Sunday, October 15, 2017

Isaiah Crowell is Not Tanking

     Is Isaiah Crowell taking it easy in order to get a rich free agent contract next season?  That thought has been voiced in our friendly "Browns Bloggers and Friends" group (look me up on Facebook if you want to get added).  Certainly Isaiah's numbers are down after a very impressive 2016 campaign in which he gained almost 1000 yards despite playing behind an underperforming offensive line.

      Currently, he is ranked #47 by Pro Football Focus.  Remembering there are 32 teams in the NFL, that means he is about average for a second string running back.  

      Okay, you see where I'm going with this.  There will not be a big payday waiting for a guy who performs at the second string level.   Maybe a million dollars, or twice the NFL minimum.  But nothing big, nothing unaffordable should the Browns decide to keep him.  They may not need him as they have Duke Johnson (ranked 14th in the NFL, which is rather good) plus a flock of 2018 draft picks.  Rookie running backs are usually pretty good, unlike rookie quarterbacks.   So if Crowell wants a big free agent contract he's lost most of his value as of Game 5 in the 2017 season. 
       My take is that the Browns have a dysfunctional offense. Coach Jackson's skill at installing an offense and running it in Cincinnati have not translated to success in Cleveland.   My hope is that Coach Jackson replaces himself as Offensive Coordinator by hiring someone who is really good at it.          Anyway, for whatever reason, Coach talked himself into believing that DeShone Kizer would be an NFL quarterback from Game 1, even though it was clear to everyone that this was not true.   
        In addition, the Browns have the worst group of wide receivers in the league, especially with Corey Coleman out.  On the other hands, Duke Johnson (often in the slot) and the tight ends are pretty good.  So what I think is that there has never been a need to play a seven man front all year long.   Opposing Defensive Coordinators are stacking the line, focusing on the run game and short passing game to Duke, DeValve and Njoku.  They could care less about the likes of Hollywood Higgins and Ricardo Louis.   "We're playing an eight man front, kid.  See if you can beat it."  This never happened as  Kizer was only able to complete a few passes each game to wide receivers.  
         I think with Kevin Hogan, it might be more balanced.   There may be a few seven and six man fronts, which will be a bit easier for Crowell to run through.   Hence I suspect he will put up some better numbers now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Updating the Carson Wentz Deal 1 Year Later

A year later, many Browns fans wish that the team had drafted Carson Wentz.  Wentz has certainly done well for a good Philadelphia team.  It's not clear to me that he would be a star on the Browns with a much lower talent level.  Moreover, with the second overall pick, you're supposed to get not just a good player, but a great one.  There's usually two or three guys from each class that ultimately have Hall of Fame careers, so if you're going to draft that high, you should get someone that you think is going to be really a top player.
     The Browns did get an amazing talent haul for Wentz, and we're not done yet--one more third round pick remains to be identified in 2018.  However, two additional parts of the puzzle were chosen in Jabrill Peppers and DeShone Kizer.   The total haul is posted at the end of this article.  
      A big question is whether we had the scouting that could make use of all those picks.  The final answer is going to take a few years to decide, but at the moment I would give the Browns an A for trading draft picks, but a D for choosing good players.   We received 8 players, including two number ones, but none of them have been impact players.  
      Four players are starters (Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, Kindred and Peppers), and two of them are backup quarterbacks with some startup potential--I think--in Kizer and Cody Kessler.  Spencer Drango and Ricardo Louis have an outside shot at becoming starters, which is not bad for fourth round guys.  
         I still thing DeShone Kizer has great talent, and might be ready in 2019, which would be his rookie year had he stayed at Notre Dame for four years instead of two.   The nonsense of accelerating his development from two years to a few months was a bonehead move by Coach Jackson.   As far as we know, no one wanted that to happen but the Coach.  In addition, Cody Kessler never did anything wrong.  He completed 65% of his passes with a good TD/INT ratio despite playing on a lousy team with no pass protection, and was mysteriously dropped.  So it may very well be that the talent is worth a Wentz.  
         So the jury is still out, but for now it would be fair to say that the clear edge goes to the Eagles.  They got their guy, whereas we have not been able to identify a single star player so far.  

Corey Coleman 1 15 WR Baylor
Shon Coleman  3 76 OT Auburn
Cody Kessler 3 93 QB USC
Ricardo Louis 4 114 WR Auburn
Derrick Kindred 3 129 SS TCU
Spencer Drango 4 168 OL Baylor
Jabrill Peppers 1 TBD TBD TBD
DeShone Kizer 2 TBD TBD TBD
2018 NFL Draft Pick (from PHILLY) 3 TBD TBD TBD

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Update on Steelers' Star Joe Haden

Is Joe Haden too old at age 28?  Too slow?  Past his prime?  Are the Browns geniuses for getting rid of him.  Maybe, but so far nobody in the NFL is catching passes against him this year.  For example, in the Steelers' loss to the Bears, the Bears completed one pass to a wide receiver the entire game.  One. 

UPDATE:  OCT 11 2017.  Last September 1, the Village Elliot complained bitterly about the Browns cutting Joe Haden from the roster so that that the Pittsburgh Steelers could pick him up.  I said he was back after off-season surgeries to repair two torn groin muscles. 
Village Elliot Scorches Browns over Cutting Joe Haden

I still can't believe he even played, and yet many of my friends were very critical of Joe.  They say he is washed up, overrated etc. Pro Football Focus agrees, ranking Joe as the 72nd best CB in the NFL.  That means he is number 3 cornerback.  Rather pathetic for a guy making $11 million dollars a year.   It's just wishful thinking by the Village Elliot that Joe might be back after two off-season surgeries.  Pittsburgh is going to be sorry they signed him! Right? 

Well, they are not sorry yet.  The Steelers rank FIRST in the NFL in pass defense.  Through 5 games, they are giving up a microscopic 139.6 yards per game.  That's a ridiculously small number.  To put it in perspective, the Browns are ranked 19th at 228 yards per game, or 88 yards per game more.   Last season, by the way, the Steelers were 18th.   Old broken down Joe is playing in 98% of the team's snaps on defense.  If he is a weak spot on the team, the rest of the NFL hasn't found him out yet.  

Hue, This is Bad. The Too-Rapid Rise and Fall of DeShone Kizer

Coach, we gotta talk. 

    Oh Coach Jackson, this is a fine mess you've gotten yourself into.   You didn't have to risk your reputation on DeShone Kizer, but that's what you did.  So many people told you not to rush a young quarterback like Kizer into action. No doubt,  he is highly talented, the best combination of size, speed, intelligence and arm strength that the Browns have ever had.  But he's very raw and not very accurate.  He did not put up great numbers at Notre Dame, left school not one but TWO years early.  He did not do well at the combine, having trouble with fundamentals, and he did not do well in preseason (25 for 49, or 52% completion percentage, qbr of 72.7 which is about the level of the league's worst starting quarterback.   It doesn't get better in the regular season when teams start using more complex defensive schemes).  So why start Kizer?  The only reason is that Hue, as a quarterback guru, pronounced him ready to overtake the other candidates, namely Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and Kevin Hogan.

That was a very surprising decision, and I'm not second guessing him.  Check out my blog. Preseason Predictions Village Elliot, where I predicted exactly what would happen.  Not that I'm a great prognosticator, and many others had the same opinion, which is precisely the point.  This was a freakishly weird decision to start Kizer.  

There are two basic methodologies for developing a quarterback, as shown in the accompanying table.  The method on the left is used by the rest of the NFL.  The method on the right is being pioneered by the Cleveland Browns. 


The Browns had some decent results with Cody Kessler,  who put up some numbers in his 2016 rookie year:  65% completion average, 6 Tds versus only 2 INTs, and qb rating of 92.5, which is one of the highest in team history.  But he doesn't have the superstar potential every team looks for.  He's slow, takes too many sacks and he's not that big.  Still, there is every expectation that he would be allowed to continue his development, with Kizer taking the year to learn the offense as the third string quarterback. 

Nobody would have complained if Hue had elected to start Kessler, at least as long as the team has a shot for the playoffs.  Give the rookie time to learn the playbook, while the veteran tries to get the team in the playoffs. Even Kessler has less than a full year of experience, and would be considered a young developmental quarterback in all other organizations, but for the Browns 8 starts signifies late middle age for a quarterback.  If the Browns were to fall out of contention by midseason, that would be the time to start an inexperienced rookie.    But Hue didn't do that, proclaiming that there was no need for additional studying, Kizer was ready to be the Game One starter.  

Now, with the Browns at 0-4 and effectively out of the playoff hunt, it actually makes sense to start a rookie, even if he is the worst quarterback in the league.   Maybe it will accelerate his development so that he is actually effective in 2018.  But instead, Hue is shaken up and has lost confidence in the rookie, realizing that he has blown any chance of even pretending to contend in the AFC North. 

Honestly, I suspected that the plan was to find out if Kizer can be a so-called "Franchise Quarterback," that mythological beast that makes the Pro Bowl every year and takes the team to the Playoffs.  If we go 1-15 again, then Sashi will get the number one draft pick again, take the consensus number one quarterback in the 2018 draft, which is supposedly loaded with top prospects (my favorite is Mason Rudolph,  Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield to name a few). 

But now Hue is 1-24 and is leery about going down in history as the losingest Head Coach in NFL history.  Maybe he's not okay to finish last in the NFL again to get better draft picks.  Maybe he and Sashi are feeling the heat from the Haslams, who have to be losing millions of dollars while his athletes lose games Maybe he now wants to sit down the immature Kizer, as he should have from the get-go.  

As I see it Hue staked his reputation on Kizer. Unless Sashi ordered him to do it to get draft picks, Hue didn't need to promote Kizer, but that's what he did.  If he comes up empty, it means that he is not the quarterback guru we thought he was.  In fact, he looks rather silly, especially in light of flamboyant play calls that bombed versus the Jets. 

Hue might be gone before you know it. 


While i'm on the subject of people being gone, I wonder if Sashi Brown can avoid the temptation to trade Joe Thomas or Isaiah Crowell or others to get more drat picks?  At the beginning of the year I figured four games under .500 would be the threshold to get rid of additional veteran players.  For what it's worth.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Josh Gordon is not Eligible for Reinstatement until June 2018.

  Many of my fellow Browns fans believe that Josh Gordon will be soon reinstated to the Cleveland Browns.  For the record, I believe that the NFL marijuana policy needs to be liberalized.   However, that has not happened yet.  
     The current policy is available on the net, and shows that players in Stage 3 (that would be Gordon) are suspended for a year in the event that they fail to get tested.  I've appended the pertinent section so that you can read it for yourself.
       Josh missed a drug test in June 2017.  That's an automatic one year suspension.  No time off for good behavior, no time off if we believe that he didn't actually take drugs, so special exemption for marijuana.    The suspension can not be lifted until June 2018 at the earliest.  There's no decision to be made.  
There's not going to be any review, no interview, nothing. 
    But didn't the Commissioner say last winter that Josh could re-apply for reinstatement in September?  Yes, but that assumed he would comply with the drug policy.   Josh did not comply, so that is off the table.  The rule is, you fail to take a drug test, that's another one year suspension.  
    But feel free to disbelieve it.  All I ask is that you not blame me for Josh's situation, because I had nothing to do with writing the policy, I'm just reading it to you.  
   Without further ado, here it is, from the 2016 NFLPA NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE POLICY AND PROGRAM ON SUBSTANCES OF ABUSE,  as agreed by the National Football League Players Association and the National Football League Management Council Section 1.5.3 paragraph B: 

A Player who: fails to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements imposed on him by this  (2016) Policy or fails to comply with his Treatment Plan, both as determined by the Medical Director; or who has a Positive Test Result, will be banished from the NFL for a minimum period of one (1) calendar year. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Post Mortem: Browns lose to Colts, 31-28

The Browns were gruesomely ugly today, dropping a game to the Indianapolis Colts, a team which has been decimated by injury.   If I recall correctly from the pregame, the Colts had five first round draft picks who were out with an injury, including team superstar Andrew Luck.  Against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Browns could rationalize that Pittsburgh and Baltimore are good teams, but the Colts are simply not very good.  And they took the Browns behind the woodshed.  

Backup Jacoby Brissett kicked major butt against the Browns, throwing for 259 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for two others.   

The Briowns have no wide receivers.  Kenny Britt managed to catch 3 balls out of 10 targets for 54 yards.  Next best was Rashard Higgins, with two balls out of 6 targets, and a total of 10 yards.  No other wide receiver had more than a single catch.  Ouch.  

On the positive side, slot receiver and running back Duke Johnson caught 6 passes for 81 yards, and scored a rushing touchdown.  Duke is having a good year.  Another plus is that overall the Browns averaged 5.3 yards on the ground, with 111 yards overall.  Plus Kizer was sacked only one time.  And the Browns did mount a comeback, starting when the game looked all but hopeless.  

I don't care that DeShone Kizer had a tough time with 3 INTs and a fumble. He's just a kid, and for whatever reason the Browns decided he had to learn on the job rather than serving an apprenticeship on the bench for a year.  He's a talented kid, but very raw, so what do we expect?  

Meantime, our defense was torched by second year man Jacoby Brissett, who came over from the Patriots at the last minute when it was clear that Andrew Luck would not be able to start the season.  Despite his not yet knowing the Colt's offense, and having several other players out, Brissett torched the Browns' secondary. 

It seems clear enough that the Browns are going to lose a lot of games, possibly with an eye on the quarterback-rich 2018 NFL draft.   Buffalo, Jacksonville and the Jets all won today, leaving the Browns tied with Cincinnati, the Chargers, Giants and 49ers in the Sam Darnold sweepstakes.  One way to cement a case for this would be to trade Joe Thomas to a playoff team. I expect this to happen sometime between now and October 31, the trade deadline. The ultimate plan is to

The next key matchup will be versus the hapless Cincinnati Bengals, who are also 0-3.  It will be tough to not beat the Bengals, but the Browns never seem to amaze us.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Browns Pecked to Pieces by Baltimore, 24-10

Ugh.  Losing to the Baltimore Ravens is one of the worst things that the Cleveland Browns can do. Art Modell is long gone, but truthfully I still harbor resentment for the way that our team was stolen from us.  I'm not going to feel better until we can beat these guys, but today's game showed we are far from that point.   DeShone Kizer threw three INTS and coughed up the ball on a costly fumble, and Kevin Hogan contributed another pick.  

Kizer was also sacked three times, and the rookie tendency to hold onto the ball too long didn't help.  All in all, the offensive line was bad, but not as bad as last week's game. 

Some good news:  Hollywood Higgins finally started to live up to his name after being cut, then signed to the Practice Squad and then coming up to the big team on Saturday. Higgins led the Browns seven catches for 95 yards today. That's more than he had caught in his entire career up to this point!  Last year he had 6 grabs total, for only 77 yards. 

On the other hand, Baltimore held our name brand receivers in check, as Cory Coleman and Kenny Britt combined for 2 catches, 9 yards out of 9 attempted catches.  That is beyond bad.  

If you're going to play a 21 year old rookie, and he plays like a 21 year old rookie, it's to be expected.  No complaints.

The Browns defense had a good game, holding Joe Flacco to 217 yards on 25 of 34.  In today's NFL, if you can hold the other guy to 217 yards you have a chance to win some games.  Chris Kirksey had a nice sack, Jamie Collins came through after a slow slart last week, and Joe Schobert continues to impress at Mike Linebacker.  Jamar Taylor Jason MCourtney,  had good games at db.  However the Ravens' tight ends had good games against Derrick Kindred and Jabrill Peppers.  

Isaiah Crowell must be off his feed, with 37 yards in 10 carries, but it was better than last week.  

So, are we going to beat the Indianapolis Colts?  They are certainly capable, but the Colts will be at home.  The Colts have a second year quarterback, but one who is new to the team, whereas we are going to go with the rookie DeShone Kizer.  It's tough to see a Browns win at this point.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Game Notes, Browns lose to Pittsburgh 21-18, Sept 10 2017: Ya Done Good, Kid!

The Browns seem to have their quarterback in 21 year old DeShone Kizer.   

     "Ya done good, kid!"  That's my comment to DeShone Kizer, who exceeded my expectations.   An ordinary 20 for 30 for 222 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT is actually very good for a 21 year old quarterback making his first NFL start.  As I have pointed out previously, NO ONE has EVER had a good year playing quarterback in the NFL at age 21.  To be sure, few players have entered the league at such a young age, but nevertheless they have all had bad first years.  Bernie Kosar may have been the best 21 year old quarterback of all time, and even he went only 4-6 in 1985 with a rating of 69.3, subbing for an injured Gary Danielson, who was the much better player at that time (4-2). 
    DeShone made some rookie mistakes, like holding onto the ball too long, and taking a hit he didn't need to take.  But the kid has a rocket arm, he's fast an athletic, and seems to have great football smarts.  Mark me down as a fan, even though I don't think he is going to have a great statistical year until 2018 or 2019.
    Let's talk about the seven sacks.  Once again the Steelers beat up the Browns offensive line, and then stole their lunch money and wouldn't give it back.   They may get Kizer killed.  They didn't do much for the running game either as the running backs rushed 20 times for only 40 yards.  It was so bad I started to miss Cameron Erving.  

    Tight ends Seth DeValve and David Njoku were in the lineup together a few times, and both had good games. Likewise, Corey Coleman looked like a viable number one receiver, with 5 catches for 53 yards and a TD.   Ricardo Louis also showed some potential, getting two catches for 32 yards. Kenny Britt continued to look disinterested, with a spectacular drop at a crucial point in the fourth quarter, and only 1 catch for 13 yards.  On any other team he would be benched, but on the Browns he is the second best receiver on the team.  Part of the problem is that the Steelers somehow came up with a Pro Bowl cornerback who shut down the Browns wide receiver corps.  That would be Joe Haden, of course.    

Ask Seth DeValve whether Joe Haden is through.  

   Duke Johnson played in the slot most of the game.  On this team, that is definitely where he is needed.  

    The defense played well for the most part, giving up 14 points.  The other touchdown came on a special teams breakdown on the first possession.  Joe Schobert impressed me by once again appearing to be much faster on the field than he is on the track.  Joe was timed at a slow 4.76 seconds at the combine, but on the field he looks very fast, and was able to handle LeVeon Bell, who rushed for only 32 yards on 10 carries.  
    The difference  maker was Antonio Brown, with 11 catches for 182 yards.  Brian Boddy Calhoun and Jamar Taylor were unable to cover Brown, plus the defensive line was unable to put enough pressure on Roethlisberger to slow him down.  
    Special teams was a disaster, of course, with a blocked punt that resulted in a score for the Steelers.   This needs to be fixed.  
    All in all, it wasn't a great performance, but I had prepared for much worse.  Now the Browns go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens, who whipped up on the Bengals today, 20-0.  Yikes.  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mike and Mike: End of the Dynamic Duo?

The Dynamic Duo of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic is breaking up, and the Village Elliot is saddened.  Say it ain't so!  

     Mike and Mike are breaking up.  The long running sports duo will do its last show on November 17.  I predict things will never be the same for either guy.   
     It seems to me that they have been the perfect team. Mike Golic is the gregarious and multi-talented former lineman mainly remembered for his work with the Philadelphia Eagles and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  
     Mike Greenberg is the consummate fan with no known athletic skills,  but who is nevertheless an incredibly talented "straight man," and "good guy," who may have the most precise rapid fire verbal delivery in the world.  
     Now they are breaking up, and apparently egos have gotten in the way.  Each wants a chance to prove that he can make it without the other.  I'm sure that they can, but it may never be the same. 
    I'm reminded of the great comic duos like Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy.  Behind each funny man was a great "straight" man.  It was widely believed in the business that a good straight man was a rarer commodity than the funny man.  For instance, Abbott and Costello always split their money 60/40, with straight man Abbott receiving the larger share.  And Costello never questioned the arrangement, grateful to have Abbot to guide things behind the scenes.  
     In the same way, Mike Greenberg is thought to be a sports idiot, doesn't contribute anything to a sports discussion and is completely out of touch with how a pro athlete thinks. All that is true.  But the show won't work without him. Greenie is able to organize the show and keep it moving, and he is willing to ask the dumb questions that make his partner and guests seem like geniuses.  The amazing thing that happens on Mike and Mike is they can talk about their lead story for several minutes, talk about other issues, and then seamlessly transition back to the lead story without being repetitious.  That's mainly because of Greeny quarterbacking the flow of the show.  . 
    Greenberg is able to put a different spin on stories so that they sound like fresh stories.  What is the coach's perspective?  The offense's perspective?  Fans' perspective?What does it mean for other teams?  You get the idea.  You can actually listen to the show for four hours and hear the same story five times or more, and never feel that it is repetitious or boring.  That is Greenie magic, and seems so natural that you might never be aware of it.  
    Greenberg is able to speak with the rapid fire delivery, but unlike most of his peers, he actually makes sense and speaks in grammatically correct senses.   I've never heard anyone who is better than that than the Green Man.  Oprah Winfrey might be his main competitor in that department.   
     So, I'm sure the affable Golic will find another partner or partners that will be very good.  But I doubt whether they can ever get the ratings of Mike and Mike, without Greenie there.
I'm saddened by the change, but support both of them wanting to try something new.  Go for it, guys.  But it may never be the same.     

   The Mikes get ready for a nice friendly game of tennis, supervised by champion tennis player Luke Jenson.  Look at the size of Golic's fist compared to Greenie's!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hello Browns! Did you really give Joe Haden to Pittsburgh??

The Pittsburgh Steelers apparently do not believe Joe Haden is through at age 28.  

Hello Browns! You're sure Joe Haden is Through, Right? Because if not, there is going to be **** to pay, and heads may roll in the Front Office.  

The Browns analytics guys have figured out that they would rather move up in draft position rather than win an extra game or two with veterans who will likely not be present for Super Bowl runs in 2018 and 2019.  Hence, the team let go (or failed to re-sign) a slew of capable but not superstar veterans last year like Karlos Dansby,  Donte Whitner, Paul Kruger, Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin, and others.  

This year they did it again by axing Gary Barnidge, .  Now the coup de grace is they cut Joe Haden and thus allowed him to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

Joe Haden played last year with two torn groin muscles that required surgery to repair.  That displays incredible toughness, but on the other hand, he was not anywhere near his former self last year.    

But these injuries are not permanently degrading, the operations have apparently been successful, and there was Joe playing effectively again in the exhibition season.  

Is he injury prone now?  Many fans and commentators seem to believe so, but they said the same thing about Sam Bradford, and he's held up and had two consecutive good years.  

The Steelers front office knows Joe as well as anyone, particularly with former Browns Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton back with the Steelers.  Their scouts evidently say that Joe is back, or at least close enough that he can still be an effective starter.  Hence, they signed him for $7 M this year and a larger non-guaranteed amount next year.  

The Browns get out of his contract, but $7 M gets charged to the 2017 salary cap, so the net savings is about $4 million. setter draft position.  

It makes complete sense if Joe Haden truly can not play well enough to earn substantial playing time in the current Browns backfield.  Maybe Jason McCourty, Jamar Taylor and Brian Boddy Calhoun are all better players.  

But if they made the cut mainly to get $4 Million taken off the salary cap, and if they are deliberately seeking draft position over wins before the season starts, that is a very serious organizational issue.  

Can the players, coaches and team just flip a switch and try to win games in some future year?   I don't think it is that easy. They are human beings who are going to be furious if one of their best players was simply handed to the Steelers. Future free agent players won't want to sign with an organization that deliberately tanks the season.   Season ticket holders are going to be furious, and fans will stay away in droves.  They are not going to buy the products advertised on games because they won't watch the games.  That's going to have repercussions league wide.  

Frankly, I think that the Front Office has overdone it by getting rid of skilled players like Gary Barnidge and Joe Haden.  True they might not be on the team in 2019 but they could contribute to a few wins in 2017.  If you're not going to save enough money to afford to hire a better replacement, don't make the cut.  And especially don't humiliate the organization by helping out the team's bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

Owner Jimmy Haslam III is going to come under a lot of pressure.  He evidently believes in the analytics business, rightly so.  But taking it to the point of tanking before the season starts may be more than he can stand.  

Sashi Brown and John DePodesta will come under fire, and rightly so, in my opinion. They could lose their jobs if they have helped the Steelers have a good year.  Helping their rivals win may damage the organization far more than the $4 million they saved on the salary cap.  

We'll see whether the Browns front office or Steelers front office win out on this deal.  The Browns better be right.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Browns Look Like a 4 Win Team to the Village Elliot

Gregg Williams is my new hero.  I believe in him an his defense, and defense alone might cause the Browns to win a few games.

      It's not possible to project much in Pro Football, but if you predict the Browns are going to lose a lot of games, it's usually a safe prediction.  This year, I think they had the talent to win about 7 or 8 games.  But the plan is to collect young talent, above the desire to win.  The Browns are seeking to get excellent draft position, by getting rid of veterans like Joe Haden, Terrelle Pryor, John Greco, Cameron Erving, Stephen Paea, Gary Barnidge, Josh McCown, RG3, DeMario Davis, Brock Osweiler and, probably, Joe Thomas.  I expect that Thomas will go for a second round pick later this year. That is simply too much to give away.
    The Browns have added key draftees in Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer and David Njoku.   Jason McCourty, Calvin Pryor, J. C. Tretter  and Kevin Zeitler are the main free agent additions. That's a lot of talent, but there were a lot of losses also.
      One of the most controversial decisions is to start DeShone Kizer in his first year.   It's almost unheard of for a 21 year old to succeed in his rookie year.  I hope I'm wrong, but I think Kizer is going to have a rough time for the first year. I don't see him as the first successful 21 year old quarterback in the NFL.  To the contrary, he was very rough at Notre Dame, and probably needs work on fundamentals.   

        Last year we had one of the NFL's worst defenses versus the run.  The front seven consisted of Ogbah, Shelton, Meder, Collins, Kirksey, Davis, and Cam Johnson. This year it will be Garrett, Shelton, Coley, Ogbah, Collins, Schobert and Kirksey.  In other words, Meder, Davis and Johnson out, Garrett, Coley and Schobert in.  That seems like a very significant change.  It will be much harder to move the ball against us, and we have some significant new players in McCourty, Calvin Pryor and Jabrill Peppers in the secondary.  I look for major improvement on defense.

     My guess is that the Browns will be competitive in most of the games that they play.  However, the Front Office has established that they don't mind losing, and so I suspect that this attitude will permeate to the individual players.The nature of football demands that you try your best to win as many games as you can every year, and I think the Coaches and players will be worn down by the Front Office's plan to weaken the team in order to generate high draft pics. Accordingly, I can see the Browns blowing several games that they should win.    
     This team looks like a 4 win team, which will put them in good position for the 2018 draft, which is shaping up to be the richest draft in NFL history.   I believe that there will be at least five quarterbacks that will project as first round draft picks, and the Browns will probably pick one up, just as the Chargers (for example) felt compelled to draft Philip Rivers even though they had Drew Brees at the time.
     Will Hue Jackson survive the year?   Maybe, but he's in a bad situation with the General Manager giving away his star players to teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Coach Jackson will try his best, but he's only human.  There may come a time when he can't co-exist with the tanking Front Office.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Two Minutes with Gregg Williams of the Cleveland Browns

I had the chance to meet Coach Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.   Maybe I picked up a pointer or two. 

   I wanted to meet Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.  I was in town for the Berea High School All Class Reunion at Polish Village.   It turns out that the Grindstone in Berea hosted a charity event on Saturday, and Myles Garrett, rookie Defensive End, and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams attended.  I really wanted to meet Gregg Williams especially.  Football, you see, is the hardest game in the world, and Coach Williams is one of the top experts in the world at designing plays and motivating people.  I've listened to him on TV and I really think he's a special person.  I think it's wise to follow successful people because maybe you might pick up on something.  So, I talked with Coach Williams for probably less than two minutes, but we covered a lot. I stood in line for about half an hour, which I didn't mind one bit because I was talking football with other Browns fans the whole time.   Almost everyone else wanted autographs, but I'm not an autograph hound.  I just wanted to meet Gregg Williams.  But what do you say to a guy like that?  If I were to try to talk about zone blitzes or cover two defenses, first of all I don't know anything, and second I wouldn't understand the answer.  So, when it was finally my turn, I said "Coach Williams, I just wanted to thank you for coming to Cleveland, and also for sponsoring the Gregg Williams Foundation."  
     Coach Williams looked me right in the eye, and asked, "What is your name?"  Lesson one:  I hadn't introduced myself, because I figured I was completely unimportant and unmemorable and the Coach would not be interested in me.  But Coach contradicted that assumption, and made me understand that no matter who you are, you're important and you should always introduce yourself.  Think of yourself as a person who is important enough that a famous coach wants to know who you are. .  
        "I'm Elliot Kennel from Beavercreek Ohio, near Dayton."
        Coach nodded.  "You know, I've never been happier than I am right now with the Browns," he said, and then repeated, "I've never been happier than now."
        Then he shifted gears and talked about his Foundation.  "I'm a sucker for anything that helps kids.  We've raised over a million dollars so far, and we can really make a difference in  kids lives.  You never know what might happen.   Look at me, I was never supposed to amount to anything.  I'm the son of a farmer.  I grew up in a house without electricity and indoor plumbing. But I've been given a chance, and people helped me along the way."   Lesson two:  Remember where you came from, even if you are one of the top experts in the world at what you do. There are still children today who grow up in extreme poverty, through no fault of their own, and face very difficult obstacles in order to become an adult.  
        I myself have never been poor except as an occasional experiment.  But I'm the son of Depression era kids.  My mom's family lived under a bridge for a while during World War II.   My Dad's family suffered greatly during the Great Depression.  So while I didn't experience that personally, I understand at least something about what it means to be poor.  
    We can complain about it, assign blame, or we can do something about it.   Coach Williams has invested a lot of his time and considerable energy doing things for the young people in little Excelsior Springs, Missouri.   My sense has been all along that he is not just talking the talk.  He really is walking the walk, and there are 1.2 million reasons to believe in that.  
      Coach is a very fast talker, very direct and incisive.  I learned a few things in a very short time.  
     When it was my turn to meet Myles Garrett, I remembered my mistake in not introducing myself to Coach Williams.  "Mr. Garrett, I'm Elliot Kennel from Beavercreek, near Dayton.  Welcome to Cleveland.   If you're ever down our way to see the Air Force Museum please stop by Tuty's Bar and Grill which is the home of the Beavercreek Browns Backers."  We exchanged pleasantries and shook hands.
      I kind hung around the autograph table for a while.  I was very impressed that Myles was the guy with Coach Williams helping out at a charity event. It's a little thing, but it's the kind of thing that the "face of the franchise" does. First impression is, maybe he "gets it."  

Myles Garrett was very friendly with the fans,  gracious with his time and well spoken.  And he helped to raise a pile of money for local charities.  Well done.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What I Actually Remember About Bill Nahorodny's Career

Over the years I've become facebook friends with Bill Nahorodny.  I'm an amateur sports blogger and fan, and I remembered Bill from his days as a major league player.   Eventually I found out we have common interests in music and many other things, so I consider him a friend.  

But one of my pet peeves is when people exaggerate the extent of their fandom.  So in the interests of full disclosure, I am going to detail exactly what I remember of his career.

In a general way, I remembered that he came up as one of the bright prospects of the White Sox in the circa 1978, and Indians broadcasters chatted him up on the radio a bit. At that time I was in college and in ROTC training camp in the summer and didn't follow sports quite as faithfully as in high school. Anyway, the White Sox at that time had been purchased by Bill Veeck, who had been the owner of the Indians in the 1940's and 50's.  They had some modest success by recycling veteran players like Eric Soderholm and player-manager Don Kessinger, and Bill Nahorodny was one of the few young players on the team.    I vaguely remember Indians radio broadcasters Herb Score and Joe Tait chatting him up a bit when he was at bat.  

Flash forward to July 3, 1982.  My Air Force friend, Vic Slaboszewicz and I drove up to Cleveland for the ball game, with fireworks after the game.  At that time Toby Harrah was playing at an MVP level, batting way over .300.  Toby did not disappoint, ripping  three hits including a triple, and getting a standing ovation while all of us fans chanted his name.    The Indians blew the game, however, getting outslugged by former Indians like Oscar Gamble and Graig Nettles. 

OK, so back to Bill Nahordny.   I was surprised to see him shagging balls in the outfield before the game.  I remember thinking "Hey! I remember that name.  He was considered to be a great prospect wasn't he?  Maybe he can help the team..."

That's it.  That's the only event I remember distinctly. Bill played nine years in the major leagues, and all I really remember from his entire career is that he shagged fly balls in the outfield on July 3, 1982.  I thought Bill was an outfielder.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

If LeBron Wanted to be the GOAT, he Would Go to Golden State

It's a completely idiotic thought, but if LeBron James wanted to be considered the Greatest of All Time, he would go play for the Golden State Warriors.   I do not believe for a minute that he would do it, but hear me out.  

All the idiot sportswriters say that MJ is better than LeBron because he won 6 NBA Championships, and LeBron had "only" 3.  First of all I hate these discussions because it's a team game, and we're trying to project team success onto a single individual.  That's nonsense.  Second, since the guys played in different eras, they can't play each other so the dispute can't be resolved.  But many of the sportswriters seem to cling to the notion that it's the number of championship rings that the player has collected (and if that is the case, I give you Mr. Bill Russell, with 11 rings as a player).   Nevertheless, if LeBron decided he was willing to take a giant pay cut, he could sign with Golden State, and probably get five more rings.   With Duran, James, Curry, Green and Thompson they would be unstoppable, and could probably win even if they lost two superstars.      

Not one, not two not three...but probably seven or eight rings.  I hope it never happens. 

The NBA would be a really boring league and no would like it. But if that's the way you want to define greatness, it's there for the taking.  I pray that LeBron doesn't care what the sportswriters think, and that he will continue to play for his hometown that loves him.  But it does cross my mind...