Dysfunction In Cleveland…

Before I begin today, may I please air a pet peeve? Full disclosure, I am a shareholder – very minor – in the company that provides electricity to this part of the US. Now, notice the date today; we are in the middle of February; this is the 44th day of the year; it has been 50 days since Christmas. In our local area, there are still several homes where people still have their holiday decoration lights turned on every night. It is time for one of two things to happen:

    Take down the lights and the candy canes and wire frames holding lights in the shape of a reindeer.

    If some unusual happening forces you to delay said deconstruction, pull the plug on the lights.

Whenever you consider the 32 teams in the NFL on some scale or dimension, there must be a team at the top and the bottom of the list. Over the last decade or so, if I asked you to name the “Most Dysfunctional Franchise” in some kind of poll format, my guess is that three teams would be certain to garner lots of votes and wind up as the “Top Three” – albeit in this case the “Top Three” would really be the “Bottom Three”. In alphabetical order, those would be:

    Jacksonville Jaguars
    Oakland Raiders
    Washington Redskins

Yes, other teams would get votes too. Today, I am wondering if the Cleveland Browns are actively trying to crash this party and soar to the top of this list. No, I have no idea what might motivate them to do that; but when you look at events that have happened within and around the Browns’ organization since the end of their season, it makes me wonder…

    In no particular order, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had a long sit-down with head coach Mike Pettine and asked out of the last two years of his contract with the Browns. He did not resign nor was he fired; he convinced the organization to let him walk.

    Readers here know that I do not believe Kyle Shanahan is a budding offensive genius, but in this case the Browns replaced him with the guy who used to be the QB coach for the Raiders. Seriously. This is the guy whose tutelage produced the excellence we have come to associate with Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor.

    WR Josh Gordon may face a yearlong suspension for violation of the terms of his probationary status when he came off his last suspension involving substance abuse.

    QB-in-waiting Johnny Manziel entered rehab. Manziel’s publicist made the announcement and did not specify what malady this particular flavor of rehab sought to cure, but speculation has surrounded alcohol abuse given the myriad photos of him partying in alcohol-infused locales.

    Browns’ GM, Ray Farmer, found himself in NFL hot water allegedly for texting the Browns’ former QB coach on the sidelines during games. Even though I have said I have no idea why that might be against the rules, the allegation is that those text exchanges were about the quality of quarterback play and about personnel decisions. Question: Is that the reason Kyle Shanahan wanted out? Question: If the texts were about “quarterback play”, is that the reason Browns’ free agent QB, Brian Hoyer, seems cool to returning to the Browns?

    News reports have surfaced saying that Browns’ owner, Jimmy Haslem, meddles in the football side of the Browns’ operation. That may have been a good thing for the Browns back when Paul Brown was a part owner in the 1940s and 50s; Brown was a football coach and he knew a bit about football. Jimmy Haslem has none of the football-cred of Paul Brown. By the way, look at my list of “Top Three” dysfunctional teams above and note that two of them – the Raiders and the Skins – had “meddlesome owners” over much of the previous decade…

If Brian Hoyer were to choose to sign elsewhere as alluded to above, that would leave the Browns with Manziel and Connor Shaw at the QB position. In 4 games last year, Manziel demonstrated that if he has a lot of progress to make if he is ever to become a journeyman QB at the NFL level. Here is his stat line for 2014:

    18-45 for 185 yards 0 TDs and 2 INTs (for all or part of 4 games)

Shaw played one full game for the Browns last year and put up this stat line:

    14 – 28 for 177 yards 0 TDs and 1 INT

I mention those stats because of the reports that Hoyer wants to go elsewhere in free agency and that fuels rumors that the Browns might want to “trade up” to get Marcus Mariota in the draft. Normally, rumors of that kind are benign but the Browns have managed to put a sinister twist even on that rumor. Mariota has hired a trainer/training firm in San Diego to help him prep for the Combine and for team workouts after the Combine. His trainer is an employee of that firm but it is widely suspected that he is going to be hired by the Browns to be the QB coach for the Browns under the new offensive coordinator. This situation would allow the Browns to have contact with Mariota prior to the Combine when no other team is allowed to do so. As I said, even a harmless rumor can have a dark side this year if the Browns are involved.

By the way, even though I liked what I saw when I watched Marcus Mariota play last year, the practice of trading up to snatch a QB in the draft has not been a good strategy in recent years. Three instances come to mind – surely someone can find others if they want to expend the energy to do so – and none of the three recent instances has been a huge success for the team trading up:

    Jags traded up to draft Blaine Gabbert
    Ravens traded up to draft Kyle Boller
    Skins traded up to draft RG3

Oh yeah, the Browns traded up to get Manziel just last year too…

As things stand today, the Browns hold the #12 and the #19 picks in the 2015 Draft. That will not allow them to trade all the way up to #1 in the Draft to be sure of getting Mariota; it will take much more than that…

Finally, words of wisdom from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“A World Cup sailing race just ended in Miami. That reminds me. Officials of the 2016 Rio Olympics say the water to be used for sailing there is filled with raw sewage that cannot be cleaned in time. Question: ‘Do I really want a gold medal that badly?’ ”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………