We don’t have a title for the Browns season highlight (lowlight?) video yet, but the sight of Browns center Alex Mack on the bench Sunday could be the cover photo.
Minutes after his shotgun snap sailed over Brandon Weeden’s head for a safety, Mack looked befuddled and bedraggled over his turn in the emotional meat-grinder that typifies the Browns’ existence since 1999.
When Weeden flips a back-hand pass that gets intercepted, when Greg Little drops a perfect throw or when an untimely injury takes away Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell or Travis Benjamin, those are somewhat predictable byproducts of bad players or bad breaks.
But when Mack, a Pro Bowler with thousands of uneventful shotgun snaps behind him, commits an out-of-character failure out of the blue, the only explanation is that his number finally came up in the Browns’ Bermuda Triangle of Terror.
Six regimes and countless quarterbacks have tried to lead the franchise to safe passage, and somewhere in college right now is the QB on whom the responsibility will fall in the future, if not next season.
When the Browns traded Trent Richardson to Indianapolis, the first-round draft choice received in return loomed as the requisite payment for the elevated pick required to grab that QB savior.
But while the Richardson trade looks like a steal for the Browns now, the currency they acquired can’t purchase something that doesn’t exist.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota said Monday he will return to school in 2014, and UCLA’s Brett Hundley is likely to do the same after head coach Jim Mora signed a contract extension to stay put and not bolt for the University of Washington.
And neither Mariota nor Hundley, nor Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or anyone else, looms as certain a prospect as Andrew Luck two years ago.
So while the Browns may have the assets to grab a Corvette of a QB, the models coming out of college are heavier on scratch-and-dent discounts than offerings in showroom condition.
|Bruce Hooley hosts "Hooley & Jerod" from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”|
Email Bruce email@example.com
Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz
By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com
Browns cornerback Joe Haden joined Hooley and Jerod to discuss his two interceptions at Cincinnati, preview Sunday’s game against the Steelers at First Energy Stadium and comment on the difficulty of being a defender in the NFL under the current rules of contact.
Jerod: You’ve been open about your marriage, living your faith and how your lifestyle has changed and the impact that’s made on your performance. Were you afraid that might hurt you in the locker room?
Haden: Not at all. I know why my play has improved. I know exactly what the reasons are. I believe it’s a lot bigger than us. And I know that without Him none of this would be possible. I’ve had the same amount of ability. I haven’t gotten any better. It’s just that I’ve been able to work on my craft a whole lot more and just prepare a lot better….When home is good, everything is good.”
Hooley: I’m sure fans wonder if you’ve shared some of what you’ve learned with some of the Browns’ young players, specifically, Josh Gordon?
Haden: I’ve talked to Josh. Everything presents itself in the right time. I’ve talked to Josh a few times and sat down with him. He’s a great, great kid. He’s so misunderstood. He’s obviously a really great kid. I sit down and talk to him all the time. He’s going to be good.
Hooley: How much of your maturity is related to the suspension you had last year? Did that play a role in you regaining a different focus?
Haden: No doubt. No doubt, no doubt. That is one of the toughest times I’ve ever been through. When stuff hits the fan, you really know who is in your corner, who has your back and who has your best interests. That definitely played a big part in what happened.”
Hooley: You made some headlines before the Ravens game saying they weren’t the Ravens of old. Now the Steelers are coming in and you’re not accustomed to seeing them 4-6 with no Mike Wallace. Are they the Steelers of old?
Haden: (Laughing) Here we go again, man. I didn’t mean that (harshly). They just didn’t have the same guys. There are different faces. They are a different team, but they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers They’re coached by a great coach who coaches toughness, but now they pass a lot more. This is a different offense than the Steelers usually run….Now it looks like Ben Roethlisberger has a whole lot more control. He’s still able to extend plays and get the ball out there. I’m not taking anything away from Antonio Brown. He trains with me back at my gym in Maryland. He’s a great route-runner, has great hands and is a competitor. So Ben Roethlisberger has great targets to throw to.
Jerod: What’s your feeling on the new uniforms the Browns are getting?
Haden: I would like to see us get the Seahawks uniforms in brown and orange.
Hooley: Penalty or no penalty at the end of the Patriots-Panthers game on Monday night?
Haden: Oh, man. You know me, I’m, “no penalty.” (laughter) I was like, ‘Good work out there, Luke. (Kuechly).”
Hooley: OK, on Ahmad Brooks’ sack of Drew Brees, you’re a defensive guy who has to worry about being fined. What do you think as a defender of the way the NFL is changing the rules on hard contact?
Haden: It’s changing (the game). No doubt about it. They’re changing the way my boy, TJ (Ward) plays, (Tashaun) Gipson. They’re not taking $100 or $200, they’re knocking that check down. So you’re really thinking about that when you’re out there. You’re making sure you’re hitting them in the correct areas. With that Brooks hit, I want to make sure I don’t get fined myself, but when little people get hit by big guys, that’s what happens. It looks like (Brees’) head is going to come off his shoulders because (Brooks) is huge. When a big guy hits a small guy, that’s just what happens.
Jerod: Trent Dilfer said the other day that the NFL sucks right now because of all the changes that have taken plays in limitations on practice time and the rule changes. How do you feel about that.
Haden: I hear all this stuff about trying to protect the players, and I’m all about that. But at the same time, you have grown men, and that’s what they do, hit. When you have people running around this big and this strong, people are going to get hurt. No one has the intention or the mind frame to go out there and punish people, but when you have a 245- or 250-pound linebacker running 4.6….he’s going to hit a quarterback who doesn’t see him. The protecting people, I’m all for, but sometimes, there’s no such thing as, ‘He got hit too hard.’ That’s just what happens.
Hooley: Ray Lewis and Teddy Bruschi are kicking in to pay part of Ahmad Brooks’ fine. You wanna chip in?
Haden: I’m all for not getting a fine….but I saw Ray Lewis throwing up his (credit) card, but I’ll keep mine in my pocket.”
To hear the entire Joe Haden interview, click here:
ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
The Browns are bringing FirstEnergy Stadium into the 21st century.
Owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and President Alec Scheiner announced Wednesday a proposed plan that would put $120 million in upgrades into the 15-year-old facility, including two enormous new video boards and more lower-bowl seating.
Below is a first look at the video fly-through and stills of renderings of the proposed upgrades:
ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
(via Cleveland Browns)
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns have initiated and developed a two-year FirstEnergy Stadium modernization project, proposed for completion during the next two offseasons, the team announced Wednesday. The Browns are looking forward to working with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, the Cleveland City Council and the Design Review Advisory Committee, hoping the city shares in the team’s enthusiasm.
“We have consistently communicated that two of our primary areas of focus are winning as many games as possible and creating the best fan experience in the NFL,” said Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam. “We have engaged our fans, asked for their thoughts, and responded to their ideas and concerns. This modernization plan is a result of our desire to invest in creating the best environment for them and our players.”
During the first year of the proposed modernization, the Browns would install two new video boards nearly triple the size of the boards currently in each end zone, moving them closer to the fans. Throughout the stadium, the plan also calls for LED video boards, which would feature stats, scores and information, and installation of an entirely new audio system, delivering crisper, clearer audio everywhere in the facility.
In 2014, the project would also increase the lower bowl’s seating capacity while improving sightlines. Many Browns fans would be closer to the field and observe dramatically better views of the game, fostering a more intimate environment while enhancing the team’s home-field advantage.
Easing in-stadium access for fans is another priority in the plan’s initial stage. Two new escalators would be installed in both the north and south end zones to ensure the most fluid, convenient movement in and between stadium levels. At the end of the proposed project, there would be 12 escalators providing access to stadium levels.
“The Browns are proud and excited to reward their fans, their team, and Northeast Ohio with this two-year modernization proposal,” conveyed Browns CEO Joe Banner. “The Browns and the City of Cleveland have created a very positive working relationship on the design concepts of FirstEnergy Stadium, and we will continue to work together to establish a productive agreement.”
In 2015, the Browns are hoping to improve general-admission concession areas, boasting revamped and unique locally based offerings. Additionally, the second phase would modernize premium areas, including upgrading club seats and suites, while adding more top-level entertainment areas, and creating new hospitality and fan-engagement opportunities.
Also during the project’s second phase, new dramatic graphics honoring the Browns’ illustrious history and current players would be fashioned throughout the stadium and its concourses to improve the facility’s aesthetics. Plus, there would be a continued emphasis on offering the most up-to-date technology, with a heightened focus on providing reliable connectivity on all fan devices, and creative ways to use those devices in the stadium.
The Browns have just launched the process of reviewing the proposal with Mayor Jackson, City Council, the Design Review Advisory Committee and the City Planning Commission in the near future. The team looks forward to working collaboratively with the city on the process.
After analyzing fan feedback, the Browns enhanced multiple elements of the gameday experience at FirstEnergy Stadium prior to the 2013 season, focusing on stadium ingress, in-stadium cell-phone service, in-stadium team stores, and guest expectations, as well as incorporating new features and traditions before and throughout home contests.
The Browns also completed a $5 million, four-month renovation project to vastly improve the team’s Berea training facility and administrative complex this past offseason. Revamping 37,000 square feet of the 90,000-square-foot building, the team incorporated first-class upgrades and a modernized layout to heighten teamwork, both within and across departments, to best foster productivity with an interactive, innovative mindset through its commitment to acquiring and retaining top talent on and off the field.
By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com
Photo/Getty Images via ESPN.com
GREEN BAY – When the starting quarterback for a football team poses a disheartening completion percentage of 40 (17-of-42), and the offense runs the ball for only 83 yards, the sole glimmer of hope the team has lies on its stalwart defense and its ability to create turnovers and stop the opposition.
The Cleveland Browns did not have that silver lining Sunday afternoon in their 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
“We just got to focus on what we do defensively,” defensive back TJ Ward said following the game. “We can only focus on what we do on our side of the ball. If (the offense) is doing well, that’s great, but if they’re not we can’t sit and hang our heads and dwell on what they’re not doing.
“We just have to pick them up and be that type of defense that gets them the ball as many times as possible.”
In the first half Browns’ defenders surrendered 17 points allowing Green Bay to score on three of their four possessions. On their second drive of the game the Packers completed three third-down conversions that eventually led to a touchdown.
“Third downs seem to be our Achilles heel, “Tashaun Gipson said of the let downs defensively. “At the same time that is us just (stepping) up and saying we got to get off the field on third down. They’re running the same play on first and second down and we’re (stopping) them but like when it comes to third down they find a way to get it done and we don’t.
“We’re just going to continue to harp on it, we can only continue to get better from where we’re at right now and that’s the only thing we can do as a defensive unit.”
Coming out of the halftime locker room it appeared the Browns found an answer for Aaron Rodgers and his third down offense. On the Packers opening drive Rodgers dropped back on third-and-10 and was sacked by linebacker Paul Krueger and defensive back Chris Owens for a seven-yard loss. The sack forced Mason Crosby into a 52-yard field goal attempt that came up a few yards short.
Green Bay was shutout in the third quarter and 0-for-2 on third down conversions.
The fourth quarter did not follow suit.
In the final period Rodgers had two touchdown passes including a 20-yard connection to Jarrett Boykin. Boykin and Rodgers hooked up for 39-yards on the previous drive as well setting up a one-yard touchdown toss to Jordy Nelson.
“He caught a few balls and Buster (Skrine) slipped,” Ward added, referring to fellow defensive back Skrine slipping and falling allowing Boykin additional yards after the catch. “It was slippery out there and things happen, not discrediting (Boykin) at all but that’s what happens.
“He made a couple good plays. Kudos.”
In total the Browns defense gave up 357 yards of total offense.
“We missed a couple tackles but the plays were there to be made, “ Armonty Bryant said. “It wasn’t like there was nothing that coach didn’t call or something we got to do, we just didn’t tackle.
“It was pretty slippery, the field was pretty slippery from the beginning. That’s no excuse.”
When asked about this defenses’ ability to bounce back from this type of demoralizing performance Ward kept his response simple.
“It’s kind of like a machine,” he said. “That’s how you got to think of this team. We’ll watch the film and see what we did wrong and correct our mistakes. I know that all our players and every teammate that I have gave it 100 percent and that’s where it counts the most. We made some mistakes and that is going to happen in football games but as long as we have everybody out there giving it their all you can’t really ask for too much more.
“Everyone wants to win, no one wants to lose.”
Tony Cartagena is a writer for ESPNWisconsin.com. Email Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar joined the Really Big Show to talk about his legal issues and the upcoming Browns vs. Bills game.
Rizzo: Let’s address the situation that happened over the weekend last week, your arrest in Solon, I know you wanted to address this and get a few things out of the way. It’s the first time you’ve spoken publicly about it. What exactly happened and where do you go from here?
Kosar: Well, with the core process going on its not something that you’re not really supposed to over talk about and you know the one thing is when you get behind the wheel it’s something I take very seriously and there’s no obvious situations over the years, there’s people, you don’t want to put other people in danger and I pride myself on trying to do the right thing and not wanting to put other people at risk and I’m not trying to blame anybody. I’m not trying to make excuses. I look hardest at myself and what I could do and I know how appearances make things look, but it’s something again that I wouldn’t want to make anybody put them in a tough spot and when you are trying to help people out and your trying to do things sometimes you end up in situations that you know don’t look as good but times are going to show the right, show stuff on it and again I’m not really able to talk a ton about things with the case going on but again for people out there you have to take it seriously and you have to look within yourself first to make sure you don’t put people at risk, put people in danger, and I never ever would do that nor do I want to do that.
Rizzo: And Bern not to speak anything about the case or anything I know you feel really bad you know. You’re a really good guy and I’ve known you for a long time and I know that did you feel bad about it and you hurt some people close to you and that’s not what you wanted to do
Kosar: No. Well what you want to do and how you have to handle yourself sometimes things come up when your situations where you have to do certain things and you have to make decisions and there’s some stuff going on personally that you know I had to help out with some people the other night and you end up putting other people in a tough spot and again you don’t want to be making excuses you don’t want to be out there trying to explain it away because it looks…you know it looks like a tough spot and I don’t like to put people in a tough spot but the most important thing is you know I wouldn’t want to jeopardize or put any people in danger of harm’s way while I’m behind the wheel and I pride myself on not doing that. And I didn’t but I know how appearances are and how things look and you want to you don’t want to be again putting people at risk and I’m proud of myself for not to have done that although appearances may look different but that’s how the system goes. You know we’ll see it as the case goes through.
Rizzo: Yeah and again the legal system will take care of all that and there’s not much more you can say about it and I totally understand.
There are no games scheduled for today.
There are no games scheduled for today.