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#HeyTony: What are the Browns thinking by signing Josh McCown over Brian Hoyer?

Feb 28, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



The best thing for the Browns about their signing of quarterback Josh McCown? It took the heat off the logo PR disaster. Emails about the McCown signing – and Brian Hoyer snubbing – flooded in at the deadline to fill this week’s Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: Can you dig a little deeper into why the Browns would not even consider signing Brian Hoyer to a similar deal as they did with Josh McCown? Now that the Browns have shown their initial hand, do you think Hoyer will be more forthcoming on the internal issues he was facing and seeing between the Front Office and the Coaching staff? Now we get to see whose season will be better at the end of the year – Hoyer’s or McCown's.

-- Stan, Atlanta, GA

Hey Stan: It’s obvious to me that the Browns considered McCown the better fit in the role they envisioned – a potential short-term starter and real long-term mentor who will create no waves and do whatever is asked of him. Hoyer may end his career that way, but he feels he is in his prime and has proven capable of leading a team to a winning record. As to any internal issues, my own feeling is the Browns felt a bit threatened by Hoyer’s smartness and his forthrightness and did not feel his overall play on the field merited carrying a quarterback who sometimes questioned the way things were being done.

Hey Tony: Long-time Browns fan (after today I'm not really sure why), a few questions for you. After the signing of Josh McCown have you started working on your mock drafts for 2016? I'm thinking a top three pick is not out of the question. Who do you like for the next coach and general manager after Jimmy “inconsistency is the best consistency." Haslam cleans house again? (insert saddest face ever). And finally I'm 39 years old any chance I see a playoff game in my lifetime?

-- Zakk , Philpot, KY

Hey Zakk: Mock draft 1.0 of the 2016 season has not been set yet. There could be a meeting at halftime of the 2015 season opener to schedule it. (Kidding.) (I think.) Don’t even start with the next coaching and GM search. As for your chances of seeing a playoff game in your lifetime, as always my follow-up question is “Smoker or non-smoker?”

Hey Tony: I really want to know who, with a straight face, in the Browns’ hierarchy felt that McCown gives us a better chance to win than Hoyer. The guy is 35 and has a career record of nearly 2x as many losses than wins. I truly believe the Browns will be unwatchable next year. But other than the Cincy game, they were watchable last year. And until Mack went down, they were not only watchable but actually entertaining. I think this signing instantly retards any progress we made last year. Defenses are not going to be game-planning on how to stop McCown. And if even if they did, he has no weapons to catch the ball. Defenses will play 7-8 guys in the box and sell out to the run. We have watched so much bad football over the past 16 years. I think they finally pushed me over the edge that I have lost interest. Even as recently as last year, I was looking forward to the draft despite the new coach & front office shake-up. This year, I couldn't care less about who we draft. The Browns need to be really careful because I think this offseason has been one disaster after another. Based on what I read last night, there seems to be a much larger sense of apathy than any time since their re-entry into the league.

-- Dave, Cleveland, OH

Hey Dave: I don’t think the signing of McCown necessarily retards the team’s progress. To me, it assures one of two things – either the Browns still plan to turn the team over to Johnny Manziel, or they plan to make a big run in the draft at either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. I am not necessarily comfortable with either plan, but they better have something in mind.

Hey Tony: Help me understand this Josh McCown signing. I just don't get why their first free agency target is a QB who went 1-14 last year.

-- Andy, Columbus, OH

Hey Andy: You’re under-selling McCown. He only went 1-10 last year. As to the urgency of the signing, remember that McCown was released two weeks ago and, thus, was not classified as an unrestricted free agency and subject to the March 10 signing date. Because McCown had options, the Browns had to be aggressive if they wanted him badly enough.

Hey Tony: I just read your article on Josh McCown; the Browns have played their card and Hoyer is no longer a Brown. It seems the team concluded, at some point in the season, that Manziel and Hoyer couldn't coexist on the same team. I don't recall reading much about Hoyer after he was benched (other than his "disappointment"). My question is this: Was Hoyer still a team player after he was benched? Or did his disappointment become something more?

-- Tim, Tallahassee, FL

Hey Tim: Hoyer was a consummate teammate, but he made it clear that he felt he had proved he was capable of winning as a starter and he wouldn’t settle for a backup role.

Hey Tony: What's the bigger joke, the great orange change or the Browns vowing to find that QB of the future? Josh McCown had the second worst QB rating last year. He was only better than Blake Bortles.  At 35 years old, he's not going to get better. We swapped him out for Hoyer, the most successful Browns QB in recent years. What am I not seeing? I could understand someone like Sanchez, but McCown has made this team weaker. What do you think about going into next season with Manziel, McCown and Shaw? Farmer is making sure that his guy, Manziel, is playing without having to send texts. Maybe he's relying on McCown to babysit Manziel on and off the field.  Can you offer any optimism with this group at QB? 

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: If Farmer envisions a final depth chart of McCown, Manziel and Shaw, I would say the team definitely is weaker at quarterback than a year ago. There is no guarantee – no sign, really – that McCown could win 7 games. There is no sign that even a wholly rehabilitated Manziel can succeed with his physical skill-set. The only thing I would give you is Shaw is better, more competent, than we thought, but is limited in arm strength.

Hey Tony: Appreciate your professionalism and commitment to this painful, chronic disease of a franchise. I think I would have resigned a long time ago. Now that arts and crafts time is over and we can get back to football, I am trying to think of ideas to spark this offense to help out the next QB. Curious if you agree that there are two weapons Farmer needs to prioritize: pass catching TE and a more elusive scatback. Cameron is all but gone and none of our current RBs on the roster have the open field hips to strike fear in a defense by running designed screen plays. I am not sure if Reggie Bush is worth even taking a flyer on, but I must imagine there is another Dion Lewis or Darren Sproles type in the draft we can target. Tall, athletic, pass catching Tight Ends are incredibly valuable in the modern vertical offense to stretch the field & I would not hesitate to use a couple picks to hit on one. Any sense from that amateur operation in Berea that either spots are a priority? You da man, Tony.

-- Dan, New York City, NY

Hey Dan: I agree with your assessment of the needs on offense. Add in a No. 1 wide receiver and you can see Farmer & Co. have a lot of work to do. Replacing Cameron is a given. The scatback is a need that has been glossed over but is real. A fullback, too, for that matter, but don’t get me started on that.

Hey Tony: What is wrong with this dysfunctional organization? It's a "no brainer", re-sign Brian Hoyer. Re-sign our "top free agents" and upgrade a couple of positions on offense and then let’s see what he can do. He may have been in the league awhile however, he hasn't had that many starts in the NFL. I certainly don't think he has reached his full potential. What say you?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: I think the best thing for Hoyer is to move on from this dumpster fire in his hometown and go out and prove exactly what kind of quarterback he can be. All I know is he won 10 of 16 starts here. Take away the Buffalo game in 2013 and you have a quarterback who was 9-6, which is better than anybody else they have trotted out there. And he was not surrounded by terrific talent. The first year, he had no running game. The second year, he had no No. 1 wideout, and lost his Pro Bowl center and tight end for six or more games.

Hey Tony: From the looks of it the draft seems to have plenty of good WRs and D tackles. The two spots that everyone seems to think the Browns need. Is there ANY chance the Browns take Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin? I think he is one of those guys who has the potential to score from anywhere at any time. We could sure use some of it from either the WR or RB position. Also please give me your chances of the Sam Bradford trade happening (I'd love it). Your thoughts?

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: 1. I don’t think a Gordon sighting in Cleveland is in the cards. 2. Your email arrived before the signing of McCown. Now I would scratch any hopes of a trade for Bradford, of course.

Hey Tony: What do you think about this theory related to the Browns free agency plan: Are they going to allow many of their potential free agents to walk in an effort to acquire compensatory picks for the 2016 draft? Haslam and Pettine have their roots in the Steelers and Ravens who have used this strategy for years, Haslam has stated we will not be a major player in free agency, Farmer covets picks and the Browns seem to be interested in cut players (Ginn, McCown and Casey) that do not affect the calculation of compensatory picks.

-- Bill, Akron, OH

Hey Bill: You make some astute comments. Yes, the Ravens and Steelers – and also the Patriots – always strategize to sign released veterans over unrestricted free agents for the reason you state. A released veteran does not affect the complex calculation of compensatory picks, which is a net of free agents lost v. free agents signed. If the Browns lose more unrestricted free agents than they sign, they could see a windfall of compensatory picks in 2016. Keep in mind, though, that these begin in the middle of the third round and generally come at the end of the fourth through seventh rounds.

Hey Tony: I have to say I get where Ray Famer is coming from with no WR in the first round (given the Browns success in the second round I wouldn’t pick one there either). It didn’t really help the Bus or the Bills all that much. Also I think both lines and pass rusher are bigger needs

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I would say there is no single blueprint to follow. Championship teams have been built in several different ways. To point to the latest Super Bowl team and try to copy its method is no guarantee of anything. Every team is in a different stage of development and that has to be factored in.


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: Should the Browns be active players in free agency?

Feb 21, 2015 -- 2:15pm

By Tony Grossi |



Free agency, the draft, receivers, quarterbacks … it’s the Browns’ offseason, and that means fun and games without a scoreboard in the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: Thank you for your great coverage of the Browns. I enjoy listening and reading coach Mike Pettine’s blunt and straight forward talk from his interviews this past week. It's refreshing to see and hear. Ray Farmer came across as a man who's been through the ringer and seemed a little humbled by the early off season troubles. I'm not happy to hear that they said they're not going to be "big players" in the FA market. I think that would be a mistake given the quality of players available that could fill a couple holes on this team. Do you think they're making a mistake, or is the perception of dysfunction hurting their ability to lure FAs? Do you think Farmer or coach Pettine help or hurt that perception with their interviews this week?

-- Bill, East Hartford, CT

Hey Bill: I think everyone agrees there is a danger in overspending in free agency – both in dollars and in quantity of players. Free agent purchases take playing time and developmental experience away from drafted players, which should form the foundation of any team. Free agency is best used to put a good team over the top and into the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Browns have never approached that point in team growth. So I’m not in favor of being a “big player” in free agency. However, bringing in one or two key free agents can be valuable – if they are the right ones and fit into the locker room culture and the coaches’ system.   

Hey Tony: I think peeps are missing the meaning of Ray Farmer's supposed law against early drafting WRs. I am not a fan of Farmer after the crap he pulled all year but I understand what he means regarding WRs. Most WRs are prima donnas and disrupt the "team" on offense -- check Braylon, Kellen, Harvin, etc.  Also, productive WRs can be found later, check Garcon 7th round, Steelers guy 6th round etc. For teams that need a lot, a WR could come later, whereas a team just lacking a WR could take one early. Perhaps now the Browns have reached the point where they can get a WR early so no problem if they do OR don't.

-- Greg, Erie, OH

Hey Greg: How about this concept -- if your selection comes up and the best player on your draft board is a wide receiver, take him. That’s what the Steelers do. That’s what the Ravens do. The idea that having a big-time playmaker at wide receiver somehow is a detriment to winning is mind-boggling. I agree not to force a receiver at a high selection. But if one is there and he is a proven playmaker, don’t avoid him just for the sake of copying teams that reach the Super Bowl without one.

Hey Tony: As a lifetime Browns fan, I'm concerned about Farmer going into the draft feeling like a lame duck, which I think a lot of people think he is. My concern is the risks he might be willing to make in trading future picks or assets to have a chance to win now, knowing if he doesn't win, he will be gone and not able to use future picks anyways. As a Browns fan, I'm the one that will suffer if this happens.  Is there anything to stop him from trading future picks to have a chance to save his job? Would Haslam step in?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: Well, the coach is in the same boat. They both have to win. To me, this is where the notion of “sustainable success” gets in the way of winning. Everybody is worried about setting up pieces to win in the future – collecting draft picks, hoarding salary cap room, building from the bottom of the roster up. The best way to establish a winning culture is to win. I’m not advocating taking shortcuts or mortgaging the future. Worry about the future when the future comes. Worry about now, now.

Hey Tony:  I just read that that the Browns are among the teams showing interest in Josh McCown. How can the Browns possibly be interested in a 35 year old career backup QB who just "led" his team to the number 1 overall pick? Oh wait, it's the Browns. Let me rephrase that, of course the Browns are interested in a 35 year old career backup QB who just "led" his team to the number 1 overall pick. How can any of the free agent QBs possibly be a better option than Brian Hoyer?  Do you think the Browns would be more interested in Hoyer if he did everything did in Cleveland, somewhere else? I am not sure he is the long term answer, but re-signing him does not preclude anything they may want to do in the draft, including moving up. So why is there such an obvious disdain for doing the most logical thing regarding the position? Soldier on, General.

-- Tony, Bowie, MD

Hey Tony: The Browns obviously feel they can do better than Hoyer in free agency. I’m not saying he’s the final answer, but he appears to me to be a better short-term solution than many of the available free agents – McCown included.

Hey Tony: I heard something a couple of weeks ago that was kind of glossed over then but may be quite important now concerning Textgate. What I heard was that the reason why Kyle Shanahan was able to leave without much fuss was because the terms of his contract were violated. I am wondering if Farmer calling shots, or interfering ala texting during games, could have been the reason for the contract violation. If so shouldn't this be another notch against Farmer? Shouldn't the violated contract, if the story is accurate, be a bigger story than what it is? Thanks.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: If that were the case, Shanahan wouldn’t have agreed to forfeit the remaining two years of his $1 million-plus a year salary. He would have demanded his money as a result of the Browns’ violating his contract, as you suggest. Shanahan just didn’t like the future with the Browns, sniffed out greener pastures, and quit.

Hey Tony: Need your opinion. Not sure I’ve heard this kid’s name too much, if at all. But what about Jimmy Garoppolo? I know New England took him last year. But they play for the present, not the future. And Tom Brady has at least a few great years left. Maybe they really like Garoppolo, I understand that. But maybe they figure they have a couple years to find a replacement for him (I’m guessing they’d be betting on themselves that they could do it). Meanwhile they get a second rounder from Cleveland to add a weapon offensively or defensively, or replace an aging and more expensive player. And use one of their picks this year or next to draft another QB (Grayson, Petty, Hundley this year). What do you think? Possible?

-- Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: Garoppolo? Yes, I remember him. He would have been a decent choice last year. I don’t think the Patriots want to trade the quarterback they have chosen as Brady’s heir.

Hey Tony: Far-fetched thought here, but with the obvious void in the front office for a "football leader" to solidify the group and all the weird reports surrounding Peyton Manning's return to the Broncos, is there any way Haslam has pitched Manning on joining the Browns as President of Football ops and he's deciding between the two options now?

-- Nick, High Point, NC

Hey Nick: The Manning-to-Cleveland rumor is one I am not dismissing in the future. But there is no way it’s happening this soon. Manning wants to play at least another year. He has said he has no idea what his post-playing plans are. Personally, I doubt that he would try his hand at football administration until after he does something else. So I’m thinking somewhere down the line he might be a candidate to join Haslam, but not for a few years.

Hey Tony: When Haslam fired Joe Banner et al I was excited because Banner seemed so arrogant and contemptuous of the media or anyone else who questioned his questionable decisions. But I am consistently baffled by the Browns across decades and owners hiring people to do something in Cleveland they have never done successfully anywhere else. No knock on Farmer or Pettine or their staffs, but from coaches to general managers, Cleveland always seems to be a training ground rather than where the tried and true come to work. The only winning coach to come here was Holmgren and he didn't come to coach!  Northeast Ohio is the home of the NFL's HOF. The Browns and Paul Brown are legendary. Yet we have suffered since Shottenheimer to find someone who knew how to put a consistently winning team on the field. Is there something about Cleveland or the Browns that makes it a tough sell? Why do they always have such a tough time getting proven professionals for their vacancies?

-- Kevin, Detroit, MI

Hey Kevin: This is the essence of the #100years war.

Hey Tony: Why is Ray Farmer taking the fall for Textgate? If Haslam admitted responsibility and was suspended by the league as a consequence, the effect on the team wouldb e negligible, but losing the GM for four weeks would be at the very least impactful. Does Haslam really value his public image more than the success of the team?

-- Tony, Washington DC

Hey Tony: You’re assuming that Haslam ordered Farmer to text complaints to the sidelines. Haslam and Farmer have said Farmer acted alone. Let’s wait for the NFL to disclose the results of their investigation before passing judgment.

Hey Tony: Two questions. 1. I agree with your assessment that the Browns could use a president. Any names come to mind? 2. What do you think of Sean Mannion, as a late-round, developmental QB prospect? I was reading up on him ( and he seems like an AFC North-type quarterback (big frame, big arm and ran a pro-style offense). Is he in Indy for the combine?

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: 1. I think an owner has to feel really comfortable with and have supreme trust in a person appointed to oversee his entire organization in his absence. I think that appointment takes time before the right person is found. So, no, I don’t have any candidates in mind. 2. Certainly Mannion passes the eye test for all the reasons you state. No question he bears watching and the Browns should research him as a developmental prospect. I am notorious for favoring a conventional, drop-back quarterback with size and strong arm over one lacking in those physical attributes.

Hey Tony: We know that college spread offenses stunt the growth of quarterbacks. Any thoughts on why, at the same time, wide receivers seem to be more NFL ready? It used to be accepted wisdom that receivers needed a couple of seasons to grow into the pro game. Now, rookies are stepping right in and making an impact.

-- Carl, Candia, NH

Hey Carl:One reason is more college teams are throwing the ball incessantly, using spread, four-receiver offensive systems that make receivers the focal point. So by simple math, there are more receivers getting more reps and making more plays – thus, they are developing more quickly than ever before.


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: How would you right the ship if you owned the Browns?

Feb 14, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer, Textgate and Johnny Manziel were all trending in the HeyTony inbox this week.

Hey Tony: If you were owner of the Browns, what's the first thing you'd do to "right the ship"?

-- Craig, Atlanta, OH

Hey Craig: I’ve already written the first thing I’d do is re-sign Brian Hoyer. But only if there were complete consensus in the building on bringing him back. Obviously, there is not. Beyond that, I would embark on a search to find a credible VP-level manager to oversee the entire operation when the owner is away. It could be someone already in the building or it could be someone else. It would be someone with legit people management experience in the NFL. I just think with all these rookies in high-level decision-making offices, it makes sense to have an experienced manager on hand to guide and lead and make sure everybody is on the same page. Somebody who knows that not only is texting to coaches during games against the rules, it is an act counter-productive to building a winning culture.

Hey Tony: Despite his words, Jimmy Haslam appears to micromanage the business of the Browns. It stretches credibility to the breaking point that he had absolutely no involvement in Farmer's texts. This situation is similar to whether he had knowledge of the rip-off rebate scheme at his Pilot J business. Given the investigative power of the NFL, do you feel that Haslam will skate totally free on textgate - and Farmer will take 100% of the blame from the NFL? Would you agree that Farmer's future with the Browns is very strong, given his knowledge of Haslam's true involvement with textgate?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: First of all, I’m convinced Farmer’s texts gained no competitive advantage for the Browns but were counter-productive to the team’s cause. As for Haslam’s knowledge of them, there’s a phrase – plausible deniability – that I think is at work here. There probably will be no evidence linking Haslam to the texts. Thus, he and Farmer can deny Haslam knew about them, if not ordered them. I don’t think it guarantees Farmer’s future beyond this year.

Hey Tony: I've got this service that lets me watch NFL football games from last season. The games I was interested in were the ones Johnny Manziel played in. The game I've seen several times is the second Cincinnati game. I know Johnny didn't look ready but as I reviewed the game I kept observing that Johnny wasn't getting much help from the rest of the team. If you've got a rookie quarterback starting his first game, shouldn't everybody be helping him out? I feel like Johnny did have a few good passes, a couple to Josh Gordon, a couple to Cameron Jordan and it seemed like somebody else. Obviously the offense couldn't find the end zone and Johnny did throw a couple of interceptions, but the problems with the picks I think could be corrected. In your opinion, am I being overly optimistic?  Don't almost all the rookie QBs struggle in their first outings?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: Yes, they all struggle. All the more reason not to put a rookie QB in the situation of making his debut in such a meaningful game. Nobody saw Manziel’s practice week other than the coaches and players. Manziel admitted after the season he was unprepared and didn’t take the season more seriously. Reports detailed cases of Manziel not knowing how to call some plays that were sent in from the coaches. Perhaps the team was defeated mentally knowing it had no chance to win. If that were the case, I don’t blame Manziel as much as the decision-making process that resulted in playing an unprepared quarterback with the season on the line.

Hey Tony: Sherman said that war is hell, but no army has inflicted so much hell on itself since the Union Army at the beginning of the War of Northern Aggression (sorry, I'm in TN). So if you were Jimmy, what would/could you (candidly) do to stop this latest descent into Browns blunders, turmoil, and buffoonery? Give Pettine an extension? BTW, here are some suggestions for your top five list: Top five avoidable blunders in the Hundred Years War. Top five catastrophes of the Hundred Years War. Top five generals who were promoted too far. Top five casualties of the Hundred Years War (I assume that the fans would be number 1).

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: As stated above, I would search for an experienced supervisor to oversee and referee the football and business operations. Of course, it may take time for the owner to find the right person for the job, someone the owner can trust to keep the ship steered in the right direction.

Hey Tony: I was just thinking about something the other day and was curious about your opinion. How do you think the Cleveland Browns would have been last year with a top-15 quarterback and all other pieces the same (excluding the side-show backup qb)? That would put them in Nick Foles-Ryan Tannehill territory by Total QBR.

-- TJ, Rochester, NY

Hey TJ: Go back and check how the Browns did when Hoyer was ranked in the top half of the league earlier in the season. They were in the thick of the division race. So, if that position plays at that level over the course of the season, I would expect the Browns to be a relevant playoff contender with the roster they had last year.

Hey Tony: In your article today you mentioned that Browns season ticket prices went up between 30% and 100%. I am a season ticket holder and my tickets went up 3%. A friend's tickets went up 6%, so some may have gone up in the range that you presented but, obviously not all of them were in that range.

-- Tom, Strongsville, OH

Hey Tom: I understand that the Browns raised prices at different rates depending on the location. Basically, each ticket buyer knows only how much his or her tickets went up. The Browns’ publicity release on the subject does not list specific increases. I’ve heard from some ticket-holders who said theirs went up more than 100 percent.

Hey Tony: I predict that with the offseason the Browns have had (no reason to rehash the list -- my fingers would hurt from typing) and the 27% average increase to season ticket prices that Jimmy is about to experience the largest drop in season ticket sales from the previous year. As a fed up season ticket holder that drives way too far to see this mess every home Sunday, I am first in the "not-renewing" line. What are your thoughts? And if you agree, do you think that will be an eye opener for Jimmy's and his meddling ways? Thanks for the coverage.

-- Matt, Dayton, OH

Hey Matt: I cringe whenever I hear or read media members telling fans, “Vote with your money. Don’t buy the tickets. Don’t go to the games.” I can understand how difficult that would be if a family owned tickets and passed them down for generations. It all started with the Paul Brown dynasty teams. It’s not easy to break that bond. People are still in love with what this team used to represent and they grudgingly hold on to their tickets or seat licenses on the hope that good times will some day will return. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Ownership can be held accountable in other ways. Trust me, there will always be somebody else to buy your seat. An individual protest or boycott is your decision. But just remember, one player can turn it around and you don’t want to be on the outside looking in if he is found.

Hey Tony: You’ve been increasingly harsh on the Browns, and probably rightly so. I am a little dumbfounded on your recent criticism of drafting Manziel with the 22nd pick, and your criticism of the coaching staff for starting him against the Bengals. In your final mock draft, did you not have Johnny going 3rd to Jacksonville, with the quote “they would be crazy not to take him, plum crazy?” Also, was it not you who wrote that it was time to start Manziel, even before the Bengals game? You media types are geniuses when it comes to hindsight and revisionist history. Why not admit that the you were just as wrong as the Browns on Manziel? Or better yet, give him more than 2 games to prove himself. It doesn’t look good right now, but you never know. Also, do you not find it alarming that every article bashing the Browns is always based on unnamed sources? How can you tell if the story is really 100% true? Everyone I talk to quotes this stuff like it actually happened. The truth is you are not in team meetings in Berea, you have no idea what was discussed or texted, and you will never have any clue how the staff really gets along. Filling in empty spaces is not really journalism, is it? Sounds like fiction to me.

-- Tom, Stow, OH 

Hey Tom: 1. Honestly, I wanted the Jaguars to take Manziel so that the Browns would not be in the position of taking him. The forlorn Jags would have received all the marketing benefits – national relevance, increased ticket sales, etc. – and I also felt Manziel had a better chance of succeeding in a warm climate or with a dome-based team. 2. I wrote at the time of the Bengals game it was the “perfect” time to make the move because Hoyer was struggling terribly and I kept hearing from the coaches and players that Manziel was improving. Only they knew whether that was the truth; blame me for believing them. Obviously Manziel was not nearly prepared to play in a routine game, much less one with slim playoff hopes on the line. 3. As far as using unnamed sources, it’s a judgment call on using them. Does the unnamed source have credibility and knowledge of what they’re talking about? The sad fact is most people don’t want to own up to the hard truth with their name attached. But it doesn’t mean they are making things up when requesting anonymity. I wish every source had the courage to go on the record. But if you limited stories to only on the record quotes, you would not get the truth on anything controversial.

Hey Tony: Do you think that the Browns are further away from contending than they were last year? Also, if Manziel comes out of rehab and works hard do you think he could be a difference maker (in a positive sense) for the Browns?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: Let’s see how free agency and the draft go before assessing the team’s chance of contending. Manziel’s off-the-field issues are just one obstacle he has to overcome. I always thought the larger one was his physical limitations.

Hey Tony: You mentioned in an article that the quarterback position is under coached and NFL organizations do not put enough effort into developing QB's.  It is hard to find a Gary Danielson for your Bernie Kosar. Either you get a QB who still thinks he is the "guy" or a QB who wants to mentor who was never that good and just wants a paycheck. I personally would not like to train my replacement if I was an NFL player. That responsibility should not be put on a player’s shoulders. They are trained to play not help. Why not hire more coaches to work exclusively with each QB on the roster. They could have a personal tutor. If it is so hard to find a quarterback so why not make your own farm system to develop these guys.

-- Bryan, North Olmsted, OH

Hey Bryan: True, not every over-the-hill quarterback possesses the qualities to contribute as a mentor to the person taking his job. Trent Dilfer, for instance, was appalled to play behind Charlie Frye and his immense ego wouldn’t allow him to transmit any knowledge to a teammate. But there are mentor candidates out there and if you find one, he can be an invaluable cog in the development of a young quarterback. But your idea makes sense, also. If there can be two linebackers coaches – even two special teams coaches – I don’t see why you can’t have two quarterback coaches, one to keep the starter zeroed in on the upcoming opponent and one to tutor the developmental quarterback.

Hey Tony: What would you think about Ryan Mallett? He's big and has a strong arm that we need in Cleveland with our weather. I think he would have been a 1st round draft pick if he didn't have so drug issues in college. Or even Sam Bradford if St Louis Rams were to release him I don't think I would trade for that contract of his. I know he's been hurt a lot but if they were to cut him I think he's worth a look see. What do you think?

-- Dave, North Ridgeville OH

Hey Dave: Of the two, I would prefer Bradford, but only if the Rams released him. I wouldn’t want to inherit that contract of his. Unfortunately, I see both players staying with their former teams.  


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: Are the Browns engaged in a Hundred Years War?

Feb 07, 2015 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |


Photos/Getty/ (Photo Illustration/ESPNCleveland)

In the past 10 days, Johnny Manziel entered an undisclosed treatment facility, Josh Gordon was banished for at least one year and reports came out of possible sanctions for the Browns violating NFL electronic rules during games. It was a good time for a history lesson.

Hey Tony: What is the 100 Years War and is it almost over?

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: The Hundred Years War was a series of battles and conflicts between the kingdoms of England and France from 1337 to 1453. When I was barely starting out as the Browns’ beat writer for the Plain Dealer, a Detroit News columnist and good friend of mine visited Cleveland during the 1986 playoffs to write about the excitement about the Browns. In his story, he identified me as the beat writer of the Hundred Years War because the Browns had gone a whole 22 years – that long? – without an NFL championship. So here we are 29 years later and the pursuit of a championship drones on with no end in sight. The real Hundred Years War extended for 116 years and did not end with a peace treaty, but rather died out because of Bubonic plague and economic burdens and hopelessness.  

Hey Tony: Thanks for all the info over the years. I have been a Browns fan all my life. I am 57 years old. One of my fondest memories as a child is hearing my Dad yell, "Touchdown for the Browns!", while he listened to the game on the radio. I am really sick of all the crap going on and has been going on over the years with this team. I don't know if I want to listen to it anymore. I live in Southeastern Ohio, so on top of all the other stuff I have to listen to I have to hear it from the Squeeler and Bungle fans. I could never root for another team and I love the game of football but I am really turned off by the Browns and the entire NFL. My question is, do the other NFL fans go through anything at all like what Browns fans do or is this just the worst franchise in the NFL?

-- Don, Neffs, OH

Hey Don: The Oakland Raiders have a winning legacy and are now in a decades-long tailspin. The Buffalo Bills went to four Super Bowls in a row in the 1990s and now have the longest playoff drought in the NFL – longer than the Browns. So it happens. I’m not sure, however, that any team’s fans have suffered more embarrassments and more heartbreaks than the Browns’ fans. It can’t last forever.

Hey Tony: Bravo! You hit the nail on the head with your article on dumping Manziel, drafting a quality WR, signing Hoyer and drafting a DT or DE in the first round.  You may be right on the NFL coming down hard on the Browns because of deflate-gate. The Browns did break a rule, but didn't get a competitive advantage like Atlanta pumping in noise!  If they do lose a draft pick, you should use your column to ask why the Steelers didn't lose a pick when their coach altered a game purposely stepping in front of a player on the field.  That was their head coach possibly changing the outcome of a game with a blatant rule violation. He was only given a monetary fine. The Browns’ texting gave absolutely no competitive advantage compared to the other situations. If the Browns lose a pick, I hope it's a first rounder. Those picks have cost them dearly in the past!

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl that the existence of competitive advantage is secondary to the fact there is a violation of the rules that protect the integrity of the game. So I’m not sure that sheer stupidity is a defense.

Hey Tony: Well you did it, from a good column to a lousy column in 24 hours!  Re-sign Hoyer, are you freaking kidding me? You just said they signed Manziel for tix sales and now you want to sign Hoyer for tix sales? Try growing a brain. Only you would want to return to a mushy armed, inaccurate, backup QB as the starter who doesn't bring fear to any defense. Why would a FA WR want to come here with a chicken arm at QB? You freaking idiot! The Browns FIX starts with the front office before talking about on the field stuff. Try demoting Farmer, give 53 to Pettine, promote Bill Kuharich. If a FA QB doesn't want to sign a contract with overpay, TRADE for a QB like Glennon. I would also include Bradford after a renegotiated contract or cut from roster.

-- Greg, Erie, PA

Hey Greg: But how do you really feel about my column about re-signing Hoyer? I can’t tell.

Hey Tony: There is not much out there about the release/firing of WR coach Mike McDaniel. Was he let go before or after the flight out to Vegas with the players? Was he also out in Colorado with Gordon and Manziel? Tell us the story of what happened and how his release fits in with the rest of the Gordon/ Manziel mess.

-- Dan, Centerville, OH

Hey Dan: McDaniel was seen in a video posted on the Internet from the inside of the private flight that took Josh Gordon and other teammates to Vegas. The trip to Vegas occurred on Jan. 2. McDaniel was unofficially dismissed on Jan. 8. The news was released a week later. McDaniel was Kyle Shanahan’s best friend on the coaching staff and it was always assumed that he would follow Shanahan after the coordinator jumped ship. I’m sure the video insured his departure.

Hey Tony: I agree with your comment on the RBS that Pettine should have had more cred within the organization when he got the team to 7 wins, and that the play-Johnny decision was pushed on him. Do you think that Johnny's flame-outs have weakened the other voices and strengthened Pettine's?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: You would think so and hope so.

Hey Tony: What are the chances Justin Gilbert was paying attention to Malcolm Butler's comment after the Super Bowl that his interception was attributed to recognizing the formation during film study?

-- Mike, Solon, OH

Hey Mike: Why does it seem that the undrafted rookies get it so much sooner than the highly drafted ones?

Hey Tony: As I watched the Super Bowl, I have to ask if you feel the same as I do. Did you see Seattle throwing passes to a tall kid named Chris Matthews? Do you have any idea how Charles Johnson is regarded in Minnesota? The Browns seem to give up on developmental guys at an alarming rate. Regime changes have plenty to do with it, but it's more than that. As the Browns give chance after chance to high draft choices, the no name guy gets nearly a look, and a swift kick out the door. Last time I looked, every NFL team could use tall, fast, cheap WRs, especially the Browns. This blatant disregard for legitimate NFL talent, coupled with the draft choices that I won't even mention, have me ready to light a match and burn some orange and brown. New uniforms aren't the reason either. Incompetence is.

-- Michael, Florence, KY

Hey Michael: Every team has its stories of regretfully losing a player it wished it had kept. The Johnson poaching off the Browns’ practice squad is now exacerbated by the Gordon one-year banishment. The year before, the old regime released David Nelson on the final cut and he came back to haunt them with the Jets that season.

Hey Tony: Has the value of the Browns gone up since Haslam bought them? If so, what Cleveland billionaire would you recommend we convince to go buy Haslam out (at a handsome profit for Haslam, of course)? Obviously he’d have to be someone who would convince Cowher to come run the entire football operation, and then would leave Cowher and Pettine alone. Is there someone like that in town? And if so, can I have his cell phone number? 

-- Joe, Winter Springs, FL

Hey Joe: The thing about NFL franchises is they never go down in value. Haslam paid $1.05 billion for the Browns in October of 2012. It is worth at least that much now. And, no, I don’t know of any billionaires in Cleveland.

Hey Tony: I asked you two weeks ago to give me some reasons to continue hoping in the Browns. You gave a very comprehensive list of reasons (thank you for that by the way) and as a fallback solution said to try a "glass of wine at night". Based on the reports that have emerged about the Browns from Monday-Wednesday regarding Farmer being the culprit behind text-gate and Haslam and the office as a whole having no sense of direction, continuity, self-control or well ... intelligence, I have a follow up question: Red or White?

-- Matthew, Freeport, ME

Hey Matthews: Red. Always red.

Hey Tony: Are there any NFL rules prohibiting the Browns from paying a consultant / mentor to work with Johnny in the off season? I think if there is any loophole that allows that scenario, then it should help Johnny be more 'ready' come training / pre-season.

-- Rod, Stow, OH

Hey Rod: To get ready for the draft last year, Manziel worked with George Whitfield, a noted private quarterback coach who operates out of San Diego. One of Whitfield’s instructors was Kevin O’Connell, who is expected to be named Browns quarterbacks coach this week. After his lost rookie season, Manziel said he expected to return to San Diego in the offseason to work further with Whitfield.

Hey Tony: I think you get misplaced blame for "Running Belichick Out of Town." Can we please educate the masses of ignorant fans who either "misremember" history or are too young to actually remember it and just go by the incorrect story that rumbles through town every time Bill Belichick wins a Super Bowl?  No one seems to remember that Belichick was not fired by the Cleveland Browns. He was fired by Art Modell and the BALTIMORE RAVENS after the team had relocated. Also, while this offseason is a raging dumpster fire, the 1993 season was more than just Belichick firing Bernie Kosar. It was Belichick cutting his starting quarterback while the team was in first place! He made an ego-driven decision that completely alienated the locker room as well as a fan base, sending that particular season into a death spiral the team never recovered from. Belichick should have been fired the moment he brought up cutting Bernie to the front office. Even if the Browns had not moved, and still fired Belichick after the 1995 season (Everything else remaining the same record-wise for argumentative purposes), at that point in his career, Belichick's legacy was the 1993 debacle with Bernie, one playoff win, and a loss immediately after to the . . .  wait for it . . . . PITTSBURGH STEELERS!!!  Browns fans need to stop looking back at Belichick's time in Cleveland, gnashing their teeth, and creating a narrative that simply is not true.  Belichick became the coach he is now by being fired from the Baltimore Ravens their first month of existence. Can you add more context to this?

-- Brian, Youngstown, OH

Hey Brian: To say the team never recovered from the release of Kosar wouldn’t be accurate. Belichick reached the playoffs the following year with Vinny Testaverde at quarterback. I would say, however, that Cleveland football never recovered. The release of Kosar eroded the Browns’ popularity and that of Modell with his ticket buyers and in the corporate community. It can be argued that it undercut Modell’s influence in the community and contributed to his financial demise. Corporate customers abandoned him and weakened his clout in the political backrooms. When Major League Baseball told the city politicians they had to build the Indians a new stadium or the team would move, the politicians devised a public-money project called Gateway to build the Indians their new stadium and also move the Cavaliers from Richfield to downtown in a new facility. With Modell’s Cleveland Stadium lease locked in for three more years, the Browns were given third priority. When the Indians left the old stadium, which was controlled by Modell, his financial situation worsened. The state of Maryland waved a money and stadium deal in front of him and he took it rather than sell the team. I have always believed that the situation with Modell would not have escalated as such if the team were winning and he had not alienated customers through the Kosar episode.

Hey Tony: With all the turmoil with RG3 in Washington. Any chance Browns would consider a draft pick to acquire his talents. Why not bring more drama to training camp.

-- Bryan, North Olmsted, OH

Hey Bryan: I know you’re joking, but stop giving them zany ideas, please.


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: Does Josh Gordon owe the Browns a refund on guaranteed money?

Jan 31, 2015 -- 12:45pm

By Tony Grossi |



The news of Josh Gordon’s latest violation of the NFL substance abuse policy and impending indefinite suspension leads off the Hey Tony inbox during Super Bowl week.

Hey Tony: I was curious if Josh Gordon's contract was guaranteed or not. I know some of the early round rookie contracts are, and I was curious how the suspension affects a guaranteed contract. Does the suspension trump the guarantee, so the Brown's would only ever have to pay the rest of the guaranteed money if/when Josh would get reinstated? If Josh's contract is guaranteed, this could figure in on the Brown's decision to cut him or not.

-- Brian, Canton, OH

Hey Brian: Gordon’s four-year contract with the Browns contained a total of $3.727 million in guaranteed money, of which $2.324 million was paid upon signing in 2012. He has already received the remaining guaranteed money, based on the details of Gordon’s contract on There is a mechanism in the collective bargaining agreement by which the Browns could seek to recover a pro-rated portion of Gordon’s signing bonus because of games missed due to suspensions. That pro-rated portion in 2015 is $564,115. I don’t know if the Browns intend to pursue that process.

Hey Tony: The Josh Gordon suspension is another tough blow but sadly not a total shock. I don’t get a sense that he is an addict spiraling toward death but he may never play in the league again if he can’t turn his luck and behavior around. This latest suspension reminded me of when Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi almost successfully traded Gordon. Looking back on the trade of Trent Richardson and his lack of performance on the field, plus Gordon's inability to be on the field, I think an objective person can only conclude that Banner and Lombardi perhaps were not as dumb as they appeared to be. Personally, I really didn’t like them or their activities while in charge but in hindsight they seemed to have understood when it was time to trade a player away. We see it often with Belichick discarding once great players who go on to do more or less nothing after the trades. While I think their overall attitudes and personalities breed a dysfunction in the organization, they weren’t complete failures. So my question is do you think Ray Farmer has that same ability to know when to trade a player away and maximize their value? Also was Banner the driving force in those trades? Or was it Lombardi? I am curious to learn which one of them had the foresight to have known when it was time to pull the trigger.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: It is my understanding that Banner was the driving force behind the Richardson trade and the attempt to trade Gordon. In the case of Gordon, the Browns weighed a couple of offers before the 2013 trade deadline that included a low, second-round draft pick plus a player. Banner held out for a first-round pick. Reports later surfaced that owner Jimmy Haslam blocked a trade because Gordon was tearing it up at the time. Also, the coaching staff and locker room were already rocked by the surprise trade of Richardson weeks earlier and the Browns feared a trade of Gordon at the time would signal to the players that were giving up on the season. During his years as president of the Eagles, Banner earned the reputation of being proactive in dealing or not re-signing players earlier than later.

Hey Tony: Did the NFL ever want Josh Gordon to play in their league? Why aren't they giving him the benefit of the doubt? Why did they make him enter stage one when he was drafted? The NFL looks like a poorly run asylum, and Gordon is trapped in it. He may as well go play another sport.

-- Kevin, Salem, MA

Hey Kevin: The substance abuse policy clearly states a player’s history the two years prior to entering the NFL could be reason for admittance to the intervention program. Benefit of the doubt? I think a lot of people have given Gordon that since he’s been with the Browns. He just keeps “messing up.”

Hey Tony: Let me get this straight. Last year, Gordon got suspended for testing for marijuana at a level that would not be even close to the limit for most other sports and the Olympics and for a value that was not replicated in the “B” sample, and this year he gets suspended for alcohol? That has to be the most ridiculous double suspension in the history of sports. He loses potentially 60 million for passive inhalation (allegedly) of one legal substance and having a drink. What kind of players representation agrees to a policy does not allow grown men to drink a beer?

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: Evidently, there must have been a lot more evidence against Gordon than he is willing to admit. Otherwise, there was no reason to agree to the terms of reinstatement. If his legal reps thought they had a good case to sue the league, they would have. Nothing there apparently but smoke (sorry) and mirrors.

Hey Tony: C’mon man. Mike Lombardi being in the Super Bowl is a sucker punch to Cleveland? Move on man. He got a gig with his friend. It’s fine. And we supposedly don’t want him around here anyways, right? So not sure why you care. Also, I get a kick out of your “Caveman offense” references to Schottenheimer and 1985 Browns. Yes, that team ran the ball a lot and had two 1000 yard rushers. That was with a rookie QB still getting his feet wet, and they were 5-11 I believe in ’84. So they did what was necessary to win that year, and it got them to 8 wins. The following years (when Kosar flourished) they had one of the most prolific passing offenses in the league under Lindy Infante (NOT a caveman). So not sure why all the Caveman references, especially with how you repeatedly say how important it is to run in the AFC North, cold weather, Lake Erie winds, not to mention your affinity for fullbacks, who are generally associated with a  power running game. All good Tony. I would imagine covering this team for so long has got to be pretty rough.

--Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: Why do I care that Lombardi made it to the Super Bowl? Because he was the GM of the Browns one year ago, was fired after less than 12 months on the job, and is now in the Super Bowl. Why do things like that keep happening to Cleveland? Schottenheimer’s teams reached a higher level only after he hired Infante to take over the offense. The Browns were 12-4 and 10-5 the two seasons with Infante at the controls and were 8-8 and 10-6 without him. I love the running game, but I abide by the philosophy: Pass to score, run to win. You better have a good enough passing game to be able to pull out a game when behind in the fourth quarter.

Hey Tony: Forgive me for proposing a trade (I'm sure you get sick of such suggestions) but this makes so much sense to me. I believe reports Chip Kelly has a man crush on Marcus Mariota and would love to trade up to draft him. I also believe Mariota will not be drafted before No. 6 (New York Jets). That means Philly would have to trade with Washington at No. 5 to get their guy. According to the NFL draft value chart, No. 5 overall is worth 1,700 points. Philly's No. 20 pick is worth 850 points. Cleveland's No. 19 pick is worth 875 points. So if Philly were to package those two picks (with maybe a 4th and 6th rounder for the so-called QB premium), they should be able to get up to Washington's No. 5 pick and Mr. Mariota. So how about the Browns send their second first rounder (No. 19 overall) and those extra picks they own in the 4th and 6th rounds to Philly for Nick Foles. He's got the requisite AFC North QB size and arm strength and he's already built a pro resume that includes a playoff berth. Go ahead, Tony. Rip this suggestion apart.

-- Joe, Canton, OH

Hey Joe: When people propose trades they assume the other team in the deal will be on board. Sure, everybody wants to help the Browns find their missing pieces. So in your scenario, the Browns would not only have to satisfy Philly but also Washington. Lot of moving parts there. As for Foles, you are grossly overestimating his arm strength and his stature. He may be listed as 6-6 and 240 pounds, but I don’t believe he plays like it. He’s no, shall we say, Cardale Jones.

Hey Tony: If I were Johnny Manziel, I would literally purchase two houses in Northeast Ohio. The first would be next to or across the street from Mike Pettine and the other would be within walking distance of the team’s headquarters in Berea. I would be at 76 Lou Groza Boulevard every day working out and pestering every single coach for insights as to how I can improve. I would make it clear to everyone in the Browns organization that I intend to eventually lead the team and my offseason workouts would be the first sign of proof. Are there any NFL rules that prohibit contact between players and coaches in the offseason?

-- Rick, Chagrin Falls, OH

Hey Rick: One thing players “won” in the last CBA negotiations was restricted work rules during the offseason. Players can enter the facility to use the trainer’s room or weight room. But they technically can’t meet with coaches or study video with them until the team’s offseason program begins. In the case of the Browns this year, the start is April 15.

Hey Tony: I hope that the Browns pick another QB this year or trade back to get two first round picks next year.  Brett Hundley or Garrett Grayson are possibilities and will be available. Will they be good? I don't know, but the Browns have to keep trying to find one. My fear is that they build their team around Manziel and allow another year to be wasted. You can win with an average QB, but it's difficult to advance in the playoffs when you face a better QB. All you have to do is to look at Andy Dalton and the Bengals. My advice to Farmer would be to focus on the QB position until you're convinced that you have a premier player to lead the team. I would also bet that if they could do the 2014 draft again, Manziel wouldn't even be on their radar. Is there a chance that Hoyer is signed and beats out Manziel? Do you think that Farmer has told DeFilippo that he has to see what he has in Manziel? I'm usually optimistic going into the next season, but this situation at QB looks pitiful.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: If Brian Hoyer is re-signed by the Browns, there is no question who the starter would be. The question is how hard the Browns try to sign Hoyer.

Hey Tony: Can you tell us a little more about practice squad receivers Kevin Cone, Rodney Smith and Phil Bates?  With our top three receivers (minus Gordon) under 5’11”, it seems these guys – over 6 foot each – would be great additions to the active roster. Any chance we see more of them next season?

--Dustin, Columbus, OH

Hey Dustin: These were all “future” signings by Ray Farmer during the course of the past season, meaning, he gets them under contract to go through the team’s full offseason program and then adds them to the receiver competition in 2015. If one of them pans out as a contributor, they will be happy.

Hey Tony: If the Browns hire Kevin O'Connell as offensive coordinator how does that impact the Browns potentially bringing back Brian Hoyer? If I'm Hoyer and the Browns make this hire, I tell my agent to block Ray Farmer's number.

-- Charlie, Cleveland, OH

Hey Charlie: I don’t see why the hiring of O’Connell would impact the Hoyer situation in any way.

Hey Tony: In a lot of the Super Bowl pre-game hype, Bill Belichick is characterized as a failure in Cleveland before succeeding in his second chance with the Patriots. Is that revisionist history? Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly, but it seemed to me that he had built one heck of a team by 1994 and that things were looking good in 1995 until Modell announced that the team was moving. It was only then that things fell apart.

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: I haven’t heard any of the hype you refer to. These are the facts: Belichick had one winning, playoff season in 1994 – his fourth year as coach. The following year, Modell did what he did. The season quickly fell apart. At the end, Modell fired Belichick because he felt he needed a more popular coach to bring to Baltimore with his team. He chose Ted Marchibroda, a former Colts coach.


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: Shouldn't Brian Hoyer be better in his second season after knee surgery?

Jan 24, 2015 -- 6:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Our story that the lines of communication have been re-opened between the Browns and the agent of Brian Hoyer brought a new batch of questions about the team’s uncertain quarterback situation.

Hey Tony: Considering who’s available as alternatives and for some continuity, aren’t you at least a little curious as to what Brian Hoyer could do after an entire off season of not rehabbing his knee and an entire preseason taking starting QB reps. Announce that Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and whoever else are competing for a roster spot. Period. It would at least bring some continuity that the rest of the offense would respect.

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: I think one of the overlooked aspects of Hoyer’s 2014 performance was that he was coming back from his first major injury and surgery. He surprised me by not missing a game – or a practice – due to injury. I believe the reason for this was Hoyer was afraid to miss any time for fear of having the job given to Manziel. I’m not sure if the mental and physical pressure took its toll, ultimately, but I would expect him to be better just naturally in his second year after the knee surgery.

Hey Tony: Given the renewed interest from the Browns, do you think Brian Hoyer’s agent has the power to demand that his client will return IF Johnny Manziel is not on the roster? Would the Browns consider cutting bait with Manziel to help lure Hoyer back? I want to give Manziel a chance, but the last straw for me was him bolting to South Beach at the end of the season to party, instead of Texas to work. Let’s get an adult to play QB.

-- Chris, Denver, CO

Hey Chris: Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta, would never make such a demand. Also, I don’t think the Browns would react well to any kind of ultimatum from the Hoyer camp that you suggest.

Hey Tony: If I were the Browns GM I would resign Brian Hoyer and cut Johnny Manziel as soon as possible. I would also push real hard to make a reasonable trade for Drew Stanton, Austin Davis or Mike Glennon. I think it is really key to continue to search for a 3 to 5 year unproven vet looking for his chance to break out.  

-- Mike, Richmond, VA

Hey Mike: Glennon is an interesting pocket passer who had moderate success as a rookie and then seemed to regress in his second season. He certainly is young enough to deprogram of any bad habits, situate him in your offense and develop. It’s not always the fault of these young QBs when they fail to develop. Their organizations often fail them by changing coaches, systems and philosophies.

Hey Tony: The Pat McManamon article about Manziel was very revealing.  One thing that it did not address was Manziel's leaving the Carolina game. Have you heard rumblings that the hamstring injury was not real? It does not pass the eye test. According to the story that was given to fans, Manziel allegedly hurt his hamstring a few plays before his last play vs. Carolina. Watching on TV, the play looked as if Manziel might have suffered a concussion based upon the hit. Clearly that was not case. Why was Manziel not limping? Why did it take several more plays for Manziel to leave the game? I contend one of two things occurred: 1) the Browns saw enough and pulled the plug on Manziel. He looked shockingly bad that it reflected badly on the team; 2) Manziel removed himself from the game knowing that he couldn't hack it this year in a feeble attempt to save further embarrassment. 

-- Dave, Cleveland, OH

Hey Tony: You refer to Manziel’s hamstring injury as suspicious. Can you elaborate on that?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Dave and Tim: Another reason I considered the injury suspicious was that I have seen a photo of Manziel being checked for a shoulder injury on the sideline. Nobody saw him limping at any time he left the game, or the day after. And, of course, while still rehabbing this “significant” hamstring injury, he went on weekend trips to Miami Beach, FL, Houston, and Aspen, CO.

Hey Tony: While it would have been amazing to get someone like Adam Gase to be our new OC that was never realistic so given the options out there I think the hire of DeFilippo was the best choice. I'd much rather have a young, innovative but inexperienced and untested OC than an older experienced but mediocre OC. So far he has said all the right things in being willing to adjust to the current schemes and hopefully he keeps the zone blocking scheme that was working so well when Alex Mack was in place. So my question is a strange one but I wanted to ask if you knew if the following was within the rules of the NFL. It seems to me one of the largest detriments to a young QB developing is a lack of reps in practice during a season which got me thinking: Do you know if it is legal to hire a full team of "coaches" to essentially play as a complete offense and defense to simulate game situations so that a young QB could get reps and learn the offense and work through the usual issues young QBs need to work on? While it would no doubt be a significant investment it wouldn’t hurt the cap and given the importance and difficulty in developing QBs I would think it would be well worth the expense.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I assume what you suggest is either illegal or impractical. But it speaks to a common complaint I’ve heard since I first covered the NFL 30 years ago – teams generally do a lousy job of developing their young quarterbacks. Once a regular season begins and coaches become immersed in week-to-week game-planning, there is no time to work on developing the young quarterback not playing, other than to throw him out on the scout team and replicate the other team’s quarterback at practice.

Hey Tony: Do you think that part of the problem with Kyle Shanahan and the Browns is that he's a rigid system guy who needs players that fit his system vs molding the offense around the skill set of the players? I like most of what I've read about John DeFilippo, it's just his lack of experience calling plays worries me. Very interested to see who the Browns bring in for offensive assistants to help coach the offense. Do you think they bring an experienced guy to help coach Flip with calling plays? Thanks for the great coverage.

-- Bill, East Hartford, CT

Hey Bill: Mike Pettine said that a veteran coach with NFL experience would be considered for the vacancy at quarterbacks coach, but he wouldn’t list it as a criterion for the job. I don’t think a rookie play-caller can be babysat on game days. You have to just throw him into the pool and hope he swims.

Hey Tony: Who do you see as potential quarterbacks for the Browns next year via either trade, fee agency, or the draft? Do you think that someone like Josh McCown (35 years old) or Mike Glennon (25 years old), both with Tampa Bay (who will likely pick Mariota or Winston #1) might be available and worth a try? Josh Freeman (another ex-Tampa Bay QB)? Or, do you think the Browns stick with Hoyer and Manziel with the hopes that a healthy Alex Mack, a good running game, and some additional weapons will provide the environment and support for one of those two to have “some” success? Finally, why didn’t the Browns choose Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr instead of Johnny Manziel? Just to sell tickets? What did the so called experts see in him that translates to the NFL?

-- Dan, Irvington, NY

Hey Dan: If the Browns decide to bring back Hoyer, I don’t see them signing another veteran quarterback. A guy like Glennon might be considered if they didn’t bring back Manziel, also. The company line on drafting Manziel was that he was the highest-ranked quarterback on the Browns’ draft board. The attraction of him was his play-making ability at Texas A&M, his mobility, and his leadership qualities. The major questions were of his size, his lack of experience in a sophisticated offense and reading NFL-caliber defenses, and his off-the-field shenanigans.

Hey Tony: Do we know if Josh Gordon did or didn't get credit for week 17 of the season where he was suspended? This was big talk right at the end of the season, but I've heard nothing since. Will he be a free agent in 2016?

-- Josh, Galena, OHual

Hey Josh: You’re right, that story has been somewhat forgotten. The Browns’ position is that because Gordon was suspended for the 17th game, he was active for only five games during the year and thus fell one game short of qualifying for a credited season towards free agency. Gordon and the NFLPA may file a grievance protesting the suspension, but so far there has been no news on whether they have done so. As things stands, Gordon is signed through 2015 and he would be a restricted free agent in 2016.

Hey Tony: What are your thoughts on the new OC John DeFilippo? What kind of run blocking scheme did he run when he was the OC at San Jose State?

-- Jeff, Estero, FL

Hey Jeff: DeFilippo said he intends to run a mixture of the zone blocking scheme already in place and the gap-blocking scheme he coached under in Oakland.

Hey Tony: Considering the Browns interviewed at least six or seven candidates for Offensive Coordinator, give us your gut reaction as to why they chose John DeFilippo? How much of a factor was Johnny Manziel in this decision?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: I think the biggest factor was Mike Pettine’s familiarity and comfort with DeFilippo, who is a young, hungry, energetic coach. Also, at least three other candidates interviewed chose to take other jobs – Greg Roman (Bills), Bill Callahan (Redskins) and Marc Trestman (Ravens).

Hey Tony: So living in Patriots country I'm used to the ribbing and teasing. I have always responded faithfully with an undying love for the Browns over the years but I'm burning out, Tony. I'm not about to jump ship but I'm starting to find I have fewer answers for why I continue to believe next year is actually going to be any better. Even 7-9, finally breaking the double-digit loss streak, seems empty in so many ways with the mess they have already made of this off-season. Give me something, Tony ... please? When is everyone's faith going to be rewarded? When are the Browns going to finally stop embarrassing themselves and their fans?

-- Matthew, Freeport, ME

Hey Matthew:Here are a few positives: 1. Strong, experienced offensive line; 2. Good, not great, defense entering its second season under the same coordinator; 3. Excellent defensive secondary with a number of players still with room to grow; 4. Head coach Mike Pettine should make fewer mistakes in his second season and take his program to the next level; 5. Plenty of salary cap space and two first-round draft picks. It’s not all doom and gloom. If that doesn’t help you feel better, try a glass of red wine at night.

Hey Tony: I appreciate your frankness and assessments about the state of our Browns, keep up the good work. Today I am asking about game balls, I thought the two teams in the game used the same ball. If not, why? It would seem that they should both teams should use the same ball during the game

-- Kevin, Green Springs, OH

Hey Kevin: About eight years ago, the NFL changed the rule and allowed visiting teams to bring their own footballs – 12 for game use and six backups – to be used by their offense. The theory was to keep those quarterbacks happy that preferred to prepare their footballs to their exact specifications. Ironically, New England’s Tom Brady was a driving force for this rule change, along with Peyton Manning.

Hey Tony: Soon the Titans will be going up for sale and Jimmy Haslam is scheduled to pay the Lerners $300 or so million. Don’t you think Haslam would rather own his home state team? How likely is it there might be a Browns/Titans ownership swap similar to 1972’s Carrol Rosenbloom’s Baltimore Colts for Robert Irsay’s Los Angeles Rams?

-- Chris, Miamisburg, OH

Hey Chris: The current ownership of the Titans has refuted the rumor that the team soon will be up for sale. It may be natural to assume Haslam would prefer to own the team in his own state; he inquired about buying it several years ago. However, I don’t have any reason to believe it. A team-for-team swap is unusual, but as you point out it has been done before. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Hey Tony: Any clues as to when the Browns will unveil their new uniforms?

-- Amy, Avon, OH

Hey Amy: The Browns intend to unveil their new uniforms sometime in April before the 2015 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




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