The Super Bowl and the most apropos use of this category in a long time

Perhaps you saw the Super Bowl? Do you remember the part where the Seahawks ignored their inner Woody Hayes, threw an interception (more like gifterception, amirite), and New England won the Super Bowl? Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize you’d just had a lobotomy. Very inconsiderate of me.

Anyway, Regressing (affiliated with Deadspin) finally put to rest the whole super-weird “the pass call made sense!” theory.

I will say that I don’t blame Russell Wilson — Malcolm Butler made a tremendous play to pick that pass off, and if there’s no interception, it’s an easy touchdown. That said, RTFBS. An acronym to live by.

The remainder of the Browns’ draft

I’m not sure what to think of Tom Heckert as a drafter. He seems to get fixated on certain guys and takes them whenever he can get them, which means that he’ll get slammed a lot for reaches. That strategy can work great in Madden if you’ve scouted somebody nobody else has, but a couple of his picks are head scratchers. Coverage of the first round is here.

Second round:

Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cal — This is one of those weird reaches. He’s played right tackle before (which is where he’ll play with the Browns), but he doesn’t seem to have the raw talent of Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin, two guys taken after him. He’s supposed to be NFL-ready now, and he’ll get the job at RT. It’s not a terrible move, but why not take players with more talent if they’re available?

Third round:

John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati — If the second round pick was out of left field, this one comes from Mars. Absolutely NOBODY else had this guy on their boards. At all. He’s strictly a rotational guy, and the scouting report from says things like “lazy” and “poor effort.” He’s a decent run stopper. That’s about it.

Fourth round:

Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami — Everybody insisted the Browns needed speed at wideout — Benjamin was the fastest player at the combine (4.36 40 yard dash). He’s tiny (5’10”,  172 lbs) and apparently gets miffed easily by press coverage. Has some return ability, which is always nice.

James-Michael Jones, ILB, Nevada — A great run stopping linebacker, with good fundamentals and a great tackler. Not a ball-hawk, but he could be a starter someday. He played inside and outside, and there’s always the certainty chance that D’Qwell Jackson gets hurt.

Fifth round:

Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado — He’s huge. 6’7″, 321 lbs. A very solid guard that some teams apparently wanted to move out to tackle since he’s, you know, huge. Might have some technique concerns, but he’s a fifth round pick, will probably just be a backup and maybe be the guy that gets stuff down from the top shelf.

Sixth round: 

Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas — A very good pass rusher, but has a lot of difficulties in things like pass coverage. Probably a purely situational guy, but the Browns aren’t overflowing with pass rushers.

Billy Winn, DT, Boise State — Extremely talented player with character concerns. A little small for a DT (under 300 lbs), but tall (6’4″). Technique concerns and lack of effort caused him to slide.

Seventh round:

Trevin Wade, DB, Arizona — See Winn above, only he’s a DB and a much bigger jerk. Did very well his sophomore season, stunk the junior year, and was okay his senior year. If he can control his attitude, he could be a very good one.

Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama — Heh heh heh heh. His name is Smelley. Other than that, I know bupkis. He’s apparently a reasonably decent #2 guy.

That’s the entirety of the Browns’ draft. A lot of places give the Browns a “B” grade; I’m okay with that, sort of. They “filled” most of our needs, in that they got warm bodies who wear the right uniform number. Hughes still baffles me, and I like the idea of an uber-fast wideout, but we really needed somebody with more overall ability. Schwartz is an example of drafting for need over best player available; I like the idea and the player, just not where we took him. A couple of character guys here too. Overall, the Browns got three Day-1 starters (assuming Weeden gets the job on day one), good depth at defensive tackle and linebacker, and a freakin’ huge guard. The only skill player I’m unreservedly excited about is Trent Richardson. The only player I’m unreservedly angry about is Hughes. (Fun fact: he was second to last among all DTs who were graded! And we took him in the third round!)

I think it’s clear Weeden will make or break this draft for a lot of people, and I’m one of them. I think Tom Brady would have had a losing record with last years’ supporting cast, with only one legitimate NFL wide receiver in Greg Little and a running game that makes grown men cry (in the bad way). Richardson should fix the latter, and our offensive line is better. Maybe Weeden is Kurt Warner 2.0; maybe he’s Chris Wenke. He has talent, unlike Wenke, but he never bagged groceries (that I know of), so obviously I can’t tell if he’s the next Warner.

I’m going to give the Browns entire draft, at the moment, a C++. If The Walrus gets over his bromance with Seneca Wallace, who’s apparently a dick and refused to help Colt transition last year (unless he was honest and told Colt, “Dude, I have no idea what I’m doing either. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe better!), I’ll feel better about the season.

Browns draft (thus far)

The Browns made two picks in the first round. Cleveland traded some later round picks to go from #4 to #3; given that we got Trent Richardson out of the deal and lost only a 4th, 5th, and 7th round pick, I’m totally okay with that. Given one of the categories for this post — RTFBS, or Run the Fuckin’ Ball, Stupid — I’m delighted that we received the only true every down back in the draft. There is a small part of me that says “Tony, you know the Browns needed a right tackle, and Matt Kalil would have been dynamite.” Still, running backs that touch the ball 25-30 times a game don’t grow on trees, and so I give the Browns a thumbs up on that pick.

I’m a little more concerned about the second pick, QB Brandon Weedon. He’s 28, or about two years younger than I am. He’s immensely talented from a drop back and pass standpoint, although he’s supposedly “meh” outside the pocket. That’s fine. So why aren’t I more excited? Simple: Colt McCoy.

I’ve defended McCoy a number of times on this blog. I think he’s a product of bad circumstances, not a bad QB, and there is a difference. McCoy isn’t Tom Brady or Peyton Manning; he is also not Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson (minus 2007). I think he can still be a very competent starter. He’s no “franchise QB”, but he is extremely competent, and it still kind of bothers me that the Browns have given up on him so quickly.

I also really wanted to see the Browns get an elite WR or OT in the first round. Riley Reiff would have been a tremendous choice. I like the guard that fell to Pittsburgh, too. A couple of picks earlier, Kendall Wright was available. I understand there are plenty of superb options for both in the second round, and maybe that’s true. I admit I’m not quite as knowledgeable about college ball as I was in the past, and apart from the first round, I’ve not examined many mock drafts.

Weedon may very easily defeat Colt McCoy in training camp. This may even end up good for Colt; he was forced to start before he was ready, and he’ll get a little bit of seasoning behind Weedon. Weedon may totally surprise me, start for 10 years, and give the Browns a Super Bowl. I’m just hesitant to sign off on the pick now (not that I need to, since I don’t work for the Browns.) I also think he would have been available in the second round

So, thus far: Richardson, A+ — Weedon, C+ (possibly as high as B+ depending on his performance).

Browns go for Mike Wallace?

There was an interesting article on Grantland that recaps the repercussions of the Rams-Redskins draft trade.

Bill Barnwell says that, of all the teams looking for a new QB, he thinks the Browns are in the worst position. He’s probably right. SF is out of contention for Manning after signing Alex Smith for a three year deal (note: I never thought Manning was a good fit anyway), and it seems to be between Arizona and Denver, at the moment, for Manning. Matt Flynn will probably go to Miami. This leaves the Browns with the #4 overall pick but no really great QB to choose from. Barnwell’s solution? The Browns claim Mike Wallace and give the #4 pick to Pittsburgh.

It’s an intriguing notion, I must admit. Mike Wallace is a very capable receiver, there’s no question about that. However, I can’t help but think that going after Wallace, for the #4 pick, seems risky. He’d make Colt McCoy or whoever ends up as the QB when all is said and done better. But would he sign with Cleveland for the long haul? That’s the better question. A #4 pick for one year of Mike Wallace seems kind of silly. If it comes packaged with a reasonable contract extension, I like the move; if it doesn’t I don’t.

Other players that the Browns might go for at #4 include T Matt Kalil (if he’s available), RB Trent Richardson, or going defense again. The Browns need a capable running back, and even if they resign Peyton Hillis, there’s no evidence that’s a good long term move. I like the idea of an RB at #4, but I’m not sure how good Richardson, or if he’s worthy of the pick. If we have to take a player with #4, I’d rather see them take Kalil and fix the right tackle hole.

At this stage? I’d actually like to see the Browns trade down. Stockpile quality picks, turn them into players. The Browns will not make the playoffs with or without Mike Wallace next year. The Browns have a lot of holes still — not as many as we did before Holmgren and Heckert, but still plenty. I am perfectly fine with the following positions: LT, C, one DE, DT, MLB, and one CB. I’d even accept Greg Little if he fixes the drop issues. That still leaves other positions that need a lot of improvement. The defense could use some more quality players — another CB certainly, a pass rusher probably — but going defense again will probably make a lot of people mad. So we trade down. Let’s get some value. Take a couple of offensive players in round one — ideally a T and an RB. Use the second round to find some capable receivers. Future rounds for depth, maybe some more defensive players. Above all, put us in position to evaluate Colt McCoy for one full season with some better talent. Let’s find out if McCoy is part of the problem or part of the future solution.

That’s what I would do, in any case.


The secret to the passing game’s (lack of) success

Read an interesting article from the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. When I saw bullet point #1 and #3, I said “Ah hah! That explains a lot!” Those bullet points?

1. Guess which NFL team leads the league with 23 dropped passes? Yes, it’s your Cleveland Browns.

3. But 23 drops is four more than any other team — Miami and Chicago are next with 19. In a West Coast offense where the accent is on yards after catch (YAC), you need to catch it first.

The Browns now have an excuse for ignoring RTFBS, since the best RB on the team is hurt, the second best is also hurt, and the third best has been on the IR since the preseason. Still, Peyton Hillis was barely used even when healthy, and that’s why Colt McCoy has had to try so hard to pass.

Who is to blame? Well, Colt doesn’t throw to his TEs very much. Evan Moore has a 71% catch rate; Ben Watson has a 53% catch rate, which is less impressive. But he would still be the second best receiver on the team! Greg Little and Josh Cribbs are just over 50% ; MoMass is just under 50%.

That’s pitiful. You may say, “But Penguatroll, Larry Fitzgerald has a 48% catch rate!” I reply, “And he’s still better than every Cleveland receiver combined.”

Before we use eight games to say “Colt McCoy is the worst Cleveland QB evar!!!!!!!” I remind you of three things: 1) He’s still very young, 2) Jake Delhomme, 3) Derek Anderson (except 2007). With some decent talent around him? I’m not saying he’s Drew Brees, or even Drew Bledsoe. But he’s far better than Drew Henson.

Smart football indeed!

I originally went to because, like many Americans, I think Bill Simmons is funny. But thanks to his website, I’ve discovered a gem of an article (and site, really, because Chris Brown knows his stuff).

Terry Pluto  (Browns writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer) has made a lot of comparisons between Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. What he’s never done is explain why Smith has been so successful this year, and not in the past. Only mention that they’re vaguely similar, physically and athletically, and both pretty smart and “winners” in college football.

Chris Brown’s analysis, on the other hand, is brilliant. Peyton Manning adjusts receiver routes all the time (or he did before he got hurt). He can do this because A) he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of football and B) he’s worked with the same receivers for a long time. But “sight adjustments” rely a lot on mind reading between a QB and WR. So what did Jim Harbaugh do?

Got rid of them.

Like anybody who’s ever played Madden, the best plays have escape hatches in case your downfield route goes wrong (and it probably will). Without calling for hot routes or any of that, these let you get out of a bad play with a positive gain. That’s what Harbaugh did. Build even downfield plays with routes in case the QB needs to make a quick decision.

His video is awesome, and explains it perfectly. I recommend Smart Football to anybody who is smart and likes football (which anybody who reads this site probably is).

PS: I swear, I will finish my series of Madden draft and player analysis. I’ve just been really busy.

Hopefully the end of the Hillis saga

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Madden cover curse, only for Peyton Hillis, it’s affected his brain. The Browns, apparently, are done. The reporter suggests Hillis might get cut this season, which would be great news for Montarrio Hardesty if he weren’t also injured. Our third string running back didn’t make it out of camp (Brandon Jackson), so our running backs are pretty thin.

I’ve tried to defend Hillis on this site and in conversations with friends. It just can’t be done any longer. Instead of rehabbing, he flew back to Arkansas and got married. Mazel tov and all that, but still, that’s an incredibly short sighted decision. I’ve also heard, although can’t/am too lazy to confirm, that it was a shotgun wedding anyway.

There seems to be some sort of allergy to drafting running backs high in the draft in Cleveland; at least we tried (kind of) with highly drafted QBs. We’ve tried a number of stop gaps since early 2001, some of whom worked well (Jamal Lewis, Reuben Droughns), some of whom didn’t (William Green, Lee Suggs). The only one drafted in the first round was Green, whose off-the-field shenanigans derailed a possibly promising NFL career.

I’m not ready to write off Colt McCoy yet, because he’s in the same situation Tim Couch was years ago; good QB, bad supporting cast. Colt has to win or lose each game by himself, which he’s just not capable of doing by himself.

Peyton Hillis was a wonderful pickup for the Browns, an unexpected treat salvaged out of a bad situation. The Browns have a good-to-great defense right now; let’s work on the offense in this next draft, shall we?