One Before I Die
(August 2013)

Before getting into this month’s column, I want the readers of the Orange and Brown Report to know that I will be writing the Coach’s Corner column this fall under false circumstances, I will not be coaching this season. No, I haven’t retired, but after 16 seasons on the college level, preceded by 15 seasons on the high school level, I am taking a season off. I have a niece cheerleading in the SEC for Vanderbilt, and this is her last year. I will be spending my Saturdays taking her grandmother, her mom, her cousins and siblings to see her cheer on the Commodores. I plan on taking in as many of her games as possible on Saturdays, and seeing all the Browns home games, as well as a few road games, on Sundays. I know I’ll miss coaching, but it should still make for a great fall still filled with football.

And because I didn’t have any coaching responsibilities this summer I was able to attend both preseason home games. I loved being around my fellow Browns fans, and enjoyed both games tremendously. Amongst the crowd that was decked out in various costumes and clothing of Brown and Orange was a young lady of around twenty. She had on an orange t-shirt with brown lettering with the phrase “Just One Before I Die” written across the front. I think that sums it up for almost all Browns fans, just one championship, please. When I was that girls age I was bouncing around the old stadium with my Siper Bowl t-shirt on, then spent the next decade in dog costume. How many seasons has it been since the Browns were legitimate? And we are still hoping many years later, wishing for just one before we pass on.

Several columns ago I made some comments about some things that must happen and not must happen for the Browns to make a playoff run this year. It is now the end of summer camp and the beginning of the regular season, another preseason has come and gone, and I think it would be a good time on how my list of do’s and don’ts is going so far for the 2013 Browns.

I was worried that General Manager Mike Lombardi would become enamored with Patriot cast offs because of his admiration of Bill Belichick. To Lombardi’s credit this has not happened. However, Lombardi’s skills at acquiring talent have yet to be shown to be fruitful. As I write this his two top draft picks have been hurt and have seen limited action, defensive end Barkevious Mingo and defensive back Leon McFadden. Sixth round pick Jamoris Slaughter is also hurt and looks like he will probably not contribute at all. With the Browns banged up at guard, he made a deal with Seattle for veteran John Moffitt, but the deal got nixed when he was unable to pass a physical. To Lombardi’s credit seventh round draft pick Garrett Gilkey from DII Chadron State seems to be a player and might have a future with the team. Free agent Paul Kruger has been a solid player, and Jason Campbell will be a good back up quarterback.

Lombardi’s job is to secure talent for the Browns, and so far he hasn’t shown any great skill at doing it. Let’s see how he does as the season grinds on and guys have to be signed to fill in for injuries. Remember, the cupboard was not bare when this new regime took over. Their job should not be building from scratch but to supplement what is already here.

Both players fighting to take over Phil Dawson’s kicking chores have looked good. However, as all knowledgeable Browns fans know, exhibition games in August do not equal divisional games in December with the wind whipping in off the lake. The release of Phil Dawson is probably the one decision that will make or break Lombardi’s first year as G.M.

The Browns did suffer injuries during summer practice and exhibition games, that is something you never can avoid. However, going into the final exhibition game the most important core players have remained healthy. On offense that includes Weedon, Richardson, Cameron, both tackles, Alex Mack, Greg Little, and Josh Gordon. On defense that includes the big guys up front, Jackson and Krueger at linebacker, and Joe Haden and T.J. Ward in the defensive backfield. The Browns will go into the regular season in good shape as far as those players that the team is counting on.

The 2013 preseason showed the truth for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, that both teams are in periods of transition and neither is expected to be a serious contender. Both teams rolled the dice last year to keep an aging talented team together in hopes of winning the Super Bowl. It paid off for the Ravens, it didn’t for the Steelers. However, this preseason has shown both teams have aged, and both teams will be taking steps backwards. It is obvious that the team to beat in the division is the Bengals.

The Browns are going to deal with Josh Gordon’s two game suspension. They are also dealing with speeding tickets for going upward of 120 M.P.H. on local freeways for several players. I hope that is the end of the circus behavior. This is the year the Browns core of talented, young players must take the giant step from being happy to be paid for playing football to wanting to succeed and be champions. As I said before, this is Rob Chudzinski’s biggest job for this year, something that will affect the team for the next 5-10 years.

Jordan Cameron is showing flashes of his potential, that he could be a big time NFL tight end. I’m still concerned about depth at this position, the type of offense the Browns want to run could use a whole committee of quality tight ends. I expect the team will sign someone who gets released at the last cut date.

The attacking defense did just that through the preseason, showing multiple fronts and blitzes. I am anxious, just as almost everyone else is, to see how this translates into the regular season.

One final note…everyone who has read my column for the last five or six years that I have been writing it knows that I have been very concerned about concussions and football. I have written two columns about the topic for this publication, as well as writing about it for other publications and websites as well. I have great concern about a situation that was first written about in the New York Times on August 24 of this year. The Times reported that the NFL possibly influenced ESPN to drop a series on concussions the sports network was doing with Frontline, a public affairs television series often seen on public television. According to the Times the series described the NFL as “turning a blind eye that players were sustaining brain trauma on the field that could lead to profound, long-term cognitive disability.” The early evidence shows ESPN caving into one of its biggest, if not the biggest, business partner in the National Football League. ESPN has prided itself over the years of not only broadcasting sports, but also being sports journalists. I hope they didn’t cross the line from journalism to corporate greed by pulling the plug on the concussion series because of pressure from the NFL. Concussions will continue to be the biggest story in football over the next few years.

Go Browns! How about it, one before I die? As I have stated I plan on being at every Browns home game this year. I sit in section 120, Row B, seat 4, in the Dawg Pound. If you can, stop by and say hi before a game or at half time. I would love to talk Browns with you.