Lou Groza Boulevard has become a safe haven for players. They can come and go without the worry of ever being approached by any member of the free press. I am not a member of the press and this opinion is based solely on the quantity of free information I am able to view as a fan. Not long ago I was able to log onto any of the local newspapers' websites and read a variety of stories on my favorite team the Cleveland Browns.
Now that the Browns only make a select number of players available on a given day to be interviewed by the press, I see the same story five to six times over, just in different words. Browns players have it in their contracts that they should make themselves available to the Browns' media partners before seeking another media source. Sounds like a gag order to me. Before John Collins I even logged onto the Browns' Official Website and was able to read three to five different articles daily. Now, I am lucky to get two from the writers who have exclusive access to the team.
If I cough up $49.95, the Browns are offering me a spot in the Browns Huddle. They advertise blanket coverage from inside the Browns' facility. They should restate it as behind the blanket coverage. Reason being that there has certainly been an impenetrable blanket thrown up between the team and the free press.
Jim Brown is just one of the Browns' alumni to offer insight on a weekly basis. Shame on Jim Brown for partaking in such nonsense. I never thought I would see the day when I had to pay to read his opinions.
I find this self promotion more offensive than the teams' record since returning to the NFL in 1999. I question the objectiveness of the reporting when so much media content is being manipulated by the Browns. I don't know if other NFL teams control the media to this extent, but frankly I don't give a damn. The Cleveland Browns are the only team I care about, the only team I love.
I drink my whiskey straight. I don't want it sugar coated with a soft drink. I want my Browns news the same way.
I don't want smoke blown up my seat cushion.
If my plastic beer cup is half empty, I don't want to be told it is half full, I want the vendor to be in shouting distance.
If Jamal Lewis gains 250 yards on Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense, I don't want to be told, "If it wasn't for the four jailbreak runs we would have contained him."
John Collins was hired to improve the business side of the Cleveland Browns, but at what price?
First the Browns become media moguls. What's next?
Will the Browns move training camp to Columbus because the deal is sweeter in the State's Capital? Then try to sell it to the fans by saying in the media they control, "The Browns are Ohio's team and training camp should be centrally located."
Will they change the name of Cleveland Brown Stadium to Stadium Mustard Stadium because the condiment manufacturer offered the highest bid for the naming rights?
Will we soon see an admission fee to view Training Camp?
Will the Browns' official website soon offer premium pages for the fan who wants to be in the locker room?
Will we have to pay $10 for a game day program that was once free?
Will the Browns see the need to convert the "Dawg Pound" into lodge seating to fulfill corporate demand?
When will it stop? It will stop when you the fan let the Browns know you have reached your limit. If you disagree with something that the Browns are doing on the business side, it is your right to let them know. After all we have been told that the Browns are the fans' team. You can do so with an appropriate e-mail or letter directed to that safe haven on Lou Groza Boulevard.
A Look at the Defense
As the Browns embark on another training camp, the defense seems to have more question marks than the offense. This is a complete turnabout from seasons past. I am not an advocate of signing players such as Peter Boulware and Ty Law who are coming off injuries and may be on the down side of their career. I am also opposed to signing aging players for a one year fix. The Browns need a roster of players full of upside at this point, in order to compete for the years to come.
Nose Tackle - Jason Fisk is an eleven-year veteran of the NFL. He has had an injury free career to this point. He must keep that streak going if the defensive line is to have any stability. Everyone behind Fisk on the depth chart is a work in progress.
Defensive End - Orpheus Roye and Alvin McKinley anchors down both ends of the Browns 3-4 defense. Between them, they have sixteen years of experience in the NFL trenches. The rest of the ends are still wet behind the ears.
Linebackers - Because the 3-4 defense is new to all of the penciled in starters except for Matt Stewart, this entire group is a big question mark. Andra Davis should make the transition just fine. I will anxiously be watching the development of Chaun Thompson and Ben Taylor over the summer. Kenard Lang has taken on his new role with such a positive outlook and enthusiasm there is no way I see him not being a play maker next season. The Browns realize that the linebacker corps is the key to making the 3-4 work and have brought in enough players to fill the back-up positions. Let's just hope they brought in the right ones.
Defensive Backs - Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon will be solid at the corners. Brian Russell will compete with Chris Crocker for the free safety position. I believe Russell will come out ahead with Crocker being the defensive back that comes in for the nickel package. Sean Jones will make rookie mistakes at strong safety but his aggressive style and the experience of the players around him should make up for the blunders. The group as a whole is the strength of the defense. But without a pass rush this unit cannot carry the front seven.
Without a doubt the Browns will need to have some players step up on the defensive side of the ball to win games in the fall. I also see them evaluating the young players through training camp and replacing some of them with the final cuts from other teams. They need to have some X factors to succeed. But, the Xs and Os factor is already solidly in place with Romeo Crennel.