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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Randy Lerner”

Winds of change blowing through Brownstown

On Friday, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner issued a statement, 96 words in total, that could drastically change the course of the No. 1 franchise in town:
“In connection with current rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I’ve been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns. We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private. Given that any transaction would require League approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary.”
And with that, it appears we have entered the beginning of the end of the Lerner family’s involvement with the Browns.
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The best thing we’ve read in a long time

If you are only going to read one other item the rest of today (other than this site, of course), you would be hard pressed to find a better article than Vince Grzegorek’s interview with Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner in Scene magazine.

Over the course of five interviews Grzegorek got Lerner to open up about the Browns in a way that we’ve rarely seen.

A few items stand out from the piece:

  • Lerner clearly cares about the team and, just as importantly, about the fans. When the NFL came up with a ridiculous prototype of a new Browns uniform – complete with white helmet – Lerner said no. When the league and his fellow owners criticize Lerner for not selling the naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium or for not trying to squeeze every last dollar out of Browns fans, Lerner tells them where to go.
  • There is little reason to believe that Lerner is somehow being fleeced by team president Mike Holmgren. The notion that Holmgren is just cashing a paycheck handed to him by a disinterested and distracted Lerner is beyond absurd.
  • Reading about Lerner’s charitable work – trips to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops, co-chairman of the U.S. Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, his donation to the National Portrait Gallery in London – makes it clear he is anything but “pathetic and irrelevant.”

The biggest takeaway is that Lerner wants to get this right and bring a winner to Cleveland. Just because he doesn’t need to feed his ego by constantly going in front of a group of reporters, like Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.

Many Browns fans have a hard time wrapping their head around that idea, but that’s there problem. Lerner gets criticized for way too many things that have nothing to do with the success of the Browns.

But after reading this article, it would be hard for fans to carry on with that fiction.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Taking care of business

It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team took care of business against Guadeloupe on Tuesday night and earned a place in the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.

“With group play, you’ve got to deal with each game and find a way to advance,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said in published reports. “We’re pretty hard on ourselves because we weren’t satisfied with our performance against Panama, but there are things that bring a team together.”

Jozy Altidore put the U.S. up 1-0 in the 9th minute with the kind of goal that makes him such a frustrating player. Altidore’s 25-yard blast showed just how talented he can be and makes one wonder why he can’t bring that same intensity every game.

The Americans had plenty of scoring chances, peppering the Guadeloupe goal, but goalkeeper Franck Grandel denied them repeatedly. Clint Dempsey had an off night, missing two headers, hitting the post and somehow not getting a shot off when he was all alone with the ball two yards in front of the goal.

Throw in uncharacteristic misses from Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski and the final score could have been much more impressive.

“We want to be better,” Donovan said in published reports. “This is a game we should have won probably 3- or 4-0, but the reality is that we won. That’s all that matters at this point.”

Donovan’s right – we would have like to have seen the U.S. convert more of those scoring chances, but in tournament play the objective is to advance, and that’s what the team did.

Now we’re left to wonder which team will show up on Sunday to face Jamaica – the Group B winner that has yet to give up a goal.

“Be careful what you wish for, but I actually think that’s the kind of game we need now,” U.S. goalie Tim Howard said in published reports. “We need a game where the tempo is high and teams aren’t sitting in. They’re coming out feeling like we’re a wounded animal and they’re gonna get us, and that’s when we catch them.”

The Americans have yet to play a complete game in the tournament, but they have been able to do just enough to get by. That was OK in group play, but they are going to need to bring a full 90-minute effort from here on out – especially with a date with Mexico looming somewhere on the horizon.

The slate has now been wiped clean. What the U.S. team does now is up to them.

Photo courtesy of si.com

***

Randy Lerner’s Aston Villa have gotten themselves into a twist in their attempts to hire Alex McLeish as their new manager.

According to The Guardian, McLeish held talks with Villa officials at a secret location in London on Wednesday ahead of a proposed defection across the city on a three-year, £2m-a-year contract. At the same time a crowd of Villa supporters gathered in protest outside Villa Park while lawyers acting for Birmingham, McLeish’s former club, drew up plans to pursue their rivals for compensation and to defend the club against an anticipated charge of constructive dismissal from McLeish.

Birmingham claims that Aston Villa struck a deal with McLeish before he resigned from Birmingham on Sunday – a resignation that Birmingham has not yet accepted.

And the fans are less than thrilled, with one spray painting the message “Bluenose scum not welcome” on a wall at Villa’s training ground.

Oh Randy.

***

Liverpool has unveiled its third kit for next season, taking inspiration from the club’s jersey of 120 years ago.

It’s strange seeing blue incorporated into the jersey – kind of like if the Browns brought black-and-gold into their color scheme – but we see the historic nature of the kit.

You can never have too much pitching

The Cleveland Indians are obviously believers in the old axiom that you can never have enough pitching, as the Tribe has selected 15 pitchers with their first 24 picks in the amateur baseball draft.

After using their first pick on shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Indians selected right-hander Dillon Howard with their second pick.

According to mlb.com:

In past drafts, there would only be a small offering of high-ceiling, projectable high school pitchers with good velocity to choose from in the first round. In 2011, there’s some depth in that category. Case in point is Howard, who doesn’t rank up with the prep arms being mentioned near the top of the draft, but isn’t far off, either. The Arkansas product has a fastball that will be plus, touching 95 mph at times. It’s not straight, either, with both sink and run to it. His hard curve, 78-80 mph, is a little slurvy now and is fringy average, but it’s got some depth to it and will be more than fine. He’s even got a good feel for a changeup, an offspeed pitch that should be a Major League average pitch as well. With a clean delivery, decent overall command — not as much with the curve — and the chance to have a solid three-pitch mix, Howard looks like he’s settled firmly into the first round, unless signability (he’s advised by Scott Boras) becomes an issue.

We’re all on board with the plan to stockpile pitchers; the more quality arms you have in the minors the better the odds you will find two or three that could reach the majors some day.

As for Lindor, mlb.com says:

He has the chance to be an impact player on both sides of the ball at a premium position. He’ll definitely be able to stay at shortstop with plus defense, showing outstanding range and a strong arm. At the plate, he’s gotten stronger and he could grow into enough power to hit 15 or so homers annually, enough to keep pitchers honest, along with hitting .290-.300 every year. While he’s a solid average runner, he could be a potential leadoff hitter in the future, thanks to his strike-zone knowledge and willingness to take a walk to go along with his ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate. Lindor is a high-energy player with good makeup, one who is almost certainly the top high school position player, according to talent, in this draft class.

The Indians appear to be in good hands with scouting director Brad Grant. He drafted Alex White, Lonnie Chisenhall, Drew Pomeranz, Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps.

We’ve already had a taste of White on the major league level and we like what we saw before he was injured. And it’s easy to look at the other names on that list and imagine them in Wahoo red, white and blue.

There’s no known downside to having a strong minor league system and that’s what the Indians have been building. If Grant can keep the draft magic going, the team should have a strong pipeline of talent coming to Progressive Field for years to come.

***

There was a good story by Heather Havrilesky in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine on why Friday Night Lights, one of the best TV shows ever, was mostly ignored by viewers while drivel like Glee is a ratings hit.

Yet thanks to disappointing numbers in its first two seasons, Friday Night Lights was farmed out by NBC to DirecTV, which showed each new season in the fall, after which they were replayed by NBC in the spring. So the fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights has already wrapped up on DirecTV, even as it’s now completing a zombie victory lap on the network. It’s still hard not to wonder why a show so humble and all-American has struggled so mightily to attract viewers. Where are the cheering, breathless crowds?

These days, you’ll probably find them singing along with the precocious teenagers of Glee. That show covers much of the same thematic ground — high school, troubled marriages, the joys of teamwork — but in a far more spectacular, flamboyant manner. The colorful musical dramedy has been a huge hit since it shoved its way onto the schedule in 2009 in a violent burst of sequins and jazz hands. If Friday Night Lights is as American as apple pie, then Glee is more like Ben & Jerry’s deep-fried caramel-apple whipped-cream-swirl ice cream (which doesn’t exist, but really should): a dense, flavorful, genre-bending extravaganza of one-upmanship, raging hormones, teary confessions and lip-glossed warbling.

It’s a good read, but the answer is actually quite simple. If you watched Friday Night Lights you had to think, and the majority of people don’t want to do that anymore – the ongoing popularity of Sarah Palin is proof of that.

With drek like Glee, people can mindlessly watch the pretty colors and don’t have to worry about using their brains.

It’s unfortunate, too, because as long as that is the case it will be harder to get shows like FNL, The Wire and Rome on the air.

And that certainly does not fill us with glee.

***

Finally, we made our debut at EPL Talk today, with a post on how the NFL lockout could have a negative impact on Randy Lerner and Aston Villa.

Browns feeling lockout’s pinch?

How much is the ongoing NFL lockout impacting the Browns?

Well, it’s certainly not helping.

Josh Cribbs told ESPN’s First Take the Browns are hurting because they can’t work with the coaches to install the new offensive and defensive systems.

“It does hurt us because at a time when there’s not a lockout, teams who have new coaches are allowed a certain amount of time to prepare,” Cribbs said. “And because of this lockout, we’re not.”

If this was a normal year, the Browns would be allowed to hold an extra minicamp because they have a new coach in Pat Shurmur.

Now? They have to be content with Camp Colt.

“Colt has been rounding up the troops and planning short minicamps to get the playbook down pat as much as we can, to get the plays down pat,” Cribbs said. “We’re really limited on the amount of things we can do because of the amount of information that we have.

“But at the same time, the minicamps that we’re having are beneficial. We’re getting our throwing down pat and the timing with the quarterback. It’s really beneficial … but we are set back a little bit because of the lockout.”

Speaking of McCoy, can he be the quarterback that helps the Browns close the gap on Pittsburgh and Baltimore?

“It’s horrible; there’s nothing good about [inexperienced quarterbacks] facing the Ravens and Steelers,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “They’re not carbon copies of each other, but their philosophy is pretty similar. They’re going to take away your running game, and you’re not going to outwork them in the trenches or move them. Then you’re one-dimensional, and then you’re in trouble.

“I really worry about the guy’s arm strength. I just can’t get around that. When the weather gets bad, he’s not going to be able to complete passes in Cleveland. I think he’s a real good fit in the West Coast offense. I think he has some moxie to him and I like the way he plays. But when it’s December and the Steelers and Ravens are in town, you better be able to complete a deep out.”

It’s getting a little old hearing about McCoy’s alleged lack of arm strength. You know who else had “average arm strength”? Brian Sipe. It’s not always how hard you throw the ball, but when and where you throw it that counts.

“It takes a while, but you make the cold and the wind your asset,” Sipe said in Terry Pluto’s book, Things I’ve Learned from Watching the Browns. “You learn to play in it by practicing in it. Then, when the other teams come to the lakefront, they aren’t ready for it.

“You should embrace the cold. It helps you as a quarterback because it slows the game down. You can see things better. Playing in that weather is part of what made us a tough team mentally.”

McCoy has the skills needed for a West Coast offense, which the Browns are now planning to run. He’ll be fine.

***

In the world of a different kind of football, the Premier League’s 20 clubs collectively lost close to half a billion pounds last year despite making record income, a Guardian analysis of their most recent accounts has revealed.

In the 2009-10 financial year, the clubs currently in the Premier League made total revenues of £2.1 billion (that’s billion with a b), principally from their billion-pound TV deals and the world’s most expensive tickets. Yet 16 of the 20 clubs made losses, totalling a record £484 million, and the same number relied on funding from their wealthy owners.

Aston Villa lost £38 million as the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, struggles to compete with clubs whose commercial income and potential is much greater than Villa’s.

According to the report, “these are sobering figures … signalling why reality bit for Randy Lerner’s ‘good American’ takeover at Villa Park. Lerner has problems to address despite £206 million invested. Their turnover of £91 million at the 42,582-capacity Villa Park is the Premier League’s seventh highest, but is so far behind Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal they risk becoming a seller of players to the top clubs.”

So in addition to the NFL lockout, Lerner has that on his plate to worry about.

***

Lost in all the hoopla about Jake Peavy’s performance against the Tribe on Wednesday night was that Justin Masterson was just as good.

Even though he took the loss, Masterson threw a five-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in his first complete game of the season.

Masterson went 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his first five starts of the season. In his last four starts, he’s 0-2 with a 2.78 ERA. In three of those games, he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs.

He keeps that up and we’re sure everything will be just fine.

***

Kyrie Irving plans to only have medical tests at the NBA combine, and will skip the on-court tests and drills.

“I’m just going doing medical here,” said Irving, the presumed No. 1 pick. “There’s no particular reason. I’m still working out around here (privately) but I’m not doing anything at the combine.”

No need to wear yourself out kid. Just focus on getting ready for Byron Scott’s training camp this fall.

***

Finally, check out the latest from Fresh Brewed Tees.

A lie ain’t a side of the story … it’s just a lie

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. – Aristotle

We’re sure it wasn’t his intention, but Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is teaching everyone an important lesson about what happens when you start to tell a lie to cover something up.

According to the latest from The Columbus Dispatch, when Tressel learned last spring that some of his current players were in trouble, he shared the information with someone he thought could help star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, even though he said he didn’t tell his bosses.

The e-mails warning that Pryor and at least one other player had sold memorabilia to a local tattoo-parlor owner who was under federal investigation for drug trafficking came to light earlier this month. At that time Tressel claimed he kept the information to himself to protect the confidentiality of the federal investigation and for the safety of his players.

By not telling his bosses – as required by NCAA regulations – Tressel made the mistake of doing what’s easy, rather that what is right.

And that is where his troubles began.

Because he didn’t want to lose some of his best players for the 2010 season, Tressel lied to the NCAA at the start of the season when he claimed everyone was free of any shenanigans.

That lie forced him to lie again at the Sugar Bowl, when word got out that the players were under investigation. Tressel claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the incidents.

This all culminated in the press conference earlier this month when Tressel lied about not passing on the e-mails because of “confidentiality” reasons. Now it’s all come full circle.

And that’s the lesson is all this. Once you start telling a lie – no matter how small and no matter if you believe you are doing it to protect someone – it’s hard to stop. Once that first lie is out, you often have to tell another lie to cover up the first one, and then another and another. And once you start lying it can be hard to remember your last lie and keep your story consistent.

Which is the situation Tressel finds himself in.

Tressel most likely won’t lost his job over this – he has the support of the university – although every time we think the story is written new information comes out.

But while he will keep his job, he’s lost something more important – trust. How can anyone other than the most die-hard homer ever believe anything he says ever again?

It’s ironic, too, that at a time when BYU can be openly mocked for standing behind its beliefs at the expense of winning, there are those who will still defend someone who wraps themselves in the cloak of Christianity just because they can beat Michigan on a regular basis.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

***

We may have some idea now why Browns owner Randy Lerner was not at the NFL owners meetings this week in New Orleans.

At least eight senior players at Lerner’s Aston Villa club are considering their futures with the team after details emerged of manager Gerard Houllier’s attempts to arrest an alarming slump in the club’s fortunes.

In addition to banning mobile phones in the dressing room, Houllier has imposed severe financial penalties for any breach of rules and has introduced a procedure for any player wanting to contact Lerner directly.

Houllier is hoping the crackdown will reverse the drop in morale that has accompanied the team’s decline in the Barclays Premier League. It could backfire, though, with rumblings of discontent coming from almost the entire first-team squad.

Sounds like Randy may want to get on top of this.

From Cleveland to Villa Park

Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner is apparently a quick study.

According to a story out of England, Lerner is using his experience reshaping the Browns this off-season as a guide to fixing what ails his Premier League team, Aston Villa, which found itself without a manager when Martin O’Neill walked out five days before the season started.

Lerner’s plan to name Gerard Houllier as his new chief at Aston Villa has been inspired by his “other side across the pond,” the Cleveland Browns.

According to the report, “he was in a similar ­situation with his Cleveland side last year as the club ­suffered a difficult start. His solution was to ­appoint ­experienced Mike Holmgren as club president and ­allow him to oversee team ­operations while Eric Mangini ­continued as head coach.

“The set-up has shown signs of success and Lerner fancies testing out the policy in the Premier League.

“Villa have not yet decided on a formal title for Houllier but Lerner has been hugely impressed by his credentials and director of football seems his most likely position. He would take on a similar role to Holmgren, in that he will oversee all football ­operations including scouting, transfers and contracts.”

It’s good to see the Browns front office being acknowledged for the work they’ve done in trying to turn this team around. It’s just too bad that credit comes from an English paper, rather than from the national media here at home, who seem content to recycle the same bowl of soupy drek, like the Associated Press’ latest coach on the hot seat* story, featuring Eric Mangini:

“The Browns won their final four games, long after they had become irrelevant in the AFC standings, then Mangini persuaded Holmgren to give him another chance. The roster doesn’t look any stronger after a 5-11 season, and unless Mangini shows some versatility in demeanor and strategy, his stay in Cleveland could end with another firing.”

Yep, the team didn’t improve in any area since last season. Good analysis there.

We can already see evidence that the Holmgren/Heckert/Mangini trio is working out. It will be interesting to see how well Lerner’s plan translates across the pond.

*Why is the seat always a hot one? I was talking with a physics professor at work a few years ago and he was explaining how extreme cold and extreme heat do the exact same damage to our bodies, our brains just perceive them differently. So an extremely cold seat would be just an uncomfortable as a hot one.

***

A bit of a disturbing article in USA Today about more NFL teams are expected to face blackouts this season.

The Browns are listed as “no blackouts expected,” but I just went online and could buy tickets for the home opener against Kansas City. If the team gets off to a slow start this year, they could run into some trouble selling out games, although having a strong home schedule will help.

***

Finally, the Browns waived David Veikune, aka Chaun Thompson 2.0, today. Fellow 2009 second-round picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi really need to come through this year.

What Makes a Good Owner?

Here in Cleveland, we want to classify the owners of the local sports teams with neat little labels.

The Dolans are “cheap.”

Randy Lerner “doesn’t care.”

Dan Gilbert is “a winner.”

Those are easy tags for the hoople heads to latch on to, and there’s something to be said for that. But are the labels accurate?

If winning championships is the only criteria, then every Cleveland owner since 1964 has failed. But is that fair? George Steinbrenner was hailed as a great owner by Yankee apologists because he was willing to do “whatever it took” to win. That overlooks the fact that in 2009 the Yankees had $441 million in revenue – $173 million more than the second-place team! Having that much of an advantage makes it a lot easier to do “whatever it takes.”

If you look deeper into the numbers, however, you find something interesting: in 2009 the Yankees spent 54 percent of their revenue on player salaries ($240 million on $441 million in revenue), while the Indians spent 53.5 percent of their revenue on salaries ($91 million on $170 million in revenue).

It appears that the Dolans may not be unwilling to spend to make the Indians a winner, but rather they are unable to spend to compete under the current system.

So does that make them cheap or bad owners? I don’t think so. It’s more that they, like other mid-market owners in Major League Baseball, are caught in a cycle that makes it next to impossible to compete.

What about Randy Lerner?

The Browns have been a mess since they returned in 1999 and Lerner has been the one constant. That’s certainly a huge negative against Lerner. Many wrongly believe because Lerner is in England on Saturday watching Aston Villa play, rather than sitting behind a desk in Berea, he’s indifferent about the Browns.

If we were still in the 1930s, when a trans-Atlantic crossing took weeks on a ship, that may be true. But when you can make a flight from London to Cleveland in 7-8 hours, there’s no reason Lerner can’t have a presence at both team’s games.

Many fans want Lerner to be more “hands on” to prove he is “passionate” about the Browns. Because he lets people do the job that they are hired for, without constantly interfering, he’s labeled as being apathetic about the team. But if you look around the NFL, hands-on owners are not what you necessarily want.

Consider Dan Snyder of the Redskins, for example. Snyder has been overly involved with the team since buying them in 1999. Since then, the Redskins have been to the playoffs only three times. The team has had six different head coaches, has spent a disproportionate amount of money on expensive free agents and has traded away draft picks to acquire stars, many of whom have fizzled in Washington. He’s also sued season-ticket holders who’ve lost their jobs.

How about Al Davis? He’s as hands-on as they come. Or Jerry Jones, who’s led the Cowboys to one more playoff win than the Browns since 1999? Are those the type of owner Browns fans want Lerner to be?

It seems extremely unlikely that Lerner doesn’t care about the Browns. The problem is more that he’s made some mistakes in his hiring.

That brings us to Gilbert, an owner who’s benefited the most from a perfect storm of circumstances.

Gilbert has spent money and that was made easier by the presence of LeBron James, having the smallest roster size of the three major sports and the ability to pad the bottom line with all the extra playoff games the Cavs have been in since he bought the team.

But that has to be balanced with the fact that he let LeBron essentially run the team, which as we’re learning this summer, wasn’t the best idea. That “all-in” mentality cost the team a GM and a coach this off-season and it still wasn’t enough to keep James in town.

It would appear that Gilbert is as much an opportunistic owner as a winning owner.

So what does this all mean? Just as there’s no one way to define what a “good” coach is, there’s no one true blueprint for finding the best owner. As fans, all we can ask is for our owners to spend money to try and keep the team competitive, hire the best people they can find for the job and stay out of the way.

And remember that perception isn’t reality.

In Defense of Randy Lerner

In the Premier League, not everyone is upset with Martin O’Neill’s decision to leave Randy Lerner’s Aston Villa. Least of all the players, who were reportedly texting each other images of champagne bottles after hearing the news.

Lerner issued a statement saying that he and O’Neill no longer “shared a common view” on the best direction for the club. Lerner planned to hold O’Neill to a budget, not allowing him to spend money on player transfers without selling a player first.

The Premier League is similar to Major League Baseball in that there is no salary cap, but all teams share in the TV revenue under the following system:

  • 25% is paid in merit payments determined by where a club finishes in the final league table;
  • 50% of the domestic revenue is split equally;
  • 100% of the non-domestic revenue is split equally among the clubs.
  • 25% is paid in facility fees, based on how often a club is shown on TV in the U.K., with each club guaranteed a minimum of 10 facility fees.

Every team gets a large share of the money pie, with Forbes reporting that, in 2009, Middlesborough received the smallest share (£30.9 million) while Manchester United received the largest (£51.1 million).

While £21 million is certainly a lot of money, it’s not on par with the differences in revenue between a team like the Yankees and the Indians. Even smaller-market teams can be competitive; it’s just not the big-market London clubs or Manchester United.

Aston Villa does take a hit at the gate, as Villa Park holds 42,500, compared to Old Trafford (76,000) or the Emirates Stadium (60,000) for example, which helps widen the gap a bit more.

One way to shrink the revenue gap is to qualify for the lucrative Champions League. O’Neill wasn’t able to break through – the team peaked at sixth place – and without the big payday and large crowds from Champions League games, Lerner has to keep an eye on the budget. Think about how much extra revenue the Indians used to produce when they routinely made the playoffs in the late ’90s – those extra dollars help.

O’Neill’s cries of not being allowed to spend money ring hollow, as he spent more than £120million on transfer fees alone for new signings during his four years at Villa Park and recouped just £39m in sales during that period – leaving him with a net loss of almost £82m.

Lerner is the best kind of owner, as he hires people and then lets them do their jobs without constantly micro-managing them. Some fans in Cleveland don’t understand that is a good thing, thinking that because Lerner doesn’t sit behind a desk every day in Berea that he “doesn’t care.”

It certainly is well within his rights to set a budget for the team. If O’Neill couldn’t deliver under those conditions, that’s on him, not Lerner.

I certainly don’t wish ill on Aston Villa fans, but if one of Lerner’s teams has to have coaching issues days before the season starts, better it be at Villa Park than at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Bless you, Tottenham Hotspur

Earlier this week, Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League announced it was banning vuvuzelas from White Hart Lane, the team’s home stadium.

Arsenal, Birmingham, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, West Ham and Sunderland followed Spurs lead later in the week, letting people know that the popular South African horns are not welcome in England.

I, for one, say “thank you” to the teams. When the vuvuzelas were a part of the World Cup that was OK because they were part of the culture of South African football. You accept the country as a host, you accept the customs.

But if they had infiltrated England’s stadiums, it would have been intolerable. Hopefully, Aston Villa will soon join the ban or else it could set off a ripple effect that will be felt here in Cleveland.

If Randy Lerner walks into Villa Park this fall and hears the stadium buzzing with the sound of vuvuzelas, he may get the crazy idea of importing them to Cleveland Browns Stadium. Can you imagine sitting next to a group of hoople heads blowing on those for four quarters?

And with attendance dropping for the Indians, there’s little doubt the Tribe would add them to their promotional schedule. And Dan Gilbert wouldn’t want to be left out, as he just loves “enhancing the in-game experience.”

Come to think of it, handing them out the first time Miami comes to town might not be such a bad idea.

Maybe not.

***

He hasn’t even played a down of football yet for the Browns, but Colt McCoy has already shown that he’s smarter than Brady Quinn.

The third-round pick from Texas has reportedly signed a four-year deal, so he will be in camp when rookies report today. Guard Shawn Lauvao has also reportedly signed.

The Browns previously signed draft picks Larry Asante, Carlton Mitchell and Clifton Geathers.

Nice work by new GM Tom Heckert on this one.

***

Finally, news out of Baltimore is good. Safety Ed Reed, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, has said he will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, missing the team’s first six games, including a key Week 3 tilt with the Browns.

And quarterback Joe Flacco is whining about the team signing Marc Bulger to be his backup.

Seems the Flacco is concerned that adding Bulger will upset the other backups, Troy Smith and John Beck.

We think it’s more likely the Flacco is concerned that the Ravens actually have a legitimate backup, knowing that with Smith and Beck on the bench, anything short of death and Flacco was staying in the game.

Poor baby.

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