Monday, June 30, 2014

Hoyer, Cameron: Git-R-Done

Word on the street – OK, ESPN’s Adam Schefter via Twitter – is that the Browns are trying to sign quarterback Brian Hoyer to a contract extension.

Why wouldn’t they? He’s in the final year of his contract. Makes perfect sense. 

Now don’t go reading anything into that. Johnny Manziel is, at best, the Browns’ starting quarterback against Pittsburgh in the season opener. At worst, he is the future starting quarterback if he fails to unseat Hoyer by Sept. 7.

The reason the Browns want to extend Hoyer is simple. He’s good and provides insurance should the Manziel scenarios fall apart. Give him a modest pay raise, get his signature on a contract now and be done with it.

From what we’ve seen, Hoyer is a more-than-capable National Football League quarterback. Having played under – and learned from – Tom Brady has paid off handsomely for the native Clevelander.

So why not reward him? The only problem is Hoyer might think he’s worth more than the Browns believe. And why wouldn’t he? After all, he played well last season before getting hurt. It is possible the Browns will have to overpay in order to keep him.

Nothing wrong with that. It is not a slam dunk that Manziel can make a successful transition to the pro game and having someone like Hoyer in the wings can only be beneficial.

The question is what numbers they throw Hoyer’s way in order to convince him to stay? Will it be starter’s money or something considerably less? That could prove to be a conundrum.

What about a hometown discount? Not likely.  Hoyer would be foolish to do that. His earning window is slowly closing. Now is the time to maximize that situation.

Some will argue this move should have been made well before the club drafted Manziel. Get him in the fold and remove all doubts as to how well fortified the club is at the position. Solid argument.

Once General Manager Ray Farmer buttons down this little problem, a much larger one awaits involving tight end Jordan Cameron, whose breakthrough season last also warrants attention.

Assuming he doesn’t revert to the injury-prone days of his first two NFL seasons, getting Cameron signed to a long-term deal would be a much more important move than the one being contemplated for Hoyer.

The importance of the tight end in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s schemes should dictate a proactive approach by the Cleveland front office to get the Cameron situation resolved pronto.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Time to get serious 

All kinds of advice for Johnny Manziel are pouring in from around the globe.

It’s truly amazing how many people care about what the Browns’ rookie quarterback does off the football field.

He hasn’t taken one meaningful National Football League snap and yet the likes of Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Emmitt Smith, as well as Brady Quinn and Akili Smith (how in the world did they get into the mix?) and a multitude of others have stepped forth and advised Manziel to slow down.

Of course, the 21-year-old kid touches the dampness behind his ears and tells everyone to butt out. “It’s my life and I’ll lead it any way I want” is pretty much his standard response to those who warn him to rein it in.

He’s right, of course. How many of us at 21 – and yes, I know he’s making nice money and is different than the average 21-year-old – didn’t know any better and felt as though we were invincible?

It’s obvious Manziel loves the high life. That’s his personality. He likes being the center of attention and fans who see him in public tend to gravitate toward him.

The attention he gets does not rile his teammates as much as when the media badgers them, seeking a reaction to their quarterback’s behavior off the field.

Right now, the kid’s biggest enemy is the cell phone. Not his; those that belong to everyone else. Because A. G. Bell’s invention is now capable of doing just about anything short of going to the bathroom, you can become a YouTube celebrity overnight.

Manziel, by the very nature of who he is, is a lightning rod. He attracts people no matter where he goes. And he is just naïve enough to permit fans to take pictures and/or video no matter what he is doing.

Unfortunately, the fun-loving kid is dangerously close to embarrassing himself and, worse, his employer. He has yet to fully realize that when he now goes out in public, he represents the Cleveland Browns. His behavior is a direct reflection.

It has reached the point where the guy who signs his paychecks has basically told his staff to sit down and have a chat with Manziel, who doesn’t “think I’m doing anything wrong.” According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, Jimmy Haslam III wants his quarterback to know about the pitfalls of today’s social media and “tone it down.”

It’s no secret Manziel will be extremely disappointed if he does not unseat Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback by the season opener in Pittsburgh. To do so means he would have to concentrate almost solely on the playbook.

And once training camp starts in late July, his off-the-field fun will be curtailed dramatically. Fans and the media will discover soon enough just how dedicated he is (or isn't) toward becoming a professional football player.

If he is serious about supplanting Hoyer, we very well could see a side of Manziel that has been thrust into the background by the need to have as much fun as possible before getting serious.

There comes a time in a young person’s life when the light goes on; when the stark reality of having done something wrong is a jolting reminder that some lessons are learned the hard way.

Manziel must know by now that he is a target. He walks around with a bull’s-eye on his back. He hasn’t hurt or embarrassed anyone yet and the Browns appear to be making every effort to make certain it stays that way. But it sure looks as though he’s approaching that light switch. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LeBron back to the Cavaliers? No way

The possibilities and probabilities abound. In some cases, they are dizzying.

Where will LeBron James play basketball next season and beyond? After opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat Tuesday, it’s anybody’s guess.

Here’s one uneducated guess: It won’t be Cleveland.

If Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and his cronies are smart, they won’t deign to even step forth and try to become a player in the newest version of the LeBron James Sweepstakes.

No, that psychological ship has sailed.

James will never forget the parting gifts he received as he left Cleveland four years ago. The comic sans letter penned by Gilbert, the burned uniforms, the vile and nasty remarks, many that were extremely personal and hurtful, that gain renewed life whenever his name is mentioned.

He does not have a short memory. And though the manner in which he chose to leave Cleveland was distasteful at best, he can’t help but remember the vilification that accompanied him out of town.

Yes, James still chooses to live in the Cleveland-Akron area during the offseason. And he contributes philanthropically to the Akron area. But there is no way he returns to Cleveland in a basketball capacity this time around.

He might come back some day as a coach or part owner when he is in the twilight of his brilliant career. But the prime of his career days will be devoted to playing anywhere but northeast Ohio.

Those in the so-called know have proffered many different scenarios as to where James will wind up. Returning to the Heat heads the list. Stop and think. Why would he want to play anywhere else?

New York? Brooklyn? Chicago? Los Angeles Clippers? Phoenix? There are many variables to make those cities fit a specific scenario. It seems that most stories include players for those franchises who are “close to James.” It seems that half the league’s players are “close to James.”

The scenario that has gained the most legs is the one where Carmelo Anthony, who just opted out of his New York Knicks contract, winds up in Miami with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

James, Bosh and Wade are just 2-2 in National Basketball Association finals with Wade and his balky knees fading rapidly. So much for the “not just one championship, but two, three, four” talk. Anthony joining them in Miami makes the most sense.

Well, what about Anthony and James joining up in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving and whomever they take No.1 in Thursday’s NBA draft? The dynamics of that possibility, along with those of new coach David Blatt, sure are intriguing. And there is no question the Cavaliers’ bench is stronger than the Heat’s.

Wasn’t Erik Spoelstra a rookie head coach when he took over in Miami four years ago? Blatt could play the Spoelstra role and he’s far more experienced as a head coach.

Hey, wait a minute. I think I’m dreaming of a strategy for Gilbert to use. But first, he has to get down on hands and knees and practically beg for forgiveness for his outrageous letter and subsequent ill-advised remarks of four years ago.

Those were the ramblings of an angry man, he could say. I am a very emotional person and I let those emotions get away from me and I sincerely apologize. Can you find it in your heart (and my checkbook) to ever forgive me?

Nah. That will never happen. The pride factor gets in the way.

It’s nice to dream, but the stark reality of the situation points to just about anywhere else in the NBA universe than Cleveland. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Silly time in Berea

Enough already with the Hoyer-Manziel comparisons.

The Browns just completed a mandatory minicamp dressed in shorts and no pads and the circus has started already.

Asking coach Mike Pettine about the progress of Johnny Manziel is ignorant at this point. In some ways, it is futile because the answer is obvious.

This is not the time to be asking about whether Manziel is making significant progress in his battle to unseat Brian Hoyer as the team’s starting quarterback. It is way too early.

Manziel is just dipping his feet into the world of professional football. He’s not even a baby in that regard. If anything, he’s right out of the womb.

Pettine, exercising extreme patience in the matter, correctly says Hoyer is #1 on the depth chart at the position, but with a caveat. “I don’t think it’s insurmountable” for Manziel to overcome Hoyer’s decided and deserved edge right now.

Pettine, also correctly, labeled Hoyer “securely ahead right now.” That, of course, will change once training camp begins late next month when the pads will be donned.  

So, argue those against drafting Manziel in the first place, why do so if he’s not going to start right away? Two reasons. There is no hurry to get him under center; there’s plenty of time to get him NFL ready. And it’s no secret that Hoyer is keeping the seat warm until the time Manziel is ready.

This is not the time to get bent out of shape about the impending Hoyer-Manziel battle. That will unfold itself in a normal manner if Pettine sticks to his promise to make it a wide-open competition.

That’s what happened in Seattle a couple of training camps ago when rookie Russell Wilson was given a similar shot and clearly outplayed veteran Matt Flynn to win the starting job with the Seahawks.

Many Manziel fans would love to see a repeat in Berea, but the harsh reality is that Hoyer is light years (in NFL terms) ahead of Manziel at this point and it would take no less than a spectacular showing by the rookie to change that by the time the regular season begins in Pittsburgh.

That doesn’t mean Hoyer has a lock on the job, but it would take something special to wrest it away from him. It’s difficult to forget how well the Browns responded to him in those two games early last season before he went down with the knee injury.

Right now, he is clearly the more polished quarterback. He sees things on the field now that Manziel can only hope to see down the road.

The big difference is that Manziel appears to be a quick study, a sponge who can absorb more than the normal person and apply it to his craft. He is already getting praise from his coaches on how rapidly he is picking up the system.

This will all play itself out in the six weeks leading up the regular season. That’s when the circus tent will be erected and the fun begins in earnest.

Until then, everything you hear about the Hoyer-Manziel battle will be nothing more than white noise.

Other minicamp observations: To protect the healing process in his injured knee, Hoyer took all snaps from the shotgun. That will change come late July. If the club is so skittish about Hoyer’s ability (or lack of same) to scramble and slide, perhaps they should hire someone from the Indians to teach him how to slide and avoid further injury. . . . Good to see tempers flare in minicamp, normally a period where it’s usually all business. The Phil Taylor-Garrett Gilkey battle of big men is a not a bad sign. I liked the Gilkey pick in last year’s draft and foresee him as a strong candidate to open up at right guard. Love his attitude and meanness. He said he was coached in college to play “white knuckles to the end.” Gotta love that. . . . Lots of raves about Smurfish wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, catching everything in sight. Now let’s see what he can do with pads on. . . . Another camp standout was rookie running back Terrance West, whose goal, it would appear, is to displace Ben Tate as the starter. He seems to be a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s one-cut offense. . . . Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo still looks skinny. His metabolism rate must be through the roof. . . . Judging from some of the talk with regard to Pettine’s aggressive style of defense, it would not surprise to see Mingo, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard on the field at the same time on passing downs with Sheard putting his hand on the ground. . . . Camp visitor Ron Jaworski from ESPN has changed his mind about Manziel (his pre-draft comments were brutally harsh), but still predicted he “won’t win the starting job. He won’t because of Hoyer.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Leave the kid alone

Over the years, I have paid as little attention to what Joe Namath says as I possibly can. But something he said about Johnny Manziel on the NFL Network program Total Access the other day captured my attention and I found myself agreeing with him.

“I do know we love entertainment,” the Hall of Fame quarterback said. “Football is a sport, but it is show biz. It is entertainment. And Johnny (Manziel) – he’s got to live his life, man. Give him some room. . . . Give the man a little bit of room. In his position, he’s not entitled to be a regular guy. Everything’s blown out of whack.”

Last weekend at Club Rio in Austin, Texas, where the X Games were held, Manziel was photographed floating on a blown-up swan swigging something from a bottle (guesses range anywhere from water or ginger ale to something much more potable). Only he knows for sure and he isn’t talking.

The next day, he was selected in the 28th round of the amateur baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. Then he went to San Antonio to watch his buddy LeBron James beat the Spurs in game two of the NBA finals. And he was wearing a Cavaliers cap.

How do we know all this? After all, isn’t he just a rookie football player for the Browns? Isn’t what he does on the football field more important than what he does off the football field?

So getting back to the original question, how do we all know this? Through the diligent reporting of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, an offshoot (for lack of a better term) of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that’s how.

The TMZ effect has finally infiltrated the NEOMG. Imagine getting excited about floating on an inflated swan. Stop and think about that for a moment. How stupid is that? Don’t answer. Rhetorical question.

About the only thing we don’t know from Manziel’s visit back to Texas this past weekend is which bathroom he used when he decided it was time to relieve himself. 

What makes this kid’s every move so special? How much further is this voyeurism going to last? This is nuts and unfortunately it’s going to get worse, a lot worse, before it settles down.

Next thing you know, we’ll know all about his bedroom habits; what he eats for breakfast; how fast his car can go on the highway; what brand of shaving cream he uses; where he shops for his clothes; what television shows he likes to watch. (Here’s guessing TMZ is not one of them.)

The kid is just beginning his professional football career. I rarely agree with anything Namath says, but this time, he’s exactly right. Relax. Leave Manziel alone. Give him some room. He’s a big boy.

Some will say he brings all this attention to himself with his flamboyant lifestyle. And to a certain extent they would be correct. But it’s not as though he can’t handle it. He seems to be doing and saying all the right things despite all the attention.

Why the media needs to be in his hip pocket no matter where he goes or what he does is puzzling. It reminds me somewhat of the Jim Carrey motion picture “The Truman Show”, where the main character’s entire life is a television show.

The only difference is Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman, has no idea he is  living under a gigantic microscope. Manziel does also – to a much lesser extent, of course – and thus far, seems to be handling it just right.

As long as it doesn’t affect him on the field, what difference does it make what he does off it? None is the correct answer.