Posted: 12/9/2012 1:57 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Still waiting for snow, but there's no waiting for these thoughts, as we're talkin' ... About the Browns ... 1. No doubt some changes are coming next season. But they must keep the 4-3 defense. General Manager Tom Heckert has piled up linemen, and the Browns use as many as eight in some games. Heckert put emphasis on the line, making defensive tackle Phil Taylor his top pick in 2011, wanting to pair him with Ahtyba Rubin.2. The Browns believe the key to their 4-3 is depth on the line, a strong middle linebacker such as D'Qwell Jackson and excellent cover cornerbacks. Next season, they want to add another defensive end who can rush the passer, and at least one more cornerback capable of starting. Of course, all of this is based on the 4-3 remaining. It also would be wise to keep defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.3. Remember the Browns played mostly a 3-4 under Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini. Mangini had no use for the 4-3, he was a 3-4 coach who valued linebackers. So if the Browns switched to a 3-4 next season, they'd have to revise much of their defensive roster -- again. The accent would be on linebackers, not linemen.
Posted: 12/9/2012 1:59 AM
For the third week in a row the Hey Tony inbox was flooded with support for General Manager Tom Heckert. At the same time, Browns CEO Joe Banner continued to take his hits, along with Mike Lombardi, the widely rumored front-runner to replace Heckert if Banner makes a change.Hey Tony: Seeing that Mitchell Schwartz is playing great at right tackle, what are the chances that he would take over for Joe Thomas at left tackle if Joe were to get hurt OR when the dreaded day comes that Joe Thomas retires?-- Greg, Willoughby, OHHey Greg: Considering that Thomas has not missed a snap IN SIX YEARS, I won’t even touch the first question. As for the second, Thomas has another SIX YEARS on his current contract, so I will pass on that one, too. Could Schwartz play left tackle in the NFL? Sure. But the reason he was so attractive to the Browns is that he was developed mostly at right tackle at Cal and a long-term complement to Thomas is what they were looking for.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:03 AM
The Browns have won four of their last seven games. They’ve won two straight for the first time in more than a year. They have the entire 53-man roster healthy and available.They have, in a word, confidence.“Those young guys are seeing what it takes to win and finish a game, and they’re starting to like that feeling,” left tackle and captain Joe Thomas said. “I think it’s sort of a contagious thing that hopefully can carry on through the rest of the season and into next year.”The Browns (4-8) upset the Steelers on Nov. 25, beating the rival for just the second time in 18 tries. Last week they went to Oakland and snapped a 12-game road losing streak.They haven’t won three straight since the end of 2009, but enter today’s game against the Chiefs (2-10) as 6½-point favorites.“I finally feel like guys are gaining the confidence that whatever they’re doing throughout the week, whatever they’ve been doing, it’s finally paying off for them,” middle linebacker and captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “Creating a bully and creating a foundation of winning, it forms a habit. Right now, I feel like we’re forming that habit and it’s a great opportunity to do it this weekend.”The Chiefs are looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season, but they’re dealing with more important issues. The pain is fresh. The memories strong. The questions unanswered.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:06 AM
BEREA — Brady Quinn will start at quarterback Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.Five years ago, this was a foregone conclusion. Quinn was drafted by the Browns No. 22 in the first round in 2007 out of Notre Dame. He grew up in Columbus a Browns fan, and his selection (along with the pick of left tackle Joe Thomas at No. 3) energized the fan base. He was supposed to lead a return to the playoffs.A year ago, Sunday’s scenario was a long shot. Quinn had been bypassed on Denver’s depth chart by Tim Tebow, then watched from the sideline as Tebow led an improbable run that included an overtime playoff win over the Steelers.After nearly six seasons of more stops than starts, Quinn will return to the lakefront to lead the Kansas City Chiefs against his former team in front of his former fans. And he’s coming off a career game in a 27-21 win over the Panthers.But the 19-for-23, 201-yard, two-touchdown performance isn’t why he won many fans and admirers this week. After the win, Quinn spoke from the heart as he addressed the murder-suicide by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher just a day earlier.Quinn hoped people would reflect on the relationships they have and if they “really mean it” when asking how someone’s doing.“It seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us,” he said.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:08 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Now that Pat Shurmur's lifeboat is inflated, can he paddle it to safety?The Browns can win their third consecutive game today. Last time that happened, Eric Mangini saved his job in a four-week episode of "Survivor" in 2009.That's about the only similarity between Mangini and Shurmur. Everything else about them and the circumstances surrounding them is different. Shurmur as the young coach of a rising young team -- a coach wed to an offensive philosophy Joe Banner knows well and has seen produce big-time results -- might seem to bolster his case for remaining the head coach in 2013.But the questions Jimmy Haslam and Banner will ask at season's end -- if they haven't already answered them, and I think they have -- still make Shurmur the longest of long shots.The way the organization approaches major moves already looks to be night-and-day. And the quickness with which they dispatched Mike Holmgren was hardly an endorsement of his major decisions.
Last edited 12/9/2012 2:08 AM by T-Dog
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:13 AM
Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012By Jeff Schudel
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:16 AM
Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012By Jeff SchudelJoshua Cribbs and Phil Dawson want to sink the rule change on kickoffs being floated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before it ever leaves port.The idea was first suggested by Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, but Goodell gave it a voice in an interview published in Time Magazine. Schiano, in the name of player safety, said a team scoring a touchdown or field goal would retain possession and get the ball at its own 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. The team could either go for it or punt."(A punt) is the same play," Dawson, the Browns' kicker for 14 years, said after practice Friday. "When the ball is 50 yards down the field, guys are running full speed and you get a lot of cross blocks and guys getting knocked out. I still wouldn't say (kickoffs are) any more dangerous than any other play. I watch wide receivers get concussions each and every week in the NFL, yet we're going to pick on kickoffs? That doesn't add up to me."From when I was a little kid, I dreamed about having the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl and all the flashbulbs go off, and I want to be that guy."
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:19 AM
Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012By Jim IngrahamThe NFL is considering eliminating kickoffs, for safety reasons.Why stop there?If I was the official NFL eliminator, here are some other things I would eliminate:Sideline reporters.The Steelers' bumble bee uniforms.Phil Simms from the broadcast booth.Players dancing after sacks.Players dancing after touchdowns.Players dancing after dancing.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:22 AM
Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012By Jeff SchudelDon't expect many grind 'em out drives at Cleveland Browns Stadium because the Browns and Chiefs are the two worst red-zone offenses in the league.Both teams have been inside their opponents' 20-yard-line 29 times. The Browns have 11 touchdowns, and the Chiefs 10 inside the 20. The Browns do, however, have kicker Phil Dawson and the quick-strike capability of Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon to carry the day.KEY MATCHUPBrowns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz vs. Chiefs left outside linebacker Justin Houston: In the Chiefs' 3-4 defense, the strength of the pass rush comes from Brandon Weeden's right — the side he likes to roll to. Houston leads the Chiefs with 10 sacks. Schwartz keeping Weeden clean is a key to extending the Browns' winning streak to three games.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:24 AM
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:28 AM
By Marla Ridenour Beacon Journal sports columnistPublished: December 8, 2012 - 11:21 PM
Hiring Mike Lombardi would be the biggest mistake in the history of the Browns.OK, firing Paul Brown and moving the team to Baltimore, both coming on Art Modell’s watch, were far worse. But my reaction — one I actually uttered — shows how strongly the possibility of bringing in Lombardi as the Browns’ next general manager angers me.For a franchise plagued by incompetence and disastrous decisions, letting Lombardi set foot in Berea in anything but an NFL Network capacity would be a Herculean gaffe that would sap every ounce of enthusiasm I have for the Jimmy Haslam era.The new owner brought energy and excitement not just to a beleaguered fan base, but to a beleaguered media corps that does not relish covering one of the league’s laughingstocks, although Bill Belichick once begged to differ. Count me among the downtrodden.Now if the drumbeats in the distance that grew louder last weekend are any indication, Haslam and CEO Joe Banner could be poised to quash our hopes.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:31 AM
By Nate Ulrich Beacon Journal sports writerPublished: December 8, 2012 - 09:46 PM
After the Browns edged the San Diego Chargers by a point six weeks ago, owner Jimmy Haslam congratulated his players in the locker room and told them to become greedy for more wins.It took them a while, but the Browns (4-8) finally seem to be following the orders of their new boss. They’ll have a chance to establish a three-game winning streak today when they host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) at 1 p.m.“We always had a good feeling about what’s going on and the direction of the team, but to finally be able to close out games and get wins, it’s definitely helping us out a whole lot,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “Everybody is just a lot more confident. Everybody is a lot happier. If a play goes wrong at practice, people aren’t stressing out about it. Everybody just has a whole new confidence, and everybody is really excited that we’re on the right track.”The Browns haven’t won more than two games in a row since 2009, when coach Eric Mangini guided them to four consecutive victories to end the season and earned himself another year on the job. With Haslam and CEO Joe Banner now in charge, coach Pat Shurmur seemingly needs a strong finish in the final four games to have any shot at saving his job.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:33 AM
By Marla Ridenour Beacon Journal sports columnistPublished: December 8, 2012 - 07:33 PM
When he was a junior at Wisconsin, Browns five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas remembers draft analysts projecting Brady Quinn as the No. 1 pick if he left Notre Dame a year early.But Quinn stayed with the Irish and ended up falling to No. 22 a year later. After trading first- and second-round selections to the Dallas Cowboys to get Quinn, then-Browns General Manager Phil Savage was so enthused by the Thomas-Quinn duo that he proclaimed, “This is probably going to go down as the day the fortune of the Browns turn.”Now Quinn is with his third NFL team and has started only 16 games, four this season for the Kansas City Chiefs and his former Browns coach Romeo Crennel. Coming off the best performance of his career, which earned him his first AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor, Quinn will make his first start against his former team since he was traded in March, 2010 when the Chiefs visit the Browns today.“It was a shame that he never fully got his opportunity to show that he could be the starter,” Thomas said Wednesday. “[When] you’re a first-round pick, you’d expect you’d at least get one or two good years to prove yourself. When there are changes in the front office and changes in the coaching staff, all bets are off. You can go from being the man to not being in somebody’s plans really fast.”
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:36 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Denver Broncos, who drafted Peyton Hillis in the seventh round, traded him to Cleveland before the 2010 season for quarterback Brady Quinn and a couple of late-round draft picks. With the Browns, Hillis proved to be a short-lived, jumbo-sized Jim Brown.At 6-1, 240 pounds, Hillis scored 11 touchdowns in 2010, punishing some tacklers and hurdling others. He gained 1,177 yards and Cleveland's heart. He was new to the spotlight, blinking in its glare, when former coach Eric Mangini decided Hillis was to be the centerpiece of a running attack more suited to the days of leatherheads. In college at Arkansas, Hillis had been a fullback, blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.By the end of that season, Hillis was already stepping away from the Li'l Abner stories he and his father had told. They included tales of Hillis killing wild hogs, breaking furniture in the house with impromptu wrestling matches, and tugging a pickup truck behind him through the streets of Dogpatch (er, Conway,) his Arkansas hometown.Because of the statistics he amassed and the bruising style by which he did it, Hillis became the darling of fans who saw in him a reflection of the city's values. Their passion and votes put him on the cover of the John Madden video game.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:39 AM
BEREA, Ohio -- Phil Dawson entered the NFL in 1999, a year when the league introduced rule modifications designed to make kickoffs more exciting and, by extension, increase the number of high-speed collisions so many fans enjoy watching.Three-inch kicking tees were removed in favor of the one-inch models. The dreaded "K-balls," ones that could not be broken in or manipulated by kickers, were employed.
It was a different time, an era in which we thought concussions could be cleared by a whiff of smelling salts and no one had ever heard of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It was a time before any player thought of suing the league for not warning him about the long-term dangers of brain trauma.
Thirteen years later, Dawson stood in front of his Browns locker this week and entertained questions about a proposal to ban kickoffs, which is headed to the NFL competition committee in the off-season. The veteran kicker smiled as he mentally juxtaposed the 1999 league edicts and the current ones under consideration."That's how my career has come full circle," he said.
Last edited 12/9/2012 2:41 AM by T-Dog
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:44 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Brady Quinn returns Sunday to Cleveland Browns Stadium, where he was in much the same position as Brandon Weeden five years ago.The Kansas City QB, who became the AFC Offensive Player of the Week following his emotional 27-21 victory over the Panthers, was the 22nd pick in the 2007 draft, as Weeden was in April. Like Weeden, Quinn had every intention of leading the Browns back to their championship ways. He even had something Weeden didn't have -- a Browns pedigree from growing up a lifelong fan in Columbus.But like so many other young quarterbacks who have passed through these parts since 1999, Quinn got caught up in the revolving door of coaches and GMs, and never got much of a chance.Drafted by Phil Savage and coached by Romeo Crennel here, Quinn largely sat behind Derek Anderson and then went 2-7 in his most extensive action in 2009, when Eric Mangini was head coach.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:47 AM
Volumes of misery have been written since the Browns’ story of expansion-team football began.Maybe the plot is changing at the Factory of Sadness. Certainly, the team has the bookends between which happier chapters can flow.Today, the Browns seek their third straight victory. One of the reasons they are 61⁄2-point favorites to beat Kansas City is, well, Kansas City.Another is an offensive tackle tandem on its way to becoming the best in the league.This isn’t so far-fetched.It is a simple matter of rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz catching up with an old pro named Joe.Imagine No. 72, Schwartz, and No. 73, Joe Thomas, in a Super Bowl. General manager Tom Heckert has. Heckert was behind a seven-year contract extension, with a reported $44 million in guaranteed money, signed by Thomas in August 2011. In April, Heckert spent a No. 37 overall draft pick on Schwartz.Heckert recalls Browns center Alex Mack being “all fired up” about adding a former Cal teammate.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:50 AM
JAMAAL BALL After a midseason lull, Chiefs speedster Jamaal Charles is on a roll. In his last four games (Steelers, Bengals, Broncos, Panthers), Charles has run 90 times for 421 yards (4.7 per carry).HELLO AGAIN, HILLIS Peyton Hillis, whose 2011 soap opera in Cleveland spawned a mini-sequel this week, capped a 74-yard touchdown drive last Sunday with a two-yard TD run that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead over Carolina. Hillis carried 11 other times for 17 yards.RUNNING IN REVERSE Browns rookie Trent Richardson ran for a season-best 122 yards against San Diego’s No. 1 run defense Oct. 28. His rushing yards have dropped to 105 yards against Baltimore, to 95 at Dallas to 85 against Pittsburgh to 72 at Oakland. Still, he ranks 14th in the NFL with 827 yards. His per-carry average of 3.6, however, ranks last among the top 25 yardage leaders.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:54 AM
As Mount Union steams through the NCAA Division III playoffs again, two of its favorite sons are making waves in the NFL.Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round pick by the Jaguars last year, is producing like a first-rounder, with 43 catches for 824 yards.In his last four games, he sprang for 105 yards against the Colts, caught a 67-yard touchdown pass at Houston, snagged a 59-yard TD pass against Tennessee, and reeled in seven catches at Buffalo.A concussion might save Rex Ryan a headache, as Shorts is likely to miss a game against the Jets.Shorts caught just two passes in 10 games as a rookie. He has to be in the discussion of the league’s most improved players ... best breakout players ... whatever you want to call a rising star.
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:56 AM
Michael Lombardi’s appearance on 92.3-The Fan this week sounded at times like a pitch for the Browns’ general manager job.Lombardi left Cleveland after the 1995 season with more than a few detractors. He would be an unpopular choice among many Browns fans, a group he seemed to be addressing when he said:“Look. You can’t control what people say about you, and oftentimes people who say things about you really don’t know you and they really don’t even have a remote idea of what you are as a human being, or what your career has done.“There’s a lot of things people write and say that have no bearing or aren’t even close to being true, and so when you react to it and you know the truth in your heart, and you know what’s true and what’s real, and you know what you’re capable of doing, and you know your own intellectual capacity as it relates to the NFL, you just have to ignore it.”
Posted: 12/9/2012 2:58 AM
Browns coach Pat Shurmur has emphasized that the less is spoken about a right tackle, the better he is performing. He hopes not a word is uttered Sunday about rookie Mitchell Schwartz.Schwartz will be greatly responsible for Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 10 sacks. Houston is the top pass rusher in a 3-4 linebacking corps that has proven to be the strength of the Kansas City defense. The group also includes 2011 All-Pro Derrick Johnson inside and Tamba Hali (six sacks) on the other end."It's a classic 3-4 corps," Shurmur said. "They have two outstanding pass rushers and their inside linebackers are very active. Those are the guys that make it go in their base front. They have the ability to rush three, four, five or six or drop as many as eight into coverage. That's what makes their scheme a challenge."The Browns offensive line has emerged as one of the better units in the league, particularly in pass protection. They have yielded just 21 sacks, which ranks seventh in the NFL. Schwartz has played a significant role in that success, but Houston will provide a stern test.
Posted: 12/9/2012 3:02 AM
Posted: 12/9/2012 3:04 AM
Posted: 12/9/2012 3:06 AM
Posted: 12/9/2012 10:46 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Some pre-game scribbles as we prepare for the Browns and the Chiefs.1. The Browns should beat Kansas City. They're the better team, and playing at home. Nearly all of their key players are at least somewhat healthy. This is one of the few games in Pat Shurmur's two-year tenure where even the most objective fan would say, "The Browns should win." I don't bet football, but I did wonder if my sense of the game matched that of the oddsmakers. Well, those boys have the Browns as a touchdown favorite.2. While there are lots of subplots with Peyton Hillis, Brady Quinn, Brian Daboll and Romeo Crennel back in town, the one that interests me the most is this -- can the young Browns meet the expectations today? They rarely have been in this position, and I'm curious to see how they respond.3. That's especially true because the 2-10 Chiefs will try to turn this into a playoff game. Their season is going nowhere. Crennel is in the same position as with the Browns in 2008. He must be fairly certain that he'll be fired after the season. Those 2008 Browns finished 4-12, losing their final six games. Both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn were injured, and fans watched Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski in the final four games. The Browns scored only one touchdown in the last six games. Ah, the memories!4. Quinn will start for the Chiefs. I have a soft spot for him. Not because he went to Notre Dame; I don't have strong feelings either way about the Irish. Nor because he got a raw deal here. It didn't take long to determine he was just a so-so talent. I thought Quinn handled himself with class. I respect how he has worked hard to remain in the league as a backup, first in Denver and now with the Chiefs. Former Browns coach Eric Mangini -- very hard on quarterbacks when it came to game preparation -- told me how Quinn was excellent in that area. Every week, Quinn prepared as if he were a starter.
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