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. . .