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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Part III – Browns Fans and Why We Care

Cleveland Browns Fans – Why We Care (So Much)

In the finale of my three blogs that pertain to the fans of the Cleveland Browns, I break down the reasons why the fan base is in love with the NFL franchise so much.

- Cleveland is a town with a long-standing history with the team

The Cleveland Browns are one of the oldest franchises since its inception in 1946.  The long time period has given fans a chance to gain an attachment to the franchise and in turn pass it down to future generations.  Fortunately, the beginnings of the team were met with much success – eight championships in less than twenty seasons.  This likely reinforced the love affair between the fans and the team and made it easier for younger people to become supporters.  Recently, the team has struggled, but the sport’s affection makes it easier to still talk about and support the Browns.

It’s no secret that football is currently the most popular sport in America.  So much revenue is generated whether it’s through ticket sales, merchandise, television dollars (i.e. Direct Ticket viewership, advertising, etc) annually.  Therefore, across the country the team that garners the most love and attention in any given city is typically the football team (with a few exceptions like Boston or New York).  The formula is thus simple math; a historical long connection with a franchise in the popular sport leads to a very strong fan base.

– Fans have a fear of losing team again

There has been growing sentiment regarding the extent of love given to the Browns by Cleveland fans, and one does not have to think too hard to understand this.  Over fifteen years have passed, but for some the scars are still fresh from when the NFL team was ripped from our city.  Several were heartbroken, while others still cannot get over the pain they endured.  Some Browns fans (right or wrong) feel the franchise needs undying love as this will help avoid another move.  Opponents feel this is a excessive reaction, however there have been talks about changing the league as of late.

Los Angeles has been without a team for several years now and theories have been floating about a current NFL team relocating to “Tinsel Town”.  Also, with having one game played annually in London and talks about expanding the league abroad, some feel a team would leave to move across the pond.  Granted, there have been several franchises ahead of the Browns that have been talked about possibly moving (like the Jaguars, Vikings, and Chargers to name a few).  Nonetheless, the possibility of losing the franchise again exists for Browns fans.  This leads to those having a least a little worry in the back of their minds when the topic arises.

– The environment is conducive to supporting the team

Unlike Miami or Los Angeles, Cleveland is a city that does not have beaches or great weather all year round.  Therefore, the habitants near Lake Erie have to find other forms of amusement especially when it’s snowing/raining/cold outside.  Watching local sports (indoors) is one of those options people have on almost a daily basis.  For the most part, fans have taken advantage of this as sports bars, event venues, or even a person’s couch contain Cleveland supporters.  Couple this to the fact that football is a sport typically played during some of the worst weather, and one can clearly see why fans in northeast Ohio gravitate towards watching the Cleveland Browns.

Additionally, unlike New York City or Chicago, there are not as many national landmarks as some of the larger cities in the country.  This relates to the previous point as it diminishes the options of attractions around the area.  The same point holds true; fans will look for other areas in town to spend their entertainment dollar.  Although the Browns recently have not been the most exciting team to watch, supporters continue to follow the franchise year after year.

– Cleveland is not a transplant city

Larger cities in the county typically have a more diverse blend of inhabitants from many walks of life.  This includes people from different parts of the country, who in turn have various backgrounds.  In the sports realm these individuals likely support their regional team, however there are those who convert to the local franchises.  A smaller town like Cleveland is the opposite; most fans are natives of the city or surrounding area.  This leads to the fan base comprising mostly of supporters of the local teams (again taking into account the small percentage of people who moved to Cleveland and are fans of their local teams).

– Hardships lead to type of fans

Let’s face it – Cleveland’s economy has hit some hard times.  Businesses have left the area and their hollow remains are reminders of what commerce was once like.  I’m sure everyone is familiar with the “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video” poking fun at our city.  Additionally, the population in northeast Ohio has been declining annually.  This speaks volumes for those current residents who choose to live in the area where several have left.  Clevelanders have endured tough times over the years but continue forward and foresee good times in the future.  This parallels being a fan of the Browns franchise; there have not been many victories as of late but the fan base sticks with the team and will be overjoyed when they turn the corner and finally win on a consistent basis.

I hope this gave a better understanding for people who cannot comprehend how Browns fans continue to support the team year after year.  The reasons why the franchise’s supporters are this way relates both the individuals themselves and the city of Cleveland (and surrounding areas).  Combining the two leads to one of (if not) the best NFL fan bases in the country.  They are supportive, passionate, and dying to see a winner.

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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Cleveland Browns Fans

 

Defensive Players to Watch…NFL Combine

012 NFL Combine – Defense:  Besides the obvious, here’s a list of a few players on defense to keep an eye on.

Twelve to Watch on Defense:

Defensive Lineman (outside of Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram) – Jared Crick (tackle), Whitney Mercilus (end), Nick Perry (end), Devon Still (tackle)

Crick – 6’6” 285 Lbs

Mercilus – 6’3” 240 Lbs

Perry – 6’3” 250 Lbs

Still – 6’5” 310 Lbs

Synopsis:  The Browns need that last piece of the defensive line – the other starter at defensive end.  Obviously Still and Crick are tackles, but it never hurts to have depth.  It’s interesting to notice the size similarities between Mercilus and Perry.  The Browns need a consistent pass rusher and the combine could help decide which of the two is a better fit.

My take:  Depending on what the Browns do at #4, I would be a fan of Mercilus or Perry at #22 or #37 (if they are still available).  If they feel they have their rush end in Sheard, who had a promising rookie year, they could go for either more of a run stuffing end (Perry – who had more overall tackles in 2011) or another pass rusher (Mercilus – who had more sacks in 2011).  Additionally, the Browns should not completely ignore the two tackles, and I hope they get good value and pick one when it’s no longer a reach.

Linebackers (outside of Dont’a Hightower) – Vontaze Burfict, Zach Brown, Lavonte David, Emmanuel Acho

Burfict – 6’3” 252 Lbs

Brown – 6’2” 220 Lbs

David – 6’1” 225 Lbs

Acho – 6’2” 240 Lbs

Synopsis:  It’s rather amazing at how similar the sizes of the linebackers are on this list.  How each one can separate from the rest of the pack (besides film) would be through the drills and team interviews.  Burfict is one excellent player, when his head is screwed on.  Brown has been moving up and down boards, and the combine will be very important.  The others can definitely make a name for themselves next week as well.

My take:  Burfict is the risk/reward player in this group.  I love watching him play and he’s a freak.  However, I don’t really see the front office taking a risk on him, as he has the reputation as a head case.  The position needs upgraded badly (even if they re-sign D’Qwell Jackson) and I hope the team selects a linebacker in the first few rounds.  I would like to see some consistency from Brown before buying in.  The Browns could draft multiple guys from this group for both depth and special teams purposes, assuming these positions are avoided in free agency.

Secondary (outside of Mark Barron due to injury, Janoris Jenkins, and Morris Claiborne) – Trumaine Johnson (cornerback), Dre Kickpatrick (cornerback), Shaun Prater (cornerback), Trent Robinson (free safety)

Johnson – 6’3” 210 Lbs

Kirkpatrick – 6’3” 192 Lbs

Prater – 5’11” 185

Robinson – 5’10” 197 Lbs

Synopsis:  The Browns need another corner to pair up with Joe Haden.  Again, if Morris Claiborne is taken with the fourth pick, most likely another cornerback won’t be taken until the later rounds (if at all).  Robinson is an appealing option, as the Browns could use another safety, and I’m not sure what their plans are with Sheldon Brown.

My take:  Kirkpatrick may be off the board by the Browns pick at #22.  Even if they get Claiborne, I would still support a Johnson or Prater selection in the later rounds who could contribute in nickel/dime packages and special teams.  However, Buster Skrine had somewhat productive year, so selecting multiple secondary players may not be ideal for the team.  I have not heard too much about Robinson, so the Browns should weigh his pros and cons to decide if he is a NFL-caliber starter.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Cleveland Browns Fans

 

NFL Combine – Offensive Players to Watch

2012 NFL Combine – Offense:

Besides the obvious, here’s a list of a few players on offense to keep an eye on.

(I’ve omitted special teams positions for several reasons including they aren’t drafted high or at all.  I’ve also omitted tight ends, as we have several on the roster, even if they are no Rob Gronkowski).

Seventeen on Offense to Watch:

Quarterbacks (outside of Luck and Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill due to injury) – Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Brock Osweiler

Cousins – 6’3” 205 Lbs
Foles – 6’5” 240 Lbs
Osweiler – 6’8” 240 Lbs

Synopsis:  The most important position on the field should have a watchful eye on them during the combine.  Of course if the Browns draft Griffin, this discussion is moot regarding the above players.  However, if not, the Browns have a few options for a few signal callers.

Cousins is an undersized project, however he is known as a leader and winner in college.  Foles has great size but has gone under the radar for the most part during his collegiate career.  Osweiler should be considered based on his physical tools; whether he can play in the NFL could be another story.

My take:  Personally, Cousins reminds me of Colt McCoy and since we have one on the team I do not see the Browns drafting him.  If they don’t draft Griffin I would be intrigued by Osweiler in the later rounds; he is tall and definitely athletic.  I’m not the biggest Foles fan, and unless he has a terrific combine showing, I would not be upset if they went in another direction.

Wide Receivers (outside of Blackmon, Wright, Floyd, and Sanu) – Joe Adams, Lavon Brazill, Ryan Broyles, Marvin McNutt, Eric Page

Adams – 5’11” 190 Lbs
Brazill – 5’11” 191 Lbs
Broyles – 5’10” 188 Lbs
McNutt – 6-‘4” 215 Lbs
Page – 5’10” 180 Lbs

Synopsis:  All the receivers bring something valuable to the teams who draft them.  Pretty much any of the five could all be a returner as well as a second or third receiver.  What stands out is McNutt’s size over everyone else. All are speed guys and would be a great complement to Greg Little and anyone else they would acquire.

My take:  Even if the Browns get a free agent wide out or one early in the draft, I would be all for taking him another one later in the draft.  I like McNutt for his size, but would not complain if they took any on this list.  I hope Page or Brazill both slide (where the Browns scoop them up) due to them playing at smaller schools. Broyles should be healed from his 2011 injury, but that question mark could cause him to slide as well.

Running Backs (outside of Lamar Miller) – Edwin Baker, Doug Martin, Isaiah Pead, Chris Rainey, La Michael James

Baker – 5’9” 210 Lbs
Martin – 5’9” 215 Lbs
Pead – 5’11” 200 Lbs
Rainey – 5’9” 174 Lbs
James – 5’9” 185 Lbs

Synopsis:  Chris Rainey’s size (or lack thereof) is a concern, however he will be used as more of a running back/receiver like Percy Harvin in the NFL.  All are smaller backs who would be good complements to a larger runner for the Browns (if they keep Hillis).  Again, I feel like they can get one of these guys in the later rounds, which I hope they do.

My take:  Out of the group, my favorite would probably be Pead due to his size and speed.  Martin would be a viable option as well, due to his tougher running style that AFC North backs typically possess.  I worry about La Michael taking a beating from the defense of the Ravens and Steelers.  I hope the Browns do their homework on Baker, as I’ve not heard his name mentioned too often; I believe he could be a late round steal.

Offensive Lineman (outside of Riley Reif and Matt Kalil) – Mike Adams (tackle), Nate Potter (tackle), Jonathan Martin (tackle), Andrew Datko (tackle)

Adams – 6’7” 323 Lbs
Potter – 6’6” 295 Lbs
Martin – 6’6” 304 Lbs
Datko – 6’6” 321 Lbs

Synopsis:  All have excellent size and the ability to play in the NFL.  Adams will likely be taken the earliest of the group in the draft, but all seem to be viable options.  The most important thing to focus on during the combine would be the players’ mechanics and what type of shape they are at the combine; there’s no excuse to see the condition Andre Smith was a few seasons ago.

My take:  Obviously the Browns need a very good right tackle to come in an make an impact.  All four guys listed are tackles, which was done on purpose.  Currently, I believe Mike Adams is overvalued (which could change) but I would like to see what he can do in Indianapolis.  I hope the team takes one of these guys, like a Martin or Datko, in the mid rounds to open holes and help the offense move the ball

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in NFL Combine

 

Who We Are – Part II – Browns Fans

Browns fans:  Who we are – Part II

Now that I have given you a glimpse of the fan base of the Cleveland Browns, let me drive the point home and focus more about their emotions.  One cannot deny the supporters wearing their heart on their sleeves in regards to the NFL team.

Passionate does not even begin to describe Cleveland Browns fans.  We are known for our hard-core section of the stadium known as the Dawg Pound.  Here – anything goes, as it’s the loudest, most vulgar portion of the venue where alcohol is a plenty.  As mentioned previously, the Browns Backers is one of the largest organizations for a professional franchise in terms of memberships.  Fans from around the country come to meet in their local watering hole to watch and cheer on the Browns.

Additionally, talk radio (in both formats of radio and television) seems to attract passionate responses from fans on a daily basis regarding the Browns.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the day before the Steelers game or a Tuesday in February, callers want to talk about the Browns at any chance.  Nothing acquires passion like quarterback talk and what the team should do about the player behind center.  Couple that with the telling of stories about how close the team was to winning the Super Bowl in the late 80s (and the many disappointments ever since), and many emotions will flourish from callers and listeners alike.

Along with the enthusiasm, fans are looking forward (a huge understatement) towards a winning product.  The base has been waiting and wants the franchise to turn the corner and be the opposite of what they have generally been since 1999.  During games, fans try to make the best of a poor situation (although usually in jest) – there are positive comments regarding the players on the field and how they will become better down the road.  The fans cheer for first downs gained by the offense louder than most fans do after touchdowns.

Fans of the NFL franchise in northeast Ohio can be illustrated as a proud bunch, sometimes to a fault.  People born or raised from this area have affection about their roots no matter if they leave that part of the country or not.  When meeting fellow natives of the region, there’s an understanding reached (and sometimes even an appreciation and friendship) between the no longer strangers.  We know what kind of people grow up in that part of the country and how friendly and caring we can be.  We also know what kinds of things we have gone through as sports fans and our demeanor currently and going forward.

True Cleveland fans always stick with the team, no matter what.  We never support the local teams before over our native franchise when moving to a new city.  Cleveland Browns fans want to say they come from the best part of the country (and usually do, even if it’s not entirely accurate).  We want a chance to boast, to brag, and to say we are the best at something.  Since this has not been the case in almost fifty years, it has been weighing heavily on the fans’ minds.

Unfortunately it’s not all peaches and cream when referring to Browns fans.  I cannot ignore the fact that Cleveland natives are some of the most bitter, angry, and jealous sports fans in the country (and with good reason).  They have been tormented for decades with sub .500 seasons, near championships only to see the team falter, having their franchise move, and seeing other teams and players enjoy success constantly.

It seems as though the Browns are rebuilding over and over, while some franchises are good perennially (i.e. Steelers and Ravens), and others tear down their roster only to rebuild faster than Cleveland (i.e. Falcons and Saints).  Therefore, we are envious and want to know when our time to shine will come.

One thing that upsets Browns fans is how other fans appear to be apathetic towards their franchise, especially when they are, at worst, mediocre.  The 2011 playoff Cincinnati Bengals did not sell out several of their home games and therefore were blacked out locally.  Giants’ fans had enough of Tom Coughlin while the team was 6-6 a few months ago.  Browns fans sell out games every year, even with their usual four to five win seasons.  They are so starved to see a good (or even respectable team) that they would be partying and celebrating a 6-6 record.

Finally, bitterness rears its ugly head when Cleveland fans witness success with previous players or coaches.  A large part of it is jealously, as they wish the personnel could have excelled more while donning the orange and brown.

So there are a few more aspects of what it means to be a Cleveland Browns fan.  We are a tough, zealous sect of the sports world who has witnessed our fair share of anguish and disbelief.  For that, we become testy but we know at the end of the day we will still support the team year after year.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in NFL Combine

 

Who We Are – Browns Fans – Part I

Browns fans:  Who we are – Part I

Before I go more in depth discussing my favorite franchise, let me pull the curtain back and help explain (to outsiders) the fan base to which I am proud to be a part of.  Cleveland Browns fans are some of the most knowledgeable football fanatics I have ever met.  This comes both in the sense of historically and in the recent future.  When watching the team play during a typical Sunday afternoon, I can count numerous people making references to 1964 (the franchise’s last championship), the fact they team has 8 titles (dating back to the 1946 AAFC Championship), or even the Bernie Kosar era.  They remember the players, the old stadium, and the feeling they had watching (or even hearing about) “the good old times.” We argue that Otto Graham was the best quarterback ever and that Paul Brown was the best coach.

However, fans also remember the history of other teams as well; we grow tired of the Steelers, Patriots, 49ers, etc. due to their success (and multiple championships) that have spanned over decades.  Fans recall and hate the long losing streaks within the division.  We get depressed knowing that Chuck Noll and Bill Cower have Cleveland ties.  Some Browns fans still harbor hate towards John Elway for the three AFC Championship defeats.

We also have strong memories when it comes to former players and coaches.  Browns fans rue the day they drafted player “X” several years ago as now he is making an impact on a different team (after the franchise released him).  They also remember those whom the franchise drafted early and had little to no success (that list is plentiful).  Meanwhile, coach “Y” of another franchise is not as good as he appears, as we remember his multiple losing seasons with the brown and orange.

Also, Browns fans can be labeled students of the game; no more of this is as true as in offseason.  Potential draft picks, free agents, and available coaching hires have been scouted and studied by backers; by the time the team has an opportunity to make a move, a majority have a great idea of who they deem as worthy (or not).  There are discussions and debates among friends about who will help the team the most.  Perhaps it’s the perpetual losing, but getting to know personnel in the offseason has always been a strong suit for the fan base.

A large percentage of fans of opposing teams take the appropriately named offseason “off”.  They will watch the draft and keep an eye on their team’s moves in free agency, but the knowledge leading into the time period is not as apparent.  These fans do focus on their team a large portion of the year, but not for all twelve months.

Another description of Cleveland Browns fans is that they are extremely loyal (for the most part).  I’ve heard the expression “a Browns fan for life” way too many times to count, and I’m sure that phrase will be uttered thousands more times for over the next few decades.  Many feel they do not want to cheapen themselves by changing allegiances and taking a coward’s way out when it comes to having a favorite NFL team.

Aside from a select fair-weathered fans from northeast Ohio, the base of Browns fans will continue to support the team by going to games and purchasing paraphernalia.  Not only has Cleveland Browns Stadium been a place for fans to convene, several take annual road trips to watch the team.  Personally when travelling, I always notice a large display of Browns gear in opposing cities.  One aspect that intrigued me was the level of loyalty I came across in other parts of the country.  I have met people who have never been to Cleveland and are Browns fans simply because their father was.  Loyalty breeds loyalty and one would suspect the next generation of those families would be Browns fans as well.

Traditionalists would be another word to describe fans of the NFL team from Cleveland.  Supporting a franchise without logos on their helmet (sans a few seasons with players’ numbers on the sides), no cheerleaders, and rather plain uniforms, fans clamor for old school football.  We enjoy the same color combination on our jerseys, and any changes (i.e. the brown pants in 2007) usually are greeted with uproar from the fans.  While teams like the Broncos, Buccaneers, and Rams have made major changes to their looks, these aspects (for the most part) have remained the same.

When thinking of what it means to be a Browns fan, one must consider that well informed, faithful, and purists are three of the several traits.  The base knows what came before the current team and believes they know who or what will help lead the team back to dominance; something we can all agree upon – is definitely coming.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Cleveland Browns Fans

 

Scouting the Combine

Scouting the Combine – What Will the Browns Take Away from It?

Before the 2012 NFL Draft occurs, there is an annual period in late February where a majority of athletes who just recently finished their collegiate career are on display – the scouting combine.  This is a weeklong-event in Indianapolis where scouts of the 32 franchises get a first-hand look at the options available in April.  Each year, there are five classes of testing that the athletes endure; some are more important than others.  The question that always intrigues me, is what does the front office of the Cleveland Browns take away from the scouting combine?

After arriving in Indianapolis, all athletes (regardless of position) report to a large room full of scouts, reporters, and other media members.  This is where the players will have their height and weight measured.  Depending on the player and what school they came from, this could be a focal part of the combine for scouts.  Historically, college athletes have been listed a little taller and weighing more than they will be at the combine, and some schools are worse about this than others. Outside of large discrepancies, this is not an extremely important part of the process; if the player can excel, size should not be an issue.

The next component of the scouting combine introduces players to the IQ test known as the wonderlic.  This measures a player’s mental aptitude and ability to make correct decisions in a short period of time.  Once again, the importance of a players score may be dependent on position; quarterback is the most cerebral position, where as a position of offensive guard relies more on speed and ability to read defenders (not to diminish the intelligence of lineman). However, there have been good quarterbacks with high (Eli Manning, Matt Stafford) and low (Dan Marino, Brett Favre) wonderlic scores as well as bad quarterbacks with high (Drew Henson, Charlie Frye) and low (Michael Bishop, Chris Leak) scores.  Therefore, this is an interesting and noteworthy segment in the process, but it should be the determining factor.

NFL teams send representatives to meet with the players for a “job interview”; here the teams will be able to gauge exactly what is in the player’s minds and how serious they are to become professional athletes.  General managers, and other scouts will ask questions about the man’s background and history to help determine passion, work ethic, and what kind of person they could get in the locker room.  Obviously, each team is different from the next and some may value “good characters” more than others.  Nonetheless, this process is much more important than the two preceding ones, as teams are typically trying to find the right traits and qualities to pinpoint the correct prospects, while weeding out the men who display red flags in the short conversations.

The scouting combine has to include physical aspects of the weekend and does as when the participants go though the various workouts and training exercises.  Players are tested in lifting weights, agility exercises (i.e. 40 yard dash, cone drills, etc.), and measurement trainings like a broad and high jumps.  This is obviously a results-driven portion of the weekend; the ones who excel are given more notice than the rest.

Finally, the players (mostly the skilled positions – quarterback, running back, wide receivers) get a chance to compete using an actual football.  Although these workouts may not be in pads, it shows onlookers how the athletes compete with other talented athletes.  This is a more stimulating part of the week, and the better players must be put on notice; but like the workout portion they are not the only indicator of future success.

There are many things that should be taken away from the scouting combine, but overall the week in Indianapolis must only be a factor in determining a player’s value. One aspect missing from the player’s exhibition during the week is actual game film from the prior season.  Some players test better than others (like with students and education) and therefore game highlights could warrant more merit than agility drills or workout trainings.

Therefore, looking at the annual NFL scouting combine there are a few areas that carry different weight.  Before arriving to the venue, the Browns front office must do their homework (including expectations) on all available prospects that the team has targeted.  Following the week, the front office must judge all five aspects just witnessed in addition to several game films of the players.

I believe the front office of the Browns will target the best players who will greatly improve the team going forward.  Historically, they have taken higher character guys (Alex Mack, Joe Thomas, Joe Haden) early on in the draft, and have avoided the players with questionable backgrounds (Dez Bryant, Jimmy Smith, to name a few).  Therefore, the researching of the player’s background and personality come into play (which is not the case for some teams).

I also value the homework the team does on each player’s physical abilities, including more than the combine.  In Indianapolis, Haden ran a slower 40-yard dash time than expected and many assumed his draft position would fall.  Fortunately, this did not deter the Browns from selecting him, as they knew a minor injury was the root of the issue and he was still an exceptional player (and he still is).  That being said, the next few weeks will be the beginning of the very important part the offseason; the combine kicks off what will hopefully be additional steps towards building a long-term winner.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in NFL Combine