The Heckert Record


Under normal circumstances, it would be premature to fully evaluate each of the last three drafts, but constant turmoil is the norm for the Browns, so I think an analysis of Tom Heckert’s drafts is justified.  Heckert was a popular man in town because he had done much better than any of the other talent evaluators we’ve had since returning to the league.  That distinction cannot be used to deem Heckert a success, just that he was better, like outscoring the cast of Jersey Shore on the Wunderlic because you made it to double digits.  Many Browns fans are lamenting the firing of Heckert because of their skepticism of his replacement, Mike Lombardi, and the Banner-Lombardi drafts are going to be closely compared to Heckert’s record.  Because of the near total void of talent when he arrived, Heckert’s draft picks have seen a lot of action, including the 2012 guys, so I believe a fair evaluation is possible and useful in examining the new regime’s moves going forward.

2010

1 (7) Joe Haden… An all-pro caliber corner.  Suspension proved his value to the defense

2 (38) T.J. Ward… A solid starter at safety

2 (59) Montario Hardesty… Traded up to get a RB with a history of knee problems

3 (85) Colt McCoy… Holmgren takes credit for picking Colt

3 (92) Shawn Lauvao… Starter at RG but needs replaced

5 (160) Larry Asante… Out of the league, but can tell his grandkids he INT’d Drew Brees once

6 (177) Carlton Mitchell… Flashed physical abilities but never proved it on the field

6 (186) Clifton Geathers… Cut before the season, still bouncing around practice squads

2011

1 (21) Phil Taylor… Solid starter at DT

2 (37) Jabaal Sheard… Good pass rusher with upside to be more

2 (59) Greg Little… Stone hands softened in the second half of this season

4 (102) Jordan Cameron… Great athlete, could thrive in Chud’s system

4 (124) Owen Marecic… FB that can’t run, catch or block

5 (137) Buster Skrine… You always know when he’s on the field, unfortunately

5 (150) Jason Pinkston… Solid LG prospect, hope he gets healthy

7 (248) Eric Hagg… Found the doghouse after Week 1

2012

1 (3) Trent Richardson… Slowed by injury, great hands

1 (22) Brandon Weeden… An upgrade but not the long term answer

2 (37) Mitchell Schwartz… By midseason, he was an excellent right tackle

3 (87) John Hughes… Head scratching pick, played better than expected

4 (100) Travis Benjamin… Great speed, may be the new return man

4 (120) James Michael Johnson… Hurt early, looked like a useful player

5 (160) Ryan Miller… Enormous human being drafted as a project guard

6 (204) Emmanuel Acho… IR for the season

6 (205) Billy Winn… A diverse lineman who looks like a steal

7 (245) Trevin Wade… Limited action, looked better than Skrine at least

7 (247) Brad Smelley… Should have made the team out of camp instead of Marecic

Heckert will be most remembered, and judged, for the Julio Jones trade, moving up to get Richardson, drafting Weeden and the trades they were unable to make.

Julio Jones is an outstanding receiver, but I wonder how great he would have looked in 2011 with McCoy throwing to him and Greg Little instead of Roddy White on the other side.  I can’t fault Heckert too much for trading for the extra picks given the state of the roster he inherited, and the picks were of good value. The issue is how he used the pick:  Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Brandon Weeden, and Owen Marecic.  Taylor will probably start at tackle for a long time, and Little may still develop into a good #2 receiver.  The big question is Weeden.  Weeden was clearly an upgrade at QB, but is not the elite player every team needs at the position to play well into January.  Marecic makes Braylon Edwards look like Gluefingers Lavelli and would make my list of the five worst Browns in my lifetime.

The trade up to get Richardson concerns me because they didn’t need to move up to get him and he’s a running back.  I thought the days of drafting running backs in the top five were over and rightfully so.  Given the direction of the game and the nature of the position, drafting a running back that high is unnecessarily risky and it is difficult to get good value unless you’re drafting Adrian Peterson (which Richardson is not).  Despite what the Vikings said at the time, no one was going to move up to get Richardson, and the extra picks could have given them greater flexibility with the rest of the draft.

Efforts were made in 2010 and 2012 to trade up to draft a franchise quarterback (Bradford and RG3).  As badly as we needed a QB, the costs of moving up would have been enough that it would have made it difficult to improve the team around them.  Given the reported offers, I would have opposed the trade for Bradford (because the team was so bad at that point… imagine what the Browns would have looked like the last three season with Bradford and without their high picks) and supported the trade for Griffin (potential generational league-changing talent).

Other than the sale of the team, perhaps the greatest reason for the demise of Holmgren-Heckert regime was the choice of Pat Shurmur as head coach.  His offense was the most predictable in the league and he was an atrocious game manager.  Even though the team was very young, there was enough talent on the team to win more games this year and make the decision to clean house more difficult for Haslam and Banner.

Overall, Heckert left the team in better shape than he found it on both sides of the ball and was a legitimate NFL general manager.  I believe if Heckert had been retained the Browns would have been in good shape in the long run.  However, after three drafts, the team achieved the same 5-11 record Mangini did with almost no talent the season before Holmgren and Heckert arrived.  The team’s record and new ownership can justify moving in a different direction, it’s just a matter of whether or not Banner and Lombardi are an upgrade.  I have my doubts, but they have my support.

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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.

Staff Changes Reviews


This has been a heck of an off season as far as changes to the Browns’ organization – both the coaching staff and the team in general.  The whole thing was set into motion when Jimmy Haslam bought the team from the Lerners, and brought a new, much more involved perspective to team management.  It’s no secret that Lerner was far more interested in everything outside of being the Owner of the Cleveland Browns than he was with that role, and it was reflected in the team’s lack of stability and poor on-field performance.  If nothing else, Haslam taking over the team provided the hope that the owner just might show some concern for the organization as a whole, since he actively wanted to own the team.

Haslam’s first move was to fire Mike Holmgren as team president/CEO and bring in his own guy, Joe Banner.  Now, initially I was a little skeptical of this move.  I’ve been a big fan of Holmgren throughout his NFL career, and I was a little sad to see the walrus go.  However, Haslam wanting his own guy running the front office was expected and made sense.  Plus, the reality is that Holmgren didn’t do enough to turn the organization around.  Banner proved effective in running the Eagles’ organization, and has a wealth of connections to agents, coaches, and GM’s.

From there, Haslam/Banner announced at the end of the season that GM Tom Heckert and Head Coach Pat Shurmur were being fired.  I was on board with the firing of Shurmur, because I never liked hiring him in the first place. Further, he’s done a pretty poor job of coaching up the young talent on the Browns’ offense, which is supposed to be his specialty.  I did not support the Heckert firing, as I think Tom did a heck of a job bringing in young talent.  The only possible misfire was the 1st round pick on Weeden, which still remains to be seen.

This left the team with vacancies at Head Coach and GM, but Haslam/Banner vowed to bring in a new coach before finding a GM/personnel director to pair him with.  The head coach search started out with a bang, with a sprint to try to woo former Oregon (current Eagles) coach Chip Kelly.  Most fans, myself included, were intrigued by the prospect because of the explosive, high speed offense that Kelly runs.  Once it became apparent that Kelly was not to be, Haslam/Banner began a slew of interviews before settling on Coach Rob Chudzinski.  Chud was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 07-08 under head coach Romeo Crennel, and helped coach Derek Anderson to his best NFL season and a spot in the Pro Bowl.  Chud has also coached for other teams, including the Chargers and Panthers.  Originally from Toledo Ohio, Coach Chud is a lifelong Browns fan and definitely brings a hometown perspective to the team.  I’ll admit that I didn’t love the hire initially, as I would have rather have seen the team hire Mike Zimmer or Bruce Arians out of the candidates available, but Chud has since won me over by his clear passion for this position and the fantastic staff moves he’s made in the time since his hire.

The Browns then hired former Browns’ staffer, long time NFL personnel guru, and NFL Network analyst  Mike Lombardi to take the GM reins.  This is probably the most controversial hire thus far.  Lombardi was an unequivocal bust in his time in Cleveland, though that was nearly 20 years ago.  He was also the “brains” behind the drafting of Jamarcus Russel in Oakland, and is widely known for taking big gambles in drafting and free agency.  I’ll admit that I do enjoy his commentary for NFL Network and find myself agreeing with him a lot these days, especially on topics like Brandon Weeden.  That said, the rumor mill made it pretty clear that Lombardi was the team’s GM pick months ago. He’s definitely got the most to prove out of everyone hired thus far.

Coach Chud’s first staff moves were to fill the offensive and defensive coordinator spots. While I was in no way sad to see Brad Childress go (worst coach ever), I think I speak for many fans when I say that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron did a heck of a job last season. He is definitely a top 5 defensive coach in the NFL. The hire of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator was both smart and unexpected. Norv is one of the best offensive minds in the League, even if he does fail as a head coach. Ray Horton was hired as the Browns’ new defensive coordinator, which was about the only move that was going to appease me, personally. You don’t often get to replace a top 5 coach with another top 5 coach, but the Browns actually did, so I’ll take it.

Over the next few days, we’re going to break down each coach more in depth, but this recap should get you up to speed on the current front office/coaching staff.