Saturday, October 26, 2013

NFL Musical Chairs at 1 Billion Dollars Per Chair: London or Los Angeles?


     I'm sure you remember the game of "Musical Chairs," in which there are fewer chairs than players. When the music stops, someone is going to be left without a chair.  This same game is being played on a much larger scale with NFL franchises.  The NFL had previously announced that one or two current NFL teams would be welcome to move to the Los Angeles area.  This is a sound business move for the NFL, since the Los Angeles market is the number two TV market in the country and it is currently vacant.  Roger Goodell's instructions to teams wishing to move to Los Angeles are contained here in the following link from our friends at  goodell-sends-los-angeles-relocation-memo .  The memo indicates that the new stadium in Los Angeles must be suitable for not one but two franchises to occupy.   There must also be some reasonable attempt to stay in the original host city, though this is probably just lip service.  Al Davis and the Raiders proved that it is possible to defy the league wishes as they moved from Oakland to Los Angeles and back again, and that this can stand up in court.  

This week Commissioner Goodell gave a clear signal that the NFL will move into London, England as well as Los Angeles:  los-angeles-vs-london-nfl-wants-both .  In other words two to four current NFL franchises are going to move.  The most frequently mentioned teams are habitually poor teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, St Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders. When that happens, the cities that are abandoned will attempt to obtain franchises to fill the new vacancies, no doubt upping the ante in the process.   

Basically, in the Village Elliot's view, the NFL believes it can blackmail American cities into paying outrageous fees for NFL Franchises, and they are probably right.   Supposing that the Jaguars move to London, say, then the City of Jacksonville will be willing to pay just about any price to replace their team with some other team.  So Jacksonville will try to lure the Rams out of St Louis, perhaps. It is possible that franchises will appreciate in value by about 100% if this kind of bidding war emerges. There could easily be a half dozen franchise shifts in the next five years.  

And it is certainly possible that the Cleveland Browns will be added to the list of candidate franchises to move if Mr. Haslam can wriggle out of his stadium lease.  Die-hard Browns fans are convinced that the lawyers can rescue Haslam despite the fact that the cash register at Pilot Flying J was found to contain tens of millions of dollars that wasn't actually supposed to be there.  However the same fans figure that those same lawyers will be unable to break the stadium lease with the City of Cleveland.  Those two bits of logic elude the Village Elliot entirely.  I think that if Mr Haslam is in fact successfully rescued by his attorneys, that seem legal team will try to break the current lease with the city.  The Browns will try to leave for greener pastures if they can.


This week

Monday, October 21, 2013

Browns Cheapskate Ways Coming Back to Haunt Them

   The Cleveland Browns are the cheapest team in the NFL, judging by the amount of money under the salary cap.  The Browns are $26 million dollars under the salary cap. They most famously unloaded Trent Richardson's salary by trading him to the Indianapolis Colts.  This may be a good move in 2014, but it is just another sign that the Browns have given up on 2013.  

    Other signs include the failure to retain a quality wide receiver like David Nelson, a 6'5" experienced slot receiver who recently signed with the New England Patriots after being cut by the Browns.  The Village Elliot has repeatedly pointed out that the Browns have been unloading payroll ever since the rebate scandal erupted at Pilot Flying J.  This has recently received national media attention (see Did the Browns Trade Richardson Because of Haslam's Legal Problems? ), though most Cleveland Browns fans still seem to believe that the Browns are just fine except for the quarterback position.

  In any case, the Browns saved themselves upwards of a hal million dollars by cutting Nelson and signing an undrafted rookie free agent to take his place.   Nelson is not an All-Pro, but he did catch four balls for 80 yards for the Jets yesterday. Ditto for blocking tight end Kellen Davis who is playing well for the Seattle Seahawks.  Both Nelson and Davis were signed as free agents earlier this year and then cut after the Pilot Flying J scandal broke.  Then too, Josh Cribbs was shown the door after last season, but after rehabbing an injury he has resurfaced with the New York Jets and looked good returning punts.  Perhaps that is just a coincidence. And perhaps it is a coincidence that the Browns are $26 million dollars under the salary cap, right?
Blocking Tight End Kellen Davis was mysteriously cut after signing as a free agent with the Browns, thus saving Jimmy Haslam some money.  He is doing okay for the Seattle Seahawks.  

Photo credit:
Wide receiver David Nelson caught four balls for 80 yards against the New England Patriots yesterday.  He was also signed as a free agent and then cut by the Browns after the Pilot Flying J scandal broke.  Haslam pocketed a half a mil after Nelson left.
Brandon Jackson is another mid tier backup who was re-signed by the Browns and then cut, saving a few bucks for Mr. Haslam. Jackson is still available, which might be of interest to a team that lost Trent Richardson.  

Photo credit:!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/jinsider17s-1-web.jpg
Josh Cribbs was signed by the Jets and yesterday was used as a wide receiver and took a direct snap on a wildcat play. He had three carries for 14 yards in addition to returning three punts for 44 yards and a kickoff for 17 yards

Understand, none of these guys are going to make All-Pro.  But over the course of the season, players like this can make a difference. But this is small potatoes, frankly. Signing all four probably costs about $2 million bucks.  If you figure an NFL starter is worth 3 million dollars, the Browns could have signed about 8 or 9 starters in 2013, but instead elected to trim salaries as much as possible. 

    Perhaps it is a good strategy for 2014, but for 2013 it is tantamount to giving up on the season.  To see it otherwise is just naive.  Meantime Browns management is said to be salivating over rookie quarterbacks in the 2014 draft.  Will it be Bridgewater?  Or Manziel?   It's hard to know.  But the Browns typically act as though there are no other problems except at the quarterback position.

     Well, Browns fans, there you go.  It looks like the Browns are simply trying to position themselves for the 2014 draft.  They have no running game and refuse to sign any players that might help for 2013.  Might as well shut off the TV until next year.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Patriots-Jets Officiating Raises Questions

     This blog is usually about the Cleveland Browns, but their pathetic play against the Packers is not worth writing about this week.  Hence, I am writing about the Patriots-Jets game, which I watched this afternoon. 
Photo Credit: Boston Globe
Um, I guess someone pushed.   Tsk tsk.  
As a fan, I have no qualifications to criticize the officiating, and for the most part I tend to believe that the officiating is pretty good, and that the process of critiquing the officiating is beyond my pay grade.  However, in this game I was struck by the apparent absurdness of the call which decided the game in overtime.  Namely, the Jets kicker was attempting a 56 yard field goal, which is very tough to make.  His attempt was off line.  But wait! 

     An official threw a flag and called a penalty that no one had ever heard of before.  The penalty was for unsportsmanlike conduct, in which a Patriots lineman allegedly pushed a Patriots player, causing him to make contact with a Jets player.  What? 

    This was the game deciding play, and the defending team normally tries to block the field goal attempt.  Nobody was injured or caused any obvious discomfort on the play. All that us fans could see was 11 Patriots trying to block a kick. 

    While watching the game with my friends, I had remarked that several non-calls on pass interference by the Jets were unusually blatant, and that to my amateur eye it looked like the Jets defenders were being permitted unusual lattitude in defending against Patriots' receivers.  The stats look about the same for both games, but nevertheless that was the impression that I received while watching the game. But the ultimate weird call was pushing your own player, which caused the game deciding kick to be moved forward some 15 yards, with an additional first down thrown in for good measure.  

    I know that the NFL always reviews its officials and discusses each game.  I hope that they review this one in particular very closely, and that they can offer an explanation to the fans on what happened.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is Brian Hoyer the Answer?

It's very unfortunate that Brian Hoyer got injured.  He looks like a guy who can play at a high level in the NFL, and in the eyes of the coaching staff perhaps he is rated even more highly than Brandon Weeden.  

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer scrambles as he looks for a receiver during the first half of an exhibition against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 29 in Chicago. (AP photo)

Does that mean that Hoyer will be the starting quarterback in 2014?  

I don't think so.  From a pure football point of view, Hoyer has many of the same deficiencies of one Colt McCoy.   Namely, he is undersized, slow and does not have a cannon for an arm.  That means he is going to get pounded, especially on a team like the Browns that thinks that pass blocking is for sissies.  As of game 5, Weeden and Hoyer have been sacked 22 times already, which puts them among the league leaders in that category.  Anyway, check out the similarities between Brian and Colt:

                  Brian Hoyer       Colt McCoy
Age                   27                     27
Height             6 2                     6 1
Weight            215                     215
40 time           5.02                    4.79
Draft          undrafted                3rd Round, Browns
     For the record, the Village Elliot has never really been of the opinion that quarterback is the worst problem on the Browns.  McCoy is probably a decent NFL quarterback, whose best asset is a good football mind rather than fantastic physical skills, and he may get a chance to show it in San Francisco if Colin Kaepernick should be unavailable and miss a few starts.  

That said, Brandon Weeden has a better arm and is a little bigger, at 6'4" and 220 lbs, meaning that he might be a little better able to survive the pounding that Browns require of their quarterbacks. Not sure if he was worth a number one pick, but he can play.
Despite their inability to protect a quarterback, my belief is that the Browns are interested in obtaining a strong draft position in order to draft a name quarterback in the first round, possibly with the aid of a trade.  This is desirable from the standpoint of increasing the value of the team when it is sold (hopefully sooner rather than later).   A sale of the team may be necessitated by the poor financial health of Pilot Flying J, the truck stock firm owned by the Haslam Family, which also happens to own the Cleveland Browns.  

Having decided to draft the stud qb next year, the Browns are seeking a slew of draft picks to trade up if they have to (although by losing enough games, this might not be necessary).  The Browns saw how the Redskins seemed to improve their team dramatically by trading up for Robert Griffin III, and they would like to do the same thing.  Hence they are after other draft picks for trading stock, but they might be in the top 10 anyway simply by losing enough games. 

Based on this logic, Hoyer is not going to be of interest for the top spot, but might make the team as a backup.  Similarly, Weeden and backup Jason Campbell can also be had for the right price, but neither figures to be the starter in 2014.   

According to Ryan Wilson at, the Browns are also willing to trade Josh Gordon for the right price also ( ).  I also think that Weeden and Jason Campbell were considered expendable prior to Thursday night's game.  The Browns have continued to seek ways to trim 2013 salaries.  They are currently $26 million under the 2013 salary cap, which ranks them first in the league.
The Browns are said to be open to trading Josh Gordon.  It's hard to understand why unless you assume that the Haslam family is just short of cash right now.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Fozzy Whittaker Era Has Begun!

The Fozzy Whittaker era has begun in Cleveland. Today the Browns cut Montario Hardesty, another well-loved draftee from former GM Tom Heckert, and they signed rookie free agent Whittaker who returned some kicks for San Diego this year before being cut. Whittaker may replace Greg Little who was drafted as a wide receiver but now is mainly a kickoff returner.
Montario Hardesty had a few good runs with the Browns.  But he and his veteran's salary are gone now, as the cost-conscious Browns cut him today.  

I don't want to knock Hardesty personally because he worked hard and was a team player, but the facts are that his lifetime average is 3.5 yards per carry and he really struggled to catch the ball out of the backfield and did not block well either. Still many Browns fans thought it was a great move to package three draft picks to move up and nab him in the second round. This is hard to believe, but between Hardesty and Trent Richardson, the Browns gave up a

Number 1 (4th overall), 
Number 3, 
Number 4, 
Number 5,
Number 5,
Number 5, (that's right, THREE fifth round picks)
Number 7 pick for two running backs, and neither one is with the team now.

That's the equivalent of an entire year's worth of draft picks, and what we have left is a mid-to-late 1st round pick in 2014. Wow. What shrewd trading.

 Josh Cooper was also let go. He had great rapport with Brandon Weeden due to being teammates in college. I have to think Greg Little may be out also if Whittaker can return kicks. Little is averaging only 20 receiving yards per game this year, about half his career average. I can't understand why some of my friends think he is really a gifted number one receiver.