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.  
    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.  
     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.   

   The Mikes get ready for a nice friendly game of tennis, supervised by champion tennis player Luke Jenson.  

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...

Saturday, April 29, 2017

NFL Bonkers Over First Round QBs--Again!

Once again teams traded up for quarterbacks in the first round, even thought most of the scouts felt that the 2017 qb class isn't that good.  It gives us an interesting opportunity to study what QBs are actually worth.

Trubisky went to Chicago for the 1st round 3rd overall pick, plus two third round picks, and a fourth round pick. Pat Mahomes cost Kansas city two number 1 picks, plus a number 3.  Deshaun Watson cost Texas  two first round picks. Jeepers peepers.  Adding up, its 5 number ones, 3 number threes and a number four.   

If you use the Schamm point system (table below), the Trubisky trade was worth 2300 + 255 + 195 + 67 = 2817 points.  That's about halfway between second overall and first overall.  

The 2016 NFL draft also featured some amazingly high picks burned on players not really rated that high.  To review,Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went first and second overall, and  Pax Lynch was taken in the late first round.   We coud also add Sam Bradford to the list, since he accounts for a number 1 and conditional number 4  pick.   As shown in the table, teams traded a total of 15 picks including 6 number one picks to land these four quarterbacks guys.  It's absolutely insane how much teams are willing to pay for quarterbacks.

In all, for qbs in the first round, the teams traded the following:

Teams Spent:                       Teams Got:
11 number one picks            Jared Goff
3 number twos,                    Carson Wentz
8 number threes.                  Pax Lynch
2 number 4 (conditional)      Sam Bradford
                                             Mitchell Trubiskey
                                             Pat Mahones
                                             DeShaun Watson

Jiminy Christmas, that's 24 draft picks including some really pricey ones, and I'm not real sure that any of these guys are really that good.  Jared Goff was All-Nothing in his first year, and Carson Wentz struggled, and Pax Lynch didn't play for the Broncos.  Sam Bradford was the best.  

Now let's see what happened for the rest of the draft.  

Teams spent:             Teams got:  

2 number twos          Dak Prescott
4 number threes       Jacoby Brissett
4 number fours         Cody Kessler
2 number fives          Connor Cook
5 number sixes.        Cardake Jones
2 number seven        Kevin Hogan
                                  Hackenberg, Christian
                                  Allen, Brandon
                                  Rudock, Jake
                                  Sudfeld, Nate
                                  Driskel, Jeff
                                  Doughty, Brandon

                                  DeShone Kizer
                                  Davis Webb
                                  CJ Beathard

                                  Joshua Dobbs
                                  Nathan Peterman
                                  Brad Kaaya
                                  Chad Kelly

If you believe in the Brandt draft point system, the mid-first round iis worth roughly  1000 points, 2nd round is 400 points, 3rd round is 200 points 4th round 70, 5th round 35 6th round 20 and 7th round 10.  In rough terms the high group cost the teams some 13000 Brandt points, and the bottom group about 2000 points

So, obviously if the NFL knows as much about quaterbacks as they think, the first round guys should be worth SIX TIMES what the bottom guys were worth.  In particular, in theory Goff was worth SEVENTY FIVE (75) TIMES Dak Prescott.  Um, anyone notice a problem here?  

There were some standouts in 2016 from the later rounds. In addition to Dak Prescott, Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler clearly outperformed Goff, Wentz and Lynch, at least in year 1.  

I would bet against Trubisky, Mahomes and Watson ever being able to justify the enormous faith that their teams placed in them.  On the other hand, I like the chances of guys like Kizer, Webb, Kelly and Kaaya to exceed expectations.    

Brandt Point Value versus Overall Draft Pick Number

Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 6Round 7