Sep 032013
 

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Denver Broncos

Ghost Rat’s Note: The man. The myth. The legend. Fat Jesus is back for another season after tying the Ghost Rat in last season’s weekly pick ’em contest. And… judging by our picks, it looks like we’re in for another close season this year.

Here are Fat Jesus’ 2013 predictions:

AFC EAST
New England106
Miami610
Buffalo511
New York Jets313
AFC NORTH
Cincinnati115
Baltimore97
Pittsburgh88
Cleveland79
AFC SOUTH
Indianapolis115
Houston106
Tennessee610
Jacksonville214
AFC WEST
Denver124
San Diego79
Kansas City610
Oakland313
NFC EAST
Washington115
New York Giants97
Dallas88
Philadelphia610
NFC NORTH
Green Bay115
Chicago97
Minnesota88
Detroit79
NFC SOUTH
Atlanta115
New Orleans97
Carolina610
Tampa Bay610
NFC WEST
San Francisco133
Seattle106
St. Louis88
Arizona88
AFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Cincinnati over Baltimore
Houston over New England
Divisional Round
Denver over Houston
Cincinnati over Indianapolis
AFC Championship
Denver over Cincinnati
NFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Washington over New Orleans
Seattle over Atlanta
Divisional Round
San Francisco over Seattle
Washington over Green Bay
NFC Championship
San Francisco over Washington
SUPER BOWL
Denver over San Francisco
NFL POST SEASON AWARDS
Most Valuable Player -Peyton Manning
Offensive Player of the YearAdrian Peterson
Defensive Player of the YearPatrick Peterson
Offensive Rookie of the YearTavon Austin
Defensive Rookie of the YearTyrann Mathieu
Comeback Player of the YearRashard Mendenhall
Coach of the YearMarvin Lewis

 

 

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.

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 252012
 

“I am sick to my stomach” were the words used by Jon Gruden at the end of the Packers vs. Seahawks game last night. I could not agree with him more. The integrity of the game has been lost by the situation with the replacement referees. They are not getting it done. They cannot manage the game, make correct calls, or control coaches. Roger Goddell must rectify the situation with officials immediately. I cannot stand to see games decided in this manner. If I were a Packers fan or this happened to my beloved Browns, I would have lost my mind last night. I hope this is the tipping point and the real officials are back soon. To all the NFL fans, good luck with your teams this year, as we have no idea what we are going to get each game. 

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 142012
 

I know the preseason generally means nothing, especially for consistently good teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, after the first week of the preseason, I would be a little nervous if I am a Steeler fan. Why, because that offensive line is just plain bad.

The Pittsburgh Steelers used two early picks to draft offensive linemen David DeCastro (#24; 1st round) and Mike Adams (#56; 2nd round) in order to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright for the upcoming season. Well, after watching the first preseason game, the Steelers may want to clean up a few things, especially the offensive line because they were dominated in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The play was sloppy and Big Ben was not protected well at all. Was this just first game jitters or something more? And was this game a precursor to the season?

I thought the David DeCastro selection was an excellent choice as he did a fine job of protecting Andrew Luck at Stanford. With great surprise to me, against the Eagles, DeCastro did not hold up as well as expected and was pushed around. As for Mike Adams, I thought he was a reach in the second round and felt he would not do a good job of protecting Roethlisberger as Adams always struggled against speed rushers and those with brute strength. As a Ohio State Buckeyes fan, I watched Mike Adams get beat like a drum every week. If he was not getting beat, he was holding or had a false start that would stop a drive. Depending on which stats you read, Adams gave up between 1.5 to 3.5 sacks in the game to the Eagles.

Many will say, it is just the first preseason game, aren’t you overreacting ? I don’t believe so. I think that DeCastro will solidify his spot on the line and progress as appropriate. As a guard, he will provide a strong inside presence and will help the Steelers running game. In time, I think he will become an above average pass protector as well. However, Adams is going to be a liability. Again, he struggles with speed and brute strength. Go back to the tapes in college and watch as he gave up a number of big plays. I also did not find him to be a great run blocker. So, if I am the Steelers, I would be sure not to leave Mike Adams on an island.  If that occurs, I have a feeling that Ben Roethlisberger is going to be running for his life all year-long.

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!!!!

Jul 092012
 

Here are predictions from our resident Cleveland Browns fan, Fat Jesus.

NFL REGULAR SEASON
AFC EAST
New England 12 4 #1 Seed
Buffalo 8 8
New York Jets 8 8
Miami Dolphins 5 11
AFC NORTH
Baltimore 10 6 #4 Seed
Pittsburgh 9 7 #6 Seed
Cincinnati 8 8
Cleveland 5 11
AFC SOUTH
Houston 10 6 #3 Seed
Tennessee 7 9
Jacksonville 5 11
Indianapolis 3 13
AFC WEST
Denver 11 5 #2 Seed
San Diego 10 6 #5 Seed
Kansas City 8 8
Oakland 7 9
NFC EAST
New York Giants 10 6 #4 Seed
Dallas 9 7
Philadelphia 8 8
Washington 5 11
NFC NORTH
Chicago 11 5 #2 Seed
Green Bay 11 5 #5 Seed
Detroit 9 7
Minnesota 5 11
NFC SOUTH
New Orleans 11 5 #3 Seed
Atlanta 10 6 #6 Seed
Carolina 7 9
Tampa Bay 4 12
NFC WEST
San Francisco 12 4 #1 Seed
Arizona 7 9
Seattle 7 9
St. Louis 4 12
NFL POST-SEASON
AFC Wildcard Round

Houston over Pittsburgh

San Diego over Baltimore

NFC Wildcard Round

 Green Bay over New York Giants

New Orleans over Atlanta

AFC Divisional Round

 New England over San Diego

 Denver over Houston

NFC Divisional Round

 San Francisco over Green Bay

 Chicago over New Orleans

AFC Championship

Denver over New England

NFC Championship

Chicago over San Francisco

Super Bowl

Denver over Chicago

POST-SEASON AWARDS
Most Valuable Player – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Offensive Player of the Year – Drew Brees, New Orleans
Defensive Player of the Year – Patrick Peterson, Arizona
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Trent Richardson, Cleveland
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Morris Claiborne, Dallas
Comeback Player of the Year – Peyton Manning, Denver
Coach of the Year – Romeo Crennel, Kansas City
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!

Jun 052012
 

Well another labor dispute is Referees in a huddleback for the National Football League. This time it is with NFLRA. While I have applauded NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of player safety and the overall management of the game we all love, I simply do not understand his stance with NFL officials. How on earth can the NFL and the officials not come to an agreement? I will tell you, money! A multi-billion dollar league does not want to pay its officials. This is crazy. They are an extremely important part of the game and they deserve the money. Over the years, referees have been taxed with more and more responsibilities on the field of play. Not only are they needed to manage the game, but to also assess player safety.

This current labor dispute leads me to believe the NFL is going to have a multi-pronged media relations coup on its hands. Just wait for the first major blown call from a “scab” official. Not only will the “real” officials scream from the highest mountains, so to will players, media, and fans. I just don’t understand the NFL risking this because of money. The negative far outweighs the positive. It is quite clear that the NFLPA is already laying the foundation to making this matter a big deal. On Monday, the NFLPA weighed in on the issue with the following statement:

The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL’s decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season…In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function. Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association’s trained first responders.  The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league’s actions in this situation.”

Beyond the media relations hit, the NFL is going to have to fight this issue on two fronts, the referees and the players. Imagine one of the stars getting injured because a “scab” referee is not doing their job. There would be hell to pay from the NFLPA as well as fans. I just don’t believe the rewards outweigh the risks for the NFL. Goodell is being obtuse in this situation and I am not sure why. Like it or not, referees are an integral part of how the game is managed and played. When excellent referees are on the field, we as fans pay attention to the game and that is it. When referees can’t manage the game, we scream and yell at them as do players, coaches, media, etc. In my opinion, there is going to be a significant increase in player, coach, media, and fan anger if the NFL implements its plan to use “scab” referees.

To me, the solution is quite simple. Pay the officials on the level of Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, but with this caveat. Make them full-time employees. When the NFL is in the offseason, require referees to be a part of the offseason program as well. Just like players, have referees be in OTA’s, training camps, etc. I believe that is the one major concession the referees need to make. This job must be a full-time responsibility. To that end, the referees should also get paid like full-time employees and receive the appropriate benefits as well. I would like to see referees take a more active role in the offseason through training because I believe that makes them better at their job. I think that the NFL paying its referees fairly and requiring them to be full-time will make the game better. And in the end, isn’t that the goal? Just show the referees the money already Goodell.