Team Profiles- Cleveland Browns by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
Mike Pettine is the current head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals since 2003, “current” being the operative word here. No head coach has lasted in Cleveland for more than last 3 years, since 1999. There have been 8 head coaches since 1999…Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmer, Rob Chudainski and now Pettine. 8 head coaches and 12 different starting quarterbacks in the past 14 years is hardly what anyone could call a stabile environment and no surprise that the team hasn’t won more than 5 games since 2007. Pettine’s first year in Cleveland was marred with a losing record, indecisiveness at the running backs position, player misconduct and caving to management (and the demand of Manziel fans) to replace starting QB Brian Hoyer with Manziel. When Pettine made the move in Week 15 to replace Hoyer with the immature, rookie Manziel, the Browns were still in the playoff hunt. The Bengals crushed the Browns that week 30-0. Manziel was atrocious, going 10 for 18, 80 yards passing with 2 INTs. The Browns season was over. Today, Vegas has the Browns 75-1 underdogs to win the Superbowl in 2015. Those are the same odds I’d give Pettine of keeping his job, if he coaches in 2015 like he did in 2014.
2015 Team Outlook – The Browns share the AFC North with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. Two of these teams have won Super Bowls in the past 7 years (the Ravens and the Steelers). The Bengals have reached the playoffs the past 4 years. Currently the Browns quarterback situation is unclear, their wide receiver situation is unclear, their tight end situation is unclear, but they have a good core of running backs and an OK defense. Cleveland will come in last in their division this coming season, but hopefully they can find something positive to build on. The NFL thrives on every team being competitive.
2015 Fantasy Outlook –
QB– For the first 12 weeks of the 2014 season, QB Brian Hoyer was the uncontested starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. During that stretch, he led the team to a 7 win- 4 loss record. The team had not lost 2 games in a row all season. Then the pressure mounted from Cleveland ownership and from the over-zealous Manziel fan base…and following losses in Weeks 13 & 14, HC Pettine caved. (The loss in Week 14 by the way, was to visiting Indianapolis Colts, and that game was close…24-25.) In came Johnny College Football. The Browns never won again in 2014. Manziel is now in a rehab center for substance abuse, and good for him. He needed help. No rehab center however, is going to make him into a competent NFL quarterback. A successful NFL quarterback has to be a big, strong packet-passer today and Manziel is none of these. He’s a small, scrambling quarterback, and college is where small, scrambling quarterbacks are successful. The Browns should have let QB Hoyer finish the season out, so that Cleveland could see exactly what they have in him…because now, Hoyer is a free agent. The Browns could move in the draft to get yet another college quarterback, but they’ve done this 8 times now since 1999. I don’t think Cleveland can afford to blow another 1st round selection on a “hopeful” QB. UPDATE: Cleveland signed former TB QB Josh McCown ( who lost 10 games playing for the Bucs)- QB Hoyer signed with Houston- QB Manziel is coming out of rehab and buried as a back-up on the depth chart.
RBs– Last summer, the Brown’s signed former Houston Texan Ben Tate to be their starting, workhorse running back. Tate was excited about the opportunity. Tate suffered an knee injury in Week One, and didn’t return to action until Week 5, where he impressively ran the ball 22 times for 123 yards. In Week Six, Tate went 25 for 78 yards and 2 TDs. His number of carries declined sharply after these productive outings and Tate voiced his displeasure with his new role in the Browns’ three-man backfield. (Shocking right…Pettine non-committal?) The Browns waived RB Ben Tate On Nov. 18th. RB Isaiah Crowell was the back to capitalize on Tate’s release for the rest of the season, with fellow rookie RB Terrance West getting a start in late December. Right now RB West is listed as the starter and RB Crowell the #2. But if Pettine coaches like he did in 2014, this doesn’t mean anything and won’t…until the first snap of the 2015 regular season, and we see who is carrying the ball.
WRs– By now everyone reading this knows that Cleveland’s star wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended again, this time for the entire 2015 season. WR Gordon has been spiraling down hill for years, and if he doesn’t get serious and get serious help, his career isn’t the only thing that could come to a screeching halt. Gordon isn’t the only young man to come from poor or modest backgrounds, then find it difficult to become an instant millionaire and thrust into the NFL limelight. The NFL’s career management guidance for young men like Gordon is pathetic. With Gordon suspended and Miles Austin a free agent, the Browns only have WR Andrew Hawkins as a reliable name in the receiving corps. They need lots of help. UPDATE: Cleveland sign former Chief WR D Bowe and former Dolphin WR B Hartline. (Same ol’ same ‘ol Browns….patch work roster moves)
TEs– Jordan Cameron is a big-time tight end in the NFL, and he wants out of Cleveland big-time. Cameron, a free agent, has been quite vocal about wanting to leave, so Cleveland won’t offer him a lot to stay. He would be very welcome and productive on teams like Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, New England, and Denver who could use a great like Cameron in their offense. UPDATE: TE Jordan Cameron’s wish came true, and he’s out of Cleveland and now a Dolphin in Miami. To replace Cameron, the Browns signed former Cardinal TE Rob Housler to a one-year, $1.76 million contract. He has minimal fantasy value, because of the QB situation in Cleveland.
K– Hartley took over for Billy Cundiff for the final 3 weeks of the 2014 season.
DEF– Cleveland ranked as the #22 defense in the league this past season. They were 12th in 2013, and 17th in 2012, so under Pettine, even the defense took a step backwards. The offense needs so much help from the draft and free agency that it is difficult to see the Browns addressing too many positions on the defense. They will likely end up around #22 ranked again. UPDATE: Browns sign CB Tramon Williams, DE John Hughes and DL Randy Starks.
2014 Cleveland Fantasy Surprises – It isn’t Cleveland’s “modus operandi” to run a 3 running back rotation, but it might be Pettine’s. It was surprising that Cleveland thought they could get much out of WR Miles Austin. He could only play 11 games for Dallas in 2013. He was placed on injured reserve by the Browns on December 3, 2014.
2015 Free Agents that Cleveland Needs to Address – The Browns have plenty off concerns to deal with, but fortunately, a ton of free agents to deal with, isn’t one of them. QB Brian Hoyer (signed w/ Houston)- TE Jordan Cameron (signed w/ Miami)- WR Miles Austin (signed w/ Philadelphia) – S Jim Leonhard- DT Ahtyba Rubin (signed w/ Seattle)- DE Jabaal Sheard (signed w/ New England)
2015 NFL Draft- The immediate needs of Cleveland are at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and help at right tackle and any upgrade on the defense they can afford after addressing the offense. The Bengals need to decide on free agent Hoyer (QB), they need a new group of receivers (WRs), if Jordan Cameron bolts, a tight end (TE) and the need someone solid to help run block (RT).
Did You Know– The 2 NFL head coaches whom Mike Pettine has served under, previous to getting the Browns head coaching position, were Rex Ryan and Doug Marrone? All three were head coaches in 2014, and between the 3 of them, they totaled 15 wins and 33 losses.
Team home page: www.clevelandbrowns.com