Monday, October 20, 2008

Nah, calling it your job don't make it right, boss

A few things have surfaced about the Browns in the last 36 hours, but I'll leave the sloppy performance against the Redskins to another post.

Most interesting to me are the emerging details around Kellen Winslow's recent visit to the Cleveland Clinic, which was not just to cheer up sick kids as one might have expected. Pardon me if I sound a bit conspiratorial, but I just finished watching JFK.

So Winslow goes into the hospital for three days. The only word emerging from the Browns, via coach Crennel, state simply that its a minor issue that he can't discuss. Meanwhile, rumors run rampant around the internet that Winslow is there because of "swollen testicles", with some rumor mills suggesting its a case of the clap (no doubt from an overzealous WAC?).

After returning to the field and taking part in an ugly Browns' loss, Winslow breaks the silence to say he was in the hospital because of an all-too-frequent staph infection. Now Winslow is being portrayed as the villain for going public, with Crennel threatening to fine or suspend Winslow, and Terry Pluto writing the Browns' front office's cover story.

Winslow has seen his share of adversity over the years, and he has brought alot of it on himself. And I'm aware that he has been vocal that he wants a new contract (which, I have pointed out before, is not entirely undeserved). But to suggest that his disclosure (which the Browns have confirmed) is nothing but a money-grabbing scheme (as Pluto has suggested) is just downright wrong.

As briefly noted  opposite of Pluto's take, staph infections are no laughing matter with the Browns. Over the past few years multiple Browns have had already serious injuries turned into life-threatening illnesses by staph infections. The Browns have become the butt of jokes throughout the league because of the frequency of these infections, and there is little doubt that it must enter into any free agent's mind when entertaining offers to join the squad.

Given this history, it's understandable that the Browns' front office wants to keep quiet another outbreak of the dreaded staph infection. Understandable, but unconscionable.

The fact is that, in a time where formerly simple diseases are emerging as uncontrollable plagues (OK, hyperbole, but not much so) the last thing we need as a society is to be sweeping this kind of thing under the rug. Drug-resistant bacterial infections are becoming a fact of life in the sports world and the larger world in general, and its just one more issue that confronts us as a country.

But beyond that, Winslow was being raked over the coals by the free (but unscrupulous) press. Not only was his masculinity being denigrated, but his fidelity to his wife. I, for one, cannot blame the man for setting the record straight, regardless of its effects on the Browns' efforts to control information.

Kellen Winslow has his flaws. But he deserves respect for his commitment to the game, if not to the Browns. On a surgically repaired (but not healed) knee he has dragged himself out there to lay his well-being on the line for the Browns, in both losing efforts as well as winning. In the process he has not only bourn incredible pain (the man has little cartilage left in his knee, dealing with bone scraping upon bone), but actually risking his future ability to walk about freely and unhindered. Yes, he is better compensated than I or most human beings. But what is money, compared to the ability to walk? What is money, compared to the respect of your peers, and the respect of the public?

Winslow had every right to go public with his story, and he will have every right to take the Browns' retaliatory response into consideration when deciding his future with the team. And we may eventually hear the Browns' side of the story. I just hope we can believe it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whoa baby, whats this football-like substance found in my jar of Browns?

Quick disclaimer: I DID call for benching Derek Anderson. My sudden birth of enthusiasm IS an example of fairweather fandom. And I don't give a $%@$!

But to try to remain some semblance of face, I read and was impressed by this article before the Browns' surprise win over the Giants. The main gist? Through Football Outsiders game charting program, they have been able to show that Derek Anderson's passing has been improving markedly since last year, and its really been an increase of poor receiver play and good defensive play that has held our passing attack back.

But what does any of that matter now? The good guys just won a MAJOR upset, and they did in pretty impressive fashion.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Coin flips and bad coaching

Back when Crennel flipped a coin to decide between Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, it was ridiculous, but decisive. His current "decision" is still pretty ridiculous, but even lacks the decisiveness of his coin flip.

I assume he feels he's showing his players loyalty and even handedness. It might work if the players were children, but most of them are not, and they must see through this ruse pretty easily.

Regardless of where you come down in the Anderson/Quinn debate, I think few fans can look at this "decision" as a good approach. Crennel should have either given Anderson a vote of confidence, or he should have pulled the trigger on Quinn.

The head coach's primary responsibility is not to draw up playbooks, scout players, or call plays. His primary job is to decide, given the players on the roster, who will be playing on Sunday, and getting those players motivated. Crennel is failing miserably in this regard.

I predict that we will not see Quinn on Sunday, no matter how poorly the offense performs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disappointment Materialized

My apathy from the offseason has been replace by disgust with the actual season. It looks like we're heading for a losing record at this early point in the season, and even if we miraculously end up in the playoffs, its looking pretty unlikely that we could hang with the big boys once we're there. My only hope for redemption is if the team manages to get healthy fast enough to offset the usual injuries that pop up as the season slogs on.

Its impossible to place blame, since pretty much both sides of the ball have been sucking things up, and special teams have looked pretty pedestrian. But I'm here to try.

The offense has been totally ineffective, scoring one TD over the first two games, and even that TD was aided by some key defensive penalties. Derek Anderson has continued with his mediocre play from the end of last season. Even when he manages a decent pass, the receivers are dropping balls left and right.

The receiving corp has looked like a real sham, and I think a big part of that comes from the missing Joe Jurevicis. Last year saw too many series that consisted of a short run (or a short Kellen Winslow completion) and a dropped Braylon Edwards pass that were redeemed by Jurevicis getting the job done on 3rd and medium-to-long. With no Jurevicis this year, we're seeing too many three and outs. Beyond that, the occasional Braylon Edwards big play flashes are even less likely as opposing defenses can concentrate on Edwards since the rest of our receiving corp consists mostly of no-names.

The missing dynamic that we were all hoping for was Donte Stallworth lined up across from Edwards, giving us the twin deep threats. But where is Stallworth? Looks like he's another case of the Cleveland curse. But even when/if Stallworth gets back, we can't forget that he is a very different receiver than Jurevicis. Stallworth isn't going to give us the reliable first downs that Jurevicis does, so even when he's back we probably won't see the three-and-outs disappear, we'll just see a few more big plays that give us a five-and-out with a punt from the 50 yard line instead of the 20 yard line.

The offense could get back on track quickly, but until it does the Brady Quinn watch will only intesify, and deservedly so.

I don't care much about the defense. Sure, they suck, but not any worse than last year, and we've only seen them against offenses (Dallas and pittsburgh) that so far look pretty explosive.

The biggest area of disappointment is the TERRIBLE job done by Romeo Crennel's coaching staff. Between the poor clock management, crappy situational tactics, and complete inability to change the team's approach to match the situation on the field the Crennel regime has probably cost us one winnable game, and will continue making this team worse. Crennel continues to coach as if we're a dominating team (ala the Patriots) whether or not the team can pull it off. His style may pay off once the team gets healthy and starts clicking, but until then he's going to be costing us games that will eliminate any chance of a playoff push late once the team heals up.

I retain the right to get excited by this season, but I am not yet at the point where I'm willing to exercise that option.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Cruise

Hola, Amigos. I know its been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been getting plenty hairy around here. But what's all that, when today is the beginning of Browns season?

I don't have much to say about the Browns, and haven't for the last few months. There are some reasons for hope, there are some reasons for worry.  I can see 6-10 as easily as easily as I can see 12-4. I can see us ending the season looking to trade a superfluous quarterback as easily as I can see us cutting one QB and questioning another.

But who cares? Just bring on the football!

Friday, May 23, 2008

World Ends

The biggest news right now is that Daven Holly is done for the season. Its a shame, he had some talent, and he was reliable. But to read Tony Grossi's article, you'd think that we just lost the second coming of Hanford Dixon.

I'll admit, on the surface this is starting to look like the 2006 Center situation. But in that case, we were reduced from having arguably the best center in the league to having nothing. Here, we still have the two guys who represent our brightest future at the position in Eric Wright and Brandon MacDonald. Also, that happened a month before the season started. This is still May. And lets not forget how the 2006 center fiasco ended: We gave up a 6th round pick for team captain Hank Fraley, who anchors the center of our line to this day.

Phil Savage has alot of work to do to get warm bodies in to take over for Holly, Kenny Wright, and Leigh Bodden. And the coaches will have alot of work to do to get them up to speed and figure out how to use them. And the secondary will probably be a little worse than they could have been. But this is hardly the end of the season. That won't be until the rest of the corners get hurt.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A well deserved extension

We have a few more years to trust in Phil.

And thats a good thing. Despite my recent concerns of Phil's love of the trade, the man has undoubtedly upgraded the Browns organization in a very meaningful way. The upgrades run much deeper than our current 10-6 roster. The processes he has brought to the team's player evaluation and acquisition strategies is already proving its superiority to the Butch Davis method of familiarity and gut feelings. Ace Davis has a good review of one of Phil's strategies that will be paying off for the Browns for a while.

I think I've already said it, but just bringing us a quality offensive line is reason enough for me to say "In Phil we trust!"

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

AFC North headed South

Part of the worry of going into the draft with few picks was that the other teams may catch up to the Browns. Fortunately, the Ravens, Bengals, and steelers GMs did their best to set our minds at ease:

Baltimore Ravens:
Trading down to stockpile picks was worrisome at first. But then they went and traded up for Derek Anderson wannabe Joe Flacco. I still haven't seen anything that sets this guy apart from our own 6th-round-pick-turned-free-agent-pick-up. Other than the fact that he cost the Ratbirds a first round pick (and first round money). He can throw the ball 50 yards from his knees? Frisman Jackson could throw 70 yards. Thats not going to help much with a bad corp of receivers and an o-line thats ready to apply for Social Security. The Ravens QB carousel is going to spin faster than our old Holcomb/Couch problem with de-facto Head Coach Ray Lewis calling the shots. I'm sure the Wizard of Oz got a few choices right when he was allowed to make the later picks, but its not going to be enough to help that train-wreck waiting to happen.

Cincinnati Bengals:
They were stuck in a tough position in the first round, with the best available players being cornerbacks and offensive tackles. So they picked a linebacker based on need. Then they picked up a few wide receivers who will have fun trying to replace hold-out Chad Johnson and released multiple felon Chris Henry. And just as we all thought they were ready to turn the corner on their collection of criminals, they go and draft defensive tackle Jason Shirley, who comes with outstanding charges before he's even been in the Bengals' locker-room. He might have a chance to learn a bit from newly-reinstated linebacker Odell Thurman, if he can get into camp before Thurman gets busted again.

pittsburgh steelers:
They got high marks from draftniks for picking value running backs and wide receivers. It'll be fun to see what those guys can do behind an offensive line that makes the Ravens' line look like. . . . . . well look like the Browns' line. Out: Alan Faneca. In: Tony Hills. Their line had a tough time keeping Roethlisberger upright against the Browns' pitiable defensive line last year. Our defensive line has improved ten fold. Their line has gotten worse. If Roethlisberger survives the season, I'll be surprised.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Browns, Usury, and the Credit Crunch

I logged on to check the draft progress around the 18th pick in round 4. Little did I expect that by then we had already made two picks.

Some of the picks sound kind of interesting. But thats not my thing. I don't know squat about college players. But I do know a little bit about finance. So I think I am somewhat qualified to point out that Phil Savage is addicted to credit, and he needs an intervention.

Savage is addicted to borrowing from the future to meet the needs of today. How fitting that its going on while our country is going through a credit crunch because of overuse and abuse of credit in the recent past.

The thing is, taking out loans and borrowing isn't necessarily bad. Borrowing is a good thing when you expect the payoff to exceed your finance charges. So taking out a loan to buy a truck for your job that will make you more than the cost of the truck is a good idea. But financing isn't always good. Taking out a home equity loan to buy a big screen tv is probably always a bad idea.

Applying this comparison to football is a bit tricky because the difference isn't whether you're using your picks for a truck or a tv. At the end of the day, draft picks are only worth anything to the extent that they get you players. There is no clear line between a trade to get great value and gambling away the future for immediate needs.

Think of it this way: We trade next year's 3rd rounder to get a 4th rounder this year to use on a guy who should've gone in the 2nd round. So next year, what do we do when a 1st rounder falls into the 3rd round and we don't have a pick left?

The fact is, EVERY year good players drop to later rounds. So using a pick from next year to get value this year just means you won't be able to get (or will have to overpay for) value next year.

Its possible that Phil felt better about getting late-round value this year compared to next year because we've focused more attention on the later rounds (without having to be distracted by scouting 1st rounders). But how good can a sixth round wide receiver really be (Marques Colston excepted)?

The only thing that really matters is the quality of the players Phil brings in. If his picks this year result in starters at linebacker, tight end, and wide receiver, then his trades may be worth it. But lets hope that Phil gets over his addiction to using future picks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Browns win the first round

How do you win the first round without having a pick? By the fact that 8 teams selected offensive linemen. That surely has a more than a little to do with the huge impact Joe Thomas has had on the Browns offensive line, and the huge impact the improved line has had on the entire offense.

Too bad none of them are going to be as good as quickly as Joe was/is.

Go Browns!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I think I hold up well to even intense scrutiny

Yadda-yadda-yadda. . . . . .schedule is out . . . . . . tough opponents. . . . . . 5 primetime games. . . . . .increased exposure brings increased scrutiny. . .

I don't see why having prime time games is necessarily a good thing. I know the players like the national spotlight, and as a dislocated fan I like that I can find any old neighborhood bar to see the game at, instead of having to squeeze into a Backers' location or struggle with SOPcast. But it also means alot of annoying hype and annoying announcers who know half as much as the local guys but talk as if they know twice as much.

I don't think its necessarily a sign that the NFL expects big things out of the Browns, which appears to be the conventional wisdom. Rather, I think its a sign that, even when the Browns play a bad game, they do so pretty excitingly.

As we've known for a while, on paper our line-up of opponents looks pretty tough. But every year a handful of teams crash and burn, while another handful come out of nowhere. Hopefully we have a couple of the former on our schedule.

The first four games are a pretty tough test. At home against Dallas and pittsburgh, then at Baltimore and Cincinnati, then the bye. I'm not going to say we should be happy if we're 2-2, because we should be able to beat any of our division rivals. But division games tend to put "should" on its head.

This is going to be a long off-season. . .

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NFL: Yup, they got screwed

The NFL has announced rule changes for next year. Two of the changes are direct responses to plays that screwed, or almost screwed, the Browns:
>> Allow replay to review fieldgoals. Against Baltimore, the Phil Dawson game winning field goal was called no good until some discussion, and perhaps some refs unofficially seeing the replay.
>> Eliminate the force-out rule. Against the Cardinals, a game tying Kellen Winslow touchdown catch ended with his getting forced out of bounds. The refs didn't call the force out, an inherent judgement call, and the replays for the rest of the week led many viewers to believe that the Browns got robbed of a win.

There was another rule change that was proposed and not adopted that would have changed the seeding order in the playoffs, supposedly to keep teams from intentionally tanking late season games. This also was in direct response to the Browns getting screwed out the playoffs.

I've always held that the Browns get the short end of the stick over and over again. The fact that rule changes are happening because of it just confirms my suspicions. I don't think these rule changes represent that the Browns' shafting this season was any worse than past years. Its more just the fact that when we got screwed in the past, we were still terrible, so the common wisdom is "they would've lost anyways". Now that we're a good team, it makes a bigger impact on the powers that be.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Once you get locked into a serious lineman collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can

The Browns have added Rex Hadnot and re-signed Seth McKinney.

Assuming the starting line that finished out last season -- Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Ryan Tucker, and Kevin Shaffer -- hold on to their starting jobs, that gives us a backup line of Nat Dorsey, Lennie Friedman, Rex Hadnot, Seth McKinney, Isaac Sowells, and LeCharles Bentley. That backup line is better than most of our pre-2007 starting lines. Of course, Pete Prisco at CBS thinks that O-line depth is one of our "needs".

So what's the deal? Is Phil Savage overly concerned about injuries? Its not a terrible thing, given the age of Tucker and Fraley and Bentley's situation over the past two years.

But I also wouldn't be surprised if we saw a Kevin Shaffer trade on draft day. I'm sure Savage would be comfortable shifting Ryan Tucker back to right tackle and letting McKinney or Hadnot start at guard. That wouldn't be an improvement, but if it could get us back into the third round I could see it happen.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Making Peace

It took me a while to come to terms with the flurry of trades that Savage has embarked on.

Gone are our 2nd and 3rd round picks, Leigh Bodden, and the potential for 1st and 3rd round picks for Derek Anderson. Instead we've picked up 700 pounds on the defensive line, a QB who won ten games for us, and a speedy receiver who should help stretch the field.

My initial thoughts were similar to sentiments I read on pft: Trading picks is a good way to trade away the future for immediate gains. The Dolphins' repeated use of trades is part of why they are in their current state. A one year bender such as this probably isn't enough to put a nail in the coffin, but it should not become a habit.

However, I think that I have come to understand the method to Phil's madness.

Some positions can be built through free agency, and some cannot. Running back, guard, receiver, safety, linebacker, while the superstars of these positions rarely become available through free agency, second tier replacements can be had most any season. However at key positions such as Left Offensive Tackle, Quarterback, and Defensive Tackle there is both a wide gulf between second tier and first tier, and a short supply of the first tier. As such, the first tier players at those positions almost never are allowed to become free agents. So to acquire a quality left tackle or defensive tackle, one must either draft them, or trade for them.

So our #1 pick this year, as well as the "potential" 1st and 3rd round picks for Anderson, have gone toward shoring up a quarterback position that has been a keystone cop routine up until now. And really, anyone who remembers the change in offense from the switch from Charlie Frye to Derek Anderson should be only too aware that the best offensive line, wide receiver, running back, and tight end cannot compensate for an incompetent quarterback.

Last year's number one pick shored up the left tackle position in a way that few of us hoped.

And our #2 and #3 picks this year (plus Leigh Bodden) have gone toward defensive linemen. Just think back to Rothlisberger's 30 yard run in our last meeting to understand the prudence of this move.

So our use of picks was at least worthwhile.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Free Agency Day 1

Its been an eventful 12.5 hours. We trade our second round pick for a defensive tackle, and then sign Derek Anderson to a three year extension.

I've posted about Derek Anderson enough. Its a good move to hold onto a potentially-elite quarterback for not alot of cash. Sure, the 1st and 3rd round picks were tantalizing, but A) there was no guarantee anyone was going to give up the picks to sign him, and B) Brady Quinn is no sure thing, and the last thing we want to go through is another long search for a QB.

The Corey Williams trade is still something I'm trying to decide on. He sounds like he'll be a great addition. A 6-4, 313 pound guy with 14 sacks over the past two seasons should be able to plug holes and create pressure in ways that we've been pretty desparate for. That being said, he's not a spring chicken (turns 28 before the season starts), he's not elite, and he's not cheap. Could we have found someone better with our second round pick? Probably not, at least as far as having an immediate impact. But pretty soon Phil's going to have to settle down his wheeling and dealing and return to fundamentals of building through the draft.

I'm not saying that any of Savage's recent moves were bad. As he showed in rebuilding the offensive line last year, the free agents can be valuable when they let your previous high draft picks show their talents. If a rebuilt Defensive Line can freeup our linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties to show what they're made of, then its a great investment.

This is just day one. We still need more warm bodies on the defensive line, and I wouldn't be surprised to see us bring in a wide receiver or line backer. So its good for a start.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Restocking the D-line?

PFT is reporting that we have worked out a trade with Green Bay for Corey Williams, their franchised Defensive Tackle. No word yet on what we are giving up.

So expectations were right on, Phil Savage is still making his bold moves. I fear we have yet to see how bold.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another New Bronco?

With word that the Browns have cut Orpheus Roye, the question on everyone's lips is "How long until Denver signs him?"

Tony Grossi makes a good observation: With this cut, along with the decision not to use Simon Fraser's restricted status to make him an offer, the D-line is set to go from just plain bad to short-staffed and bad. Unless Savage has some free agency/trade shenanigans up his sleeve. . .

Its hard to see what he might have planned, though. There aren't many top-flight d-linemen out there, so unless he's intending to overpay for an at-best mediocre line, he must be planning on making a splash elsewhere. Where could it be? Wide Receiver? Cornerback? Linebacker? Or maybe he's just planning on giving Ryan Pontbriand a $30M bonus if he completes more than 20 touchdown passes this season.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Paying Kellen

Peter King had this note this morning:

    I think, speaking of the Browns, that there's something not quite right about Kellen Winslow sniffing around for a new deal with three years left on his contract. Didn't the Browns pay him every dime when he was down with serious leg injuries after a 2005 motorcycle accident? I'm not saying he ought to be bowing to the organization forever, but he's been a Brown for four years. For the first two, he gave the Browns five catches, total. For the last two, he's been outstanding -- 171 catches and high impact. See the new set of problems you have when you actually win a few games?
I think King has a few things mistaken (I'm just going off memory here, so don't quote me):
>> After Winslow's injury, most of his outstanding bonus payments were shifted to the end of his deal. However, he did lose out on $1M as a penalty for his stupidness .
>> However, that is just working off what he could have been otherwise owed. And while Winslow's original deal was termed a "blockbuster", he ended up missing out on millions of escalators due to his missing his first two seasons. That money that he missed is just gone.

If Kellen had gotten the full value of his rookie deal, he would have been overpaid. Given his missing those first two seasons, he's now probably a bit underpaid. Does he "deserve" to get a new contract to make him whole? No. But then again, does the Browns' current contract "deserve" that Winslow sacrifice his body and future ability to walk for the teams' success like he does?

I'd have no problem seeing us give him a bit of a bump. The Postens are gone and he's not only very humbled, but he's proven a dedication to the game and his team that is pretty amazing. Its better to do it now, in a position where you're holding all the cards, than when he's a few days away from being a free agent.

Friday, February 22, 2008

He's back, but is he still hungry?

The Browns resigned Jamal Lewis, with a deal for three years that is reported to be worth $17M (just over the 1 year $5M contract he played under for '07).

It might be less than he could have gotten elsewhere, but its no bargain. If he can give us three years close to what we got in '07, it will be worth it. The only concerns are injuries, or if he decides to start his retirement while he's still on the clock. He's no longer playing for the next contract, so it really comes down to how much of professional is he. Most reports are that he is a good team player, so lets hope they're right.

I'm glad we got him signed. I'm not in the Jamal Lewis fan club, but I'm also not in the Football Outsiders/MBTL Jamal haterz association, either. He's a veteran back who is reliable if not explosive, and has the ability to make teams pay for their mistakes. He is no Jim Brown, but he is a definite improvement on anyone else the new Browns have had.

We should still draft a running back if we can get good value, but with Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright, and Lawrence Vickers on the roster, that is not a high priority.

Hopefully I can recycle this post next week and fill in Derek Anderson's name.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ahead of the curve

Normally talk about free agents, the draft, and everything else, holds off for the most part until after the super bowl. Fortunately for those of us who don't care what Plaxico Burris thinks, not everyone is ignoring everything else.

PFT has a post about the Browns offer to Derek Anderson, and his reluctance to accept something shorter term than a 5-year deal.

Its a tricky situation, but before the hype (and probably numerous posts from me) starts in full force, I don't think its a bad situation or anything to be worried about. After all, he's a restricted free agent and he either plays for cheap for one year or we get draft picks. So the real key is how to turn make it the most advantageous.

Anderson is still a bit of an unknown commodity. He played great in one game in 06, and in most of the beginning of 07. But he also played average to bad in the rest of 06 and to close out 07. He has a strong arm, and with protection he can get the ball to (or in the general vicinity of) the hands of his playmakers. He also has been guilty of trying to force the ball, and he only appears to know one way to throw a ball: as a laserbeam. So some of the outstanding questions are:
>> Can he succeed without great protection?
>> Can he succeed without above-average receivers snagging his passes?
>> Will he ever learn to avoid bad throws, or will he still be making them when he's pushing 40 playing in the NFC championship game?

So there are questions. But the facts don't lie, with Anderson in there we won 10 games. I like how Peter King put it:
    You can't trade Derek Anderson. You work for years to develop a quarterback and have the kind of passing-game production the Browns had in 2007. You can't take the triggerman and deal him, figuring that Brady Quinn will step in and pick up right where Anderson left off. You have no idea if Quinn's going to be a solid NFL quarterback or not.

    What Savage has to do is keep Anderson around at least one more year, and then make a judgment. If Anderson plays great again next year, then you think of peddling Quinn if you can get good value for him. If not, you hang onto him, and you have an Aaron Rodgers situation on your hands. There are worse things -- like not having a quarterback at all.

The basic goal of Anderson's deal should be:
>> Something we can live with for the next few (3-5?) years if he confirms himself as an elite quarterback. If he does that, getting rid of Quinn (or letting him ride the bench. Don't forget, his contract is full of escalators that he may never hit) should not be a concern.
>> Something that he can live with if he proves to be an elite QB.
>> Something that doesn't kill our cap if his does flame out and we have to cut him.
>> Something gives us a good bargaining position a year or so down the road if we decide to go with Quinn and trade Anderson

I'm thinking the deal should probably include a decent payday for 2008, including a modest signing bonus. Then a big roster bonus due before the 2009 season that will force the Browns management to $h!^ or get off the pot. And then the remainder would be an above average salary that includes a number of incentives that could make it into a very rich contract.

It could be tricky, and Anderson may opt to go the restricted free agent route if he can't get his big guarantees this year. But both he and the Browns have to be realistic about not only his huge potential, but also the huge risks.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Signs that we are descending into the offseason

Ah, the mediocrity of non-news news.

It draws to mind the middle-school taunt: "No sh**, Sherlock".

One of these days, maybe we'll find out WHAT the offers were.

My guess is that Lewis' deal is two years, probably more pay than the $5M he got for 2007. Not purely because he's worth it, but partially out of respect for him (all reports are that he's been a great addition to the locker room), and anticipation that in free agency some talentless team (Dolphins, Falcons, steelers) would offer him enough money so that he would agree to play for a crappy team.

Anderson's is probably a bit longer term, but a bit less money. Since they still have the fall-back of the restricted free agent thing, and since he's still more of an unknown commodity, that would seem prudent.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just a punt returner

I missed the Jacksonville/Patriots game. I was thankful to the Jaguars for knocking off pittsburgh, but I got a bit of amusement out of this Peter King nugget:
Goat of the Week

Jacksonville WR Dennis Northcutt. New England led 21-14 early in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, but the Jags were driving relentlessly behind better-than-expected quarterback David Garrard. Northcutt ran a post between two New England defenders, and Garrard hit him perfectly at the Patriots 2-yard line. You couldn't throw the ball any better -- right on Northcutt's hands. One problem. Northcutt clearly had alligator arms on the play, fearing the big hit from the New England safety, and the ball bounced off his hands, incomplete. Instead of tying the game at 21 and giving the Patriots something too think about down the stretch, the Jags had to settle for a field goal to close within 21-17. They never caught up.
He he, some things never change. . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

Post first, read later

Trying to find more details about the Grantham story, I found this piece on the OBR, laying it very clear the rumored background to Grantham's departure. Too bad I haven't been keeping up with my OBR news.

This just highlights what a great resource the OBR is for Browns fans. If only I wasn't too cheap to pony up the cash to be a subscriber. . .

Speak of the devil

This morning I posted about how having stability at the head coach makes it easier to swallow an inevitable coordinator change. I didn't realize that such a change would be only a few hours away. But per PFT, Todd Grantham has been shown the door.

I'm not disappointed, but I am a bit surprised. I'll be curious to find out if this came from Savage or Crennel or both. I guess the writing was on the wall with everyone getting a contract extension but Todd.

Maybe we can get that old steelers coach to be our new defensive coordinator. What was his name? Coward? Something like that?

Or maybe Savage has his eye on former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. I don't know if Ryan does the 3-4 or not, but I'm sure any former Raven would be on Savage's list.

Controversial and loving it

Going into the season I expected the end of the season to bring us a coaching controversy. But it looks like the PD is doing everything they can to foist a QB controversy on us.

I guess there isn't too much controversy about keeping Crennel, although I was surprised to see we're ready to give him an extension. One winning season does not a successful coach make. Remember Butch Davis in 2002? I don't expect Crennel to flame out like Davis, but he could come up with his own unique way to flame out.

Keeping Crennel around does have its upsides:
>> Veterans like playing for us.
>> He, along with his veterans, have really helped bring in an air of professionalism.
>> What's not to love about a fat guy with a mustache?
>> Through some trial and error, he and Savage seemed to have defined their roles pretty well.
>> I'll throw out the "s" word: he gives us stability. That is especially important given the wide latitude he gives his coordinators. No matter which team it is, replacing coordinators seems to be necessary every few years because the good ones get promoted and the bad one get fired. I'm sure the players like to know that even though there will likely be upheaval every few years, its not going to be a complete slash and burn.

Of course, its got its downsides too:
>> Every few games we get a really boneheaded move that may or may not be his fault. Bad challenges to calls, bad clock management.
>> A resistance to change. This means veterans play even when there are rookies who could take their spot. This is the flip side of the positive that veterans like playing for us.
>> He's smart enough to know when to keep his cards close to his chest, and not throw his players and staff under the bus. But lots of times he comes off sounding like an idiot in his press conferences, especially when its explaining a bad performance. I trust that he is not an idiot, and taking the heat for your players can be admirable. But it makes losses just a little bit worse.

All in all, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. This franchise is looking like it has finally turned the corner, and it being run like a professional team should be. That doesn't guarantee success on the field, but it sure makes it alot easier to attain.


As far as the QB "controversy": What's so controversial? Sign Anderson, listen to trade offers, give Quinn a chance to beat him out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

At times like this, its a good thing Phil Savage is a humble man

Since the signing of Rob Chudzinski, the conventional wisdom has been that he was Phil Savage's pick, with Crennel essentially being told "this is your guy, hope you like him". Not that I've ever heard that Crennel protested to Chud's hiring. But it will be hard to forget that Crennel's original pick was fullback-focused (and, as well documented by Ace Davis, none-too truthful) Mo Carthon. If Crennel had had the coordinator pick to make on his own, he well could have ended up going with Jeff Davidson, whose Carolina offense was ranked 27th by Football Outsiders.

If Savage is to be given credit for getting Chud to Berea, then his selection has recently been validated by the Ravens who wanted Chud to come in to interview for their head coaching job. Fortunately for all of us, Chud turned them down, and signed an extension to stay in Cleveland. It works for Cleveland since Chud deserves alot of credit for the offense's resurgence; and it works for Chud since the Raven's coaching job has to be one of the worst positions in the NFL. Who would want to be the Raven's ostensible coach when Ray Lewis is the one calling the shots?

While Chud may be Savage's most important addition last season, his biggest addition is Joe Thomas, who has just won a back-door ticket to the Pro Bowl. Thomas has also been earning "Best Left Tackle" nods from national writers like Peter King and Len Pasquarelli. Its really hard for me to overstate how great it is to finally have an offensive line, and the whole package is really upgraded with a premier (and young!) left tackle. Now when we debate who should be at quarterback or running back, we can discuss them on their own merits rather than constantly saying "if they had protection, they could be. . .".

In one season, Phil Savage has turned around the Browns' offense. There are still pieces that will need tweaking, but even if an off-season of being planned against knocks them down a couple rungs next season, at least it won't be a bad offense. And that is all I ask for. Now about that defense. . .