Sunday, April 18, 2010

And so it begins . . .

When it comes to talking Cleveland professional sports, there are no ground rules. And you can expect no ground rules with my latest venture into that realm.

Wandering into the blogosphere with my eyes wide open and my thoughts raring to be unleashed, this new adventure into the unknown will concentrate on Cleveland's professional football team with occasional side trips musing about the Indians, Cavaliers and, when the situation warrants, Ohio State athletics.

My opinions, as you will soon discover, do not always follow the norm. But I can assure you they are genuine, honest and designed with one thing in mind: the betterment of Cleveland sports. I, as most fans of Cleveland sports, want to see winning teams. They lift the spirit of a city (you can feel it right now with the Cavs). Inner pride swells to giddy levels.

The Indians produced that feeling a few years ago. And now, it's the Browns' turn. With Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert in charge, there is no question a very important corner has been turned. With these two in charge, the Browns have finally gained a legitimacy that has been lacking in Berea for more than a generation.

It's not going to happen overnight or, in this case, right after the NFL's college draft this week. The H guys have too many holes to fill, but at least we know their sage approach in reconstructing this team will lead to much more competitive football and ultimate appearances in the postseason.

Some of their off-season moves proved puzzling. Still can't understand why Holmgren didn't cashier Eric Mangini. He has reconstructed just about the entire front office except for the head coach, a man whose coaching style flies in the face of his boss. You can bet Mangini will be at the end of a very short and tight leash this season.

And signing Jake Delhomme, way past his prime and falling fast, to quarterback the team this season strains the the credibility of Holmgren's reputation as a quarterbacks guru. And to think that Delhomme, whose greatest asset is his ability to take charge in a huddle, is getting paid $7 million to do so makes one wonder just what Holmgren saw.

Remember the last time the Browns signed a quarterback with a similar air of confidence? It was 2005 and his name was Trent Dilfer, who flashed a Super Bowl ring (with the Ravens). He sauntered into Cleveland in Romeo Crennel's rookie season and proceeded to sustain his love affair with mediocrity as the Browns finished 6-10. He was gone after one injury-filled season.

Other than that, Holmgren and Heckert seem to be making the right moves. It'll be interesting to see which side of the ball they address first in the draft. As it stands now, the offense needs more help, particularly the right side of the line. Fortunately, that area is well stocked at the top of the lottery with the likes of Bryan Bulaga, Russell Okung and Trent Williams. Any of the three would make a nice fit and shoved Tony Pashos to guard.

However, if Eric Berry somehow sneaks past the top six teams, the H guys would be nuts to pass on him. Rarely does a safety of Berry's extreme talent come along. And while drafting a safety as high as the seventh overall pick is unusual, so is someone with Berry's extraordinary talent. He's a difference maker and that's something the Browns cannot afford to pass up.

Another possibility is quarterback Jimmy Clausen, But the likelihood of the Notre Damer landing in Cleveland is remote. That's because Holmgren earlier had made lukewarm remarks regarding Clausen and then backtracked on them. And if one follows the theory that the more someone talks about a player, the less likely he will be selected, there's no way Clausen wears the Seal Brown and Orange next season.

Besides, nobody tells the truth anyway in the 4-6 weeks leading up the draft.

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