Monday leftovers (Wednesday edition)
If you want to know how Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry wound up on top of the Browns’ flow chart a year ago, the answer appears in an interesting column by Conor Orr of NFL.com last Nov. 30.
It details the input of Korn Ferry International, an executive search firm out of Los Angeles, and how that company factored into Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III forming his new front office a year ago following the departure of General Manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.
Haslam, perhaps because he was at his wits’ end as to how to fix a broken franchise with no relief in sight, obviously solicited the help of Korn Ferry before making his final decision. Nothing else worked in his first four years, so why not try something different.
The result of those moves by the Browns owner after the overtime loss in Pittsburgh Sunday, of course, is a 1-15 record, a mark that will live in infamy for a franchise that was once one of the proudest and strongest franchises in the National Football League. Neither the pride nor strength exists today.
So when the question was asked at the conclusion of the 2015 season as to how low could it go after Farmer and Pettine were cashiered, we now have the answer as the Browns fandom shrinks exponentially.
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And now that the disaster known as the 2016 season has concluded, talk now turns to the NFL college draft. It’s the time of the year, unfortunately, most looked forward to by fans of the team in lieu of something, anything, of a positive nature.
So where do the Browns, who own the first overall pick, need help the most? Just about everywhere on the roster except linebacker, easily the strongest and deepest position on the club with inside backers Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis and outside backer Jamie Collins.
“We need to use it wisely and make good decisions,” Haslam said Sunday after the Pittsburgh loss. “The reason we were 1-15 . . . is that the Cleveland Browns, including on our watch, have not made good decisions in the draft. It’s real simple.”
And yet, the same people in charge of last year’s lottery, during which the team made 14 selections in seven rounds after moving up and down several times, returns after trying and missing the bull’s-eye on each one. Fourteen picks and not one difference maker.
If Haslam hired someone to run his truck stop business and they missed the mark after 14 attempts on a project, that employee would be fired, probably well before attempt No. 14. And yet, these guys get a second chance. (Sound of one scratching one’s head.)
The Cleveland troika of Brown, DePodesta and Berry has 13 more shots at the draft this season unless, of course, they get the up-and-down-the-draft itch again and cull a few more. They own two picks again in the first round at 1 and 12, courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles, and four of the top 50.
Unlike last season, this is not a quarterback-rich draft and none of those who have declared are worth a top pick or even a 12th. The Browns need too much help elsewhere to be thinking quarterback in the first two rounds.
Most mock drafts have them actually making a pick with their first selection, instead of trading down, and the name most guessed is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, a 6-5, 270-pounder with impressive statistics. More on Garrett in a bit.
A few mock draft “experts” believe the Browns will opt for North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who starred for the Tar Heels in his first season as a starter. Choosing Trubisky, who hails from Mentor in suburban Cleveland, would be a public relations dream.
Two problems: He has not declared for the draft. And there are those who believe he is not ready yet for the NFL and would benefit from another year in school. If he decides to stay in school, the argument to pick him becomes moot. If not, the argument begins: Garrett or Trubisky.
When you are drafting No. 1, you select the highest graded player on your board regardless of position. Garrett, according to most experts, is a no-brainer. He will fit in right away and make a difference. Trubisky is a roll of the dice whose grade will be lower.
Garrett arrives in the NFL with some impressive credentials such as 32½ sacks and 48½ tackles for loss in three seasons with the Aggies. The two areas for the Browns that need the most help are the offensive and defensive lines. Garrett can provide some of that help. Unless, of course, the bright lights running the Cleveland draft trade down.
Choosing Garrett would be a good start for a team that needs to rebuild the trenches on both sides of the ball. I can’t say enough times how important it is to be strong at the line of scrimmage. Sack the opposing quarterback and protect your quarterback. Win there and everything filters back.
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Now that he has indicated he is rewarding his front office for its sterling efforts with at least another season, it has to be assumed Haslam is also retaining his current coach. That’s the way it should be.
It is not Hue Jackson’s fault he was handed a roster that might be one of the worst – nah, make that the worst – roster in recent memory. That roster did not get any better as the season unfolded.
The only significant move the front office made was the acquisition of Collins from the New England Patriots in mid-season. The former Pro Bowler made an immediate impact and is a building block on a team that doesn’t have nearly enough of them.
He was involved in 43 tackles (31 solo) in eight games with the Patriots and busted loose with 69 tackles (48 solo) in his eight outings with Cleveland. The free agent is a must sign in the offseason.
Other than that, this roster seriously lacks the kind of talent that wins games. And the fault for that lies squarely with the troika suggested to Haslam by Korn Ferry.
Someone, maybe it was Bill Parcells, once said a head coach is only as good as the players he works with. Which means Jackson never really had a chance to show why he was the correct choice to succeed Pettine. He battled personnel issues – lack of talent – all season long.
His mistake at the beginning of the season was coaching this team, at least from an offensive standpoint, as though it had more talent than it really did. Instead of coaching down to their level, he treated them as though they were like the successful Cincinnati Bengals offense he coordinated before arriving in Cleveland.
He asked the players on offense to perform beyond their capabilities. Asked them to run plays that more often than not failed because they were not good enough or talented enough to execute them successfully. Winning, it is said, is an attitude. But if the talent is lacking, attitude goes just so far.
There were moments throughout the season that produced positive glimpses of the future. Unfortunately, there were far too few of them and did not last very long.
A change at the top within the ivory tower with emphasis on seriously upgrading the talent quotient of the team is the only saving grace for Jackson. Give the man talent and he will more than justify his selection as head coach and erase, or at least shove far into the background, the memory of the 2016 season.
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Final statistics and league rankings Browns coaches and personnel people should pay very close attention to, especially the sacks totals, as they prepare for the draft . . .
Offense: Overall 311 yards a game (30th in the 32-team league), 204 yards passing (30th), 107 yards running (19th). Defense: Overall 392 yards a game (31st), 143 yards running (31st), 250 yards passing (21st). Penalty yards: 736 yards (31st surprisingly, only 10 yards more than Cincinnati) Points scored: 264 (31st); points allowed: 452 points (30th ). Time of possession: 28:16 a game (30th). Sacks: 26 (tied for 30th with Detroit). Sacks allowed: a club record 66 (a distant 32nd, 17 more than runner-up Los Angeles). Turnover ratio: -12 (29th). And last but certainly not least, 138 quarterback hits (32nd). Is it any wonder the Browns went through five quarterbacks (not counting Terrelle Pryor) this season?
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And finally . . . The final stats more specifically say Pryor was by far the most productive wide receiver, enhancing his chances of escaping Cleveland as a free agent. He wound up with 77 catches for 1,007 yards, but only four touchdowns. . . . The leading touchdown maker was running back Isaiah Crowell, who scored seven and came within 48 yards of a 1,000-yard season, He also caught 40 passes, after catching only 19 last season, for 319 yards. . . . Quarterback Robert Griffin III was dropped 22 times in five starts. . . . Longest kickoff return: 36 yards by newcomer Mario Alford; longest punt return: 18 yards by Duke Johnson Jr. Come back Travis Alexander. All is forgiven. . . . Most tackles: Christian Kirksey 148, including 96 solo. . . . Most sacks: Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah with 5½. . . .Interceptions: just 10, three each by Jamar Taylor, Joe Haden and Brien-Boddy-Calhoun and one by Tramon Williams. All 10 picks were by cornerbacks. That’s an indictment. . . . Cody Parkey missed five field goals, all between 40 and 49 yards. . . . Final Duke Johnson Jr. watch: 126 touches for 872 yards. That’s 6.92 yards a touch. Maybe next season.