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How To Fix The Cleveland Browns By 2016


CLEVELAND – 24 hours after yet another second-half collapse in a 34-20 loss to the visiting Arizona Cardinals, it may be time for owner Jimmy Haslam to consider cleaning house.

To quote a meme on Facebook from fellow INSCMagazine’s Senior Browns beat writer Matthew Wilder, watching the Browns play is like watching the movie Titanic every Sunday and rooting for the ship, if that is the case, then after seeing a visibly battered and beaten Josh McCown stay on the field, then all of Dawg Pound Nation may be ready to scramble for the lifeboats, as the prospect of a an iceberg-like fire sale is fast approaching.

To call the Cleveland Browns a dumpster fire is an insult to innocent dumpsters unable to defend themselves. The Browns are—to put it bluntly—a farrago, or total failure or fiasco.


Calls for the immediate ouster of head coach Mike Pettine and general manager thanks to a myriad display of arrogance, incompetence, negligence and utter incompetence reached a fever pitch after the Browns allowed the Cardinals to score 24 unanswered points in the second half. For a team that was falsely advertised as a run-first, defense second squad, they failed miserably on both fronts once again as they surrendered 491 total yards on offense.

Longtime Browns tormentor Carson Palmer continued his mastery over Cleveland in improving to 10-4 in passing for 372 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Johnson—who the Browns passed on in free agency—rushed for 109 yards on 30 carries.

Did I fail to mention that he is 30 years old?

It was more of the same from the Browns in being unable to come up with stops on third down and failing to take advantage of turnovers—they had four!—and in the history of football, whichever team that wins the turnover battle normally wins roughly 80 percent of the time.

So how in the name of Otto Graham did the Browns not win, despite being a plus-2 in turnovers?

It is these stats, that is surely driving the workers at the Factory of Sadness crazy on yet another sullen Monday, and in all honestly, if Haslam has any sense, he will do the right thing and blow it up and start from scratch.

Below are my 15 ways on how to fix the Browns by 2016:

123014-FSO-NFL-Ray-Farmer-Cleveland-Browns.vresize.1200.675.high.70Fire GM Ray Farmer: His dreadful record on first-round draft picks (Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel) speaks for itself. While the jury is still out on center Cameron Erving, don’t even bother talking to any Browns fan about him passing on wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr. Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins.

Farmer’s benign arrogance on passing on playmakers and utter disdain for them coupled with a smug I am-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room condescension is nothing short of idiotic. Did I fail to mention that he signed Dwayne Bowe to a 2-year $12 million deal with $9 million guaranteed?

 

140124-mike-pettine-topFire Head Coach Mike Pettine: To be honest, I didn’t even know who he was when the Browns surprised many in hiring the former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator. Highly touted as a tough and hard-nosed defensive mind who loves a smash-mouth running game, he may be the most blindly stubborn Browns head coach in history.

And that’s saying something.

Issues such as questionable clock management, failure to make second-half adjustments, blind loyalty towards mediocre veteran quarterbacks such as Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown, Pettine’s in-game decisions are just as mind-numbing as his monotone post-game pressers.

Respectfully, the faux macho WWE tough guy-wannabe schtick is seriously beginning to wear thin especially when you leave a QB such as McCown, who already had a banged-up shoulder and was two weeks back from a concussion, instead of giving Manziel a chance to develop.

 

center-alex-mack-cleveland-browns_pg_600Trade C Alex Mack and RT Mitchell Schwartz: Purely a business move, Mack is set to hit free agency after the season and with first-round pick Cameron Irving on the sidelines, now would be the right time to get something for one of the best centers in the NFL, if he decides to waive his no-trade clause.

In the case of Schwartz, the former second-rounder—also out of Cal like Mack—is one of the better right tackles and should fetch a fair return.

(Editor’s Note: Per reports, Mack will not waive his no-trade clause*)

 

 (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Trade LT Joe Thomas: After eight years of service to the Browns, it is time to move possibly the best left tackle in the NFL in Joe Thomas. I never thought I would blog such worlds in a column, but there are plenty of teams who would happily offer a first or second round pick for the former Wisconsin standout.

 

johnny-manziel-nfl-preseason-buffalo-bills-cleveland-browns-850x560Cut/Trade QB Johnny Manziel: I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for moment. I still feel that Manizel deserves a chance to show what he can do in Cleveland. However based on the collective stubbornness of Pettine, it may be best if both parties parted ways.

My observation is that unless Manziel showed enough flashes that he would already be the starter, couple that with the recent off-the-field distractions and playing in a town that loves their own(Hoyer) and the former Heisman Trophy winner is getting a raw deal under a stubborn coach.

 

d-bowe-2Cut WR Dwayne Bowe: If Ray Farmer is guilty of collective arrogance and being short-sighted, then Bowe is guilty of embezzlement to the tune of $9 million. Easily the worst Browns free-signing since Andre Rison.

 

justin-gilbert-nfl-preseason-washington-redskins-cleveland-browns-850x560Cut CB Justin Gilbert: When you are a top ten first-round pick who cannot beat out the likes of Pierre Desir, K’Waun Williams and Johnson Bademosi and are reduced to returning kicks, then it is time for you to go. Sadly, he and Manziel are the latest in a long line of first-round misses by the Browns.

 

635810211939796193-USATSI-8814947Cut OLB Barkevious Mingo: There isn’t much to say about Mingo, because the former sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU. I’m not sure if it’s due to scheme or talent, but Mingo has failed to live up to expectations.

 

Peyton+Manning+John+Elway+Denver+Broncos+Introduce+BEbV7AYVTIklHire Peyton Manning as Executive President of Football Operations: Whenever No. 18 decides to hang up his cleats and move into a front office role, he may have on waiting for him in Cleveland.

A long-time friend of Haslam—a big-time Tennessee fan and supporter—the hiring of someone of Manning’s acute football knowledge and business savvy would be a huge PR coup for the Browns.

 

bernie-kosar-duiHire Bernie Kosar as a Front Office Consultant: Long beloved by Browns fans, Bernie Kosar brings an innate sense of knowledge and understand of modern-day football that is solely lacking in Berea.

Much like Manning, Kosar could assist Haslam as a consultant and work alongside Manning. Plus with him being a civic icon, it would also lend the Browns a sense of credibility that is beginning to be seriously question by many fans.

 

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Hire Pats Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels as Head Coach: In a truly novel move by the Browns organization, Cleveland hires a head coach with real coaching experience in Josh McDaniels. A 39-year-old native of Barberton and a former Canton McKinley/John Carroll alum, the four-time Super Bowl winner has worked with Tom Brady and would be the type of young, yet aggressive offensive-minded head coach that the Browns need.

For years, the Browns have hired unknown and unproven head coaches, and a proverbial hiring of McDaniels changes that trend, as well as gives Cleveland a much-needed injection of energy.While his coaching record with the Denver Broncos was a mere 11-17, the type of offense he would bring to Cleveland may be just what the Browns need.

 

5554446Hire Lions senior personnel executive Brian Xanders as GM: Continuing with the distinct Denver Broncos theme and flavor of this blog, if Haslam wants to build the Browns into a respectable NFL franchise, then why not model it after one of the elite most stable and winning organizations in the Denver Broncos. And hire the man responsible for bringing Manning to the Mile High city in current Detroit Lions senior personnel executive Brian Xanders.

Unlike Farmer, Xanders truly believes in building thru bot the draft and free agency as he worked in all areas of the Lions player personnel department in scouting, player development and advance scouting.

Since 2013, he has overhauled Detroit’s 90-man roster in acquiring 16 new starters and 76 new players. While in Denver, Xanders had a hand in overalling 55 of 61 players who were acquired through the draft, free agency of re-signed by the Broncos.

Among the players that Xanders helped bring to Denver in free agency are the forementioned Manning, SS Brian Dawkins, CB Champ Bailey, WR Brandon Marshall, DE Elvis Dumervil and OT Ryan Clady. Xanders also had a role in helping Denver draft LB Von Miller, WR DeMaryius Thomas, TE Julius Thomas and CB Chris Harris.

If I’m Haslam, I am speed-dialing Xanders’ agent post-haste.

 

danny-shelton-nfl-preseason-buffalo-bills-cleveland-browns-850x560Switch Back To The 4-3: This a personal choice on my end. I have never been a fan of the 3-4, due to the Browns lack of a true Ray Lewis/Luke Kuechly type of linebacker. With the 3-4, you must have LB’s capable of covering in space and able to stop the run.

While Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey are good, with apologies to Karlos Dansby—who isn’t getting any younger—but Cleveland lacks a true leader at that position. On the defensive line, there is some talent in the form of Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder, who I feel would make a terrific 1-2 punch at DT with Desmond Bryant and Paul Kruger both at DE.

Cleveland does not have the LB personnel of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England or Seattle to effectively run a 3-4, and hopefully under a new—and more competent—defensive coordinator, that they switch back to the 4-3.

 

hi-res-460056327-quarterback-connor-cook-of-the-michigan-state-spartans_crop_northDraft Michigan State QB Connor Cook: This is based on the notion that the prospective new—or current—front office feels that Manziel simply isn’t part of the long-term future of the franchise, then it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cleveland go after local product in Connor Cook.

Cook, a native of Hinckley Township and former standout at Walsh Jesuit may be the perfect fit for Cleveland’s new look offense in 2016. At 6’4 and 220 pounds, has the size and experience in a pro-style offense that Cleveland needs.

The 2014 Rose Bowl MVP completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions for the Spartans in 2014 and has so far looked like one of the top QB prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft in passing for 2,070 yards, 17 touchdowns and two interceptions.

 

LaquonTreadwell2Draft a wide receiver! Whoever is running the Browns 2016 NFL Draft, I speak for all Browns fans when I say this, PLEASE TAKE A WR! For whatever rhyme or reason, the short-sighted and pig-headed Farmer seems to avoid taking a wide receiver like a plaque.

Scratch that, he actually selected former Washington State wideout—his first in two years—in Vince Mayle only to cut him in preseason. It is these kind of head-scratching moves that infuriate Browns fans everywhere considering their lack of top-level playmakers at the position.

You have Bowe basically stealing nine million to be the most expensive sideline cheerleader outside of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, which only infuriates Browns fans even more, with the exception of Brian Hartline at 6’2, no other wideout is over 5’10. I can understand the appeal of smaller and more agile small wideouts, but not every pass-catcher is Antonio Brown or T.Y. Hilton.

Whatever is behind Farmer’s pig-headness in blatantly refusing to draft a wideout will be corrected in the new regime as Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell, Pitt’s Tyler Boyd and Ohio State’s Michael Thomas should be on the board by the time Cleveland picks.

 

(Daryl Ruiter/CBS Cleveland)
(Daryl Ruiter/CBS Cleveland)

Embrace the 21st century NFL and establish an identity: As much as I love my Browns, they are so behind the times in trying to play an out-dated Neanderthal-style of run-first football in today’s passing era.

It is sad when you can almost predict what type of play Cleveland will run based on formation and personnel grouping. If I can predict an inside-zone run off tackle from my living room couch, the so can professional defensive coordinators who are actually paid to do so.

For the Browns to effectively compete, they must decide what kind of team they want to be, while being a run-first based team in the rugged AFC North may work, Cleveland doesn’t do it well enough. Do they want to be a passing team? Honestly, they lack a strong-armed franchise-type of QB to run a spread, zone-read or West Coast offense.

Whichever new regime that comes in after this season will have to decide immediately what kind of team they want to be and stick to it. One thing for sure is that Cleveland needs to develop some form of identity.

Based on the way things are going now at 2-5, that is wishful thinking at best and a long ways away at worst. Only in Cleveland!


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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