Farmer needs to look at the big picture
Good to be back on the planet. Not much on the interstellar news front.
Now then, what’s new? Oh yeah, the college draft is Thursday and the Browns still have two selections in the first round.
That, in and off itself, is a minor miracle given Ray Farmer’s predilection of playing trading games with his fellow National Football League general managers. And wouldn’t you know it, rumors persist Farmer has a deal or two he’d like to make.
His main target, according to those rumors, is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, with whom has had a love affair (strictly professional, of course) the last two years. And he’d like to continue it in Cleveland.
Unless the Cleveland GM is willing to surrender both of his first-round picks (Nos. 12 and 19) in an effort to get into position to draft Mariota, Browns fans will have to settle for Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel as the club’s quarterbacks this season while Mariota lands elsewhere.
There are those who fully endorse shipping those first-round picks and a whole lot more for the opportunity to select Mariota. That would be insane and only add to the blunders this team has made in the draft for the last 16 years.
Surrendering all those picks is too stiff a price to pay for a quarterback whose success – albeit one that helped him win the last Heisman Trophy – was predicated on a system that is 180 degrees the opposite of a pro style scheme.
The Browns, who need help in a multitude of areas, can ill afford to take such a gamble. Too many holes to fill elsewhere. Like the right side of the offensive line. Or the secondary. Or the pass rush. Or the run defense. Or the secondary. Or the receiving corps.
If Farmer overcommits for just one position, he will surely disrupt the integrity of the roster. Football is a team game and right now, his team needs far outweigh the needs of one position.
Granted, McCown and Manziel are not the answer at quarterback. But improving the other moving parts of the offense and defense should help to erase any notions the GM has to weaken his team and hone in on Mariota.
There are too many terrific college players who do not write the word quarterback on their resumes to consider. This is a deep draft. Deeper, some say, than last year’s.
The most important area for Farmer to address is the trenches, where most games are won and lost. Win the battles up front and the likelihood of winning games grows exponentially.
The Browns, despite their predictable protestations, are a fragile football team. They say they like where they are entering the lottery. All teams say that at this time of the season. And then you break it down. So let’s do that.
First the offense. The Browns have a decent offensive line that generally does a good job protecting the quarterback, but needs help on the right side, especially with the running game.
As for the ground game, second-year backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West had their moments in their rookie seasons, but need to become more involved in the passing game. If not, opposing defenses will ignore them and take dead aim on the quarterback.
The receiving corps is somewhat better than last season, but that’s not saying much since last season’s group might have been the worst in the entire NFL. Adding veterans Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline will not offset the season-long absence of Josh Gordon.
Farmer must fix that offense to take pressure off a defense that spent too much time on the field last season. The receiving corps, after being blatantly ignored last season, must receive more than token attention. McCown and Manziel need someone to rely on and that someone is not on the current roster.
If it’s coach Mike Pettine’s intention to play smashmouth football on offense, the run game needs to be addressed. As it stands now, it is anything but smashmouth worthy. This offensive line is not physical enough to be awarded that label.
Now the defense. Help is needed just about everywhere. It all starts up front with the plug uglies. Shut down the run and your chances of winning dramatically rise. Last season, the injury-riddled Cleveland defensive line shut down no one.
It didn’t help that the pass rush ranked among the lowest (27th) in the NFL. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger had more than one-third of the team’s 31 sacks. That’s got to improve.
The secondary, statistically speaking, caught a break last season, ranking in the top 25%. That’s because the opposition enjoyed too much success running against the Browns and didn’t need to put the ball up as often.
As for the special teams, the Browns need a return specialist, a new placekicker and a punter. I know, Captain Obvious.
Last season, no one stepped up in the return game and helped win the field-position battle. The punt game was erratic, while the club had to change placekickers in the middle of the season.
There is a ton of work Farmer needs to do with this team. If he believes otherwise, he is fooling only himself. Check out this season’s schedule. It is ridiculously more difficult than last season’s softie.
If Farmer honestly thinks mortgaging the future for a quarterback who won’t pay dividends for at least a couple of seasons is the road down which to travel, then he’s punching a ticket for his departure from Cleveland after just two seasons in the GM's chair.
And then they start all over again.