So look, I’ve been trying from the beginning to keep an open mind about this most recent reset of our believed Cleveland Browns. I have. I didn’t love the Chud hire at first, but I didn’t snap to a judgment, and as time has gone on I’ve come around on Chud. I really love the staff he put together, and I think he’s got a highly innovative mind on offense. He’s shown that he can maximize any quarterback (a valuable trait in this NFL), and he builds schemes that fit his players, as opposed to a one size fits alll type mindset. Norv is as good an offensive coordinator as you’ll find, even if he fails as a head coach. Ray Horton is one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL, and I’m pumped to watch the Browns defense actually get aggressive instead of seemingly being in a perpetual prevent set. I love the potential that T. Rich and Josh Gordon have, I’m a huge fan of Mingo and Kruger, and I rank Joe Haden in the top three at cornerback. We have an outstanding offensive line, and the potential to have an outstanding defense by midseason.
Now, I wanted to get some of my optimism out in the open before I talked about what so many are willfully ignoring. There is a nasty looking storm on the horizon for the Browns. It seems like a lot of people, fans and media alike, are not addressing it in hopes that it all just blows over. But this is Cleveland. We don’t dodge storms, they hit us in the worst places possible. And there is a terrible mixture of conditions that could prove to be explosively bad.
First, there’s the elephant in the corner. Owner Jimmy Haslam’s family business, Pilot Flying J, is at the center of a federal fraud investigation. Multiple high ranking executives have already flipped to the feds, and it wouldn’t be shocking at this point for an avalanche to start. Make no mistake about it fellow Browns fans, successful franchises are built from the top down. If the owner isn’t the right person, you can bet on futility and failure. The difference in the Kraft’s and Rooney’s against the Lerner’s and Jones’ is obvious, just check the bottom line. The longer this thing with Haslam draws out, the deeper it runs, you better believe its going to have a profound effect on the organization.
Second, the troubling tendancy that seems to be emerging for injury in Trent Richardson. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning Trent’s toughness or talent. I’m a big fan of his, I have been since he played at Alabama. Still, he’s sustained multiple injuries to multiple parts of his body in a relatively short time frame. This cannot be ignored. While running backs in general aren’t as regarded as in years past, the Browns simply do not have the depth at the position to have our number one back constantly injured. A sidelined T. Rich could spell disaster for the Browns this year.
Third, Brandon Weeden will never be more than an average NFL quarterback, at best. Look, I know some of you are completely unwilling to accept this. I’ve made some comparisons about his age in the past, and I’m sure we’re all well aware of his weakness compared to the other QB’s in his draft class. Don’t get me wrong, Weeden will do better, or at least have the chance to do better with this coaching staff than the previous. He has the line, the receiving corps and the run support to succeed. He has a cannon arm. The problem is that with his overall limited skill set, a player like him usually takes 2-4 years to develop into a viable starter. That would put him at best 33 and at worst 35. Is the math starting to make sense? At best, he’ll be entering the final couple years of an NFL’s shelf life, the beginning of the decline just as he’s developed enough to be a legit winner. That’s at best. The more realistic probability is that he will be a below average quarterback until he is replaced.
Finally, we have the news this week that Josh Gordon has been suspended for the first two games this season for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. What many of you may not know is that this is actually the second such violation for Gordon. The first one, which was kept private by the NFL, was for testing positive for marijuana. This time its codein. Some of you may know of the popularity of syrup (a designer drug that includes codein in the mixture) among pro atheletes, and that’s why Gordon’s excuse of cough syrup seems a little fishy. Further, the effects of marijuana and codein are fairly similar. Its tough to ignore the pattern developing. Josh has a tremendous potential ceiling, and by all accounts has a good deal of character. I’m seriously hoping that he takes this seriously and gets past it, because he could be a superstar. But this is Cleveland. And a storm is brewing…