Monday, March 28, 2016

Once more with feeling: Do not take a QB at #2

Let me be the first person, maybe the only person, to strongly suggest the Browns do not select a quarterback with the second pick of next month’s college football draft. 

I’m speaking from a public standpoint, of course, since just about all those in the media, both national and local Cleveland-based, advocate Cleveland taking a quarterback with that precious pick.

As has been written previously on this blog, that would be a huge mistake, considering who will be available at No 2.

It’s getting lonely out here on this perch with the lottery exactly a month away and the Browns all in – at least for the coming season – on Robert Griffin III as their quarterback.

If they honestly believe new coach Hue Jackson can successfully rehabilitate the 26-year-old Griffin, why muddy the waters by bringing in another quarterback with such a lofty selection?

When taking a quarterback with a selection like that, you better be damn certain that player will be the franchise quarterback this franchise has ached to uncover since the resurrection in 1999.

He is going to sit on the bench in the first season, watching and learning all there is to know about making the transition to the National Football League. In a way, it is a wasted pick for at least one year.

There are so many holes on this team’s roster that practically beg to be filled, not the least of which is on defense at a position now called edge rusher. As Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB Web site correctly pointed out, “The Browns have more question marks than 10 teams in the league combined.”

At the risk of sounding repetitive, this team needs a pass rush in a far-out way. It’s undoubtedly the No. 1 weakness on this team.

When a team has the luxury – an oxymoron considering a team has to be really bad to warrant such a position – of such a high selection, extremely careful thought should be given before making it.

There is no quarterback in this draft class good enough to be considered, let alone selected, for the No. 2 pick. Not Carson Wentz. Not Jared Goff.

Once again at the risk of being repetitive, there are no Andrew Lucks or John Elways or Peyton Mannings in this class. If the Browns were picking lower in the first round, then maybe a Wentz or Goff should be considered.

When you have the likes of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive linemen Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner and linebacker Myles Jack at the top of draft boards, taking a lesser rated quarterback at No. 2 is ignorant.

Picking for a need at No. 2 is equally ignorant. That is exactly what the Browns would be doing if they take Wentz or Goff. When drafting that high, best player on the board is the call.

Now if this were last season and the Browns had the second overall pick, I would have had no problem whatsoever endorsing either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. They were worthy of the top two picks and proved it. They were ready to make the tough transition. 

As has been written here earlier, my choice this year would be Bosa, a playmaking defensive lineman who has the tools to be something that has been missing from the defense for a long time – a leader. He could be the jump starter that side of the ball desperately needs.

I do not for a minute believe the Browns have Wentz or Goff rated higher than the aforementioned five players. If I’m wrong, then this team is clearly headed in the wrong direction. I am not against taking a quarterback somewhere along the way, though. Just not this high.

Griffin, well aware the Browns are considering taking a quarterback, says he has no problems with the club drafting someone at his position and would be willing to mentor.

“If they draft a quarterback, I’ll take him under my wing,” he said like a good soldier. “I’m considered a veteran now . . . I’ve been through a lot more than a lot of guys go through in their entire careers.

“I’ve got a lot of experience. I can help a young guy, but it’s not my focus . . . If they draft a quarterback, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m just ready to compete.”

But why do that when he will have enough problems trying to rehabilitate his own career? He shouldn’t have to worry about shepherding a rookie.

Want a quarterback? Why not pick #32 at the top of the second round or #65 in round three? Is there that much difference between quarterbacks still on the board at those spots and either Wentz of Goff?

Not enough to make a risky selection with the second overall pick.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Robert Griffin III, Part Deux

Trying to be fair . . .

Five reasons Robert Griffin III will be successful as the Browns’ newest starting quarterback:

~ He has a very strong arm. That is one attribute he has not lost since taking the National Football League by storm as a rookie in 2012.

~ He also has not lost any of the speed and quickness that made him one of the most dangerous running threats at his position.

~ He is a quick study, able to enter a huddle and take command right away.

~ He will benefit from the teachings of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton with regard to reading defenses and delivering the ball on time.

~ He is only 26 years old, well short of his NFL prime years.

Now, five reasons The Third will not be successful as the Browns’ newest starting quarterback:

~ He has not played in a game since the 2014 season and it takes much longer to chip away the rust for quarterbacks than any other position on offense.

~ As it stands now, he will be forced to throw to one of the worst wide receivers corps in the entire NFL.

~ His new offensive line is considerably weaker with the departure of center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. As a result, the running game, which wasn’t that good to begin with, and the passing game, mediocre at best, will suffer.

~ As a result, The Third will have to rely once again on his legs to make plays. And that should translate into injuries and numerous games missed.

~ All of which means he is a strong candidate to become a 26-year-old young man who will look and feel much more like a 35-year-old veteran.

And a sixth . . .

~ Unless his buddies on defense suddenly become opportunistic and give The Third numerous chances to work with short fields, he will be forced to begin a vast majority of drives deep in his territory.

The odds heavily favor the latter grouping. But don’t tell that to a great number of Browns fans who are star gazing with The Third’s arrival. They see more than just potential for the road ahead.

Many will expect miracles from him, the kind that thrilled Washington Redskins fans four years ago. He was clearly the face of that franchise at the time. Didn’t take long for it to slip out of focus and then disappear altogether.

Do not confuse the quarterback the Browns just signed with that quarterback of four years ago. To do so is to dream a dream that is more likely to turn into a nightmare than come true.

The Browns are hopeful The Third’s football talent is still there and doing everything they can to justify their faith in him. If he fails, it won’t be because he didn’t get enough help.

As if the coaching of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wasn’t enough, the club has hired noted quarterback guru Tom House to work with him and straighten out some of his mechanical flaws, which include a slow release and quickly recognize opposing defenses.

Fans who follow the NFL closely probably recognize House as the man who has worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer.

But he is perhaps even more famous as the man who caught Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home in the Atlanta Braves bullpen, where he was a left-handed relief pitcher, in April 1974.

Breaking down the differences between the 2012 Redskins offense and current Browns offensive roster, one cannot help but notice the distinct disparity of talent that enabled The Third to be so successful.

The Redskins’ ground game featured rookie running back Alfred Morris, who ran for 1,613yards and 13 touchdowns. And The Third threw to the likes of Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson, who combined for 2,260 yards and 17 touchdowns.

All that offensive balance enabled The Third to run for 815 yards and seven touchdowns before injuries not only short-circuited that season, but possibly his entire career.

The Browns have no one even close on the current roster who can produce numbers like that in an effort to take pressure of their new quarterback. Unless, that is, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sees fit to reinstate wide receiver Josh Gordon, The Third’s teammate at Baylor, from his one-year suspension.

That will help, especially if Gordon can replicate his dynamic 2013 season, but this offense needs a whole lot more to make The Third’s job less stressful. 

Big boss Sashi Brown, Jackson and the scouting staff have more holes to fill than they realize. With the loss of 40% of the offensive line, a pair of safeties (one a starter), two starting linebackers and whoever might leave before the college draft, this defense very well might be worse than last year’s, which was awful at best.

The Browns will have 10 selections in the lottery, including the second overall. They have one each in rounds two, three, six and seven, two in the fourth round and three in round five.

Signing free agent inside linebacker Demario Davis will help, but too many holes remain if returning defensive coordinator Ray Horton has any shot at improving that side of the ball.

In answer to the question “What were the Browns thinking?” when The Third agreed to a two-year contract, it is becoming clear they believe they can resurrect his career to the point where he can come close to, if not exceed, what he did as a rookie.

One thing is certain: The professional football world will be watching. Much like Johnny Manziel was the focus of the mass media in his first Cleveland training camp a couple of years ago, the Browns once again will be in the middle of a media circus this summer.

The Third almost certainly will be placed under a microscope by the likes of ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC, CBS and a significant number of large major metropolitan newspapers. These outlets love comeback stories. And his very well could be the main one this season.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Griffin News & Views

News: The Browns sign Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract Thursday that could win up costing the team as much as $22 million if all bonuses, incentives and guarantees are met.

Views: They won’t be met as the Browns blunder yet again in another futile attempt to find their franchise quarterback.

The Third is a human piñata in a football uniform. He proved it in three seasons in Washington. And he’ll prove it again in Seal Brown and Orange for at least one season. If he lasts that long.

Some say don’t get too upset with this signing because they believe The Third will be nothing more than a bridge quarterback to whomever the Browns select with the second choice in next month’s college football draft.

The news of the signing came quickly on the heels of two more coaching endorsements Wednesday. He picked up hearty recommendations from Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

That makes three National Football League coaches – Washington’s Jay Gruden checked in Tuesday – in the last couple of days to put their stamp of approval of the defrocked Redskins quarterback.

“Personality-wise, it will be a great fit,” said Arians of a Hue Jackson-Griffin connection. “And I wish him all the best. Both of them.”

Unfortunately, personalities do not win football games. Talent and making big plays do. And right now, The Third’s talent quotient and ability to make big plays are in question.

That’s because even at 6-2, 220 pounds, he is like a China doll. He breaks too easily. His litany of injuries in three seasons – he has been around for four, but did not play last season – reads like that of a six- or seven-year veteran.

Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport and The Third has been on the wrong end of way too many of them in his brief career.

Arians pulled back somewhat when asked if The Third could recapture the glory of his excellent rookie season that featured the read option. “Not without getting injured,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to get injured. But I think he can play quarterback in the league.”

Zimmer, whose expertise lies on the defensive side of the football, said signing The Third “would be a smart move. Hue is great with quarterbacks and when you have a talented guy, these guys don’t fall off the face of the earth.”

Well . . . that’s kind of what has happened to The Third the last two seasons. He went from NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 to free agent in four years.

Now that he has signed with the Browns, anyone else want to join the endorsement parade? Maybe Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who ran the Redskins’ offense when The Third was a rookie. Or New England coach Bill Belichick, who has an opinion on just about anything NFL.

Enough already with the endorsements, the piling on. Just know coaches stand by coaches. It’s a fraternity loaded with mutual respect. When you understand that, then maybe their words lose some of their meaning.

The Third will be nothing more than starting quarterback No. 25 for the Browns in 17 seasons since the resurrection in 1999. From Ty Detmer to Austin Davis, it is an embarrassingly long list of those who have tried and failed to bring quality football to Cleveland.

Browns fans will discover soon enough that quarterback No. 26 is not far behind.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Don’t listen to Jay Gruden

It seems as though some people really want the Browns to sign free agent quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The latest is Jay Gruden, head coach of the Washington Redskins. The same head coach who benched him last season and demoted him to the third team endorses the move.

Gruden’s reasoning for the Browns signing The Third is a bit hazy, but look for Browns fans to glom onto it for hope if and when the quarterback decides to take the Cleveland offer. Assuming, of course, there is one.

And while nothing is official, Gruden charitably answered questions about a possible Griffin-Cleveland connection at the National Football League’s annual meeting in Florida.

Besides having first-hand knowledge of what The Third can and cannot do, he has had a working relationship with new Cleveland coach Hue Jackson. He was offensive coordinator in Cincinnati before taking the Washington job and Jackson was his running backs coach.

“I haven’t talked to Hue at all about Robert, but I think a change of scenery could be good for Robert,” Gruden told Cleveland reporters.

“Like anybody, sometimes you just want to get out of a situation and start new and fresh and learn something new and it would be a good fit because a lot of things that Hue does I believe are similar.”

Of course, Gruden isn’t going to bad-mouth The Third. It wouldn’t do any good and would sully any kind of working relationship he has with players. Avoiding criticism of players is paramount in such relationships.

For example, Gruden suggested the Jackson-Griffin collaboration would work because “I don’t think it will be a drastic change for (Griffin) from a quarterback position. I think he’s got a little bit of a grasp of what Hue does. I think there will be a little bit of change, but it will be a good fit.”

Words a lot of Browns fans love to hear as the club continues its never-ending search for a franchise quarterback.

So why and how, then, did The Third lose his job? The performance of Kirk Cousins, Gruden said. “It was really about Kirk’s emergence is what realty happened,” he explained. “It’s not like Robert tanked it. We just wanted to make a change.”

They wanted to make a change? It's almost as though they wanted their prized No. 1 draft pick in 2012 to fail? Why?

Gruden noted Cousins’ play in training camp and OTAs. In other words, it was The Third’s job to lose. And he lost it. It might not be tanking, but it’s awfully close.

That’s the kind of quarterback the Browns will inherit should they move forward and offer The Third a contract. That’s the kind of quarterback who will operate behind an offensive line worse than Washington’s.

The only kind of an offense The Third can operate with any degree of efficiency is the zone read, which calls for him to run and expose himself to opposing defenses. Defenders salivate whenever they see him in the open field. And that is exactly why he can’t stay healthy.

Cousins, drafted by the Redskins the same year as The Third, is a pocket passer. The Third is not. He has tried and failed. Straight dropback passing is not even close to being his strongest suit.

If he winds up in the Seal Brown and Orange and Jackson incorporates a lot of zone read in the offense, The Third will be fortunate if he plays half of the 16 games.

The Browns keep making mistakes in an effort to find their franchise quarterback. In doing so, they are doomed to keep making those same mistakes. Signing The Third would be just another in the long line of those mistakes.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Browns can do better than RG III

If at first you don’t succeed, the old saw goes, try, try again.

And that is exactly what the Browns appear to be doing after spending the last two days talking with defrocked quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Why two days? Because The Third is smart, well spoken, charming and downright impressive. Off the field. That’s why.

He was same way when he was the juicy object of affection for the Browns in 2012 when he came out of Baylor with a Heisman Trophy in one hand and an extremely promising future in the other, which was attacked to a rocket.

He was the darling of the college football draft after Andrew Luck, who went first to the Indianapolis Colts. Washington and Cleveland wanted him badly.

The Redskins beat the Browns to him with the second pick of the lottery despite Herculean efforts by then Cleveland President Mike Holmgren, who attempted to give everything away except the kitchen sink in an effort to land the second pick.

Fortunately for the Browns, The Third proved quite human and quite fragile after an excellent rookie season and plunged to free-agent status after the Redskins unceremoniously cut him a couple of weeks ago after he lost his starting job last season to Kirk Cousins.

And for some reason, the Browns have rekindled that relationship. Not certain why. Perhaps it is new coach Hue Jackson’s desire to explore every possibility to rectify the biggest problem on offense.

In speaking with Griffin, it is obvious Jackson will talk with anyone with a semblance of a National Football League résumé. That’s how desperate it seems. And while The Third still has some gravitas, it had dwindled significantly.

All he has accomplished in the NFL resides in the past. He has not played in a game since December 2014. He is an injury waiting to happen.

He is not even close to being the same player he was as a rookie and for the Browns to even consider him very well could be nothing more than an exercise in futility. Giving him two days was one more than necessary.

But because it was two days, it gives rise to the notion the Browns are more than slightly interested in the young man. It also gives rise to arguments pro and con.

One faction can argue his best days clearly lie in the future. He’s only 26 years old and ostensibly fully recovered from the injuries that short-circuited his stay with the Redskins. What harm would it do to take a chance?

He still owns that strong throwing arm. Injuries have not hampered his ability to run and scare opposing defenses. It’s time the Browns employed a quarterback with those qualities.

And now an opposing view.

There is no question The Third is still a media lightning rod despite his relative absence from the NFL scene. He is Johnny Manziel all over again, but with more talent and savvy.

But stop and think. One of the main reasons he is a free agent is his predilection to play the game recklessly. He did it in college and has not learned to rein himself in and become a classic NFL pocket quarterback.

The Redskins’ offensive line never knew how to block for its quarterback because of his unpredictability. The fact he made it through most of his rookie season without getting hurt was a minor miracle. And then it all fell apart.

Now factor in that the Browns just lost center Alex Mack and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency. Loosely translated, that means the Cleveland offensive line this season will be worse that Washington’s in 2012.

The Third needs to wind up with a team that owns a strong offensive line. One that can make certain he stays vertical most of the time and affords him the kind of protection he needs.

The Browns are not that team. Their offensive line consists of perennial All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas and not much else. It very well could be the worst front unit they have had in many seasons.

This club still does not have a running game that intimidates opponents and the receiving corps, despite the anticipated return of Josh Gordon, remains one of the worst in the league.

Imagine, however, that Jackson can convince the Cleveland front office he can work miracles with The Third. He can enable the kid to fulfill the promise forecast for him when he arrived in the NFL four years ago.

It’s a stretch to think the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2012 can replicate, or even come close to replicating, what he accomplished back then. Too many obstacles lie ahead that are mitigating factors against signing him. He is clearly not the quarterback he used to be.

On the bright side for those opposing the Browns signing him, The Third has visited the New York Jets and reports indicate he wouldn’t mind playing for the Rams in their return to Los Angeles this season.

Then again, maybe the San Francisco 49ers will be interested in him in an effort to move the recalcitrant Colin Kaepernick. In that case, and if Kaepernick acquiesces and permits restructuring his huge contract, Cleveland might be a player.

Now that The Third has left Cleveland (and hopefully is forgotten by the Browns’ brass), all kinds of speculation will arise until he signs somewhere. Until such time, he will continue to maintain a shirttail relationship with Cleveland.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Younger isn’t necessarily better

The Browns released Karlos Dansby Wednesday in the latest chapter of purging the roster.

One cannot adequately blame the Browns for releasing the quality inside linebacker. He’ll be 35 in November and earned a modest amount of money.

The latest iteration of the Browns’ front office apparently wants to lower the average age of the team. Releasing Dansby and signing free agent Demario Davis, 26, is a step in that direction.

But Davis, who knocked quarterback Josh McCown into the next week on the Browns’ first series of the season last year, is an improvement in only the age category.

Dansby was a leader of the defense. Was it a good defense? A solid defense? Not even close. “So how,” you rant, “can you say that about Dansby? He didn’t make a difference at all.”

In the overall picture, that is correct. But one man can’t do it all and Dansby had little to no help on that side of the ball. The pass rush was absent a large part of the time and anemic when it attempted to show up.

Was that Dansby’s fault? No. All he did in his two seasons with the Browns was lead the team in tackles (108) and solo tackles (62) this past season and rack up 93 tackles in his first season (finishing third on the team) despite missing four full games with a knee injury.

Whenever a big play was needed, the savvy Dansby was frequently on or very near the ball. His only problem was a defensive line that failed miserably in the run game and allowed opposing offensive linemen to get to the second level.

His departure is not a surprise given the Browns let four other key players escape in free agency. His exit – and there could be a couple more veterans leaving – pretty much seals the notion this bad football team is clearly in rebuild mode.

It’s one thing to build up to contender status and then peel back when a team gets a little long in the tooth and rebuilds. It’s quite another when the team perennially occupies the basement of the AFC North.

Releasing Dansby will not make the Browns’ defense any better. If anything, it made it worse. A lot worse. All of which portends another miserable season for the defense this year.

Now the release Wednesday of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is an entirely different matter. That one could be seen coming for months. What a waste of time and money. Again, addition by subtraction.

It is hoped the current brain trust will not make the same kind of errors that have bedeviled this franchise for way too long.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Kaepernick tease?

So the Browns reportedly seek a trade that would bring quarterback Colin Kaepernick to Cleveland. And he wants to come.

Good luck. 

That’s because the Denver Broncos, all of a sudden without a starting quarterback, want him, too.

Complicating matters is the San Francisco 49ers, with whom Kaepernick is under contract for the next few seasons, do not want to deal him despite his pleas to do so.

If, however, the veteran quarterback and his agent somehow convince the Niners that leaving the Bay Area would be best for both parties, the landscape changes.

Rumors persist Kaepernick wants to come to Cleveland to join up with quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson, who is now in charge. When Jackson was the Oakland Raiders’ head coach several years ago, he wanted to draft Kaepernick, but was overruled.

And now the opportunity to unite the two is coming more into focus. Maybe. The Denver situation after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler decided to bolt to Houston in free agency shines a whole new light on the matter.

Assuming the 49ers relent and allow Kaepernick to leave, why would Cleveland seem more appealing than Denver?

The Browns have wallowed in what can be charitably called mediocrity ever since coming back to the National Football League in 1999. The Broncos just won the Super Bowl.

Hmmmm. Let’s see now. The NFL’s stepchild vs. one of the league’s strongest franchises. Tough choice.

Kaepernick, currently recovering from surgeries to his left knee, left shoulder and thumb, was not thrilled when he was benched midway through last season after a 2-6 start. He asked to be dealt after the season.

Despite his efforts to separate from the club, the Niners insist he will be on the roster on April 1 when his base salary of nearly $12 million will be fully guaranteed.

What works in San Francisco’s favor is new head coach Chip Kelly, whose up-tempo style of football  suits Kaepernick’s talent much better than those of backup Blaine Gabbert.

The situation could initially become a tug of war between the 49ers and Kaepernick before evolving into a two-team battle for his services.

It’s understandable if Browns fans become excited about the possibility of Kaepernick becoming the new Cleveland quarterback. It would definitely change the team’s strategy for the April college draft.

But there are too many roadblocks preventing that possibility. If Kelly can somehow convince Kaepernick to stay, all bets are off. That’s the scenario on which to keep the closest watch.

If he can’t, however, and the Niners cave and seriously entertain trade offers, the Browns still run a poor second to the Broncos. They’ve got less tradable talent unless they are willing to part with draft picks.

It’s been a long time since the Browns received a break in anything with regard to player personnel. They haven’t had a talented player at the most important position on the team since the resurrection. And now an opportunity to correct that, albeit getting slimmer by the day, is encouraging.

The fact there is a glimmer is something to hold onto. This team could use a break or two, especially after losing four core players Wednesday.

Who knows? After this little scenario plays itself out, the fortunes of Cleveland professional football just might take a turn for the better.

Or it could turn out to be just another tease.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Just what the Browns didn’t need

The Browns’ new theme song this season should be “Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine.”

After Wednesday’s roster massacre as the National Football League’s free-agency period commenced, the Browns are now looking for a new center, a new offensive right tackle, a new wide receiver and a new free safety.

Other than that, everything is just fine in Berea.

In no particular order, Alex Mack, Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz and Tashaun Gipson said farewell to the shores of Lake Erie in what can be best described as the great 2016 mass exodus from Cleveland.

Each of the aforementioned was a vital contributor to the cause at one time or another over the last few seasons and definitely will be missed. Makes no difference where they wound up. It’s where they didn’t that matters.

The Browns for sure are a poorer team because they no longer draw paychecks signed by Jimmy Haslam III.

Don’t know whether it was the constant losing that drove these four out of town or the inability of the new front office to convince them that things were changing with the hiring of Hue Jackson.

It conjured up thoughts of the back-to-the-drawing-board mentality that has dogged this franchise since the NFL benevolently decided to allow the city back into the league in 1999.

The Browns, of course, will recover from these losses. The big question, though, is how long it will take. When a team loses core players, especially four in one gulp, the recovery period is always much longer.

This is a 4-12 team that just got a whole lot worse. It’s fairly safe to say the replacements for this quartet will weaken the team.

The Browns lost 40% of their starting offensive line and not just any 40%. Mack was just starting to regain his Pro Bowl form after missing most of the 2014 season with a broken leg. And Schwartz was arguably one of the best right tackles in the league.

Yes, Joe Thomas is still hanging around, but the perennial All-Pro offensive tackle isn’t getting any younger. And the prospect of breaking in a new center and right tackle should frighten Cleveland quarterbacks.

Benjamin gave the Browns a dimension in the return game they lacked since the departure of Joshua Cribbs – the ability to make big plays at any given time. And he was a sometimes contributor to the passing game.

Right now, Jackson and Browns boss Sashi Brown have a monumental task ahead and very little experience at being able to come up with the right answers.

Just when this franchise needs a boost, it is rewarded with a swift kick in the hind flanks. Controlling the damage faces a steep uphill climb because it appears no one with any substantial value wants to play in Cleveland.

That is what Brown, Jackson and Haslam face as they strive to do something no one has been able to do since the team returned to Cleveland 17 years ago – build a winner.

They are off to a terrible start.

Friday, March 4, 2016

News & a view

News: Browns President Alec Scheiner to resign his position before the month is over.

And a view: Addition by subtraction. 

That is all.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

It should be a no-brainer

True or false: The most important position on a football team is quarterback.

Of course that’s true. Everything on offense revolves around the quarterback. Good quarterback, good offense. Bad quarterback, bad offense. Great quarterback, the odds of winning a championship rise dramatically.

OK. Another true or false: The second most important position on a football team is offensive tackle.

False. Sure it’s important to make certain the quarterback remains vertical and has time to distribute the football. Offensive tackles draw that important assignment.

This is not to minimize their importance, but offensive tackles rank third in the most important category. That’s because there is an aspect of the game that frequently gets overlooked and ranks higher than that position on the importance level.

It was on display in the Super Bowl, where Peyton Manning played as badly as Josh McCown of the Browns and yet the Denver Broncos dominated the Carolina Panthers.

Why? Because of the second-most important position on a football team: The edge rusher.

What Denver linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware did to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is the main reason the Broncos raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Not Manning, who threw for just 141 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and looked every bit like a 39-year-old man who should have retired a year ago and was just hanging on. The Broncos won that game in spite of him.

Which brings us to the National Football League college football draft next month and the route the Browns should take with the second selection in the lottery.

This is my second attempt at steering the Browns in a direction they need to pursue if they are to become anything more than a team struggling to win more than a handful of games each season and shed the title of the NFL’s annual stepchild.

Put simply, the Browns need to make life extremely uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks. Do that and your chances of winning games rise exponentially. And there is a player who will be available at No. 2 who can help them accomplish that.

Joey Bosa is quarterback disturber. He makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Did that for three seasons at Ohio State. And now he’s making himself available for the NFL.

And where do the Browns need the most help from a team standpoint? That’s correct. Defense. Especially on pass defense. Most notably on putting quarterbacks on their backside.

There is no question drafting a quarterback is a more glamorous choice. But if that’s the route the Browns must go, no matter whom they draft, that young man will sit for at least one season.

Bosa, on the other hand, will not. He will be inserted immediately into the starting lineup, become a three-down performer for the next decade or so and make a startling difference to the Cleveland defense.

That defense needs a fire starter, a playmaker, and Bosa, who provided that essential element to the Buckeyes’ defense, can be that man. The relentless manner in which he plays cannot – and should not – be overlooked.

Right now, the smart money says the Browns will select a quarterback with that choice – either Jared Goff of California or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. That’s because just about everyone in the Browns’ front office seems to be focusing on those two.

With Hue Jackson on board as head coach bringing along his reputation as a quarterback whisperer, it’s only reasonable to assume he is pushing heavily for a quarterback.

But the quarterbacks class this season is ordinary at best. No one sticks out like an Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or Eli Manning or John Elway. They are the type of quarterback worthy of a No. 2 selection. Not this season.

Filling a need is important in the draft process and the Browns definitely need a quarterback. But when picking as early as Cleveland, it’s much more important to grab the best player available. And right now, Bosa is that player.

He is clearly a better football player than Goff and Wentz. Numerous draft gurus place him at the top of their lists. He can – and will – make more of an impact right out of the chute. He can – and will, if they take him – make the Cleveland defense better than it has been in a long time.

It has been noted by some that Bosa is more impactful in a 4-3 scheme and new (or should we say returning) defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a 3-4 guy. Correction: He is a 3-4 guy, but has not been shy showing hybrid looks featuring more than three pass rushers.

He is not that dumb where if someone like Bosa suited up for his defense he would make a linebacker out of him. No, Bosa is more than just a great athlete. He is a great football player and his game should translate well to the NFL. Too bad it will be for someone else.

The Broncos did not make a mistake making Miller the No. 2 pick in the 2011 lottery. The Browns, though, are destined to make that mistake when they pass on Bosa. 

Too bad.