Monday, April 28, 2014

Scraping the bottom

Vince Young??!! The Browns are interested in Vince Young??!!

Tyler Thigpen??!! The Browns are interested in Tyler Thigpen??!!

What, they couldn’t talk Brett Favre out of retirement? Vinny Testaverde was too busy? Tim Couch really likes retirement? Is Charlie Frye still in the country?


Yep, it’s true. The Browns have confirmed it. They have placed the eminently mediocre Young and the equally mediocre Thigpen on their radar in an effort to do I’m not exactly sure what.

Young will be 31 in a few weeks. Thigpen just turned 30. Shades of Brandon Weeden.

Young, of course, is the key figure here. But the former University of Texas quarterback, selected third overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2006 college draft, has not appeared in a National Football League regular-season game since 2011.

His career can be best described as nondescript and now here he is taking a physical Monday, along with Thigpen, getting ready to work out during a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp that begins Tuesday.

Young appeared in six games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. Thigpen, who was out of the NFL last season, has thrown a paltry 13 regular-season passes in the last three seasons.

The accumulated rust on these two is just cause for the Browns to go out and buy as much rust remover as possible to make certain these guys make it flake-free through minicamp and in one piece.

I know the team is a tick short of desperation mode when it comes to quarterbacks, but Vince Young? And Tyler Thigpen?

Could this be a favor General Manager Ray Farmer is doing for Young’s and Thigpen’s agents? Or is this his attempt to throw something at the quarterbacks board in hopes some of it sticks? It falls under the department of ya never know.

Some might consider these moves low risk. What have the Browns got to lose by bringing in these two journeymen? Good point.

They have absolutely nothing to lose, but let’s not lose sight of the fact these moves appear to be awfully close to desperation.

Then again, perhaps Young and Thigpen are nothing more than minicamp fodder, brought in because no one else was available. Maybe both like the idea of possibly convincing some team they are good enough to at least sit on the bench or hold a clipboard.

It had been assumed the Browns would bring in veteran Rex Grossman to help new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with the new offense. And that still might eventuate.

Rumors also persist that they eventually will take a run at Washington backup quarterback Kirk Cousins now that the Redskins have brought in Colt McCoy to back up Robert Griffin III.

As we get closer to the college draft on May 8, that one will gather strength, especially if Young and Thigpen fail to convince Farmer and his men that they can still play in the NFL.

But if somehow they do . . . nah, that’s not going to happen.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Too much of a good thing

Isn’t it bad enough that the National Football League college draft is spread over three days?

In this day and age when mass communication is the lifeblood of just about anything, it is somewhat understandable the NFL chooses to conduct its draft to the largest possible television audience on two networks over a three-day period.

But how many of those viewers who superglue themselves to their TV screens the first two nights are there the third day when rounds four through seven are conducted?

Only the real draft nuts who glom onto every selection for every team as they try and figure out whom their team is going to draft.

That’s it.

Why would anyone be interested in the sixth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers or seventh-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars other than fans of those two clubs?

When you get into the final two rounds, players chosen might as well be from a foreign country. That’s how well known they are to a vast majority of those who care.

Now comes word that the league – no, make that Commissioner Roger Goodell – is thinking of adding a fourth televised day of the annual lottery. “We’re looking at a lot of options with respect to the draft to create even more excitement around the draft,” Goodell told Jeff Darlington of

Why stop at four? Why not make it a week-long televised affair with a round a night in prime time? Maybe include dancing card girls, in shorts of course, displaying the pick of each team. Surely, that’ll garner blockbuster ratings, no?

Can’t get enough of Chris Berman, Rich Eisen, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay and Mike Mayock, you say? Well, we’ve got even more for you.

Ridiculous? Of course. Absurd? Definitely. Out of the question? Should be.

Rather than adding to what is already a spectacle that lasts way too long, maybe Goodell should also look at changing the date of the draft back to the last weekend in April instead of the second weekend in May and cutting it back to two days.

The excuse the league used for moving it back this year was Madison Square Garden had already booked another event for late April. As it turned out, that event was cancelled due to . . . wait . . . wait . . . lack of interest.

Instead of taking the draft on the road, something the National Hockey League has done (starting in 1987) with great success in an effort to connect with the fans, the big, bad NFL buried its head and acquiesced.

OK, we’ll just move the draft to May. That shouldn’t make a difference. The fans won’t care. Two more weeks to talk about it.

Well, two weeks in this case makes a big difference. What should have been taking place this weekend will take place roughly two weeks hence.

Two more weeks to discuss what the Houston Texans will do with the top pick of the draft. Two more weeks of guessing whether Jadeveon Clowney, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel will be that pick.

Two more weeks of, ugh, mock drafts.

Hasn’t enough been hashed and rehashed already with regard to the draft? And now we have another dozen days or so to once again go through what we’ve been discussing since late February.

Do those two extra weeks really make that much of a difference? The TV ratings probably will be strong anyway. That doesn’t make it right. The fans are more than ready for a draft now. As in right now. As in yesterday.

A poll reflected the overwhelming objection by the fans to the extra two weeks. More than 96% of the nearly 15,700 fans who voted want the league to switch back to the late April slot. Ninety-six percent!

As for the possibility of adding a fourth day to the draft, also put that question to the fans. More than 70% in the early voting said two days was sufficient enough time to conduct the seven rounds.

Today would have been the first day of such a draft.

Imagine that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The schedule and Bernie

What to make of the Browns’ 2014 schedule . . .

At first blush, it looks like the kind of schedule the club can use as a springboard to becoming relevant again in the National Football League.

There are no loaded pitfalls or traps. It is a relatively even-balanced schedule that features only two late games, including the requisite Thursday night national appearance on the NFL network, this year in Cincinnati

The team does not go any farther west than Nashville, Tenn., or spend any more than two consecutive weeks at a time either at home or on the road.

From a competitive standpoint, it is a relatively easy schedule. It includes only four playoff teams from last season – Cincinnati, New Orleans, Carolina and Indianapolis.

Seven of the 13 teams on the new schedule had losing records last season, two others (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) played .500 ball and only four (the aforementioned New Orleans, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Carolina) had winning records.

The Browns (and New York Giants) play the NFL’s sixth-easiest schedule, facing teams that won just 46.5% of their games last season. Only Baltimore, Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee and Indianapolis have it better and they’re all on the Cleveland schedule this season.

If the 2014 Browns do not finish at or near .500 this season based strictly on this schedule, then those who maintain this franchise is jinxed and will have to wait even longer for better times gain that much more credibility.

The friendliest stretch of games is from Oct. 12 through Nov. 2, during which the Browns play three home games (against Pittsburgh, Oakland and Tampa Bay) in the four-week period.

The most difficult stretch – four of the final six games are on the road – almost demands the Browns make the most of their first 10 games, six of which are at home. And the two home games in that period are against Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Other than the six meetings with division rivals Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, the most intriguing matchup – at least for coach Mike Pettine – figures to be the Nov. 30 trip to Buffalo to meet the team for which he coordinated the defense last season. 

The home schedule is quite attractive from a quarterback standpoint. Throwing at the lakefront this season will be the likes of Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck (playing in his father’s hometown) and Andy Dalton.

Opponents from the NFC this season are from the South, which produced two playoff teams (New Orleans and Carolina) last season while Atlanta and Tampa Bay brought up the rear with 4-12 records. And you can bet the Falcons and Buccaneers will not replicate their 2013 performances.

It is not a difficult schedule. Then again, most of the schedules the Browns have faced in the last 10 years have not been difficult. And yet, with one notable exception (2007), they somehow continue to land in the AFC North basement.

One of these years, that is bound to stop.

~ It truly is sad to watch Bernie Kosar grovel after being told by WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland that his services as the color analyst of the Browns during the exhibition season were no longer required.

Through the media, the former Cleveland quarterback – considered legendary by a large group of fans – is all but begging Channel 3 to reconsider its decision and reinstate him as Jim Donovan’s partner for the four meaningless games.

“Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life,” he wrote. “I would hope WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Browns and Orange.”

It is beneath Kosar, who blames those concussion-related symptoms as a cause for his slurred speech, to lower himself to the point where he looks like a sad figure. He is better than that.

The bad guy in this little scenario is WKYC General Manager Brooke Spectorsky, who cited a change in production values as reason for the change and is understandably sticking to his guns.

“We have to freshen things up, too, as the team is changing,” he said in explaining his choice of Solomon Wilcots to replace Kosar. “It’s a whole different year going forward and I didn’t want to do the same old production I’ve done for so many years.” Stale doesn’t play well on television.

These things happen in the electronic industry. You can be king one day and gone the next. Personal feelings are set aside for the common good of the product. I know the feeling. I’ve been down that road numerous times in radio.

If you go into television or radio with your eyes open, and I mean extremely wide open, you realize incidents like this are commonplace. Kosar doesn’t realize it and thus is having problems dealing with it.

Spectorsky denies the slurred speech had any relevance to his decision. If that had been the case, he could argue, he would have gotten rid of Kosar long before this.

Fans obviously are taking sides. Some have noted on that they will not tune in to the exhibition games if Bernie is not brought back as a color analyst. Bulletin: Yes they will.

It’s time for Kosar to relax. He worked eight seasons as a color analyst. Of course he’ll miss the exhibition gig. But right now, it’s time to relish those eight seasons and move on. He is smart and creative enough to find new paths in life. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

'Tis better to be thought a fool . . . 

Mike Holmgren, it seems, has a tough time leaving well enough alone.

The ex-Browns president was on the cusp of being a distant bad memory to Cleveland professional football when he chose to revisit the past recently.

At first blush, it was a seemingly-harmless one-sentence quote that appeared in Peter King’s Quotes of the Week section in last Monday’s MMQB on King dismissed it with a simple one-sentence entry. Upon further review, it was anything but harmless.

“I really just should have coached the team, but (owner Randy Lerner) didn’t want me to,” Holmgren said in reference to his rocky stay with the Browns a few years ago.

Now Holmgren is either the weakest-backbone executive the Browns have ever hired or one sensational revisionist prevaricator.

He was an outstanding National Football League coach as his 161-111 record attests. He took his teams to the playoffs in 12 of his 17 seasons and is 1-1 as a Super Bowl coach.

When he was hired in 2009 to run the Browns, his first major decision was what to do with coach Eric Mangini. Retaining Mangini was his first and, as it turned out, most egregious mistake.

All he had to do at the time was what came naturally to him – coach. But no, he said.

“At this stage of my life, that’s not what my first priority is,” Holmgren said after finally firing Mangini shortly after the end of the 2010 season. “I’m relishing the role Randy Lerner had confidence to give me.”

Later, he said, “At that particular time, I wasn’t ready to do it again. I thought I’d be shortchanging the organization.” He said absolutely nothing at the time about Lerner’s preference for someone other than him to coach the team.

Reading between the lines back then, what Holmgren really meant was he liked the whole idea of not putting in the long hours required to coach an NFL team. In no way and at no time did Lerner enter the discussion stage.

Holmgren wanted to live the easy life. The rigorous grind of coaching, as well as managing the front office, was not for him anymore.

Now, he ducks behind the cover of Lerner and blames him for not returning to coaching. We are being led to believe he is second-guessing himself. What gall.

We’ll never know it, of course, but somehow I could never see Lerner preventing Holmgren from to returning to coaching if it meant improving the team.

As bad an owner as Lerner was, I find it extremely hard to believe he would stand in the way of anyone capable of improving the franchise. That makes no sense whatsoever.

Now I’ll buy the notion that Holmgren’s wife, not Lerner, was against him returning to the sidelines. That one makes a lot more sense than Lerner saying uh no, you stay right where you are.

Holmgren was first and foremost a terrific coach. All you have to do is see what he did in Green Bay and Seattle to reach that conclusion.

He had the opportunity to step up in Cleveland and turn that franchise in a direction it hasn’t been since, well, since Cleveland left the NFL in the mid-1990s. But no. He got lazy. It’s much easier to sit back, remain in the background and collect all those millions.

It appears right now as though Holmgren is suffering from a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth. He is proving that if you open up your mouth enough times, you eventually wind up contradicting yourself somewhere along the way.

I know. I’ve done it.

Here’s some free advice for Holmgren as he enjoys his retirement out in Washington state: When people ask you questions about your time in Cleveland with the Browns, ignore them. Move on. Some things are better left unsaid.

The more you talk about it, the deeper you shove both of your feet inside your mouth and wind up looking like a fool.

That little quote in King’s column is proof positive.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Just wondering

Meandering thoughts as we await the National Football League college draft, which might seem anticlimactic by the time it is conducted.

~ Why is it necessary to consider the 40-yard times of quarterbacks an important statistic?

Isn’t what they do with their arm and head much more important than how long it takes them to cover 40 yards? Last time I looked, they don’t throw with their feet.

Timing of the 40-yard dash began in the Paul Brown era. The Hall of Fame coach, one of the great innovators of the game as we know it today, used the 40-yard dash as a yardstick to determine how fast a player could get downfield under a punt.

So unless the Browns, or any other team for that matter, plan on using quarterbacks on punt-coverage units, what difference does it make how fast they can travel 40 yards?

~ How often do general managers change their boards before settling on one for the first day of the draft?

At the very best, probably daily. At the very worst, on the hour.

The final board minutes from when Commissioner Roger Goodell commences the draft will look absolutely nothing like it did perhaps as recently as a week before the lottery.

That board is fluid. Names fly up and down as discussions among the scouts, coaching staff and general manager ramp up as draft day approaches.

Scouts probably have a stronger say and more influence in those discussions with the coaching staff basically chipping in with their thoughts with regard to the kind of players they like.

~ How many times does the board change during the course of the draft?

It is in a continual state of flux as names fall of the board. But it still remains loyal to what the scouts, coaching staff and GM agree on philosophically.

That aspect hopefully will not change. One thing that will wreck a draft quickly is the inability to come to a consensus agreement on a particular player.

~ At what point do GMs opt to fill a need as opposed to selecting the best player on the board?

Depends on the GM. Some prefer to plug talent gaps at certain need positions with players who might be ranked lower than other players. The Browns have been doing that for years.

We’ll find out soon enough about Browns GM Ray Farmer, making his college draft debut. Hopefully, he will attempt to select the best player available, regardless of position.

There is nothing wrong with strengthening a strong position. No matter how tempting it might be to draft for need, Farmer must resist and stick with grabbing the best player on the board.

~ And at what point does coin flipping enter a decision?

When it’s the Browns’ turn to select and two or more players are rated equally, all coins must be put away. That’s the time Farmer should caucus quickly with those he respects and trusts the most and make his decision based on what he hears.

Then he must act decisively with no second-guessing. Do not waffle. Believe in the scouting reports when breaking ties. It makes for a stronger war room.

~ How involved will Jimmy Haslam III be?

Hopefully, he’ll be just a spectator. An important spectator obviously because it is his money involved. Nothing wrong with asking questions and being informed as to exactly what is happening.

But sometimes, owners get in the way. When he promoted Farmer to general manager, Haslam said he would step back and let his guy run the club. Now is the time to put that kind of thinking to work.

When the club faces the media after each pick, the only voices we should hear are Farmer’s and coach Mike Pettine’s. Frankly, I don’t care what Haslam thinks when it comes to events like this.

~ What areas of concern do the Browns have to address in the first three rounds?

In no particular order, they must get at least one offensive lineman (preferably a guard), a linebacker (inside or outside), a wide receiver, a cornerback and a quarterback with their five picks.

They have got to hit home runs (nothing less than a starter) with their first three choices. If they have any hopes of rising from the ashes of the AFC North, it is mandatory they do not miss with any of those picks.

~ What are the odds the Browns will draft a defensive lineman before Saturday’s final four rounds?

I know, I know. The Browns don’t need any help on the defensive line. But you can never have too much strength at any position. If a defensive lineman is rated ahead of, for example, a cornerback or a quarterback, you take him.

Why? Because he’ll help make your team better than taking someone of lesser value who might or might not fill a need.

~ And what are the odds the Browns will draft two quarterbacks?

Probably a lot higher than taking a defensive lineman. They don’t need two more quarterbacks.

They’ll probably wind up with veteran Rex Grossman, who can mentor Brian Hoyer as he tries to learn Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The only snaps Grossman will take during the regular season will be at practice.

The new quarterback, meanwhile, will become a sponge so he can be ready if Hoyer (a) fails to grasp the Shanahan system or (b) gets hurt again.

~ Whom would I select with the fourth pick of the lottery?

No hesitation. If he’s there, Khalil Mack. Don’t even think about it. He’s the best pure football player in this draft.

It would be so easy to pigeonhole the University of Buffalo as an outside linebacker. He’s a lot more than an outside guy. His wonderful instincts and bellicose approach to the game make him the perfect choice for Pettine’s defense.

You can play him inside or outside. Makes no difference. He’s a playmaker wherever he lines up. Make the opposition play a game called “Where’s Khalil”.

If he’s not there, then the best offensive lineman on the board. You win and lose games in the trenches.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

No hard feelings for Mack

Now that he’s back, in body if not in spirit, look for Alex Mack to behave himself and continue his career with the Browns as if nothing happened.

That’s the way it’s done when acrimonious acts occur during one’s career. He is a professional and most likely will act like one once he returns to Berea.

It’ll be business as usual because that’s the way it should be.

Once cornered by the media, you can expect something like this from the veteran center: “It’s strictly business. I meant nothing personal to the fans or the team or the city of Cleveland. Right now, I just want to focus on playing football and be the best player I can be.”

In actuality, he told Saturday that he’s happy. “It’s been a long, hard road, but I’m here and I’m happy,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m fired up. There’s no bad blood. Now that it’s done, I’m happy.” He’s also a wee bit wealthier.

Matching the Jacksonville Jagwires’ offer sheet was something the Browns had to do. The Cleveland offensive line, overrated for some reason the last couple of years by veteran observers of the National Football League, could not afford to lose Mack.

Bringing in a new center via the college draft or free agency would have exacerbated the situation. In building an offensive line, you don’t want to start new at the second most important position (blind-side tackle being the most important) on the offensive line.

Do not underestimate the importance of the center. He’s not some slug who snaps the ball to the quarterback. He is the linchpin. Everything revolves around him. Everyone else on the line get their blocking assignment changes from him. He is the smartest man on the line.

Watch a center once he sets himself over the ball at the beginning of a play. His head is on a swivel. He is the key to the success or failure of every play. And when a play fails, it is not necessarily the fault of the center. Four other guys have to carry out their assignments properly, too.

Mack, through hard work and diligence, rose to Pro Bowl status with a team that had no identity. To be recognized by his peers playing a position that is virtually anonymous to the ordinary fan was a signal honor.

Perhaps it was that reward that emboldened him to seek his escape from Cleveland. Who could blame him for wanting to leave behind all the losing, all the frustration of playing well for naught?

And now that he’s back for at least the next two seasons, the Browns are on the clock. During that time, they have to show Mack that losing football will not be tolerated anymore. They’ve got to build a winner and they’ve got to start right now.

But they can’t do it with words. As former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer used to say, “Deeds, gentlemen, not words. Deeds.”

It is incumbent on Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine and those responsible for turning this sad franchise around to start making the right moves. Not just a few here and there. All the right moves. No slipups.

Sure it won’t be easy. But it can be done. With 10 picks in the upcoming college draft, rated by many experts as the best and deepest draft in nearly a generation, the opportunity to finally rid this franchise of its losing ways is clearly coming into focus.

For most of the last 15 seasons, fans have clamored for a team to rid once and for all the stench of the ones that became the butt of jokes on a national level. It is time to turn the Factory of Sadness into the Factory of Happiness, Joy, Merriment. Whatever.

Even though it has a three-year hole in its history, this franchise is still very much alive and rooted in winning football. Yes, the last 15 years have been miserable from a performance standpoint. No one could have forecast such misery once the NFL righted a terrible wrong.

Some day, though, when historians look back at the fortunes of the Cleveland Browns, they just might point to the day they matched the Jacksonville offer sheet for Mack as the day the franchise began its comeback.

Ironically, his supposed desire to leave Cleveland and subsequent return might turn out to be the driving force behind the comeback of the Browns. At 28, he is now entering the prime years of his career.

All that hard work finally paid off.

Friday, April 11, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well

With apologies to The Bard. Sorry, Bill . . .

Ladies and Gentlemen: Much Ado About Nothing (A football serio-comedy in three acts).

Act I – The Pro Bowl center and the professional football team for which he plays disagree on adequate compensation for his future services.

His name is Sir Alex Mack. He plays a rugged game for a living. And he plays it well.

He’s big, he’s fast and people are starting to take positive notice of his skills. That includes his employer, the Cleveland Browns of something called the National Football League.

Sir Alex also happens to be something called a free agent and the Browns want to continue to be his employer.  But the feeling is not mutual. The Cleveland team does not win many games and Sir Alex wants to move along to a team that wins more.

He wants to leave Cleveland after living and playing there for five years and being a free agent, he is in a position to make that happen. No, says Cleveland. We love you and want you to stay here.

The Cleveland team tries to negotiate a contract with Sir Alex, but fails to make him happy from a monetary standpoint. So they pin what is called a transition tag on Sir Alex.

If he signs it, that means he remains in Cleveland and plays that rough game for more that ten million dollars for one season. In a moment of insanity, the daft Sir Alex refuses to sign it.

The Cleveland lads are not happy. Sir Alex is not happy. No one is happy.

End of Act I

Act II – Sir Alex, the very unhappy player, goes shopping.

The joyless Sir Alex begins his trek around the NFL. He wants something called an offer sheet woitth lots of money from a team. Any team that does not begin with Cleveland.

He assigns his agent, a gentleman named Marvin, to solicit offers from other teams. Weeks go by. Nothing. Maybe Sir Alex is not as popular as he initially believes.

In the meantime, fans of the Cleveland team – and they are rabid (not literally, of course) – hold out hope that no team comes forth and Sir Alex returns to where he is loved.

Sir Alex, however, is still unhappy. Even so, he welcomes the owner of the Cleveland team, along with the team’s new general manager and new coach, who try to persuade him to come home where he is wanted and needed.

Not only is Sir Alex unhappy, he is stubborn. So stubborn that not even the powerful persuasive powers of the owner and his minions can change his mind.

And then it happens.

In a place called Jacksonville, situated in a state called Florida, a football team named the Jagwires™ (j/k) begins to fall in love with Sir Alex. The Jags need a center. It’s a perfect fit.

End of Act II

Act III – The team that falls in love with Sir Alex, the upset player, offers him a contract that seemingly plays right into the hands of the team he wants to leave.

Or does it?

The Jags, with that man Marvin pulling all the financial strings, put together an offer sheet and make certain it is extremely unpalatable to the Cleveland team, which has the option of matching the offer.

They craft it so that Sir Alex becomes a happy football player. A very happy football player. In Jacksonville.

It is a five-year contract that is heavily front-loaded. That means most of the guaranteed money the suddenly very happy Sir Alex earns will be paid off in the first two years of the pact. It also contains an opt-out clause after the second year.

Only one problem. The Clevelands have five days to decide whether to match the offer sheet, thus possibly making Sir Alex unhappy again, or finally cutting the cord and moving on.

One hundred and twenty hours to think it over.

The Clevelands put it in mull mode. For about two hours. Of course they will match the offer.

Sir Alex is going nowhere for at least the next two years. Happy days are here again for the Clevelands (except for maybe Sir Alex, who will earn an average of 8.4 million dollars a year), while Jacksonville wipes away tears of sorrow.

As it turns out, the Jacksonville deal is better and more Cleveland friendly than Sir Alex and Marvin believed. The Jags could not come up with a deal the Clevelands had to turn down.

So after all the angst and handwringing about what Cleveland would do, this whole soap operaish episode turns out to be:

Much Ado About Nothing.

End of Act III

Welcome back, Sir Alex. You won’t regret it.

Now what’s next?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let him go

The Browns gambled on Alex Mack and are about to lose him.

Unless . . .

Owner Jimmy Haslam III adamantly refuses to allow the Jacksonville Jaguars to steal him away.

Haslam basically tells Mack that whether he likes it or not, Cleveland will remain his professional football home.

Haslam’s stubborn streak (and ego at the likely prospect of losing Mack) gets in the way and the Browns match what is expected to be a five-year contract that all but screams "do not match."

We have been led to believe the veteran center has no desire to return to Cleveland. He has not said it publicly, however. For the sake of the argument, though, let’s assume he really means it.

The Jaguars reportedly are on the verge of offering him a contract the Browns would be idiots to match. While we do not know the details yet, Mack’s agent reportedly is crafting a deal that would put a nasty dent in the Browns’ salary cap.

The club gambled when it slapped a $10 million transition tag on Mack at the beginning of free agency. Another $1.6 million would have guaranteed a franchise tag and at least one more year in Cleveland.

As it stands right now, if the Browns do not match the Jacksonville offer, Mack is gone and the Browns receive no compensation for his loss.

He purportedly wants to escape the losing culture in Cleveland. Apparently, he hasn’t checked out the situation in northern Florida.

The Jaguars, a franchise that can’t even pronounce its own nickname properly (Jaguires, or is it Jagwires?), are nothing more than the Cleveland Browns south. In the last six seasons, they are 31-65, a mere four games better than the Browns’ 27-69.

Whether or not Haslam likes it, it’s time to let Mack go. If he wants to leave the Browns and Cleveland that badly, let him go. Why make him stay? What will that accomplish? It’s time to move on.

Yes, he’s one of the best centers in the National Football League. And yes, he was arguably the club’s best offensive lineman last season.

But who can blame him for wanting to leave? He’s sick and tired of losing year after year after year. However, one can seriously question his choice of where to land should he be successful in his effort to leave the North Coast.

It’s interesting that no other team approached him. Surely there have to be some other NFL clubs out there willing to attempt to land a Pro Bowl center. At least one of them has to be a contender. And yet, only the Jaguars bit.

The Jags are headed nowhere quickly, thereby virtually assuring Mack’s misery will continue. His judgment in that regard can be looked upon as somewhat bizarre. The only difference between Cleveland and Jacksonville is the weather.

It’s much nicer in Jacksonville, probably making losing somewhat more palatable than Cleveland’s rough winters. You can go home during football season and enjoy warm weather after all the losses.

It looks as though it will turn out to be a lose-lose situation for both the player and what soon will be his ex-team.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trying to figure it all out

OK, what have we learned so far with regard to the Browns’ first first-round choice in the National Football League’s college draft?

Well, if they want to draft a wide receiver, it will be Sammy Watkins, assuming, of course, he’s there for the taking. The recent signing of free agent Nate Burleson should not affect that line of thinking.

If it’s an offensive lineman they have their sights set on, it will be either Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson.

And there is no question that if the club is determined to improve the defense, linebacker Khalil Mack will be the choice.

But if quarterback is in their crosshairs, it should be . . .

Aye there’s the conundrum.

First of all, do the Browns want to go quarterback with the fourth pick? Or do they opt for one of the aforementioned (which would probably be the wisest choice) and snatch the quarterback with the 26th selection? Or maybe the 35th in the second round?

That’s one area shrouded in mystery. And most likely will continue in that vein until draft eve.

All that has to be hashed out between now and May 8, when the Browns begin what is hoped to be their comeback, finally, from 15 seasons of mostly dreary football.

It should be interesting when General Manager Ray Farmer gathers his scouts and coaching staff in the week leading up to the draft to determine exactly what direction the Browns will head from a philosophical standpoint.

Coach Mike Pettine of course leans heavily toward defense, so a Mack selection would not come as a complete surprise. This draft is depth laden on the offensive side of the ball, much more so than the defense.

In other words, a solid wide receiver can be had as late as the third or fourth round. Same with the offensive line.

And that’s why Mack most likely will get a hard look between now and May 8. He is arguably the best defensive player on the board. And yes, Jadeveon Clowney would argue that point.

But Clowney, as good as he is, is limited in what he can bring to a defense, whereas Mack is much more versatile and excels in more phases of the game. And he is a better football player than Clowney, who is the better athlete.

The most important aspect of this draft, however, will be how wisely Farmer and his buds draft in the latter rounds. Unearthing nuggets in rounds four through seven is an art form missing in Cleveland for too long a time.

And with 10 picks in this lottery, half of them on the third day, Farmer’s true test lies in what he does on that third day. Because of the unusual depth of this draft class, players who might have been considered early-round selections in other years have slipped to mid-round status.

Hopefully, the GM will not choose to deal off some of those choices. In this case, there is strength in numbers. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tortoise time for NFL draft

Five more weeks until the National Football League college draft?


Can time pass any more slowly?

We still have five more weeks to hash and rehash and hash again all the possibilities on what the Browns will do with their 10 selections.

Five more weeks of throwing names out there in an attempt to see just how much this team is going to change in 2014.

Five more weeks of rampant speculation on what we’ve got to look forward to as the new season with the new coach and new general manager and new attitude approaches.

Why does it seem as though the draft should be next week? How much more of this pre-draft nonsense can we take?

How many more mock drafts do we have to endure before this is all over? Pretty soon, we’ll have to start mocking the mocks. Let’s get it over already.

Enough of these private quarterback workouts where all you have to do is fill in the blank when it comes to who is saying what and who is saying all the right things.

“They worked me hard,” said (fill in the blank). “They threw things at me I hadn’t seen before. But I was ready. I’m confident everything will work out for the best.”

“No matter that they asked me to do,” said (fill in the blank) after his private workout, “ I was prepared. I felt good. I think they liked me. I have no idea what their plans are, but I think playing in Cleveland would be great.”

(Fill in the blank) was next and said he couldn’t wait for the draft and was confident the Browns would take him. “”This is exciting,” he said. “This is something I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life. And now, it’s here. I think they like what I can offer.”

On and on and on it goes as the process unwinds at a maddeningly slow pace. The only saving grace is that the baseball season has begun and there is finally something to take our minds off the draft.

Maybe that’ll speed up the pace. Maybe that’ll be the necessary distraction to take our minds off the Browns. At least on a temporary basis.

Maybe with only a couple of weeks left before the draft unfolds will the interest ramp up again. Especially if the Indians get off to a hot start and offer a pleasant distraction. The Cavaliers certainly aren’t helping.

But if the Indians begin to struggle, that whole dynamic can change. At that point, it might be enough to at least think about petitioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to move the draft date up.

In the meantime, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

So who do the Browns take with the fourth pick?