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#HeyTony: Now that the Browns' QB competition is over, fans are unimpressed and wonder if it was a waste of time

Aug 23, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Now that the Browns’ quarterback competition of 2014 is over, fans are unimpressed and wonder if it was a waste of time.

Hey Tony: Is it my imagination or are defensive coaches predisposed to mishandling the QB position? Every Browns fan knows that treating the QB position like every other position never works. QB competitions don't bring out the best in one guy, it brings out the worst in both. Inevitably, both guys struggle, and the season is spent going back and forth piling up losses along the way. Why not pick Hoyer from the very beginning (like everyone knew he would) and give him the vast majority of time with the starters, and a better chance to succeed?  Meanwhile, groom Manziel, giving him time to learn from the veteran and avoid being ruined by playing him too early. What possible positive can result from this sham of a QB "competition"?

-- Tony, Bowie, MD

Hey Tony: Now that you mention it, the coaches involved in Browns quarterback competitions since 1999 all have been from the defensive side – Butch Davis (Tim Couch v. Kelly Holcomb), Romeo Crennel (Charlie Frye v. Derek Anderson), Eric Mangini (Anderson v. Brady Quinn) and Mike Pettine (Brian Hoyer v. Johnny Manziel). I think in this case, the public wanted to see Manziel play and the Browns succumbed to that sentiment. Was it counter-productive? Absolutely. Did it bring out the best in the quarterbacks? No. Has the team gained anything from the competition? Yes, it learned that Manziel is not ready.

Hey Tony: Thanks for all the work you do. I know it might be partly speculation, but can you comment on the relationship between Hoyer and Manziel? It does not appear to be adversarial but it does not seem like they get along. Thanks.

-- Dave, Lyndhurst, OH

Hey Dave: I don’t think they are going to socialize. That’s understandable when you consider their personal situations. Hoyer, 28, has a wife and two kids. Manziel, 21, is single and party-prone. On the field, they have been competing for the same spot. I would expect them to develop a better working relationship now that their roles are more clearly defined.

Hey Tony: Glad Hoyer was finally named the starter, it was the best decision for the present and future of the club. However why is it every new coach of the Browns fails to learn the lessons of the past coaches? How many QB 'competitions' have we had since the Browns came back? All of them failed. The best chance a QB has of success comes from a full offseason as the unquestioned starter. Why do smart coaches do such dumb things when they just need to look at the failures of previous coaches to know better? Is it ego? Do new coaches think that somehow it will be different for them? With your extensive experience being around all the failed QB competitions and ex-coaches why do you think the coaches never understood the idiocy of these QB competitions?

-- Este, San Francisco CA

Hey Este: One reason for this particular competition might be that the new coaches “inherited” Hoyer and they “selected” Manziel. So, naturally, the coaches want to give their chosen one a chance. Overall, though, the reason the Browns have had so many quarterback “competitions” is because they never have any continuity on offense. They change head coaches every two years and change offensive coordinators and systems almost every year. No quarterback ever has a chance to establish himself.    

Hey Tony: Some things seem inexplicable to me. Case in point, Josh Gordon playing into the 4th quarter of the last game. Do you think the coaches were concerned about his effort level at that time and decided to teach him a lesson or was this just stupidity?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: I have no idea. The one guy on the roster who can catch and they have him taking extra reps. Mind-boggling. Teach him a lesson? The head coach said he sympathized with Gordon because of the uncertainty of his suspension and understood why he would be unfocused. The reps would have been better served going to the receivers who may play in Gordon’s absence and need the work.

Hey Tony: Why do some fans and certain media claim that the special and defense teams won those three games (with Brian Hoyer at starting quarterback last season)? If that the case what happened when Weeden and Campbell  was the quarterback? Didn't they have the same special and defense teams? Also don't they listen? I remember coach Pettine said if both quarterbacks are equal or close he would pick the veteran.

-- John, Laughlin, NV

Hey John: Hoyer was hurt in the third game and left with the Browns losing, 10-0. So, realistically, you can’t give him credit for that win. But his 2-0 record makes him the only Browns quarterback with a winning record since 1999.

Hey Tony: Can we read anything into the continued delay in the decision regarding Josh Gordon's appeal of his suspension? Seems really unfair to the Browns if the full year is actually upheld. Prediction?

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: Yes, we can read indecision on the part of the NFL while it gauges which way the wind is blowing. If it lowers the boom on Gordon, it will incur the wrath of the public for going light on Ray Rice and not disciplining (yet) Colts owner Jim Irsay. If it doesn’t suspend Gordon indefinitely, it will have to explain why it did not follow the guidelines set forth in its collectively bargained substance abuse policy. If it suspends Gordon for less than a year, it will have to explain why it made an exception for Gordon.

Hey Tony: First I want to say that you do a great job reporting on the Browns.  I really appreciate your insights and thoughts on what is going on.  It is always a pleasure reading your articles. Question for you: What ever happened to the coffin corner punt? It seems that every punter aims for middle of field and hopes for a lucky bounce. My rough tally is that half of these end up in the end zone.  Why don't they target their punt to go out of bounds at the 5 yard line or so?

-- Giulio, Avon, OH  

Hey Giulio: The coffin corner punt is a lost art. Coaches don’t seem to even teach it anymore. I’m not sure the reason, but I intend to look into it.

Hey Tony: How much do you think alternating series affected the QBs performance this past Monday? I suspect it made it more difficult to get in sync.  Also, do you think the Browns’ front office has started to regret drafting Johnny Manziel rather than Teddy Bridgewater or someone else?

-- Glenn, Albuquerque, NM

Hey Glenn: There’s no question that alternating the quarterbacks after two series affects not only their performance but that of the entire offensive unit. One or two bad series, and the other one goes in? Not enough time there to establish rhythm with anyone – especially with everyone learning a new offense together for the first time. As for Manziel v. Bridgewater, I think the Browns realize it’s way too early to second-guess that one. I don’t believe Bridgewater would have had the instantaneous impact on ticket and jersey sales as did Manziel, I know that.

Hey Tony: Now that we finally established our number 1 starter at QB, do you see Connor Shaw possibly battling Manziel for the backup spot? Or would the politics of picking Manziel at 22 in the draft prevent that from happening? Also, does it make sense now to let Rex Grossman take up a roster spot and possibly lose Shaw off the practice squad?

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: I think Grossman can serve a role as a mentor to both Hoyer and Manziel in the Kyle Shanahan offense. Shaw is now officially the most popular quarterback in town because he completed a Hail Mary TD pass at the end of the Washington game. Please don’t call the sculptor for a bust in Canton just yet.

Hey Tony: When are the Browns going to wake up and hire Bernie Kosar as a QB coach?

-- Joel, Orlando, FL

Hey Joel: Kosar has never expressed the desire to be a full-time quarterback coach. Fans always clamor for it, but he has never shown interest in pursuing the job.

Hey Tony: After two pretty dismal preseason performances are we already at the point where we can see the 2014 season going down in flames? Neither QB can manage to move the ball, and that is WITH Josh Gordon on the field. Aside from a few nice plays, what has been touted to be a top 10 defense looks slow, and unable to tackle at all. This was supposed to be the bright spot on the team. Maybe it is just preseason vanilla play calling? I sure hope so. Tell me why we should hope for anything better than another 4-12 season, because right now this team looks like it would struggle to even achieve that.

-- Ted, Longmeadow, MA

Hey Ted: My official prediction will come the week before the opener. I always start training camp on a positive note. By the time the opener rolls around, reality hits like a bucket of ice water over my head. This year is no different. I am trying not to overreact. I was having positive thoughts after the first two preseason games last year, and that season went down the tubes. Maybe the opposite will happen this year.

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Johnny or Hoyer? Hoyer or Johnny? It's all about the QBs in the inbox

Aug 16, 2014 -- 6:22am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty via ESPN

As the Browns prepare to name the winner of their quarterback competition, it’s all quarterbacks 24/7 in the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: When viewing the national sports networks, it’s obvious they are pushing for Manziel to start right away. In contrast, the local perspective is more tempered and in my opinion paints a more accurate picture of the Browns’ QB situation. What is your view on the national media pressure put on the Browns for Manziel to start? Do you see this having any impact on the decision-making process thus far?

-- Michael, Estero, FL

Hey Michael: The Browns are a business. Manziel is good for business. The Browns have to decide if they are in the business of football or the business of winning.

Hey Tony: Only in Cleveland are we concerned with the status of the third and fourth stringer at quarterback for good reason. What is your eye test assessment of Connor Shaw? If Hoyer and Manziel continue to struggle with the new offense by the 3rd pre-season game, then will the Kirk Cousins trade chatter pick up again?

-- Eric, San Jose, CA

Hey Eric: I see Shaw as a possible practice squad keeper. As long as Kyle Shanahan is Browns offensive coordinator, the Cousins trade talk will resurface from time to time.

Hey Tony: I don't know the dynamics of player interaction during training camp, so this question may be completely off base, but is it possible that Rex Grossman was brought in less because of the difficulties of Hoyer and Manziel and more because of difficulties of other players, i.e. WR's? And if the system is this complex, perhaps it is contributing the some of the dropsies by draining away some attentiveness to the final part of the route-catching the ball? I am probably hoping against hope, but I am sick of 12 loss seasons and getting punked by the Steelers and Ravens. Having a great defense is fantastic but whether we lose by 3 or 30 an L is an L.

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: I don’t see how Grossman can help the receivers. No, he’s here to help the quarterbacks.

Hey Tony: I know everyone has been giving Ray Farmer rave reviews for his draft, but I strongly disagree. I think it’s a classic "accountant GM" failure. The mistake of the accountant GM is focusing on value while ignoring a teams’ glaring needs which inadvertently stockpiles positions (or sides of the ball) that are already strengths while leaving open massive holes elsewhere on the roster. The accountant approach may win the spreadsheet with the best numeric value for the picks, but it doesn't win football games. Ray Farmer scored a spreadsheet victory with all his “value” moves, but this team still has 4–12 written all over it because it’s not going to score any points. Ray may have gotten great numeric value when he traded number 4 overall for a pro bowl, shutdown corner at 8 and a 2015 first rounder, but if the Browns still lose 3 of every 4 games because they can’t score any points, then so what? He should have put aside his value charts and picked a receiver, probably multiple receivers high in the 2014 draft BECAUSE THE BROWNS NEEDED THEM. Instead we have some nice defensive upgrades and 10 picks in 2015 that won't make a bit of difference in the 2014 win/loss column. Sheesh.

-- Ken, Flower Mound, TX

Hey Ken: I agree with your points about GMs too often worrying about value. In fact, it was one of my complaints about the Joe Banner-Mike Lombardi regime, of which Farmer shared some part. But in the case of bypassing Sammy Watkins for Justin Gilbert and a 2015 No. 1, I believe Mike Pettine should share the credit or blame. He prioritized cornerback over receiver. Farmer deferred to Pettine’s sentiment, and Buffalo’s generous offer convinced Farmer to take the deal. Ultimately, though, you are correct: if the Browns lose 12 games again, the deal was a failure and they will be in the same boat again in 2015.

Hey Tony: Did Phil Taylor ever pass the conditioning test or did the Browns give him a pass? I have heard very little about his camp. Is Taylor excelling, Tony, as I believe he is in his contract year?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: Taylor has been practicing for more than a week now and he played in the first game in Detroit. Taylor is highly thought-of by the new coaching staff. Taylor is not in his contract year; he is signed through 2015, as the Browns picked up his final option year in June.

Hey Tony: With Brian Hoyer in place and the addition of Rex Grossman, are there any possibilities that Johnny Manziel could be used in a gigantic trade that would give the Browns multiple first round picks and a few extra stud players including a great receiver? I know Johnny is a gamer and this isn’t the traditional time to be thinking “Trade” but if you view Johnny as only a possibly solution that lacks the ideal height and arm strength while playing in a cold weather environment then maybe it a great time to take advantage of a desperate GM or meddling Owner.  How about that guy in Texas, that has to be thinking twice about passing up on Johnny during the Draft and how he might be able to insure that his team has a Quarterback this year, that can play and maybe more importantly, sell tickets? Realistically, with Johnny’s type of play, how long do you think he will last in the AFC North? Would you trade Johnny for maybe 4 - 5 very good players? The Browns have gain greatly by drafting Johnny including the media hype and the season tickets sales just to name of few.  But maybe the greatest gain could be if we could fleeced an owner wanting the blossoming, “Johnny Football.”

-- Terry, Shanghai, China

Hey Terry: Dallas owner Jerry Jones is banging his head against the wall for passing on Manziel. It was a natural fit and Jones deferred to his football people fand selected offensive lineman Zach Martin. But forget about a trade. It’s not going to happen.

Hey Tony: Thanks for keeping all us Auslanders posted on the Browns.  All the buzz is the competition between Manziel and Hoyer--it is a relative comparison.  How do you see each of them in an absolute sense, as quality, if not franchise, QBs?

-- Claude, St. Louis, MO

Hey Claude: I saw Hoyer pull together a deflated locker room and win two games in two starts last year before his knee injury. I see no reason why he wouldn’t pick up where he left off. He does not have an extended track record, however, and we don’t know if he can be a consistent winner or if defenses will catch up to him and curb his game. Manziel is an intriguing prospect with a flamboyance that attracts teammates to follow him. The question is whether his physical talents will carry him as he learns the complexities of the pro quarterback position.

Hey Tony: You wrote in your article about the hiring of Rex Grossman was "primarily to help Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel make bigger strides in grasping the ultra-complicated offense installed by Shanahan. Neither QB has been able to post a touchdown in the team scrimmage and first preseason game in Detroit, and the offense has regularly been pummeled on the practice field by the defense." Don't you think another perspective could be the vast improvement of the Browns’ defense, which got scored on a lot last year?  (Granted the offense failed to get a TD against the Lions.)

-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY

Hey Erol: I’d like to see this defense play a regular-season game against a good offense (Saints in Week 2?) before enshrining it in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hey Tony: We are finally in agreement regarding the quarterback position. For the last two training camps, you gave Weeden the benefit of the doubt and thought he could be a franchise quarterback. I knew he had no chance. But now, we both agree that Hoyer can be a franchise quarterback and should be the starting quarterback for the Browns on game one. In my opinion, Manziel is not ready and will probably never be ready to be a franchise quarterback. His game will not translate. Have you seen anything from Manziel that tells you he is likely to be a franchise quarterback? Has your opinion changed since the draft? Also, why is Hoyer (who is younger than Weeden when he was drafted) given no chance by the press and fans to be a franchise quarterback and the leader of the Browns for years to come?

-- Sean, Magnolia, TX

Hey Sean: I never said or thought Brandon Weeden could be a franchise quarterback. I never said or thought Hoyer could be a franchise quarterback. I never said or thought Manziel could be a franchise quarterback. I will say that Hoyer gets very little respect from the national media as a starting quarterback. He has a chance to change a lot of misperceptions about him.

Hey Tony: I am concerned that the recent momentum for Johnny Manziel to start week one is based off ownership and the front offices dollars and cents motives (see: ratings) and not necessarily football driven. I watched every moment of the Detroit game, and this worries me. I don’t see any reason for Manziel to start against a Dick LeBeau defense week 1 on the road unless he is CLEARLY better. I don’t see how anybody watching can say he is right now. I have been extremely optimistic about the Farmer/Pettine regime thus far, I would hate to see them botch this critical decision so early on. What do you think?

-- Joshua, Fullerton, CA

Hey Joshua: I trust they will make the right decision.

Hey Tony: I continually here the Shanahan offense referred to as "complex". Can the same be said for the Kubiak offense currently being installed somewhere in Maryland? Can we just state what it is at this point in camp? The Browns’ offense has looked as offensive as ever? I think the tackling was equally awful in Detroit. I seem to have more faith that the tackling will improve. How about you?

-- Michael, Blue Ash, OH

Hey Michael: The offense will take more time than the defense. That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually come around.

Hey Tony: Taylor Gabriel had a standout performance in Saturday's preseason game. If he has a repeat performance against the Redskins I expect him to secure a roster spot. However, I was surprised little was mentioned of Gabriel's week 1 preseason performance from anyone that covers the Browns. Do you think Gabriel has a reasonable chance of making the team and if not why?

-- Greg, Durango, CO

Hey Greg: The Browns are begging for a receiver to emerge. Gabriel had a good start in the Detroit game. He needs to keep improving. One setback could move him back to the pack.

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Is the NFL being unfair in delaying a ruling on Josh Gordon's suspension appeal?

Aug 09, 2014 -- 7:25pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty via ESPN

The time is close for the NFL to rule on Josh Gordon’s possible drug suspension. Finally. A few more Gordon questions rolled in just before the league’s long-anticipated judgment.

Hey Tony: If Josh Gordon gets his year “indefinite” suspension in a couple weeks, from my understanding, he won't be eligible for reinstatement for a full year. If this is the case, the NFL dragging this out will cost Gordon most of next year’s training camp also. Is this true, or fair?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Yes, if the NFL follows “the letter of the law” and suspends Gordon indefinitely, he would be out a minimum of a calendar year beginning with the announcement of suspension. I think the NFL will bend on this draconian punishment. I suspect the NFL will hand down an indefinite suspension, but allow Gordon to apply for reinstatement in less than a year; say, after eight games. In this example, Gordon would have to pass numerous drug tests and personal examinations by the league’s medical director in order to be reinstated.

Hey Tony: Any chance the NFL's continued delay in the Josh Gordon ruling is because the NFL wants the Ray Rice smoke to clear a bit, hoping for less of a backlash if they suspend Gordon eight games or more?

-- Paul, Seattle WA

Hey Paul: I believe the controversially lenient two-game suspension for Rice is working in Gordon’s favor. However, I don’t believe Commissioner Roger Goodell is dragging his feet to distance himself from the Rice ruling. I think the delay was mostly caused by the volume of testimony and evidence put forward by the Gordon camp in the appeals hearing.

Hey Tony: I agree with your article that the NFL drug policy is flawed. I also think that the NFL is worried about being sued by Gordon. If they added both specimen bottles together it would be below a positive test result. I wouldn't want to be the NFL defending a one year ban on that sample. That would be like having a radar clocking you at 26 mph in a 25 zone and another clocking you at 23. However, I think everyone knows that Gordon needs help. I'm a Browns fan, but I just want the kid to get clean. I hope Gordon finds a way to get on the right track. Do you feel that kicking Gordon out of the NFL for a year would push him back to his old friends that use drugs?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I think the NFL will break from their substance abuse policy and allow Gordon to work out in the team’s facility during any suspension he may receive.

Hey Tony: Assuming Josh Gordon miraculously escapes any suspension for his marijuana offenses, what kind of discipline do you think he'll face for his DWI?

-- Robert Rossman, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Robert: Gordon’s DWI arrest in Raleigh, NC, on July 5 will be dealt with at a later date by the NFL. My guess is the NFL will suspended Gordon for two games on that miscue.

Hey Tony: In 1993, Belichick used Testaverde in a 'relief' role with Kosar in games in which the first team offense was not particularly effective. I remember that you felt that this was a real genius move on Belichick's part. I am not at all a fan of platooning QBs, and I'm also of the opinion that the earlier that Manziel plays in his career, the shorter his ultimate ceiling will be (rookie QBs that play often acquire bad habits, e.g. 'happy feet').  That said, I'd like to see the Browns do anything possible to win in week 1 at Heinz Field.  Although he may not be consistent and effective but because he is such a wildcard, I could see Pettine using Manziel in this way during the early part of the season. Do you think that Pettine might reserve this for the scenario if the Browns are losing in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh?

-- M. Bluth, Orange County, CA

Hey M. Bluth: I fully expect the Browns, at some point, to package a few plays for Manziel as a means of acclimating him to the speed of the NFL regular season.

Hey Tony: There has been much written about who will be the starter between Hoyer and Manziel but have you heard anything about a potential intermittent use of Manziel should Hoyer win the starting job? I don't get a chance to follow the discussion as much as I'd like but it seems to me Manziel could be an attractive change-of-pace for a series or two per game or in a situational role due to his X-factor. Thoughts?

-- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: See above.

Hey Tony: Love you on ESPN Cleveland, especially the radio/podcasts.   With the Great Lakes Classic versus Detroit coming up, I wanted to know whatever happened to that trophy/sculpture of the boat that the winner got to keep for the year?  

-- Brian, Dublin, OH

Hey Brian: “The Barge,” was discontinued after former Browns President Carmen Policy left the Browns. The practice of rotating possession of the trophy to the winning team for a year is gone. It turns out each team actually has a copy of the trophy.

Hey Tony: With Manziel/Gordon taking up most of the headlines lets change it up, with some new questions for you. 1. How do you see the FB position shaping up?  It’s got to be better than last year. Right? 2. Is Mitchell Swartz catching onto the one cut blocking scheme? 3. Do you think Kruger will be worth the money this year? 4. How is Dion Lewis looking? 5. Who is your favorite to fill the #2 spot at TE? 6. Who is your surprise so far this camp?

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: 1. Yes, either MarQueis Gray or Ray Agnew would be an upgrade over using halfback Chris Ogbonnaya. 2. The coaches like Schwartz a lot. 3. Kruger makes a base salary of $8.2 million in 2014. That’s pay commensurate with a 12-sack pass rusher. Kruger has never had more than 11 in a season. 4. Lewis is embroiled in a competition for one, or two, spots against Isaiah Crowell, Chris Ogbonnay, and Edwin Baker. It will be tough for him to win a spot. 5. Gary Barnidge. 6. My surprise at camp so far has been undrafted receiver Willie Snead.

Hey Tony: What are your thoughts concerning the release of Chris Faulk? Wasn't he supposed to be a potential first-round draft choice if he hadn't gotten injured?  What are your thoughts on the training camp Mitchell Schwartz is having? Didn't he struggle last season with speedier pass rushers?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: Every coaching regime assesses and evaluates players with a different bias. The Pettine regime studied Schwartz on tape and liked what they saw. His starting spot is virtually unchallenged.

 

 

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Hey Tony: Why can't the Browns protect Josh Gordon?

Aug 02, 2014 -- 4:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

On Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend, a fan wants to know why Clay Matthews Jr. has not had his day in Canton, OH.

Hey Tony: Why in all that is good in the world has Clay Matthews Jr. not been inducted into the Hall of Fame? Do they really think that Aeneas Williams is a HOFer and Matthews is not? Clay has the third most tackles in NFL history, there is nobody currently playing within 500 tackles of him. Yes only 16 INTs but it was a different league back then. When are the voters going to get it right?

-- Dan, San Diego, CA

Hey Dan: Matthews, one of the Browns’ greatest modern-era players, has never reached the finalist round of 15. That’s the step in the arduous process where each finalist candidate is discussed and debated in the selection meeting on the eve of the Super Bowl. Until Matthews reaches that round, I can only guess what the arguments are against him. I think the knocks are that his greatest attribute was longevity (19 years), that he never appeared in a Super Bowl, and that he was never considered the best of his era and thus could not be considered one of the best of all time. At the very least, Matthews is due his day in the selection meeting for his candidacy to receive a thorough discussion.

Hey Tony: While I've heard many opinions about what to do about Josh Gordon to keep him in line and out of trouble I've yet to hear one similar to how the Cowboys "protect" Dez Bryant. Gordon has in his limited playing time demonstrated he's on a level at least as good as Bryant so why not hire two full time "baby sitters" to help him avoid temptation? It'd be expensive, but how much money might the Browns lose if Gordon doesn't play?

 -- Bill, Canton, OH

Hey Bill: The Browns have not been able to formulate an effective pro-active plan for Gordon partly because of their annual front office and coaching overhauls. In Gordon’s two seasons, they have had two CEOs, two general managers, two coaches and two receiver coaches. And now they are embarking on their second director of player engagement (or programs). As you can see, there is no continuity to establish a trust with players when it comes to dealing with sensitive personal problems.

Hey Tony: This Josh Gordon drama is taking a really long time to play out. I believe that he will not only be suspended indefinitely, but that his team of agents and lawyers are doing him and the Browns a great disservice by dragging this out. If he is suspended, say August 3rd, how badly will that affect his ability to come back and play the 2015 season? The earliest he would be able to come back would be the middle of training camp next year.

-- Nick, Tucson, AZ

Hey Nick: If Gordon receives an indefinite suspension, per terms of the league substance abuse policy, he will be out a minimum of one calendar year from the day the suspension is announced. He can apply for reinstatement after one year. During his one year out, Gordon would have to pass several drug tests and abide by a program mapped out by the league’s medical director. Gordon can avoid an indefinite suspension by having it overturned completely on appeal or by negotiating a reduced suspension via a settlement with the league.

Hey Tony: I e-mailed you last June that something was very different with this case or the NFL would have acted sooner. This is ridiculous if they convict JG here. I do agree that JG seems reckless. The NFL should wave any suspension but order JG to enter an NFL-sponsored drug treatment program until they are satisfied and insist that Josh participates in a youth drug prevention program. I have never met him but I am sure he just a kid that needs guidance and will turn into a great kid.

-- John, Tampa FL

Hey John: Gordon has been enrolled in the NFL substance abuse program for two years. Resources are available to him and they apparently haven’t been put to good use.

Hey Tony: Do you think Johnny Manziel should be expected to know the playbook better knowing how he spent his time before camp? I understand that new QBs will have difficulties with an NFL playbook, but he went out of his way to document his partying. He also said he didn't care what people thought of his off field antics. If I was Mike Pettine I'd ride him hard when he was confused about the playbook. Listening to Manziel now, he seems a little overwhelmed by the whole process. Hopefully, it's starting to sink in about being a professional on and off the field.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Manziel subjected himself to such criticism when he chose to party hard and, as you say, document his escapades on social media. I would say that nobody with the team believes his struggles in the early going are a result of those weekend soirees. They believe Manziel’s struggles are the natural product of a rookie quarterback with only two years’ college playing experience being exposed to a complex side of football unlike any he has seen before.

Hey Tony: What's become of CB Leon McFadden? Is he making much of an impact during training camp? Do you think he will make the team?

-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY

Hey Erol: I’ve heard it said that the Browns’ scouts had a sixth-round grade on McFadden last year, yet he was chosen in the third round. Picking him high raised expectations unrealistically. His time on the field was not impressive. A new regime came in and viewed him more realistically. The new regime drafted two cornerbacks and added two in free agency. As a result, McFadden’s roster status is in doubt.

Hey Tony: If Andrew Hawkins continues to look like the best receiver out there (in the presumed absence of Josh Gordon), is it possible that the Browns will expand Hawkins' role beyond the slot receiver or use more three wide receiver sets?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: Hawkins’ height (5-7) limits his use as an outside receiver. He is more effective in short zones where he can maximize his quickness to get open and run after the catch.

Hey Tony: I keep reading conflicting views of Mitchell Schwartz. He has started slow each of the last two years, but then has finished much stronger. Has Schwartz improved throughout each season as he has learned a new scheme, or have the past coaching staffs adjusted to cover his deficiencies as the seasons have developed?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: Schwartz is one of the players that benefitted most from the coaching change. The new regime apparently has a higher opinion of him than the previous one. Schwartz is one of the few players with no legitimate competition for his starting spot.

Hey Tony: I was a little surprised to hear Farmer praise Hoyer while simultaneously ripping Johnny Football. "Man's man", "did everything he could to put himself in the right position possible" and "handled it like a pro" seemingly contradicts Johnny and his approach to the starting job. Is it presumptuous to read between the lines and believe Jimmy Haslam did pull the trigger on drafting Johnny? The more Farmer speaks the more it seems Johnny is not his prototypical player.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: The Browns’ corporate line was that Manziel was the unanimous top quarterback on their draft board. Sources outside the organization have told me that Farmer had Teddy Bridgewater ranked higher. QB coach Dowell Loggains said on an Arkansas radio station after the draft that before he was hired “I knew that our owner liked Johnny a lot.” Loggains also said that Haslam gave the green light to “pull the trigger” on the trade up to select Manziel at No. 22 in the first round.

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Would a full year suspension of Josh Gordon benefit the Browns more in the long run than a partial one?

Jul 26, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Until other football issues arise in the new season, the dominant themes of Hey Tony remain Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer.

Hey Tony: I appreciate your support of Josh Gordon. Cutting him seems ridiculous. Why give up so early on such a promising athlete's career? The benefit of his potential impact on the team in future seasons far outweighs the minimal cost of keeping him on the roster now, not to mention the personal benefit he gains from the support of the organization and his teammates. In regards to Josh Gordon's contract, I believe you stated a one-year suspension would essentially extend his contract another year. Given our (Browns fans') paranoia about losing our players to free agency, is the extension of Gordon's contract a silver lining to the loss of his impact on the roster in 2014? Of course the best-case scenario involves him playing as many games as possible, but having him only play a couple games this year would essentially eliminate the possibility of extending his contract due to a year-long suspension. Thanks for the great work.

-- Nick, Charlotte, NC

Hey Nick: That’s an interesting question – is it better to have Gordon suspended 16 games and owe the Browns two more full seasons under contract, or have him be active for, say, four games and owe the Browns only one more season under contract? The problem with an indefinite suspension is that, per rules, the Browns would be prohibited from having contact with Gordon during the suspension and in order for him to be reinstated he would have to pass drug tests along the way. If the suspension is for less than “indefinitely,” Gordon would be able to practice and play in pre-season, as the suspension would begin in the first week of regular season. Thus, they would have more time to surround Gordon with their support group and keep him focused on staying clean. I don’t know the answer.

Hey Tony: I agree completely with your Tweet on the subject. The Browns should not cut Gordon only to watch him "find himself" and then post All-Pro numbers for another team. This position is selfish, yes, but one that Browns fans are entitled to. The front office must handle Gordon with continued patience and strive to provide him with as much professional help as possible. 

-- Joe, Lakewood, OH

Hey Joe: I just don’t see how releasing Gordon is good for him, no matter the shock value. Plus, they have to consider what’s best for the organization, also.

Hey Tony: Contrary to what many fans think, if the quarterback competition is close, don't the Browns have to go with Hoyer because if Hoyer later struggles and needs to be replaced it will seem to be a natural progression at quarterback and no reason to worry? While if Manziel is named the starting quarterback and later struggles and needs to be replaced, it will look like panic time with another bust quarterback and the franchise again set back years?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: I think the competition is like a heavyweight prizefight. A draw goes to the defending champion, or, incumbent. The challenger has to score a clear, decisive win or knockout.

Hey Tony: I don't have a major problem with Johnny Manziel getting his picture taken with Justin Bieber and I don't have any problems with Johnny having a few too many beers. I do have a problem if Johnny is getting behind the wheel of a car after some of these parties. I'm also not happy if he's not working. I read where that Johnny says the parties are on the weekend after a full week of studying film and working out. Do you believe Johnny is hard at work during the week or is this just something he is saying to keep the press off of his back?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: I have not heard anybody question Manziel’s work ethic during the work week. The thing he must come to realize is that an NFL quarterback does not have off days when other position players do. It’s part of the job description.

Hey Tony: Excellent interview with Pettine. Great to see a coach actually answer a question. Like every other Browns fan, I really hope he succeeds but I keep getting these Shurmur/Chud comparisons in my head, (rookie head coach, surprise pick, nobody else interested and going to call his own plays). I know there hasn’t been a snap but is there anything to suggest that the optimism isn’t misplaced.

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I always think the newest coach will be the one to turn things around. If that is misplaced optimism, then I plead guilty.

Hey Tony: What is Dick LeBeau's record against rookie quarterbacks?

-- Marvin, Cleveland, OH

Hey Marvin: Quite good. The point is, of course, that Pettine knows the numbers, which adds to the prevailing sentiment that the starting job will be Hoyer’s.

Hey Tony:I think most people are surprised about the extension talk for Hoyer as am I. To me there can only be three reasons. One, Hoyer has looked amazing in practice so far (and Manziel hasn't). Two, extension talks with Cameron have gone nowhere all but guaranteeing the franchise tag be put on him which would force the team to either let Hoyer go to another team for nothing next season or sign him to an extension. Three, the front office is sending a message to Manziel that he isn’t guaranteed the starting spot and Hoyer isn’t necessarily going to be jettisoned to make room for him so he better be careful how he behaves off the field and he better perform on the field. Out of the three possibilities the most likely to me is that the FO is just sending a message to Manziel. What do you think? Is this just mostly meaningless posturing by the FO or are they seriously trying to resign Hoyer?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: It’s more than posturing. At best, Hoyer will be a winning starting QB for many years. At worst, he is a perfect role model for Manziel and invaluable backup. The Browns would have been smart to re-sign Hoyer right after his knee surgery in October, when his market value was at its lowest. Every win that Hoyer posts as a starter increases his marketability in free agency after the season.

Hey Tony: I read your pre-camp articles and had a few thoughts for your response. 1. Gilbert vs. Skrine: I agree that Gilbert should win out based on his draft position but, beyond your point, I have to admit I am excited to see how Skrine performs. To state that another way, I ask you which player on the Browns' roster improved more in one season, from 2012 to 2013, than Buster Skrine?  Perhaps Jordan Cameron? Last year Skrine held his own and was clearly much improved. Skrine might have a big year. 2. Jordan Cameron: I understand your enthusiasm for him to do well, especially with Gordon probably gone, and I hope he does just that. However, a concern I have when it comes to Jordan, what I wonder, is how much Norv Turner's influence will missed with Jordan: it is clear that Norv was highly-skilled at making TEs into superstars? Not to say Jordan is not very talented, just some coaches highlight certain positions more than other positions. How has Shanahan used TEs? Has Shanahan adapted his plan to the talent on his roster in Houston and/or Washington?

 -- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: 1. In my opinion, Skrine is most valuable when trained exclusively for the slot cornerback role. Gilbert’s physical dimensions – and obvious ability – make his “ceiling” far higher than Skrine’s. 2. Tight ends are in vogue no matter the coordinator. Shanahan will maximize Cameron, believe me. But some of that falls on the quarterback, too, and I think Hoyer showed in two games that he will deliver the ball to him and not merely hone in on Gordon play after play.

Hey Tony: Do you think there is a tendency by the media to overreact to off field incidents during the offseason because there is nothing else happening? Beat reporters and radio personalities have to talk about something every day, and as a result we are about ready to run the Browns' most talented wide receiver in 30 years off for failing a pot test and driving after two drinks, and all at the tender age of 23. If you guys ALL took vacations during the Summer, would there be less controversy surrounding the team?

-- Tony, Washington, DC

Hey Tony: I think everyone is fed up with off-the-field incidents – media, fans, coaches, owners, teammates. I think there is no sport in the United States reported more comprehensively over the calendar year than pro football, so that fact also contributes to the intense reaction to any off-season incident.

Hey Tony: How do you think the contract situation with Jimmy Graham will affect what happens with the Browns and Jordan Cameron? They are very similar players, although Graham has a longer track record for sure.

-- Scott, Conneaut, OH

Hey Scott: Graham’s record contract won’t help the Browns negotiate a long-term deal with Cameron. I believe he is destined to be the team’s franchise player in 2015.

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#Hey Tony: Who else but Johnny Manziel leads off this week’s Hey Tony?

Jun 28, 2014 -- 5:50pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Grossi

Who else but Johnny Manziel leads off this week’s Hey Tony? This will be my last column for three weeks, when I return from vacation. By then, Browns training camp will be around the corner.

Hey Tony: Johnny Manziel says he's not doing anything wrong and he's not changing for anyone. He also says that he's doing everything he can to be the best he can be in football. Really? Earth to Johnny … to become a great QB you must be a leader! I can't see Joe Thomas following Manziel if he keeps this up. The players will have to make excuses for the drinking, partying and antics of their QB. There is a big difference going to Vegas and being seen drinking and out of control in Vegas. He's just not the same Manziel that was interviewed by Jon Gruden. You're a professional Johnny! Start acting like one!

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: One thing I agree with Manziel on is that his weekend partying has not affected his job. Everyone with the Browns attests to the fact that Manziel has been exemplary in the meeting room and on the field. I would say that he has been highly professional in that respect. He also has palpable leadership qualities. The off-the-field stuff will subside, I believe, once training camp starts.

Hey Tony: Since Jacksonville took a couple receivers highly in this year’s draft, it would seem Cecil Shorts is a bit of an afterthought. Any chance the Browns could trade for him?

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: I don’t believe the Jaguars want to enter the season without their Shorts.

Hey Tony: What's next in your opinion? As the Browns continue on the path to relevance in the NFL, it seems that ownership is the true difference, despite any legal issues it may face. To attain the irrelevant status of the Randy Lerner era, we needed lack of accountability and football acumen in many areas. The Haslam years haven't gotten everything right immediately, but a driving force at the top has taken up the fight for excellence on many fronts: stadium sponsor and renovation, game day fan experience, hiring of Banner to provide sound financial footing and draft picks, while realizing that one, real key to success was the talented recent hire (Farmer) who might have been lost. Immediate, intuitive action taken on all fronts Banner/Lombardi gone … no lingering doubts … hands on management. Some moves didn't work out (coaches), some procedures need improvement (coaching search). But it seems the organization is on the verge of becoming much more than just  relevant. Now a new communications guy to be named.  hanks for helping us follow and understand all the developments with your insight and perspective. You told us "organizations win Super Bowls".  What organizational shortcomings has Mr. Haslam not yet addressed?

 -- Mark, Branford, CT

Hey Mark: First, the organization has to develop a franchise quarterback. Second, it must develop continuity and stability. Once you get the quarterback, continuity and stability usually follow.

Hey Tony: I’m most pleased with TE Jordan Cameron’s prospects for this season. Given the probable suspension of WR Josh Gordon and no guarantee that he won’t fall off the wagon again after suspension, why not with Cameron’s speed and pass catching skills, move him to be lead WR that would truly overmatch most of the NFL CBs? Further, since Cameron isn’t a starter for his blocking skills and the Browns are really working to improve their ground game, which of their TEs could step up as a great blocker … and be a reasonable receiver?

-- Alan, Manassas, VA

Hey Alan: Cameron may be fast for a tight end, but not for a wide receiver. He is effective as a tight end because he is able to beat defenders who cover tight ends, i.e., linebackers and safeties. Converting him to wideout would eliminate the matchup problems that Cameron presents as a tight end. What happened to Saints TE Jimmy Graham when Bill Belichick assigned CB Aqib Talib on him for an entire game? Graham didn’t catch a pass because he couldn’t get open.

Hey Tony: Thanks for keeping us fans, especially those of us that don’t live in C town anymore, up to speed with the latest Browns info. My question has to do with Johnny Football and the wildcat. Do you think that would be a good way for the Browns to get him on the field this year and get him involved in the offense? Or could it hinder his development and put him at too high a risk for injury? What side are you on?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: The Wildcat is pretty much a dead issue. That fad has been replaced by the zone read option play, in which the quarterback lines up in the shotgun or pistol formation and reads the defensive end before pitching the ball to his back or running it himself. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan used this formation to make Robert Griffin 3 a rookie phenom in 2012. Shanahan worked a lot on the zone read with Manziel and Brian Hoyer in OTAs and minicamp. I believe we will see some of this in a typical gameplan, but making it a staple of the offense would subject either quarterback to injury issues.

Hey Tony: I am overseas at the moment and have all your latest podcasts ready for the flight back home. I was wondering what is going on with the Josh Gordon verdict. I was quite confident the suspension would have been handed down while I was away, especially after reading that a few other players were. Do you think this works in our favor? It almost seems like the league is stalling for a reason. Last I read the appeal has not even been scheduled. What are your thoughts? Thanks. Also, can you confirm a report I read that there were actually two tests given and that Gordon passed one and failed the other, leading some to believe it was second hand smoke that lead to the failed drug test.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: I am surprised the Gordon case has not been resolved by now. I have no insight on what is going on. I can’t confirm any report. Everything written about the case is pure speculation. Nobody knows the facts but Gordon, his representation and the NFL medical director.

Hey Tony: I'm wondering if the Browns are considering a trade to acquire Andre Johnson from the Texans. Do you believe they might attempt this if Josh Gordon is suspended for the year? Do you think he might be worth a high draft pick and if so, what do you think the Browns should be willing to give up?

-- Dave, Akron, OH

Hey Dave: As long as Johnson boycotts Houston’s training camp and persists in his protest to get out, a trade is possible. I doubt new Texans coach Bill O’Brien wants to kick off his regime with a major player making a bad vibe in the locker room. What is a (soon to be) 33-year-old receiver with a history of leg muscle injuries worth in a trade? I might offer a third-round pick, but I doubt the Browns would go that high.

Hey Tony: Over the weekend I read a column by a sportswriter in St. Louis who, like you, has an NFL Hall of Fame ballot. He said Kurt Warner is likely to be elected to the hall, maybe not in the first year of eligibility, but that he will be elected. Seriously? He had what, four good years? I know his is a wonderful story, but is he hall worthy? Would you vote for him? I'm curious?

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: Sometimes I have a pre-conceived opinion on a prospective Hall of Fame candidate and it is changed after hearing the arguments presented in the marathon meeting on the eve of the Super Bowl. In the case of Warner, my opinion is he is a deserving candidate. I look forward to the debate on his qualifications when he is eligible.

Hey Tony: Any chance the delay in Gordon's suspension is tied to Nike and/or NFL pressure to start Manziel and that if the Browns start Manziel, Gordon's suspension would be reduced? A caller on a local radio show said there was a rumor about this, but the radio host just brushed it off. I could see where, behind the scenes, these kinds of discussions/negotiations go on. If Manziel starts, his chances of early success increase significantly with Gordon to throw to. Everybody wins in that scenario. Nike, the NFL, the networks, etc.  It was said the one of the main reasons RGIII rushed back last season was due to pressure from his sponsors of his endorsement deals. Thoughts?

-- Paul, Seattle, WA

Hey Paul: I think there is no substance whatsoever to your points.

Hey Tony: I hope your vacation was swell. Wondering if you think the new renovations will affect the weather and noise conditions inside the stadium. Just from the pictures, it appears that they are closing off a bit more space of the open end of the stadium, which I would think help keep the noise IN the stadium, and have less (ok, it's still on the lake) wind. 

-- Nick, Chicago, IL

Hey Nick: The easy answer is we won’t know the impact of the stadium renovations until we get to November and December. In the meantime, I would love to hear Phil Dawson’s take on the subject. Nobody knows the intricacies of FirstEnergy Stadium better than the former kicker of the Browns.

 

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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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