Monday, December 28, 2009


Hey Jim Caldwell, up until the time you pulled all your starters, your team was undefeated and chasing history. I understand what you were doing, but that takes some stones.

In related news, even though the Jets got the win, Braylon Edwards did damn little. For those keeping track at home, he didn't get anywhere near catching 55 passes this year, which is rumored to be what it takes to transform the pick the Browns will get into a second.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'll Believe It When I See It

Holmgren, huh? Sorry to be cynical about this, but I'm not buying that this is anything beyond a negotiating ploy to get the Seahawks to move more quickly.

Mike Holmgren is exactly the kind of guy that the Browns need as their football czar. He's experienced, he's a winner, and his unsuccessful effort to wear two hats in Seattle probably has given him an appreciation for just how much is involved in a general manager's role. His draft record is a mixed bag, but it does include Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson, both of whom are better than anyone who's worn a Browns uniform in a generation.

Perhaps best of all, Holmgren's got zero ties to Belichick and his coaching progeny, and has a reputation for not suffering fools. Based on Eric Mangini's statements in this morning's paper, the prospect of Holmgren showing up in Cleveland is already making the Mangenius extremely uncomfortable. In fact, I think it's fair to say that when you read his quotes, you can almost see the beads of sweat on his upper lip.

If the Browns do sign Holmgren, then I really think a celebration is in order. I just can't convince myself that this is actually going to happen. Here's why: if I'm Mike Holmgren, why do I want any part of this mess? Aside from the fact that the team has 11 picks in next year's draft, there's nothing to recommend this job. The organization is a laughingstock with a deeply ingrained culture of losing. The owner has proven to be eccentric, impulsive, and erratic, and seems to be much more interested in his Premier League soccer team than his NFL franchise. Besides all of that, the idea of relocating to Northeast Ohio just isn't likely to hold much attraction to a West Coast guy like Holmgren.

If you've got no better alternatives, then maybe you sign up for this trainwreck, since Randy Lerner does have that billionaire thing going for him and his checks will definitely clear. But it's unlikely that Cleveland will end up being Holmgren's only alternative. In addition to the Seahawks and the perennially open positions in Washington and Oakland (which are every bit as unattractive as the Browns' spot), several other teams, including perhaps Tampa Bay and Chicago, may be in the czar market this offseason. That means Mike Holmgren is likely to have plenty of alternatives in the near future, and if so, why on earth does his take this one?

I guess the answer to that question is that if Holmgren figures out a way to turn around a franchise as far gone as Cleveland, then he goes from borderline Hall of Famer to an absolute lock. I really hope Holmgren decides to take the job. In fact, it's all I want for Christmas, but I'm afraid that I'm much more likely to wake up to find the usual lump of coal in my stocking.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I watched last night's game with really mixed emotions. On one hand, like any true son of Ohio, I hate the Steelers. Every single time Rothliesberger got sacked, I kept wishing that Joe Turkey Jones would have finished it off. Every time Cribbs stiff-armed someone, I was thrilled. Stopping Rothliesberger's consecutive win streak against Cleveland and dimming any chances for a trip to the playoffs was, as they say, priceless.

But, as loyal readers know, the Rhino and I love the NFL draft. We love gearing up for it and inflicting our opinions upon you here. This year, the biggest defensive stud in years is coming out, but a team's gonna need the very first pick to get him---Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska. He's a 6'4", 300 lb monster, who tears up offensive lines. He'd look damn fine in an orange helmet lining up next to Shaun Rogers, but that's not going to happen now due to the big win.

I can't help but thinking that some toothless bastard in Pittsburgh is laughing his ass off in his trailer and that Mangini and Daboll are somewhere singing alleluia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas, Pittsburgh!!!


You just had your season ended by a team that won one game all year.

Deal with it, yinzers.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Evan Moore

On a day when the Browns didn't suck nearly as much as fans thought they would, perhaps the biggest question on everyone's mind was "who the hell is this Evan Moore guy?"

Until Saturday, Moore was a member of the Browns practice squad. However, after his performance yesterday, it's very unlikely he'll be back there anytime soon. Moore caught six passes for a team leading 80 yards, and with the exception of a fourth quarter ball that hit him in the helmet, pretty much snagged anything that was remotely catchable. In fact, he probably made more tough catches in a single afternoon than Braylon Edwards made during his entire career with the Browns.

So who is this guy? Well, according to the Stanford media guide, he was a high school All-American in football and basketball, played basketball on Stanford's #1 ranked team during his freshman year, was voted the Stanford football team's most outstanding sophomore, and was an honorable mention All-Pac 10 that season.

So how does a guy like that end up on the NFL's Island of Misfit Toys? Well, Moore dislocated his hip during the first game of his junior year. That hip injury was very serious (one media report used the word "horrific"), and cost Moore his entire junior season. He returned the following season, but the hip injury was just the first in a series of injuries that have plagued Moore ever since. After returning to the team in 2006, Moore suffered a stress fracture in his foot that limited his playing time that season.

Moore had a good, but not outstanding senior season in 2007. His size, athleticism and the flashes of brilliance that he'd shown during his playing career at Stanford still managed to put him on the NFL's radar screen. However, he didn't have the speed to play WR at the professional level and he'd never played a down at TE, so Moore went undrafted. The Saints signed him as a free agent, but quickly released him. The Packers picked him up, but the injury bug bit again, and Green Bay put him on injured reserve after he suffered a pre-season knee injury. Green Bay waived him prior to the start of the 2009 season, and he was signed to the Browns' practice squad in early November.

This morning's Plain Dealer pointed out that yesterday was Moore's first professional game. What's more impressive is that yesterday's game was the first football game of any kind that Moore has participated in since 2007. Based on Moore's performance, it's highly unlikely that it will be his last game.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jamal and The Hall

Shortly after the news broke about the likelihood that Jamal Lewis sustained a career-ending injury last weekend, speculation began about whether he's got Hall of Fame credentials. Although this year, we've come to know him as Grumpy the Aging Tailback, Jamal Lewis has been a terrific football player over his career and there's an awful lot to like about his approach to the game. When it comes to the Hall though, my guess is that the answer is going to be "close, but no cigar."

Lewis has always been a hard nosed, old-school running back who played the game with a great deal of intensity, and he had some of the most spectacular individual performances in the history of the game. Unfortunately, I think the case for him on rushing yardage alone isn't real strong, and that's a problem, because that's the only category in which Lewis ranks among the NFL's top 25 performers all-time. He ranks 30th in rushing touchdowns, barely cracks the top 50 in yards from scrimmage, and ranks 70th in all-purpose yards.

But a bigger problem for Lewis may be the peers he's up against. He'll be considered along with guys like Edgerrin James, Ladanian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Fred Taylor, and that's going to be really a tough bunch to be competing with when it comes time for the voters to decide.

Those who advocate for Lewis point to the fact that he's one of only five players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, his record shattering 295 yard performance against the Browns in 2003, and his selection as the league's MVP that same year. If you're a fan of Lewis, you might also argue that voters should factor in some of the time he lost. After a spectacular rookie season during which he rushed for over 1,300 yards and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl, Lewis blew out his ACL and missed the entire 2001 season. (His legal problems also led to him missing four games during the 2004 season). That missed time may well have cost Lewis 1,500 yards or more, and if you add that to his total, he's over 12,000 career rushing yards and probably a shoe-in. My own guess is that this argument isn't going to count for much. The only guy whose injuries I think voters really took into account when they voted on him was Gale Sayers, and to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Jamal, you're no Gale Sayers."

If you're a fan of more delusional arguments in favor of Jamal Lewis, you might want to check out the guy in Baltimore who points to Jamal's Christ-like humility as the quality that tips him over the edge and makes him a first ballot selection. According to this writer, the one thing that Hall of Fame voters really groove on is a humble player. Seriously? How do you suppose they feel about drug convictions?

At this point, it looks like most of Hall of Fame voters think that Lewis is a long-shot. For what it's worth, I think the bottom line on Jamal Lewis is that he will be remembered as one of the decade's great backs, but not quite a Hall of Fame caliber player. I'll tell you what though, anybody who loves to watch a guy play football the way it's supposed to be played will definitely miss Jamal Lewis.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Nice way to end the holiday weekend, wasn't it? I kind of knew that it was going to be a bad day when I opened The Plain Dealer and read Mary Kay Cabot's interview of Eric Mangini. I know I complained about him giving interviews to the national media, so I suppose that I should give him his due for sitting down with Cabot, but jeezes -- the guy just comes across so badly.

Unfortunately, whenever he opens his mouth, Coach Mangini consistently manages to create the impression that he's got the integrity of a Cuyahoga County politician and the sincerity of Eddie Haskell. I actually kind of feel bad for the guy -- he's obviously sensitive to the criticism he's received, and even told Cabot that he wanted his critics to "at least give me the opportunity to express the other side."

Okay, fair enough. But then Mangini follows that up with a statement that he's got no idea where the perception that players hate playing for him comes from, because after all, "all of those guys from New York came here and they know exactly how I am..." C'mon coach -- is that the best you can do? Half of those guys came here in trades, and the other half were free agents who didn't exactly have 31 other teams pounding on their doors. The fact that they came here doesn't mean that they like playing for you, it just means that they like getting an NFL paycheck.

Mangini may be unconvincing, but at least he provides some entertainment value, which is more than I can say for his football team. After last week's head fake, the Berea Turds offense returned to form against the Bengals. Yesterday's game featured Brian Daboll's "Screens Gone WILD!" game plan, Grumpy the Aging Tailback, extremely offensive offensive line play, receivers who are so disoriented that they make a compelling argument for in-game drug testing and, last but not least, a noodle-armed QB who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. In short, it had everything you've come to love about this season's edition of the Turds' offense.

The defense also didn't disappoint. The Bengals may not have passed the ball real well, but you don't have to when you're racking up 210 yards on the ground. As LB David Bowens put it, "They came out and ran the ball, what, 75 times?" It turns out that the Bengals ran the ball 45 times, but it must have seemed like much more than that to the Turds defense, which spent 38:11 on the field yesterday afternoon.

Of course, the Bengals didn't just grind out yardage -- they also ground up defenders. While the apparent season-ending injury to Shaun Rogers is the biggest piece of bad injury news to come out of yesterday's game, a total of four defensive starters left the game with injuries. The Browns have already been hammered by injuries this season, and you got a sense for just how bare the cupboard is when receiver Mike Furrey was brought in to play defensive back after Pool went down. So if you don't think things can possibly get worse, well, stay tuned.

Another week, another hopeless loss. Sunday, bloody Sunday. Like Bono says, I'm so sick of it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Would Be Nice If They Knew the Rules

This morning's Plain Dealer carried a story detailing the whining that the Browns engaged in after Hank Poteat was called for pass interference. I understand how frustrating it is to lose a game like that, but I've watched the reply several times, and the refs absolutely got it right.

Hey, mistakes happen, and sometimes they cost you games, but what really boggles my mind is that both Eric Mangini and Hank Poteat appear to think they've got a legitimate beef with the call on that play. Both of these guys complained that the QB was outside of the pocket, which according to their interpretation of the rules, allowed Hank Poteat to knock the receiver out of bounds while the ball was in the air.

Sorry guys, but that ain't the rule. Mangini and Poteat are confusing an exception to the illegal contact rule with a non-existent exception to the prohibition on pass interference. Generally, a defender engages in illegal contact if he makes contact with a receiver -- before the ball is thrown -- that impedes him in any way more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

This rule was put in place back in 1978 (and amped up in 2004) to open up the passing game. The illegal contact rule is probably the stupidest rule in the entire rulebook other than the Brady Rule, but that's not what's relevant to the Browns' situation. What is relevant is an exception to the illegal contact rule that applies if the QB is out of the pocket. The reason for that exception is that when the QB's scrambling, he's a potential runner, and any receiver can justifiably be regarded as a potential blocker. The NFL adopted this exception before the 2007 season.

That exception doesn't apply to pass interference. According to the NFL rule book: "It is pass interference by either team when any player movement beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible player of such player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Offensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is touched. Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched."

One of the things that the rule specifically says constitutes pass interference is "cutting off the path of a receiver by making contact with him without playing the ball." Check out Poteat's play (if you can stand to look at it again) and tell me if it wasn't a textbook example of pass interference.

Like I said, textbook. It doesn't matter that Stafford was out of the pocket. Once he threw the ball, the Browns couldn't have been penalized for illegal contact, and the scrambling QB exception to that penalty no longer applied. Unfortunately, the moment that the ball left Stafford's hand, the pass interference rule did apply --and the fact that Bryant Johnson wasn't the intended receiver does not matter. He was an eligible receiver, and Poteat's contact cut off his path to a ball that was not clearly uncatchable. Read the rule for yourself if you don't believe me.

Cleveland: The Best in the Business

...of creating heroes.

Perhaps no city's sports teams have done a better job of creating heroes and legends than Cleveland's have. Unfortunately, rather than striding joyously into the history books adorned with a laurel wreath, Cleveland's always the raison d'etre for the newly annointed. It's always some other guy, some other team, some other victory parade, and some other bit of history that will be remembered from generation to generation. Cleveland always plays a small but significant role in the emerging legend---the vanquished, the plucky opponent, the valiant opposition. The loser.

Long-time Clevelanders tend to have a "woe is me" attitude about sports that is fueled by a sense of entitlement resulting from decades and lifetimes of suffering. They view losses in big situations as something that was done to them, to the team, to the city, to the state, and to us. In fact, I suspect that the Cleveland sports teams of the past 50 years have created far more atheists than any church scandals.

We tend to sit around wringing our hands and looking for someone or something to blame , but we forget that the winner goes away to a new life as a champion. The Catch cemented Willie Mays' reputation as a stellar fielder and gave him a World Series Ring. Red Right 88 propelled the Raiders to become the first wildcard team to win the Super Bowl. The Shot was Jordan's announcement to the world that he had entered the big stage. The Drive, for the first time in his life, made Horseface a big game winner. The Fumble cemented that reputation. Last year's Eastern Conference Finals, at Cleveland's expense, introduced Dwight Howard to everyone outside of Florida.

But not all heroes are christened on a big stage. Yesterday, #1 pick, Matt Stafford and the lowly Lions hosted the Browns in what could have been dubbed The Pathetic Loser Bowl (If only Matt Millen were still with Detroit). Both teams entered 1-8, and to say each team's QB was "embattled" would have been an understatement. Stafford and Brady Quinn have been booed and jeered, and at least in the blue collar towns that follow each franchise, their manhood has been ridiculed. In the end, Stafford walked away a winner following a come- from- behind, game- winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock. That's a nice win for a rookie QB, but because Cleveland was the opponent, it was even bigger and better.

On the last play during regulation, Stafford chucked a pass for the end zone that was intercepted, sealing an apparent Browns' victory. Meanwhile, Stafford was stretched out on the turf with what looked like a serious arm injury. However, as the great Howard Cosell might have said, "But wait. Cleveland had failed to reckon with the steely-eyed determination of one Matthew Stafford." You know how it goes. Pass interference in the end zone puts the ball on the one with no time on the clock for one last play. But, Stafford is so shaken up, he's taken out of the game. Duante Culpepper is brought in for the final play. And then, Mangini calls time out. When play resumes, Stafford runs on the field clutching his left shoulder, calls a play, and throws a touchdown pass. It was that easy. Lions win. Browns lose, and the scribes are left to write about Stafford's gritty performance.

Perhaps some day when he's elected to the Hall of Fame or holding a Super Bowl trophy, Stafford will reflect upon how his greatness began and think of the Cleveland Browns fondly.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What If They Win?

As the Browns prepare for their upcoming game against the almost equally woeful Detroit Lions, there's a nagging fear that's beginning to creep into the back of my mind.

What if they win?

If the Browns beat the Lions, they are looking at a schedule for the remainder of the season that is chocked full of the worst teams that the NFL has to offer. While they will undoubtedly get their heads kicked in by Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Diego, the Browns close out the season with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders, and a Jacksonville Jaguars team that is much worse than its record.

The Chiefs and the Raiders are so bad that the Browns have a legitimate shot at both of those games, while the Jags will face the Browns (in Cleveland, in January) after a three week stretch in which they will have played Indianapolis, Miami and New England. So, as horrific as they are, it's just possible that the Browns might win all three of those games. Coupled with a victory against the Lions, that would make the Browns 5-11, which just might be the worst outcome imaginable.

Don't get me wrong -- if the Browns actually do improve, that's terrific. But the scenario that worries me is one in which they squeak out ugly wins against Oakland and the Chiefs in games that make the Buffalo game look like a masterpiece, and then cap that off with a season-ending "upset" against a demoralized Jaguars team that's playing out the string. In other words, without any meaningful improvement, the Browns could end up 5-11, with a .500 record in the second half of the season and a three game winning streak.

Given their bumbling, unprofessional approach to front office personnel issues, I have very little faith that the Browns are going to have an easy time finding the "serious, credible leader" they are looking for to fill the GM spot. If the Browns do struggle in their GM search, then bolstered by the team's second half "improvement," Eric Mangini might just be able to persuade the exasperated, desperate and gullible Randy Lerner that the guy he was looking for was already in the building.

If Mangini can pull this off (and under this scenario, he just might), that means that the man who gave us the 2009 draft will have the final say on who they get with the 11 draft picks the Browns have stockpiled for 2010. If that scenario doesn't scare the crap out of you, then you haven't been watching the same team that I have this season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

EA Sports: Let's Get Them In The Game

Okay, I've got an idea. Let's all chip in and buy the Browns coaching staff an Xbox and a Madden NFL 10 video game. Then, instead of doing whatever it is they supposedly do to come up with an offensive game plan, they should just select the next week's opponent, play in Super-Sim mode, write down the plays that the computer calls and use that as a game plan.

Sure, that might sound like a ridiculous suggestion, but when you've got an offense that's as incompetent as a one-legged soccer player and as entertaining as Meet the Press, there are no ridiculous suggestions.

$20 says that the offense devised by the techno-geeks at EA Sports would get the Browns past the other team's 45 yard line at least once, which is more than the coaching staff accomplished last night.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thank you sir! May I have another?

Yup, I'm off to the Browns game tonight. I'm thinking of wearing no shirt, lederhosen and one of those things that they stuffed into Ving Rhames mouth in Pulp Fiction's most disturbing scene. While admittedly unconventional, I think that this kind of bondage-wear is the most appropriate attire for anyone voluntarily attending the ninth edition of the slow motion train wreck that is the Browns season.

In other words, if you show up for this one, you definitely have a thing for pain. Not only will you have to endure the coma inducing tedium interspersed with moments of slapstick comedy that Brian Daboll calls an offensive game plan, but you'll also be a participant in yet another nationally televised Cleveland joke. What fun.

I'll probably chicken out and dress like any other idiot, complete with my Bernie Kosar jersey to remind me of better days. I'll try to show up on time, if only to spite the knuckleheaded protesters, but despite the change at QB, it's not like I hold out any hope that the team is going to win, or even score an offensive touchdown. The Ravens aren't great, but they're good enough to beat the Browns. (For what it's worth, I watched the Glenville v. St. Ignatius game on Saturday night, and I think Glenville's good enough to beat the Browns.)

So that raises the question, "why show up?" Aside from the fact that I'm a season ticket holder and I've got some sunk costs, that's a question that is getting very hard to answer -- and one that an increasing number of fans are starting to answer by saying, "the hell with it -- I'm not going."

Well, I'm going, but I'm not sure why. Part of it has got to be the masochism thing, but part of the reason is likely even more unflattering -- it's probably got to do with the part of human nature that makes us slow down so that we get a good look at traffic accidents.

Maybe I'd be better off investing the money that I spend on Browns tickets on a good shrink. Maybe we all would.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Randy Lerner and Eric Mangini continue to amaze. In this week's edition of the Berea Follies, Lerner and Mangini went out of their way to ensure the undying enmity of every sports reporter in Northeast Ohio by feeding juicy tidbits to the national media, while tossing little more than scraps to the local yokels.

Yup, in the midst of all the turmoil that has surrounded the Browns, Lerner and Mangini have said nothing of substance to any of the people whose livelihoods depend on their ability to cover the team. Eric Mangini did his usual version of coach-speak at his weekly press conference, while Lerner deigned to provide scripted replies to a series of e-mail questions submitted by The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi.

But that doesn't mean the Dynamic Duo were completely closed-mouthed. In fact, when it came to the national media, they were downright forthcoming. Lerner gave an interview to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, while Mangini performed an extended impersonation of a human being in front of CBS Sportsline's ever credulous Clark Judge.

They ought to know better than to give preferential treatment to New York based national media at this point in time. Everybody in this town has a giant chip on their shoulders when it comes to anything related to New York, including the local media hacks. In a month during which Cleveland fans had to watch C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee duke it out in the World Series and watch the national media smugly speculate about LeBron's future --which they just know won't include Cleveland -- how smart is it to treat the local media like red-headed step-children?

Lerner and Mangini may think that things can't get worse for them in the local media, and may have decided that this kind of high-handed treatment is an appropriate punishment for real and perceived offenses against them. I guess they've never heard the expression "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." Smacking The Plain Dealer and the other guys around may feel good, but Lerner and Mangini, and their team, are going to pay for this decision.

I'm not shedding any crocodile tears for the Cleveland media. In fact, nobody loves a good diss of The Plain Dealer as much as I do. But the fact remains that for a team that is struggling to retain fan interest and avoid television blackouts, delivering sharp kicks to the collective groin of the local media by peddling the big news to the New York guys simply isn't good business.

Monday, November 09, 2009

It's Mangini's Planet

It looks like an anxious nation will have to hold its breath a while longer. That's because Browns head coach Eric Mangini has decided that he will not announce the starting QB for the team's upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens until Wednesday.

Mangini must think that the fact that the now affordable Brady Quinn will start the game isn't apparent to everyone or, worse, that there's some meaningful strategic advantage to be gained by keeping this obvious information from the Ravens. If that's the case, he's venturing beyond garden variety NFL coaching paranoia and into tin foil hat territory.

Nobody cares about your personnel decisions, Coach, for at least two reasons. First, you have made absolutely certain that the team possesses no offensive threats whatsoever, regardless of who starts at QB. Second, Coach Mangenius, I think it's fair to say that at this point the rest of the league thinks that you provide the Browns with the same "schematic advantage" that your fellow Belichick Coaching Academy grad, Charlie Weis, provides to the Fighting Irish. Anchors Aweigh!

I will say this for you: you don't lack self-confidence or self-esteem. In fact, some of your recent comments suggest that abject failure has actually gone to your head -- the most notable of these comments is your statement that you'll be closely involved in the selection of the guy whose job is supposed to be stopping you from killing again. Talk about chutzpah!

I guess fans should've known for a long time that this is your planet and we should be grateful that you share the air with us. After all, that's something that the Browns' rookies found out during their excellent 10 hour bus ride to Camp Mangenius, that the rest of the team has been finding out all season, and that your lifelong friend George Kokinis found out for certain last week.

Thanks for yet another reminder, Coach.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Exit

One of the most fascinating things about the reaction to the Browns' latest off-the-field antics is the seemingly limitless capacity for self-delusion among the team's fan base. An erratic and impetuous owner throws his GM in the dust bin less than a year into the new regime? Not a problem! Ernie Accorsi will race to the rescue, transform Eric Mangini into a mensch, resurrect Brady Quinn's career, get rid of the brown pants, and then gracefully turn the reigns over to Bernie Kosar, who will lead the Browns to the Super Bowl and bring unemployment down to 3.0%.

Okay, so Ernie's not interested. Again, not a problem! We'll get Marty to do it, and Bill Cowher too, and Bernie will be in there somewhere. Here we go Brownies, Here We GO! WOOF! WOOF!

I've got just one question for anybody who believes any of these scenarios.

Are you stoned?

Cleveland is not a situation that anybody with any options is going to want to get himself into. The organization is a complete disaster, and the prospects for any kind of a turnaround are not good. I mean, my God, does anybody in his right mind want to work for Randy Lerner at this point?

Let's remember how Lerner got himself into this mess, because anybody considering taking the GM or head coaching job here sure will. After getting rid of Savage and Crennel, Lerner raced through the hiring process, fell in love with a coaching candidate whose track record was questionable at best, and then let that coach dictate his choice of GM. Now, when the wheels have come off, he punts the figurehead GM out the door while looking for ways to avoid paying him, and then who does he turn to for advice? A couple of disgruntled fans looking for 15 minutes of fame.

Holy Crap. Why on earth would any "serious, credible leader" sign up for a tour of duty with this guy?

Folks, the truth is that the Browns aren't even close to being a professional organization. The team doesn't know how to deal with the media, it doesn't know how to deal with the fans, it doesn't know how to deal with the players that it has or find the ones it needs. Nobody's riding to the rescue right now, and anybody who does show up isn't going to be here because he's looking for a challenge, he's going to be here because he's looking for a regular paycheck.

The media is fueling a lot of the speculation about Mangini's future and potential saviors of the franchise. They hate Mangini's guts, so they'd like us to believe that Mangini's on thin ice. But I don't think it's reality. There is really no good alternative to Eric Mangini right now, and he was shrewd enough, and Lerner naive enough, to make darn sure that was the case when he walked in the door.

Mangini's in charge of the team, and he's likely to be for the next couple of years at least. You may think he's a creep. So what? The Browns just don't have a lot of options. You may think that Randy Lerner's incompetent and should sell the team. Who cares? It's his team, not yours. Unless you're willing to hit him hard in the wallet -- which 10 years of experience tells him you aren't -- he isn't going to sell this team until he's good and ready.

So, about all you can do is hope -- against all evidence -- that Mangini will use the picks that he's stockpiled effectively and begin to build the nucleus of a team that can compete in two or three years. That's it.

Sorry guys, but there's just no exit from this mess.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MLB Player Draft

MLB completed three rounds of the draft, or as it's been known in Cleveland for the last decade, an utter waste of time. This year may be a little different. I'm pretty happy with the first three picks as a whole.

In the first round, the Indians surprised no one. They took a college pitcher. UNC rhp, Alex White, fell 6-8 spots lower than expected, and the Indians grabbed him. White has good size and throws 90-94 pretty consistently. He looks like he can be a strikeout pitcher. His problems...and you knew he had to have some, are that he walks a lot of batters and he really throws only two pitches well. Starters need to have at least 3 solid major league offerings if they're going to prosper. Both of these problems can be fixed, but they require good coaching. In my mind, that's been a deficiency of the organization. If the Indians fix themselves, they'll fix White. If they can't, he may be able to scuffle along and have a solid career. Some baseball people and analysts think that White can pitch in the majors this year. I think those people are nuts.

In the second round, the Indians pounced on Jason Kipnis, an outfielder from baseball factory, Arizona State. Kipnis was a very good college hitter, who controlled the strike zone pretty well. At ASU, he was an on-base machine. That's something that the Tribe has traditionally lacked. He's got moderate power and moderate speed. If this were basketball, he's the kind of guy announcers like to describe as a "gym rat." He hustles his ass off and plays beyond his abilities. His negatives are that he's a little undersized ( 5'11" and 175), doesn't really have the power to play a corner outfield spot, and isn't a classic centerfielder, even though he can play the spot. I'd heard a week or so ago that the Indians had been looking hard at him, but I really don't know why. They must be convinced his on-base ability will translate to the bigs. He looks like a guy with limited upside but who could be a solid part-time role player. I hope I'm wrong. If he can continue to get on base and the Tribe can develop a bopper at some other position, he can help the team.

In the third round, the Indians went pitching again. That was a good move because they took Joseph Gardner, a rhp from UC Santa Barbara. He's a big guy who throws between 89-94. His pitches are all solid, but like White, Gardner throws too many balls. Walks have killed him this year. He needs to work on his control. But, the bottom line is the guy has some talent. He just needs to refine his mechanics.

In sum, I like the draft ok. They took two pitchers who throw hard. For some reason, the Tribe could never figure that out and their drafting in the early rounds has been abysmal. The outfielder is ok and could perhaps develop into a player. Personally, I think his upside is Ben Francisco with better on-base, but if the pitching pans out, I'm ok with that. I'm just thrilled that they didn't draft another slow, one dimensional first baseman/left fielder/DH. Historically, the organization has LOVED those guys. Even though the Indians have been almost barren of any middle infielders or centerfielders of any note in the minors since Jhonny Peralta graduated, the Tribe's deep thinkers never felt it was necessary to waste draft picks on them. Perhaps that's why they're gone. This is a new group picking for the Tribe, and so far (last year and these first three rounds), I'm satisfied.

Since I'll likely know nothing about the guys picked tomorrow, I'm done on this topic.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Basketball Inquiry

Is it just me or does Stan Van Gundy look like Ron Jeremy with combed hair?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Baseball Update

The Indians are better than the Nationals.

That's it. End of update.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The dust has cleared.

The second day of the draft wasn't as suspenseful or strange as the first one.

In the fourth round (pick 104), the Browns went defense again taking 6'0," 230 pound USC linebacker, Kaluka Maiava. Don't get excited. The elite defensive talent was gone at that point. Maiava's impressive but undersized. His likely role will be to be a special teams demon. He'll get a few snaps each game in the linebacker rotation, but I don't see him ever winning a starting job.

In the sixth, the Browns made good use of their three picks. With the first (177), the Browns grabbed CB, Don Carey. He's 6'1," 180 pounds and played at Norfolk State. Carey is a good solid cornerback who's never played against top competition. It will be interesting to see if he can use his considerable talent to develop into the kind of corner who can cover big-time receivers.

With pick 191, the Browns made what looks to be a terrific late round pick---Coyie Francies of San Jose State. He's 6'0" and 185 pounds with the speed and athleticism to cover almost anyone in the league. I was surprised that he was still on the board in the sixth. Francies is talented but a little undisciplined. A good secondary coach could help this kid turn into a strong DB. He's worth watching.

With pick 195, the Browns picked another guy who I was surprised to see still on the board---James Davis, RB of Clemson. He's 5'11" and 218 pounds. Most importantly, he's a strong runner who doesn't give up the ball. He can also block. There's a chance Davis can develop into a feature back or at least a strong back-up.

The three guys taken in the 6th all have a chance to be starters or primary back-ups. That's due in equal parts to their talent but also due to the Browns' extreme needs at CB and RB. Each of the three will be given huge opportunities to contribute to the team.

So, in the end, here's what happened.

In exchange for Mark Sanchez, the Browns receive a starting center ( Alex Mack), a project at outside linebacker (David Veikune), sixth round prospects, Coyie Francies (CB) and James Davis (RB), a starting defensive end (Kenyon Coleman), a starting safety (Abram Elam), and a third string quarterback (Brett Ratliff). That's not a bad haul, but it's not very exciting.

The rest of the draft added a starting possession receiver (Brian Robiskie), a back-up receiver (Mohamed Mossaquoi), a special teams player who can help out at inside linebacker (Kaluka Maiava), and another CB with some potential to play (Don Carey).

All of that manuevering gave the Browns one difference maker---Mack. The rest of the guys are filler and depth, which teams need but which won't raise the Browns to a playoff contender. The wild card---the one pick that will likely make or break this draft ---is David Veikune. If he can play OLB and provide a pass rush, it will be a good to great draft. If, on the other hand, Veikune ends up solely as a special teamer, it was a mediocre draft because a huge need---the ability to stop offenses---went unaddressed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

First Day Grade: Gentlemen's C

Well, "Super Bowl" Saturday came and went, and much like if the Browns ever made it to the real big game, the good people of Cleveland were left with sick feelings in their stomachs.

For years, those in the know have pleaded with the Browns to trade down and load up on guys to play in the trenches. Sitting pretty at # 5 and watching Mark Sanchez's momentum build, it looked like the Browns were finally going to be the ones fleecing someone on draft day. Then the news came---pick # 5 to the Jets for pick # 17, pick #52 (second round) and three guys, Kenyon Coleman (DE), Abram Elam (S) and Brett Ratliff (QB). In terms of picks, Coleman is probably worth a 4th or 5th. As the back-up safety, Elam's probably worth a late 5th or 6th. Ratliff is just a guy.

When pick #17 rolled around, the Browns traded again. This time #17 went to Tampa Bay in exchange for pick # 19 and pick # 161 (sixth round). Here's where I started getting nervous. I suspected that the Browns were considering linebacker and bad man, Rey Maualuga, and I just wanted them to make the pick. In my mind, the additional 6th wasn't that big of a deal because most of the time, a 6th round pick turns out to be a cut or special teams player.

Well, pick # 19 came with Maualuga still on the board, and the Browns traded down again. They sent pick #19 to Philly for picks #21 and #195 (sixth round again). Maualuga survived to 21.

This time the Browns picked...Alex Mack, center from California. Judging by talk radio commentary, most people hated this pick. I didn't. In fact, at Thursday afternoon's Tribe game, I told the Hornless Rhino that I'd love for the Browns to grab Mack or another center, Max Unger, in the 2nd. Let's face it. The O line regressed last year, and part of the blame fell on Fraley for failing to seal the middle. Mack should be able to do that. He's a big, strong guy. He's 6'4" and weighs 311 pounds. In college, he just pounded the middle of the defensive line and punished defenders. He won't dominate tackles like that in the pros, but he immediately upgrades the line. He could be the kind of center the Browns thought they were getting when they signed LeCharles Bentley. He's that good. I'm very happy that the Browns grabbed him. I just think they took him too high. I think there was a strong possibility that he'd be there at 36, and even if he hadn't been, Unger was. The Browns passed on some good defensive talent to get Mack. But, this was a solid need pick, and I think Mack will be around for years manning the pivot. Great ballplayer. Good not great value at pick # 21.

When pick #36 rolled around, there were still stud defenders on the board. In addition to Maualuga, cornerbacks, Alphonso Smith, Darius Butler and Jairus Bird, and outside linebackers, Everette Brown, Clint Sintim and Connor Barwin, were available. Most of those guys were given first round grades by various analysts. More importantly, the Browns sucked at stopping other teams' offenses. This is when the draft went very wrong for me. The Browns picked 6'3", 209 pound, wide receiver from Ohio State, Brian Robiskie. I was utterly stunned. Sure, the Browns need a receiver, even if Braylon Edwards is still on the roster, but I didn't want to use this pick on one, and certainly not on a guy who'll more likely be viewed as a possession receiver rather than a # 1 guy. He doesn't have big-time speed and won't be the guy to "stretch defenses." He will, however, catch the ball when it's thrown his way.

Pick #50. This was the one received for Kellen Winslow. Most of the elite defensive talent was gone, but there was one guy who I liked---Paul Kruger, DE of Utah. He's a big boy who has a knack....
Nevermind. The Browns didn't get him. They took another friggin' receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi of Georgia. He's 6'2" and 198 pounds, is pretty good at hauling in passes, and will be a good target for the QB. Like Robiskie, he lacks the kind of speed to pressure a secondary. He'll be good at working seams and catching slants.

The Browns received pick #52 in their trade with the Jets, and with it, they finally took a defensive player, David Veikune. He's a 6'2", 257 pound defensive end from Hawaii, who the Browns will ask to switch to outside linebacker. He had 16.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last year. Unlike Kamerion Wimbley, this kid is strong. Real strong. I don't think he'll get shoved around when he's rushing the passer. I just don't know how good he'll be making the switch to outside linebacker. There's part of me that likes this pick very much, but I'm terribly disappointed that the Browns passed on more reliable outside linebackers. Veikune is a project in the same sense that Wimbley was. He'll play in his first year. We'll just have to see how he adapts.

After the first day, here are my thoughts. I'm thrilled with Alex Mack, but wish they had drafted him later. I'm scratching my head about Robiskie and Massaquoi. They're both nice receivers, but neither is a game-breaker. And I'm pretty damn sure neither is going to tackle anyone. I like Veikune a lot but would have really preferred a few other guys who were taken earlier. I think the Browns didn't get enough for the # 5 pick. If you look at the pick value chart, the Browns should have gotten # 17 and next year's first from the Jets. They received a late second and a few players. Mangini must love getting Kenyon Coleman to play defensive end. I guess he thinks Coleman will be a difference maker on the defensive line. He'd better be considering the defensive talent that they let pass.

I think this is clear. Mangini will want to run the ball a lot. Jamal Lewis will run left behind Thomas, Steinbach and now Mack. He'll play a possession game with steady but unspectacular receivers, who will catch the ball in traffic and hang on to it. That means that Brady Quinn is probably the QB. Drafting two receivers really has me puzzled. After all Braylon Edwards is still a Brown, and two rounds of picks are gone. That means if he's going to be traded, it's going to be for next year's picks or a significant player. I'd been hoping that that player was going to be defensive end, Mathias Kiwanuka . He was allegedly the Braylon Edwards deal breaker from the Giants perspective. Anyway, that's probably not the case now that Mangini has his boy, Kenyon Coleman. Maybe Braylon's not going anywhere. That's why Mangini picked two complementary receivers rather than a deep threat. Maybe Mangini believes the Browns can win this year.

Stay tuned for day two of the draft. The Browns don't have a third, fifth or seventh, but they've got a fourth (104) and three sixths (177, 191 and 195). Maybe they'll grab a receiver.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Here comes the draft...

This Saturday is, and for 10 years has been, the Cleveland Browns' version of the Super Bowl. It's the NFL draft. Each year, the good people of Cleveland pray that the guy the genius of the month selects will put an end to decades of futility. It's never happened. Rather than the Super Bowl, the draft has been more like Waterloo for the Browns. In my lifetime, the Browns have never, never been good drafting players. Never.

Sure, they've grabbed a few mediocrities and role players who've become fan favorites, but they've never drafted a true stud (with perhaps the exceptions of Ozzie Newsome, Clay Matthews and Joe Thomas). The saying is that victory is the son of many fathers, but defeat is an orphan. In the case of the Browns, it's the other way around. Disaster and incompetence had numerous architects and co-conspirators. The faces and titles have changed over the years, but the inability to select talent never has. Even during the blessed days of the Kardiac Kids and Bernie, Bernie and the Dawgs, the Browns won in spite of their drafts, not because of them.

So, what do we do with 45 years of consistent failure in preparing for this Saturday's draft? Perhaps, as the French philosophes suggested, we should ignore the past and strive for the perfectibility of man. That sounds pretty sweet, but really, Kokinis needs to pull his head out of his ass, quit jacking around with the league-wide smoke screen about the fifth pick, and take a stud.

That's easy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm worn out.

I just read the story that Alex Rodriguez allegedly has been diddling around with Kristin Davis, who used to be Eliot Spitzer's favorite madam.

I guess I find it mildly amusing, but I'm really worn out by hearing about Rodriguez's antics. Plus, this sounds like another case where he got all creepy and solicitous. while patheticly falling all over some other hooch. Following Alex's steroid mea culpa, this is gonna play really well with the media. The best part is that Madam Kristin is poised to violate the milleniums-old hooker's code and is going to name names in her upcoming "book."

I could really care less about Rodriguez's paid sex games. Like I said, I'm pretty worn out hearing about this guy. And with respect to Ms. Davis, yeah, the massive jugs are pretty impressive, but she looks a little mannish to me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beware the ides of March.

Remember March, the ides of March remember:

Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?

What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,

And not for justice?

What, shall one of us

That struck the foremost man of all this world

But for supporting robbers, shall we now

Contaminate our fingers with base bribes,

And sell the mighty space of our large honours

For so much trash as may be grasped thus?

I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon,

Than such a Roman.

~~~ Brutus, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare