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#HeyTony: Why wouldn't the NFL deflate footballs to inflate offense?

May 23, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

With a lull in Browns news, the Deflategate scandal involving Tom Brady and the New England Patriots rose to the front of the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: Over the years the NFL has changed many rules, primarily limiting the defense, to bring more offense and scoring to the NFL games. If deflating the footballs under the lower limit of 12.5 PSI make it easier to throw, catch and hold on to, then why does the NFL not change this rule and make it between 11.5 to 13.5 PSI, depending on team preference? You'd think this slight rule change would mean more completions, but also more interceptions, adding to the game excitement.

-- Rich, Columbus, OH

Hey Rich: Excellent point. I don’t know the answer, other than increasing the PSI range would be an admission that Tom Brady’s alleged rules infraction wasn’t such a monumental crime, after all.

Hey Tony: The NFL is making a decision on something that it has no solid proof of and a lot of contradictions. I am not saying that Tom Brady is innocent. Just not enough credible evidence. If this would be tried in a court this case would have been thrown out because of lack of evidence. I believe the NFL is behind the hole Deflategate. They are using Tom Brady and the Patriots to get more profit and more ratings in their offseason to compete with NBA and MLB. Drama and controversy brings in dollars. The league will do anything including throwing their best players under the bus. They have their own agenda. It’s all about the dollars and ratings. Just look at the NBA with the overly ruff plays, poor officiating.

-- Doug, New Philadelphia, OH

Hey Doug: I don’t think the NFL wants a star player like Brady embroiled in an ongoing scandal such as Deflategate. It is not good for the game. I think the NFL was hoping that the Wells Report contained less evidence against Brady than it actually revealed. The fact is that many teams have been complaining about the Patriots’ rule “bending” for a long time, and the Wells Report certainly found enough evidence to take action.

Hey Tony: I've compared the Browns to the Bills in the past. I just saw a recent article on Bleacher Report listing the Bills as the team with the worst QB rosterand the Browns next. I actually think Matt Cassel and Josh McCown are mirror images of each other and prove that neither team trusts their young QB.  E J Manuel has the size and arm to play outdoors in the cold, but has yet to prove he can succeed as a starter. Kyle Orton retired after taking the Bills to a respectable 9-7 record last year. Playing these old starters is like putting a band-aid over a serious wound. The teams will have some success, but will be searching for a QB the following season. The most amazing thing is that neither team drafted a QB last year. Can you explain that? They didn't have to use a high pick to find a QB with potential. Many teams are eyeing the 2016 QB prospects.  Good luck if you're not selecting in the first few picks. I would suggest starting EJ and Manziel from day one and then you will know what you have to do in 2016.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I would disagree with your assessment of Cassel and McCown by pointing out that Cassel has won 10 games with two different teams (Patriots, Chiefs) while McCown’s career season high is six wins and otherwise never won more than three. I also think that Manuel and Manziel are in different situations. Manuel does not have the added stress of recovering from a 73-day drug and alcohol rehabilitation, as does Manziel. I am amazed by how fans don’t seem to acknowledge that as an obstacle for Manziel.

Hey Tony: Why haven't the Browns signed Tashaun Gipson to a long-term contract and now would he ever sign one from us?

-- Greg, Toronto, Canada

Hey Greg: Gipson may be intent on entering the free agent market in 2016 and scoring a big deal while the Browns may have concerns about Gipson’s 2014 knee injury. A long-term contract is still possible, but I don’t like the vibe coming from this dispute.

Hey Tony: You've been very critical of how this regime has handled the QB situation and has downplayed the importance of the position. However, isn't fair to say that the Steelers and the Ravens, two very successful organizations, both approached the position in the same manner? The Steelers were successful for years running the football and having Neil O'Donnell, Kordell Stewart, and Tommie Maddox as their QB before landing Ben. The Ravens ran the football and had Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller, Elvis Grbac as their QB before finding Flacco. My point being, don't you think there is some legitimacy to building around the position first until you find that QB?

-- Chad, Wadsworth, OH

Hey Chad: I don’t believe you necessarily build the team first. I think you build the team while continually looking for the opportunity to find your franchise quarterback. Believe me, the Steelers and Ravens did not want to suffer those non-championship years before finding Roethlisberger and Flacco, respectively.

Hey Tony: One thing I noticed from the Browns uniform unveiling as well as an observation as a season ticket holder. The Browns seem to be showcasing some "superfans" lately. Pumpkin Head, Macho Man, Transformer Guy, etc. Just wondering if you have any info on the whereabouts of Big Dawg? He seems to be missing at home games lately. Do you think he was phased out by the Browns as they try and usher in a younger generation of fans, or maybe Big Dawg is just another one of the many casualties of the 100 years war? 

-- Rich, Hudson, OH

Hey Rich: Last I heard was Big Dawg retired from superfandom, partially because of health problems, which would qualify him as a casualty of the Hundred Years War.

Hey Tony: Your article about the other AFC North teams' draft inspired me to call my shots re: Steelers' draft: Sammie Coates, barring injury, will be a star and perfectly fills that Wallace/Nate Washington role of stretching the field.  Also, Doran Grant will be a better player than his draft round suggests.

-- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith:You’re on record.

Hey, Tony: I saw an article (for reference: http://espn.go.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/12842476/drew-brees-veterans-notice-based-their-team-draft-picks-nfl) stating that starts by rookies are up 20% since 2011. I find this interesting because I thought the rookie wage scale would reduce the pressure on teams to start rookies right away. Have we seen an end to the days of giving players a couple of years to develop, or are more rookies simply that good?

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: It’s simple economics: As a result of the rookie wage scale, rookies are cheaper than 4-, 5-, 6-year veterans. The 2011 CBA changes created an upper class (high-priced stars) and a lower class (rookies) and the players in between became expendable.

 

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Are the Browns going back to the future?

May 09, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

As the dust settled on the Browns’ 2015 draft, more questions to Hey Tony were critical of what the team accomplished.

Hey Tony: I brought the Eric Mangini/Pettine similarities to you last year and suggested that if the powers-that-be would have left Eric Mangini in place the Browns would have been a lot closer to an elite team than they are now. The way the offense tanked after losing Alex Mack, also points out how Mangini was on point taking a center, being he is so close to the ball on every snap (Belichek used to say a phrase similar to that when he drafted Eric Turner). I will say he missed on the other draft picks; however, don't forget he had NO GM to help him. What is your feeling on this now being that Mike Pettine/Ray Farmer are building a strong running team and smash-mouth defense?

-- Rick, Middletown, CT

Hey Rick: Mangini produced a strong running team partially by concentrating on tight formations with a devastating blocking fullback leading the way. If the aim was to run the ball and diminish the role of the quarterback, he succeeded. Unfortunately, it did not produce enough wins – five apiece in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Mangini’s defense was built with several castoffs from his former Jets team to help bridge the gap until he replaced them with younger players. But his 2009 draft missed on early picks after Mack. The second draft, supervised by new GM Tom Heckert, produced defensive help in cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward, but it also signaled the start of another regime change. So now we’re two more regime changes down the road and they intend to run the ball again, but the roster is younger, and so forth, and yet the huge missing element remains at quarterback. So it is back to the future once more.

Hey Tony: Given the Browns lack of addressing glaring needs on offense (QB, WR, TE), do you think it’s plausible that the team's strategy is to tank the 2015 season (as the Colts did in 2011) and position themselves for a high draft pick to select the top QB in the 2016 draft? Without a top 5 pick, how are the Browns ever going to address the QB problem? As a fan, I would gladly accept another bad season if it meant positioning ourselves for an elite QB.

-- Chris, Denver, CO

Hey Chris: Tanking the season is a bit harsh, I would say. I don’t think the goal is to lose is as many games as possible, but rather to win as many during this obvious transition to the next quarterback hope. How to acquire that next QB is the job of the GM while the coach at the same time develops the rest of the team. Yes, losing every game would position the Browns to have their choice of incoming quarterbacks. But that isn’t fail-safe, either. What if injuries and poor play deplete the ranks of the QBs in the 2016 draft class and none emerges as the answer? Timing is everything. of course. But the GM has to find a way to locate the QB while his team is ready to win. It’s why GMs are paid the big bucks.

Hey Tony: Can you explain to me why it is worth the 12th pick in the entire draft to pick someone who is quite possibly nothing more than a two-down run stopper but it is not worth even a second-round pick to take a big, strong downhill run stopping inside linebacker like Bernardrick McKinney, who was taken with the pick that the Browns traded out of in the second round?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: Most people I talk to expect Danny Shelton to be more than a two-down run-stopper. His 9.5 sacks are testament to his ability to push the pocket, which many times can set up sacks from the edge rushers. I’m sure the Browns will be careful to not over-tax Shelton, however, because a big man like him (338 pounds) shouldn’t be expected to play 60-plus snaps at maximum efficiency. McKinney is a good prospect but the Browns obviously evaluated Shelton as a better player in the long run. Further, there is not as big a void at inside linebacker with Karlos Dansby, Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson entering their second season in Mike Pettine’s defensive system.

Hey Tony: Could you explain why the Browns didn't draft one QB?  We all know that Josh McCown is a short term fix and that Johnny Manziel should be the starter at some point this season. There is absolutely no need for Thad Lewis or Connor Shaw to be the third QB.  Neither has the potential to be the starter the Browns need to build their team around. At the very least, Brett Hundley should have been selected late in the draft.  He has the potential to be a very good starter. If Manziel flops, the Browns could start Hundley next year and could draft another QB to sit and learn. You can't tell me that a fourth round QB is a waste.  The Browns must keep drafting a QB each year until they are sure they have their long term starter. They didn't have to use a top draft pick to find a QB with the arm and potential to be an AFC North starter. I like Connor Shaw, but due to his size, arm strength, and durability, he's a backup. The only potential answer at the QB position on the roster is Manziel.  What were they thinking?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: “Action speaks louder than words” seems to be the mantra this year in regards to Manziel, right? So, look at the Browns’ actions: They offered the 19th overall pick to the Rams for QB Sam Bradford. Failing that, they inquired about the pricetag to move up for QB Marcus Mariota. What does that tell you about their confidence this year in Manziel realizing the expectations they once had for him? As for Hundley, he’s a developmental prospect. The Packers were smart in taking him because they have a superstar quarterback under which Hundley can learn for three years before the Packers have to make a decision on Hundley. The Browns are in a different state. They need someone to take over in 2016. Most evaluators do not think that is the best way to bring along Hundley. So I see the Browns’ plan as this: Ride McCown as long as they can this year, and renew the QB search next year. As many as four QBs may enter the 2015 college season as potential first-round picks. In the meantime, if McCown falters, why shouldn’t Shaw be given a chance? He was more impressive last year than Manziel – despite his arm strength.

Hey Tony: Was Michigan TE Devin Funchess on the Browns' radar at all? Trading up only two spots to get him seemed like an obvious move in the 2nd round especially when one considers Jordan Cameron's departure, the lack of playmakers on offense, and the fact that Funchess is a matchup nightmare and proven impact player. What happened?

-- Morgan, Lakewood, OH

Hey Morgan: Honestly, I don’t know the Browns’ feelings on Funchess. I do know that the phrase “matchup nightmare” is over-used in the NFL. But great size (6-4, 232 pounds) is something I always favor at wide receiver. Having said that, it is obvious why Browns GM Ray Farmer did not use his second-round pick on Funchess. The pollen count was very high last weekend and his receiver-allergy was acting up.

Hey Tony: A lot of folks have said that Farmer played it safe and his draft was solid and sensible. But wasn't this really a huge gamble? Isn't Farmer gambling that Jimmy Haslam will be patient enough to let this team grow even as the QB situation remains unsettled and the Browns remain far behind its rivals in the number of playmakers on the roster?

-- Paul, Kirkland, WA

Hey Paul: A GM’s responsibility is to the team first, not to secure his job status. Haslam has made it clear – publicly, at least – that Farmer should just “attack the draft” and not worry about anything else. So that’s what Farmer did. Plus, I think the organization as a whole concluded that the QB situation was not going to be fully corrected until next season.

Hey Tony: Good job today with your column and the past few days draft coverage. Thank you. I listen to a lot of 850 podcasts and read most of your columns.  There's been a fair amount of talk and ink spilled about Cardale (Fail for Cardale, etc), as well as Dane Brugler's way-early 2016 draft predictions. I am an OSU alum and big fan of Buckeyes.  I love Cardale's story!!  But, I believe there is at least a 66% chance that Cardale will not win the starting QB job and thus will see very little playing time. Braxton Miller is a 2-time Big 10 MVP and set quite a few OSU records.  JT Barrett broke Miller's records and set some Big 10 records.  There are obviously compelling reasons why Urban started them over Cardale. So, any thoughts on whether the Browns will still be interested in Cardale next year if he rides the bench? And, at what draft round?

-- Rick, Columbus, OH

Hey Rick: In a way, it may behoove the Browns if Jones DOES NOT win the starting job. He would be more easily obtainable if everyone else had doubts about him. In my opinion, his amazing physical skill set will not change whether he wins the starting job or not. Ideally, he would receive the playing time necessary for him to improve his overall skills, such as reading defenses, adjusting to team adjustments, and just refining his pocket presence and accuracy.

Hey Tony: Given the investment in Manziel, a chance to mature made sense. The Browns are close to having a good 1st and 2nd down offense. Third down is tougher and will require more investing. What about 4th down? Both the kicking game and going for it on 4th and one? Are they improving? By the way, why is it when the Browns have a 50/50 chance to be right - they are wrong 75% of the time?

-- Gary, Thousand Oaks, CA

Hey Gary: Improvement in the special teams is difficult to measure until they get on the field. So far, the Browns haven’t added anyone in the kicking game or in the return game of significance. Rookie back Duke Johnson had success on kickoff returns at Miami and cornerback Charlies Gaines of Louisville might be given a crack at kickoffs, also, but there doesn’t appear to be a new punt returner on hand. Farmer mentioned that he expects Travis Benjamin to rebound in his second year after knee surgery.

Hey Tony: Love your stuff! I'm wondering if anything is known about the whereabouts and status of Josh Gordon while in exile. I don't believe he can have contact with the Browns organization, but I'm wondering if anyone in your other sphere of contacts has been in touch with him. What is he doing these days? Is he still under a mandatory testing protocol with the NFL? Do you believe the Browns have any plans for him at all in the future? Trade bait at some point? It seems there are some potentially key players....Gordon, Manziel, and Gilbert....who remain mysteries. Can you provide an update on these three and how they're coming along? Will any of them become productive players for the Browns? Thanks!

-- Don, Westerville, OH

Hey Don: There is no contact between Gordon and the Browns. Under terms of the NFL substance abuse intervention program, Gordon would be monitored by the league medical director and staff. Gordon needs to pass mandatory drug and alcohol screenings to qualify for reinstatement one year from the start of his suspension. The results of those tests wouldn’t be known until he applies for reinstatement. The Browns would be wise to just wait out Gordon’s suspension and see what unfolds. He is not costing them on their salary cap or in any compensation. Gordon's roster situation can be reviewed when and if he is reinstated.

Hey Tony: I know on draft day this might get lost in the shuffle, but I heard through a local D1 athletic department that the rumor in some NFL circles is that Eddie DeBartolo wants back in, wants the Browns and under that scenario Haslam would get the Titans. Any legs to this rumor? If so, could the Browns and Titans be helping each other tonight knowing that there will be an ownership swap in the future?

-- Sean, Akron, OH

Hey Sean: The last time I spoke with DeBartolo on this subject, he indicated that geography would be important to him if he ever returned to the NFL. He is enjoying life in Florida, so you can figure that out. I do feel that if DeBartolo decided to buy another NFL team, he would be a terrific owner again. The fact that the stars never aligned for DeBartolo and the Browns to pair up is one of those crazy twists of fate that has kept the Hundred Years War alive. Imagine DeBartolo as an owner with Ozzie Newsome as GM and Bill Cowher as coach. (Sigh.)

 

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Is Jimmy Haslam committing to the Ray Farmer-Mike Pettine regime?

May 02, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/USA Today

After months of anticipation, Browns fans finally opened their draft weekend presents under the tree. Questions about the draft flooded the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: It seems like the Browns' staff have used the term "transitional" to describe the upcoming season. I do not have a problem with this strategy and I commend the staff for admitting so. Having said that, doesn't this put to rest the idea that Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer are on a one-year trial? Do you still feel this could be the last year for the coaching and front office staff if this season turns for the worse?

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: I’m not sure the Browns have used “transitional” to describe the coming season -- but I have. Your question is relevant. This regime is now two drafts and offseasons into acquiring players to fit the philosophy of stop the run/run the ball. Changing regimes could result in a 180-degree switch to a rush the passer/throw the ball mentality. I think owner Jimmy Haslam realizes he can’t keep changing defensive and offensive philosophies. Mostly for that reason, I think Haslam is digging in with this regime.

Hey Tony: I know that the first two days of the draft have lacked wide receivers, but do you see value in the organization having a “draft approach" or "draft philosophy" and sticking to their script? Obviously this regime wants to win in the trenches and control the game up front. Not that you and I necessarily agree, but they have stuck with their approach.  My question then becomes, do you think ownership will allow them the time to see either plan through, as the Browns are STILL lacking a first-rate quarterback? How much patience will Haslam exhibit, should this season fail to meet his expectations?

-- Vinnie, Akron, OH

Hey Vinnie: Adding to the above answer, I believe expectations are tempered in Browns HQ and the pressure to “win now” has been removed. That doesn’t mean the owner doesn’t expect to see improvement. It may not be measured totally by final record, however.

Hey Tony: It’s hard not to like our 1st round picks, Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving. However, looking at the big picture, Shelton seems primed to replace Phil Taylor, an oft-injured 1st rounder with a reputation for taking plays off. Erving will likely replace Alex Mack, an All Pro who’s made it clear that Cleveland is not in his future. So despite the euphoria of selecting two quality players, have the Browns really gained anything?

-- Chris, Denver, CO

Hey Chris: Your point is fair. The Browns always seem to be doing that – merely replacing inherited players with those favored by the existing regime. This speaks to the continuity issue as to a key in building a sturdy roster foundation.

Hey Tony: The first day of the draft is done and while it was a solid first day I can’t help but feel frustrated with passing on DeVante Parker. He is a game changer at the position, a guy who teams will have to game plan to stop and would have filled a huge need. I think Shelton will be a good player but we could have taken Parker at 12, taken Erving at 19 and then taken a player like Goldman who is just as good, if not better than Shelton as he is a three down NT/DT. Do you think Farmer and the organization has been affected by their first draft where they swung for the fences and have seemingly missed on both picks? Are they now trying to play it safe, preferring to hit a base run vs swinging big for a home run hit?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I shared your desire for Parker. However, Shelton is closer to a three-down tackle than is Goldman. Did they play it safer? Absolutely. As a result, it appears that their offense will be more “small ball” than “long ball.”

Hey Tony: Love the day one draft picks Tony. I think it shows maturity and growth in Farmer. Not only does it seem that he's getting what it takes to compete in the AFC North, I get a good vibe that he and Pettine are becoming strongly aligned.  Based on their personnel, the offensive strategy sure looks like ground and pound. Do you think this is an indication that they plan on going with more 6 man offensive fronts?

-- Pete, Danville, CA

Hey Pete: Using two tight ends – one as an in-line blocker and the other as a pass catcher – is so common nowadays. That formation will continue to be a staple of what the Browns do on offense under new coordinator John DeFilippo, I presume.

Hey Tony: Good call on your previous mock draft for the Browns selecting Shelton and Erving. The more I think about the Erving pick, the more I like it. My question is about Alex Mack. It seems that Mack will want out next season or will want a ton of money. Do you know if he has a non-trade clause? If the Browns know that he plans to opt out, why not get something for him now. Even a third-round pick could get a quality interior offensive lineman. If they keep him and put Erving on the right side, they'll be back in the same position next year when Erving slides to center. I have no problem keeping the right side intact and having Erving as the center this season. That would allow the Browns time to develop some lineman picked in the mid rounds.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Mack’s agent, Marv Demoff, seized immense leverage in Mack’s future with the opt-out clause and a no-trade clause. Remember, the Browns inherited those contract clauses when they matched the offer sheet signed by the Jaguars. That was the risk in tagging Mack as a transition – rather than franchise – player in 2014. Erving is an unusually versatile lineman. Not only can he play multiple positions, he just may be a future All-Pro at any of them. For that reason, regardless of Mack’s next move, I like the pick of Erving. And if Mack opts to stay, the Browns will have a starting five comprised of three first-rounders and two taken in the second round.

Hey Tony: Here is an interesting stat regarding QBs in the NFL. Of all the QBs drafted #1 overall since 1998 nine are still in the league and three are out of the league.  The nine are: P. Manning, Vick, Palmer, E. Manning, Smith, Stafford, Bradford, Newton, and Luck. The three are: Couch, Carr, and Russell. Of the QBs drafted in the top 10, excluding #1s, seven are still in the league: Rivers, Ryan, Sanchez, Gabbert, Griffin III, Tannehill, and Bortles. The seven out of the league are: Leaf, McNabb, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Leftwich, Leinart, and Locker. The conclusion? Winston has a 75% chance of having a reasonable amount of success.  Mariota has a 50% chance of some success in the NFL. Is 50/50 worth a gamble on Mariota? Only time will tell.

-- Brent, Columbus, OH

Hey Brent: I was good in math in school, but I’ll take your word for it on the percentages. I’m a big believer in judging quarterbacks by what you see and feel, not by cranking out numbers to support an opinion after the fact.

Hey Tony: Let this be my final question/comment in regards to my lifelong NFL team if Ray squanders a 1st or 2nd in the 2016 NFL draft tomorrow night.  Regardless of the reason, if Ray/Jimmy decide to part with either of those picks, this former season ticket holder will say see ‘ya. The Holmgren hire drove me from Cleveland Browns Stadium. Squandering either of the aforementioned picks will ensure I never see another second of play in First Energy, or any other stadium the Browns play. Just as past evidence of Holmgren's incompetence existed prior to his hire, strong evidence is present that should make Ray pass on any deal that parts with future picks of any kind.

-- Michael, Blue Ash, OH

Hey Michael: I used your question after the fact because there were several other fans who shared your opinion. Fortunately, the Browns used good judgment in not mortgaging their No. 1 pick in 2016.

Hey Tony:Why has the media been so down on the Browns recently? Mike Wilbon on PTI in particular crushes the Browns every chance he gets. I just read an article on Bleacher Report that stated that the Browns squander every draft pick they have. I get that the Browns aren't the model of a successful franchise, but I feel like a 7 and 9 season last year doesn't deserve the amount of negative press we regularly get. There were 11 worse teams in the NFL last year! I feel like we get an unfair share of criticism for a team that was in the middle third of the NFL in the standings. I can't wait for our team to prove them wrong.

-- Sam, Madison, WI

Hey Sam: The current regime is victimized partially by the sins of their predecessors but also by an offseason of unfortunate mis-haps (Josh Gordon suspension, Johnny Manziel rehab, Farmer suspension) of their own doing.

Hey Tony: Two things: 1. Everyone always analyzes strength of schedule a little too much. There is no such thing as an easy schedule in the NFL IMO. They couldn’t beat the Jags last year and some of our worst teams have beaten the likes of New Orleans (when they were good) and New England. “Any given Sunday” anything can happen. 2. When Mel Kiper had the Browns taking a RB at 19, we all scoffed because of the Crow and West but the more I think about it, it fits both Ray’s and Pettine’s philosophies. Ray likes guys that touch the ball a lot and affect the most plays one way or another and that fits a RB because he’s either running or blocking on every play. Coach Pettine wants to run the ball and run it a lot. If Gordon or Gurley are there, it may not be that far-fetched.

-- Wade, Fort Myers, FL

Hey Wade: Kiper was the first one to open our eyes to the Browns’ connection to Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon – and he was right on. Obviously, the Browns filled their perceived need at running back with Duke Johnson of Miami in Round 3.

 

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Why would the Browns risk alienating Tashaun Gipson with a low-ball offer?

Apr 25, 2015 -- 4:30pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Much of the Hey Tony inbox in the week heading into the draft focused on the draft and Ray Farmer. But a question from Australia about the Browns’ contract tactics with free agent safety Tashaun Gipson went to the head of the pack.

Hey Tony: Irrespective of football being a business I am concerned by the developments (perceived or otherwise) with Tashaun Gipson. Surely, a positive message would be for management to reward a guy who has contributed to the team. Surely alienating players against the organization seems the last thing the Browns need right now. Thanks, love your work

-- Josh, Sydney, Australia

Hey Josh: I found it odd that the Browns gave Gipson the second-round tender for $2.356 rather than the first-round tender of $3.354 million. At the time, I thought another team of playoff caliber might consider it worth spending a second-round pick – plus a big contract – to sign this young, play-making safety. It turned out the Browns guessed right; Gipson received no offer and the Browns saved $1 million in cap room devoted to Gipson’s tender. But were they penny wise and pound foolish? They entered the offseason with about $50 million in salary cap room. Would it have upset the salary structure so much to pledge another $1 million to Gipson, who has been an exemplary member of the team and had worked so hard to advance from undrafted free agent to Pro Bowl safety in three seasons under three different defensive coordinators and position coaches? Gipson is the epitome of Mike Pettine’s “play like a Brown” mantra. Shouldn’t the Browns reward one of their own and use him as an example and inspiration for others on the team? And then the Browns went out and signed 32-year-old Green Bay free agent cornerback Tramon Williams to a three-year contract for $21 million – guaranteeing him $10 million. What kind of message is that to send to your team? Gipson eventually will have to sign the tender and if he has even a better season the Browns can always franchise him in 2016 at a price that will exceed the 2015 franchise tag for safeties of $9.618 million. So Gipson will be well-compensated, but the ill will created – Gipson is boycotting the offseason program – sure doesn’t seem worth the financial savings of giving Gipson a deserved multi-year deal.

Hey Tony: Just read your Ray Farmer pre-draft press conference article. Seriously, don't you think Ray Farmer needs to be cut some slack here? Quite frankly, he was obviously pretty anxious during it to be using "at the end of the day" so much, possibly fearing a "slip up". And also, quite frankly, how can any of us Browns news starved fans expect our GM to give any kind of a clue as to what he plans on doing, strategy wise, during the draft? We would run him out of town if he did. In your article, you referred to Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel as first round flops, is that your opinion, or are you simply stating the general consensus? The reason I ask, isn't it been widely accepted that it takes three years to accurately judge weather a draft pick is a bust or not? I was not on board to pick Johnny, but once we did I thought, OK, he's our guy, like it or not, let's get behind him. He did make it hard for us to do that, but everyone deserves a second chance. As far as Justin Gilbert, he was working with Joe Haden on his own time, trying to improve. So, quite frankly, let's not hit the panic button just yet on these guys. Also, quite frankly, I really enjoy your writing/analysis! GO BROWNS!

-- Scott, Sharon Township, OH 

Hey Scott: I think it’s fair to say that Gilbert and Manziel were first-round flops in 2014. Sure, they can turn it around in 2015. But this “three-year grading scale” for a draft class is a farce. Players are graded every day, every practice, every game, every year by the organization. Why shouldn’t the organization, the GM, the coaches, also be graded in short intervals? Sure, the grade of a draft class can improve over time. It also can get worse.

Hey Tony: After listening to part of Ray Farmer's press conference, I was curious if you have to be careful what questions you ask? Are there restrictions placed on what the media asks? If you ask something they don't like, could you be banned from further press conferences? 

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: The media are professionals – just like the players, coaches and executives. As long as media members conduct themselves as professionals, no question really is off limits. I’ve always said, there are no dumb questions – just dumb answers.

Hey Tony: In your last article about the Browns Draft speculation, you pointed out that Farmer said "At end of day, you’ve got to believe what people tell you about kids. No team gets the luxury of living in whatever city for four years of understanding who that young man is. So you’re at the mercy of what people tell you."  Which made me wonder, per NCAA rules and regulations, NFL teams may not speak with players prior to their eligibility for the draft, however, the media has open access to players and often establishes a relationship with a player during those formative years that may prove to be beneficial. Do any NFL teams that you know of solicit information from writers in college towns about certain prospects? Beyond what a writer may write in an article, he/she gets a much truer feeling about the true make-up and character of a player throughout the season.

-- Jordan, Medina, OH

Hey Jordan: Journalists in small college towns that cover major college teams are a wealth of information for pro scouts and teams because of the frequent interaction they may have with the star players they cover. NFL teams would be wise to tap those resources to learn more about the players they are about to make instant millionaires.

Hey Tony: I enjoy your mock drafts. They’re a fun way to fill the void until the real draft takes place. How about your thoughts on what you wish the Browns would do with their picks? Is there a particular player you’re hoping will text “Let’s wreck this league” to the Browns to ensure they’ll draft him?

-- Stan, West Des Moines, IA

Hey Stan: I suppose a fantasy draft would be Marcus Mariota at No. 12 and the best available receiver at No. 19. We know that won’t happen. So I probably would take the best available defensive lineman and the best available receiver with the two picks in the first round, the order depending on the higher-ranked player at the time of the pick. Right now, there isn’t a player I am passionately stumping for. Cameron Erving of Florida State sounds like a player I would definitely be in favor of adding.

Hey Tony: I’m not in love with any of the QBs in the draft this year. Jameis Winston has a lot of interceptions and off field issue, Marcus Mariota is a projection system QB and the rest are nearly-rans. Given the strength of schedule and Josh McCown as starting QB and a redo rookie year for Manziel aren’t the Browns better off waiting for next year to draft a QB?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: Yes, probably.

Hey Tony: We've seen a lot on whom the Browns may select in round one -- Danny Shelton, Wash; Alvin Dupree, Kentucky, or the offensive lineman who's played every position on the offensive line, Cameron Erving, Florida State. Whom do you think the Browns may be targeting in Round Two?

-- Tom, Santa Monica, CA

Hey Tom: I feel the Browns need to come out of the draft with a defensive lineman, a pass rusher and a wide receiver good enough to make an impact as rookies. So whichever they don’t take in the first round probably should be the pick in the second round.

Hey Tony: I have greatly appreciated your O-Line analyses last season and in preparation for the draft. I particularly liked your suggestion that Browns develop a backup center on the O-Line Depth Chart that could also be their Special Team’s long snapper, saving them a roster slot. Have the Browns Club Management and/or Coaching Staff reacted to your two for one #2 Center/LS suggestion? Could Cameron Erving and Mitch Morse do both plus be available in Round 2 or 3?

-- Alan, Manassas, VA

Hey Alan: In my last mock draft, Erving went to Kansas City at pick No. 18. Morse is projected as a fourth-round pick. I wouldn’t expect the Browns to pursue both.

Hey Tony: Looking at the Browns’ 2015 schedule I would think the Browns could have gone 8-8 with an average starter like Brian Hoyer. But since the FO threw the 2015 season away by trading Hoyer out for a guy that won one game last year and won’t have Mike Evans, (my 2014 #1 pick) they will be lucky to win 3-4 games.  Unless something miraculously changes between now and the end of training camp it’s going to be a long season. I just can’t believe that Farmer’s game plan is to go into the season with absolutely no talent at quarterback. Really? I think I’m better off making the Sunday Gravy at 1:00 PM and wait for the real teams to come on later. Do you use carrots in yours?

 -- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: Carrots in gravy? Never thought of it before.

Hey Tony: The Browns seemed to have embarked on a strategy of accumulating compensatory picks, but this is a long term play. It means giving up short term games for picks that start in 2016, and given that these are at best 3rd round picks, the reward of those picks is likely even 2-3 years down the road from that. Does this mean the Browns leadership, i.e. Jimmy Haslam, is willing to give this strategy a chance by sticking with Farmer for a period of time which would allow this idea to bear fruit? It seems pointless to do this and then fire the architects after they paid the upfront costs. 

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: I think the strategy of pursuing compensatory picks was spurred by the fact the Browns had six unrestricted free agents who, for various reasons, were not going to be re-signed. So the Browns saw the opportunity to maximize that as best they could, and they knowingly sought to sign released players to replace them rather than unrestricted free agents. As a result, the Browns could net as many as four compensatory picks in 2016.  

Hey Tony: As the draft approaches, we haven't heard anything about GM Farmer and company attending pro days. Are they still avoiding pro days like it is the plague? I think their absence last year in pro days played a big role in the draft last year. Here is hoping Farmer and company learned something from last year.

-- PD, Dallas, TX

Hey PD: I don’t think Farmer or Pettine attended any pro days this year. The team was represented, however, by other coaches or scouts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Are the Browns evaluating Johnny Manziel for a possible trade?

Apr 18, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Most questions were deposited in the HeyTony inbox before the statement from Johnny Manziel was released on Friday. One question arrived late in the week to kick off this week’s column.

Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns brass will try to evaluate what they have with Johnny Football over the 10 days leading up to the draft, a lengthy private workout if you will? I assume he has worked to keep his body in shape while tuning his brain during 10 weeks of rehab and at some point even received a copy of the new playbook.

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: The first weeks of the offseason conditioning program, a.k.a. Phase One, is limited to strength and exercise work in the weight room and field, per terms of the labor agreement. No coaches other than strength & conditioning coaches can even be on the field or in the weight room. In fact, footballs are not even allowed on the field during Phase One. Your question implies the Browns are evaluating Manziel for trade considerations. I don't think so.

Hey Tony: How would you feel about trading down from 12 to the 17-22 range and then trading down from 19 to the bottom of the 1st round in exchange for those teams’ 2nd round picks this year and 2016's 1st round picks? With 3 1st round picks we could have the top QB in the 2016 draft. Has this ever been done? "Walter Football" already us picking 3rd and taking Cardale Jones. Conner Cook and Christian Hackenberg are also top 10 picks in their 2016 mock draft. I would really like Cardale Jones to be a Cleveland Brown!

-- Ed, Benton, TN

Hey Ed: Here are the problems with your strategy: 1. You’re sending the message to your team that 2015 is not about winning. That’s the wrong message to send. 2. Collecting extra picks in 2016 does not guarantee you will wind up with a franchise quarterback. What if the one you target suffers a season-ending injury? What if another team has an even worse season and you end up with the second or third pick? It’s just no good managing.

Hey Tony: Based on mock draft 9.0 you predict that the Browns will pick two defensive players in the upcoming draft, I couldn't disagree more! Yes, Pet is a defensive coach but from an organizational standpoint it just doesn't make sense! We need some offensive fire power and you can't tell me that if the Browns stay where they are with the 12th and 19th picks that they will pick not one but two defensive guys? I just don't see it! Come April 30th the Browns (if they stay put) will pick a player from each side of the ball! It only makes sense and is the "logical" thing to do. But wait, the Browns have never made sense and are not an  organization that will make a "logical" pick. So don't be surprised if we ascend to the second pick and overpay for the kid from the Ducks!

-- John, Rootstown, OH

Hey John: In my mock draft 9.0, the selections of Danny Shelton at No. 12 and Alvin Dupree at No. 19 were based not only on Browns’ needs but also on the “best player available.” There would still be eight other draft picks left for the Browns to use on offensive players.

Hey Tony: Love all the insight. In the VERY unlikely scenario that Marcus Mariota drops to #12 ... Browns on the clock … Chip Kelly calls dangling Sam Bradford for #12, what do you think the Browns do?

-- Matt, Columbus, OH

Hey Matt: In my opinion, that would be an easy choice. I would take Mariota at No. 12. Both players have risks – Mariota’s ability to transcend his game to the NFL is an unknown, and Bradford’s injury history is impossible to ignore. Mariota is younger and cheaper. Bradford would come at a hefty salary – he’s making $13 million in the last year of his current contract – and although I have a high opinion of his talent, his 18-30-1 career record shows that he is far from a proven winner.

Hey Tony: Considering the scenario in which both DeVante Parker and Danny Shelton are available to the Browns at pick 12, which one would you take? After my extensive scouting (watching YouTube highlights) of each player, the standout qualities I see in each player are Parker's ability to go up and attack the jump ball and Shelton's impressive bull rush and motor for a big man. If I had to choose I think I would take the less sexy pick of Shelton, what do you think?

-- Will, Rocky River, OH

Hey Will: This could be a very real debate in the Browns’ draft room on April 30, as both players could be available to them at No. 12. I would probably side with Parker in a close call. I believe the Browns would side with Shelton because I think they have already chosen free agent Dwayne Bowe ($9 million guaranteed) as their No. 1 wideout. Most draft evaluators predict a good future in the NFL for Shelton and he does fill a big need in the Browns’ defense.

Hey Tony:  As a writer of five articles per week, you should be elated that the Browns are so dysfunctional. If they were a stable, model franchise, what would you write about? I'm hoping that they use all 10 of their draft choices in hopes that they can find five players who can contribute right away. One last thought. I truly hope they don't give away next year's number one. And you should, too. If the Browns don't have a first round choice for next year, your mock drafts would lose 99 percent of the interest of Browns' fans.

-- Ted, Sierra Madre, CA

Hey Ted: If the Browns didn’t have a first-round draft pick, I would put the mock drafts on hiatus for a whole year. So maybe fans should be rooting for that.

Hey Tony: How would you start the draft at No. 12? I would first try to move up for Mariota. If that wasn't available, I'd probably focus on Bud Dupree or Arik Armstead. Both could start and be potential difference makers. I don't like Shane Ray's size as a three down player and I wouldn't touch Randy Gregory due to his off the field issues. As long as Phil Taylor is playing nose tackle, Danny Shelton isn't a necessity. This defense could be in the top 10 if they fix the front seven. I also think that another year in the same system will make them much better by being familiar with their reads and reacting quicker. Without an elite QB, the Browns will have to rely on a strong defense to keep them in games.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I doubt that either Dupree or Armstead are candidates at No. 12. I think Shelton is the top candidate. Shelton can stand on his own as a top 15 player, but Taylor’s knee problems, his lack of quickness in the pass rush and his inability to stay on the field on third down add to the desire to complement the line with a possible difference-maker in the middle.

Hey Tony: I understand this may be somewhat biased, but as a Canadian Browns fan I wonder if the Browns might look north of the border for a sleeper QB pick. Brandon Bridge is from Toronto but played college in the USA. He has the size one looks for at the position in the AFC North (6’4, 230), and according to the draft experts has the strongest arm in the draft. I realize he’s not high on the draft boards, but couldn’t this largely be a case of him not being highly recruited because he’s not American? Surely he’s a project at this point, but do you know if the Browns have Bridge on their radar? According to the draft reports I’ve seen he’s only made a personal visit to one team thus far: Indianapolis. If nothing else, Burton Cummings would heartily approve of such a pick!

-- Steve, Kingston, Ontario

Hey Steve: I’m pretty sure there is no “Canadian bias” with Bridge. He does have a great arm ad good size, but there are real issues such as accuracy and lack of experience in a pro-style offensive system that make Bridge a developmental prospect with a steep learning curve. And thank you for the shout out to Burton Cummings, who is a Winnipeg native and fan of football.

Hey Tony: Do you think if the Browns are unsuccessful at acquiring Marcus Mariota on draft day, that they would consider making a move with Washington for RGIII?  I'm not a huge RGIII fan, but he's still a young guy with loads of talent on a team that seems to have had enough of him.  Granted, he's definitely struggled lately, but could two young, innovative offensive coaches like DeFilippo and O'Connell bring him back to his rookie year form? If you could keep your two first round picks, solidify other areas of need like WR and Edge Rusher, and work a deal with Washington for RGIII, maybe you might have something. Again, it's risky because RGIII has shown more negatives than positives lately, but I do think that he may just need a change of scenery and some young offensive coaches to mesh well with his personality and strengths.  Thoughts?

-- Nick, High Point, NC

Hey Nick: You are not going to trade for Griffin without giving up a first-round pick. And I wouldn’t do it in a thousand years.

Hey Tony: It appears that we probably will be shut out again this year in our quest for a franchise QB. Looking ahead to next year, what is your thought about engineering a trade of one of our 1st rounders this year for another round one pick in 2016 -- we need all the ammunition we can get to move to the top of the draft where there is usually only 1-2 top-flight prospects (Jones and Cook? next year). I would try to work something with the Bucs or Titans since with new QBs from 2015 they may again have a high draft choice in 2016,  Also, each might like this year to add an OL (Bucs) or a WR (Titans) to complement their developmental QB.  Our 19th may well accommodate them nicely.

-- Larry, Huron, OH

Hey Larry: Although I am against this strategy, I am not dismissing the possibility of the Browns trading No. 19 for a 2016 No. 1. If they do that, we could only conclude that they intend to “Fail for Cardale.”

Hey Tony: Do we all agree that Marcus Mariota needs substantial work to be an effective NFL quarterback? Trading up for "the" guy is advisable, while trading up for "a" guy gets you fired. I don't see an Andrew Luck type talent in the 2015 draft. That closes the trade up speculation to me. Didn't they learn a lesson last year? Trading up for the homeless guy's choice was advisable, right?

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: Yes, I would agree with you. I wouldn’t sell the farm for Mariota, and by that I mean give up a 2016 No. 1. But I would definitely consider trading No. 12 and No. 19 this year for Mariota.

Hey Tony: Last week I asked a question about the draft and in your answer you were in favor of drafting a developmental QB. Is this not a waste of a pick? QB is notoriously difficult position to draft even at the top of the draft but Tom Brady aside there isn’t one elite QB that wasn’t drafted in the first round (Drew Brees 2nd round but was pick 32). So unless you have an elite QB and draft a development QB to be 2nd or 3rd stringer (we have enough of those) that you might be able to trade to some QB needy team down the line otherwise is it a waste

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I don’t think taking a developmental quarterback is a wasted pick. Do you think a special teamer and backup linebacker is the better use of a fourth-round pick?

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Is Cameron Erving really a wise choice in the first round for the Browns?

Apr 11, 2015 -- 4:40pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

We’re zeroing in on the April 30 draft, and that’s what the Hey Tony inbox centered on this week.

Hey Tony: A comment and a question please.You really hit the mark with this week’s Mock Draft 8.0. I would be ecstatic if the Browns would select the run stopper DT Danny Shelton from Washington at number 12 and OL Cameron Erving from Florida State at 19. You have to stop the run and be able to run if you intend to challenge in the AFC North. It would be a home run for the Browns if they selected these two gifted players. Additionally, will we see the Browns select a true fullback anywhere in this year’s draft? If so who and what round?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: Through eight mock drafts, Shelton has been picked most frequently at No. 12 (four times) and Erving matches two others by being the pick at No. 19 two times. The others picked twice have been Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong. Brown also has been picked at No. 12. Further, Kentucky linebacker Alvin Dupree also has been the pick at No. 12 and No. 19. A true fullback does not seem in the cards with this new coaching staff, but we’ll see.

Hey Tony: Is Cameron Erving on the Browns’ draft radar? He would provide good OL depth and be a replacement for Alex Mack if he leaves next year. Could be had at 19.

-- Jon, Aurora, OH

Hey Jon: I don’t know if Erving is on the Browns’ radar, but he should be. Erving ranks as the draft's best center and also has played tackle and projects as a guard, too. Most draft publications and Websites have him rated lower than No. 19. Perhaps the Browns could trade down from No. 19 and take him later. Erving is the only offensive lineman I would consider taking for the Browns in the first two rounds.

Hey Tony: I believe you have often said that teams don't or can not develop players once the regular season starts. In listening to your latest with Rizzo, the idea of sitting Marcus Mariota for the entire year and developing him was broached. Doesn't your prior statements preclude this from successfully happening?

-- Rich, Schaumburg, IL

Hey Rich: I have proposed the idea of having two quarterbacks coaches – one to tutor the starter through each week’s game plan and one to essentially mentor the rookie through his first season. This “rookie QB coach” would assist the developmental quarterback in whatever mechanical and fundamental skills need to be practiced and also mentor him on how to study for opponents, how to acquire a feel for divisional opponents, how to generally acclimate himself to the pro game and routine. It would be a new approach to the sport’s most under-coached position. Less than that, the idea of sitting Mariota the whole year (as long as Josh McCown or even Thad Lewis is playing competitively) would be for him to soak up the NFL game as much as he could and making the necessary adjustments to his game before being forced to play. I realize it’s just fantasy because the Browns almost always have the need to play three quarterbacks during a season.

Hey Tony: I was wondering … The 1989 Browns season has always been one of my favorites (I was 11 years old at the time). We had the 51-0 drumming of the Steelers in week 1, the Kevin Mack touchdown to clinch the division in Houston in the final week, and one of the most exciting playoff games I have ever watched, beating Buffalo in the Divisional Round. My question is this…..what happened between that great year in 1989 to the dismal year of 1990, when the Browns went 3-13?  I know the head coach, Bud Carson, returned. And, from what I remember, most of the core players returned. Why such a vast difference in teams over the course of just one year? Thanks, I look forward to your insight. 

-- Brent, Atlanta, GA

Hey Brent: The 1989 team was an old team trying to squeeze in one more run at the Super Bowl before its window slammed shut. Carson was hired as head coach for one objective -- to plot a defense to topple franchise-nemesis John Elway. After an early dominance by Carson’s defense, the offense, in fact, carried that team to the playoffs. In the 1989 championship game, Carson blitzed Elway relentlessly and the strategy backfired. The following year, the chemistry of the team was destroyed when the Browns gave a huge contract to 35-year-old free agent cornerback Raymond Clayborn and played hardball with several key players whose contracts were up. Carson was fired midway through the season – shortly after he finally prevailed over Elway in a Monday night game in Denver – and that led to the hiring of Bill Belichick. Belichick inherited an aging roster and his efforts to revamp it made for many unpopular moves.

Hey Tony: What would be your dream scenario for the Browns in the draft, mine would be two for the front seven in the first round and then TE in the second, WR or OL in 3rd and fullback and kicker. I don’t see any point in drafting a QB.

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: It’s dangerous to plot a draft to net certain positions because then you are straying from “best player available” to fill a position of need. In general, I would assess the needs of the team entering the draft as run-stopping defensive lineman, edge pass rusher, interior offensive lineman, wide receiver with return capabilities, and quarterback. Even if the Browns don’t make a run at Mariota, I probably would use a pick on a developmental quarterback such as Garrett Grayson. But I would try to avoid trading up for one.

Hey Tony: I was kind of befuddled by the Eagles’ trade for Sam Bradford, where they opted for a QB coming off 2 ACL tears. Then it hit me, Pat Shurmur must have played a big part in that trade as I believe they spent time together and Shurmur was the OC for Bradford’s rookie season. Do you think this played a part in the trade and do you believe this to be the reason the Eagles are settled on Bradford?

-- Tom, Akron, OH

Hey Tom: Yes, I’m sure that Shurmur’s input was valued by Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Bradford won seven games as a rookie with Shurmur as Rams’ offensive coordinator. But I also believe Kelly had a favorable opinion of Bradford going back to his days as a college coach at Oregon.

Hey Tony: How come no one is considering Mike Glennon as an option at quarterback either during the draft or thereafter? Surely, he will want an opportunity to start somewhere and that is not going to happen in Tampa. He fits the mold being big, young and having some positive starting experience.   

-- Bill, Pittsburgh, PA

Hey Bill: You just made the case why Tampa Bay does not want to trade Glennon. They made a choice when they released Josh McCown, who seemed like the better mentor for Jameis Winston. But the Bucs chose the cheaper-salaried Glennon and I couldn’t imagine them trading him now.

Hey Tony: Do you remember the cartoon Gullivers Travels? There is a character on the show named "glum" (he is the definition of a pessimist … “we're doomed"..." We'll never make it"..."it will never work.” YouTube him you have to get a chuckle! I am sorry but every time I read your articles or hear you on the radio I can't help but to be reminded of that guy. Weak attempt at humor. Seriously, though, how come everyone made Kyle Shanahan out to be the second coming of Sid Gilliam? If the zone stretch offense is such a great scheme then why is it only used by only a few Mike Shanahan disciples? I was happy to see him go, he refused to throw to his backs and it seemed wherever he went drama followed the guy like a Kardashian. Why is there no real conversation about Sean Mannion? The guy is from a pro-style offense (his coach Mike Riley coached the Chargers) and he is rare QB that actually played under center and he has the size (6-6, 230 lbs) that you covet. His senior year was shaky because he had a brutal O-line and just lost Brandin Cooks to the Saints. I see Farmer taking him as a developmental guy, what say you?

-- Devin, Concord, OH

Hey Devin: So you criticize me for being a “pessimist” and then you go all negative on Shanahan, who was being hailed as a future head coach when the team was 6-3? Ok, fine. Mannion is a big guy with a decent arm but with a lot of flaws. Some evaluators don’t see him being drafted.

Hey Tony: You mentioned today (April 7) on your show about the Alex Mack contract situation, and Joe Thomas commented on how he could opt out after this year and become a free agent. This may be new ground in the NFL, but obviously the ground was broken this past year with Lebron James negotiating the exact same type of opt out deal in his contract. Do you think this will become the norm in the NFL (as it seems it will with superstars in the NBA)?

-- Scott, Bonn, Germany

Hey Scott: Don’t equate the NFL system with the NBA system. Two totally different sets of rules. In Mack’s case, he was able to negotiate an opt-out and no-trade clause because the Browns put the transition tag on him and allowed him to negotiate with other teams. Jacksonville felt the language might cause the Browns to not want to match their offer sheet. Alas, the Brown did, and now they have to live with it.

Hey Tony: I'm so tired of hearing about Alex Mack. If he wants to compete for a championship, he's on the wrong team. However, most of the great teams won't have that kind of money to pay a center because they have great QBs and skill players eating up the cap!  The reason Mack's injury was so devastating was the lack of depth on the offensive line.  Keep drafting quality linemen and stop worrying about Mack. The center position means nothing until you find your QB.  Just draft Bryce Petty and let him sit out a year to adjust to the NFL. A center can be found later in the draft. 

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I don’t disagree that Mack’s value was overblown by the Browns’ horrible job of adequately replacing him. This is not second guessing -- I felt at the time that John Greco would have been a better option to stay at center and they could have plugged in someone at right guard. I agree that a center should not have had that much of an impact by his absence.

Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns will or should try to sign Pierre Thomas? The Browns lacked a pass catching threat out of the backfield last year and he'd bring that, a veteran presence to the RB room, should be relatively cheap, and won't count as a free agent signing for calculating compensatory picks next year since the Saints released him. He may be 30 but only has about 1200 touches in his career.

-- Kyle, Minneapolis, MN

Hey Kyle: Why not? A veteran should be added to the running back room and he’s as good as any.

Hey Tony: We now know what the team thought of Johnny (he wasn't dedicated, ready, etc).  Any idea on how the team feels about whomever (Jimmy) said that Johnny should start the Cincinnati game with the playoffs on the line?  That is the bigger issue now.

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: Remember that Mike Pettine said at the time that he consulted with selected veterans before making the move from Brian Hoyer to Johnny Manziel. Joe Thomas was one player Pettine identified. I think Thomas was put off by Manziel’s comments after the season when Manziel essentially admitted that he didn’t take his job in his rookie season seriously enough.

Hey Tony: The ideal color for a viewing obstruction is one that contrasts with the object you are trying to see. Contrary to this are the new brown face masks, which may compromise the ability of players to find and follow brown footballs. This has been discussed extensively for ice hockey, where many goalies avoid black face masks. Has this been discussed by or asked of the Browns? It sounds silly, but this is the kind of thing that people who are obsessed with winning would consider when changing uniforms. Thanks, I enjoy your work.

-- Ben, Fairbanks, AK

Hey Ben: A very interesting observation. I’m assuming that the brown facemasks won’t be a factor because they are positioned outside the field of vision. But if we see an avalanche of dropped passes and fumbled handoffs, I will remember your email and revisit your point.

Hey Tony: I think the idea of having Armonty Bryant taking snaps at OLB is very intriguing.  That said, what are your thoughts on the Browns not drafting an edge rusher for another position, for the sake of Bryant on the outside?

-- Ben, Rose Hill, KS

Hey Ben: I don’t think the experiment to try Bryant at outside linebacker should interfere with plans to draft an edge pass rusher. Bryant is in for a transition that even Jabaal Sheard couldn’t completely make. That’s why Sheard left in free agency to play end with a 4-3 defensive team.

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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