Alex Smith For Browns Starting Quarterback!


As the rumor mill starts to swirl and it becomes apparent that Alex Smith’s preferred destination may actually be Cleveland, I’ve decided he has my vote to take the starting job from Brandon Weeden.  Here’s my case for why.

1.  Alex Smith is two years younger, with seven years of NFL starting experience.  Yeah.  This is why drafting a 27 year old quarterback in the first round was as stupid as it was pointless.  Sure, Smith struggled early in his career.  You know what that means right?  His growing pains, his development, those things are largely in the past.  He is a mature, respected leader in the 49ers locker room, even after being benched.  He’s got a ton of time playing, and…

2.  His numbers are better.  He is arguably in his prime, coming off his best two seasons.  He rarely throws bad passes, rarely throws interceptions, and never makes awful decisions.  He’s smart (check his IQ and wonderlic), balanced, and can run an offense.  Today.  Not in 2 years, but today.  Which means…

3.  Alex Smith gives the Browns the best chance to be relevant this season of any options on the table. I’ll even go out on the limb and say that with Smith starting, the Browns will win 9 games minimum this coming season. Why? He’s a veteran leader, and an amazingly efficient game manager. He will help develop those young receivers far better than Weeden could hope too. And, he’s smart enough to not be upset and handing the ball off to Richardson. San Fran made it to the NFC championship last year with that strategy. But what if we need to throw the ball downfield…

4. Smith is better at everything Weeden is supposed to be good at. Big arm? Check. Pocket Presence? Check. Add to that that Smith is way more accurate and way less turnover prone. Then, factor in that Smith can actually run (more of an Aaron Rodgers type in that regard), unlike the highly immobile Weeden, and you can see how this is starting to add up. But to my final point…

5. Smith is a better long term option. Haslam and Banner have talked nonstop about building this team for the long haul. Smith is younger, and less likely to make the kind of mistakes that will get him fired. Additionally, after he’s had a good run with the team, he’s far more likely to help train up his future replacement. Look at what’s happened with the 49ers. The coaches and Kaepernick give immediate recognition to the fact that Smith has helped coach Kaepernick up more than anyone. If he’s willing to do that in his prime, you’d better believe he’ll be as classy at the end of his career. Which, I’m hoping is in Cleveland.

Alex Smith may not be the Quarterback that Browns fan want, but he’s the one they deserve. And need.

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Reviewing the New Browns – Part I


I mentioned a while ago that I was going to write a series breaking down the backgrounds of the Browns new Regime.  Well, the day has come.  I’m going to start at the top and work my way down, and try and cover the entire Front Office and Coaching Staff.  Hopefully this will give Browns fans a better perspective on the people who now control our beloved, hapless Brownies.

 

Jimmy Haslam

 

Jimmy Haslam – Owner

The Facts:

On August 2nd, 2012, Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns from former owner Randy Lerner for $1 billion dollars.  Haslam was officially approved as owner by the NFL on October 16th.  Haslam was previously a minority shareholder in the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as owner of a Chicago Clubs AA baseball club in Tennessee.  Haslam is also the Chairman of the Pilot Flying J truck stop company, a business he took over from his father.

 

The Opinion:

Although he has minimal experience in the NFL, Haslam has the right connections and the right attitude from what I’ve seen so far.  He’s brought in the right guy to replace Holmgren (Joe Banner), and has generally been extremely involved in pushing the franchise to some sort of relevance.   It’s early still, but I like what I see.

 

Joe Banner

Joe Banner – CEO

The Facts:

Joe Banner was hired by his friend Jeffrey Lurie in 1994 when Lurie purchased the Philedelphia Eagles.  Banner was steadily promoted until he became President of the Eagle organization.  In June 2012, he changed positions and became strategic adviser to Lurie.  The day after officially taking over as Owner, Jimmy Haslam hired him as President/CEO of the Cleveland Browns.

The Opinion:

Banner has more than proved his abilities as a top tier executive.  He has a wealth of contacts around the NFL, including fellow administrators, coaches and player agents.  His skill in guiding a successful organization, hiring the right people to run it, and finding/hiring talent are all things I don’t think anyone can doubt.  Haslam found the right guy to replace Mike Holmgren in my opinion.

 

Mike Lombardi

Michael Lombardi – VP of Player Personnel

The Facts:

Michael Lombardi has a long, long career in Football.  He started work as a scout in 1981, and has held virtually every personnel position.  Personnel Director for the Browns from 1987-1996, Director of Pro Personnel for the Eagles in 1998, and Senior Personnel Executive for the Raiders from 1998-2007.

The Opinion:

Lombardi is the guy most Browns fans dislike the most from this management group.  He’s had some well publicized missteps in personnel in Cleveland and especially Oakland.  I won’t try and excuse the guys mistakes, but I will take a step back and point out some things that I do like.  I agree with him about drafting Weeden in the first round last year, it was a panicked mistake and disaster.  What a waste of a pick in such a stellar draft class.  He has a ton of connections, knows the scouting game better than most, and will be checked by Haslam/Banner/Chud in regards to final personnel decisions.  The problems Lombardi has encountered came from high risk, high reward acquisitions, the kind Banner is unlikely to sign off on.  I think he’s going to do fine with other people able to veto his gambles.

Wide Receivers Available Via Free Agency


One of the most pressing off season issues the new Browns regime needs to address is at Wide Receiver.  The Browns have a couple of talented young guys in Josh Gordon and Greg Little (Little has some issues, but I believe they can be addressed with proper coaching).  However, what they are clearly lacking is a lights out veteran to lead the younger guys and put up a consistent performance.  So, let’s break down the best options available through free agency.

 

1.  Wes Welker

 

Welker is a free agent this off season, and the Patriots may not want to pay the man.  He is about as solid as they get, especially in the short field, where he eats up receptions.  He’s a team first guy, has a great attitude, and has worked with the best coaches and one of the best QBs in the league.  He would be a great pick up if the Browns can swing it (if N.E. doesn’t resign him).

 

2.  Mike Wallace

 

After his worst pro year in 2012, all signs are that the Steelers will not pay Wallace the money he wants.  When pressed about it, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “I don’t think we have too many franchise players.”  Wallace still put up solid numbers last season, 100 catches for 800 yards and 8 TDs.  And what better way to meet the Steelers twice a  year than with their ex star WR scorching them up and down the field?

 

3.  Dwayne Bowe

 

Bowe has had a few bad seasons, but I chalk that up largely to the Chiefs lack of talent at Quarterback.  He still has a lot to give, with 6 years in the league, and has the potential to bring a reliable receiver to the Browns roster.  He’s an immediate upgrade at the position, and would give us solid production even while we figure out our QB situation.

 

4.  Greg Jennings

 

I’m not as stuck on Jennings as a lot of Browns fans.  He has seven years in the league, and the past several have been riddled with injuries.  And, he’s probably on the backside of his career.  Given that and the minor drama he stirred up in Green Bay, I wouldn’t pay the guy much to come here, probably less than he’s going to want.  That said, as a last resort and for the right price, he is talented and experienced.

Smoke Signals Over the Cuyahoga (formerly known as the DiaTRIBE) #1: Among the Living


Well, that didn’t last long. Who would have thought that a 5 minute search on Google, or whatever your search engine of preference is, would have yielded that “DiaTRIBE” was already taken by another blog. To add insult to injury, it’s made up of fairly well-composed and thought out posts! The audacity! Enough carrying on about a silly blog title. You’re not that invested, are you? Nah, and neither was I at the time. Self-deprecating humor, it’s still a thing and I still do it.

Let’s be forthright. In spite of a new and very capable manager and some pointed roster changes, I’m staying realistic in keeping my expectations low. I’ll get more into this at a later time as the season draws near, but I want to make that statement because in spite of it, there’s still time and room to keep making interesting and creative decisions with what the team has to work with and what’s out there within reach.

Most of the lineup appears to be set for the time being. Am I content with it? Not in the least, but between what was dealt in trades and the cash ponied up in avoiding arbitration, there’s little chance of the starting nine changing between now and the beginning of the season barring an unforeseen circumstance – namely injuries. The one block in the lineup card that’s still blank, or at least written in pencil, is the one upon which any and every team in the American League hangs the heart of their lineup on if they’re even at least halfway competent. Of course we’re talking about the designated hitter.

You know all the names that have been bandied about before even reading this. Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, all of whom I expect to get ABs there outside of their respective positions, Chris McGuiness, Mike McDade, Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles, and Tim Fedroff, most of whom were addressed in the previous entry. I’ve even floated the idea of acquiring a player like Justin Smoak of Seattle, ousted by their recent acquisitions of Kendry Morales and Raul Ibanez’s return, or even Brandon Belt in San Francisco if the price is right. In short, no one has a clue for sure. The prospect of the DH being split between several players on the team as it exists presents the possibility of taking away ABs from other deserving players and the worst case scenario of eating a plural number of roster spots. In summary, the designated hitter should not and must not be a platooned position for a team that’s still a productive bat away but lo and behold, that’s precisely what it’s shaping up to be.

As harrowing of a management decision that looks to be, the sting is far less than what the rumor mill’s been spinning lately. With no takers on the market and the organization desperate to reinvigorate the fanbase, both Jim Thome and Travis Hafner have been tossed around as possibilities to be the full-time DH in Cleveland once again. I don’t need to run the numbers for you whether that’s in statistics or contracts or payroll. They’re already out there and you’re likely privy to them. My grievance isn’t solely with the front office taking a hard look at them, but with the rest of the fans, too. This applies far more regarding Thome than Hafner, but it’s indicative of how so many of both casuals and even die-hards still pine for the stars of that era and cling to their nostalgia of that great run the franchise had in the second half of the ’90s. Conversely, simply overlooking how either the vast majority of those players have been out of the game or are still hanging around and have sharply declined in their skills to the point of no longer being deserving of a starting place in the lineup. Unless it just happens to be ours in which case, hey, open arms! This has given the FO an excuse to pursue lesser players for pennies on the dollar and gives the bleacher crowd the opportunity to break out their faded t-shirts and replica jerseys, pony up for overpriced beer, and kick their feet up at a home game for a few hours while having the audacity to STILL complain about how great things used to be for the N-teenth time. That’s an utterly ridiculous exercise in futility, folks. I understand the product and the players on the field hasn’t given us much to cheer about in recent memory, and fewer things are more irritating than refusing to give or accept criticism on professional and personal levels, but we passed the turnoff too far back and who knows when or where the next exit’s coming. Another statue in front of the stadium or another bobblehead giveaway doesn’t validate holding an up-and-comer back from the Show to placate the “remember when” crowd, nor should a fan worth their salt allow themselves to be satisfied so simply.

Yes, that’s quite a couple layers of skin to peel off just to address merely one issue and I’ll concede the argument that it’s a non-sequitur, but does it not bear repeating?

Full Transcript From 1/29/13 Press Conference With DC Ray Horton


Browns coach Pat Shurmur met with reporters today following his team’s organized team activity practice. Here is a transcript from the news conference:

(Opening Statement)- “It’s week two of the OTA process here and I think the guys worked well. We’re trying to introduce one phase of situational football each day and we did some two-minute at the end of practice, which I think the guys handled well. I’m more interested in going through the mechanics of it from calling the plays and getting the defense lined up and whatnot and I thought they functioned well. One thing I would caution you against is looking out there and trying to decide who is a starter and who is a backup. I think right now we’re just out there, at most positions, competing and trying to get better. I feel good about the work we got done today and we’ll try to back it up tomorrow and Friday with two more practices with this structure. Next week we will have a minicamp structure, which is our mandatory minicamp, so the players will have technically a travel day on Monday and then Tuesday and Wednesday will feel like an in-season Wednesday practice because the two-a-days, as we know, are gone which will be a walk-through and a practice. Thursday then would feel like an in-season Friday practice, which would be a practice just minus the walk-through. That’s what the minicamp should feel like and then we’ll try to go back and review the things we did in the first six OTA’s and through the minicamp structure and then finish up the next week of course with four OTA’s. That’s where we’re at, it’s a beautiful day, I think we got a lot of work done.”

(On if it meant anything that Brandon Weeden took first team reps today)- “I don’t think you can read into that. I think last week Colt (McCoy) started all of the team drills. This week, or at least today and it will change throughout the week, we had Brandon start the drill, but they all got similar amount of reps with guys that are competing at the skill positions to be starters. I wouldn’t read into that, no.”

(On how Greg Little’s leaner physical appearance is translating on the field)- “I’ve seen him look a lot quicker, a lot more sudden and I think to this point he has caught the ball at a much more consistent rate and he just looks like a different guy to me. A guy that’s been through it once and to his credit, and again let’s not tell him I said this, but to his credit he has done a really nice job of getting his body into the right kind of shape he needs to be in to be a receiver in this league.”

(On if Little was encouraged by the organization to be in better shape)-“Greg and I, we spoke often throughout the year and of course just trying to counsel him on how to be a pro and part of it is taking care of your body. I think he did reshape his body in some ways and it’s a credit to him.”

(On how much confidence they have in the receiving corps)- “I think the players that are here and their development is what we are hopeful will make a receiving corps that we need. Then you add the new players, of course, a couple of whom have showed up and then you put it all together. Then you get better play from all of the positions around them and I think it is going to be what we think it should be.”

(On how much Nolan Cromwell will help the receivers)- “I think Mike Wilson did a nice job with them last year, but again I had Nolan on the radar because I worked with Nolan in St. Louis. He’s just a fine teacher and I think when you add a fine teacher to the group it helps. Nolan has done a nice job. He and Mike work extremely well with the receivers and we have a good situation because in team drills, they can work sides and the guys can get immediate attention. I think that works out well and Nolan is a great addition.”

(On the play of the running backs compared to midseason last year)- “I think they are all out here healthy and they are all here competing and they are getting they’re reps, but the reps that they are getting, they can be fresh because there is a lot of them right now and they all look quick. I think Montario looks good. I’m getting used to watching the new number. Brandon Jackson’s healthy, he looked quick to me. Chris Ogbonnaya is very consistent and he also looked like he gave himself a chance to compete because he is in good shape, not to mention Trent (Richardson).”

(On if he had a conversation with Hardesty after they drafted Richardson)- “I think it’s part of the business. The players are aware that you’re going to draft players at their position at some time in their career, so when we are out here competing, determining who’s going to be the starter and who’s going to be the roll players, they know what’s up. These are pro players, they are used to competing, and they’re used to being in these team situations where they have had to fight for everything. I think Montario is handling it very well.”

(On if he ever saw Hardesty at 100% last year)- “I thought I saw him play very well against Miami. I think that was his high watermark for me and he did a nice job. I’m hopeful that he will come back in great shape for training camp when we put the pads on and start getting banged around.”

(On if there are any rookie or young defensive backs that are standing out)-“I think that in the secondary, (Tashaun) Gipson has flashed a little bit at safety. I think Trevin (Wade) has done a nice job at corner. Young players, I still look at T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg as young players in my mind. Weeden is older than them, right (joking)? I am teasing of course, but I think they are doing a nice job. For the defensive backs, there are certain things that they can’t do that will make some of our guys stand out more. We’re not allowed to bump-and-run out here, we’re obviously not running the ball out here so you’re not seeing guys tackle. So there are some facets to their game that we’re going to have to wait and see once we put the pads on.”

(On if the offensive line is restricted during OTAs)- “Yeah it is, but I think the NFL way is you practice without pads on quite frequently, even during the year. They get used to coming off, using their hands and their pad level. What you can see it their body position, their pad level, when they get off and their finish. We can see a lot of what we need to see, but again, the whole team needs to be involved in the physicalness of training camp and the preseason games.”

(On how much of Little’s transition to the NFL was delayed because he did not have a senior season at UNC)- “That may have delayed it some. I think he also did not have a traditional offseason. He got hit with a double-whammy, so to speak. I know he worked out extremely hard on his own, but it’s hard to get the same kind of work that you get when you are here working with the guys.”

(On if he knew Little would need extra care when he was drafted)- “I think when you look at his history and the reason why he didn’t play his senior year, we obviously wanted to take that into account when we drafted him. We feel like he’s got skill and ability and we want to work with him. Just like I’ve talked you about numerous times, I’ve talked to Greg quite frequently. When you coach him he is very coachable. You can whisper at him or yell at him. It’s not his first rodeo, he’s been coached before, and he takes it and I think he has been listening. When I had my exit interview with him in January, I basically told him that he needed to do everything he can in this offseason to make a huge jump for his second year. I think he’s got a good start on that.”

(On how good he thinks Little can be)- “I don’t know. We drafted him with the idea that he could be a starter in this league and be very productive.”

(On if Little has already done that)- “He has already done that, but I think we can all agree and he would be the first one to tell you that he needs to be more consistent. I think that being in better shape, having a better understanding of what he has to do, that will help him with that consistency. A lot of these guys can do it once, the key is over the grind of the season, being able to do it over and over and over consistently well. I think that’s what him being in better shape will give him a chance to do.”

(On what Little did to improve himself)- “I know he worked on his nutrition and weight lifting. He’s always been a guy that’s kind of a very dense guy that’s got a lot of muscle tone.”

(On what a receiver can to do to improve dropping the ball)- “You work on the fundamentals of catching the football. We try to avoid saying, when a ball is dropped, ‘Hey, catch the ball.’ It’s about focusing on a small point, it’s about your eyes and your fingers and catching the tip and all of those things. We have an increased number of drills that we do and I think you’ll find in coaching and teaching that you get what you emphasize and we’ve emphasized it a great deal. He’s (Little) embraced working at it and we’re hopeful it will show up that way once we start playing for real.”

(On evaluating Little’s hands)- “I think he has very good hands. I think he’s got NFL hands.”

(On if it is a little more complicated than just the fundamentals of catching a football)- “Most skills in football are a little more complicated than just saying, ‘Hey, block the guy,’ or ‘Hey, catch the ball,’ and those are the things we try to zero in on when we coach players, to hit them on the details and the fine points of it.”

(On what catching the tip means)- “When the ball spins at you, what you see is the tip and so then you try to catch the tip.”

(On what he has seen from Marcus Bernard)- “He looks like a different guy, physically, to me as well. He’s much leaner, he looks much more fit and he’s flashed just in the little bit you can see from defensive linemen. He looks to me like he is putting himself in position to have a good camp and that’s good.”

(On if he is impressed that Bernard is able to be here after what happened)-“I am glad he’s here and I think we all go through things in life that refocus us on doing things the right way and allowing us to be able to continue to do the things that are important to us. He’s done that, he looks like he is in good shape and I am glad he is here to help compete and make this team.”

(On if Scott Fujita is at his appeal hearing today)- “Yes, you probably know more details about that, but that’s where he is at.”

(On updates on Brian Schaefering and Eddie Williams)- “Schaefering is doing great. I wouldn’t say he is ahead of schedule, but initially we thought he would be here for training camp, but he’s looking and feeling very good so we might be able to get something out of him the last week here of the offseason. We will wait and see, but he is doing very well. Then Eddie Williams, his back is a little stiff, but he is okay.”

(On what was wrong with Schaefering)- “He had groin surgery, a sports hernia.”

I’m Still All In On Brandon


Why I’m still all in on Brandon Weeden:

Let’s compare Brandon to Andy Dalton, let’s debunk some of the rumors, and let’s talk about our QB options.

Brandon Weeden’s rookie year VS Andy Dalton’s rookie year:

* Andy Dalton had AJ Green, while Josh Gordon came along after week 5 and was not AJ.

* Jay Gruden worked some of what Andy already knew from TCU into his offensive system.

ATT   COMP YDS      AVG   TD INT   QBR

2011 Dalton 300 58.1 3,398 6.59 20 13 80.4
2012 Weeden 297 57.4 3,385 6.55 14 17 72.4

How come no one called for Daltons job?

Debunking:

His age : Although Weeden is going to be 30, he played baseball so his body has taken the beating that a Jay Cutler’s has. I think its something forgotten about and not talked about, but we didn’t get Weeden in free agency or from the CFL; he played baseball. The offensive line in Cleveland could be top 10 in the NFL for a long time because they are young and on the upswing, so there is no reason to think an upright Weeden couldn’t be here for 6-8 years.

Weeden just stares down receivers and  doesn’t hit open guys:  He was a rookie and no matter how “mature,” he was going to stare some receivers down. Even Andrew Luck had some issues with that, and this always gets better with time. On his receivers: Do you think second year WR Greg Little, Rookie WR Josh Gordon, and Rookie WR Travis Benjamin were breaking on their routes, and running the right routes all the time?   NO.  Some of it was Brandon getting happy feet and throwing it early, but some of it was Brandon trying to hit a guy where he “should” be or where he is “going.” Again this will get better with continuity and time.

Brandon is going to be 30. He was picked too high at 22, and that’s not because he wasn’t talented enough, but it was because he was a “spread offense” QB and should have sat for a year. This gives him a major disadvantage. In 2012  he made plenty of mistakes but he had a rookie WR core, a rookie injured RB, a rookie RT, and Pat Shurmur calling the plays. What QB had more stacked against him? Also he was put in a WCO that he shouldn’t have ever been in because it doesn’t fit his skill set.

Our Options:

Ryan Mallet “BIG TEX” : First off he has the same skill set as Brandon, all comparable except Brandon is probably more mobile. I know he is 24 years old. I know he has a cannon. I know he had a drug problem in college. I know he has 1 for 4 so far in NFL completions.

This is the “best” option in the market but the Pats want a #1 draft pick for him so can I ask you – With a QB a lot like Brandon who was drafted in the 3rd round, who had a drug problem, and who has completed one big league pass … is he worth it?

Matt Flynn: I don’t like him. He had one good game in which a lot of passes were under thrown and his WR made plays on them. Our guys have not done that yet, and outside of that game he has been an average to below average prospect. We would most likely give a 1st round draft pick for him, too.

Colt McCoy:  People are wrong when they say he is so much more accurate than Brandon. I was at those home games for Colt McCoy, and even outside of looking like a 13 year old girl next to men in the huddle, I saw nothing that I liked about his game. He has been just as inaccurate at times as Brandon has been. He scrambles to one side because he has trouble seeing his throwing lanes so he scrambles or runs for it. It drastically reduces the big play’s possibilities when you take half your reads out of your vision. Also we know a “vertical passing” offense and Colt McCoy do not go together. He is a nice guy though.

Alex Smith: Again he has a lot of what Brandon has, but until Jim got to town he was downright awful.  He is 28,  they will probably want a first rounder for him too (see the trend here) and I think Norv can do for Brandon what Jim did for Alex.

We have needs … CB, OLB, Vetern WR, FS….. our first round pick is better spent on a shut down corner. We have Brandon, he is pretty cheap, he is capable, and Norv Turner has a track record with QBs that is undeniable. Just like many teams, let’s pick someone up in the late rounds to develop every year and you never know what we might find.

Brandon Weeden is our best option for 2013 in my honest opinion.