Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

One year ago, Browns fortunes took a turn for the better

ray farmer happy draftLike a dog working an old bone (and rest assured this dog is not named Swagger), we just can’t seem to let go of the media-driven narrative that Cleveland Browns headquarters in Berea is a flaming mess.

Especially as tomorrow marks an important turning point in the franchise’s fortunes.

The NFL, still smarting over the fact that they can’t penalize New England for taking air out of the footballs, and lacking any additional way to levy a fine on Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, may decide to take out its frustration on Browns general manager Ray Farmer for his role in the in-game texting situation surrounding the Browns. (An investigation, we need to point out, that is still ongoing despite the fact that many have already tried and convicted everyone involved.)

Make no mistake, if the investigation turns out that Farmer was texting coaches during a game then that is, pure and simple, a stupid thing for Farmer to do. But that is all it is — a stupid act — and we’ve gone far beyond the point where people need to start trying to make this out to be anything else.

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A La Canfora hatchet job on the Browns? We’re shocked!

We were understandably a bit dismayed this afternoon when we stopped by Twitter and saw people freaking out about a “bombshell” from Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports about the Cleveland Browns.

You can imagine our trepidation as we clicked on the link to La Canfora’s “bombshell.” In a week that has already seen quarterback Johnny Manziel check himself into rehab, and wide receiver Josh Gordon be suspended by the NFL for a year for repeated violations of the NFL’s drug and alcohol policy, what could La Canfora be writing that had so many so dismayed?

So you can envision our surprise as we read the article and found that … there really wasn’t anything there that Browns fans hadn’t already heard about in recent weeks. It was really more Christmas cracker than “bombshell” and left us wondering what everyone was getting worked up about.

We read it again, certain that we must have missed something, but … nope. Still nothing.

Make no mistake, La Canfora made sure to hit all the appropriate squares on the Dysfunctional and Toxic Browns bingo card, including:

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From the editor’s notebook …

johnny breaks cleveland 1With today’s news that Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel has entered a treatment facility, we have reached the point where we no longer know what to think, feel or do in regard to Johnny Football.

The one thing we do know is, just like Josh Gordon before him, we hope that Manziel can find a way to chase away whatever demons are plaguing him.

We also sincerely hope that Manziel is taking this step because he truly wants to getter better, either mentally or physically, and he’s not doing this because his handlers believe this move will help his image. We know that sounds cynical, but that’s not the way we mean it.

And just like Gordon before him, we hope that general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine are working hard to figure out the quarterback situation and are going into the upcoming off-season with no expectation that they can count on Manziel.

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From the editor’s notebook …

kyrie irving 55It was Kyrie Irving’s world on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, and we were all just witnesses.

Irving set an arena record by scoring 55 points in the Cavs win against Portland. In addition, Irving now holds the franchise record for 3-pointers made (11) and attempted (19). He joins LeBron James and (bonus points if you remember) Walt Wesley as the only Cavs players to break the 50-point mark in franchise history.

Irving’s 55 points are the fourth-most by a player whose team did not score 100 points in a game in NBA history. He joins George Mikan, Michael Jordan and James on that list. He becomes the first former Duke player to break the 50-point barrier in an NBA, and joins Wesley as the only other Cavs player with a  50-point game at home. Wesley’s 50-point game came against Cincinnati on Feb. 19, 1971, while James’ eight 50-point games as a Cav have all come on the road. (All according to ESPN Stats & Information.)

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If not Brian Hoyer, then who?

browns hoyer switchIt has been an interesting 12 months for Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer.

At this time last year, Hoyer was working hard (a trait that is apparently a foreign concept to some quarterbacks on the roster) to rehabilitate from an injury to his ACL that stalled his 2013 season after just three starts.

As the calendar pages turned during 2014, Hoyer’s NFL future took more twists and turns than the famed Nürburgring in Germany.

The NFL Draft brought Johnny Manziel to town, with many mistakenly believing the Browns had to start the rookie from Texas A&M from day one.

Head coach Mike Pettine had other ideas, though, and named Hoyer the starter late in the preseason. Hoyer would reward his coach’s faith by leading the Browns to the top of the AFC North after 11 games. His play brought with it talk of a contract extension and the belief that the Browns had finally solved their quarterback quandary.

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How do you feel about the team of Farmer and Pettine?

mike-pettine-jimmy-haslam-nfl-tampa-bay-buccaneers-cleveland-browns-850x560It was one year ago that the Cleveland Browns made what could turn out to be a franchise-altering decision in hiring head coach Mike Pettine.

The club continued to move away from the stale notion that Berea is a “toxic situation” where “dysfunction” runs rampant a few weeks later when owner Jimmy Haslam showed Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi the door while simultaneously elevating Ray Farmer to the position of general manager.

Thinks haven’t been perfectly smooth, of course, as Farmer and Pettine have worked their way through their first year together.

Farmer’s two first-round draft picks, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, have yet to show that they are serious about wanting to put in the work needed to be professionals.

Pettine had his rough moments on the sidelines during the season, most notably when he decided it was a good idea to try a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half in Atlanta.

But both men have shown they have the ability to balance out and, hopefully in the future, tip the scales far more in favor of the Browns.

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Which positions do the Browns most need to upgrade?

Ahtyba Rubin, Michael Vick

Ahtyba Rubin. Nice effort. Big contract. New home in 2015?

The Cleveland Browns tested the mantra of “next man up” during the 2014 NFL season.

Injuries hit the team hard, most notably when center Alex Mack was lost for the year with a broken leg, but the hardest hit area may have been the defensive line. At one point or another during the season, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes and Armonty Bryant all missed time due to injury.

Those injuries, especially the ones along the defensive line, revealed a hard truth — while depth is nice, if your front line players are just average and they go down with an injury, there is going to be a noticeable drop-off when the second string is forced into action.

The Browns will enter free agency and subsequent NFL Draft with holes to fill and money to spend. While the franchise had the highest adjusted salary cap in the NFL for 2014 at $157.42 million, the Browns are estimated to have about $48 million in projected cap space once all the accounting is done for the year.

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Which of their own free agents should the Browns keep?

New Orleans Saints v Cleveland Browns

A restricted free agent, Tashaun Gibson made the Pro Bowl after tying for second in the NFL in interceptions.

With only one game remaining on the NFL calendar, thoughts in Cleveland have started to turn to everyone’s favorite subject: the NFL Draft.

But before we can get to what has annually turned into the Browns version of the Super Bowl, the franchise has to work its way through free agency.

In addition to trying to solve the ongoing quarterback problem, which could include free agent Brian Hoyer into the equation, the Browns have several other decisions to make on their 11 other unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents.

Among the questions that general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine will work though in the coming weeks include:

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Is next year’s starting QB currently on Browns roster?

browns quarterback situation

Johnny, be a lamb and grab that Roman Burger out of my bag.

The Cleveland Browns found themselves caught in a tale of two-and-a-half quarterbacks in 2014.

Through the early part of the season, Brian Hoyer looked to be writing the kind of “hometown kid makes good” story that everyone loves, with his play bringing about talk of a contract extension and the requisite stability for a player who had bounced around the league.

Even after the season-ending injury to Alex Mack started to derail the season, Hoyer did what he could to keep the offense on track. A nationally televised beating of Cincinnati and a game-winning drive against Atlanta had the Browns at 7-4 and dreaming of division titles and the playoffs.

But even from those lofty heights their were warning signs.

Hoyer followed-up the Atlanta win with a poor showing in Buffalo, a game that culminated a three-game stretch that saw Hoyer post the worst three-game stretch by a quarterback since 2007, according to Pro Football Focus, as he threw six interceptions against just one touchdown while seeing the Browns drop two-of-three.

After throwing for just 136 yards, and being picked off twice, in what was a winnable game against Indianapolis, Hoyer left head coach Mike Pettine no choice but to turn to an unready Johnny Manziel with the Bengals coming to town.

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Who should the Browns hire to replace Kyle Shanahan?

browns lose billsThe Cleveland Browns entered the 2014 season with high hopes for an offense led by coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

For the first few weeks of the season that belief was rewarded as the Browns were averaging 26.8 points per game and running the ball effectively under Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.

Things took a turn for the worst, however, after the team lost center Alex Mack to a broken leg during the Week 5 win against Pittsburgh. Suddenly, the running game struggled, quarterback Brian Hoyer wasn’t as effective running the play-action portion of the offense, and the lack of production started to slowly bring the team down.

It go so bad that the Browns were forced to turn to an unready Johnny Manziel with three games remaining on the schedule. The results were disastrous.

Once the season ended, Shanahan waited until head coach Mike Pettine left town to start calling around looking for another job – despite still being under contract with the Browns.

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