ESPN Cleveland - Cleveland Browns, 850 AM & 1540 AM
ESPN Cleveland - Ohion State, 850 AM & 1540 AM
Countdown to OSU vs. Michigan

Wrong version or no version of Flash detected

Recent Stories

  • Page 1 of 229
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • ...
  • »
  • »»

Brian Hoyer's storybook season gets more fascinating each week

Nov 25, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Stars and planets aligning: I have this theory about Brian Hoyer’s storybook season – and yes, when you’re the quarterback of a Browns team that is 7-4 and in the thick of the AFC North division race, then that qualifies as a storybook season.

My theory is that what happened to Hoyer last year was so cruel, unfortunate and unfair – you know, finally getting the opportunity to lead his hometown team and then having it ripped away with a self-inflicted knee injury after a 2-0 start -- that the football gods have decided to watch over him.

This is not to say that Hoyer hasn’t earned everything by working so diligently to come back from a torn ACL injury a year ago. Remember LeBron James’ essay: In Northeast Ohio nothing is given, everything is earned.

And nothing has come easy to Hoyer.

How about rehabbing extra hard from ACL surgery to prepare for his opportunity to lead a team from the start of a season for the first time in his career, only to watch his hometown team maneuver in the draft to select Johnny Football – the most exciting, talked-about, charismatic college quarterback in recent history?

So how else do you explain Hoyer’s season thus far? So many low points followed by high points. So many errant passes followed by pinpoint throws. So many interceptions dropped. So few of his passes to teammates dropped.

Huge deficits overcome. Self-inflicted wounds instantly healed. Respect earned.

“There’s no question about it, he’s the leader on offense,” receiver Andrew Hawkins said. “When you have confidence in your leader and he has confidence in himself and the rest of the team, the sky is really the limit on any given Sunday.”

Off the ledge: Hoyer’s game Sunday in Atlanta was a metaphor for his season. Perhaps unnerved by internal pressure to get the ball to Josh Gordon, Hoyer suffered what he called the worst game of his career. And then won it at the end.

Three “dumb” interceptions – two in the last five minutes – created a 24-23 deficit. But Atlanta coach Mike Smith’s egregious clock mismanagement setting up a go-ahead field goal gave Hoyer the ball with 44 seconds and two timeouts. Hoyer executed the winning drive to near-perfection – 4 of 5 completions before a spike to stop the clock and set up Billy Cundiff’s winning field goal from 37 yards as time expired.

After the game, Hoyer beat himself up over his performance. Conservatively, the Browns left 22 points on the field – even more when counting a dropped interception by Donte Whitner – against a weak Atlanta defense. Hoyer felt he let his team down and said the game would haunt him through the week.

On Monday, Hawkins and coach Mike Pettine rushed to Hoyer’s defense.

“Brian’s a competitor,” Hawkins said. “I won’t lose sleep about Brian being able to hop back. Brian knows that – not just me – the entire team has so much confidence in him. If that wavered when someone made mistakes, I think that’s an indication of not a very good football team or a close football team, and I think we are a close football team.

“I haven’t lost a bit of confidence in Brian.”

Pettine said, “Brian is very difficult on himself. He’s a competitor. He’s a perfectionist, and I just think in a sense he felt that he really felt like he was letting his teammates down with some of the plays that he had made. Sure, it obviously affected him, but I just think the way he handled it was outstanding --  the resolve. People said the look on his face when (Atlanta) made the field goal was, ‘Hey, it’s time to go out there and see if we can get this done.’ Again, it’s a testament to his mental toughness and the team’s mental toughness.

“I think the guys realized that we certainly wouldn’t be where we are right now without Brian, and that nobody’s perfect. When you see a guy that is that hard on himself and is that much of a perfectionist and it means a lot, they’re going to play hard for him.

“I just think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we are where we are. Guys care about each other, and they realize that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. I think that when you’re involved in a team sport and you have that, you have a chance to be special.”

The future: Pettine and Hoyer share a relationship of trust that was begun a year ago when Pettine, as Buffalo defensive coordinator, sent Hoyer a hand-written letter of admiration after the fateful knee injury in the Thursday night game against the Bills.

Pettine has been Hoyer’s biggest champion in what seems to be a passive tug of war between the football side and the business side in the Browns’ organization. At stake is the future of the Browns, Hoyer and Manziel.

Pettine has resisted all temptations to see what the franchise has in Manziel. Even on Hoyer’s worst day – Hoyer’s words – Pettine said he “never considered” putting in Manziel.

Every time Pettine expresses his faith in Hoyer, Hoyer rewards it with a win. The Browns haven’t lost two games in a row. In 20 years, they’ve only gone through a season like that twice – in 1994 and 2007.

Sunday was only the second time Hoyer threw more than one interception in a game this season. The first time, against Tampa Bay, Hoyer was booed by the hometown crowd … and the Browns won. The second time, Sunday in Atlanta, Hoyer threw together a textbook, 44-second drive to pull out another win. That made it five fourth-quarter comeback wins for Hoyer in 14 career starts with the Browns.

And by the end of the weekend, two other developments occurred that would appear to be fortuitous for Hoyer’s future – though he would never acknowledge them as such.

In Houston, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett suffered a season-ending injury. Mallett’s contract is up after this season and the Texans are trying to gauge whether he can be their full-time starter. The Texans are considered the No. 1 interested team if Hoyer is not offered a new contract by the Browns and becomes a free agent.

And then, news surfaced of a brawl involving Manziel in the lobby of his apartment building at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Even Manziel’s staunchest proponents in the organization – of which there are many – had to be concerned about turning over the team in 2015 to a player who still is grappling with maturity issues.

Hoyer’s storybook year has a few chapters left to be written. The possibilities are fascinating.




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




Browns not yet ruling safety Tashaun Gipson out for the year despite two ligament injuries

Nov 24, 2014 -- 6:25pm

By Tony Grossi |



Extra Points …

Next men up (cont.): Free safety Tashaun Gipson has a torn medial collateral ligament and potentially damage to the posterior collateral ligament. The possible multiple injuries to the knee means Gipson probably will be lost for the rest of the season.

The prognosis for recovery from a severe MCL tear is four to eight weeks. But that’s if there are no other ligaments affected. If the PCL is torn, too, surgery could be necessary.

Coach Mike Pettine said on Monday that a complete evaluation of Gipson’s injuries is not complete. It’s possible that won’t come until swelling goes down in the knee.

“It will be some time,” Pettine said. “We just don’t know. The timing we’ve heard (for return) puts it potentially right at the end of the season. I just don’t know right now that we can make any statement on his status, as to whether or not we put him on injured reserve.”

In a message on his Instagram account, Gipson wrote:

I truly want to thank my brothers on the squad, family, friends and the wonderful fans of cleveland for the prayers truly means a lot and I have nothing but love of respect to everyone. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

Gipson is leading the NFL with six interceptions and was leading all safeties in early fan balloting for the Pro Bowl. Gipson is in the last year of his rookie contract and could be a restricted free agent after the 2014 season.

Pettine said Gipson’s role would be jointly filled by veteran Jim Leonhard and second-year reserve Jordan Poyer.

Shuffling off to Buffalo?: The Browns should know by Tuesday whether their game against the Buffalo Bills will remain in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, on Sunday. The Bills were forced to play the Jets on Monday night in Ford Field in Detroit because of massive amounts of snowfall last week.

“Still haven’t heard anything yet,” Pettine said on Monday. “I know the stadium there is on its way to being cleared. But I do know they may run into more potential weather issues this week. We’ve received no official word from the Bills or the league. We’ll certainly know more tomorrow.”

Save of the year: In recounting the game in general terms, Pettine referred to “when I lost my mind” and green-lighted a 60-yard field goal try by kicker Billy Cundiff right before the end of the first half.

Cundiff’s initial kick was short, but didn’t count because the Falcons called time to ice him. On the sideline, Cundiff told Pettine that he noticed the timeout and held back on the kick and said he felt the kick was in his range.

Although the Browns were aware that return specialist Devin Hester was lined up in the end zone to return the ball if the kick were short, the Browns made no adjustments on their field-goal team and loaded it up with the usual big-bodied blockers.

Hester fielded the kick about five yards deep in the end zone and returned it about 75 yards before 315-pound guard Joel Bitonio flattened Hester at the 31-yeard line as the half expired.

“Obviously, I need to thank Joel Bitonio,” Pettine said. “That can end up being the play of the year for us. With his hustle from the back side and the saving tackle, obviously, it makes my decision look not nearly as bad as it was.”

Brownie bits: Pettine had high praise for linebacker Craig Robertson, who filled in for injured linebacker Karlos Dansby as the “quarterback” of the defense. Chris Kirksey also credited Robertson for helping him prepare for his starting role … Pettine also said linebacker Barkevious Mingo also had his best game, though the stat sheet didn’t reflect it. Mingo was credited with one pass defensed.


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




Browns GM Ray Farmer expresses concern with Johnny Manziel over reported brawl

Nov 24, 2014 -- 2:39pm

By Tony Grossi |



Updated at 5:19 p.m.

An incident at Johnny Manziel’s apartment building in downtown Cleveland in the wee hours of Saturday morning left one man with injuries and the Browns smarting a bit, too.

According to a police report obtained by Cleveland Scene, Chris Gonos, 33, of Sandusky, approached Manziel at The 9, where Manziel resides, and was punched in the face by a member of Manziel’s “entourage.” The report stated Gonos suffered a swollen lip and swollen eye.

Gonos later told Scene that he was tackled by one of four men surrounding Manziel and suffered “a bruised hip and a bruised elbow” and was hit in the back of the head. Gonos also told Scene that his brother was “sucker punched” by Manziel.

According to Scene, the police report stated that officers were called to the apartment complex at 2:36 a.m. on Saturday for a fight involving about 20 men and two security officers. The Browns left for Atlanta later in the afternoon.

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer issued the following statement:

“We are aware of the incident and are in the process of gathering additional information in order to gain a complete understanding of what occurred.

“Nonetheless, the time of the incident is concerning to us. We continually stress to all of our players the importance of sound decision making in an effort to avoid putting themselves in these types of situations.

“We have addressed this appropriately with the player and will have no further comment at this time.”

In a statement released by Erik Burkhardt, Manziel’s agent, Manziel delivered his account of the incident.

“Johnny and his roommate had been out to dinner earlier in the evening with Johnny’s mother, who is staying with him this week,” Burkhardt wrote in an email. “There was no entourage. Johnny and his roommate were trying to get on the apartment elevator at his home when they were accosted by a very aggressive man and his associates. It was an unfortunate situation and he immediately let Ray Farmer and the team know what happened.”

In a conference call on Monday, coach Mike Pettine said the incident was not considered a violation of any team rules.

“I thought Ray’s statement summed it up,” Pettine said. “We’re obviously in the process of gathering additional info. We’ll have more on it when it’s appropriate.”

Pettine said he discussed the incident with Manziel but declined to elaborate.

The Browns went on to defeat the Falcons in Atlanta, 26-24, on a field goal at the final seconds of the game.

Despite what Brian Hoyer himself called the worst game of his career, in which he threw three interceptions, including two in the final five minutes that lost a 23-21 Browns lead, Pettine said he “never considered” inserting Manziel in the game.

Gonos also told Scene that “somebody else in the group smashed Johnny right in the face. Smashed him, smashed him.”

Pettine would not comment on whether Manziel’s face showed any signs of the reported fracas.

“I’m not into judging the impairment level of our guys’ faces, so I really don’t have much to add,” Pettine said.


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




Tony Grossi's Take: Brian Hoyer's final drive saved his bad day and some regrettable coaching snafus

Nov 23, 2014 -- 7:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Tony’s Take on the Browns’ 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons

Offense: Josh Gordon made a huge difference. His presence unclogged some running lanes for Isaiah Crowell (88 yards, two TDs) and Terrance West (62 yards), both of whom ran with authority. Gordon came down with eight receptions for 120 yards. But one unintended consequence of Gordon’s long-awaited arrival was it seemed to add pressure on quarterback Brian Hoyer to get him the ball. Hoyer targeted Gordon 16 times. He wasn’t forcing it to him, except for the ill-advised balloon in the end zone. In fact, Gordon seemed open on almost all the targets. But Hoyer never really established a rhythm with Gordon and misconnected on a bunch of throws. Two of Hoyer’s three interceptions were on passes for Gordon. Hoyer was despondent with his own performance (a 52.3 passer rating was a fair depiction of his game), but he did make four good throws at the end to nail down his fifth fourth-quarter game-winning drive in 14 games with the Browns. Bottom line: Three interceptions, two blown red zone opportunities.

Defense: The serious knee injury to safety Tashaun Gipson cast a pall on an outstanding effort. Joe Haden had an interception, Buster Skrine dropped one and Justin Gilbert added two pass breakups. The secondary held Julio Jones to five receptions (one TD) on 13 targets. Paul Kruger had two sacks, stripping a fumble of Matt Ryan that was recovered by Desmond Bryant. Ahtyba Rubin looked to have his best game with a sack. Filling in for injured Karlos Dansby, Craig Robertson had a game-high nine tackles. By limiting the Falcons to 63 rushing yards and a 2.7 average, they forced Ryan to earn everything he got. Bottom line: No run over 7 yards.

Special teams: Joel Bitonio came out of nowhere to flatten Devin Hester who was in the midst of taking a missed 60-yard field goal the length of the field just before halftime. Punter/holder Spencer Lanning got a hand on Hester to help disrupt his return. Billy Cundiff made his other four field goal tries, including the game-winner from 37 yards. Aside from the return with the field goal miss, the Browns held Hester in check, allowing no return longer than 27 yards. While the Browns had zero return yards for the game, they avoided the negative plays that have earmarked each of their losses. Bottom line: Whew.

Coaching: Two miscues were blatantly obvious. The time management at the end of the half was poor. They wasted 22 seconds after a Hoyer completion to Gordon by freezing on a timeout call. It cost them probably two plays and forced a 60-yard field goal try, which almost was returned for a touchdown. Then, the play-call for a pass on first-and-goal from the 6 with 4:59 left in the fourth quarter was indefensible. Crowell and West had gashed through the Falcons for runs of 18 and 20 yards. The Browns had a 23-21 lead. There was no need to throw. Handing off would also have eaten some time off the clock. For some reason, Hoyer couldn’t pull the trigger on the safe throw to West and he compounded the play-call error by floating a balloon for Gordon while backpedaling. Bottom line: Got away with a couple.


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




Browns survive Falcons in last-second win, but lose Tashaun Gipson to injury

Nov 23, 2014 -- 4:11pm

By Tony Grossi |



Updated at 5:58 p.m.


Brian Hoyer didn’t look and sound like a quarterback who had just saved a game, maybe a season … heck, maybe his career.

Hoyer’s four completions in the final 44 seconds set up a 37-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff as time expired to give the Browns a stomach-wrenching 26-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

The ending redeemed what Hoyer termed the worst game of his career. He threw three “dumb” interceptions, including two in the last five minutes, to seemingly give away the game to the Falcons.

Lose it that way, and Hoyer’s job status would have been on the front burner with team officials the minute they landed back in Cleveland. Don’t think it wasn’t a topic of conversation as Hoyer struggled to connect with fresh-legged Josh Gordon throughout the game.

But the Houdini act – Hoyer’s otherworldly ability to perform with his back to the wall -- kept the Browns alive in the AFC North race with a 7-4 record. And it left Hoyer drained with mixed emotions.

“I feel I let the team down today with the way I played,” Hoyer said glumly. “I’m happy we won, but I’ve got to play a lot better. I can’t even believe we won it the way I played.”

They were able to win it because of Cundiff’s clutch kick; because of Gary Barnidge’s 15-yard leaping catch between two defenders on the final drive; because of Gordon’s fabulous first game back after a 10-week suspension; because of powerful running by Isaiah Crowell (88 yards and two touchdowns) and Terrance West (62 yards); because of a superb effort by a defense further decimated by injury, this time to safety Tashaun Gipson; and because of a heads-up tackle 70 yards downfield of Atlanta kick returner Devin Hester by 300-pound tackle Joel Bitonio.

And they were able to win it despite one of the boneheaded play-calls of the Mike Pettine era, which was made worse by Hoyer’s uncommon lapse in judgment.

The Browns owned a 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter and marched down to the Falcons’ 6 as Crowell and West took turns eating up chunks of yards. There was 4:51 left in the game and no need to do anything stupid. But that didn’t stop them.

On first-and-goal, Hoyer faked a handoff to West and looked at the back flaring to the right flat. Hoyer couldn’t pull the trigger on the low-risk pass. Instead tossed up a balloon for Gordon while backpedaling. Desmond Trufant, who may have gotten away with a shove, soared above Gordon and made the interception just inside the end line.

Pettine claimed the play was “one we like” and had scored on a few games ago. Pettine said Hoyer was trying to throw the ball out of the end zone. Hoyer said he was trying to give Gordon a chance to come down with the ball.

Asked why the Browns didn't just hand off the way the backs were gashing Atlanta’s feeble defensive front, Hoyer shot back, “I don’t know,” and turned to the other direction for the next question.

The Browns’ defense forced Atlanta to punt in five plays. But when Hoyer got the ball back at his 16-yard line, the heebie-jeebies were still with him. On third-and-17, he threw for Gordon, who was open at mid-field. But the ball found Trufant again for another interception.

This time, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was able to get his team into field goal range and Matt Bryant made it from 53 yards with 44 seconds showing.

On the sideline, left tackle Joe Thomas told Hoyer the Browns would win the game on a field goal.

“We never lost faith in him,” Haden said afterward.

Despite some ugly incompletions between Hoyer and Gordon, they were able to connect for 24 yards on the winning drive to launch the Browns into Atlanta territory. Barnidge followed with his clutch catch, and then Miles Austin’s 11-yarder set up a Hoyer spike with :05 at the 19.

In his first game back, Gordon played about 50 of the offense’s 71 snaps. He was targeted 16 times – eight more than runner-up Austin – and had eight receptions for 120 yards.

“The adrenalin kept me going,” Gordon said. “I know those guys weren’t going to quit on me, so I made sure I definitely wasn’t going to quit on them.

“It means the world to me not just to be back but with this team. This is my third year here. Been through plenty different coaches, owners and GM, and offenses. To finally see it going in the right direction means the world to me.”

Gordon’s most athletic play saved a huge loss when an errant toss back to him from West rolled about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Gordon picked up the ball with defenders in chase and managed to throw the ball in the direction of Hoyer to end the play safely.

Another heads-up play was turned in by Bitonio at the end of the first half when Devin Hester raced about 70 yards after catching a 60-yard field goal miss by Cundiff. Holder/punter Spencer Lanning got a hand on Hester’s legs and Bitonio flattened him to avoid a score as time ran out with the Falcons ahead, 14-13.

Hoyer finished the day with his second consecutive 300-yard game – 322 yards on 23 of 40 passing. But with three interceptions his rating was a lowly 52.3.

Afterwards, Hoyer said the ending “was a blur to me.”

Pettine said, “If you’re going to be a big-time quarterback in this league, you have to compartmentalize and move on. Brian showed a lot of mental toughness out there.”

As a result, the Browns’ post-season hopes are alive. Their seven wins assures they won’t lose 10 or more games for the first time in seven seasons.

But it’s never easy, is it?


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

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Tony Grossi's Four Downs: Will Josh Gordon's return be a triumphant one?

Nov 22, 2014 -- 12:10pm

By Tony Grossi |



Four Downs on Browns v. Atlanta Falcons

First down: J.G. to the rescue.

All the talk lowering expectations of Josh Gordon in his first game back after a 10-game suspension is a little comical. When he returned from a two-game suspension last season and played for the first time with Brian Hoyer, Gordon was targeted 19 times and had 10 receptions for 146 yards and one touchdown. Yes, this has been a longer suspension and Gordon has been away from football contact for about 80 days. But he has kept in superb shape and should have no problem assimilating into the new Browns’ offense. He should open up the running lanes by requiring help in coverage from a safety. I would expect Hoyer to force that by throwing the ball deep to Gordon early.

Second down: Feed the Crow.

With Ben Tate waived, the Browns will share the rushing load between Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Crowell is a native of Columbus, GA, and played his freshman year at University of Georgia before he transferred to Alabama State. He is amped up to play in front of friends and family for the first time as a professional. Crowell has put the ball on the ground five times – losing it twice – so he has to prove he is not a fumbler. If he can’t do that, the Browns could start giving some looks in the near future to Glenn Winston, who will be active in the game for special teams duty.

Third down: Rabbit hunting.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he detected this week that Travis (Rabbit) Benjamin had his swagger back. Benjamin has had his best year on offense, leading the team with three touchdown receptions, but his worst year on punt returns with a puny average of 2.8 yards and five fumbles or muffs. Benjamin said this week part of his problem has been focusing on punt returns after being on offense. Gordon’s arrival should lessen Benjamin’s play time on offense and allow him to concentrate on getting his return game on track. Plus, he’s motivated by competing against Atlanta’s Devin Hester, his boyhood idol who is one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history.

Fourth down: Julio and Joe.

This is the first game for the Browns against Julio Jones, the elite receiver they passed up by trading the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft to Atlanta. The Browns netted four draft choices in the trade, but the only player left from those picks is defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who is out for the season after knee surgery. Other players chosen with the picks from the trade were Greg Little, Owen Marecic and Brandon Weeden. This marks cornerback Joe Haden’s first NFL game against Jones. The two paired up twice in college – both times in Georgia Dome – with Haden’s Florida Gators winning one and Jones’ Alabama Crimson Tide one.




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




  • Page 1 of 229
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • ...
  • »
  • »»



  • Recently Updated


    • ESPN Tailgate Alfred Learner Way 11/16

    • Browns Watch Party with Bud Light at Fairview Tavern

    • #GLBC Selfie Contest at The Rail 11/7/2014

There are no games scheduled for today.

There are no games scheduled for today.