Jun 112013
 

Rob Chudzinski6. Cleveland Browns
Head Coach: Rob Chudzinski
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 302 points scored, 24th in points, 25th in yards (19th passing, 24th rushing)
2012 Defense: 368 points allowed, 19th in points, 23rd in yards (25th passing, 19th rushing)

 

Key Additions
Head Coach Rob Chudzinski , LB Paul Kruger, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Desmond Bryant, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson, TE Kellen Davis, K Shayne Graham, LB Quentin Groves, CB Chris Owens, RB Dion Lewis, DE Barkevious Mingo, CB Leon McFadden

Key Losses
WR Josh Cribbs, K Phil Dawson, LB Scott Fujita, RB Brandon Jackson, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, LB Kaluka Maiava, DB Usuma Young, DB Sheldon Brown, TE Alex Smith, S Ray Ventrone, TE Ben Watson, DE Frostee Rucker

Why 2013 will be better
The Browns placed an off-season emphasis on defense, signing free agent linebacker Paul Kruger away from Baltimore. Kruger and D’Qwell Jackson now form the backbone of a solid linebacking corps, providing no rush for the Browns to work rookie Mingo into the rotation. The switch to a 3-4 front will see Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Ahtyba Rubin playing with their hands on the ground. On offense the Browns have improved their receiving corps, where the Browns are counting on castoffs Bess and Nelson to complement Josh Gordon, who will miss the first two games of the season for a drug policy violation (and seems to be one mistake away from losing a year), and Greg Little. Both Bess and Nelson are capable receivers, with Bess catching 61 passes in 2012 and Nelson accomplishing the same in 2011 before an injury made his miss all but one game last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
The Browns have not resolved the quarterback position, with a second year starter on a short leash in Weeden, a journeyman veteran who has started seven games over the past two seasons in Campbell, and a former Tom Brady backup who has started one NFL game in Hoyer. Suddenly the decision not to trade up for RGIII begs another glance. Trent Richardson had a mixed rookie season with 950 yards all 11 touchdowns, but a net of only 3.6 yards per carry. He is a durable back, but the offense on the whole simply lacks a lot of pop, and averaging more than last year’s 18.9 points per game is going to be a challenge. On the defensive side, the secondary has seen significant change, and Joe Haden anchors a unit that probably won’t scare too many teams. Rookie corner Leon McFadden appears set to start opposite Haden, while the safeties will be second year man Tashaun Gipson and TJ Ward.

Outlook
There is something to be said for bringing in Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator. Turner seems better suited to this role than that of head coach, and if anyone is going to get Weeden playing well enough to make the Browns compete it will be Turner. Adding weapons at receiver doesn’t hurt, and having a solid offensive line gives the Browns the potential to surprise some teams. On the other side of the ball, switching to a 3-4 with an improved linebacking corps gives defensive coordinator Ray Horton the weapons he needs to try and disrupt opposing offenses. If the Browns can apply consistent quarterback pressure, they may be able to offset any concerns that exist in the secondary. The Browns appear capable of winning anywhere from 4 to 9 games this season, but I’ll place the over/under at 7. Consider it a good first step in banishing the “Factory of Sadness” moniker that is now the team’s unofficial slogan.

Mar 202013
 

FileCleveland_Browns_logo,_2006_to_presentAt this time of year we read about the winners and losers in free agency and analysts like to project how these additions or subtractions make teams better or worse. I am not one to say this team won and that team lost. Rather, I look at signing free agents as an opportunity to give the appearance of improvement. For instance, on paper the Baltimore Ravens look to be headed for a significant nose dive while the Miami Dolphins should be markedly better. Will this happen, I don’t know. This all leads me to provide some in depth “analysis” of my beloved Cleveland Browns.

They made some free agency noise, especially with the signings of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. To be honest, I do not know if these moves are going to help the Browns at all. Rather, in examining their signings, it is clear that the new regime was not impressed with the previous administration and their approach to defense. The signings of Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, and Desmond Bryant show that the new coaching staff believes there were a significant amount of holes to fill on defense.  As a fan, I thought that the offense needed a lot more of an overhaul. Clearly, Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, and Rob Chudzinski clearly disagree as they have only signed a backup tight end, Gary Barnidge for the offense.

I thought the Browns were going to sign a corner, a linebacker, wide receiver, and a quarterback to start free agency. Surprisingly, they did not go offense which is the biggest area for concern. Overall, I believe the Browns were able to fill holes and better their team. Now, will that translate to wins? I have no idea because there are too many what ifs at this point in the off-season. I believe a better assessment will take place post draft and pre-training camp. I have a feeling the Browns are going to make some dramatic moves prior to training camp. This is more of a hunch or reading tea leaves than any direct knowledge that I have gleaned.

All in all, free agency is a crap shoot. Some teams have benefited greatly over the years.  In the end, I applaud the Browns for addressing weaknesses they believe they need filled immediately, but I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon and say the Paul Kruger signing makes them a playoff contender. Hell, at this point the Browns do not have a kicker or viable punter on their roster. In the end, free agency is fun to talk about and imagine what if. It is not until they play the games that we find out if the risk was equal to the reward.

Dec 312012
 

Pat Shurmur and Tom HeckertFat Jesus is probably a happy man this morning… sort of.

The Cleveland Browns have announced the firing of Head Coach Pat Shurmer after the Cleveland Browns closed a 5-11 season with a 24-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. Shurmer was 9-23 in his two seasons as Head Coach, and his sideline miscues are well known by Browns’ fans.

But new Browns’ CEO Joe Banner also fired GM Tom Heckert, who was responsible for the improvements to the Browns’ roster that give the team hope for the future. Instead of performance issues with Heckert, it has been widely reported that Heckert expected to maintain control over the roster, something the new team isn’t in the mood to negotiate. By clearing out Heckert, the Browns get a clean slate moving forward and get to bring in their own staff. Banner issued the expected “this wasn’t an easy decision” statement, even though it was an easy decision. “This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people,” Banner said. “Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships. I have a great deal of respect Tom and Pat, and I want to wish them and their families nothing but the best.”

While the Browns have an improved roster, and some youthful talent in Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, and Joe Haden (yes, I’m still hedging on Brandon Weeden), no one will be able to make the claim that the next group coming in won with “Heckert’s team” because the fact of the matter is that the Browns are still several players away from being able to contend in the brutal AFC North.

Nov 192012
 
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I did not want to see a complete reboot of the Cleveland Browns after this year, but after another loss, I can not stand it anymore. The Cleveland Browns need to fire Pat Shurmur today. Let Brad Childress or Dick Jauron coach the team. Shurmur is completely clueless. His play calling, lack of control over game management, and inability to play to the strengths of his football team should cost him his job. The Browns have lost 12 straight on the road, are sitting at 2-8, which puts Shurmur’s overall record at 6-20. While I will concede that the Browns are a better football team, I do not believe that is because of Pat Shurmur. Tom Heckert has drafted extremely well for this team and I believe he should be retained. I recognize with a new owner in Jimmy Haslam, that most likely will not occur, but I would think long and hard about Heckert. He knows talent, now he just needs a person to coach it.

This is the most disheartened I have ever been as a Browns fan. I am disgusted by the apparent lack of coaching ability of our head coach. Here is an example. On fourth and 1 with about 1:50 left in the game at the Dallas one yard line, Sherman called a fade to Jordan Cameron. He is the third tight end on the Browns, who has caught seven passes in the last seven games. He has no touchdown receptions on the year. Instead of running the ball with the 3rd overall pick, Trent Richardson, or play action, he called this play. An incomplete pass out of the end zone. This is just one of 15 examples I can give from this season. The most frustrating aspect about Shurmur is that he gives no explanation or appearance of being bothered by mistakes. Instead, his line is “we need to correct them.” That works with a coach of great respect like a Bill Belicheck or Tom Coughlin, not Pat Shurmur. It is time to cut ties with Shurmur and begin looking for a coach that will use the talent appropriately and change the losing atmosphere found in Cleveland. Please, Jimmy Haslam, just end the nightmare now and rid us Browns fans of Shurmur.

Sep 182012
 

As a life long Cleveland Browns fan, I believed it was important for me to allow some time to elapse before commenting on the passing of Art Modell. Over the last several weeks numerous articles have been written about his life, career, and family. I am not going to spend too much time rehashing different viewpoints regarding Modell, rather I am providing you my personal viewpoints regarding Modell. For those who would like to read an excellent article and his moving the Cleveland Browns, I would refer you to this piece. I also provide you a youtube clip from when it was announced that the Browns were moving to give you a frame of reference of how the fans dealt with the loss of their beloved franchise.

Art Modell was a great ambassador for the NFL. He brought the NFL to television, played significant roles in owners meetings about the development of the game, and wanted winning football in Cleveland. With all that being said, he was a lousy business man and could not manage the business of the Cleveland Browns and more importantly good old Cleveland Municipal Stadium (aka the Mistake by the Lake). As a result, he took the greedy, least popular way to dig his way out of a hole. He up and moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The city that lost the Colts to Indianapolis stole one of the great franchises in sports history and provided the financial golden ticket that was needed for Modell to have “no choice” but to move the Browns. For Modell, it was worth the hatred and anger of one city, to go and be beloved in another.

For me, this move hurt greatly. My father and I lived and breathed Cleveland Browns football. We went to training camp, we went to games where we sat in the last row of the Stadium, games in the dead of winter, and a Monday night game where Bernie Kosar threw a 95 yard touchdown pass to Webster Slaughter. We died a little inside with the Fumble and the Drive. Hell, we still talk about those losses to this day. Every year we believe this will be our year. We spend countless hours arguing over play calling, player performance, or what we would do if we were GM. All of that ended in 1995. Those four years without Browns football (some would argue they are still not playing football in Cleveland) were terrible. And when the Browns returned in 1999, our love for our team did not. To this day, we do not have the same passion we once held. Of course, if the Browns would start winning, that may change things. We have continued attending games and watch on Sundays, however there is much more cynicism about our beloved Browns. I trace this all back to Modell’s decision.

Art Modell was as loved as any owner could be. The fans saw him as the owner who cared about the team and the city. After the Fumble, he hugged Ernest Byner and told him to keep his head up. The players lauded his approach. However in the late ’80s and early ’90s those feelings started to change. He began laying the foundation for leaving Cleveland. At one point, he mismanaged his money so much, he had to borrow money from several banks just to land free agent wide receiver Andre “Bad Moon” Rison. To my knowledge, he was the only owner in the NFL losing money on his football team. Modell openly complained about the stadium and fought with politicians. By 1994, it was clear, the Browns were in serious trouble. Even though he was offered a stadium deal called the Gateway Project (where Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena are located today), he chose not to accept the offer. Then, during the 1995 season, Modell was on an airplane (owned by Al Lerner) at a Baltimore tarmac officially agreeing to move the Browns to Baltimore. Instead of selling the team and making millions, he ripped the hearts of Cleveland fans out of their chests.

By 1998, we knew that the Browns would be back in Cleveland and playing in 1999. The kicker, the new owner would be Alfred Lerner, the one who facilitated the deal between the city of Baltimore and Art Modell. In 2001, Art Modell finally received his Super Bowl trophy and to Browns fans the hatred boiled over again. From 2001 to the day Modell passed away, the hatred just simmered. However, once he died the feelings were at the forefront again. I listened to a lot of Cleveland sports talk and fan after fan hammered Modell for his decisions. It was so bad, the Modell family asked the Browns not to plan a tribute to Modell before a recent game because they knew it would not go well.

So where does this leave me today? I believe Modell did a lot of great things in his lifetime and for the cities of Cleveland and Baltimore. However, I also believe that in life, if you make a serious bad decision, that may define your legacy. In this case, I think Art Modell’s decision to move the Browns should define him and his decision to move the Browns and take football away from the Cleveland should be his scarlet letter or albatross. His Super Bowl was his just desserts and justification for moving the team, but his decision to move the Browns should keep him from ever entering the Hall of Fame. After all, Canton is a mere 90 miles from Cleveland, and having Art Modell enshrined just doesn’t seem fitting to me.

 

Aug 102012
 

Well, the Cleveland Browns open the preseason tonight and one has to wonder what kind of year it is going to be? One of great joy or one of great misery? Being the eternal Browns optimist, I believed that they were beginning to turn the corner. The last two drafts have produced several starters or potential starters, including a new right tackle, quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive lineman, corner, and safety. 

My optimism has been short-lived. Scott Fujita is being suspended for three games for stuff he did with a previous team, Phil Taylor has gone down with a torn pectoral muscle, Chris Gocong is out for the year with a torn Achilles, Joe Haden is facing a potential four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Trent Richardson just had knee surgery, oh and the team was just sold (to a man who once had a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers). What does that mean for the Browns management? Well, I would not feel too comfortable right now. Which in turn means that as Browns fans, I expect them to be searching for a new coach, general manager, and team president. Please note, all of this has happened since May. This gets me pondering, when will the Factory of Sadness ever end! Well, beginning tonight, I believe it will. GO BROWNS!!!!

Jun 062012
 

As a long suffering Cleveland Browns fan, I have been asked by many of my friends when are the Cleveland Browns going to turn it around? Three years ago, I thought it would be now. Mike Holmgren was hired, GM Tom Heckert was brought in from the Philadelphia Eagles, and things began to brighten up. However, there was one major flaw, Holmgren decided to keep Eric Mangini as head coach. I believe this set the team and the organization back at least two years, maybe more. To begin, Holmgren persuaded Heckert to draft Colt McCoy. When that occurred, I was ecstatic because the Browns were finally bringing in a winning college quarterback from a major program. I thought, we are finally getting this right. The Browns can groom McCoy to take over in a year and we would be back on track. However, that is not what occurred. Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll decided not to develop McCoy. Rather, they chastised him and decided not to provide game plans to McCoy until later in the week during the preseason all because he was a rookie and they wanted “show him the real NFL.” So McCoy was never truly prepared for being a starter. To make matters worse, early in the season Browns starter Jake Delhomme got hurt and so did backup Seneca Wallace. McCoy was thrown into the lions den at the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Browns lost. So how does this all tie back to Holmgren?

First, Holmgren should have fired Mangini and brought in “his guy” immediately. Second, whoever the coach Holmgren was going to hire would have been required to develop McCoy. I believe these two miscalculations are going to cause Holmgren to eventually be relieved of his duties in Cleveland. Instead of being proactive to all of this, Holmgren has been reactive. That brings us to the decision to draft Brandon Weeden. Holmgren, Heckert, and Browns Head Coach Pat Shurmur have all hitched their wagons to a 28-year old rookie who has no receivers. He has a rookie running back and an offensive line that is mediocre at best. I am not going turn this into a Weeden vs. McCoy argument. Rather, it is clear to me that Holmgren made a serious blunder keeping Mangini and drafting McCoy. The Browns organization, specifically Holmgren should have brought in their head coach and drafted their quarterback instead acquiescing to Mangini’s demand to bring in Delhomme and try to win immediately.  Also, the Browns organization has done a lousy job of supplying any of the quarterbacks with offensive talent. This has resulted in the current Browns situation. One that I believe, will be the end of Mike Holmgren in Cleveland. I truly hope I am wrong in this assessment, but I just don’t see the talent on the field. In the end, the pessimistic Browns fan in me believes another rebuilding process is on the horizon. Ah, the Factory of Sadness continues!

May 222012
 

Cleveland Browns

Head Coach: Pat Shurmer

 

Projected Starting Quarterback: Brandon Weeden

2011 Record:  4 wins, 12 losses (4th in AFC North)

No postseason appearance

29th in Total Offense, 10th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 56 wins, 104 losses (T-29th in NFL)

0 win, 1 loss in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

0-0 All-time in Super Bowl