It is now the off-season and time to talk personnel decisions for the 2013 Browns. For what it is worth here are my comments on a few things related to our favorite team and a few other teams around the NFL.
I still disagree with the media’s love affair with Robert Griffin III. Yes, he is a talented athlete and does have a big upside, but he still as some big hurdles to clear. His rookie year he missed games because of his first concussion and his first knee injury, both came on plays were he was running downfield. He must change his game are he is going to join that long list, and the list is getting longer, of college spread quarterbacks who could not make the transformation to NFL quarterbacks. If RGIII keeps running eight or nine times a game soon will come his second concussion, then his third, and then another knee injury. And don’t forget about what has happened to Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, and Michael Vick.
Speaking of quarterbacks, I can’t believe I hear people in the media who keep saying Vick will be a starter next year for someone, as long as that team let’s Michael Vick be Michael Vick. And that would be a mistake. You let Michael Vick be Michael Vick and he will get yet another injury, probably a concussion, and he will be on the sidelines just like he spent most of this season.
Brandon Weedon’s rookie year had its ups and downs. At times he looked very good, at times very poor. But he started 15 games (this article was written before the last Pittsburgh game), and his rookie stats compare favorable to many other rookie seasons of some pretty good NFL quarterbacks. For example, Bernie Kosar threw only 8 touchdowns his first year as a starter, while Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions his rookie year. (Weedon stats after 15 games: 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions). Don’t forget he has had 7 games without a pick, and four of his interceptions came in the first game. Even when playing poorly against the Redskins the numbers didn’t look that bad: 21/35 for 244 yards, one TD and 2 picks.
Last year’s draft was a fluke with the large amount of rookie quarterbacks that started and contributed to their NFL teams. There is only one, maybe two, first round QB picks this year, and after that it does not get any better. As I have written before, not enough college teams run a pro style offense, and the NFL is not developing its own quarterbacks without NFL Europe. All the more reason for the Browns to keep both Weedon and McCoy. Who else is there? The NFL is soon to be filled with spread option quarterbacks trying to learn the pro passing game. No matter what you think of both Browns quarterbacks, they will be miles ahead of most NFL quarterbacks next season.
Maybe I am too much of an old school coach, but I still feel you build championship teams from the trenches first, and you got to be happy with the young units the Browns have on both sides of the ball. On offense perennial all pro Joe Thomas is the old man, and he is only 27. He along with fellow first round picks Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwarz are playing like first round draft picks. All three, along with guard Shawn Lauvao started all 16 games. And on defense they are building a solid unit, built around defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Frostee Rucker, and defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, John Hughes, and Billy Winn. All of these players still have promising careers ahead of them.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore ended the regular season still thinking they had a chance to win it all this season, which kept both teams with sticking with their aging lineups. Although both teams do have some good young players, especially Pittsburgh, the fact both teams kept too long with the Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and others, will catch up to them in the near future. Plus, as I have said before, it is hard to replace some of the best players in the history of their franchises.
Something is going to happen next season that has never happened to the Browns since they returned in 1999. They will have a talented, young, homegrown player returning at almost every position on both sides of the ball. We still have to see how the dust settles on the sidelines and in the front office under new owner Jimmy Haslem, but the personnel situation has never been better.
Speaking of the front office, by the time you read this a decision will be made about Tom Heckert. I would hate to see him go after he just gave us the best draft of the new Browns era, one of the best drafts ever. The 2012 draft gave us a starting right tackle in Mitchell Schwartz, Trent Richardson at running back, and Weedon at quarterback. On offense also throw in starting receiver Josh Gordon (from the supplemental draft), and back ups speedster Travis Benjamin at receiver and offensive lineman Ryan Miller. On defense, at one time or another, rookies James-Michael Johnson, Billy Winn, John Hughes, and L.J. Fort also have started. And all seem to be quality players with solid careers in front of them.
I think to be a Browns fan you have to have a touch of the sentimental fool inside of you, and for that reason, as well as some pretty logical ones, I would definitely resign Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs. The Browns special teams are greatly improved over last year, much to Dawson and Cribbs, and they don’t need changes at major positions going into next year. Dawson even with fifteen years under his belt is still at the top of his game, which includes not only kicking in our stadium and all the weather change it brings, but also open air stadiums in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Cribbs might be ready to turn the punt return chores over to Travis Benjamin, but he is still solid on kickoffs, never afraid to get the last few tough yards, and still ranks at the top of the league as a cover man in the kicking game. Plus both players have been the face of the franchise during some very trying times, they both deserve to finish their careers in Browns uniforms.
There are still spots that need improvement. Including the defensive backfield, another defensive end, and depth on both sides of the ball. However, when the Browns do take the field for their first regular season game next season they will field a team we have been waiting for since sometime in the early 1990’s, a talented team with an experienced player lining up at almost every position. And they will be playing in a division where the two teams that have dominated it for over a decade will be showing their age and be at the beginnings of their own rebuilding projects.