(this article is in response to one written by my good buddy and apparent Browns hater, Sean Anthony, which you can find here.)
The Cleveland Browns are a joke. I’m a fan of every team in Cleveland despite the city being forsaken by the sports gods, but it’s true: The Cleveland Browns are a joke. Right now, this franchise is closer to the Cavaliers than the Indians. What do I mean by that? Well, the Indians made the playoffs last season, defying the expectations of fan and expert alike, while developing talent and bringing in good coaches. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, continuously miss on the prospects they massively reach on in the NBA draft, their owner is the butt of many jokes, and no one wants to play for them. Right now, the front office of the Browns is as revered as Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.
But, there’s still hope. Despite firing their head coach after just one mere season, there’s still a chance this team can be saved. They do have a good amount of talent, including some stars in Josh Gordon, Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. The defense is poised to become one of the best in the league with just more development and maybe one more piece, though it’s likely they’ll need two as TJ Ward is almost guaranteed to leave. The O-line is solid, too, even if Alex Mack leaves as well. Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton should be a head coach already, and will be interviewed for the position in Cleveland. Though if he doesn’t get the job, he’s likely gone along with Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, and if a new coach comes in running a 4-3, the defense will struggle as well. Boy, great times to be a Browns fan, huh?
Anyway, this team, after selecting a head coach, needs to focus on one position before any other: Quarterback.
The problem is, there’s only one true first round prospect in this upcoming draft, and he’s going first overall. Once Teddy Bridgewater is off the board to Houston (they’re not taking Clowney just so he can get more tickets and take plays off in a new town), you have a boatload of guys with question marks ranging from arm strength and mechanics to off-field issues. Derek Carr can throw a mean screen pass, but has heavy questions about his decision making beyond that. Blake Bortles is a late riser in the mold of a weaker armed Ben Roethlisberger and has earned the favor of many fans, but Roethlisberger needs his cannon to be successful, so figure that one out. Johnny Manziel can make plays, but loves taking chances both on and off the field and will lead to injuries with his current play style. Then there’s AJ McCarron (physical tools), Zach Mettenberger (statue), Jimmy Garroppolo (competition), Aaron Murray (decision making), Brett Hundley (raw with a capital R), so on and so forth. There’s no doubt two or three of them will end up in the first round, but they shouldn’t. But that’s how important the Quarterback position is. Teams that don’t have a franchise Quarterback do not go far in this league anymore.
One of the few bright spots in Cleveland.
Also, you’re not bringing in any free agents after this stunt Cleveland pulled by firing Rod Chudzinski after one season. Even the players currently on the team are speaking out publicly about the move. Who would want to deal with a revolving door of coaches, constantly worried about their job status? You’re going to have to take next season to prove you’re worth the time of free agent talent. Unless they’re only after the money, of course. Remember Albert Haynesworth? So, don’t expect Jay Cutler to be wearing orange and brown next season, if Chicago even lets him test the free agency waters. Michael Vick will also be available, but there’s no way this front office would be so stu-… never mind. But the only way Vick goes to Cleveland is as a starter, and there’s no guarantee of that. There are also no Quarterbacks worth trading for. Washington needs to hold on to Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett is unproven, and I can’t even think of anyone else.
It’s also quite likely that the
team front office prefers what they have in-house with Brian Hoyer, and since it’s obvious they’re running the show and not the coaches, their love for Hoyer should be important to note. The former Patriot was impressive in the two games he was able to play before his season-ending leg injury, and it’s the front office that brought him to Cleveland. General Manager Michael Lombardi is a worshiper of the Patriot way, and wants Cleveland to be just like New England, with a coach just like Bill Belichick, or a disciple of his. Brian Hoyer was selected by Belichick before being released by New England, because they liked what they have in Ryan Mallett even more. Some use this as an indictment of Hoyer, but it’s not like the Patriots are infallible. Though if you presented that paradox to Lombardi, his head might implode.
All this leads me to believe that Cleveland will go with Brian Hoyer as their starting QB next season with Jason Campbell once again in a backup role. They’ll add more weapons to the offense in receivers and running backs alike from the draft and the free agent bargain bin, likely overspending because they have to get rid of about $46.5 million in cap space. If Hoyer can be the QB that he showed in his two games, this team will be fine, because the defense is going to be good. If he can’t be, then they’d better add a darn good running back along with a new center and guard combo, or it’ll be yet another long season up by Lake Erie.
It won’t get any better until the front office keeps their hands out of the coaches’ business, either. Here’s a question: if the next coach doesn’t get Cleveland to the playoffs in just one season, should Michael Lombardi be fired? It’s really a joke he got the job in the first place. One wonders how much time that Trent Richardson trade will buy him. Though being buddies with the owner and the president helps, too. Does it help any Browns fans to know that Josh McDaniels, the brilliant mind behind Tim Tebow, is the favorite to be the next head coach?
In other news, beer and liquor sales continue to rise in Cleveland.
Mask the pain.