I'm very grateful to have had the chance to take my dad and son to last Sunday's crucial win over the dreaded Ravens. It was a memorable experience made possible through the generosity of the Browns, the extraordinary Southeast Michigan Browns Backers and its members, and my folks, who won the tickets at the Browns Backers' raffle and picked up the other incidental costs for the weekend.
Thursday, November 07, 2013
I'm very grateful to have had the chance to take my dad and son to last Sunday's crucial win over the dreaded Ravens. It was a memorable experience made possible through the generosity of the Browns, the extraordinary Southeast Michigan Browns Backers and its members, and my folks, who won the tickets at the Browns Backers' raffle and picked up the other incidental costs for the weekend.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Like so much surrounding the Browns, I have mixed feelings about the latest quarterback switch, this time from Brandon Weeden to Jason Campbell, who will be the new era's 20th different starting signal-caller.
I'm generally averse to benching the starting QB for several reasons. It risks destroying confidence. It tends to appear like a knee-jerk response to outside pressure. It often signals a sad devaluation of the team's high investment in its starting QB, an acknowledgement of an expensive mistake. The backup QB was the backup for a reason. The backup may need "time" to "adjust" to "game speed" and develop "chemistry" with the first-teamers. This bakes in an excuse for underperformance and makes it even harder for the coach to go back to the original starter, even if he is (as was originally believed) the better player.
But in this case, sorry to say, it's pretty clear that Weeden hasn't shown the ability to play winning football at this level. It was obvious that the Green Bay game was a critical test of his competence. He came out of the gate throwing awfully, and he didn't get much better as that wet day went on. He seems like a nice, stand-up guy, but he's just not the answer.
Campbell is no world-beater either, and he didn't make a strong play for the starting job in training camp and pre-season, when he had a high completion percentage but took way too many sacks -- six, compared to 35 pass attempts. He was already passed over once in favor of the now-injured Brian Hoyer when Weeden hurt his thumb in Week 2.
Still, he has plenty of starting NFL experience, with mixed results, and if he can use his mobility to buy time and avoid sacks, that could make a difference against the fearsome defense of the undefeated Chiefs. I'm not expecting a Hoyeresque spark, but it would be nice to see what the Browns can do as a team with even average play at the most important position.
On a side note, all the other African American quarterbacks in Browns history (Dave Mays, Spergon Wynn, Seneca Wallace, Thaddeus Lewis, Josh Johnson) took the field only after injuries to their predecessors. Campbell will be the first black Browns QB to start as a pure coach's decision.
Overall, Chud's choice is a good one. Weeden has been too inconsistent, inaccurate, and indecisive. Although this move implies that the 22nd overall pick just one year ago was essentially a blown opportunity, it's better to give Campbell a chance here and evaluate each week to see what can be made of this season and who ought to be retained going forward.
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
In the grand scheme of all things Brown, this is minutiae, but I need a parking spot for my stray thoughts.
Nobody has ever rushed for 1,000 yards in a season for four different teams. Only two men have reached that milestone with three teams: Ricky Watters and our very own Willis McGahee.
McGahee would need to average 79 yards per game for the rest of this season to go where no man has ever gone before. For reference, he averaged 77.2 yards per game as a Bronco the previous two years.
It may be unlikely, but if he even approaches that mark, it will surely be just one reason among many that this Browns season will have become amazing.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Very interesting interview in the PD with Frank Ryan, a name all Browns fans should know, he being the quarterback on the most recent Cleveland team to win a professional sports championship. The 77-year-old mathematician had several straight-shooting reflections and observations. A few quick takeaways: he could throw a football 100 yards back in the day, Art Modell undervalued him, today's NFL players take a near-lethal risk, and Jim Brown had upward balance but could be, well, a downer.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
That was one exciting game, and a much-needed win for the whole Browns organization. Congrats to Chud for his first career win as a head coach, especially given the extraordinary circumstances of the last week.
Here are a few fast facts from the 31-27 road win:
- In their first game without Trent Richardson, three different Browns had longer rushes than any of his efforts, when he got 100% of the team's carries over the first two games.
- Fresh off his two-game suspension, Josh Gordon exploded with career highs in receptions (10) and yards (146, plus another 22 on an end-around).
- Jordan Cameron became just the second tight end in Browns history to score three touchdowns in a game. Any guesses on the first? No, not Ozzie, not Wheelie, not even Milt Morin. It was Steve Heiden, accomplished in Butch Davis' last game in 2004.
- Key to this win was keeping Adrian Peterson under control. The All-Pro back's longest play was just nine yards.
- Spencer Lanning deserves one of the game balls for throwing a TD pass on a fake field goal, kicking the extra point that forced the Vikings to try for a last-gasp touchdown, and -- oh yeah -- averaging an excellent 46.4 net yards on five punts, with no touchbacks and two inside the 20.
- Am I forgetting someone? That's right, the quarterback, Brian Hoyer, making his Browns debut, had a very eventful day, showing generally good instincts and several fine touch passes, along with a few WTF moments. Still, he led a winning fourth-quarter comeback, so it will be hard to sit him down even if Brandon Weeden gets the medical thumbs-up. That last drive consisted of 11 passing plays. No sacks, no penalties, no wasted timeouts. Hoyer completed six throws, converting two crucial third downs, including the score to Cameron.
- Six different members of the Browns' front seven sacked Vikings QB Christian Ponder. It marks just the 12th time since 1999 that the Browns registered at least a half dozen sacks.
- It was a rough game for PR/WR Travis Benjamin, who muffed a punt and later inadvertently mooned the TV audience. But he did have a nice 28-yard punt return on that play. In just 12 career punt returns, he's brought four of them back at least that far.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Willis McGahee, a month shy of age 32, is the newest Brown, signed today to step into a thin backfield suddenly thinner given the trade of Trent Richardson.
With 8,077 career rushing yards, McGahee ranks 42nd all-time. He joins the following list of veteran backs who became Browns only in the last legs of their careers:
Thursday, September 19, 2013
One of the ironies of yesterday's Trent Richardson trade is that he won't be playing for the Browns this Sunday in Minnesota, where the Browns acquired the third overall pick they felt they needed to draft Richardson last year.
As with Butch Davis keying on Kellen Winslow II in 2004, the Holmgren/Heckert regime was willing to offer a not-inconsequential ransom to slide up just one slot in the draft. They coveted Richardson above all else, once the best QBs proved out of reach.
They had to know that the Vikings wouldn't draft T-Rich, even with Adrian Peterson coming off injury. But they weren't 100% sure that they wouldn't trade the pick to another team that wanted the Alabama back. Besides, they had a surfeit of lower-round picks, and it seemed unlikely they'd even fit on the roster, much less make a difference.
So to secure their feature back, the Browns surrendered four 2012 picks: 1(4 overall), 4(118), 5(139), and 7(211). From further trades, the Vikings netted five players, all among their 53-man roster today:
- LT Matt Kalil (USC), a Day 1 starter at a critical position
- WR Jarius Wright (Arkansas), who started last week and had a decent 22-310-2 rookie year stat line.
- S Robert Blanton (Notre Dame), a backup with three solo tackles so far this year
- CB A.J. Jefferson (via trade with ARI), a young vet starter for 8 of 18 games as a Viking, including their playoff loss last season
- MLB Michael Mauti (Penn State), a 7th-round rookie who's been game-day inactive so far.
So which would you rather have: that group of players, or Trent Richardson, or the Colts' first round pick next spring?
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Quite a news day in Berea, with dual shockers.
First, Chud named third-stringer Brian Hoyer as Sunday's starting QB, as the local kid leapfrogs Jason Campbell to replace injured Brandon Weeden. Hoyer, like Chud, is a Jesuit-educated longtime Browns fan. Of course, that's not the reason for his elevation from inactive to first-string. It's that Campbell, a former first-rounder, has already hit his ceiling, and we don't know whether Hoyer has.
Chud said all three QBs are about even, and he didn't commit to sending Weeden back out there when his thumb permits. So again, it's a season of evaluation and setting things up for the future. The obvious takeaway is that the Browns know they still need a premier quarterback. Weeden, the 2012 first-rounder they inherited from the previous regime, just ain't it.
And then, late in the afternoon, an even bigger story broke. The Browns traded Trent Richardson to get the Colts' first-rounder next spring.
Richardson, the third pick overall in 2012, was really the only credible running back on the roster, as the Browns lost two expected contributors to injury in training camp. If 31-year-old Willis McGahee passes his physical, he'll go from street free agent to starter. Before McGahee's solid pro career, he starred in the Miami Hurricane offense coordinated by none other than Rob Chudzinski.
This bombshell trade gives the Browns much more ammo to remake the roster next year and nab that franchise QB. They'll have extra picks in three of the first four rounds.
But as for 2013, the sentiment on the street is that the Browns have sacrificed the season for the sake of a long-term rebuild. It's hard to dispute that notion. If I'd paid for season tickets or shelled out for a Richardson jersey, I'd be upset.
The real risk here, to my mind, is that Browns fans root for losses to improve their draft standing, and that a team in limbo goes limp. The early conventional wisdom seems to foretell just this scenario.
For the organization -- just two games into a long season -- to allow a plausible impression that winning the very next game is not its foremost concern ... well, it's sacrilege, the very opposite of the idea of pro football as the stark, uncompromising embodiment of a sporting spectacle bravely met and hotly contested.
To even raise the question of whether a Browns loss might be a better outcome in the long run is fundamentally flawed.
That, my friends, is why Chud will need to earn his $3 million. He hasn't been set up for success this season. But in the face of another fall foreboding woe and ignominy, just watch how he handles it and how his team responds. Watch who steps up and leads. See if they coalesce and find any consistency as a team. Will they play to win aggressively or, like previous incarnations, act as if they just want to hang in there, keep it respectable, not lose too desperately, and then ultimately fail at all of that?
I'll still be rooting for the Browns to win every game, even if the playoffs are out of reach. I'll be watching for signs of progress, for which players show true mettle, for the love of the game and of the team as an idea, even if that idea survives mostly as a vestige of childhood, a team now represented by a head coach I sat through high school with and who today has an even bigger-time, manlier-sized piece of work on his shoulders.
Monday, September 16, 2013
It was probably too much to expect the Browns to breeze into Baltimore and beat up on the rested Ravens, the defending league champs.
After all, this is just the second game of a whole new regime, one that admits it's building for the long term and didn't go all out to fill some key holes on the roster. This season is more about installation and evaluation than domination. Fair enough
But dammit, I expect the Browns to establish, reinforce, and demand a culture in which everyone, at all times, will COMPETE to get better, to give full coordinated effort, to contest every scarce yard on every single play for every tick of the clock.
To COMPETE is to be utterly prepared, to play hard and fearlessly, to make smart choices, and to benefit --- and benefit from -- a team orientation above all else.
I question whether sitting on some $25 million in salary cap space is really competing. But that's a complicated, big-picture matter. Among other things, Banner and company may very well be saving up for the franchise quarterback that Brandon Weeden pretty clearly is not likely to become.
Back on the field, we were promised an aggressive, attacking style and were sold on the experienced coordinators.
But facing an opponent who yielded seven passing touchdowns their previous game, the Browns couldn't put the ball into the end zone at all.
Their first shot came after a Barkevious Mingo sack helped stall a Baltimore drive, and Weeden bought enough time to find Jordan Cameron downfield for 53 yards to the Ravens' 7.
Again, Baltimore gave up seven passing touchdowns last week. So we run Trent Richardson off guard. Twice. A third-down pass fails badly, so a golden opportunity yields but a field goal. COMPETE.
The Browns' vaunted front seven managed just two sacks, and the defensive unit -- for the second straight week -- surrendered third-down conversions half the time. Strong safety T.J. Ward, in his contract year, was largely invisible, except when the fullback broke his dive-tackle try to gain a first down, and when Ward could be seen spectating as a Ravens runner battled across the goal line. COMPETE.
Lest my bias for coach Chud cloud my analysis, I'll criticize his choice to have a Ravens holding penalty assessed at the end of a 50-yard punt with no return, rather than making their coverage team run downfield again and giving Travis Benjamin a chance to pop one. COMPETE.
And what can I say about three delay-of-game penalties, all adding yardage to what became failed third-down conversions? Be ready to COMPETE.
When Peyton Manning torched the Ravens last week, five of his seven touchdowns were from 23 yards or longer. The Browns managed just one play of that distance. Meanwhile, Weeden threw eight incompletions in the direction of Greg Little (versus four connections), but targeted the fastest man on the field, Benjamin, just once (a gain of 22). COMPETE.
Punter Spencer Lanning came back to earth after a good debut. Eight punts: two touchbacks, just one inside the 20, a net average of 31.6 yards. The Browns were actually pretty even with Baltimore in yards from scrimmage, but the poor punt units squandered any chance to gain advantage through field position.
Once again, a strong first half defensive effort was not enough to let the Browns build an appreciable lead. They seemed to wear down in the second half, while the offensive adjustments were inadequate. Let's see some screens to Trent, maybe some misdirection (an end around to Benjamin?), and a few shots deep. Weeden may not play with a sprained thumb, but whoever's in there just needs to step up, bear down, start over, and COMPETE.
We've seen worse performances against the Ravens, no doubt about that, but we must see better ones than this uncoordinated stinker.
Sunday, September 08, 2013
You probably saw the Browns lose to the Dolphins in their 2013 season opener. You probably have some opinions on it too. So if you need to, look elsewhere for your recaps and rants. What you find here will probably be quirky, disjointed, and of moderate significance only.
1. The Browns allowed only 20 yards rushing, which ties for the second fewest in team history. You'd have to go back nearly 59 years to find a stingier game for the Browns' rush defense.
2. Kicker Billy Cundiff became the first true "sandwich" player of the new Browns era. That is, he appeared in a regular season game for Cleveland both before and after appearing for another team or teams. The most recent sandwich players were those who spanned both the new and old Browns franchises: Jerry Ball, Orlando Brown, and Antonio Langham. The best sandwich Brown was, of course, Paul Warfield, who was honored at today's game between his two NFL teams.
3. It was Oniel Cousins' first career start at guard, and it left a stench. Consider carefully the correlation between the new Browns' astounding personnel turnover at quarterback and at the two guard positions. Today saw the 37th different player* to start at guard since 1999. Could Garrett Gilkey become the 38th next Sunday?
* for the record: Jim Pyne, Scott Rehberg, Orlando Bobo, Jim Bundren, Steve Zahursky, Everett Lindsay, Ross Verba, Shaun O’Hara, Tre Johnson, Jeremy McKinney, Brad Bedell, Barry Stokes, Melvin Fowler, Chad Beasley, Enoch DeMar, Paul Zukauskas, Kelvin Garmon, Damian Cook, Joaquin Gonzalez, Joe Andruzzi, Cosey Coleman, Mike Pucillo, Dave Yovanovits, Lennie Friedman, Rob Smith, Eric Steinbach, Seth McKinney, Ryan Tucker, Rex Hadnot, Floyd Womack, Hank Fraley, Shaun Lauvao, Billy Yates, Jason Pinkston, John Greco, Oniel Cousins.
4. Cousins' four penalties included a holding call that nullified a touchdown, an opening day tradition of sorts. Remember the first play from scrimmage of 2006? Kevin Shaffer's holding call wiped out a 74-yard bomb from Charlie Frye to Braylon Edwards. Frye failed to complete another pass longer than 18 yards, and the Browns lost to the Saints, 19-14.
5. The last time the Browns scored fewer than ten points in a game was Week 8 of last season, when they beat Norv Turner's Chargers, 7-6. That was also the last time (until today) that Brandon Weeden completed fewer than half his passes.
6. Weeden became the fourth QB to start consecutive opening games for the new Browns (Couch, Holcomb, Frye). Ominous note: there's yet to be a three-peat since the days of Bernie Kosar a full generation ago.
7. Weeden has thrown 7 interceptions in his two opening day starts -- four against the Eagles last year and three today. None of his other games have seen him picked off more than twice.
8. The Dolphins converted half the time on third down, seemingly all on passes right up the middle with space to spare. The Browns were 1-for-14 on third down, mainly due to atrocious pass protection schemes and execution. (OK, that was borderline ranting there.)
9. Game balls: TE Jordan Cameron (9 rec., 108 yards, 1 TD), DE Desmond Bryant (2 sacks), P Spencer Lanning (43.6 net ave., 2 inside 20).
10. Goats: WR Josh Gordon (suspended), RG Oniel Cousins, WR Greg Little (10 targets, 4 rec., 26 yards)
Monday, September 02, 2013
While the 2013 Browns roster continues to take shape, here's a list of 41 ex-Browns who appear on other NFL rosters. It's quite remarkable that no fewer than eight former Browns quarterbacks are still in the league, while just one wide receiver (2005 training camper Lance Moore) remains employed in the NFL.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Make sure you read this Grantland piece. Although it's not what the writer came for, he does offer an entertaining first-person account of the way the new Browns operate. It's worth it for the character descriptions alone:
- CEO Joe Banner: "a little more sarcastic than necessary. But you can just tell he's hypercompetent."
- GM Mike Lombardi: "a detail freak and a polymath, or at least a person successfully attempting to impersonate one"
- Asst. GM Ray Farmer: "the equilibrium (he rarely speaks first but provides the most balanced insights)"
- President Alec Scheiner: "a very nice guy and a nuanced sports thinker, but his level of caution is profound"
- Head Coach Rob Chudzinski: "a jovial, cherubic man who doesn't say anything revealing or divisive"
- The generic Browns fan: "He will tell you that he'll always root for the Browns, under any circumstances, no matter what happens, forever. And then he will proceed to tell you how much the Browns suck."
- Owner Jimmy Haslam III: "at exactly 5:30, the owner of the Cleveland Browns steps into the war room and I am immediately kicked out."
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Now that the Browns are stocked with all manner of fresh draftees, rookie free agents, and assorted newcomers and returnees, it's helpful to put the roster in spreadsheet format. This makes it easier to filter, sum, average and otherwise slice and dice the team as it takes shape. It also provides a single handy landing spot for player data from various sources.
I'm no spreadsheet expert, but the Google product was easy to navigate. It also lets me share this roster with the world right here. It's read-only, of course, but you can download it at will. Or if you're signed into Google, just make a copy and avail yourself of its full functionality.
That way you too can learn vital information like this:
- Right now, there are two open spots on the roster. (I expect a fourth QB to be added prior to training camp.)
- The average Brown has been alive fewer than 300 months. Specifically, 24 years, 319 days.
- The average Brown was acquired 364 days ago.
- Only three Browns have ever been Pro Bowlers.
- 33 of the 88 men were undrafted.
- 46 players have started an NFL game, just 27 of them at least ten games.
- T.J. Ward, drafted just three years ago, has more career starts than all but five other players, not including the kicker.
- The most represented colleges are Maryland (4), Pitt (3), and LSU (3). Total from universities in Ohio: 4.
- Players from Big Ten schools: 5. Players from MAC schools: 5.
- Average listed weight: 245.
- Acquired by draft, 32; as undrafted free agents, 28; as "street" free agents, 10; as unrestricted free agents, 9; via waivers, 5; by trade, 3; from a practice squad, 1.
- Some 13 veterans stand to be unrestricted free agents after this season, including four offensive lineman. Most significant names: T.J. Ward, Alex Mack, Montario Hardesty, Shawn Lauvao.
- More tight ends are on the roster than running backs.
- As many wide receivers are listed (12) as TEs and RBs combined.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Just hours after my post on the Haslam/Pilot Flying J legal troubles, the FBI -- no doubt irked at Haslam's "very insignificant" comment -- released the 158 pages of goods it has on him and the company.
Matt Wood at Dawgs By Nature has combed through the document and provides a detailed, distressing summation. His conclusion:
My guess? We have a new owner within two years. Don't know how the NFL does it, heck maybe even Haslam bows out on his own. But this isn't going away. Haslam probably is.
Ouch. As far as legs go, this story has a millipede's worth of Betty Grables.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I've let all kinds of Browns news fly by without comment, but I do want to keep my hand in this blog and my voice in the mix of conversation about this rapidly-transforming franchise.
So I can't just ignore the strange fact that the family company run by the team's new owner was raided this week by dozens of FBI and IRS agents. The surprise visit on the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J, the nation's top truck stop chain and the sixth-largest privately-owned company in the U.S., was part of a criminal investigation that the feds aren't discussing.
Stranger still that scion-in-chief Jimmy Haslan III would so readily assert that the matter stems from alleged non-payment of rebates to "a very insignificant number of customers."
The blogger known as Jim Kanicki said it all much better and sooner than I, so dig into the intrigue. Federal judges don't typically let G-men and T-men suddenly rifle through the private machinations of a major, politically-connected oil bidness over some two-bit civil dispute.
Can't blame Jimmy for trying some damage control, but to me it harkens back to Butch Davis' characterization of Kelly Holcomb's 2003 ankle injury. The 0-2 Browns were in San Francisco, and the winner of a hotly-contested QB controversy got landed upon while running up the gut from the Browns' own end zone.
At halftime, Davis said Holcomb had been "kicked" and was "fine." Turns out his halftime X-ray showed a broken ankle, yet he was kept in the game and afterward lauded for his gutsy performance in a 13-12 comeback win. Davis paraphrased the doctors: "Hey look, he's fine, it's a non-weight-bearing deal, he's got a tiny, small, little hairline fracture."
The next day, Davis defied reports that the man with the broken right fibula and sprained left ankle was anything worse than day-to-day. "If he was going to be gone four-to-six, trust me, I wouldn't be telling you and setting myself up for looking like a fool on Wednesday," Davis said.
Holcomb missed the next three games, two of which the Browns won behind Tim Couch. He relieved Couch in the next two games, both losses, and managed just one more win behind center during that 5-11 trainwreck of a follow-up to a playoff season.
For the sake of our Browns, let's hope Jimmy hadn't already seen the X-rays before he fed that line to the media.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Some quick facts and impressions about yesterday's signing of K Shayne Graham.
- Given a prolific and popular placekicking predecessor in Phil Dawson, it makes a lot of sense to bring in a veteran who's known both success and failure in the league. I'm old enough to remember Dave Jacobs and Jerry Kauric.
- Graham's longest stint was seven years in Cincinnati, where he made his only Pro Bowl appearance after the 2005 season.
- The Browns will be his ninth team in the last five years and eleventh overall.
- He's now the oldest player -- by four years -- on the Browns roster and is nearly three years younger than Dawson.
- He's scored 113 points against the Browns. I'd put it at even money on whether he ends up scoring more points for or against Cleveland.
- Before yesterday, the Browns have drafted one Graham and signed two others in the past 57 years. Two of those three ended up having decent pro careers elsewhere. But no man with that surname has played in an NFL game for the Browns since Otto retired in 1955.
- Two of his four career missed extra points came in Cleveland Browns Stadium. He's 8-for-12 on FG attempts at CBS (67%, versus career average of 85.4%.
- The Bengals dropped him after 2009, when their season ended with Graham missing both his FG attempts in a home playoff loss to the Jets.
- Last year with Houston, he scored a career-high 138 points, plus 21 more in the playoffs, where he nailed 4-of-4 FGs in a 19-13 win over -- you know it's coming -- the Bengals.
- His most recent NFL field goal attempt: a successful 55-yarder in the playoff game at New England -- the longest of his career.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
I didn't expect that my lifelong allegiance to the Cleveland Browns would suddenly, in one day's time, vibrate at an entirely new emotional frequency. I've lived, felt, and shared all the hopes, heartbreaks, inspirations, and frustrations of decades under the peculiar pull of this football franchise. I still fantasize how my inner life might transform when the Browns someday win the Super Bowl.
Though I've invested dozens of weeks following this team and written over a million words to both justify and propel this absurdly intensive capture of my attention, it all came at comfortable psychological remove. It's just sport. It's reality TV. These hulking heroes are characters in some serialized postmodern opera, their plays and games and careers mere notes, movements and acts. I'm in the audience, a consumer, a critic. My sensitivities resound within the safely framed fiction that any of this matters a whit in the grand scheme of things.
But yesterday brought a new chord into the score, changing the tenor of my connection with the Browns. I knew Chud had been an assistant and a coordinator with the Browns before. Surely he'd someday become an NFL head coach. Now there he was, my high school classmate, accepting his dream job leading our favorite team. For me, this hire hits homeroom.
There's nothing like seeing a peer of yours reach the pinnacle of a public profession -- and top $3 million per year -- to make you question just what you've accomplished with your life. But comparison soon gave way to inspiration. It is indeed a small world, not just as a Disney ditty or in Baconesque degrees of separation, but in the awareness that amazing success is still possible. Real life needn't intimidate. The high notes remain in range.
Chud and I weren't close friends or anything. I haven't spoken with him in a quarter century. But for those four formative years at St. John's in Toledo, we had much in common: the same dress code, the same classes and assignments -- essentially the same grades, putting us both in the National Honor Society. He was a foot taller and starred on the football field and basketball court. Meanwhile I sweated and grunted in the windowless wrestling room and, later, the windowless newspaper office.
Despite his outsized stature at this jockish, all-boys prep school, he was never arrogant or bullying. Just an affable, seriously talented, somewhat quiet figure several seats away as we absorbed so many lessons of nature from Fr. Lotze, Fr. Sweeney, and Mr. Simmons, and explored the world's great writing with Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Harms, and Dr. Demarkowski, among our many sterling teachers. To hear Chud at his presser recall the influence of the late Fred Beier, who coached him in football and me in wrestling, was to revisit a tender age with a tried but still tender heart.
We grew through adolescence within a distinct community stressing certain core values: academic excellence; the importance of balanced, well-rounded development; our privilege both empowering and morally requiring us to be of service to others. If I thought that Chud somehow survived St. John's without getting that, if he were a jerk or a spoiled snot, I wouldn't be writing this, and he wouldn't be where he is today.
As we made college plans senior year, our paths diverged. My scholarship took me a little liberal arts enclave hidden in the hillier part of Ohio, while his, surprisingly, came from Jimmy Johnson's brash and boorish Miami Hurricanes. It didn't seem like a good cultural fit, but, hey, it is a small world. Chud made it work. Decades later, without the profile or pedigree, he's poised to bring more greatness to the Browns than Kellen Winslow II ever did.
This is a real guy -- and his Browns team -- well worth rooting for. And maybe even worthy of all the wait.
I understand how so many years of ineptitude, of disappointment, of even treachery have jaded the mindset of so many Browns fans. From apathy to anger, I've been there. But now the callous slurs so casually cast at these characters strike me differently.
My connection to the Browns remains vicarious, true, but I realize anew that their identity overlaps some essential part of my own, and it always has. It may be skewed too much toward the mercenary and gladiatorial, yet there is something authentic and resonant about the striving, the strategy, the self-imposed suffering and sacrifice, the struggle for coordinated effort, the patience and persistence, and the exciting unknown of the wide-open, goal-oriented field itself that stirs me in a way that today feels both strangely new and profoundly archetypal, even totemic.
I am, I can, I shall, I must.
We will do this, someway, somehow.
Together, we'll be champions, each in our own ways, but ultimately under a flag we all recognize as our own.
Friday, January 11, 2013
If this news doesn't stir this derelict blog, I may as well pull the plug, because nothing ever will. Seems my old high school classmate has just been named the HMFIC of our very own Cleveland Browns!
Here's what I wrote nine years ago when Rob Chudzinski joined Butch Davis' staff as the tight ends coach:
Half a lifetime ago, "Chud" and I were in a lot of classes together, as well as National Honor Society. I wouldn't say we were close friends or anything, but I liked him, as did everyone else. He was very smart, on the quiet side, kind of a gentle giant -- easy to tease and slow to anger. He was a three-sport star and one of the biggest kids around, but he never gave a hint of being arrogant, nor was he a bully or a showboat. I was always amazed that he seemed to fit in so well with the punks at Miami, where he played tight end, got two degrees, and coached his way up to the pros.
At his first press conference in Berea today, Chud's answer to a question about his offensive philosophy echoed the exact words of our senior year English teacher, Dr. Demar: "Balance is the key."
Another thing Doc taught was to put the pressures and expectations of high school into perspective. This was all just the "little time." Wait until college, grad school, the real world -- that's the "big time," fellas.
Well, Chud, we haven't been in touch for 26 years, but I'm already feeling protective of you as criticism of your hiring spills forth from the justifiably cynical fan base. But it's all good, big guy. You've surely hit the big time.
Friday, December 07, 2012
Of the many mystifying choices that should result in Pat
Shurmur's dismissal a month from now, this one has escaped notice: the
Browns are overusing their workhorse running back.
That's right, Trent Richardson is carrying too much of the load. This diminishes his effectiveness and carries real risks for the longevity of this franchise skill player. Remember, he's a rookie who missed the preseason with arthroscopic knee surgery and has battled bruised ribs during the season.
Yet, through 12 games, he has 73.5% of the team's rushing attempts (including QB scrambles and end arounds). That's easily the highest share of the ground-game workload in Browns history, with one exception.
In 2005, Reuben Droughns came to town, and Romeo Crennel rode him roughshod. Droughns carried 309 times, an astounding 78.2% of the team's total attempts. The hard-charging runner was never the same after that.
Jim Brown, as tough a workhorse as nature ever designed, never had even 65% of the team's total carries.
Stories abound throughout the league of overworked runners soon losing their mojo and falling prey to injury. Compare the Jamal Lewis of 2007 (298 carries, 4.4 average) and 2008 (279, 3.6). Read up on Jamal Anderson and Terrell Davis, for example.
Factor in Richardson's team-leading 44 receptions (Droughns had 39 in 16 games), and the point is obvious. Less is more. Building the Browns is a marathon, not a sprint.
It's not as if they lack backfield depth. Montario Hardesty is running well. Chris Ogbonnaya is a decent player. Brandon Jackson can't even make the 45-man game day roster, and he led the Super Bowl champion Packers in rushing just two years ago. Josh Cribbs is itching for opportunities, and his career rushing average is 5.8 yards per carry.
No doubt Trent is a special player, but most accounts portray his rookie year as something of a disappointment. The injuries are part of that, but the way he's overused is a problem too, one that may have serious implications for his career.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Ready to revisit the Peyton Hillis fiasco? ESPN chimes in with an extended look at how the 2010 folk hero turned into a 2011 disaster. The piece plays up the rise, fall, and primed-for-redemption angle.
Hillis and those close to him are named sources, and the article -- while not entirely glossing over his myriad mistakes -- summarily gives the back of the hand to Browns' management. For one thing it claims they "lowballed" him in contract negotiations. But he turned down their offer for a much better deal than the one-year, $3 million he got from KC in free agency.
In any case, the 2011 Hillis was as awful on and off the field as he was tremendous in 2010. Could the Browns have managed him better? Maybe, but the bulk of the blame for the primary sad storyline of last year's Browns falls at the feet of #40.
For Browns fans, no other team will be more interesting to watch this season than the Chiefs, featuring former Browns Romeo Crennel (head coach), Hillis, Travis Daniels, Abram Elam, Amon Gordon, and Brady Quinn.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
This piece in the New York Times is a detailed, well-informed, and fair-minded preview of the Browns' upcoming season. Author Andy Benoit eschews the anti-Cleveland snark so common in outsiders' analysis but spares no mercy for players he finds lacking:
On Colt McCoy:
Holmgren’s selection of Weeden upset the incumbent quarterback Colt McCoy, but contrary to what the Browns have shown over the years, this is not pee-wee football. Players’ feelings do not matter. What matters is being able to execute all of head coach Pat Shurmur’s offense. Holmgren knows what 30 other teams (and the Bengals) know: you cannot win today with a middling player under center... It does not matter how likeable or noble McCoy is off the field; on the field, he cannot play at the level needed for sustainable N.F.L. success. The arm strength just is not there, and he lacks the innate accuracy or dynamic athleticism to make up for it. It doesn’t help that McCoy struggled to read the field in his 13 starts last season.
On DT Ahtyba Rubin:
arguably the most overrated defensive tackle in football. Rubin is lauded for his run-stopping ability because he led all defensive linemen in tackles last year. But the truth is most of his tackles came downfield, after he got handled up front. Rubin’s propensity to play too light and too laterally was a big reason zone-running offenses destroyed the Browns. Dawg Pound fans who do not buy this can go back and look at the film. Or they can just ask themselves: if our leading defensive tackle is truly that good, then why did our run defense rank 30th last season?
I don't agree with everything in the piece, but I highly recommend it anyway for the depth of its player analysis.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Thanks to my dad, and fortified by tailgate BBQ and beer with the local Browns Backers club, I witnessed the Browns' preseason debut game in Detroit last night. You can find full recaps elsewhere, but suffice it to say that it always feels better to win, even if the final score isn't the main point of the game. Here are a few of my scattered observations:
Rookie Travis Benjamin was the standout in the first quarter, when most of the starters played. At this early point, he's still ahead of Josh Gordon, though both stand to play important roles on a much-improved receiver corps.
Naming Brandon Weeden the starter in advance of this game makes good sense. He faces the preseason opponents' best defenders, and he gets adjusted to the pro game without the added stress of job insecurity. So there were lessons to learn from last night's performance. The long pass to Benjamin off his back foot was encouraging. But he'll need to get better at adjusting to pocket pressure, and at avoiding ball-hawking DBs looking to jump routes.
All four quarterbacks had good moments, though past habits die hard, as McCoy took two sacks and Wallace's first two passes landed out of bounds. Still, when was the last Browns game that four quarterbacks each completed passes at least 20 yards downfield? Promising. Thaddeus Lewis seemed fast, and with more efforts like we saw yesterday, the Browns could find an excuse to save a few million bucks.
While I liked the passing scheme and the depth at both receiver and tight end, too many running plays seemed telegraphed. Maybe misdirection and surprise aren't so important in preseason, but if Cleveland plans to run in obvious ways from obvious sets and simply enforce its will on the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, it just won't work, even with Trent Richardson at full speed.
As for the run defense, the front seven was too often collapsed, sealed off, or put on the ground, opening up easy cutbacks. DE Emmanuel Stephens was the only edge defender that even approximated effectiveness. Those who diminished the impact of OLB Chris Gocong's loss ought to be chastened by the 198 yards yielded on the ground at an average of six per crack.
The defensive backfield was the strength of the unit, up and down the depth chart. Without much of a pass rush to help, they kept the Lions under 50% through the air. Speedy Buster Skrine is coming on at cornerback, though I fear he may end up making many a score-saving tackle on breakaway runs. Rookie draftee Trevin Wade also impressed as a developmental CB, far superior to returnee James Dockery, who yielded three completions for first downs.
This may also be unfair criticism for the first exhibition, but the game management strategy on the final drive was displeasingly passive. Down a point for a two-minute drill, two good gainers got the ball to Detroit's 34. Then the Browns ran for naught, letting the clock tick. An eight-yard gain to Gronkowski got the ball closer, but the Browns again chose to run, netting nothing but a field goal try from the same distance that the kicker had earlier missed from. Fortunately, Jeff Wolfert converted, but I hope to see a more aggressive approach when the real games begin.
Overall, the special teams were a decided strength. Phil Dawson seems dedicated to touchbacks. Benjamin's speed to the edge showed on a decent kickoff return. Jordan Norwood's nifty 45-yard punt return helped set up the Browns' first touchdown. Dawson and Hodges were both very solid. Aside from one blocking penalty and an ill-advised but clean fair catch at the six yard line, Chris Tabor's unit seems way ahead of its pace of a year ago, even without maxing out Josh Cribbs.
With every exhibition game we see, the NFL is losing its bargaining power with its officials. These replacements are awful, and this game was no exception. I sensed a strong if unintentional home team bias last night. The upheld fumble call on Weeden when his arm was moving forward. A penalty differential of eight to one (the sole call against the Lions being a late hit to the QB in front of the Browns' bench). Two ridiculously negligent non-calls against molested Browns receivers in the fourth quarter.
The refs (along with the incessant aisle traffic obstructing my view throughout the game) were annoying. The injuries -- including another apparent concussion for Massaquoi and a leg injury to CB Dimitri Patterson, a key defender in light of Joe Haden's possible upcoming suspension -- are alarming. But overall, the debut of so many new Browns last night was a useful and positive, if not spectacular, step toward something resembling success.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Starting LB Chris Gocong's season-ending and career-threatening Achilles injury is the latest example of one of the NFL's primary defects: the outsized role of injuries.
The human toll in pain and disability is the primary consideration, and of course my sympathies lie with Gocong for impact the torn right Achilles tendon will have on his life and career.
As a fan, though, the prevalence of football injuries, their apparent randonmess, and the disproportionate effect they have on a team's prospects combine to undercut the bases of competition that make the sport worth following. In other words, as injury attrition increases in frequency, impact, and/or unpredictability, more appealing factors like skill, strategy and teamwork diminish in importance.
In short, football becomes even more of a game of chance, undermining the rewards of merit.
More disturbing is that fans, aware of the inverse connection between injury and victory, have a psychological incentive to regard favorably the physical damage done to members of rival teams. This gladatorial impulse strikes a blow to the heart of sportsmanship.
The solution, if there is one, lies in risk management. NFL teams simply must put a primary emphasis on keeping their players healthy. This may seem obvious, but let's look at a few specifics.
Achilles injuries are most often -- as with Gocong's -- non-contact traumas that might be prevented with a more religious, controlled emphasis on stretching and warm-up. I can't speak to the Browns' diligence in this regard. But I do remember that punter Reggie Hodges lost last season with a similar injury. All-Pro LB Jamir Miller's career was likewise ended in the 2002 preseason.
When last year's lockout curtailed offseason workouts, it was reported that ten players suffered Achilles tears within the first two weeks of camp. Bengals CB Leon Hall and Raven LB Terrell Suggs are other recent victims.
These are not minor problems. This 2010 article reports on 31 Achilles ruptures in the NFL between 1997 and 2002. Only 21 of those players ever returned, and those who did were generally not as effective.
Obviously, I hope the 28-year-old Gocong bucks the odds. With a non-guaranteed base salary of $4.45 million in 2013 and $4.7 million in 2014, he has every reason to take rehab diligently. Whether the Browns will stick with him at that price is questionable at best.
Count on the Browns to draft linebackers early and often next year, though they may not have the luxury of waiting that long. Their thinnest position suddenly got drastically worse.
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslan III took center stage yesterday. The affable, self-assured presence of the truck stop magnate in itself signaled a culture change for the Browns.
I'm posting my takeaways here, not because many folks are reading this (the revival of a long-languid blog is no overnight blossom), but to get my initial impressions on the record. The new ownership promises a much different era of Browns football, so this post is a marker to compare the upcoming changes to my hopes and expectations.
Haslan is a polished presenter, keen to public perception, and he struck many of the right notes in appealing to Browns loyalists. He stressed winning as the sole goal, noted that things are headed in the right direction, evinced excitement about the chance to own an iconic franchise, and confessed he's not yet an expert in all matters orange and brown. All comforting signs.
He also intends to be an active, visible, hands-on presence, even joking that current president Mike Holmgren might not like that so much. This, along with the deference and respect he showed Holmgren, also struck me as pitch-perfect. Had he seemed either more cagey or more brazen (e.g. "I can't wait to put my stamp on this team"), I'd question whether his motives were well-aligned with the various stakeholders that combine for a successful organization.
I hope and expect that Haslan will have the patience, judgement and maturity to avoid sacrificing the Browns' existing assets for the sake of molding the organization in his image. If so, I think he'll find a gradual, graceful way to conclude the Holmgren era, and he'll keep GM Tom Heckert on board, as his ability to build a team through several strong drafts is not easily replaced.
On the business and marketing side, Haslan has more experience, and changes here will probably come faster. I hope they include an aware sensitivity to the aspects of the Browns' cultural identity that have maintained goodwill over these many trying years.
Already on day one, he's announced that naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium will probably be sold, continuing an industry trend that sells out the honoring of civic and sporting institutions to the highest corporate bidder. I'm not a fan of this, but if proceeds are dedicated to stadium maintenance and repair, taking some of the burden off of taxpayers, it may be worthwhile.
Beyond that, I hope Haslan's growing appreciation of the connection between the Browns and its fan base includes this fundamental truth: our marketing niche and brand identity is not to be found in glitz and shiny new designs. The Browns are plain and simple, traditional and unadorned. For good reason. It strikes at the heart of our regional identity. Real. Genuine. Not distracted from the authentic work we do by the pursuit of appearances.
We honor a glorious past when we wear its trappings into the future. I want the uniforms, logos, colors and such to remain old-school without being dated. To remain essentially the same without seeming superficially "retro." There's no room for anything on our uniquely unembellished helmets.
Our team isn't named after some animal or archetype. It honors a single man, the ultimate organizational innovator, who brought this team to prominence and dominance not with style and sizzle, but with strategy and skill. Dogged, determined effort, working together through ceaseless challenge, speaks more to our methods of aspiration -- and how we recognize ourselves in the Browns -- than any rebranding expert ever will.
So far, I like Jimmy. When he proves that he gets this about us, I'll love his Browns even more.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
A mere 31 years ago today, the Browns opened their season with a bang, downing the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton. It was the first game for the orange and brown after the fateful Red Right 88 playoff loss by the Kardiac Kids, and they looked promising in their 24-10 win.
Sam Rutigliano's offense racked up 478 yards, including 99 yards rushing by Cleo Miller and 54 more by diminutive Dino Hall on just five carries. Oliver Davis was the defensive star, with two of the team's four interceptions. The pair of picks tied a Hall of Fame game record, also attained by Daylon McCutcheon in 1999.
It was the first time the Browns won their preseason opener since 1969, but, sadly, the magic didn't last, as the Browns regressed to a 5-11 record and went from first to worst in the division.
Inductees that day included Packers great Willie Davis, who played his first two seasons for the Browns. Davis (no relation) was one of four defensive linemen whom Paul Brown traded away before they achieved greatness.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Obsessive Browns fan, prone to perceiving patterns and observing oddities, even inanities of name and number, takes note of the following:
- Never in history have the Browns had more than one Josh or Joshua on the team. In fact, before Cribbs hit the scene running, the only Josh on their all-time roster was QB Josh Booty, who never got into a game. Today, there are three players named Josh, not just on the same team, but at the same position (WRs Cribbs, Gordon, and Cooper).
- "Joe" is the epitome of an ordinary name, but not so here. Perhaps their best offensive player (Thomas) and best defensive player (Haden) share that given name. Both were drafted high in the first round. They are, in fact, the only Joes drafted at all by Cleveland since "Turkey" Joe Jones way back in 1970.
- It's the last day of July, so players born today were likely conceived right around Halloween. Happy birthday to ghosts of Browns past Tim Couch (35), Antonio Langham (40), Larry Poole (60), and Nick Sorensen (34). Odd fact about Poole, the former Kent State star runner: he's credited on IMDb.com with working as as a horse wrangler in the upcoming western "The Sorrow."
Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Browns will be sold. It's a visceral reminder that no matter how much time, attention, and money we fans invest in our team, it all dwells within a high-stakes corporate framework that transcends the prerogative of the hoi polloi.
News of Randy Lerner's imminent deal to surrender the franchise to Pilot Corporation CEO James "Jimmy" Haslam III hit hard yesterday, triggering in me a confusion of thoughts and feelings.
The gut reaction was "uh-oh." This came from knowing that, whatever Lerner's performance failings, he at least seemed like a Browns fan who appreciated the unique connection between the team and its city and fans. I recalled the great Cleveland Scene insider piece from earlier this year, "The Custodian."
A rereading yielded no sense of a man who wanted out. Indeed, "he would be making a permanent home in the land of his birth." Only one small clue jumped out in retrospect:
He says he's taking the "AL" uniform tribute to his dad off the jerseys after next season. "It will have been ten years."
Turns out the significance of ten years lied underneath the patch, as revealed yesterday:
That is the expiration date of a 10-year moratorium on selling the team, a moratorium Al Lerner asked of his family before he passed away in October of 2002, according to a source familiar with the inner workings of the Browns front office.
So did Randy Lerner truly see his mission as a devoted custodian of a civic institution, or as a loyal son fulfilling a promise to his dying father? Really, it doesn't much matter to me, as long as the Browns stay in Cleveland, an apparent precondition for this sale.
Lerner, in my view, was a reluctant legatee who tried to keep faith with his father, family, and hometown team, but his true heart and mind were not suited for the job. It's better that he has come to that honest reckoning.
The implications of new ownership for the Browns' organization -- particularly president Mike Holmgren -- await further visibility. But it's clear that 2012 will be an especially pivotal year for many a Cleveland career. It will probably be the last for Holmgren and several others.
Though not tied to the ownership change, Phil Dawson, the enduring, venerable last link to the Browns' rebirth, will almost certainly move on not long after Lerner's exodus. That's quite a kicker.
Friday, July 27, 2012
The development of the new Browns offense will be the most fascinating storyline to follow this summer and fall. Any time you draft seven guys on that side of the ball -- including a starting quarterback and a runner hyped as the best such prospect in half a decade -- and bring in an experienced offensive coordinator, it's clear where the emphasis lies, with good reason.
The exclamation point on this off-season push came in the form of Josh Gordon, the receiver chosen in the supplemental draft with next year's second-round pick. Big and fast, he's a potential #1 wideout, a need position addressed in April only in a small way with fourth-round burner Travis Benjamin and undrafted slot candidate Josh Cooper.
Gordon's late addition may be the first symptom of the recurrence of the Curse of #80, the jersey number Benjamin was unfortunately assigned.
But Gordon's potential ceiling is not the only high he's had. Three times he's tested positive for pot. It's clearly not the deal-breaker it used to be for college kids to get caught with what's really a far less dangerous drug than alcohol, in terms of both addiction and acute toxicity.
However, Gordon's repeated use, even after having to miss a year by transferring from Baylor to Utah, raises the red flag as to his maturity and self-discipline, given that his recreational choices carry steeper career consequences than for, say, a sociology or music major.
The Browns assert faith in their due diligence, and I support their choice. For one thing, gaining a player's services a year in advance of his draft cost effectively makes him a better draft value than a conventional second-rounder.
And I'd be much leerier had his offenses posed more danger to himself or society, be that drunk driving, performance-enhancers, weapons charges, or barroom brawls.
So Gordon joins the Browns as an especially high-risk, high-reward guy. He could light it up as a downfield playmaker. Or he could light it up and find himself suspended or worse. Browns fans can only hope for the best and enjoy watching his on-field talents take shape. Which way he goes will have as much influence on the Browns' record in 2012 and beyond as anyone else on this rapidly revamped roster.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Put me firmly in the camp that wants the Browns to keep both Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace as the backups to rookie Brandon Weeden, who will most likely officially be named the starting quarterback in a matter of days.
Clearly the team's braintrust deemed the QB position in need of upgrade. McCoy lacked support from the offensive skill positions last year, the rookie head coach doubled as offensive coordinator, and the league lockout washed out the off-season program. Still, McCoy didn't build on the early promise of his 2010 starts, frequently failing to find open receivers and deliver the ball accurately and on time. I can't disagree with the drafting of the bigger, stronger-armed Weeden.
Ever since the draft, McCoy's fate has been a top topic of fan and media discussion. Arguments in favor of releasing or trading him generally mention
- the "distraction" presented by having an unseated starter on the roster
- management's ill feelings after the embarrassing mishandling of McCoy's concussion against the Steelers last December and criticism from McCoy's father
- McCoy's physical limitations revealing an inherent inadequacy as an NFL starter
- Wallace's comparable performance to McCoy's, and he's a Holmgren favorite already used to the backup role.
From what I've seen and heard, McCoy is a high-character team player. Yes, he's highly competitive and used to being "the guy," but that should be an asset, not a problem.
He's also low-cost, with two years remaining on his rookie deal at about a half-million per year -- very cost-efficient for a quarterback. Wallace's salary is about four times higher.
The fact is that quarterbacks get hurt. Even the third man on the depth chart has to be game-ready. That's why the rookie Colt started half of 2010. Four QBs started in 2008, three each in 2000 and 2004. It's been eleven years since a Browns QB started all 16 games. Offloading one of your top three QBs before the season starts for little or no return is courting disaster.
Thaddeus Lewis is the fourth man in camp. He's never taken a regular-season snap, though if he can legitimately beat out one of the incumbents for a roster spot in the preseason, more power to him. But his presence alone does not give the Browns the luxury of dumping a more experienced player preemptively.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Here it is, late July, when optimism is at its cyclical peak. On the cusp of training camp, the team is fully stocked with some 90 players, all presumably healthy. Phil Taylor, the exception, even seems more likely to play most of the season than it first appeared when his pectoral muscle tore this spring.
Once again, the Browns aren't expected to win much this year. Pundits pick them as cellar-dwellers, and Vegas will sell you the "over" at just 5.5 wins out of 16. This can serve as more motivator than prophecy.
I approach every season with the expectation of making the playoffs. Like most everybody, I'd be surprised if they do, but I still set that as the baseline standard for a successful season. Some fans say they'd be tickled to see seven wins, because they're realistic. I'm just realistic enough to know I can't protect my fanatical heart from disappointment by tempering my goals for the team in advance.
As for this blogger personally, I also expect big things. I've been in a latency phase these past few years. But I started this blog ten seasons back with an intention to chronicle the Browns' first Super Bowl season. I'm gonna kick things up a notch and hope this correlates with an exciting season, at least on the level of that crazy ride from 2002, which happened to feature a second-year head coach, a rookie first-round running back, and a herd of second-round wideouts.
These 2012 Browns are loaded with a huge rookie class, most prominently at RB, QB, RT, and with the supplemental selection of Josh Gordon, WR. This season will hinge largely on their emergence. I'm not usually keen on taking a running back in the first round, but Trent Richardson seems a worthy exception, especially given the effort at building the offensive line first.
Curiosity called me to look up which rookies have make the Pro Bowl since 1990, 47 in all. Here's the breakdown by position:
- RB 10
- LB 9
- KR/PR 8
- OL 5
- DB 5
- WR 4
- DL 2
- P/K 2
- TE 1
- QB 1
It's July, so anything can still happen. It's time for the projections to bring their shadows to Berea and show themselves in full sun. We're ascending; it's only a question of how fast it will take for this latest cast to align into something stellar.
posted at 7:03 AM