A View From The Cheap Seats
Well well well. Mr. Stallworth seems to have gone and gotten himself in a smidge of trouble.
In a vacuum of actual football news, I guess we need to address the Donte Stallworth drama. As you know, Donte was out late drinking, then, while driving under the influence, hit and killed a jaywalking pedestrian named Mario Reyes. Innuendo (Jim Brown) even has him smoking a little weed that night, which really is neither here nor there in light of the seriousness of the DUI and manslaughter.
Donte got himself a plea bargain, which included 30 days in jail, house arrest, community service, and an undisclosed sum paid to Mr. Reyes' family.
Is 30 days in the hole enough? Probably not. But it's not my job to make that judgment. In the end, the Reyes family was satisfied, and since they were the ones that were wronged, I guess their satisfaction somehow equals justice.
(See? You CAN put a price on a person's life. They've been doing it since the dawn of time. Germanic tribes called it weirgeld. They really should come up with a chart, you know, like the one that determines the value of draft picks. It would make it so much easier for the court system... but I digress.)
Immediately after the terms of the sentence were handed down, voices across the land sounded off in incredulity and incense. How could a man guilty of DUI manslaughter get off with a mere 30 days? Talk show hosts and callers across the country spat their frustration at the special treatment received by celebrities and athletes.
This is utter nonsense, of course. Celebrities and athletes don't get any special treatment. Money does. It just so happens that many celebrities and athletes are wealthy. Money hires the best attorneys. The best attorneys use their skills to get the softest possible punishment. The rich use their riches to buy their way out of situations which would doom the normal man.
And if you were rich, you would do the same.
But punishment within the legal system is only the beginning for the NFL player, and Commissioner Roger Goodell brought the Indefinite Suspension hammer down on Donte. That usually means at least 1 year.
What does this mean to the Cleveland Browns? Not much. I was almost shocked that Stallworth was still on the team even before he had his unfortunate drive. He was more useless last year than a chair with no legs. I'm sure that it was only cap considerations that kept his termination at bay. And now that he's gone and gotten himself Suspended Indefinitely, he's even more useless than before.
Hopefully, the Browns are able to wipe him and his cap hit clean of Cleveland.
Regarding the Pass Rush
I had a discussion with some individuals recently regarding the potential of the 2009 Browns Defense. Their position seemed to be that - along with the acquisition of Abram Elam, Eric Barton, CJ Mosley, David Bowens, and Kenyon Coleman - the improved schemes and packages provided by the minds of Defensive Gurus Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan would propel the Cleveland D to new heights.
I try to be optimistic. No matter how badly I've been burned in the past, I can't help but ooze optimism each season right before Training Camp starts. Optimism pours out of my every orifice. I can't go out in public without a towel.
But as much as I do realize that schemes and packages can affect the fortunes of a Defensive Unit, I also realize that no matter how much you polish a turd, it's still a, well, you know.
When it comes to a successful NFL Defense, what is the aspect that jumps out at you? Bend but not break? Max coverage? Soft zone?
No, it's Pass Rush.
Which of the elite teams in this league have a good Pass Rush? Pittsburgh? Check. Baltimore? Check. New England? Check. The Giants? Check. Philly? Check. Tennessee? Check. San Diego? When Merriman is healthy. Indy? When Freeney is healthy.
I don't care who you are or how good your Corners are or what scheme you run - if you don't have a Pass Rush, your Defense will not succeed.
Where will the Pass Rush come for the Mangini/Ryan Browns 3-4 Defense? The D Line is fairly strong, but a 3-4 generally only plays 3 Down Linemen (thus the 3 to the 4), and their main task is not QB pressure, it's Lineman Occupation. In a 3-4, the bulk of the Pass Rush needs to come from the Linebackers and the Safeties (with the occasional Corner blitz). And that's where I slam the brakes on the Expectation Expressway.
Now, we can count on a decent dose of Safety penetration. In fact, I predict that Elam easily gets over 5 sacks. But the Linebackers will be asked to provide the lion's share of the QB Pressure, and that's the weakest Positional Unit on the entire team.
The projected starters are Kam Wimbley and Alex Hall on the Outside, and D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton on the Inside. Other than Barton - who's probably an improvement over Andra Davis but hardly a world beater - those guys were all on the roster last year. A roster that produced only 17 total sacks. When they still had the legendary Willie McGinest.
Wimbley is a one-move pocket satellite. I do believe that moving him around, as Man-Ryan plans to do, will add to his effectiveness. But I can't sit here and say that it will cure all that ills him.
Hall? Well, he had a couple nice moments as a 7th Round rookie. Yet I don't see myself transferring all my stock to him.
D'Qwell? I like DQ. A lot. But his size makes him more of a rover; a tackling machine that takes over once the line of scrimmage has been plundered.
And Barton? Pardon my bellicosity, but I just don't see him as the second coming of Ray Lewis.
Maybe rookie LB David Veikune can provide the spark. Maybe he can't.
Then there's Leon Williams. I've kinda seen what to expect from him. Bowens? Lifetime backups are usually that for a reason. Beau Bell? I'd love to see him just take the field. Rookie Kaluka Maiava? Word has it that he hasn't even been around.
The Linebacking corps of the Cleveland Browns is... how do I say this? Low on talent. I understand that scheme and package can make up for some of the flaws, but talent DOES matter. And there's nothing but potential potential on this team.
In this - or any - economic climate, I can't bank on that. Sorry. Until further notice, I have to assume that this team is one draft/free agency period away from having a solid LB unit. And I have to additionally assume that that means the Browns will once again struggle to put pressure on the opposition's QB. Or stop the run. Or register in the Top 15 of any positive NFL statistical category (Points Allowed is NOT positive).
I am tapering my expectations ahead of time to avoid undue consternation when the probable arrives. I'd suggest you do the same, but far be it for me to tell anyone how to live their lives.
(Psssst. Lower your expectations.)
The other day I was fortunate enough to happen upon an article by Marla Ridenour of the ABJ regarding the "secrecy" of the Mangini regime. Actually, "article" is a strong word. Long, un-endearing complaint is more accurate. It pontificates mournfully about Mangini's ways, including the facts that journalists have to stand far away, aren't allowed to discuss trick plays, and remain uninformed regarding player injuries.
In the end, Marla concluded:
My former boss, the late Dayton Daily News sports editor Si Burick, loathed complaining by the media. He once yanked a column by Hal McCoy on how difficult it was to cover the 1981 Super Bowl from the paper in between editions, sending that day's layout editor (me) into a frenzy as he proclaimed, ''Nobody cares about our problems.''
Marla - why didn't you heed that philosophy?
You're right. Nobody cares. Fans care about winning. If Mangini can get this team to win, no one will care if you have to watch practice from Minsk.
Besides, you're not even the first one to be whining about this. Tony Grossi was bitching about it months ago. You're behind the curve.
I know that Mangini's ways annoy the living hell out of you media folks and makes your lives more difficult. That sucks for you. But we all got problems, Marla. I don't text you about how my boss assigned me too many projects. A waiter's not gonna send you an e-mail belly-aching about how some drunk dumped pea soup all over their pants. A hooker's not gonna leave you a voice mail complaining about the clap she got from some Joe.
Why? Because why should you - a stranger to them - care about their work problems?
Similarly, we - strangers to you - don't care about your work problems. You're barking up the wrong tree if you want sympathy from the fans. Send an IM to the PD. I'm sure they'll listen to your violin.
PS - I love the tactic where you theorize that not allowing the media access to what they want keeps fans from "connecting" with the team.
You know what keeps fans from "connecting" with the team? Losing. Sucking. Stinking up the field with putrescence.
Next to that, the fact that you and your brethren have to stand behind some fence doesn't even register.
Regarding Tee Hee Hee
Speaking of the PD, I read the Hey Tony article this Sunday, and Grossi had this zinger:
Hey, Tony: What do you think of the Browns signing OLB Travis Laboy? He is a proven pass-rusher with experience playing in a 3-4. Your thoughts? -- Scott
Hey, Scott: Former GM Phil Savage tried to sign Laboy last year. The fact he never played for the Jets makes Laboy a nonentity with this coaching staff.
Now, I will readily admit that Tony has been much better lately. He seems to have accepted his fate, and some objectivity is slowly creeping back into his work. However, he is sometimes prone to relapse, and then you get gems like the line above.
I picture the writing of that Hey Tony reply going like this...
INT. PLAIN DEALER OFFICES - DAY
Tony Grossi sits at his desk, typing away, a silly grin on his face. He mouths the words as he types.
Tony: ...with... this... coaching... staff.
He grins wider, reading what he just wrote again.
Tony (laughing): Tee hee hee!
Bill Livingston and Bud Shaw, who sit nearby playing Uno, look up in surprise.
Bill: What is it, Tony?
Tony: Come read what I wrote about Mangini. I got him good.
Bill and Bud look at each other, then eagerly run over to Tony's desk and start reading over his shoulder.
Tony (pointing): There. Right below that question about Laboy.
Both Bill and Bud read, their lips moving with the words. Bud finishes first.
Bud: Oh, snap! Tee hee! Toast!
Bill finishes, but still looks confused.
Bill: Did Travis Laboy play for the Jets?
Tony: No! That's why it's funny.
Bill (still not getting it): Oh...
Bud: Mangini only picks up players that played for the Jets. So Tony's saying that because Laboy didn't play for the Jets, Mangini wouldn't consider him.
Bill (the light dawns): Ahhhh! That's good! Tee hee!
All Together Now: Tee hee hee!
Bill: You guys doing anything later?
Bud: I was planning on goin' out and hookin' up with some El Chickarinos.
Tony: Where you goin'?
Bud: I dunno. I was thinking about checkin' out that bar that Aaron Goldhammer is always talkin' about on KNR.
Bill: Good idea. Anyplace that Goldhammer goes to is bound to be cool.
Tony: You guys see Mary Kay's butt today?
Bud: No. Why?
Tony: New pants. Tight in the seat.
Terry Pluto walks by, leafing through some papers.
Tony: Hey! Terry! You see Mary Kay's butt today?
Terry doesn't look up as keeps walking.
Terry: Restraining order.
He walks away. Bill and Bud look at Tony, confused.
Bud: Restraining order?
Tony: Yeah, he got a restraining order taken out on me.
Bill: Why? You guys get in a fight?
Tony: No. He says it's so I won't talk to him any more.
Mary Kay Cabot walks by, talking on her cell phone.
Tony: Hey! Mary Kay! Did you see your butt today?
Mary Kay rolls her eyes and keeps walking.
Bud: Damn, Tony! You are on a roll!
Regarding Brett Favre
F*** Brett Favre. That is all.
As most of you don't know, in addition to football and basketball, I am a tennis fan. Last year, I did a whole piece prior to Wimbledon about the seeds and their potential fates.
I don't have to do that this year. This year might be the easiest Wimbledon call of all time.
Got money? Put it on Venus Williams and Roger Federer. Thank me later.
Regarding the Name Change
It is of little note, but for those who might notice, I have now begun to use my name on these articles. I originally started writing on this site under the pseudonym of Hiko, which is my longtime message board screen name and nickname from college (involving a story which is long, convoluted, and surprisingly uninteresting).
However, Hiko writes Moot Points. I write The Outsider. And seeing as I've retired Moot Points, logic dictates that a time must also come to retire Hiko.
So, take it easy, bro. Here's a bottle of scotch and a funnel. Enjoy your golden years.
And for those of you out there bored enough to still be reading, worry not. Just because I'm using my real name doesn't mean that I plan to take myself seriously.