Sunday, September 2, 2012

Please pass the pacifier

Call them the Baby Browns.

Whether or not it was by design, the pruning of the Browns’ roster down the final 53 men has turned the club into one of the youngest teams in the National Football League.

It is said that a team can expect to lose at least one game for every rookie on its roster. That, of course, assumes those rookies will start.

Well, after Tom Heckert Jr. sliced and diced his way toward the final 53, an astounding 15 rookies remain on the squad, including five free agents. That represents more than 28% of the roster.

Add 12 more players entering their second season and that percentage rises dramatically to slightly more than 50. Throw in six more players with just two years’ experience and that number jumps to 62.2%.

In other words, nearly two out of every three players on the team check in with less than three years’ experience. That’s asking for trouble.

Two ways to look at that. On the optimistic side, Heckert is building quite a core for the future. On the pessimistic side, the lack of experience will cost the Browns dearly in a season they play the NFL’s third-toughest schedule.

Based on the final roster, it’s pretty safe to say they re going to experience an extremely bumpy first half of the season as they struggle to gain any semblance of respectability.

The size of some of the losses could be potentially harmful to the psyche of this club. It will severely test coach Pat Shurmur’s ability to keep his guys focused and on track to improve on a weekly basis.

Losses figure to heavily outweigh the victories in the first half of the season because of the inexperience. Fans will become intolerant once again as another doom and gloom season unfolds.

The H guys (Jimmy Haslam III, Mike Holmgren and Heckert) most likely will get together and issue a call for patience. Their pleas will fall on deaf ears.

Because they’ll be taking baby steps at first, we’ll get a much better read on this team in the second half of the season. It will be much more telling than the first half. We’ll have a much better idea the direction in which it is headed as it gains experience.

It remains puzzling, though, that a general manager in his third year, with a new owner ready to climb onboard, chose to take this path. It’s almost as though he decided the groundwork he laid in the first two years wasn’t working and moved in a different direction.

It is generally believed that it takes three years to totally reconstruct a team in the NFL. If that is, indeed, the case here, Heckert has chosen a most unusual course to navigate.

If it was his intention to cut unnecessary fat from the roster and replace it with new blood, he sure succeeded. But when you wind up with nearly two-thirds of the roster lacking significant playing time, you are gambling big time.


  1. Gambling what? They have nowhere to go but up. They actually have nothing to lose because they were losing anyway. If you're gonna lose anyway, you might as well lose with youth because there's at least a chance they will get better.

  2. You don't gamble in the third year of a rebuilding program. And that's exactly what Heckert is doing by juvenilizing (making up a word here) his roster.

    By the third year, you would expect some tangible results. That's not going to happen with this crew. There is just so much losing the fans will tolerate.

    When you make moves like this, only the faces change. The fans are sick and tired of this. Jimmy Haslam is going to take a long, hard look and see what many of us see: a dysfunctional front office. That will change.

    You like what Heckert has done? Well, then, kick back and enjoy what undoubtedly will be another very long season.

  3. Hey Rich,
    Who or what did we lose that has you so bothered? Experience?!? If you say experienced losers, then I'll agree with you. Isn't the point of the draft to better your team with younger talent? Aren't we doing that?

    Just curious of your perception of "the gamble". Let's say we worked out some killer trades and somehow landed Luck, Richardson, Blackmon, Kalil, Claiborne, Kuechly, and Cox. Would you still have written this post? Thanks!


  4. Of course not, Alex. I might deal from a different deck at times, but I'm not that crazy. With players like that, I'm close to predicting the playoffs.

    Who did the Browns lose? Evan Moore and David Sims, both of whom made plays when give a chance. And this team needs all the playmakers it can get.

    You also can't rely on the draft solely to improve a team. You have to dip into the free-agent market every now and then and make intelligent decisions. I wouldn't call Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker intelligent decisions.

    As I said in the piece, the third year of a rebuilding program should show improvement. Based on this roster, how much improvement do you expect this season? And a five- or six-victory season is improvement only in the relative sense.

    Heckert had a chance to remake this franchise and blew it with dumb trades in his first two seasons. Julio Jones would have been a terrific addition last season and Montario Hardesty is a bust, especially considering what Heckert gave up for him.

  5. Ok Rich. I see you are not crazy ;-). I agree, if we add talent like that to the Browns and we're instantly playoff contenders. But I'm still unsure why you're so bothered. You kinda fell into my trap. Although we didn't add 7 Blue Chip rookies, I believe we added 7 very very solid rookies who will contribute this year.

    Let's say our trades for Luck, Richardson, Blackmon, Kalil, Claiborne, Kuechly, and Cox are rejected (suprise!) - but we add Weeden, Richardson, Schwartz, Wade, JMJ, Gordon, Hughes and Winn. I'm not screaming playoffs with those additions, but I'm not screaming #1 pick next year either.

    1. Weeden was an Iowa State game away from the National Championship, but outperformed Luck in the Fiesta bowl as a consolation prize
    2. Richardson. When Joe Haden doesn't want to tackle you, that's scary.
    3. Kalil wasn't going to start for us at LT anyway and might not be any better than Schwartz at RT.
    4. Wade is no Claiborne, but he was a fighter this preseason. Claiborne definitely ducked and dodged TRich in the national championship game when he wasn't blocked and pushed 20 yards down field by Smelly (our 7th rounder). I haven't seen the same fear from Wade. Wade plays like he's got nothing to lose.
    5. Did you watch Winn/Hughes this preaseason? They looked solid to me. Isn't Cox is 4th string DT in Philly.

    You see where I'm going with this right?!? Considering the drop off from the Blue Chip player (that you admitted would make us playoff contenders), do you really think our additions this year are cause for concern?

    In regards to who we "lost" - I see it differently. I admit that losing Evan Moore stung a little. For years I hoped they would just line him up at WR sometimes like NE does with Gronk and Hernandez, but I guess there wasn't space for two TEs that can't block on our roster. David Sims who?!? The only play he made this preseason that counted occurred when he got beat but the turf monster took out the WR. Not a big loss to me either.

    I agree 100% - you cannot rely on the draft solely to improve a team, but you cannot expect to turn around a team with FAs either. Take a look at the top 100 NFL players (as voted by players): 86 (by my count) of the top 100 are STILL with the original team that drafted them, so rebuilding through FA isn't the smartest strategy either. Not only because blue chip FAs are a rare commodity, but also because we don't have a winning team, great weather, or a strong nightlife (which means we'll overpay for anyone who comes here). I'm not going to speak on Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker. Both will most likely be replaced next draft.

    This is the third year of our four year rebuilding program. Considering we dumped every last 1st round and second round pick from previous regimes (other than Thomas, Mack, Jackson, and Massaquoi), I think Heckert has done a great job infusing our roster with quality talent in such a short period of time. I truly believe our last draft was the strongest (when you include Gordon). Yea, Julio Jones would've been a nice addition, but I don't think he shines as much with Colt at QB. I'm hoping Travis Benjamin can get off the line and do his best Desean Jackson impersonation. It just so happens that they're the same size and speed. Travis also runs a better comeback than Gordon at this point in time.

    How many wins will we see this year? Hmm...we can only go as far as our O-line takes us. We can beat Buffalo, Indy, Wash, Oak, Dallas (after a bye week). I also believe we'll steal one (or two) from our division. So, I'll go 7.

  6. If you go 7, I win $46. I bet the over on the Browns, who were 5 and a half at the time. So I'm hoping you're right.

    The last draft will be strong only if Weeden is a quick learner, Richardson can stay healthy and Gordon can shake off enough rust to make significant contributions. I like J-MJ at linebacker, too, and Wade at cornerback. Not a big fan of Schwartz at RT. Guy is slow out of his pass pro set and has bad feet. He's a better run blocker, but has trouble getting to the second level. The others? Meh.

    I don't see Benjamin as a DeSean Jackson type. He looks too fragile. Besides, he's better in a system where stretching the field is stressed. It's not in Cleveland, where you see four-yard patterns on third-and-5 and five-yard patterns on third-and-9.

    Buckle up for another frustrating year, but I'm rooting for you to be right. If you are, I'm just selfish enough to keep all the winnings.

    Tnx for the dialogue, Alex.