Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Could, should, will

The big night is almost here and the excitement continues to build. The future of the Cleveland Browns, according to some, hangs in the balance.

This moribund franchise needs to make dramatic and sagacious moves with regard to the National Football League’s annual college football draft Thursday night in Philadelphia. The lottery is the lifeblood of any franchise.

Screw it up, as the Browns did last year, and it could set a team back at least a couple of seasons. Select wisely and it advances a program quickly. It is that simple.

The Browns, who own two selections in round one, Nos. 1 and 12, control this draft. How they select and maneuver most likely will have a decided impact on the rest of the opening round.

All the wild rumors and rampant speculation over the last several months will come to a grinding halt shortly after Commissioner Roger Goodell puts the Browns on the clock with the top overall pick shortly after 8 p.m.

The telephones in the offices and War Room in Berea, meanwhile, should hum most of the day Thursday with all kinds of rumors emanating in the final hours.

Plenty of information, mostly – if not all – speculation, will be disseminated until the Browns must make a final decision on what they will do with the top pick. You can bet rumors will continue to fly until Goodell approaches the microphone with the first name of the evening

Until then, it remains a guessing game.

Will the Browns deal the top pick? If they don’t, will they take defensive end Myles Garrett, arguably the best player in the lottery? Or will they opt for a quarterback instead? The name Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky excites Browns fans. The possibilities abound.

Here is one observer’s take on those various possibilities as the evening wears on.

First things first, the overall No. 1 pick in the draft, courtesy of finishing 1-15 last season.

What could happen: Trade the selection, move down and pick up more selections along the way, including possibly another No. 1 next year; stay put and select Garrett; or stay put and select a quarterback.

One has to include the possibility of trading down only because that’s what this Browns front office seemingly likes to do with high picks. I offer up the No 2 pick last year as evidence. This braintrust loves to stockpile draft choices.

What should happen: This is as close to a no-brainer as one can get.  No. Change that.  It is a no-brainer.

If Goodell does not say, “With the first pick in the 2017 National Football League draft, the Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M,” the Browns can kiss goodbye another portion of their dwindling fan base.

Even if the choice is Trubisky, the local kid some hope can replicate what Bernie Kosar Jr did for the Browns a generation ago, that fan base will take a hit.

Myles Garrett has to be the name on that card in Goodell’s hand. The Browns need all kinds of help on defense (much more so than on offense) and this is a good start. They got to opposing quarterbacks with alarming inefficiency last season. That needs to change.

What will happen: After all the nonsense leading up to this pick, Goodell of course will intone Garrett’s name on Cleveland's card and a sigh of relief can be heard throughout Browns Nation. It will be a moment that very well could be looked back on some day as the start of Cleveland’s comeback as a legitimate force in the NFL.

Next up, the 12th overall pick. Lots to ponder after grabbing Garrett.

What could happen: Trade back up before that choice arrives and pick up a quarterback; trade back up with an eye on further improving the defense; trade down, improving the draft capital again with the future in mind; fall for the Jimmy Garoppolo swindle from New England; or stay put.

With all the news swirling regarding drafting the next franchise quarterback, is it possible the Browns wisely address the side of the ball that makes the biggest difference in games – the defense?

What should happen: There is no question the defense needs dramatic improvement after surrendering an AFC low (or is it high?) 452 points last season. The Browns have given up 400 or more points in three of the last four seasons. That kind of bleeding needs a tourniquet.

The front office needs to give new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams something with which to work. Garrett is a good start. And this is the perfect opportunity to give the defensive boss even more ammunition.

In their seemingly never-ending quest to shake up the draft by moving up and down the line, look for chief honcho Sashi Brown to dive in and attempt to move up. The three prime candidates are Jacksonville, Tennessee and the New York Jets at four, five and six.

The Jets are rumored to be sitting on Trubisky, so jumping them would be the wise move if the Cleveland-area kid is, indeed, the Browns’ desire. Tennessee could be the most willing partner. The Browns accommodated the Titans last year, allowing them to move up and grab offensive tackle Jack Conklin.

Here’s what should happen: The Browns ship their second first-round selection (No. 12), the No. 33 pick at the top of round two and pick No. 175 in the sixth round for the Titans’ fifth overall pick and their late fourth-rounder. It makes perfect sense on the player trade chart.

At the same time, they will keep the 52nd selection later in the second round, courtesy of the Titans deal last year.

Then they should do the right thing again and take – no, not a quarterback – Ohio State free safety Malik Hooker off the board. Fix the defensive line first and then begin the resurrection of a secondary that desperately needs resurrecting.

Browns fans know all about the ball-hawking Hooker, who owns instincts you just cannot teach. There is no telling how creative Williams can get with the likes of two stud rookies who will be immediate plug-ins.

What will happen: The Browns traverse the trade waters and make the Titans a trade partner for the second year in a row with the aforementioned deal. And then they will pull off a swerve that stuns and baffles Browns Nation.

They get their quarterback at No. 5, but it is not Trubisky. It’s Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the only quarterback in this class who can come right in and have a solid chance of winning the starting job.

While it would be nice from a public relations standpoint to draft Trubisky, it would be foolish to waste the present by sitting him on the bench in a learning role for the entire 2017 season. And there is no guarantee success lies in his future.

As for the Kosar comparisons, Trubisky is no Bernie Kosar, who arrived in the NFL as an accomplished quarterback, then went out almost immediately and proved it. Trubisky isn’t nearly as polished as was Kosar when he arrived in Cleveland.

So there you have it. It says here Myles Garrett and Deshaun Watson will wear the Seal Brown and Orange for the foreseeable future. Now it’s time to sit back and see how it all plays out Thursday night.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It’s draft time

And down the stretch we come.

Only three more days before one of the most exciting and anticipated events in the world of sports unfolds. It, of course, is the National Football League’s annual college draft, which has turned into a three-day/evening extravaganza made for television.

At one point in its existence – the first one was held in 1936 and consisted of nine rounds – this event has been comprised of as many as 30 rounds. But that was when the NFL was a much smaller league. That initial draft ironically was held in Philadelphia, the site of this year’s lottery.

In the early days, teams kept picking in order until they declined to select and the draft ended when all the teams were finished and no one chose to select anymore. It generally ended after nine or 10 rounds.

In 1939, teams went 19 rounds before concluding. It went to 20 rounds the next three years, eventually expanding to 29 and sometimes 30 rounds, the final three of which saw only one team picking each round.

It remained unstructured with as many as 30 rounds until everyone chose to bounce into or out of the draft ay any time to pass all the way to 30. The lottery was finally pared to 20 rounds in 1960.

It wasn’t until 1967, though, that the college draft became the structured event we have today. Back then with expansion in full sway, 26 teams participated in a 17-round draft.

It stayed that way until it was shaved to 12 rounds in 1977. It was trimmed to eight in 1993 before landing the following year on the seven-rounders we have become accustomed to today.

It used to be a two-day event with the first three rounds on day one and the remainder the following day. That was when the draft caught moderate attention of the sports world. With the help of television, it has become a veritable giant, an industry unto itself.

It is now a three-day event: Round one Thursday night, rounds two and three Friday evening and the final four rounds Saturday morning and afternoon. Two nights in prime time on two networks – ESPN and the NFL Network – and both outlets will draw large audiences.

By the time Thursday night at 8 arrives and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell places the Browns on the clock with the No. 1 pick in the draft, millions – maybe tens of millions – of words regarding who will do what in the draft will have been spoken.

Many of those words will be remembered when the reality hits the fan and the 32 teams actually make their selections. There will be many surprises – perhaps some genuine shockers – along the way as the fans and pundits try to figure out why and how they could be so wrong.

All the amateur experts, those intense draftniks/fans who fancy themselves as quasi general managers, those fans who thought they had everything figured out after devoting numerous hours of intense studying, will be proven wrong, All it will take is one unexpected move by just one team in the early going.

One bizarre selection can disturb the rhythm of the draft, causing teams to scrap their original plans and jump all over plans B, C, D and beyond.

Nonetheless, the mystery of what the 32 teams do over those three days later this week will serve only to whet a draft appetite that never seems to lessen.They’ll all be back next year.

Why? Because they all believe that one of these days, they’re going to get it right. And that’s the hook.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

First things first

Build the roster first.

That should be the mantra for the Browns as the 2017 National Football League’s college draft approaches.

Print it on banners, sheets of paper, anything and festoon it all around the club’s headquarters in Berea, particularly around the bunker as a reminder on draft night.

Build the roster first.

Despite what Sashi Brown and his minions believe, Cleveland is in desperate need of help just about everywhere up and down the current roster. If they believe otherwise, then there is little hope for what will take place in about 10 days.

If they believe all this team needs is a quarterback to yank it from the dunghill this franchise has wallowed in since Jimmy Haslam III paid a billion bucks for it, then it will be more of the same old, same old.

How many different ways can I be more explicit? This is a bad team that needs a strong supporting cast for whomever is anointed the next franchise quarterback. That time is not now.

But if we are to believe even a sliver of what is being bandied about with regard to the top quarterbacks in this lottery, the Browns once again unfortunately will journey down the wrong road.

Whether it’s Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky or Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes Jr. (forget DeShone Kizer, whose star has plunged significantly), most draft experts believe one will wind up in the Seal Brown and Orange.

Unless, of course, someone with clout at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. steps up and strongly urges those in charge of the draft to stop and think. Stop and think of the kind of a team, the kind of an offense, you want to turn over to a young, wet-behind-the-ears quarterback.

Build the roster first.

It will take at least two more drafts, assuming those making the selections do so wisely, for this franchise to reach a talent-rich point that is ready to support such a young leader.

Everyone was stunned when rookie Dak Prescott took over as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and led them to the playoffs last season. (Of course, having fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott as his running back didn’t hurt.)

But the Dallas offense was ready to help the fourth-round draft choice succeed to the point where he kept Tony Romo tethered to his clipboard when the veteran returned following an injury in an exhibition game.

Prescott, taken well after the Browns selected Cody Kessler in the third round, was in the right place at the right time. The Cowboys had a terrific offensive line and a solid receiving corps. All coach Jason Garrett had to do was plug in Prescott and Elliott.

Even if the Browns had selected Prescott instead of Kessler in the third round last year, they still would have wound up with the NFL’s worst record. No way he would have been the league’s offensive rookie of the year and named to the Pro Bowl.

That’s because the Cleveland roster was embarrassingly talent-poor. Prescott would have struggled as much as Kessler. The supporting cast last season, especially on offense, was awful.

That supporting cast must be upgraded substantially this season if this team has any designs on emerging from the gigantic hole in which it currently resides. That means numerous weak areas must be strengthened.

Passing on the top quarterbacks this year will not hurt the Browns. It is far more important to assemble the pieces and parts on both sides of the football before addressing arguably the most important position on the team.

Build the roster first.

One more time with feeling: BUILD THE ROSTER FIRST!

Then go out and get your quarterback.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fact, fiction flirt

The prevarication game continues to play out as we inch closer to the National Football League’s annual college draft later this month.

The latest rumor iteration spinning out of control says the Browns still haven’t made up their minds about whom to choose with the top pick in the lottery and hints it might be quarterback Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky.

Yep, word around the ever-changing world of NFL rumors suggests Texas A&M defensive end – a.k.a. edge rusher in modern-day lingo – Myles Garrett is not a lock and very well could wind up in a uniform other than Cleveland’s.

Rumors being what they are, however, does not mean that will happen. Rumors are not facts. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a rumor is defined as “a statement or report current without known authority for its truth.”


So when the highly reputable Adam Schefter, ESPN’s No. 1 NFL rumor monger, tweets that “Cleveland has not made up its mind at No. 1 per source. Split opinions. Some like Myles Garrett, some like Mitchell Trubisky. We’ll see.”, the Cleveland media gets somewhat bent out of shape.

So do the fans.

There are still 15 days left, for crying out loud, until the Browns must make that command decision. And did anyone consider that the source Schefter referred to very well might be employed at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. in Berea?

Not saying that’s the case. But that sometimes is the way the world spins in the rumor business. “Here’s what’s going on. Just don’t use my name.”

The closer we get to April 27 in Philadelphia, the hotter and juicier those rumors become. By that date, what happens is anyone’s guess. And that’s exactly what it is: A guess.

It is entirely possible the Browns are giving serious thought to trading out of the top spot. Given Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta’s love affair with collecting draft picks, don’t rule out that possibility.

A treasure trove of selections can be gleaned when it comes to swapping the overall No. 1 pick. The Browns did it at No. 2 with the Philadelphia Eagles last season and wound up with wide receiver Corey Coleman and offensive tackle Shon Coleman (after trading down twice), the Eagles’ first rounder this year (No. 12) and a second next year and the Tennessee Titans' second-rounder this year.

This is not meant to start a rumor. Far from it, in fact. All it does is suggest the loosey-goosey thinking in Berea is such that anything is possible, especially with DePodesta guiding the way from a strategy standpoint.

Then again, despite what Schefter and others who either jumped all over his tweet or retweeted it believe, it is entirely possible the Browns let all the rumors play out and then do the right thing and select Garrett.

Bathe in the publicity it generates. Enjoy the spotlight. Why not? Once the season begins in September, the Browns will eventually be relegated to the role with which they have become all too familiar for the last 18 seasons: An afterthought.

Until then, get used to the rumors bouncing around the NFL universe for the next couple of weeks. Makes for good fodder for the fans and keeps the league relevant until that moment when Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the microphone on stage, puts the Browns on the clock and officially kicks off the NFL season.

Let all the blather that arrives on the NFL scene in those two weeks drift in and out of your consciousness since it is bound to change again soon enough.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Can’t shake the feeling

As we inch closer to the National Football League’s annual college draft later this month, I have a feeling the Browns are on the verge of making yet another unwise move with regard to the position of quarterback.

The worst move they can make in this draft is to select a quarterback in the first round. And I can’t shake the notion that is exactly what they’ll do with their second first-round pick at No. 12.

Why? Because they are the Cleveland Browns, a franchise that exists with black clouds hovering above it. It is a franchise that almost always makes mistakes in crucial situations.

And because this team is the real-life version of Murphy’s Law. If there is a mistake (or mistakes) to be made, the Browns somehow will find a way to make them.

The only way they can escape the ignominy of making that mistake this year is if all three quarterbacks given first-round grades are off the board when the 12th pick rolls around.

Unless they are playing the smoke-and-mirror game, saying one thing and thinking something entirely different, the Browns are heading in a direction that will land the quarterback for the foreseeable future.

To be fair, it is a given this team needs a quarterback on whom to hang its future fortunes. There is absolutely no argument there.

But none of the top three quarterbacks this year – Deshaun Watson, Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky and DeShone Kizer – are looked upon as franchise quarterbacks. They represent a relatively weak class at the position.

Next year’s class will be much stronger with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph and Josh Rosen heading it. If any of those four were in this year’s draft, they would push the aforementioned trio down the list.

Sometimes, it’s best to wait a year and put yourself in a position to take the right quarterback when he comes along. That is clearly the case this year, a year in which the Browns would be best concerned with strengthening all other areas on the team – and there are quite a few – before addressing the most important one.

This franchise has slogged around the NFL for the last 18 seasons, doing it the wrong way just about every one of those seasons. The bottom line more than proves that. It’s now time to do it the right way.

One additional bad season won’t make that much of a difference as long as the end justifies the means. In this case, enduring one more awful season and taking advantage of a strong quarterbacks class justifies those means.

I would much rather see a Darnold or an Allen or a Rosen in Seal Brown and Orange than any of the three big names that have been bandied about this year.

If Hue Jackson is, indeed, the quarterback whisperer we have been led to believe, that luster will dull if he champions Trubisky, Watson or Kizer and strongly lobbies for their selection. That would indicate desperation on his part and an unwillingness to suffer through another gawd-awful season in Cleveland.

About the worst scenario for the 2017 season is the Browns improve to the point where they will win just enough games – as many, maybe, as four or five – and play themselves out of the opportunity to select a player who has a better chance to become their quarterback of the future than what awaits three weeks from today.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mocking these so-called experts

Fun season this National Football League mock draft season.

The more iterations we see for next month’s college draft, the crazier it gets. Draft  “experts” are now in at least their 4.0 versions with less than five weeks to go.

And with the Browns owning two of the first 12 choices in next month’s college lottery, all kinds of wild speculation – guesses really – on what they will do sorta, kinda hogs the news.

Questions, which will remain unanswered until that final Thursday night in April in Philadelphia, surround what is really going on in Berea. At the same time, fans are having all kinds of fun trying to figure out what will go down.

Well, maybe not fun, especially for the serious-minded who plow lots of hours into trying to guess what their favorites teams are thinking. And you can bet, with few exceptions, they will not come even close to guessing correctly.

Except, of course, what the Browns will do at No. 1. And even the probability of staying put and grabbing Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is not a sure thing, according to at least a couple of lottery gurus.

Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller of Sirius XM Radio recently put together their rather interesting first-round replete with trades, the likes of which strays quite severely from those more standard guesses from the vast majority of serious predictors.

Wandering unafraid into the ever dangerous mock draft waters, Miller and Kirwan predict the Browns will trade the top pick to New England in exchange for a flop of No. 1s (even though the Patriots don’t have a first-rounder), a third-round pick this year and a No. 1 next year. Oh . . and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Patriots, of course, will select Garrett, as if they don’t have enough talent already to repeat as Super Bowl champions. But the Browns get their quarterback and another No. 1 next year. But wait, there’s more.

According to these experts, the Browns ultimately deal the 12th pick, a second-rounder and fifth-rounder to Buffalo to move up two spots to 10 and take Ohio State safety Malik Hooker.

They then complete their third swap of the round by shipping the top pick in the second round (No. 33) and a third-rounder to Atlanta to move up two slots and take a wide receiver at No. 31.

Three trades involving four teams (including the Browns), one active player and 10 overall selections covering this and next year all in one round. That takes creativity to absurd lengths.

Recapping, the Browns trade the first and 12th picks in the first round, first selection in the second round and a third-rounder and pick up the 10th overall pick, a third-rounder, the 31st overall pick and the Patriots’ No. 1 pick next year. Oh . . . and Jimmy Garoppolo.

If nothing else, it would turn the Browns’ draft room into kind of a whirling dervish for the first evening of the three-day extravaganza. No down time from the top pick clear down to the penultimate selection with telephone lines blisteringly active

If the Browns’ hierarchy even thinks about making those moves, they should all be fitted with straitjackets and sentenced to college draft purgatory with no chance for parole for at least 15 years.

Then again, maybe sanity will eventually take up residence in Berea and this franchise, which seemingly can’t help itself and steers in the wrong direction with puzzling regularity, finally heads in the correct direction.

Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller, notwithstanding, of course.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is that all there is?

That’s it?

Eleven days have passed since the free-agent market opened up and the Browns have made precious few moves.

For a team that needs help just about everywhere on the roster, signing a veteran wide receiver, two offensive linemen and claiming a couple of other pieces and parts is the best they can do?

Yes, the arrival of guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter makes the offensive line better. And yes, signing Kenny Britt sort of makes up for the loss of Terrelle Pryor. Oh and they picked up quarterback Brock Osweiler, who most likely they will jettison before he plays a game, in a trade.

But what else is there to buoy the hopes of Browns fans? The correct answer thus far – the free-agent market shelves have been mostly cleared – is not much. The pickins are slim. Only scraps remain.

Claiming the likes of wide receiver James Wright from Cincinnati, offensive lineman Marcus Martin from San Francisco and safety Tyvis Powell from Seattle and signing placekicker Brett Maher as a free agent doesn’t exactly stir the juices.

The Browns reportedly are currently courting former Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald. But that does not exactly move the dials on the excitement scale.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Browns have found it difficult to target and then sign the free agent they seek is the club’s less-than-stellar reputation. Money goes just so far when it comes to luring free agents to Cleveland.

Take, for example, the club’s desire to sign free agent Tony Jefferson, who would have been a nice fit in a secondary practically begging for help. The Browns offered the ex-Arizona Cardinals strong safety more money and yet he wound up in Baltimore, a bitter division rival.

Why? Simple. Even though he took less money, Jefferson liked the idea of playing with a team that has a winning reputation. He still gets good money, but having a shot at playing in the postseason was more intriguing.

Until the Browns change their image on and off the field, until they can attain an image that connotes winning, there will be others like Jefferson who eschew more money in an effort to play with a winning organization.

That, of course, will take time and a significant number of smart moves by the front office. For the last 18 seasons, the lack of those smart moves has added up to what we see today by the shores of Lake Erie: The National Football League’s stepchild.

No NFL team in the last 18 seasons, or since the Browns returned as an expansion team, has put forth such abysmally bad football. Not even the Detroit Lions, whose winless season in 2008 can only be tied for awful football over a full season, are as bad as the Browns in those 18 seasons.

In the last 288 games, the Lions are 104-184; the Browns are an embarrassing 88-200. That’s 4.88888889 victories a season. Yikes!

Throw out the Browns’ first two expansions seasons (2-14 and 3-13), they still have won four fewer games (83) than Detroit over that span.

Taking it a few steps further, the Lions have posted five winning seasons since 1999; the Browns have two. The Lions have recorded eight seasons of five or fewer victories; the Browns have recorded 13 (out of 18). Take that down to four or fewer victories in a season and Cleveland edges Detroit, nine to six.

The team that once called itself “The Greatest Show in Football” – and it was exactly that at the time – has become its league’s laughingstock. You want to see bad football? Take in a game in Cleveland.

That is what it has come down to. Players would much rather play elsewhere than go to Cleveland and become a relative nonentity. Until that changes – and right now, we are seeing little evidence that will eventuate – this franchise will continue to struggle for respectability.

So if this is the best the current front office can do in free agency to substantially improve this team, then good times are so far in the distance, it’s impossible to focus on them.

It will take a very strong college draft next month to enhance what is currently on board. Based on the front office’s performance last year, those good times might be farther away than hoped.
*       *       *
Josh McCown has signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets, whose quarterbacking is so bad, the former Browns quarterback actually has a shot at starting unless the Jets draft a quarterback and start him right away.

So how does that affect Browns fans? Well, now Jets fans know how it feels to watch a (38-year-old in July) journeyman quarterback line up under center for their team. This will be his 15th NFL season and eighth team.

Browns now have some empathy for Jets fans, some of whom are thisclose to slitting their wrists in disgust. The Twitterverse erupted following the announcement. Here are some samples, courtesy of USA Today:

This is the beginning of the end . . . 2-14, here we come . . . Depressing times as a Jets fan . . . I am actually speechless . . . do I kill myself now or later . . . Yucksville . . . So now they will win 3 games instead of 2 . . . Shoulda signed Manziel.

Sound and feel familiar, Browns fans?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trubisky mystery solved

When did Mitch Trubisky all of a sudden become Mitchell Trubisky? Inquiring minds want to know.

All we know about Trubisky is he has started 13 collegiate football games, became the darling of the National Football League college draft gurus and has rocketed to the top of the quarterbacks board.

Oh and he played his high school football at Mentor High School, located about 15 miles east of downtown Cleveland along the shores of Lake Erie.

At the beginning of the 2016 college football season, he was just another quarterback named Mitch. Not Mitchell. Just Mitch.

He was Mitch for four seasons at the University of North Carolina. (How did Ohio State miss out on his talent?) He was Mitch when he wasn’t good enough to start for his first three years at the school.

He was sill Mitch when he started racking up big games for the Tar Heels in his senior year and attracting attention from NFL scouts and draft gurus.

Only his mother most likely called him Mitchell, especially when he was in trouble or required to perform a chore. Most mothers address their sons in formal fashion in those instances. As in, “Mitchell, clean your room.” And “you don’t live in a pig sty, Mitchell.” Or “take out the garbage, Mitchell.”

But now that he has been anointed by many of those gurus as the best quarterback in the current college draft class, he has become Mitchell. Just plain Mitch has disappeared.

What changed? I have no idea. He just became Mitchell overnight and no one seems to be questioning why.

A sudden thought: Is it possible Mitchell Trubisky is not as good as Mitch Trubisky?

Update: Aha, it was the mother thing after all. “It’s really not that big a deal,” Trubisky told the NFL Network. “If you call me Mitch, that’s all right. I did it for my mom because she calls me Mitchell. She’s like 'I want people to stat calling you Mitchell.’ . . . I’ll do that for my mom.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why not Geno?

Geno Smith, quarterback and Cleveland Browns all in the same sentence.

Let that one ruminate in your mind for a few minutes. Then a few minutes longer.

Say it out loud.

Oxymoron or reality? Both?

Believe it or not, at least according to news reports, the former New York Jets quarterback, who flamed out in the National Football League after starring at West Virginia University, has been linked with your favorite football team.

The Browns, it seems, are interested in the free agent in what appears to be their never-ending search to continue the mediocrity that has plagued the position since the resurrection in 1999.

The sudden news, stemming from an NFL Network report, refers to the possible connection as “interest” on the Browns’ part.

The 26-year-old Smith recently visited the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers in an effort to remain somewhat relevant in the NFL community. Only problem there is Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are fixtures with their respective teams and the best Smith can do is back up either veteran.

He wants to be a starting quarterback again, though, and the Browns are looking for a starting quarterback since the release of Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. So why not kick the tires on Smith?

The mixed metaphor aside, the possibility of such a football marriage is not outside the realm of possibility, the rumors surrounding a possible trade involving Jimmy Garoppolo and drafting of Mitch Trubisky notwithstanding.

There are so many different possibilities and scenarios surrounding the immediate future of the Cleveland quarterback situation, nothing would surprise with respect to who lines up under center in game one of the 2017 season.

Smith being that guy spurred the New York Post to write the following headline regarding that possibility: Geno Smith and Browns a match made in football purgatory.

Right now, the Cleveland quarterbacks roster includes Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Brock Osweiler. Kessler isn’t going anywhere. Hogan, barring injuries, probably winds up on the practice squad. Where Osweiler winds up is anyone’s guess.

Smith, who suffered a torn ACL last season, was 3-10 with 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in his last season as a starter (2014) with the Jets. It was far better than his rookie season when he tossed 12 scoring passes and was picked off 21 times.

If the Browns sign him and do not draft a top-rated college quarterback this season, that would almost assure the club will experience another season very much like the last one, a season that produced a singular victory.

That would all but insure the Browns a shot at one of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 lottery, which will boast a class far better and deeper than the one coming up in April.

If those in charge of the draft concentrate on strengthening the ancillary parts of the team – most notably the offensive and defensive lines and secondary – before honing in on the quarterback of the future, then perhaps winning football has a shot at finally returning to Cleveland.

Smith could be a temporary fill-in, much like Griffin was before him. Sort of act as a caretaker until the real thing comes along. Of course, that would require Browns fans to exercise patience for one more season, something they have become all too accustomed to for far too long.

But if the retooling of this team was done carefully, wisely and correctly, it would be well worth the wait.

Until then, why not Geno for a year? Can't be any worse than The Third. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dreaming about the future

Dream time while waiting for the Browns to make their next move . . .

It appears they have set ether quarterback sights very low if they hunger for Jimmy Garoppolo. There is another quarterback on the landscape who is much better than Garoppolo and has the stats to prove it.

He is an experienced National Football League quarterback who was rumored to be sought after by the Browns several years ago when he was a mere backup.

Here’s a hint: He backed up a former Browns quarterback.

Here’s another hint: That ex-Browns quarterback picked up the ex part of his status recently. Very recently.

That’s right, Kirk Cousins would look nice in the Seal Brown and Orange. (This is a dream, remember?)

The Washington Redskins quarterback is one unhappy camper and would not mind leaving the Nation’s Capital. Why not Cleveland?

The five-year veteran, drafted the same year as Robert Griffin III, has adamantly said he will not negotiate with the Washington front office and prefers playing elsewhere.

He has stated he wouldn’t mind heading for San Francisco where Kyle Shanahan, his offensive coordinator in Washington, is now the head coach of the 49ers.

Cousins recently signed a one-year franchise tender for $24 million that ties him to the Redskins for the upcoming season. It also sets the stage for the possibility of a trade. And the Browns have lots of ammunition to pull off such a move.

Instead of targeting the untested Garoppolo, why not give the Redskins a call and go after a genuine NFL quarterback? What harm would it do to pick up the telephone and talk to Redskins President Bruce Allen? Maybe Jimmy Haslam III can chat up Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Dangle the No. 12 overall pick the Browns own. Maybe throw in the lesser of their two second-round selections, a fourth-rounder this year and the 2018 second-round pick they picked up in the Brock Osweiler trade.

Sure that’s an awful lot to give up for one player, but Cousins is the type of quarterback the Browns have needed for way too long. Since taking over as a starter in 2015, he has thrown for more than 9,000 yards, 44 touchdowns 23 interceptions and scored nine more times as a runner. He is a 66% career passer.

The Skins could fill the loss of Cousins by grabbing one of the quarterbacks with the 12th selection and fill in weak roster spots with the other picks

(The dream continues.)

And if the Redskins bite, how would the Browns be able to handle the $24 million tender, you ask? Easy. Sit down with the new quarterback and hammer out a long-term deal for the kind of money he seeks.

Don’t forget the Browns still have the most salary-cap space in the NFL and richly rewarding Cousins would be more than worth it. It would finally give the Browns gravitas at the most important position on the team.

With Hue Jackson as his mentor and an offensive line that will definitely be improved this season, Cousins would make a nice fit and finally solve a problem that has nagged this franchise since 1999.

(The dream comes crashing down because . . .)

The above scenario probably won’t happen because those who run this franchise are not smart enough or creative enough to at least give it a shot. It is nothing more than a pipe dream because they seem fixated on Garoppolo.

Thinking like that is what has plagued this team for what seems like forever.