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#HeyTony: Should Johnny Manziel ditch the money sign?

Dec 13, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



It’s Johnny time on the field and in the Hey Tony inbox this week.

Hey Tony: Now that it's officially 'Johnny Time' on the North Coast this Sunday versus the Nasty, I must implore you during any interview opportunities to make sure Manziel is aware of the negative effect from flashing that seemingly harmless, yet arrogant 'money sign.' The kid is a rookie from Texas & needs to tone down the swagger until he actually proves he can play in the NFL. Young QB's are already lunch meat for these veteran defenders looking to knock out an opponent -- and flashing that money sign simply makes the target bigger on his back. Simply put, would you agree Pettine should make it clear before Sunday's game that Manziel must suppress that little celebration and make sure he is aware of the negative attention it brings to his teammates?

-- Dan, New York City

Hey Dan: Pettine said he expects every player who sacks Manziel to mock him with the money sign. I don’t gather he will tell Manziel to stop doing it. For good or for bad, it is part of Manziel’s brand. These young quarterbacks today, they think they need some kind of signature. Colin Kaepernick kissing his bicep. Russell Wilson ending every interview with “Go, Hawks.” Manziel flashing his money sign. We’re all getting old.

Hey Tony: Are you prepared for Manziel to finally start? The best case scenario, Johnny is the second coming of Russell Wilson. The fly in that ointment, Johnny would rather go clubbing than watch film. Will he survive long enough to see the error in his ways? When the owner takes a quarterback out to dinner, what does it bring to mind? Ray Farmer will rue the day he was influenced to select Manziel. I suspect he and his scouts had Carr rated higher, and should have drafted accordingly. The narrative would have been so much different, but do you honestly believe Carr wouldn't have legitimately beat out Hoyer by now? Not to mention an additional 3rd round pick? Roll out Johnny, so we can see what we have seen for the entire 100-year war. The Browns still need a quarterback. As most Browns fans stew over Hoyer's poor play, I simply wonder what the hell Johnny Football is doing to stay off the field. Expect missed snap counts, broken plays, and mental miscues. He's a rookie after all. 

-- Michael, Florence, KY

Hey Michael: I believe now that Manziel has the starting job, everyone will see how committed he is to succeed. Also, don’t judge his career on these three games. Don’t forget, he only played two years in college. He has a lot to learn.

Hey Tony: Since the comments of Marvin Lewis, do you think Johnny Manziel will go out and trademark "Johnny Midget"?

- Steve, Georgetown, TX

Hey Steve: Don’t laugh. His personal "Manziel team” has trademarked about 10 other phrases using his name.

Hey Tony: Don't you think that these last three games are the most pivotal for the future success of this team? The Browns must find a QB and stick with him. They can't fall apart at the end of the season, even if they're out of the playoff picture.  This is the time of the season that the fans will see what "Play like a Brown" really means. If Manziel can show NFL starter potential, the Browns can build around him in the offseason. However, if he plays poorly, the energy will be sucked out of the team and the Browns will be talking about taking a QB in the draft.  Even in Louisiana, the talk is all about the Browns and Manziel. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that he looks more like Russell Wilson than RGIII.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Every offseason is “the most pivotal” or “the most crucial” for the Browns. I think the Browns feel that Manziel is their quarterback of the future, regardless of what happens in his three starts. They’d better use their draft to support him rather than replace him.

Hey Tony: Hard to complain about the defense. They’ve gotten better as the year has gone on and played phenomenal last week. I believe part of the reason is that they have veteran leaders who are vocal & keep everyone accountable. I think the offense lacks this in a big way. If there’s a guy on defense slacking off, I bet Whitner, Dansby or Haden would be in their face in a heartbeat. I don’t see this on offense. Hoyer was really a 1st year QB and didn’t seem like he was the type to get in someone’s face for dogging it. I know Thomas is a veteran guy, but he doesn’t seem like he’s that vocal when it comes to being a leader. When a guy like Gordon, who is clearly just going through the motions sometimes, needs a kick in the pants, who is there to deliver that to him? What have you seen at practice or in the locker room as far as offensive leadership?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: There’s only one person who can be the true leader on offense -- the quarterback. Manziel will grow into that role over time.

Hey Tony: What current Browns players do you feel won't be on next year's roster? And do you think there is any scenario where they draft a QB high? If the Browns do indeed see Johnny Manziel as the future what veteran QB will be available in free agency to add experience to the QB room?

-- Dale, Barberton, OH

Hey Dale: Looking at prominent free agents, I would guess that Brian Hoyer and Jordan Cameron will not be back. As far as a veteran backup QB, coaching turnover around the NFL leads to an annual quarterback carousel. Let’s see how that shakes out to handicap the field of available veterans.

Hey Tony: Why was last week's game, and this week's upcoming game, televised by Fox instead of CBS? Both matchups are all-AFC. Is this a flex scheduling thing? I thought that only applied to starting times, not jumping networks. Any info you can share? Just very curious. This has never happened before.

-- Jerry, Independence, OH

Hey Jerry: This year the NFL introduced the concept of “cross-flexing” games from one network to another, no matter the traditional boundaries of NFC (FOX) and AFC (CBS). Cross-flexing allows one network to “trade” the rights to one game for another. It helps the networks balance their 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. schedules. Sometimes a cross-flex includes a change in kickoff time, but not always.

Hey Tony: Is there any precedent in the NFL for making a quarterback change (not due to injury) like the Browns did this week? Has it occurred to anyone that a reliable place-kicker would put the team in a position where such a move would be unthinkable? This kind of garbage is what makes the Browns a joke around the country for television sports analysts and fans. What has to happen in Berea for the Browns to simply start making consistent, logical football decisions?

-- Steve, San Jose, CA

Hey Steve: It’s hard to argue the quarterback change after Hoyer’s declining production the last four games. As for the embattled kicker, there simply wasn’t a better option on the garbage heap.

Hey Tony: A few weeks back I was reading an interview with Joe Thomas about JJ Watt. Joe apparently knew JJ from his Wisconsin connections. He made the comment that critics thought Houston had reached for him at #8 overall, but that he knew all along he would be a great pick. He was then asked if the Browns had asked him about Watt and he laughed and said no, as if it was far-fetched that they would. I found this totally surprising. As an outsider it seems like the obvious thing to do: ask your future hall of fame tackle for his opinion on the talents of a defensive end prospect. This seems like part of the problem with the hit or miss nature of #1 picks. Should current players help to evaluate draft picks? Does the current FO consider the opinions of key players when making draft choices or free agent signings? 

-- Ed, Vancouver, CA

Hey Ed: GMs and personnel scouts study these players on film and then interview coaches, trainers, college teammates and opponents about them. Some ask their own players about them if there is a connection. In the case of Watt, Thomas was never a teammate of his. He was merely speaking up for a fellow alum of University of Wisconsin. You would expect him to speak highly of another Badger.

HeyTony: I hate to bring up a draft question, but your recent comment that you do not think that Jordan Cameron is coming back has me wondering. Would the Browns draft a Tight End in the first round? You have previously stated that that you do not think that Ray Farmer would draft a Wide Receiver in the first round.  Do you think that he feels the same about drafting a TE in the first round?

 -- Hal, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Hal: My guess is no, but this year is not a true test because from what I have heard there isn’t a tight end in the 2015 draft considered worthy of taking in the first three rounds.

Hey Tony: With Billy Cundiff struggling, is Havard Rugland (Kickalicous) available? Since the Browns already invited him for a workout this pre-season they should already have an opinion on him. Any idea if Browns have any interest? I believe he hit a couple 50 yarders for the Lions in the pre-season.

-- Rod, Stow, OH

Hey Rod: The Browns tried out Rugland in the 2013 offseason, not in 2014, and I understood they practically felt the tryout was a waste of time. That was a different regime, but with the same special teams coach, Chris Tabor.

 Hey Tony: I think this whole Hoyer fiasco could be a blessing in disguise. First, no one saw this team even winning 7 games, so I say they are playing with house money. Second, if Johnny wasn't here we'd have already signed Hoyer weeks ago and have another Derek Anderson on our hands. Last, we get to see what Johnny has these last few weeks. It could be a nice gauge to see if he has something to offer for next year’s squad or perhaps we need to look elsewhere. Your thoughts?

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: Yes, I wrote on Friday morning on ESPN that the timing was perfect to hand over the reins to Manziel.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


#HeyTony: Has Justin Gilbert hurt Mike Pettine's impact on future draft decisions?

Dec 07, 2014 -- 12:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



All it takes is a disappointing loss to turn attention to the Browns’ draft. Amazingly, more questions about the draft arrived in the Hey Tony inbox than about Mike Pettine’s decision to keep Brian Hoyer as his starting quarterback.

Hey Tony: I am enjoying the 7-5 record as this Browns team has overachieved in the 2014 season. And being in the P word hunt is exciting. With that said, I want to do away with the "draft like Browns" problem for good in 2015. The very limited production from back-to-back 1st round draft picks has me questioning the team’s ability to project talent or coach players up. I get that rookie QBs need time to develop, injuries, and mystery colds happen, but the bust word should not be at the tip of our tongues when discussing production. Pettine said he and O'Neil both really liked Mingo in the 2013 draft and it is reported that Pettine favored the CB Justin Gilbert over a historic rookie wide receiver class. Any chance Pettine should not have as much say so on draft day? Will Farmer change his approach in 2015? Will the Browns draft "production" over "potential"? Your take? Hopefully the 2015 draft does not have a historically rich depth of punt returners.

-- Eric, Avon, OH

Hey Eric: I’ve always said that coaches gain or lose currency in their personnel decision-making based on wins and losses. The more a coach wins, the louder his voice becomes in offseason player moves. That said, I don’t believe that the first draft of the Pettine era will adversely affect Pettine’s voice in Year 2. Keep in mind that GM Ray Farmer allegedly has final say on the draft and on the roster makeup. All personnel moves ultimately reflect on Farmer because he has the authority to say no to his coach.

Hey Tony: So Farmer’s first draft looks, at this point, to be pretty good with the exception of Justin Gilbert. Joel Bitonio is a beast on the line and should be a fixture there for years to come. Chris Kirksey & Terrance West have played a big role on the team this years as well. Pierre Desir is a project and may turn out to be very good as well next year. It all hinges upon Johnny Manziel. If he turns out to be our QB of the future and lives up to the hype, this draft will go down as one of the best in Browns history. The forgotten guy sometimes is Gilbert though. What’s his deal? Is his problem all between his ears? From what you’ve seen & heard do you think he’ll figure it out and eventually fill the role he was drafted for opposite of Haden?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: Just because a rookie doesn’t live up to expectations in his first season doesn’t mean he won’t live up to them eventually. As for what’s eatin’ Gilbert, let’s just say it’s not physical. He has the physical tools and hasn’t been encumbered by a season-lingering injury.

Hey Tony: Remember at the beginning of the season when people were emailing you about trading a defensive lineman because we were so deep? Turns out we didn’t have enough of them. That goes for offensive linemen as well. I am convinced the game is won and lost in the trenches along with QB play and I think Farmer understands that. We all lamented the fact that he refused to draft a receiver and I think you’re right about him possibly never drafting a receiver in the first round. I know it’s too early to talk about draft but we could use another offensive lineman and I believe we will draft one in the first round along with a defensive player. What do you think?

-- Wade, Fort Myers, FL

Hey Wade: I think it’s a fair assumption that every year under Farmer and Pettine, offensive or defensive line will be a priority in the draft.

Hey Tony: I don't mean to bring up the draft, as I know that we as Browns fans have collectively celebrated not having to resort to that topic of conversation this late into the regular season. This is more about the comforting idea of replacing Billy Cundiff in 2015. Do you think Farmer would be willing to part with a late pick to draft a kicker such as FSU's Roberto Aguayo, or do you think that he's more likely to scour the UDFA ranks for the next Phil Dawson? Not sure how many more missed 37-yarders I can stomach. Speaking of special teams, has anyone in Cleveland noticed that Josh Cribbs has returned 7 kicks for a total of 220 yards in two games? I believe his first return a few weeks ago went for 46 yards. I struggle to understand why they couldn't have swapped Ryan Taylor out for a six week rental for one of the most beloved Browns of the past 20 years.

-- Josh, Silver Spring, MD

Hey Josh: Cundiff’s on a one-year contract, so I would expect efforts will be made to find his replacement. I like the idea of addressing this need in the draft, so you can keep the same kicker for at least four years and not have to replace a veteran every so often. If they can find a sure thing – like the Ravens did with Justin Tucker a few years back – they should do it. I don’t know if Aguayo qualifies, but if he does, I wouldn’t be averse to using a middle round pick on a position we have seen is quite important. I don’t know how Farmer sides on this issue.

Hey Tony: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Pettine to have made the Hoyer to Manziel switch in Buffalo? It seems to have it shifted the narrative from “making a final playoff push” to “preparing for next year (again)” and has deflated the team at a time when it really needed picked up. 

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: I thought Hoyer’s overall performance in Buffalo, which followed a few games of failed opportunities and uncharacteristic mental and physical errors, warranted a switch for the sake of lighting a spark to the offense and team. I don’t think it deflated the team. We’ll see on Sunday if it deflated Hoyer.

Hey Tony: In retrospect, I took a deep breath Wednesday afternoon. Who switches their QB at 7-5? Furthermore, in favor of a rookie? Pettine's only legitimate excuse for talking such nonsense is a sneaky attempt to motivate Brian. The alternative is a defensive coach needlessly meddling with his quarterback position. Which is it? Was this a legitimate dilemma or a motivational move?

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: More so a legitimate dilemma. Now, if it motivates Hoyer to snap out of his snap, all the better.

Hey Tony: Just saw that Hoyer was named starter for Sunday. This is my interpretation, which Pettine won’t actually say obviously. Tell me how close I am: Pettine is saying “OK, Brian, YOU have done all this. YOU are complaining about being benched. YOU have gotten us this far, now YOU go out and play well this Sunday, and if not, YOU will be on the bench the rest of the year.” That’s my guess. And by the way, they shouldn’t be having a “quick hook.” That’s counterproductive.  Let him roll and see what he does.

-- Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: I think Hoyer will remain the starter as long as the Browns are alive in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be benched during a game, in my opinion, if Pettine thinks Manziel can provide a spark. I just don’t see all the practice reps being turned over to Manziel until the team is eliminated from the playoffs.

Hey Tony: Two questions for you: 1) Was Josh Gordon allowed a playbook (or iPad with the plays), when his suspension was changed, so as to allow him into the Browns facilities for training? I realize that he was not allowed in wide receivers meetings nor could not meet with coaches, but was he allowed to keep the playbook after training camp? If so, it is perplexing that he does not know the offense better than he does at least schematically? 2) Has anyone in the Browns organization indicated they regret not signing Josh Cribbs? Do you think they believe they blew it by not signing him? Not only could he have helped the team in their woeful return area, but he would have energized the fan base. I agree with you, when you wrote that they should have at least given him a tryout. It will be interesting to see how well he does against us this Sunday.

-- Erol, Stony Brook, NY

Hey Erol: By my count, that’s five questions. Anyways, 1. I believe Gordon was allowed to keep his playbook or have access to it while in the building during his suspension. Gordon said this week that some of the plays and routes have changed since training camp. Not being able to “walk through” them or practice them set him back. 2. Nobody with the Browns has admitted any regret about not signing Cribbs.

Hey Tony: Do you feel that Pettine & Shanahan are doing the team a disservice by not running the no-huddle offense in the first three quarters of games? Is this primarily to rest the defense more? It just seems to me that Hoyer has had some success with the fast paced attack in games against Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and (at the end) Atlanta.

-- Josh, Fullerton, CA

Hey Josh: They have their reasons for limiting the use of the no-huddle. I agree that Hoyer seems to be more productive without huddling. No-huddling to make up a deficit is one thing. I like the use of a slower-paced no-huddle with a lead, also, because it allows the quarterback to keep a defense from substituting and gives the quarterback greater control on managing a possession.

Hey Tony: QB turmoil has been so much a part of the Browns landscape for 20 years, I had forgotten the relief of not having to worry about it. Then Sunday happened, and all the old, all too familiar questions, cropped up. I hate to ask a draft question, but Hoyer's play and Pettine letting the Johnny out of the bottle, makes everything fair game yet again. If/when Hoyer signs with another team, will the Browns gain a compensatory pick? If Cameron signs (doubtful after this extended concussion, but if...), would the Browns get a compensatory pick?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: No single free agent loss automatically results in a compensatory pick. Compensatory picks are calculated by the NFL as a result of free agent losses v. free agent gains. So if a team signs more free agents than it loses – which has been par for the Browns, since they are always reaching to fill roster holes – it is not going to receive any compensatory picks. Plus, they are awarded for the next season’s draft. The compensatory draft picks calculated for the 2015 draft will be based on 2014 free agents. So if Hoyer and Cameron do leave in the 2015 free agent period, they will figure into calculations for the 2016 draft.

Hey Tony: With Jameis Winston, Bryce Petty, Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley coming into the next NFL draft can the Browns afford to finish this year without being sure Manziel or even Hoyer is the quarterback of the future?

-- Kevin, Detroit, MI

Hey Kevin: How can you be sure of any in the next crop of quarterbacks being any good, either?

Hey Tony: I know the Special Teams have been criticized a lot this year, and rightfully so. However, the one area they have been outstanding is on kick coverage. I do not recall any major returns they have given up. Most of the time when a kick-off is brought out it seems to end with the returner tackled near the 10 and on punts there is a negligible return. While the Browns have not had many return yards, at least they are not giving it back on the other side.

-- Dan, Minneapolis, MN

Hey Dan: True.Coverage has been the only consistently good aspect of the special teams. A large part of that on kickoffs has been Billy Cundiff’s touchbacks and long kicks, but, still, tackling and coverage on kickoffs and punts have been excellent.

Hey Tony: Since he’s been back, Hoyer has targeted Josh Gordon quite a few times but they don’t really seem to be on the same page. With the playoff window closing, is this simply a matter of Hoyer’s inability to take advantage of a dynamic playmaker, Gordon’s perceived lack of effort, or is just poor coaching of Gordon? Or a little bit of all three?

-- Donnie, Toledo, OH

Hey Donnie: You’re forgetting that Gordon missed 10 weeks of practicing with his teammates. Ten weeks! I, for one, took it for granted that his exceptional athleticism would compensate for his lack of practicing. Obviously, it is the biggest reason he and Hoyer have been off.

Hey Tony: Thanks for your reporting and professionalism. I admire how you take the high road when people attack you. I am pleased the Browns have more wins than normal but do not believe we have reached the level of a true playoff caliber team but feel we are going in a positive direction. I don’t believe we have a franchise QB at this point so I was hoping to see what we have in Manziel but so far Pettine has made more good calls than bad. Two quick questions, Gordon is such a talent but not sure how much he can be trusted. Would you trade him for a second round pick? Second question, what do you think the future of Cameron is with the Browns? It seemed as if he was destined for the franchise tag but with his injuries is it possible he won’t be signed?

-- John, Parker, CO

Hey John:1. I would not trade Gordon. 2. I believe Cameron will leave in free agency.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


#HeyTony: Will Kyle Shanahan get a head coaching job after one year as Browns offensive coordinator?

Nov 29, 2014 -- 5:52pm

By Tony Grossi |



As the NFL firing season approaches, the future of Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as a head coach candidate leads off this week’s Hey Tony column.

Hey Tony: With the improvement of the Browns’ offense this year do you think Kyle Shanahan will get some attention for vacant HC positions? As Browns fans we’ve seen our share of Browns HC’s that were better suited to being coordinators or position coaches (see: Crennel, Shurmur). Do you believe Kyle Shanahan has the requisite personality and drive to be a HC or do you think he prefers being a coordinator? I love his dedication to the run and it would be great to see him stick around for a few years and have some continued stability/growth with the offense. Have you ever discussed this with him? If not what are your thoughts on his future HC prospects?

-- Emery, Bay Village, OH

Hey Emery: Shanahan has stated his aspiration to be an NFL head coach. I suspect there could be at least six teams that change coaches after the season: Oakland (already open), N.Y. Jets, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas and N.Y. Giants. Usually, there is at least one surprise opening, too. So, I would expect Shanahan to receive some interest for some of these jobs. Sometimes it takes a candidate multiple years of interviews before he finds a match with the right owner, front office and team. So while Shanahan has drawn rave reviews for his first year as Browns offensive coordinator, it’s no automatic that he will be one-and-gone. I’m fairly sure, though, that he eventually will ascend to the ranks of head coach.

Hey Tony: Had a question about contracts that are signed by undrafted free agents as it pertains to guys like Crowell and Williams. When a player makes a team as an undrafted free agent, are they only allowed to be signed for the season? In the case of Crowell and Williams, how long were they signed for by the Browns? Do they become restricted free agents after this season or is it like a Major League Baseball situation where their rights are retained by the club for X amount of years? I read your columns religiously. Keep up the great work!!!

-- David, San Diego, CA

Hey David: Undrafted free agents can be signed for one, two or three years. The Browns gave Crowell a three-year deal. Williams signed for one year. In his case, Williams becames an “exclusive rights” free agent after the season; meaning, the Browns retain exclusive rights to him by tendering him a contract by the appropriate deadline. Players become restricted free agents after three years’ service and unrestricted after four.

Hey Tony: I understand why Joe Banner was one of your reasons to be thankful. He accumulated draft picks and had tons of cap space. However, that's not such a big deal if the team on the field is bad. It's easy to trade players and draft picks for the future. The difficult part is to choose the right players to win and to keep winning. Cap space should never be a problem without an elite QB, WR and pass rusher. The other problem with a lot of cap space is that those teams tend to over spend in free agency. The hiring of Farmer is what I'm thankful for. Do you think Farmer will change his mind on having an elite WR now that they have Gordon? Farmer will have to change that philosophy when Gordon's contract comes up, because he won't come cheap.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I can’t disagree with the first part of your argument. I’ve always felt that breaking up a team and deconstructing a salary structure is the easy part, notwithstanding the public relations backlash. Banner would argue, though, that he did provide the team with at least three integral veteran starters – Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant and Brian Hoyer – and also was responsible for Farmer and Pettine. As for Farmer and the future of Gordon, obviously it depends on Gordon’s ability to stay eligible through 2015, when his contract runs out. I would bet, however, that we may never see Farmer draft a receiver in the first round.

Hey Tony: Defensive players are now allowed to shove an “in-air” offensive receiver who has caught the ball at the sideline so that the receiver will land out-of-bounds, producing an incompletion. My question: by NFL rules, would it have been permissible for Josh Gordon to have similarly shoved the “in-air” Atlanta DB Trufant out of the back of the end zone to prevent the interception in the last game?

-- Kevin, Toledo, OH

Hey Kevin: The league changed the rule in 2008 to eliminate the judgment call on whether a receiver was pushed out of bounds before getting both feet down. Now, the catch is good only if the receiver gets both feet in bounds. A defender can’t, however, carry a receiver out of bounds. My understanding of the rule is that, yes, Gordon could have disrupted the interception by shoving Trufant out of the end zone before both feet hit inside the end line.

Hey Tony: So Hoyer and the offense didn’t play so well most of the last game. But he has four 4th quarter comebacks already in his brief tenure as an NFL starter. For all practical purposes, he’s still a rookie, having not started even 16 games in his career yet. The list of NFL QBs with the most 4th quarter come backs has guys like Marino, Montana, Brady and Manning at the top. If those guys always played well and always had great games, why did they have so many opportunities for 4th quarter come backs? My question is what reasons do we have to believe Hoyer can’t be a great “franchise” NFL QB? Why is it assumed he’s just a stop-gap guy holding down the fort for Manziel or whoever?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: Actually, Hoyer has five fourth quarterback comebacks in his 14 career starts with the Browns. One of the reasons fans and experts are skeptical of Hoyer is his relatively low career completion percentage. Most experts believe an NFL quarterback has to complete in the vicinity of 60 to 65 percent of his passes to be considered “elite.” There is also the perception that he can’t “carry” an offense -- that he must be surrounded by a successful running game to set up his play-action passes -- and that he is no threat to run and, thus, can’t take advantage of defenses cheating into coverage.

Hey Tony: Any thoughts of publicly admitting how wrong you were about RGIII?  I remember how adamant you were that the Browns should've traded whatever necessary to get him, how critical you were of Holmgren. I remember thinking that it would've been nice to have him, but the price was so steep. That and the fact that he had injury troubles and how difficult it can be to predict quarterback success in the NFL. Yet, you seemed so sure in that know-it-all Tony Grossi way.  Rarely do we see "experts" revisit their commentary and very rarely do they admit they were wrong. Just wondering your thoughts as the events in Washington unfold?

-- Cliff, Athens, OH

Hey Cliff: I never advocated trading for RG3. I stated several times on ESPN Cleveland that I never was “all in” on Griffin. I questioned his durability, arm strength and his ability to adapt as a pocket passer. Thus I never criticized Holmgren for not going the extra mile on that trade. I have admitted my “wrongs” many times. This was not one of them.

Hey Tony: Would like to hear your comments on whether you think RG III will be able to come back and play QB at a high level again. The commentary by many is that his fundamentals and mechanics are so bad and coupled with his mental state, he has a high mountain to climb to get back. In addition, was your take at the time of his drafting by Washington (after the mega trade with St. Louis) that Mike Holmgren did not do enough in his efforts to trade for RG III. I know many people criticized Holmgren (including me). It is interesting how fast NFL careers can change and how drafts & trades play out over the years. It may be quite a while before we can fully grade out the Browns first two draft picks this year.

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: I think RG3 has a chance to succeed in the right situation. He needs a talented coach who believes in him and can get through to him to make the improvements in mechanics necessary. He needs the right style of offense – the Shanahan system obviously maximized his talents their first year together – and I believe he has a greater chance of success in a dome. A dome would accentuate Griffin’s foot speed and also protect him from bad weather games at home. I don’t think his arm strength is more than average, at best.

Hey Tony: There are at least three critical intangibles which don't show up on the stat sheet or in QB ratings: (1) check downs from passes to runs, or runs to passes; (2) speed of the release, preventing sacks; (3) throwing to the proper receiver. I strongly believe Hoyer's winning record (10-4) is a function of QB variables which go beyond completion percentage, a rocket arm, and TD Passes. He studies opponents/coaches thoroughly and reads defenses well. He said his Atlanta game was actually better than he first thought based on (immeasurable) check downs to runs. These skills, which aren't "sexy", come from classroom work, experience, and intelligence. Sipe and Kosar possessed them too. Why don't the TV announcers and radio guys discuss these important intangibles?

-- Bob, New York City, NY

Hey Bob: Some of them do. I think analysts who know Hoyer best, such as Phil Simms, appreciate all the skills in him that you point out.

Hey Tony: What are your thoughts on how Charles Johnson was handled? I can't help but think how dynamic he and Gordon would have been as bookends, at a very cheap price. I thought he would lead the Browns in receiving until JG returned, now it looks as if he is emerging as the Vikings top receiver. What's your take?

-- Randy, Mogadore, OH

Hey Randy: I was surprised that after investing a whole season into Johnson’s recovery from knee surgery that the Browns would not protect him on their regular roster until he was ready to produce. Ironically, they lost Johnson the same way they acquired him – by being poached from their practice squad. That’s the risk.

Hey Tony: Ever since their hire, Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan have repeatedly stated their intention of a balanced offense with the run as or more important than the pass particularly in the months of November and December. I wholeheartedly embrace this approach and am a bit concerned now that we have called 90 passes in the last two games. Let's pound the rock with our two (or three) young stud backs and use Hoyer and his play action passes to supplement and balance our offense. Do you have a reason for this or am I just overly concerned about nothing?

-- Joel, Sidney, OH

Hey Joel: I questioned why Shanahan called so many passes inside the red zone in the Atlanta game. I thought the whole point of committing to the run was to develop the mentality and physicality to pound the ball in the bad weather months and also inside the red zone, when the passing zones become constricted by the smaller field. Hopefully, it was a learning experience.

Hey Tony: I read that Taylor Gabriel was a walk-on. What does that mean? Did he just show up at the Browns training facility and ask for a tryout? Is that how walk-ons make teams?

-- Barry, San Francisco, CA

Hey Barry: “Walk-on” is a college term for a player who “walks on” and makes the team without being given a scholarship. Gabriel was an undrafted free agent, but he didn’t just show up to Browns camp. He was recruited and signed after the draft.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


#HeyTony: Did the Browns try to trade Ben Tate before waiving him?

Nov 22, 2014 -- 12:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



The release on waivers of running back Ben Tate was a hot topic in the Hey Tony inbox this week. Also, we received our first ever question about pigeons.

Hey Tony: On the Ben Tate situation, I’m sure the team tried to shop him around and at least get a late-round draft pick from someone before they just released him, right? Is the salary cap hit the same for a traded player as it is for a player who was just outright released? Speaking of that, how do the Browns look as far as cap space next year so far? Who will be the big names to resign (besides Hoyer)?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: I was told the Browns did not shop Tate before the trade deadline. I think Tate’s demise really accelerated after the deadline passed. Salary cap ramifications were not a factor. They are the same if a player is waived or traded. They have plenty of salary cap room, so it really wasn’t an issue. Browns players whose contracts are up after this season include Jordan Cameron, Jabaal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin, Buster Skrine, Tashaun Gipson and Hoyer.

Hey Tony: I know Ben Tate was a good interview, but don't you think he had to go?  He's definitely not a team player, especially when things are not going his way. I started to have bad vibes about him when he was injured. Instead of complimenting West and Crowell for playing great in his absence, he said neither could come close to his ability. I personally think he'd take a 200 yard rushing game over a win.  Hoyer, on the other side, is the type of player that would give up stats for a win any day. I'm just glad that Farmer and Mike Pettine didn't allow this bad attitude to linger for the rest of the season. Farmer handled his release with class, reinforcing my belief that we have a quality GM.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I always appreciated Tate’s honesty and availability. I understand completely why he was waived. It came down to his attitude, his declining production, the desire to accelerate the development of the younger backs, and the surplus they had at the position. The message it delivered – team over any individual – also served a valuable purpose. I wasn’t surprised that Tate was claimed by multiple teams. He is still in his prime (26 years old) and is healthy. He has a few 100-yard games left in him, but I doubt that he’ll ever serve as a feature back again because of his durability issues.

Hey Tony: When Brian Hoyer has a bad game, it seems like he is finding the open receiver but his throws are way off the mark. However, he is also capable of making a lot of "all-pro" throws. Is this inconsistency just because of the pass rush or do you think his surgically repaired knee is still keeping him from not fully stepping into his throws (which pushes the ball too high)? Or is it both? I recall that it takes a full season for an athlete to fully recover their form after coming back from an ACL injury, so that's why I'm wondering your thoughts.

-- Chris, Shaker Heights, OH

Hey Chris: I don’t think there’s any question Hoyer is still working his way back from his injury. A lot of his inconsistent accuracy appears to be the result of faulty mechanics caused by releasing the ball early. Sometimes it’s the result of pressure, sometimes it’s perceived pressure. Hoyer often explains that he’d rather throw the ball than take a sack. That’s fine, but 30 incompletions are unacceptable. I would think he would have more consistent mechanics next year as a result of more confidence in the repaired knee.

Hey Tony: I understand Ray Farmer loves Marcus Mariota. Any chance he trades both number 1s and Manziel for the first pick?

-- Dave, Willoughby Hills, OH

Hey Dave: None. Zippo. No chance. I doubt it. Probably not. You think? Naw.

Hey Tony: One of Ray Farmer's excuses for not signing Josh Cribbs was that 'who would they cut to make room for him." This week the Browns cut Ben Tate. I read that Josh was going to sign with the Colts but why didn't the Browns attempt to sign him once a roster spot opened up? Josh Cribbs could have performed a number of different roles including perhaps as an emergency running back if needed. I would think someone like him would provide a high value for the dollar. It appears to an average fan like myself that the team does not put a high value on special teams. Why not?

-- Glenn, Albuquerque, NM

Hey Glenn: Cribbs held out to the very end hoping he’d receive a call from the Browns. They never had any interest. Why? They’ve never fully explained. That ship has sailed and let’s hope the Browns don’t regret it when the Colts come to Cleveland in two weeks.

Hey Tony: Long-time reader, follower, and listener. Enjoy your spots on Really Big Show while working on construction site in N Canton building NFL fueled hotels by the HOF. My question is, after watching Hoyer heave the ball 50 times Sunday do you think Shanahan for the first time became frustrated w/ the run game and went rogue to Pettine’s dismay or was that actually part of the plan to open up the passing game to really take a look at Hoyer? Even when trailing in games this season the offense stayed true to pounding the ball and it worked in Pittsburgh (almost)  Tennessee and in Cincinnati. If ever there was a time to get pass happy would have been week one and in Tennessee

-- Roger, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Hey Roger: I’m constantly amazed at how a coordinator or head coach can let a run-pass imbalance get out of hand during a game. How many times do you watch a game and say: Why are they giving up on the run? Or, why are they passing so much? Coaches up in the booth have all the game statistics available to them. I just don’t see why at some point in a game a coach can’t inform the play-caller, “You know we’re throwing the ball 3 out of every 4 plays?” Up until the Houston game, Shanahan was excellent at persevering with the run even while it was sometimes painful to watch. I don’t know what happened against the Texans. Shanahan took the blame later in the week for the offense’s performance.

Hey Tony: Do you think that there could be a change in special teams in the off season (specifically coach)? I know Tabor has being kept on through multiple coaching changes and he has not had a lot to work with but there doesn’t seem to be a week go by without some mistake or missed opportunity. Is it the coach fault or GM?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: Sometimes a coach might want to be released from his contract and the club holds him to it. I was told that this actually happened with Tabor at some point during all these coaching changes. That said, I believe this has been a very frustrating and disappointing season for the Browns special teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tabor stayed and I wouldn’t be surprised if he left.

Hey Tony: Over the last several years we have dedicated draft picks and money mostly on defense. Our starters on defense last game accounted for 33.094 million/year in salaries and our starters on offense accounted for 20.22 million/year, of which over half (10.9 million/year) is Joe Thomas. The Browns are ranked 14th in total offense and 22nd in total defense. If you watch games and understand the game, you see the offense is over-performing for the talent level at the skill positions and the defense is just putrid. Why does every loss seem to come back on Brian Hoyer? Do you feel the media is driving the Manziel hype because Hoyer is too boring, or are fans calling for Manziel just stupid? 

- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Manziel was such a dynamic college player, it’s hard for many people to understand the jump he is making from a relatively simple offensive system to a very complex one against highly sophisticated defenses. The temptation to see Manziel on the field is incredibly strong. So anything Hoyer does wrong or not well enough is going to feed the curiousity about Manziel. It’s a tough position for Hoyer to be in.

Hey Tony: That interception Joe Haden got against the Texans got me thinking. It seems there are always pigeons on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium. What happens if a pass accidently hits a bird? Will the play be result in a mulligan?

-- Rod, Stow, OH

Hey Rod: Congratulations. This was the first question I’ve ever received about pigeons. My answer is there are no mulligans in football.

Hey Tony: I don't know what we can do defensively other than "next man up". Maybe we get lucky. We will need to score more points. Gordon and hopefully soon, Cameron, can really boost the offense. Special teams is still a mess. I think Justin Gilbert should be our full time returner. Is he looking like a 1st round bust? I can't think of one reason not to bring in Cribbs for a tryout. What does it hurt? Maybe we can make the field a little bit shorter for the offense. Could you see Cribbs as a special teams coach? He was one of the best at what he did. He played with intensity.

-- Ed, Benton, TN

Hey Ed: Almost every week the media asks about Gilbert returning kicks and the answer is always the same: He’s in the mix. When he’s ready, we’ll put him out there. Cribbs as a special teams coach? I’m not sure he wants to pursue coaching after his playing days. But if he did, I would think he’d be good at it.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: What does Ray Farmer have against Josh Cribbs?

Nov 15, 2014 -- 12:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



General Manager Ray Farmer surged to the head of the Hey Tony column after his comments about Josh Cribbs and Brian Hoyer during a rare media appearance last week.

Hey Tony: Your column earlier in the week focused on Ray Farmer's responses to your question as to why we wouldn't go after Josh Cribbs. His argument was that we would have to let someone valuable go, of course. My immediate response is to wonder how in the world Farmer can see more value in Marlon Moore? That is one roster spot that makes no sense to me. If we get Josh, or someone like him, we have someone that can return both punts and kickoffs, and is a force to be reckoned with on kick coverage. Amidst all this discussion around the failing punt return game, why are we not discussing the fact that Marlon Moore is not the answer, yet he's taking up a roster spot -- and to be just a very mediocre kickoff return guy? I would love to see the Browns sign Josh, but I'd rather have a sound answer from the Browns to that question!

-- Jeff, Durham, NC

Hey Jeff: The Browns’ stated reasons for showing no interest in Cribbs are laughable at best and insulting at worst. The only conclusion I can draw is the real reason is something they obviously don’t wish to share.

Hey Tony: When reading an article then hearing you on the radio you asked Ray Farmer directly about Cribbs and his answer was "who would you replace?" How about Rodney Smith? He has yet to see any real field time and doesn't play special teams. Cribbs would slide right in, a guy not expected to play receiver unless there is an emergency, but he plays any and all special teams, and if he does get in on offense, he may not be a #3 or #4 receiver, but as we have seen in the past he can be a devastating blocker.

-- Ken, Pinehurst, NC

Hey Ken: Farmer may feel Smith is a player whose physical talents and potential are worth developing over time. GMs who have control over the roster, as Farmer does, are more apt to stash promising developmental players on the roster than coaches.

Hey Tony: I would be OK with the Browns giving Josh Cribbs a tryout as a punt returner. But aren't you panicking just a little about Jim Leonhard’s one fumble? Wouldn't you agree that demoting him would be akin to demoting any starter for one mistake or firing a sports columnist for one over the top tweet? It just doesn't make sense to me.

-- Dave, Akron, OH

Hey Dave: Really? You’re going there? 

Hey Tony: I keep hearing people say (not you) that there is "zero chance" Brian Hoyer does not return to the Browns next season. Honestly, after listening to Ray Farmer’s press conference last week I think the opposite. I think it is more likely he will NOT be back next season. Farmer certainly has not given Hoyer any ringing endorsements has he? I just get the impression that the Browns brass are very confident that after sitting a season, Manziel will be able to make every throw that Hoyer makes now. Plus, with Manziel’s stronger arm and duel-threat play, Gordon, Mack and Cameron back, the offense will be even better with Manziel at QB. Not to sound cliché, but I think the Browns view Hoyer as a textbook "game manager" and they look forward to Manziel being the starter. It sounds to me that Farmer is simply going to let this QB dilemma solve itself (for lack of a better term) when Hoyer gets a bigger money deal from another team. Am I wrong in saying that is the impression the Browns are putting out there?  

-- Chris, Columbus, OH

Hey Chris: I think the reason the Browns have not acted on a contract offer for Hoyer is quite simple – there is division in the building about what to do. They are not positive about which quarterback they should commit to, so the best course of action right now is let the season play out. If they decide to put their faith in Manziel, a possible exit strategy is to make an offer to Hoyer that they know will be declined. That way they can say they tried and Hoyer decided to seek greener pastures. If they truly want to commit to Hoyer, it would be relatively easy to sign him long term.

Hey Tony: I believe that if the Browns re-sign Hoyer this offseason (which I think they should), they need to trade Manziel. The popular belief is that the front office won't do this, because it makes them look like they were wrong for picking Manziel in the first place. Why does that matter? Every team makes a mistake in the draft at some point, right? And can you blame the team for picking up a possible franchise quarterback, when at the time they weren't really sure how good Hoyer could be? What am I missing here Tony?

-- Brandon, Winter Haven, FL

Hey Bandon: If the Browns elect to not trade Manziel, I don’t think it would be for not wanting to admit a mistake. I think it would be because they believe he will be a winning quarterback some day.

Hey Tony: Your paragraph in Wednesday’s Ben Tate article where Tate describes the Houston locker room concerns me.  When asked about Houston, he talked about the camaraderie there in a way that implied that the same camaraderie wasn’t there in the Cleveland locker room. Did I read that wrong? That is a bad sign to me. Ben, you’re either with us or against us. What say you?

-- Paul, Green, OH

Hey Paul: I feel Tate’s comments were made out of frustration and he should be given a break. I can understand why he might miss the camaraderie of his former team. He developed relationships over four years with the Houston Texans and hasn’t seemed to develop any in his first year with the Browns. I must say there seems to be a disconnect in the running back room between Tate and the other young backs.

Hey Tony: I’m curious why we haven’t heard anything about Pierre Desir lately?  Most of us were really intrigued with his story after the draft and during training camp, and now it seems mums the word.  Is he dealing with an injury?  If not, seems like a 4th round draft choice out to be playing, or at least active. 

-- Craig, Austin, TX

Hey Craig: I have stated numerous times that the Browns considered Desir a developmental prospect and were willing to “redshirt” him – practice him, but not play him – over his rookie season. They liked his size and potential enough to use a fourth-round draft pick to get him, but realize he was making a huge jump from Lindenwood (MO) University to the NFL.

Hey Tony: We keep hearing players are in the NFL Concussion Protocol. But do we know what the official protocol is for concussions? I assume there are certain tests players must pass and maybe stages to recovery? Is there any way for us to know how close a player is to returning or how they’re really doing or is this considered private? Also, do you think the Browns are being extra cautious with Cameron to allow more time for his shoulder to get closer to 100% before he actually comes back?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: Once a concussed player enters protocol, he must pass through certain stages before can return to the field. These are monitored by an independent neurologist. Symptoms vary with every individual depending on history of concussions and severity of injury. Symptoms can return without notice after a player passes through one of the stages. And then the process starts all over again. I don’t think the Browns are holding Cameron back. The neurologist is in charge of his protocol.

Hey Tony: I -- and I believe many other fans -- greatly appreciated your thoughtful comparison of Brian Hoyer to Bill Nelsen. I’m hopeful that Hoyer will continue as the Browns Starter taking them into the playoffs and his being resigned before becoming a free agent. Shifting over to the rookie Manziel, I was intrigued by the FOX NFL SUNDAY Team suggesting that the NY Jets seek a trade with the Browns to acquire him, which many fans would welcome. If that occurred what could the Browns get from the current Jets roster that would help them in 2015 and/or in a 2015 Jets Draft Pick?

-- Alan, Manassas, VA

Hey Alan: I don’t know what the Browns could command in a trade for Manziel. If he doesn’t play the rest of the year, I can’t imagine the Browns would attract what they spent in acquiring him (first- and third-round draft choices).

Hey Tony: Everyone seems to think that if Brian Hoyer continues to do well and remains the starter, the Browns will eventually need to trade Johnny Manziel. I’m surprised no one has made reference to the 4 seasons Steve Young was backup to Joe Montana in San Fransisco. If history serves, Steve Young had a pretty decent career even after spending multiple seasons on the SF bench. I think the Browns should take the same approach and keep things as is for as long as the team is successful. Even if that means going beyond this season. What are your thoughts?

-- Pete, Chicago, IL

Hey Pete: Your scenario certainly is possible. It just seems to me that Manziel is such a unique personality and dynamic character that it would be problematic to have him sit for another year.  

Hey Tony: What makes an elite QB? Nobody would have considered Tom Brady or Kurt Warner elite until after Super Bowl wins. Luck was anointed an elite QB before throwing an NFL pass because he was such a rare talent. RGIII, Stafford, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Rivers and Romo have the talent, but have faltered under pressure. I'll take a smart QB that thrives under pressure any day. I know there are things Hoyer can't do that Cam Newton can do physically, but there's so much more to the QB position. Don't you think the term elite gets overused before a QB proves himself on the field? Does a QB have to be a great athlete to be a great QB? I think we become enamored with the scramble and fantastic play of an athletic QB and overlook the consistent play of a guy like Hoyer that just wins.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I think there is a distinction between a quarterback with elite physical talent and an elite quarterback. I think an elite quarterback is one who consistently performs under pressure, who makes the players around him better, and who can overcome adversity and pull out a victory for his team when others might not be at their best. Using those criteria, the list of elite quarterbacks is a short one, probably including no more than a handful in the NFL today. I would put in this class Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. After that, there is a drop-off to Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck. What separates the two groups is consistency over a long period of time.

Hey Tony: When I saw Hoyer saying something to West after he was hamming it up for the cameras, I also noticed Crowell was also laughing and smiling with West. They got real serious real fast. I thought to myself about how much respect/fear the team’s rookies have for Hoyer. I love it. Been a long time since we have seen anything like it. Did you see what happened? What’s your take?

-- Vic, Allen, TX

Hey Vic: I was told of this incident when I returned from Cincinnati but never saw a video of it. When Hoyer was asked about it, he pretended it never happened and said he couldn’t recall it. When West was asked about it, he said Hoyer merely was telling him, “Good play.” When Mike Pettine was asked about it, he made a joke that Hoyer merely was the closest person to West and that’s why he was the one to speak to West. Pettine admitted sideline behavior was a topic in the meeting room following review of the incident.

Hey Tony: Through all the winning and success of the Browns, Jim Haslam has been quiet and non-existing. You don't even see the camera shots of him in his suite during the game reacting to the Browns playing on the field, not even a mention in the paper of the Flying J situation. Has he been around? What are his thoughts of the Browns’ winning. What about the fact that his draft pick, "Johnny Football" is sitting on the bench?

-- Bob, Canton, OH

Hey Bob: Haslam spends at least one day during the week at the Browns’ facility and attends every game, home and away. The last interview he gave was very early in training camp. He keeps his distance from the media. When he was more accessible to the media, I think he was taken aback at how most everything he said became a headline news story. He has said that he prefers to be in the background. He knows that whatever he says about Manziel or Hoyer will be blown out of proportion. He also is very sensitive to the perception that he was the person most responsible for the drafting of Manziel.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Is Brian Hoyer the Browns' franchise quarterback?

Nov 08, 2014 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



As the Browns position themselves for a run at the playoffs, the debate about their quarterbacks intensifies.It never ends, does it?

Hey Tony: A couple of years ago the 49ers featured Alex Smith, a veteran QB playing well with a young Colin Kaepernick watching on the sidelines. The 49ers opted to go with Kaepernick, although his opportunity to play came at the expense of Smith being injured. Given Ray Farmer's recent comments, do you see a similar scenario unfolding in Cleveland where the franchise chooses the younger QB, despite the quality play from the veteran, or does Hoyer have a genuine opportunity to become the franchise QB?

-- Kevin, Chicago, IL

Hey Kevin: The 49ers felt Smith had taken them as far as he could. Kaepernick’s unique skill set appealed to the 49ers and they made the switch. The parallel to the Browns’ situation at quarterback is similar with two differences: Nobody knows Brian Hoyer’s “ceiling.” He has a much smaller sample size than Smith. On the other hand, Johnny Manziel’s charisma and marketability far exceeds that of Kaepernick.

Hey Tony: Brian Hoyer is the only starting Browns QB to have a winning record since their return in 1999.  In the past two seasons as a starter, he is now 9-3.  The 13 games he didn't start during this same time, the Browns are 1-12. During the span dating back to 1999, the Browns have had 20 starting QB's including Hoyer.  The best record out of all of these previous 20 not counting Hoyer was Jake Delhomme at 3-3 in his 6 starts.  We have drafted 3 of these previous 20 failures in the first round. Now, even after Hoyer's 9-3 record, when we have had failure after failure at the position, I keep hearing that Hoyer is nothing more than a game manager and we need to see what Johnny Manziel can do. Well, the odds are certainly not in Manziel's favor. Please tell me there is no chance we let Hoyer get away this offseason with the possibility of having to scrape through another 20 failures over the next 15 years, can these people be serious?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Is there a chance the Browns let Hoyer walk in free agency? Yes.

Hey Tony: There are reports indicating that some senior brass of the Browns are becoming impatient and would like to see Manziel in action. Hoyer is doing well, so far, and it will be difficult to keep him on the sidelines without causing a stir among, at least, the veterans on the team. If Pettine is forced to put Manziel on the field and Pettine refuses, are we looking at a different head coach next year?

-- Sam, New York, NY

Hey Sam: I don’t think Pettine would be forced to put Manziel on the field. On the contrary, the more a coach wins, the more power he accrues in off-season decisions. I believe Pettine is Hoyer’s greatest champion in the organization. If they win together, Pettine could emerge as the key person in Hoyer’s future with the Browns.

Hey Tony: Was the Thursday game a good enough indication of Hoyer's arm strength in Cleveland-cold conditions?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: I thought Hoyer’s arm held up well in 35 mph wind gusts – much better than Andy Dalton’s. Hoyer believes the ability to spin the ball through the wind is more important than pure arm strength. He can spin it fine.

Hey Tony: Like many, I've been impressed by Hoyer's success so far and the Brown's 5-3 record. It's even more impressive when you consider that he's had to deal with all of the Manziel distractions, a new coach and system, not having Mack, Gordon or Cameron, a non-existent running game, and his own recovery from a major ACL injury.  But this is Cleveland, so from what you've seen so far do you think Hoyer has the arm and talent to continue performing well once the weather starts to become a factor?  He usually makes good reads, but tends to float a lot of passes and I'm a little concerned that he won't be as effective once it starts to get cold, wet and windy outside. Thanks as always for your great coverage of the Browns!

-- Hòa, Los Angeles, CA

Hey Hoa: I think he’ll be fine. But nobody has really seen him perform at the NFL level in northern games in December. Let’s find out.

Hey Tony: It seems to me that the 2014 Browns wide receivers are dropping far fewer passes than the 2013 Browns wide receivers. Is this the case so far? While I like Brian Hoyer, I would think that having wide receivers who don't drop the ball would be a big positive for his stats.

-- Al, Seven Hills, OH

Hey Al: I’ve been impressed by the receivers’ pass catching ability. Generally, I believe drops v. great catches even out over time.

Hey Tony: Living in Atlanta I get a lot of the Falcons (thank goodness for the Sunday Ticket). Needless to say the fans are extremely upset with the team and front office. Real trouble is, they are more than a couple pieces away. They are lousy on both lines. That brings me to this scenario. I would offer "Johnny" (huge in the South), and one or even both our 1st rounders for Matt Ryan. I think that would immediately put us in contention. I'm not talking about sneaking into a wild card either. I mean title contention. Your thoughts?

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig:I think the Browns are heading toward title contention without Matt Ryan.

Hey Tony: Usually I have a pretty good idea of how the Browns are going to fare when they take to the field. Take for instance the Browns facing the Bengals, with those receivers, running backs, the offensive line and that defense, plus all the key injuries the Browns have and don't forget the game is being played in Cincinnati, there is no way the Browns should win. But here we sit, with a winning record past the halfway point. Do you feel we might have something this year? Are the playoffs a silly dream?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: The Browns are the epitome of a team, greater than the sum of the parts. When an organization is able to manufacture that type of chemical reaction, anything is possible.

Hey Tony: When you mentioned Farmer and Pettine wanted to change the culture of losing and in doing so will not really criticize the way we are winning it all made sense. What I really took away from that though is that although we are winning now we will upgrade positions when the opportunity presents itself; when we not so much establish winning but rid ourselves of so much losing. Hoyer came to mind. Do you see the Browns going the way of the Bengals, building up a really good team around the QB, and then getting the franchise QB? It seems they are happy with Hoyer but kind of know they need better at that position in the long run. Am I looking too much into things? Thanks.

-- Eliot Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: Dalton as a franchise quarterback? I don’t think so. I think you grab the franchise quarterback whenever you have the chance. Until you do, you build other spots.

Hey Tony: WOW, what performance! I applaud the coaches and players for such a great performance at such a critical part of the season. Do you think this was the biggest win to date since the Browns have been back? The game got me so hyped up, that if I was Ray Farmer, I'd be signing ALL the free agents. Hoyer made Dalton look like a rookie and our unheralded WRs outplayed their big guns. Don't you also think it's about time to pay Skrine and realize he is the CB opposite Haden? 

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: No major contract decisions should be influenced by the emotion of a win or a loss. That’s why it’s a good idea to wait for the offseason to review players whose contracts are up.

Hey Tony: As I sit here and watch the NFL Network This Morning It's all about how Dalton Lost the Game and what goes on the Sideline of Cincinnati or Jeremy Hills crybaby rant. Even when Terrell Davis is asked about the Browns he can’t give them any credit for this season.

 -- Pat, Uniontown, OH

Hey Pat: In the NFL Network pre-game show, each of its analysts predicted a Bengals victory by double figures. So, take their opinions for what they’re worth.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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