Separated at Birth?: How to Fix the Cleveland Browns
I’m actually talking about Cleveland Brown from the Family Guy. He thought he was taking off into stardom by getting his own show, and it totally didn’t work out. Not even a walking talking cartoon bear and his over-“bear”-ing wife (see what I did there?) could save the show. And now he’s back, but in the background. If you watch Family Guy, you probably realized that Cleveland hasn’t been the focus of an episode in quite some time. Nor have you seen his kids Cleveland Jr., Roberta or little Rallo. That’s too bad, because I liked Rallo. Remember that time that Rallo saved up to buy a 1967 Mustang on eBay by always keeping the change when running errands for his mom? Hysterical. But I digress.
Unfortunately, the Cleveland Browns football team isn’t doing much better. Once thought to be on the upswing with Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and the hyped first round pick of Johnny Manziel (remember that ridiculous picture of Manziel on a billboard with LeBron James? Wow does that look silly now…), it’s become clear that a complete rebuilding is necessary. But hey, I already specifically discussed Gordon and bashed on the Browns organization’s many problems, so we don’t need to do that again. I think it’s time to look forward, Cleveland. And what better time than now?
So here’ the $64,000 question (and if you recognize that reference, you’ve clearly been out of high school for as long or longer than I have): with all the problems that the Browns organization has, where in the world does one start? I mean, we know that on both sides of the ball, the Browns have been less than stellar.
If you look at the defense, the Browns had the worst run defense of any team in 2014, allowing 141.6 rush yards per game, but had had the 8th best pass defense in the league allowing just 224.5 pass yards per game. But let’s be honest, although part of this might be due to standout cornerback Joe Haden, if you’re giving up 141.6 yards on the ground per game, most teams won’t have to pass the ball much.
And if you look on the offense in 2014, even with Kyle Shanahan at the helm, the Browns were a disappointing 23rd in total offense per game. And even worse, the Browns were dead last in passing TDs with a shockingly low 12. To put that in perspective, 28 quarterbacks had 12 or more passing TDs and 14 non-quarterback players had 12 or more TDs in 2014. And now with John DeFilippo is the new OC, seeing as how it’s his first time as an NFL play caller, much more work needs to be done.
But we can’t solve everything at once. Even with a relatively unknown group of backs in 2014 (including rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West), Cleveland still averaged over a 100 rush yards per game and a total of 17 rushing TDs, good for 4th best in the NFL. And Justin Gilbert, although not currently meeting expectations, has potential to elevate his game and properly pair with Haden in the secondary.
As for the offense, the Browns should re-sign Brian Hoyer for more than backup money and hope that Manziel can come out of rehab refocused and ready to work. They’ve spent way too many high draft picks on quarterbacks recently, and it’s time to work on building the supporting cast first. Even if Manziel faceplants again, Hoyer is a competent fill in until the Browns make other corrections.
Now you need to find someone for Hoyer or Manziel to throw to, as Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel (although interesting) are not the complete long term solution. So who is?
Since the Browns have the fourth-most salary-cap space in the NFL, it’s time to spend on a veteran receiver in free agency. And what better target than Randall Cobb. Remember I mentioned that 14 individual non-quarterback players had 12 or more TDs in 2014? Cobb was one of those players. Sure, there’s no Aaron Rodgers in Cleveland, but having a solid veteran presence that not only will stress defenses but will be able to mentor younger WRs is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Browns also have two first round picks this year, but honestly, first round picks have been wildly inconsistent in recent history (Brady Quinn, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel come to mind). Clearly, the Browns shouldn’t focus on offense in the first round of the draft. They should focus the two first round picks on fixing the sieve of a defensive line that’s currently in place.
But that doesn’t mean the Browns shouldn’t target any receivers in the draft. Which is why I suggest the Browns go deep and pick up Deontay Greenberry with one of its late picks (either fifth or sixth round) of the 2015 draft.
Greenberry was a three-year starter at the University of Houston with over 200 catches and eight 100-yard receiving games, also having the distinction of being their leading receiver over the last two years. At 198 pounds and 6 foot 3 inches, he could use a little extra bulk, but his long reach and speed off the line of scrimmage make him an ideal second or third target and a particularly good endzone target. He demonstrated good yards after catch at Houston, worked very well inside zones and was just overall incredibly athletic.
Greenberry is particularly memorable to me since he was on his way to Notre Dame prior to suddenly deciding to go to Houston in 2012. Although I think he would have been successful in South Bend, he’s more than proved himself in Houston. He’s still a mostly raw talent, and has most of his experience in the spread offense, but he’s well worth a late selection by the Browns, particularly with some veteran direction waiting for him.
So there you go, Cleveland. Your plan for success.
Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t try adding a walking talking cartoon bear. Trust me, it doesn’t work.