Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

If Tennessee really wants Jon Gruden, they can have him

We woke up this morning to the “report” that Jon Gruden will be the next football coach at the University of Tennessee, thanks in part to Cleveland Browns owner – and UT supporter – James Haslam.

According to WREG in Memphis, Gruden has a “contract offer in hand” from the Volunteers and the deal is sweetened by an offer – which reportedly would not past muster with the both the NCAA and the NFL – from Haslam for an ownership stake in the Browns.

The Browns have denied the report, with vice president of media relations Neal Gulkis issuing the following statement: “Jimmy Haslam has no involvement in the University of Tennessee head coaching search, and the report that Jon Gruden would potentially have an ownership stake in the Browns is completely erroneous.”

Gruden also denied the report, but then a few hours later a new one came out saying he will meet with Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart “soon.”

Our first reaction to all this was if Tennessee wants Gruden – and at least one poll shows he is the favorite of 53 percent of UT fans – then go for it. Whatever it takes to keep him as far away as possible from the sidelines at Cleveland Browns Stadium is fine by us (come to think of it, Knoxville may not be far enough away).

Gruden was 95-81 in 11 years as an NFL, won more than nine games only once in his last six years in the league and has a reputation for developing quarterbacks despite never actually developing a quarterback. The media likes him because he talks loud and fills their notebooks, but that doesn’t mean anyone should want him near the Browns.

What does worry us, if any of this is even remotely true, is how it reflects on Haslam’s thinking.

If he would be willing to go to such great lengths to bring an average coach to his beloved UT, what will his thought process be when the time comes to make a decision on the next coach of the Browns? If he thinks Gruden is good, there’s no telling who he would want to bring to Cleveland.

Which is a thought even more scary than Chucky himself.

***

Good news on the injury front for the Browns, as quarterback Brandon Weeden has been cleared to play on Sunday against Oakland.

Weeden suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh when he hit his head on Joe Thomas’ leg while being sacked.

“It was mild,” Weeden said. “I never got knocked out. I was conscious the whole time, was just a little foggy. The league’s taking this thing pretty seriously, so you’ve got to go through the mandated steps. I passed all those, so I’m ready to rock and roll.

“I wanted to do everything on my part to come back and play because I felt fine and ready to go, but it’s not like it’s an ankle or a hand. It’s your brain. You’ve got to be smart. That was my first-and-foremost worry, make sure I’m 100 percent before I even think about it. It was going to be hard for me not to make that trip. I’m going to be there and I’m going to play.”

Weeden didn’t have his best game of the year against the Steelers – and he’s been struggling for a few weeks now – but he did get the Browns into the end zone twice against the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense and he gives the Browns their best chance of actually walking away on Sunday with a winning streak and their first road win in more than a year.

“What’s important for Brandon is to play a style of quarterback that leads us to victories,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “That’s what he needs to do. We could talk about yards, we could talk about all that other stuff, all the ways you want to rank certain things, but his game needs to constantly improve and he’s got to strive to get us in the end zone and help us win football games. That’s that. He’s played through the season, he’s had some good games, he’s had some games that were not so good and he’s battling through it and he’s out there practicing today.”

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