Saturday, December 13, 2008

Donte Stallworth Fined for Unnecessary Roughness... Really!

The NFL announced on Friday that Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth was fined $5,000, for unnecessary roughness, on an interception when he speared an opponent with his helmet.

Let me repeat that.

Donte' Stallworth was fined $5,000, also for unnecessary roughness.

The Donte' Stallworth who stepped on Braylon Edwards’ heel gashing Edwards and requiring him to need stitches… and almost came to tears talking about it? That Donte' Stallworth?

The Donte' Stallworth who missed the first four games of the regular season because he tweaked his hamstring in a walk-thru the day before the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys? That Donte' Stallworth?

The Donte' Stallworth who came up lame in warm-ups before the pivotal Week 9 game against the hated Baltimore Ravens? That Donte' Stallworth?

The Donte' Stallworth who believes his brain is inhabited by a Martian by the name of Nicco? That Donte' Stallworth?

The Donte' Stallworth who signed a seven year, $35 million contract with the Browns this off-season? The one who has produced a whopping 14 receptions for 141 yards and a lone touchdown? The one who has only played a full 16 game season in three of his seven seasons in the league? That Donte' Stallworth?

Dear NFL, I know you are trying to crack down on player conduct and unsportsmanlike play on the field but come on. Donte' Stallworth is, has and always will be soft.

If you are going to fine him for being unnecessarily rough than please fine the Browns for signing him and please fine the fans for having to watch him. Because fining Donte' Stallworth for unnecessary roughness may be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Could Cassel End Up in Cleveland?

With both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson currently on Injured Reserve for the west of the season the Cleveland Browns are currently knee deep in the Ken Dorsey Experience for the last four games of the season.

The only thing to look forward to in 2008 for the Browns on the quarterback front is an appearance by the Polish Hammer Bruce Gradkowski.

With Anderson’s performance in 2008 showing that he may have been a “one hit wonder” in 2007 and Quinn only having four NFL games and three NFL starts under his belt the Browns 2009 quarterback situation is as murky as ever.

Do they bring both Anderson and Quinn back for another open competition? Probably not since Browns fans celebrated Anderson’s season ending injury against the Indianapolis Colts. (Honestly people, calling for Ken Dorsey is NOT a good idea.)

Head Coach Romeo Crennel has declared Brady Quinn his starter for 2009. Um… one problem there, big guy, you aren’t going to be coaching the team in 2009. So it is probably not a good idea for The Mighty Quinn to celebrate your endorsement.

Does this mean that Quinn is incapable or handling starting NFL quarterback duties? No, absolutely not. There just isn’t enough game data to say that he is capable due to his injury.

But is there a scenario that Browns fans are overlooking despite it being a possibility? Could Matt Cassel end up captaining the Browns offensive ship in 2009?

Could it happen? Yes. What are the odds? Slim.

If the Browns were to pursue Cassel they should want to exploit the fact that he has flourished in the New England Patriots system. There are no guarantees that he would fit into the Browns’ current system. Besides, Crennel will not be back so odds are his coordinators may not be back as well.

Throw in the fact that current Browns GM Phil Savage may be on his way out as well and the stage could (key word could) be set for Cassel to be a target. Here’s how…

There have been rumors circulating that current Patriots GM Scott Pioli could be itching to bolt New England to get out from underneath the shadow of Pats’ Czar Bill Belichick. If this were to occur Pioli would undoubtedly want to bring in a head coach he was familiar with. Perhaps the Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels?

McDaniels is one the young, up and coming coordinators in the league and in recent years those fitting that mold (Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, etc.) have had success when teaming with an experienced GM such as Pioli.

If they were to team up in Cleveland you would have to think they would make a play for Cassel and they are as familiar with him as he is with them. He has shown that he can flourish in their system after Tom Brady was lost for the season.

Once again, could it happen? Yes. What are the odds? Slim.

But it is another scenario that could play out in an 2008-2009 off-season for the Cleveland Browns that should be much more interesting that their 2008 regular season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Browns Table: A Titan Sruggle

Welcome to The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below.

We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

As always thanks to Browns fans the Dawgfather, Dustin Haley, Eric Lawhead for their contributions this week.

The Browns lost to the Tennessee Titans, which wasn’t surprising, but the guys look for some positives from the game… if there are any. They also debate the futures of a few players, personnel needs for 2009 and if it is OK to root against your team.

The Browns fought as long as they could but still came up short against the Titans. Are there any positives the Browns can take from this contest?

The Dawgfather:
That we need to reassess this WHOLE franchise from top to bottom! we have receivers who cant' catch, an o-line that can't block! and QB's who can't throw, in ALL my years of watching the Browns I have NEVER seen such a pathetic and impotent performance than what I saw on Sunday it was like watching 1999 all over again.

Dustin Haley:
There was not anything spectacular from the game for which we should build on for the season, but if not anything, the Browns found out exactly who has heart and whose here to win.

It was good to see that we have a backup QB that isn't out there going through the motions and he's going to give all he's got to win. He by no means had a great game, but I admire Dorsey for his determination. Obviously Cribbs has the most heart on the team, and looks to be stepping up as a team leader. Braylon has had a terrible season, but he's still competing, let's not give up on him yet. Defensively D'Qwell had a spectacular game and Shaun Rodgers was stellar as usual.

Eric Lawhead:
Another QB didn't get hurt for the rest of the season.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Not much. Romeo Crennel just keeps digging his grave deeper and deeper each week with his game management. I will give Ken Dorsey some credit for hanging in there while getting the crap beat out of him while Rob Chudzinski called for him to pass 43 times against the Titans defense. It’s also good to see Josh Cribbs, D’Qwell Jackson and Shaun Rogers busting their asses on every play even though there is not much to play for. Other than those things and Phil Dawson being a good kicker, there isn’t much left to take from the game.

Jamal Lewis has looked old and slow the past few weeks. Do you think he is a viable starting NFL running back for 2009?

The Dawgfather:
No, and not only because he has looked old and slow, it is because he IS old and slow he is about to hit 30 in August, and in the NFL that is like being put out to pasture, he can help this team in other areas, but he is way past his prime now and I think he is done as a RB.

Dustin Haley:
Starting? Yes. Feature? No. Before the season started I, like many, defended Jamal against critics who thought Jamal would decline this season. I did so with good reason. He was coming of a stellar year and had not shown any signs of regression, in fact he seemed to get better as the season wore on. Also many reports that he had reported to camp the lightest and in the best shape of his professional career, combine that with his work ethic it seemed he poised to have another great season.

I believe that Jamal's decline this year has less to do with his age than his running style. It doesn't seem to me that Jamal has slowed any; he never had exceptional speed to begin with. However he seems to have turned from a downhill runner to a more timid runner; he's become easy to bring down. All this doesn't mean he can't be an effective runner with the proper complimentary back.

Eric Lawhead:
No, they need to get rid of him and let the Harrison era begin. They should also spend a late round draft pick on a running back and build towards the future. With Quinn being the future behind center, they need someone to help him.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Yes, but his tank is nearly empty. I think he can be productive, in a role, for one more season. He should get 15 to 20 carries a game but the days of him carrying the full load are over. Whether it is Jerome Harrison, Josh Cribbs or someone else Lewis should split carries with a faster, more athletic back in 2009. I am thinking a la Jerome Bettis late in his career.

D'Qwell Jackson. He has had a decent year. Do you see him as a key member of the Browns defense in the future?

The Dawgfather:
Yeah, and I also feel it maybe time to look at letting some of the younger players on the field like Hall and Bell, you know players who can actually TACKLE, it would not surprise me when the new coach decides to cut Davis and maybe even Wimbley who is now offically a bust in my eyes.

Dustin Haley:
Yes. D'Qwell may not be you're classic prototypical linebacker, but in this day and age size isn't everything in the NFL. Today's linebackers are not on the field to just stop the run, but are now responsible for many areas of defense. When offenses tout players like Kellen Winslow, Dallas Clark, and Jason Witten you’re at a disadvantage if you don't have a versatile linebacker to cover them. D'Qwell has not just defended the run but has also covered tight ends and receivers very well.

D'Qwell has shown he has a great nose for the ball. He hasn't always been the first to the ball this year, but with our lackluster tackling he's typically the one cleaning up. He may not be an impact linebacker, but with a better supporting cast, Jackson would prove to be a cornerstone on any defense.

Eric Lawhead:
Sure, anyone who can have a decent year on a defense that is this bad, should be looked at to only get better down the road. They need a lot of help on defense and need to make the alright players into better players, and they can do that with Jackson.

Jeff Smirnoff:
I am torn. He has been very active this year, a lot more active than previous years. He has started to make a play here and there but not at the rate that an impact ILB in a 3-4 needs to. He seems to be very athletic and decently fast but he is so undersized for an ILB in the NFL I wonder if he can truly have be the impact player the Browns desperately need him to be. I can see him being the second ILB in the 3-4 if they had a monster ILB next to him and a pass rush at OLB but without those he doesn’t cut the mustard.

What are the Browns' most pressing positional needs in the off season?

The Dawgfather:
Number one with a bullet, LB - do I really need to go into why we have the WORST LB's corps in the league? Second is RB - Harrison and Wright are nice change of pace backs, but I don't see starting tailback, feature back status in them, it wouldn't surprise me to see the browns take a RB with the first pick. Third DB, please see number one. Fourth, WR. Edwards has lost confidence in himself and Stallworth is a joke. We need a true #1 receiver who can challenge Braylon or help him because Steptoe is too short, Sanders is average and we need some depth, missing JJ really hurt us this year.

Dustin Haley:
As the roster stands right now, and the Browns keep the 3-4 defense I feel that the most pressing position we need to look for in free agency is a replacement for Andre Davis. Andre has given us many years of solid play but it's time for the team and him to part ways. I'm against drafting a linebacker because we already have pretty young core at the position, and we will need a starting caliber player with playing experience.

In the draft I would like to see us go after a half back, preferably with the first pick. As we have talked about Jamal is no longer a feature back, Jason Wright is a solid blocking back but not a great runner, and Jerome Harrison, while exciting, is not an every down back. I feel that there are many potential quality backs that may declare for this draft and we should be able to come away with a nice complimentary back to what we have.

Eric Lawhead:
Defense, defense, defense. They have the tools on offense and Quinn can only get better. They need to draft with their first three picks defensive players, especially in the secondary ans possibly a linebacker as well. Besides the defense, they need to look for a new coach, and Marty isn't the answer. (Bill Cowher, anyone?)

Jeff Smirnoff:
First and foremost is linebacker. Whether they run the 3-4 or the 4-3 is irrelevant at this point in time. Right now, only maybe D’Qwell Jackson could qualify as an NFL right now and even that is debatable. After linebacker they need to focus on secondary depth, finding a running back to eventually take over for Jamal Lewis, wide receiver depth and cultivating some young offensive linemen.

Philosophy Question: The Browns have been out of play-off contention for some time now. Are you rooting for them to lose to get a better draft pick or is that sacrilege?

The Dawgfather:
Not at all, as long as we beat Pittsburgh, everything is gravy.

Dustin Haley:
No. Never. I expect a win every game. The draft is a somewhat of a crapshoot anyway, but if your scouts know what to look for and do their job correctly, you’re going to come out of the draft with a player your looking for, regardless of pick.

Eric Lawhead:
I'm never one for sand-bagging it. They should play out the rest of the season and be spoilers to the other teams. They could really screw up the AFC North with a week 17 win at Pittsburgh. That would look nice to attract Cowher, huh?

Jeff Smirnoff:
I never root for the Browns to lose. I am one who believes you always play to win no matter what. I can not actively root for my team to lose. I honestly can not see the Browns beating anyone on the schedule other than Cincinnati and even that is not a given.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Titans Beat Up Browns

The players, for the most part, played hard for four quarters but the same can not be said about the coaching staff as the Cleveland Browns fell to 4-9 with a 28-9 drubbing at the hands of the 12-1 Tennessee Titans. The Titans outclassed the Browns is virtually every phase of the game as they methodically wore down the Browns defense to the tune of 390 total yards, 235 on the ground.

The Browns came into the game as the only team int he NFL not to score a touchdown on their opening drive in 2008. They looked as if they might actually break that string as Ken Dorsey drove them into Titans' territory. But a dropped pass, this time by Donte Stallworth, on third down made them settle for a Phil Dawson field goal and a 3-0 lead to start the contest.

An acrobatic interception by D'Qwell Jackson gave the Browns the ball back at the Titans' 25 and an opportunity to put Tennessee in an early hole. But the offense could only manage two yards on three plays and had to settle for a 6-0 lead courtesy of Dawson's leg.

Kerry Collins took the ensuing possession and led the Titans down the field on a nine play drive to answer. Mixing in both Chris Johnson and LenDale White the Titans faced a 3rd and 1 at the Browns' 28. Shaun Rogers and Andra Davis stuffed White for no gain but Titans' coach Jeff Fisher wanted nothing to do with field goals.

On 4th and 1, Fisher called for a play action pass to the left flat. Fullback Ahmad Hall caught the Collins toss and rumbled 28 yards for the go ahead touchdown. The Rod Bironas extra point made it 7-6 Tennessee and the Titans took control from there.

On their last drive of the half, the Titans once again went nine plays for a score. Running at will, and the beneficiary of a Corey Williams 15 yard roughing the passer foul, the Titans effortlessly drove into Browns' territory. LenDale White stuffed it into the endzone for a 14-6 Titan advantage with just over two minutes left in the half.

For Browns fans hoping for some late second quarter magic there would be none. The Browns had only scored nine points total in the last two minutes of the first half for the entire year. They did nothing to better that statistic and went into halftime trailing by eight. In fact, Chris Johnson had outgained the entire Browns team in yards 87-77 in the first half.

The Browns forced a Tennessee three and out to start the third quarter but Ken Dorsey was intercepted on the Browns subsequent possession. Collins responded by hitting Justin Gage in the endzone for a 21-6 lead midway through the third.

The Browns tried to fight back forcing White to fumble and intercepting Collins for a second time, again by D'Qwell Jackson. But the inept Browns offense could do nothing as the Titans defense smothered the run all day.

Jamal Lewis managed only seven yards on seven carries and Jerome Harrision gained two yards on two carries. In fact, as a team, the Browns only gained 35 yards on 19 attempts.

This put the onus to win the game on Dorsey which is not a position for him, or the Browns, to succeed. He gave it his all and played with a lot of guts as the Titans pressured him and hit him all day. But the longest completion he could manage was a 25 yard slant that was more the product of Braylon Edwards' legs than Dorsey's arm.

While the players seemed to play with heart and effort one has to ask if Romeo Crennel was doing the same. Down by 15 early in the fourth quarter he called for a third Phil Dawson field goal rather that go for in on 4th down. The points made the margin 12 which meant he still needed two touchdowns to win the game.

With that 12 point deficit later in the period, Crennel called for a punt on 4th and less than one from Browns' territory. The move did nothing to attempt to win the game and was gutless, quite frankly. Josh Cribbs finally threw out of the "Flash Package" and hit Braylon Edwards for 50 yards, but Edwards was ruled out of bounds.

Replays showed Edwards may have gotten his feet in bounds but Crennel chose not to challenge. Down 19 points at that juncture, what did the Browns have to lose by challenging? One timeout at the most if they did challenge. A lot of respect if they didn't. They didn't.

Crennel did however decide to call timeout on the Titans last drive of the game with the clock running on 4th and 1 from inside the Browns ten yard line. Once again, it accomplished nothing as the Titans were only attempting to run out the clock and not score.

The Browns did hold and prevent a late touchdown to keep the score more respectable, if you can call a 19 point loss that. But after three straight games without a touchdown and a head coach who still doesn't get it, the Browns organization isn't something that generates much respect in anyone's eyes.