By Tony Grossi
This edition of Hey Tony features questions about Owen Marecic’s future, Ozzie Newsome’s loyalty to Art Modell, Dick Schafrath’s Pro Football Hall of Fame chances, Carlton Mitchell and, of course, Brandon Weeden. Remember to check out www.tonygrossi.com to contribute to my new children’s book on the Browns.
Hey Tony: You've been around this team a long time and I've been a fan since the mid 70's. Can't recall it ever being this bad. I firmly believe that the only way this team gets better is by drafting good players. Not just in the early rounds but solid guys in later rounds. Our drafts in the recent past have been inconsistent at best. I have been a little encouraged by Tom Heckert’s drafts the last several years. What is your take on this fresh group coming in? I know it's early but do there seem to be some real contributors out there?
-- Craig, Atlanta
Hey Craig: Things may be changing. I have good vibes about Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Mitch Schwartz. If they are as good as they initially look, that’s a fairly strong draft in itself. If two or three of the others pan out, the draft gets better. I just wish they had a dominating receiver.
Hey Tony: If Brad Smelley truly shows he's "Tom Rathman" material and makes the squad as starting FB, could there be a place for Owen Marecic on the defense?
-- Mark, Martinez, CA
Hey Mark: First, Smelley is not a Rathman-type, who was primarily a smash-mouth blocker. Smelley is more of a pass-catching tight end – smaller, though. That said, if the Browns try to diversify Smelley into a part-time blocker, part-time H-back, that would put Marecic’s roster spot in jeopardy. I don’t believe a transition to defense is in the cards … but you never know. He played some linebacker at Stanford.
Hey Tony: You've said recently, "Cleveland is the City where quarterbacks go to die." Does this mean you think the Browns have had good quarterbacks but they "ruined" them by not surrounding them with talent or by not running an offense utilizing their strengths? Based on the flame-out of Derek Anderson in Arizona and the Broncos' efforts to avoid playing Brady Quinn, I tend to think the quarterbacks since '99 did not die here but were the walking dead when they arrived.
-- John, Delaware
Hey John: My point is the Browns: 1. have failed to develop any young quarterback in the expansion era (Tim Couch, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy); or, 2. have not seen a veteran have a good season or two here (Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Jake Delhomme).
Hey Tony: Clearly ESPN is your platform for writing, your columns lately have been glaringly better. Regarding your interview with Ozzie Newsome published Tuesday morning and specifically, the part on his emotional decision to join Art Modell in Baltimore: What were your personal feelings at the time? The HOF TE served Cleveland loyally for years and is obviously well respected, but that does that mean he should get a pass? Look at the current state of this franchise versus that of Baltimore’s, and then look at who is responsible. The man admitted he chose an “opportunity” over remaining a loyal part of our community. Any one that aligns himself with Art Modell simply cannot be considered a friend of Cleveland. Love to hear your personal opinion, if you feel comfortable providing it.
-- Dan Lind, New York City
Hey Dan: I think Newsome deserves a pass for this reason: The Browns didn’t offer Newsome a job until it was way too late. If Al Lerner had offered him the job as new Browns GM and Newsome turned it down to join Modell in Baltimore, then you can make the argument that he turned his back on Cleveland. But the new Browns, headed by Carmen Policy, chose instead to name Dwight Clark GM. By the time the Browns acknowledged that mistake and made overtures to Newsome, the Ravens were in the control of owner Steve Bisciotti and Newsome was ensconced in Baltimore with one Super Bowl championship and a team in the hunt for more. The fact is Modell took a chance on Newsome – he wasn’t a GM until he moved to Baltimore. It was the last wise move Modell made in his career, in fact.
Hey Tony: How would you compare Brandon Weeden's arm strength to Derek Anderson's?
-- Rick B, Pataskala, Ohio
Hey Rick: Similarly strong, but it appears that Weeden has a better touch on the shorter throws. Anderson had the touch of a blacksmith.
Hey Tony: I see that you are a Hall of Fame voter. That is a great honor for sure. Can you tell me what it would take to get the great Dick Schafrath in the Hall? You know his credentials and how he blocked for so many legends. What can the average fan do?
-- Gus Stefanow, Wright Patterson AFB, OH
Hey Gus: Because his “modern era” eligibility has expired, Schafrath’s candidacy is reviewed every year by the senior committee, which is comprised of a subset of the total board of 44 selectors. At the yearly senior committee meeting, held some time in August, the senior candidates are reviewed with two members of the Hall of Fame in attendance to offer their opinions. Only two senior candidates each year are promoted to the finalist round for yearly induction. Then they must go through the larger vote like a regular finalist on the eve of the Super Bowl. The only thing a fan can do is keep alive Schafrath’s name with letters to the Hall of Fame, so that he receives a proper review each year. I know there have been movements recently to give Schafrath his due. It’s a tough road to hoe.
Hey Tony: Since our wide receiver corps has no over-the-top playmakers, what are the chances we will get to see Carlton Mitchell finally get some significant playing time? Since drafting him, we really haven't gotten the chance to see the kid play and show us his capabilities. The kid's huge at 6'3 215 and can stretch the field, a perfect target for mega-arm Brandon Weeden. Thanks.
-- Braden Brugler Port Clinton OH
Hey Braden: Mitchell’s 2011 season blew up when he broke a hand in training camp. By the time he physically recovered, he fell behind the receiver rotation learning a new offense and never caught up. If he can stay healthy this summer, he will get an opportunity to show his stuff in his third year.
Hey Tony: Not to open old wounds, but does Phil Taylor have a choice as to where his surgery will be performed? Remembering the cases involving LeCharles Bentley and Joe Jurevicius (two of six Browns in four years with staph infections), it seems there was some controversy as to whether a player must use the team's chosen facility. Are all the career ending Browns staph cases now resolved?
-- Mark Esposito, Branford, CT
Hey Mark: Yes, a player has the right to attend the surgeon of his choice. In the case of the Browns, the staph problem seems to have been eradicated. Jurevicius’ case was settled under undisclosed terms. Bentley’s is still pending.
Hey Tony: For years I have always looked forward to your "Hey Tony" segments. I am so glad you are doing well and are back. I am a season ticket holder and recently my son asked a question that I cannot answer for him. His question was, why is it in every sport such as basketball, soccer and football to name a few, the coach does not wear a uniform like they do in baseball? Also, do you think Evan Moore will be used this year? All he does (in preseason) is score touchdowns and catch the ball. Thanks.
-- Nick B., Erie Pa.
Hey Nick: Baseball is unique among the other sports because, traditionally, baseball managers commonly were player-managers, so they had to wear the same baseball uniform to play. Other managers doubled as third-base coaches, which required a uniform, or were retired players and preferred wearing uniforms. The last manager to wear a suit in the dugout was Connie Mack in the 1950s. Football coaches don’t wear suits anymore – although Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio petitioned the league to don one for one game three years ago. They are usually attired in “coach’s gear,” which is something loose-fitting with the team emblem on it, or, in the case of Bill Belichick, a team-issued hoodie. As for Moore, he showed at times last year he can be a mismatch problem for a defense and I’m sure will be incorporated more in the second season of the Pat Shurmur offense.
Hey Tony: When Reggie Hodges went down during training camp last year, the reports were that Dave Zastudil wasn't a viable option to return to the Browns because he wasn't medically healthy. But last year Zastudil punted for the Arizona Cardinals. What gives?
-- Al Winterhalter, Fairview Park
Hey Al: At the time, Zastudil had re-injured a muscle pull in his actual tryout with Arizona. The Cards waited for him to be ready and then signed him. The Browns weren’t interested because the two sides did not have an amicable parting the year before. Zastudil claimed he was injured when released and in fact filed a grievance to collect pay. I’m not sure how it turned out, but the move frosted the Browns.
Hey Tony: A number of columnists have remarked quite positively about Brandon Weeden's throwing accuracy. How much of Weeden's throwing accuracy can be attributed to having been a pitcher in his previous gig? Thanks.
-- Terry Fawdington, Westlake
Hey Terry: Evidently, Weeden’s accuracy as a pitcher wasn’t that good; he couldn’t get enough batters out. Hopefully his accuracy as a quarterback will be much better. Seriously, Weeden has talked about how different and unrelated the two throwing motions are. So I don’t think there’s a link there.
Hey Tony: Why are the Browns so adamant and hard-headed when they say the QB MUST play under center? Is it because that's how Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Steve Young did it? It seems like an archaic way of thinking. No one can convince me the QB can survey the field better from under center. When they’re six yards back he's already back to pass saving the O line a few seconds, a quick hand off can be made instead of watching a terribly slow developing hand off from under center. Need I say more? Maybe Colt McCoy would’ve had a better chance to succeed doing what suits him best?
-- Russ, Las Vegas
Hey Russ: Generally, coaches favor having their QB under center because it keeps the defense honest and forces them to respect the run. Yes, teams can run out of the shotgun, but few teams, if any, mount a respectable running game regularly out of the shotgun. Also, coaches that don’t like the shotgun believe a QB has more time to concentrate on his defensive reads by taking the snap from center.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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