(In my best annoying Andy Rooney voice)
Didja ever notice that a few days after the draft, you’re so drained that it takes a while to get that obsessive-compulsive Browns’ weirdness going again? I mean, after 36 hours of football talk, beer, junk food, beer, football talk, beer, anticipation, beer, camaraderie with old friends and new, beer, 18 hours of ESPN and Theismann and Mel, and beer, and this year’s jubilation, and beer, and at least four Panini sammiches, and beer, it just takes a while to bounce back and fix yer give a damn?
One week later without beer and I am now back from the dead, fully realizing I was part of the Brownstock of man hugs on the corner of East 9th and Prospect at Panini. Is anyone not using a liver I could borrow?
By now Browns’ Fans World Wide have been gushing and crying and hugging and their voices are recovered from yelling, “this is the best day ever!” I concur. I’ve had two children, witnessed their births, and because my cute as a button 6 year old daughter can’t stop a speed rushing end worth crap, it was in fact the best day of my life. Priorities. Hey, I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready, but that feel great draft aura for me has now passed. I’m ready to get dispassionate again and break this thing down like we the people. So get on da cheese bus, y’all.
Phil Savage is bona fide
I pull very little punches when I express myself on line to my full capabilities from my suburbanite facilities. It gets me in hot water a lot. My bad. I have penned take after take savaging Phil and what little he’s done for the past two seasons given all the time and treasure at his disposal. Now credit where due. I don’t care if Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach’s boat disappears off of the Rattlesnake Island triangle and they move in with Jimi, Jim and Janis. I don’t care if Brady Quinn is Meierriffic. I call bullcrap on anyone who rips this draft in three years based on outcomes. This is a signature draft, a testosterone means brains masterpiece.
Phil met three acute needs at three building block positions with three potential impact players. Game, set, and match. You could tell Phil felt his oats with how he broke off run to the national media on everything from JaMarkus Russell to Wolfewicz’s World Bank babe. If this draft works out as it should on paper, and remember cats, an acorn is NOT an oak, the Browns should get better and Phil cements himself as a pre-Ryan Leaf Bobby Beathard type. If this draft fails, he’ll be washing cars with Pete Garcia. I’m guessing it’ll end up the former. Either way, he’s earned the right to hum “My Way” walking down the halls of 76 Groza Boulevard for a while until we know.
Well done, Phil.
The one-deep gaping holes are now all filled
I’ve already started playing around with the roster, have you? Terry Pluto gave us some nice nuggets as to what the Browns are thinking, if he knows. The NFL is largely a game of three things: match-ups, depth, and experience. In all those areas, we aren’t there yet. But, here is a quick guess of where we now are when/if the kids prosper and the vets can function:
DT: Orpheus Roye
NT: Ted Washington/Shaun Smith
DT: Robaire Smith
OLB: Kamerion Wimbley
ILB: D’Qwell Jackson
ILB: Andra Davis/Leon Williams
OLB: Antwan Peak/Willie McGinest
CB: Leigh Bodden
CB: Eric Wright
S: Sean Jones
S: Brodney Pool
$ 0.05 – Kenny Wright
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Eric Steinbach
C: Hank Fraley
RG: Seth McKinney
RT: Kevin Shaffer
WR: Braylon Edwards
WR: Joe Jurevicius
TE: Kellen Winslow Jr.
FB: Lawrence Vickers
RB: Jamal Lewis
QB: Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn
Um, cats, with any luck and health, there’s a chance that our rudderless sucking days are over. I’m not going to be the first loon on my block breaking out the “11 wins and division champs” peyote induced take, but if we can get some decent health for once (doubtful, we’re the Browns), and the coaching can step up (doubtful on O given some of the bustas brought in after the bungled purge), and the kids have a quick NFL learning curve (doubtful, most rookies struggle at the technique positions), then on paper we have a shot to play with almost anyone.
Romeo, now it’s your ass on D
Romeo is the ultimate NFL “good guy”. The fact this guy has a job is proof positive that the good old boy network has transcended the race barrier. Besides the well wishes of the fraternity, and his reputation as a players’ coach, Romeo ostensibly made his name and justified his hiring based on being Bill Bellichick and Bill Parcell’s jewelry remora. He’s supposed to know defensive X’s and O’s. Have you seen any evidence of that? Me neither.
I don’t see the D being coached up over his time here. I see a secondary that gets housed by being late, linebackers who miss gap integrity, and a D Line that gets pushed around. Now when you have chicken crap, no one can expect chicken salad. I’d say that is still the case on offense. On offense, you have a first time coordinator, several new position coaches, most with deficient resumes, a completely new offensive line than the one that started training camp last season, a new back, and either Frye or a rookie quarterback, neither of which will confuse anyone with Eli Manning as far as NFL savvy, let alone his brother. The offense has incoherence written all over it.
No so on defense. He has solid vet linemen, albeit paired with a dearth of line depth. He has talented linebackers up the yin yang, and now he has athletic safeties and corners. Step yo’ game up, Coach. Last season, I could see sitting back and not blitzing. You had Ralph Brown and Devon Holly back there and had to try to cover for them. Pressing in single coverage with them was out of the question. Russell wasn’t the athlete who could allow you to have interchangeable safeties to fool a defense as he was more the classic middle third free safety. The linebackers were rookies, and we had no idea that McGinest was on his way to being this decade’s Keith Hernandez. This season? Romeo, you have ATHLETES. You have flexibility. Use it.
If it were up to me, I’d thank Andre Davis profusely for his professionalism and how he sustained us through the beat downs, and I’d sit him in favor of the obviously more talented Leon Williams, keeping him for depth along with McGinest and Thompson. If I had a starting line backing corps of Wimbley, Jackson, Williams and Peak with those four talented defensive backs to help cover the mistakes, I’d be blitzing off the bus. I’m guessing Todd Grantham, a Dom Capers’ disciple, would as well. Romeo isn’t that guy. Romeo, step back and let Todd be that guy. If you still make him do the Patriots’ balance game planning thing, you’d at least best be aggressive and creative and resourceful.
The defensive line still has depth issues that will hurt us, but with all those athletic and talented young backers who can run, and with solid D backs and some depth there, this vanilla bend-but-don’t-break-until-you-just-bleed-to-death-anyway crap has to be gone, or Romeo does. Enough. Stop being vanilla and playing on your heels, Romeo. You may not win them all, you may make more mistakes, but at least you set the tone for a playmaking defense when all the talent does come together. I’m guessing that by the end of the season these kids can be pretty damn good if they are allowed to play. Romeo, fans will be patient with you as far as wins and losses if we see progress and a tough, aggressive defense. More of the same and we’ll be calling for your dome and to let Grantham loose.
I expect, with health, the defense to actually be GOOD this season. If not, and if Romeo can’t even get that done, he gotta go. It’s like Ludacris says about moving. That’s my jam.
The core is there on paper, but games aren’t played on paper
Let’s take everything I just said, and in a minute, flip da script.
Remember the whole “we don’t have enough core players” rap from Phil and Randy? They thought we should have about 30 bona fide NFL players to be passable. Now I take that not to mean we need 30 hall of famers, or 30 pro bowlers, but 30 some cats that belong in the league and are having, or should have, 10-year NFL careers. This can be on the two deep, or as very good special teamers. I give you: Bodden, Davis, Edwards, Fraley, Heiden, Jackson, Jones, Jurivicius, Lewis, McGinest, McKinney, Peek, Pool, Quinn, Roye, Shaffer, Smith & Smith, Steinbach, Tucker, Unk, Vickers, Washington, Williams, Wimbley, Winslow, Wright & Wright (I hope they don’t make a “wrong”).
You may dispute a player here and there, but that’s not really the point. I think you can make a solid case for any of these guys as actually belonging in the league in their roles on a good team. And I didn’t count Bentley and Baxter. By the way, how dissed was Baxter looking up and seeing Eazy-E holding up “24” on draft day? What did the five fingers say to the face, Charlie Murphy? I know he’s never coming back, but a little couth might be in order for a fallen souldjah?
Now that said, we have some dudes who are long in the tooth and possibly coasting to make that 10th season, and we have guys who won’t put in decade long careers as starters. So what. Few teams do. What we now have is talent. What we don’t have is chemistry and continuity, and in some key positions as has been mentioned, experience. This will show, big time, particularly on offense.
Wait until next year
The last thing y’all want to hear right now is me preaching patience. Too damn bad. Hear it. Know it. Live it. Love it.
Dawg Nation, you cannot expect these guys to win yet, and by “win” I mean get over .500. The offensive line has five guys who weren’t lining up that way a year ago coached by a position coach with a terrible NFL resume. Unless the Browns are real about letting the best player play, the most important position of the field will be manned by either Charlie Frye or a raw rookie who will be scrutinized to death. We have one formerly great running back that is a high mileage tire. How much does Lewis have left? And then there is Winslow and all the micro-fracture rumors about his knee. Will he or won’t he play? What about Bentley? Will Edwards grow up and start putting in a professional effort to get professional results? Can the defensive line hold up and will we get some quality rotational end depth from Frazier, Harris and Kelley? Can Williams and Jackson step up to not just be players like Davis, but impact players on defense? Can Wimbley be what he looks to be, a potential all pro defensive player? Too many question marks, too many new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, and too many young players.
The optimist in me hopes that the defense has enough veterans, good coaching and continuity to mold the talent into a top 10 unit by season’s end. The realist in me looks at the offense, especially if Winslow is dinged at all, and sees a team that has some offensive line ability that will have drives broken down by blown assignments and young quarterback mistakes with a veteran back unable to carry the full load and no one behind him. I see a whole lot of losing games by 13 – 10 creating frustration this season, much like the first half of Butch Davis’ final year. The difference is that I see something with the potential to be special being built. I see some serious school of hard knocks diplomas being dealt. And then I see one more off-season where the defensive line depth is solidified and we get another running back. I see the coaching staff settling in and hopefully Romeo gets kicked into a role of chairman of the board, hands off, manager. I see an off-season where this season’s rookies and one-year players turn into bigger, stronger, wiser, young vets for the next. And then we get medieval on some cats in the AFC North.
I hate like hell to say this, but wait till next year. Be patient. We’re not there yet, but on paper, we’ve made major strides this off-season.
And what is being built is being built to last.