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Browns quarterback search: Who's qualified to lead the search?

Jan 27, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |


Photo/USA Today

The Morning Kickoff …

Quarterback retreat: The Browns’ top executives – owner Jimmy Haslam and his inner circle of football and business advisers -- conclude their first “strategic planning session” on Tuesday.

Among the presumed topics on the agenda during the three-day bonding and self-analytical event:

Quarterback: Where do we go from here?

The organization that cast a wide net over all draft-eligible quarterbacks one year ago and worked out 14 of them and concluded that Johnny Manziel was the very best of the bunch, is back on the hunt.

“We don’t know who our quarterback is going to be next year,” Haslam said before departing for Haslam-apalooza 2015 in an undisclosed location. “All I would say to our fans is we’re going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team.”

Gone are the top two offensive coaches from a year ago: Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains.

In their place is John DeFilippo and a yet-to-be-named quarterbacks coach.

I’ve often felt that in order to find a franchise quarterback, an organization has to have a “quarterback point man,” somebody schooled in the inexact science of knowing one when he sees one. That person can be a coach, a scout, a general manager – somebody in football operations whose expertise is centered on the sport’s most important position.

Whenever I think of quarterbacks, I go back to Ernie Accorsi, the general manager who acquired the last Browns’ home-grown QB of note, Bernie Kosar.

Pearls of wisdom: These are some of the quarterbacks Accorsi was associated with in his 37 years in the NFL, which ended in retirement as GM of the New York Giants in 2007 after stints in various capacities with the old Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns:

Johnny Unitas, Bert Jones, John Elway, Bernie Kosar, Gary Danielson, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner (yes, for one season with the Giants in between Super Bowl runs with the Rams and Cardinals).

Here are some of Accorsi’s observations about quarterbacks in a conversation I had with him this week:

“If you write down the championship quarterbacks ever since the T-formation finally came into the NFL and stayed in, you’re basically talking about the Hall of Fame.

“There are exceptions to every rule, but it takes special circumstances to win championships when you don’t have one.”

“If you want to win every year and compete every year, you’d better have a great one. You can win with an average quarterback, yeah. But you better have the ‘85 Bears defense or the 2000 Ravens defense. You have to have some other exceptions and usually it lasts one year.

“Don Klosterman (1970s-era Colts general manager) schooled me. He said, ‘Evaluate a quarterback on his ability to take a team down the field with a championship on the line and into the end zone. And if you’re playing against him, does he put a lump in your throat?’

“If I were to define leadership, it was to look over at Unitas and see him in the first seat (of the team bus) and know that you had a chance.

Accorsi recently completed a stint as consultant for the Chicago Bears in their search for a coach. (They chose John Fox, who was let go by the Denver Broncos after four consecutive AFC West Division titles.)

“I was just involved with interviewing these coaches and some of them would say, ‘I don’t think the quarterback’s that important because not everybody can get one and if you don’t have one you have to play anyway.’ And my response to that was, ‘That’s why we’re interviewing you, why the job’s open. That’s the job. You have to find him.’”

The Browns’ gurus: These are the key men involved in the search for the next Browns’ quarterback: General Manager Ray Farmer; Bill Kuharich, executive chief of staff; coach Mike Pettine; and coordinator John DeFilippo.

Now take a look at the quarterbacks associated with these men in previous capacities with teams in their NFL careers:

Farmer: Michael Vick (Falcons), Damon Huard (Chiefs), Tyler Thigpen (Chiefs), Matt Cassel (Chiefs), Brian Hoyer (Browns), Manziel (Browns).

Kuharich: Bobby Hebert (Saints), Steve Walsh (Saints), Jim Everett (Saints), Billy Joe Tolliver (Saints), Elvis Grbac (Chiefs), Trent Green (Chiefs), Huard (Chiefs), Thigpen (Chiefs), Cassel (Chiefs).

Pettine: Kyle Boller (Ravens), Steve McNair (Ravens), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Mark Sanchez (Jets), EJ Manuel (Bills), Hoyer (Browns), Manziel (Browns).

DeFilippo: Daunte Culpepper (Raiders), JaMarcus Russell (Raiders), Sanchez (Jets), Carson Palmer (Raiders), Terrelle Pryor (Raiders), Matt McGloin (Raiders), Derek Carr (Raiders).

So go get’em, guys. We’re all counting on you.


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




Releasing Josh Gordon would be an emotional move by the Browns, but not a necessary one

Jan 26, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |


Photo/USA Today

Updated at 9:07 a.m.

The Morning Kickoff …

Such a waste: Say goodbye to Josh Gordon, the most talented wide receiver in Browns history. His career with the Browns was hanging on a thread and Gordon willfully snipped that thread by excessive partying.

He tested positive for alcohol, according to reports, and now faces an indefinite ban from the NFL because he was in Stage 3 of the NFL intervention program. It was at least Gordon’s sixth violation in three years in the program, counting a DUI arrest in July, for which he escaped discipline. Prior to joining the Browns, Gordon was kicked out of Baylor and Utah for positive tests for marijuana.

So Gordon, who is still only 23, has been disciplined for drug or alcohol violations five years in a row.

Per terms of the newly bargained NFL substance abuse program, Gordon can apply for reinstatement in one year. Reinstatement is not automatic. If Gordon doesn’t comply with certain clinical requirements – such as treatment, total abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and no arrests or convictions – his ban would extend indefinitely.

So he quite possibly may never play in the NFL again.

Gordon’s 11 games under suspension last year – 10 in a league suspension and one in a team discipline – cost him more than $617,000 in salary. His one-year ban will cost him $1.682 million in salary in 2015. Longer-term, a player of his talent and age could have commanded $60 million or more in a free agent contract. So that was one mightily expensive bit of partying on Gordon's part.

In recent years, the Browns have not commented on reports of suspensions until they are announced. So it was emblematic of their disgust with Gordon that they issued the following statement on Sunday, attributed simply to a club spokesperson:

"Clearly we are very disappointed to hear the latest report regarding Josh. At this point, due to the confidential nature of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, we have not been made aware by the league of a failed test. We are in the process of gathering more information and will provide further comment at the appropriate time.”

A lost cause: I felt a bad vibe from Gordon when he came back from his 10-game suspension last year. Despite being given a reprieve while the NFL negotiated a new drug policy with its players union – he was supposed to be slapped with the indefinite suspension then – Gordon returned with an attitude.

I had hoped the near-brush with the premature end of his career would have had a positive effect on him – like it did with Kevin Mack in the 1989 season. Mack returned determined to repay the Browns for their support during his incarceration and suspension after a drug arrest. He was changed for the best.

Gordon was changed for the worse, holding it against everyone that he were not given a free pass.  

In the locker room, he waved off reporters who dared approach him or walked past them, and declined to engage in any extended conversation. He said, falsely, that PR officials told him he only had to talk after games.

On the field, Gordon embarrassed himself and his team with questionable effort and abject disregard for learning plays, routes and assignments. Instead of being the catalyst to a playoff stretch run, Gordon submarined the team’s efforts before him. He blew up the chemistry of an over-achieving receiving corps and played a role in Brian Hoyer’s demise.

The height of Gordon’s unprofessionalism came when he blew off a walk-through the day before the final game, earning a team suspension and costing himself an accrued season towards free agency.

The Browns were 6-4 without Gordon and 1-5 after his reinstatement.

Disturbingly to the Browns, Gordon and Johnny Manziel became fast friends. Gordon, in fact, partied with Manziel the night before he missed the walk-through. Manziel also missed a scheduled rehab session that morning and was disciplined by being banished to the locker room for the entire final game in Baltimore – like an adolescent given a “timeout.”

After the season, Gordon was front and center in a video brazenly posted on Instagram of teammates and former receivers coach Mike McDaniel celebrating the holidays on a private plane, presumably headed to Las Vegas. Gordon also reportedly joined Manziel in photos posted on the Internet from Aspen, CO.

Albert Breer of league-owned NFL Network reported via Twitter that Gordon’s positive test occurred after the season. Which means it could have been while partying with Manziel or other teammates.

Gordon was subject to up to 10 random tests a month for drugs and alcohol, per terms of his status in Stage 3 of the drug intervention program. Manziel would only be tested for alcohol if he were already admitted to the program. A little-known fact is a player can be placed in the intervention program – absent a violation -- because of behavior “which, in the judgment of the Medical Director, exhibits physical, behavioral, or psychological signs or symptoms of misuse of Substances of Abuse.”

Whether or not Manziel has exhibited such behavior in the eyes of the NFL Medical Director remains to be seen. He seems to be a walking time bomb.

Now what?: The emotional response to Gordon’s latest violation would be to terminate his Browns contract. Like Kyle Shanahan, Gordon has demonstrated he doesn’t want to be with them, so the prevailing sentiment is that they should  release him and rid the locker room of yet another sour apple.

I would hold off on that, however.

While under indefinite suspension, Gordon will not be paid, doesn’t count on the team’s salary cap and is not permitted in the team’s facility. He is out of sight/out of mind and does not poison the locker room.

His contract “tolls,” which means it picks up when and if he is reinstated. If that ever happens, Gordon would be under contract to the Browns for one more year. After that, he would be eligible for restricted free agency.

If I were the Browns, I would do nothing. If Gordon ever is rehabilitated – I know, fat chance of that – he is a commodity that could bring something in return.

As a league source said, “Any person under contract is an asset.”

Even now, after helping to destroy a Browns season of promise, I would hate to see Gordon resurface with another NFL team without receiving compensation for him.

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




Brian Hoyer says Patriots' reputation 'has killed them' in football tampering scandal

Jan 23, 2015 -- 2:54pm

By Tony Grossi |



Extra Points …

Deflate-gate update: Brian Hoyer’s respect and admiration for Tom Brady is well known, but he doesn’t think it clouds his judgment when he refers to the spiraling scandal about under-inflated footballs as “one giant witch hunt.”

Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are under NFL investigation and intense public scrutiny for allegations of illegally tampering with the footballs used in the Patriots’ 45-7 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts in last week’s AFC Championship Game.

Eleven of the 12 footballs under the Patriots’ control for the game were tested under the NFL threshold of 12.5 pounds per inch. Denials of wrongdoing by Belichick and Brady merely fueled the suspicion that Deflate-gate is the latest example of the Patriots and Belichick violating the rules to gain any possible competitive edge they can find.

Theoretically, an under-inflated football is easier to handle under the wet and cold conditions of the game in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

On Friday, the NFL issued a statement saying it has conducted more than 40 interviews in its investigation and “takes seriously” rules to protect “the fairness and integrity of our games.” The statement includes this line: “Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well.”

The Patriots have long been accused of cheating, even before they were fined heavily for illegally videotaping defensive signals of the New York Jets in the 2007 season. Teams have also questioned why their communication devices sometimes mysteriously malfunction during games in Gillette Stadium.

“I think the entire Patriots’ reputation has killed them,” Hoyer said to “People want to jump on them. To be honest, people hate the teams on the top and want to see them falter. Like when they lost to Kansas City this year (41-14 in Game 4). Everybody wanted to see them falter … and bury them.”

An insider’s view: Hoyer was Brady’s understudy with the Patriots from 2009 through the 2011 season. He was released during their 2012 training camp and joined the Browns in May of 2013.

“I think it’s blown out of proportion,” Hoyer said of the new scandal. “I’ve been there first-hand. I’ve never once heard a conversation about under-inflating balls. Ever. I don’t know if the weather had something to do with (the balls losing pressure). I don’t know.

"I feel like there’s too many things going into it to accuse them of trying to cheat. For me, being there three full seasons, I would have heard something … ‘if it’s wet, let’s underinflate it.’ I never did.”

Belichick and Brady denied tampering with the footballs in separate news conferences on Thursday. Belichick said he never handled the footballs and never gave instructions on under-inflating them for better handling. He said he forced his team to practice with wet footballs to learn how to adapt to adverse conditions.

Hoyer confirmed that story.

“There were times when we’d be practicing on a nice, sunny day in training camp and you’d go to the line of scrimmage and Bill would step in and say, ‘Hold on,’ and he’d get a water bottle and douse the ball with water,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer said Brady, like any veteran quarterback in the league, instructed team ball boys to prepare balls for practice and games the way he liked them.

“To me, every quarterback has the opportunity to make the balls the way they want them,” Hoyer said. “What I would tell our ball boys, I wouldn’t even mention PSI or anything. I’d go out and practice with them and see how they feel.”

Hoyer said Brady had his quirks about the feel of the football, but “I don’t think we ever had a conversation” about inflating or deflating the ball.

“For me, if you pick up a ball from every team, each one would be a little different,” Hoyer said. “Tom liked the (excess) laces on the ball turned a certain way. I liked it a different way. I wouldn’t win that battle.”

With the Browns, Hoyer said he’d instruct the ball boys to prepare the balls the way he likes them – which is an art learned over time by an NFL quarterback. He said during a game against the Raiders this year, a ball thrown from rookie Derek Carr skittered into the Browns’ bench area. Hoyer picked it up and was surprised that the resin of a new ball was not rubbed off it.

“It’s like a golfer’s club,” Hoyer said of the football. “It’s your tool that you use on every play. I hope they don’t change the rule because of this. Quarterbacks have a right to pick out the balls they like.”

Puffed or stuffed?: The inflation rules are in place to protect the integrity of the game and to prevent teams from gaining an unfair advantage. In 2006, Brady and Peyton Manning led the charge to allow visiting teams to bring their own footballs to games to insure the edge wouldn’t tilt to the home teams.

Browns coach Mike Pettine was with the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 when Belichick and the Patriots were penalized for Spygate. But he learned up close the intensity of the rivalry with Belichick when he joined Rex Ryan and the New York Jets for the 2009 through ’12 seasons.

Asked about the current scandal, Pettine said, “I could go on about this one for a while, but I won't. I do have my personal opinion on it, but I think, as a lot of people have said these past couple of weeks of the playoffs … you've got to know the rules."

That’s the prevalent attitude within the NFL, and Hoyer knows 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




The tide could be turning back to Brian Hoyer as the Browns ponder their muddy quarterback situation

Jan 23, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Spring thaw coming?: Three weeks after their season crashed with their fifth loss in a row, the Browns are picking up the pieces.

And now that new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is on board, the pace will quicken to figure out their quarterback situation.

Actually, it started a week ago when Sashi Brown, the team’s chief contract negotiator, reached out to Joe Linta, agent for Brian Hoyer, to re-open the lines of communication with their defrocked starting quarterback and free agent-to-be.

Starting on Sunday, owner Jimmy Haslam will host what he called “a little strategic planning session” for three days at an undisclosed location. The executives invited essentially form Haslam’s inner circle on Browns’ affairs – President Alec Scheiner, General Manager Ray Farmer, coach Mike Pettine and Brown, the executive vice president and general counsel.

No doubt high on the agenda will be the NFL’s ongoing investigation into improper texting that reportedly went on during games in apparent violation of league rules. But also highly discussed will be the team’s “muddy, at best” quarterback situation.

It is no coincidence that after the inner circle returns to team headquarters in Berea, there are meetings loosely scheduled to be held with Hoyer – one-on-ones with DeFilippo, Pettine and Farmer.

Hoyer will want to know where he stands before he instructs Linta on whether to re-engage in contract talks with the Browns for a new contract or to proceed to Plan B, which is to wait for free agency to begin on March 10.

“Brian would love to stay -- if the situation were good for all parties,” Linta said Thursday night upon returning from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. “He’s looking forward to meeting those guys over the next couple of weeks.”

The search goes on: As usual when the Browns hold press conferences, talk centered Thursday on the eternally unsettled quarterback situation.

It started when Pettine introduced DeFilippo as the successor to Kyle Shanahan, who talked his way out, at least partially, because of internal pressure to play rookie Johnny Manziel.

DeFilippo, 36, followed Pettine’s season-ending press conference lead by flatly stating he has no idea who the Browns’ starting quarterback will be.

“We’re not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not,” said the young coach known as Flip. “If he is, that’s great. If he’s not, that’s great too. Whoever’s in that room is going to be coached hard, be held accountable and be expected to do the things that we expect out of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.

“I know this – whoever’s in our quarterback room is going to have a clean slate.”

The talk picked up later in the evening with Haslam at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.

Haslam said, “Our situation, as coach Pettine said, is still muddy and we don’t know who our quarterback is going to be next year. All I would say to our fans is we’re going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team.

“So we’re going to work ‘til we find the right person. I’m not slighting Connor (Shaw) or Johnny – or Brian if he were to come back. We’re going to work hard ‘til we find a quarterback who can help us win and win consistently, which we stated since Day 1 is the goal. It’s not easy, but we understand it’s the mission and we’re going to work hard at it.”

It is commonly perceived that Haslam was the driving force to not only draft Manziel but to have him inserted for Hoyer in the season-defining Game 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Manziel laid a giant egg and then was knocked out of the following game with a suspicious hamstring injury.

Manziel’s serial off-field escapades, which continued immediately following the season with partying in South Beach, FL; Houston, and Aspen, CO; apparently has the owner himself questioning a future commitment to Manziel.

“I think Johnny has to show on and off the field that he can be a professional,” Haslam said. “He knows that. Everybody in the organization has told him that. It’ll be up to Flip and Pet to decide whether he can be the kind of quarterback we need to be. He knows what we expect of him on and off the field and it’s up to him to prove that he can do that.”

The dust has settled: It was interesting to hear Haslam say this:

“We’ve had a little time to evaluate our season. If you’d said at the first of the year that we were going to be 7-9, what would everybody had said? Pretty good year, right? But the reality is we were 7-4 at one time so now it looks real bad.”

Yes, the Browns were 7-4 when Hoyer was the undisputed starting QB. As the pressure to play Manziel intersected with the return of receiver Josh Gordon, Hoyer faltered and the bottom dropped out.

Shanahan’s exit interview with Haslam certainly had to include his thoughts about the Hoyer v. Manziel debate. And DeFilippo soon will weigh in on which quarterback gives the Browns the greater chance of winning.

And then there is this reality: There aren’t a lot of viable options for the Browns to replace Hoyer. The veteran free agent market is not great and the upcoming draft is even worse.

Hoyer is looking much better to the Browns now than he did on Dec. 14, when he formally was benched for Manziel.

Asked directly about Hoyer getting back into the mix, Haslam said, “I think every option is on the table for us, in terms of who’s going to play next year.”

For a while, it was a foregone conclusion that Hoyer would leave in free agency. Now that tide is turning. It’s possible Linta and the Browns could be sitting down for serious contract talks at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis next month.


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 takeaways from the introduction of John DeFilippo and Mike Pettine's comments on Kyle Shanahan

Jan 22, 2015 -- 3:21pm

By Tony Grossi |


Extra Points …

* Mike Pettine said holding Kyle Shanahan to his contract was discussed, but he and management decided to take the high road and let him jump ship.

“It was something we didn’t want to drag out,” Pettine said. “It’s very hard to win in the NFL when everybody truly wants to be there. When you have somebody that doesn’t want to be there, I know it’s easy to say, ‘He’s under contract, hold him to it,’ but now there’s a dark cloud over your coaching offices, and I’ve been a part of that. This business is hard to win. You have to have everybody into it, passionate about the Cleveland Browns and pulling in the same direction.”

Pettine said he was aware that Shanahan had issues and was called by Shanahan about them while he took time off after the 16th game. Pettine declined to confirm a report that he was upset that Shanahan solicited job options while Pettine was on vacation.

* In downplaying reports of friction between the coaches and GM Ray Farmer, Pettine may have inadvertently confirmed that pressure to play Johnny Manziel existed.

“I prefer the term healthy debate,” Pettine said. “I think that’s very overblown. A lot of that is natural. You have coaching and personnel and they both have their ideas on players. A lot of times, personnel is looking to build more to the future whereas, as a coach, especially in Year 1, I’m worried about Sunday, not Sunday two to three years from now. I think that’s inherent with it. I would never term my relationship with Ray as anything but a great working relationship.”

* Speaking of Manziel, DeFilippo didn’t endorse him as the starting quarterback even heading into the offseason.

“We’re not sure if our starting quarterback’s in the building right now or not,” the new coordinator said. “If he is, that’s great. If he’s not, that’s great, too. Whoever’s in that room is going to be coached hard and held accountable and be expected to do the things that we expect out of a Cleveland Browns quarterback.”

DeFilippo said he is undaunted by the challenge of building an offense without his starting quarterback identified because he has experienced that uncertainty his last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

“At this point last year, Derek Carr wasn’t in the Oakland Raiders building, (and) Derek had a very good rookie year. Obviously we like it to be better. Our standards are high. I’ve been in this situation several times where we either drafted a quarterback or signed a guy in free agency. Last two years in Oakland we signed Matt Flynn, we signed Matt Schaub. So we’ve been in this situation before. It doesn’t scare me.”

* DeFilippo wants to keep some elements of the Shanahan system to ease the transition for the players, but he promises changes, too.

“Yeah, it’ll be different,” he said. “Change is tough and it’s about how you embrace it. We’re going to make this change as clean as we can for these players. As much crossover as they’ve done last year, we’re going to incorporate that. Will there be new concepts? Absolutely. Will there be new way of delivering it? Absolutely. I’ve done my research, too, on this team. The players here are a resilient group. They’re open to change. We’re going to make it as smooth as we can.”

DeFilippo called Shanahan’s famed zone-blocking run scheme “fabulous,” and said he experienced it on his first stint with the Raiders, and then was involved in a “gap-blocking” scheme last year.

“Both have their merits, both have their drawbacks. We’re going to have a mixture of both,” he said.

* Pettine said the Shanahan parting is an opportunity for him to get more involved with the offense, both in the creation of the team’s core concepts and also in weekly game-planning.

“I felt last year was a situation where I had to get bunkered in with the defense to make sure we were up and running,” Pettine said. “And I feel very secure with the way that group ended the season, where they’re at as a staff, how they interact. I see this now as an opportunity for me to become much more immersed in the other side of the ball, where I feel I can lend my defensive expertise, channel my high school quarterbacking a little bit. Personally, I’m very excited.”

The last line was a joke, but Pettine asserted, “When you’re the head coach, you’re the head coach of the whole team. I do think there’s not enough communication between offense and defenses about what’s out there and what works. I think I need to be more of a bridge between our offensive and defensive staff. We did some of it last year, but I think switching sides for me will accelerate that.”

* Allegations of improper texting of Browns employees during games are still being reviewed by the NFL.

"Obviously I’m aware of it," Pettine said. "I do know that’s an ongoing league investigation. At this time I prefer not to talk about it. The investigators came in here. I spoke with them. When that’s resolved, I’ll be in a better situation to speak on 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




Some do's and don'ts for John DeFilippo, the Browns' 15th offensive coordinator in 17 years

Jan 22, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |


Photo/John W. McDonough/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Flippin’ OC’s: John DeFelippo, the Browns’ newest offensive coordinator – their 15th in the 17 seasons of their expansion era – was known as Flip while quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders

His biggest fan was Derek Carr, who just completed the second-best season (behind Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater) of the 2014 rookie quarterbacks.

“I promise you, the Browns did a really good thing by getting him,” Carr said in an appearance on ESPN 850 WKNR on Wednesday. “There shouldn’t be a player that doesn’t like him. If they don’t, it’s their fault. Everyone loves Flip. He is just a people person.

“He never changes. He always pushes you. He’s always energized and juiced at practice. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a loss or win, he was the same guy all the time. I can’t tell you how important that is to a quarterback. Flip is definitely someone you want to surround that quarterback room with.”

DeFelippo, a Youngstown native and son of a coach, was named by Mike Pettine on Wednesday to succeed malcontent coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

DeFelippo, 36, has not been a coordinator except for the 2011 season at San Jose State. Pettine considered him for the job a year ago, but sided with the experienced Shanahan – a decision that blew up when the ambitious Shanahan sought, and found, a better job in Atlanta after one season with the Browns.

Although Pettine has yet to comment on Shanahan’s defection, you can read his disgust with Shanahan between the lines of his official remarks on DeFelippo.

“The things John brings to the table are exactly what we were looking for. He's the total package,” Pettine said in a statement. “He's very bright. He has great energy about him, great passion. Loves the game. Works extremely well with other people.

“You could see that when I brought him in and had a chance to meet with not just the offensive staff, but he spent time with the defensive staff. That was a big part of it, making sure we weren't bringing in just a playbook. We were bringing in a good person. That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why he's here.”

Another rookie: Carr credited DeFilippo with progressing him physically and mentally throughout his first season as an NFL quarterback. And although Carr pointed out that DeFilippo helped create gameplans with former Raiders coordinator Greg Olson, the fact is he has never called plays in an NFL game.

DeFilippo does not bring a definable offensive system with him, as did Shanahan, who inherited the zone-blocking, bootleg-passing scheme from his dad, Mike. DeFilippo has served under diverse offensive coaches such as Tom Coughlin (Giants), Lane Kifflin (Raiders), Matt Cavanaugh (Jets), and Olson (Raiders).

“This isn't going to be my offense or ‘so and so's’ offense,” DeFilippo said in a statement. “This is going to be the Cleveland Browns' offense. Whatever that is to get our best players the football, it's going to be very flexible.

“We're not going to just scrap something just because I'm here. I don't have that type of ego. If something's good that our players do well and they know, we're going to keep doing it. That's going to be my job here the next few weeks. I'm going to really study our last 16 games of this season and see what we're good at, see where it fits and see where it meshes with myself and coach Pettine seeing this offense.

“We're going to make this offense, the transition, as simple as we can for our players. I think they'll really like playing in this offense.”

A tradition like none other: The Browns have had coordinators of every shape, age, and experience in their expansion era and only two have had reasonably good seasons – Bruce Arians in 2002 and Rob Chudzinski in 2007. (Shanahan’s year was really not bad considering the constraints of the roster, the Alex Mack injury and the Josh Gordon suspension.)

DeFelippo’s 14 predecessors have averaged 50.1 years of age and 10.8 years NFL experience when taken the job. Like him, four of them never called plays in an NFL game before given that responsibility by the Browns – Chudzinski (2004), Maurice Carthon (2005), Jeff Davidson (2006) and Brian Daboll (2009).

So we feel obliged to offer DeFillipo some suggestions and do’s and don’ts upon taking the job:

* Find a fullback who can block. Use him. Embrace him. Celebrate him.

* Never hand the ball to the third-string tight end for the first time in the player’s career.

* Never ask the fullback to throw a halfback-option pass.

* Don’t for a minute think you are auditioning for future head coach interviews. Your only chance of career advancement lies in your team’s won-loss record. Your fancy play-calls by themselves are meaningless if your team does not win.

* Always remember that the loudest roars in Cleveland are produced by plays by running backs, not quarterbacks.

* Never explain a play-call by saying, “It is what it is.”

* Check the stats at halftime. If your runs v. passes are out of whack in the first half, adjust.

* Throw to the backs.

* If you can get the Browns to execute a screen pass successfully, you will eat for free in Cleveland for the remainder of your career.

* Eliminate all play-calls longer than 10 words.

* Do not check your cell phone for texts two hours before or two hours after games.

* Straighten out Josh Gordon.

* Good luck with Johnny Manziel.


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

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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