Tuesday, January 17, 2017

 Catching up with the Browns

. . . after a brief respite with some news and views . . .

News: Browns fire Ray Horton as defensive coordinator and hire Gregg Williams.

Views: Full disclosure: I liked the appointment of Horton as DC the first time a few years ago and again this past season. I apologize . . . twice. So let’s try this again.

The reason I liked Horton was his aggressive approach to defense, something he brought when he arrived from a couple of seasons as the defensive boss with the Arizona Cardinals

He learned defense from Dick LeBeau, his mentor in Pittsburgh and one of the great defensive minds in National Football League history. I thought he would incorporate many of LeBeau’s successful schematics into his approach. That he did not hastened his departure from Cleveland . . . twice.

Now then, Gregg Williams, who brings his own style of defense to Cleveland. It is the antithesis of his predecessor. Defense is all about aggression. And Williams’ reputation bathes in that aggression.

That reputation says he is tough and demanding. You play his way or you play for someone else. He does not appear to be a coddler. That’s only a small part of the kind of discipline the Browns desperately need on that side of the ball.

This is a good hire. Williams is a devotee of the 4-3 scheme. Horton was a 3-4 guy with personnel much more suited to the 4-3. In fact, the Browns played some 4-3 when Horton moved rookie Emmanuel Ogbah from outside linebacker to defensive end, where he was more effective, for several games.

The Browns entered the season finale in Pittsburgh with just 22 sacks – forget the four they had against backup Landry Jones – in a season where dropping opposing quarterbacks was foreign. That number will change dramatically under Williams.

A strong, successful pass rush has a direct impact on the secondary. Give the quarterback enough time to throw and he will pick apart even the best of secondaries in the NFL. The Cleveland secondary suffered mightily all season as a result.

Putting pressure on the quarterback – make him throw before he wants to, make him feel extremely uncomfortable, plant doubt in his mind – takes loads of pressure off the secondary in coverage. Timing is everything in the passing game. Tamper with it successfully and bad things happen.

Twenty-six is not – and shouldn’t be – an acceptable number for a season sacks total. The big question is whether the Cleveland front office will provide Williams with the personnel necessary to accomplish his mission.

To that end, the move to the 4-3 will be a perfect reason for the Browns to select Myles Garrett of Texas A&M with the first overall pick, resisting what probably will be an overwhelming urge to take North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. More on that later.

The 3-4 is basically three defensive tackles along the line. With the 4-3 about to make its comeback in Cleveland, Ogbah and fellow rookie Carl Nassib will be thrust into Williams’ crosshairs with regard to the pass rush.

Ogbah was, relatively speaking, clearly the best of the 14 draft picks last year. But he was not an impact player, a difference maker. He did not stand out above all the rest on defense, making key play after key play.

Nassib got off to a nice start, broke his hand early and was ineffective upon his return once opposing teams discovered how to handle him. He was a 4-3 end clearly out of place in the 3-4. Garrett should have no problem securing a starting spot if selected.

The lineman who figures to benefit most from the 4-3 is Danny Shelton, whose main responsibility as nose tackle in the 3-4 was tying up two offensive linemen and keeping his inside linebackers clean. Under Williams, he will have company inside and rushing the passer will be among his primary functions.

If nothing else, Williams will bring a culture back to the defense that has been missing for far too long. What kind of culture? Nasty, of course.

News: Mitch Trubisky declares fort the 2017 college football draft.

Views: Free advice to the Browns’ front office: Resist, resist, resist. And then resist some more until it becomes a natural reaction. Do not draft this kid.

On the plus side, selecting Trubisky would be a natural public relations move as the No. 1 pick. He’s from Mentor and is coming off a successful – resisting here to call it great – season with the Tar Heels. But – and here comes the negative side – he is not nearly ready to play in the NFL.

Can’t remember the last quarterback to come into the NFL and play well with only 13 collegiate starts on his résumé. Trubisky, who languished for three seasons at North Carolina before getting his chance last season, is a relative neophyte to the football wars and nowhere near being ready to make the significant jump to the NFL.

If the Browns fail to resist the temptation and make him the lottery’s first overall selection, they not only will derail any hopes for a shot at respectability, they will seriously harm the future of the hometown kid.

Someone in the ivory tower – I believe it was chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta – explained that the reason the Browns traded down from the No. 2 pick when they had a chance to pick Carson Wentz last season was because Wentz was not a top 20 quarterback.

Using that reasoning, the Browns would look foolish taking Trubisky at No. 1 because nothing he has accomplished in his 13 starts screams top 20 quarterback. He would arrive as nothing more than a project. Wentz was NFL ready and proved it.

Because he has become the flavor of the month in the eyes of those who zealously follow the draft, Trubisky most likely will be a top 10 selection, maybe as high as No. 2 with San Francisco.

This is not nearly as deep a draft for quarterbacks as was last year’s. Somewhere in the middle rounds, though, lurks a quarterback who will surprise. A Tom Brady. A Dak Prescott. A Russell Wilson. That hidden gem who arrives quietly to little fanfare and then surprises.

The Patriots got lucky with Brady, the Cowboys with Prescott and the Seahawks with Wilson.

The Browns thought they uncovered that gem last year with Cody Kessler. No such luck no matter what Hue Jackson says. “Trust me,” the coach said shortly after the Browns drafted the USC quarterback in the third round as if he was the quarterback of the future. No he wasn’t. He is not NFL starting material.

Selecting Trubisky No. 1 would be a mistake for any number of reasons, not the least of which is this team needs help just about everywhere else up and down the roster. Drafting someone who most likely won’t play for at least one season is flat out wrong.

Re-crafting and rebuilding this roster also requires the ability to correctly judge the talent available. And based on its performance in the last lottery, those in charge in Berea fell woefully short in that department.

What I most fear is the Browns trading out of the top spot in order to stockpile more picks throughout the seven rounds. They need to keep what they’ve got and make intelligent decisions. They need help in the trenches, especially the trenches when they don’t have the ball. Time to stock up there.

News: Jimmy Garoppolo’s name linked to Browns-Patriots trade rumors.

Views: The Browns do not need another question mark at quarterback and that is exactly what Garoppolo is. He has started two games in his three seasons with New England. He was supposed to start four while Brady served his four-game session in the Deflategate case, but suffered a sprained shoulder halfway through start two.

He won both games, is clearly an unknown quantity, but it’s fun to suggest what it would take to bring the untested veteran to the Browns. Rumors suggest Bill Belichick wants to extract a heavy price for the 25-year-old, like maybe a first-round pick.

The Browns have two of those in Nos. 1 and 12, but surrendering either of those would be unwise. No, make that stupid. Garoppolo is worth nothing more than a third-round pick. It is not a given he could come to the Browns and provide an immediate panacea.

News: Johnny Manziel will hold two autograph sessions at a Houston area mall just prior to the Super Bowl.

Views: Who cares. That is not a question. It is a statement. The ex-Browns quarterback is ancient history. 


  1. A&M fans will still flock to him. Sad but true.

  2. As well they should. He brought them a Heisman Trophy. That's what they remember him for.