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Passan: Off-Season Lounging

Rich Passan, delayed from his normal Tuesday slot by all the Senior Bowl reports, offers his thoughts on Terry Robiskie, Jeff Garcia, and a young defender he really thinks would make a great Cleveland Brown. As a side note, our feathered friend The Owl has joined Rich, Les Levine, and myself in the <A HREF="" target="_blank">Subscriber Lounge</A>.

Hopscotching while waiting for the Browns to name Romeo Crennel as their head coach . . .

What an interesting week spent with subscribers of this Web site. At the request of the self-proclaimed Web Dork, I have begun a dialogue of sorts with subscribers in, fittingly, the Subscribers Lounge.

What an interesting array of people with an even more interesting array of ideas of what the Browns should do and why. Strong opinions abound and the exchanges of ideas often wind up as exercises in futility.

I have taken a stance on whom I would like to see the Browns select as their new head coach. Some have agreed with me that Russ Grimm should be the man for reasons I have stated elsewhere on this site. No need to get repetitious. Others have, uh, disagreed.

You would have thought it was an act of sedition to even suggest a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff would be a perfect fit to succeed Butch Davis. Until reading some of the vituperative posts, I didn't realize how absolutely rattle-brained and muddleheaded I was about a lot of things related to football.

All this time watching football in a blissfully ignorant stupor seems to have softened my cerebrum, some suggested in words far more harsh than that. If you're fitting me for a dunce cap, size seven and three-eighths please.

I even went so far as to suggest that Crennel wasn't the man solely responsible for the wildly successful New England Patriots defense.

Several subscribers got their shorts in a gnarly mess over that one and suggested I read a book written by Michael Holley, the former Akron Beacon Journal pro basketball writer who is now a sports columnist for the Boston Globe.

Holley was permitted full access to all things Patriots for the book and swears Crennel is the main man on defense. "Read it, Rich," urged one post. "Is Holley lying?"

Also, I had the temerity to suggest that Crennel, at 57, might be too old to begin his head coaching career and why would the Browns select a man who is eligible for Social Security in five years.

Talk about lighting the wick of a stick of dynamite. A lot of posters jumped all over that one. Still waiting for a call from the AARP people.

In situations such as this, sides are taken. Battle lines are drawn. Say something critical about someone else's guy and his answer will be swift and oftentimes venomous. Such passion.

All that comes with the territory. If you didn't care, you wouldn't respond. Better that than apathy.

So . . .  keep those posts coming in the Subscribers Lounge.

One of Phil Savage's first personnel moves after getting his coaching staff in order will be to determine who his quarterback will be next season. Or shouldn't be.

Here's a clue on the latter: We found out recently he has red hair. We also found out he brings a lot of notoriety to the Browns in the wake of his dalliances with the opposite gender.

Sometimes, it's better to cut bait and run. That's what Jeff Garcia should strongly consider doing after embarrassing himself and his employer in the sordid three-ring circus involving two women that wound up in court.

Ever since coming here from San Francisco, Garcia has been a cipher, a nothing. He has been high maintenance.

From his carping at offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie in training camp and then the regular season to his 0.0 passer rating to his bitching and moaning to a northern California paper about the "witch hunt" the Cleveland media has conducted against him, Garcia has been nothing but trouble.

He is like a boil that needs to be lanced. Bringing him here might have been the worst move Butch Davis made in his four years here.

Suggestion to Savage: Take the cap hit and get rid of this guy.

The rumor mill has churned out the news that Robiskie might be retained as the Browns' offensive coordinator. Big mistake.

I applaud the fact that Robiskie loves this area, wants to stay with the Browns and seems like a genuinely nice guy who communicates well with the players.

The players reciprocate with words of love, but their actions on the field belie those words.

Which area was the most disappointing this past season? The offense. Which area showed the least amount of imagination and creativity? The offense. And who ran that offense?

It's time to bring in a new face with new ideas, new ways to give opposing offenses something to think about.

Remember what it was like with Brian Sipe and the Kardiac Kids? Or when Bernie Kosar passed the Browns into three AFC Championship Games?

It was fun by the lakefront. I'd love to see those days return. Wouldn't you?

Robiskie as running backs coach? Sure. Wide receivers coach? Why not? Offensive coordinator? No way.

We are roughly three months away from the college draft, prompting an early thought.

Savage must address the trenches on both sides of the ball. Strengthening the offensive line, of course, is a given. But the area that needs to be shored up first is the pass rush. Or lack of same. A strong pass rush creates some many opportunities for the defense.

In Butch Davis' second season here, the Browns went to the playoffs mainly because of a defense that featured a terrific pass rush. It created turnovers. Numerous times, the defense gave the offense a short field because of an interception or fumble recovery. Unfortunately, the offense failed way too often to take advantage.

A solid pass rush has a domino effect on the rest of the defense, especially the secondary. It was not a coincidence that the Browns intercepted 33 passes in 2002.

With that in mind, I hope the Browns would select a defensive end with their first pick. Only problem is none of the top DE's rate being picked third overall. Outside of quarterbacks and running backs, the only players rated that high are Miami of Florida cornerback Antrel Rolle and USC wide receiver Mike Williams.

David Pollack, Dan Cody and Erasmus James are the top-rated collegians at defensive end. But the guy I like a lot is junior Shawne Merriman, a 6-4, 250-pound hybrid who can play with his hand on the ground or as a standup outside linebacker. He's strong, fast, quick, a monster rusher off the edge and is athletic enough to drop into pass coverage.

The secret to the New England defense appears to be the linebackers. Guys like Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Roman Phifer, Ted Johnson and Rosevelt Colvin almost always seem to be where the ball is. They are the heart and soul of that defense. They are all playmakers.

So when Crennel converts the Browns to a 3-4 team and playmaking linebackers will be the focal point, Merriman would be the perfect choice to play in a two- or three-point stance on the weak side.

Perhaps Savage could trade down a few spots, grab an extra pick or two and still get Merriman. Then he could go for those much-needed offensive linemen in the next few rounds.

But first things first.  Let's get Crennel anointed. That should happen around Feb. 7.

Webmanger's Note: Rich's usual Tuesday column was delayed this week to make room for all the reports coming from the Senior Bowl. Rich will return to his usual slot again next week.


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