State of the Browns – February 2014 February 24, 2014

A Bit of History

In 2012, Jimmy Haslam bought the franchise from the Lerner family, and immediately hope began anew. With Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi in the front office and Rob Chudzinski as coach, the team looked different from top to bottom, though this was unfortunately a pattern too often seen since coming back. Chud, a local boy (Toledo) and former assistant coach (tight ends coach for their playoff-making 2004 season, offensive coordinator 2007-08), put up a good show but was ultimately not given the support to succeed. Mere hours after the close of their final 2013 game, the Browns fired Chudzinski, a shock by all accounts.

The 2013 season itself was a bit of a roller coaster ride. The preseason hype of Brandon Weeden didn’t endure, while fans got much excitement from a couple of up-and-coming pass catchers in Josh Gordon (WR) and Jordan Cameron (TE). Injuries in the offensive guard position hurt the run game as much as not having a premiere running back, and Trent Richardson (number three overall pick of the 2012 draft) became the butt of endless jokes since his surprising week-three trade to Indianapolis. The joy of seeing 3rd-string quarterback Brian Hoyer’s “rise” was quickly turned around when his season ended in the week-five Thursday night game against the Bills. Losing the final seven games brought a fitting end to the perennially hapless Browns.

Where This Leaves Us – February 2014

Quickly after the firing of Chud, Browns Twitter turned in more entertainment than anything Hard Knocks could hope to deliver. Weeks were spent speculating on coaches and why each big name scorned the team. Meanwhile, the Pro Bowl offered its own Browns drama with six players represented. Under the new format, our teammates were pitched against each other, and one play saw Gordon get flipped heels over head when struck low by safety TJ Ward.

The head-coaching search wrapped up in late January with Mike Pettine named to lead. He brought along Jim O’Neil as his defensive coordinator. Pettine and O’Neil had worked together at Buffalo in 2013 and for the Jets before that. Both men are featured in Nicholas Dawidoff’s “Collision Low Crossers”, a book chronicling the 2011 season of the NY Jets. A week later Kyle Shanahan was announced as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The drama with the staff wasn’t over yet, though; nope, far from it. On February 11th Haslam broke the news that Lombardi had been fired and Banner (stripped of his powers) would be with the team for only a couple more months. The reasons for this shakeup weren’t disclosed, but it’s been speculated that a rift growing between Lombardi and Banner didn’t sit well with the owner. Lombardi was generally unpopular with the fanbase (dating back to his earlier stint with the Modell-owned Browns), and Banner gave off a bad vibe with regard to player/staff relations. In my own opinion, neither man failed in his role in the past twelve months; in fact, I believe that the public moves they made were on balance good.

  • 2013 free agent acquisitions
    • Paul Kruger  (47 tackles, 9 hurries, 5 sacks)
    • Desmond Bryant – very good pickup
    • Brian Hoyer – looked good for a few games
    • Davone Bess – okay, he didn’t have a great season
  • 2013 draft – hard to evaluate rookies after only one season
    • Barkevious Mingo – 1st-round DE
    • Leon McFadden – 3rd-round CB
    • Jamoris Slaughter – 6th-round S
    • Armonty Bryant – 7th-round DE
    • Garrett Gilkey – 7th-round G
    • traded 3rd- and 4th-round picks for 2014 2nd- and 3rd-round picks
  • traded Trent Richardson (stats) to Indianapolis for 2014 1st-round pick (#26 overall)

One final bit of news that came up this month: at the 2014 Scouting Combine, it was let known that the Browns were in talks with Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers during the Cleveland coaching search. The full truth may never be revealed, but I suspect that Harbaugh wanted out of San Fran. I believe this reflects poorly on the 49ers organization and isn’t a Browns “story” at all.

So, looking forward to March and beyond…

  • We’ve got the concerns of tying up free agents Alex Mack (C) and  T.J Ward (S). Will we keep both, and will the franchise tag be used?
  • Beyond our own free agents, what positions will we try to fill from agency?
  • There’s also a movie starring Kevin Costner coming out on April 11th.
  • And, of course there’s the upcoming draft in May. But I’ll leave this speculation for my next post.

Here we go, Browns fans. Here we go. (Woof! Woof!)

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