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Category Archives: Front Office/Coaching

What’s the Latest from Berea?

What’s the Latest from Berea?

Pre-Combine News and Notes: Cleveland Browns

In just over a week, the Browns will be sending representatives to Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine.  That is a crucial part of the NFL season for two reasons.  Outside of the obvious that front offices can get up close looks at potential new members of their clubs, recent history has shown that this has been an outlet for trade and free agency discussion amongst franchises.  However, before that begins let’s look back at what has gone down for the Cleveland football team.

McCloughan on Board

The former General Manager of the Redskins, Scot McCloughan has joined up with the Browns in a consulting role for the upcoming league year.  It’s been reported that the executive has shared his feelings regarding some possible quarterbacks for the Browns.  First, is that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback – but not a great, franchise signal caller (you can win championships with).  Secondly, McCloughan has made mention that he is supportive of the former University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.  Granted, the former Redskin will be employed in a part-time advisory role, but one would have to believe his thoughts and beliefs will have to be considered strongly.  Personally, I would be ok with either – assuming the Browns secure both a veteran and a top-end rookie, they should vastly improve that position.

A.J. is Unrestricted

In an unusual set of circumstances, Bengals’ quarterback (for the time being) has been granted unrestricted free agency with the team who drafted him, following a grievance hearing.  I’ve always envisioned him with the dreaded label “game manager”, but it would appear that he might get his shot to be a full-time starter in 2018.  After nearly trading for McCarron last fall, the Browns might take another shot to secure the athlete.  The big difference between 2017 and 2018 is that the team has replaced Sashi Brown with John Dorsey (and Eliot Wolf and Alonzso Highsmith).  One would have to believe that the influx of football knowledge would overrule Hue Jackson if they did not share the same feelings towards the signal caller.  McCarron wouldn’t be my first choice as a Browns’ quarterback but the team could do worse.

Canton/Cleveland Draft?

It was recently announced that Canton and Cleveland (in a joint weekend) is a possible destination for either the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft.  I would be happy that the local economy would see another spike over a couple of days, as well as northeast Ohio being the center of the professional football world.  I might even attend some part of the event – provided they win the right to host.  There are other worthy candidates like Kansas City and Denver (to name a few).  Either way, I will be watching from somewhere and hope the Browns pick last in the first round instead of first.

Conclusion:  In the first slow period after the Super Bowl, the Browns will receive bits of information regarding potential new  members of the 2018 squad.  First, Scot McCloughan will put in his two cents about the team’s direction going forward.  It will be very interesting to see how it aligns with the rest of the front office.  Also, A.J. McCarron will be on the market next month, with no compensation required to sign him.  Will signing him be a sound decision, or was Hue Jackson (and company) panicking last year when they nearly traded for the Bengals’ backup quarterback?

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News About the Browns

News About the Browns

Latest Details Surrounding the Cleveland Browns

Instead of getting ready for the Super Bowl (like all other fifty-one times), the Browns are in the midst of their offseason.  We are already aware of the hiring of the new general manager, and a few members who have recently joined his staff.  However, the team recently added a guy to a role that has not been separate from the head coach (since Hue Jackson has been hired).  Meanwhile, a very important week just concluded for the front office – which included an opportunity to get a closer look at possible new members of the club.  Finally, a longtime veteran has been doing the rounds in the media; prompting the question – what does this mean?

A New Play Caller

Following his six seasons as offensive coordinator to a team east of the Browns (who wear black and yellow), Todd Haley’s contract was not renewed with that team.  Just a few days later, the Cleveland Browns spoke to him to fill the same role with the orange and brown.  Not a short while longer he accepted and for the first time since the Mike Pettine era, the Browns will have a head coach and an offensive coordinator who are two different people.  There have been multiple rumblings that Haley is a difficult guy to work with and can get under players and other coaches’ skin.  However, at this point I am not concerned about that; he seems like he knows what he is doing and that is good enough to feel that the Browns have made a solid hire.

Senior Bowl

The ever important week that occurs in Mobile, Alabama is wrapping up this evening following the playing of the Senior Bowl.  The headliners were (at least that is what local media told me) Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen; a pair of signal callers who can still easily fall or climb in draft boards during the coming months.  I hope that John Dorsey keeps an eye on a couple late round guys (where Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt were selected in prior years) – who can vastly improve the team.  Should they take a senior in the early rounds?  I would be okay with that, as long that the value is worth the investment.

Joe Thomas Hitting the Circuit

In case you haven’t heard, but Joe Thomas has been a popular member of the media over the past several weeks.  In addition to having his own podcast with Andrew Hawkins, he has been on multiple radio stations and television segments.  A local radio guy even got worked into a fit that Joe (a former athlete) could actually excel in another industry.  Personally, I think Joe is funny and knowledgable about multiple subjects beyond football.  I would prefer he continue his professional career with the Browns for a few more seasons but completely understand him continuing his career off the field.  Is (at least) one playoff game for Joe Thomas and the Browns too much to ask?

Conclusion:  The Browns secured a solid offensive mind to their coaching staff, and are doing their due diligence with the upcoming draft class.  I would like to say the arrow is pointing up for the franchise, but a tremendous amount of work still has to occur prior to any sort of success still occurring.  Up next is the NFL Scouting Combine, where underclassmen will join the seniors in preparing themselves for the upcoming draft.

 

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More Changes for the Browns

More Changes for the Browns

Out with the Old…

Another offseason and yet another overhaul for the orange and brown.  That is not surprising, considering what the franchise has become over the past few seasons.  I remember a younger version of myself where I used to think “now they have it right with (enter new general manager, head coach, etc)”.  However, I cannot get hyped anymore regarding changes with this team – at least until they can show consistent winning – and deep playoff runs.  Nevertheless, let’s look further into a few tweaks to the members of the franchise.

New Guys in the Front Office

Following the replacement of Sashi Brown for John Dorsey – they also added Alonzo Highsmith (for the role of Vice President of Player Personnel) and Eliot Wolf (as the assistant General Manager).  The Browns are putting together a front office that is full of “football guys” after years of having members without much experience with the league or football in general.  They don’t have to do much to improve upon their predecessors and can trip and fall over that low bar.

Turnover in Coaching Ranks

Looking at the offensive side of the football, Ken Zampese replaces David Lee as the Browns’ quarterback coach.  Zampese has worked multiple years with coach Jackson in Cincinnati – but was ousted as offensive coordinator last season amid a struggling offense.  That position remains open for the orange and brown and many are wondering if coach Jackson is willing to give up play calling duties.  Stayed tuned to see what route the Browns take for their 2018 campaign and beyond.

After spending seven years under multiple coaches and general managers, the special teams will no longer be headed by Chris Tabor.  I wish him the best as he seems like a nice guy and a passionate coach – but they Browns were not winning games because of this aspect of their team.  I would be surprised (and disappointed) if the special teams takes a step back under their new coach.

Next Steps

The new front office will be busy over the next few weeks attending several collegiate all-star games across the country.  It’s well-known about their assets in the upcoming draft; it would be nice to see the men selecting draft picks actually take franchise-changing athletes who can significantly improve this team.  Five selections in the first two rounds does not come around every year, thus the Browns must take advantage.

Conclusion:  The anger, frustration, and parade are fortunately over for the 2017 Browns and I am moving forward.  I look for a strong increase in talent and play next fall, but many correct decisions must be made by John Dorsey and Company before that happens.

 

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Updating the Cleveland Browns

Updating the Cleveland Browns

The Latest News Coming from Cleveland

Well, there are other things going on in the world of sports – outside of the NBA Finals.  The Browns are making moves both by acquisition and departure, hopefully they were the correct ones.  Meanwhile, a possible issue could be looming for one of the team’s better players.

The Trade (Heard Round the World?)

I am being a tad facetious when I mention the swapping of underachieving athletes between the Browns and the Jets.  The Browns sent linebacker Demario Davis to his former club and agreed to take Calvin Pryor (the former first round safety from the University of Louisville).  I am hoping that Pryor can fill in at the strong safety role for the orange and brown – while rookie Jabril Peppers plays a hybrid linebacker/safety role.  It’s a boom or bust proposition made by the Brown; a gamble I would prefer over Demario Davis.

Potential Contract Dispute?

It will be interesting to determine whether running back Isaiah Crowell will be on the roster for several more years or just though the 2017 campaign.  The veteran signed a restricted free agent tender a couple months ago, guaranteeing his spot on the club this year.  What will happen after this occurs?  The Browns have Duke Johnson and newly acquired Matthew Dayes to compete at the running back position.  I would venture that the team would add another talented runner to this group if they wanted to get rid of Crowell.  I would prefer the team keeps the veteran on this team, but that is the nature of the business – anywhere the team can upgrade, they should do it.

Latest Release

Before he could even put the pads on and get ready for training camp, Tyvis Powell was let go by the orange and brown.  Personally, I would have liked for him to compete on the gridiron to see what will be the best combination of safeties for this franchise.  However, the team did not agree with me and they will go the other direction.  I sincerely hope that Derrick Kindred and Ed Reynolds step up and provide solid play at that position.  Anything similar to what we saw in 2016 and the Browns are in trouble this fall.

Conclusion:  There were some under the radar rumblings for the Cleveland NFL franchise at this point in the season.  I firmly believe they will be improved from a year ago – but am far from confident that they are making all the correct decisions.  Hopefully the team has taken to the new leadership (especially on defense) and fans will see an up close difference during next month’s practices.

 

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Latest News with the Browns

Latest News with the Browns

Newsworthy Browns Notes

The stories are not as enticing as they were during the NFL Draft, but the Browns are still grabbing headlines. First they added a new man to bring in talent for the franchise; meanwhile there has been some backlash by the media regarding both veterans and rookies alike.

Another Addition to the Front Office

A few days ago, the Browns announced that Ryan Grigson was added to the staff with the title of Senior Personnel Executive. I must admit that I have mixed emotions regarding this decision. On one hand, the franchise added a solid scout who has had a respectable track record in that department. However, Grigson is coming off of a stint as a general manager of the Indianapolis Colts that left much to be desired. The draft misses, trading for Trent Richardson, and inability to surround quarterback Andrew Luck with a reputable supporting cast come first to mind. I guess I will give the new hire a break, but do not to expect that he will do anything of significance while being with the orange and brown.

Brock Osweiler Banter

The veteran quarterback was peppered with questions following the recent OTAs practice sessions – a majority of these were of negative tone imitating that the signal caller will not be the “guy” for the Browns. Regardless of what last year’s film says – Osweiler will get his shot with the team to prove he can handle the duties on Sunday. Personally, I don’t know what was gained by a reporter being combative at this point of the year. Perhaps this will be a driving force for the newly acquired quarterback?

Early Injuries?

Of course fans and media alike are making gigantic deals of Myles Garrett and Jabril Peppers not practicing due to minor injuries in May. The pair of first round draft selections will be made or broken in the fall, not whether they are 100% full go four months prior to the regular season beginning. If Howard Wilson’s injury should have taught us anything, it’s that people can be sidelined at any point in the season. Therefore, I am ok with Hue Jackson taking precautions during spring practices.

Conclusion: Unfortunately, there was not a bunch of positive news for the Cleveland Browns these last few days (unless you think the Grigson hire was a home run). The doldrums of the NFL calendar march on, and we have just under two months until the team hits training camp in stride. In the meantime, we should expect less than ideal stories surrounding the team.

 

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NFL Scouting Combine – First Reaction

NFL Scouting Combine – First Reaction

What’s Going on During the NFL Combine – Early Negativity

On the first day of on the field competition, no one really stood out as performing exceptionally well on the gridiron.  Instead, there were medical or physical issues with multiple guys that could lead to evaluations that might hurt their draft stocks.  Obviously (whether that happens or not), that will be up to front offices and how they react/value this information.  Also, a couple of athletes will not be participating due to injury or illness.  Let’s take a deeper look into these situations.

Everyone Doesn’t Love Reuben

Linebacker Reuben Foster – billed as a top ten draft selection since last season ended, was dismissed from the combine after an altercation with a hospital employee (presumably during his medical assessment).  This is clearly not a good look for two reasons; it shows a bad side of his behavior and not being able to control his emotions.  Additionally, did Foster have something to hide regarding his health?  I still think he will be a fine investment, but he will likely slide in the first round of April’s draft.  Personally, I don’t feel that the Browns should go for him with the twelfth choice.

Leonard Packing on the Pounds

Many were surprised at running back Leonard Fournette weighing in a 240 pounds as a running back.  Despite this (and explaining himself as retaining water weight) he ran the forty yard dash and drills pretty well.  I cannot confirm that teams will drop him as a result of him “not being prepared” for the combine – but perhaps he drops below Dalvin Cook as an option.  Running back is not a position of need for the Browns – unfortunately they do not have the luxury of loading up there.  Thus, Fournette will not be an option for the orange and brown if still on the board (during their second pick).

Hooker is Hurt

These injuries occurred prior to the combine, but now they are coming ahead for the former Ohio State safety.  Malik Hooker had shoulder and groin surgery several weeks ago – causing the star to miss time prior to the draft.  Will clubs see this as a guy who is injury prone?  Or will they see it as Hooker trying to be fully healthy before entering the league?  I would be on board with taking the star at number twelve, provided he drops that far.  The Browns need a tremendous safety for their defense and Hooker fits that description.  His injuries do not worry me at this point.

Barnett’s Unavailability at Indy

Just coming down is the news that pass rusher Derek Barnett will not be performing due to him being sick.  That should obviously not affect his draft status, as these things happen.  I would not be surprised to be an exceptional player in this year’s draft – but assuming the orange and brown select Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, they will not take Barnett with their second choice.

Conclusion:  I am eager to see the signal callers and wideouts perform in today’s action.  The Browns need to improve in these areas and I would like to hear about positive news coming from Indianapolis.

 

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The New Guy – Gregg Williams

The New Guy – Gregg Williams

Gregg Williams Press Conference

The Browns have had a history of coaches with exemplary opening press conferences, only to be followed by disappointments on the field – leading to the coach being fired.  New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams recently had a tremendous opening conference; I understand this will mean little if the Browns start out 1 -10 next year but there were some solid takeaways from his time with the media.

Pulling Back the Curtain

Williams spoke about many parts of the job that his predecessors have not disclosed.  He mentioned (on several occasions) how others are willing to come in and steal an incumbent’s job on a daily basis – be it a player or coach.  Coach Williams also let us in to his psyche, that he is extremely organized (to the brink of O.C.D.) and each day is a brand new one.  By which, this means that evaluations will occur for players daily and no one is able to rest on past successes.  I believe his style of motivating will be a huge positive for this defense.  I anticipate a jump in performance, but there are many variables that can determine how large of rise from 2015.

Knowledge and Experience

The defensive coordinate mentioned all the stops that he has been to (in the NFL) over the past few decades.  He also referenced how he was able to turn our defensive units in as little as one year.  Personally, if Gregg can bring his usual tenacity his players play with – then he will have done his job.  No matter whether it was against the Tennessee Titans (in the early 2000s), the New Orleans Saints (in the late 2000s), or the Saint Louis/Los Angeles Rams (in the middle 2010s) it was always a long day against a Gregg Williams led defense.

Effort, Effort, Effort

There was a tremendous amount of references to players working hard each and every day for its entirety.  Fighting through pain or fatigue in the fourth quarter appears to be a foreign concept to the Cleveland Browns over the past few seasons.  Hopefully this mentality will be altered – as the coach noted that he wants all of his players to be in shape and ready to go in spring practices.  The Browns’ youth should surely help with this, as fresh legs late in contests appears to not be a problem.

Conclusion:  The ultra competitive coach sounds like a smart hire for the Cleveland Browns.  The defense (and the franchise as a whole) is in desperate need of an attitude adjustment; the Browns must be mean and nasty and not willing to put up with poor performances.  I am eager for the 2017 already but there are many more things that must occur prior to this.

 

 

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