BEREA - All is well, all is good, everything is on course and harmony resonates throughout the Cleveland Browns training facility.
Everything is going according to plan.
At least that's what the Cleveland Browns organization would like to have us believe.
The Browns are no different from any other NFL team. The organization tries to throw a huge blanket over issues, and has been known to use certain members of the media to get help get their point across.
You won't find that here. I am not diehard Browns fan, I am not a member of the local fraternity of media pundits who house themselves in Berea, Ohio, and I am certainly not on the leash of the Cleveland Browns organization.
If you're one of those fans who doesn't want to hear about mistakes or problems, you may not want to read on. You've been warned.
This Ain't River City (Fortunately), but There's Trouble
This Browns organization is in trouble and they know it. The head coach is on the hottest seat in the NFL, and the GM has put some distance between himself and the coach. The owner is disgusted with the play of the team.
The Browns have based their current era on building the foundation prior to telling fans to expect results. This is wise. In year three, the team should be improved, thanks in large part to the consistently high draft position the Browns have managed to secure for themselves, year after year.
Along with the draft position come future issues regarding the salary cap and free agency. The past draft has robbed Peter to pay Paul, thanks to trade of their 2008 first round draft selection to secure the services of quarterback Brady Quinn. But let's look past that for a moment.
With Quinn looking like a different player today than a few short months ago in spring camp, the organization has reason for hope, and the future indeed could be bright again on the Lake Erie shores. All which would make one of the biggest Browns' fans, team owner Randy Lerner exceptionally happy.
The Owner Says "Bleah"
The state of the organization over the past three years has been very disappointing for Lerner. There may not be an owner in the league who wants to win more than Al Lerner's son, not only for himself and the value of the team, but for the fans who have suffered with a poor performing team for almost a decade.
Reports over the off-season noted Lerner had raised the expectations of the organization - not just the product on the field, but the coaches responsible for leading and evaluating the talent, as well as the men responsible for securing and scout the talent.
Over the last few weeks of the season in 2006, there were turbulent times in the Browns' offices in Berea, Ohio. Thanks to a disgusted owner, and a general manager who was hearing and feeling the heat coming from consistent poor performances, the head coach of this once proud organization was in serious trouble.
Whispers. Rumors. Fans have heard that Lerner wanted to fire Romeo Crennel, and that Savage saved the head coach's butt. There were other rumors that Savage felt the heat and told Lerner it may be wise to make a move.
The truth is out there, somewhere in the middle. Simply, if Lerner wanted Crennel fired late last season, he would have been terminated. It took a man of conviction to provide Crennel the opportunity to coach the team, with the players in place to succeed.
Watching this team throughout the preseason, it is questionable whether the move was the right one. The quarterbacks on the roster are mediocre at best, depth at the skill positions is thin, and the coach holds onto issues regarding loyalty and perception a little too strongly.
Loyal to a Fault
Loyalty and perception have dogged the team's brain trust in the recent past. Embattled former offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon was a close and loyal friend to the head coach. So much so, Crennel placed his utmost belief in his friend, although the state of the team was in shambles, and communication between Carthon, other coaches and players was not occurring.
Imagine game-planning for the opposition with members of the coaching staff not communicating. Imagine the head coach permitting such a thing in close quarters, while watching the team struggle week-in and week-out.
Just how bad was the situation with the team and the head coach? Well, third string quarterback (Ken Dorsey) had words on more than one occasion with the former offensive coordinator regarding the lack of direction, imagination, and playing time, as the players at the position were not producing. The star receiver on the roster battled the former receivers coach due to handling players unevenly, though the player himself had issues regarding responsibility and respect.
Exit Jeff Davidson
Earlier this off-season, Jeff Davidson, Carthon's successor (briefly) as offensive coordinator left the organization. Imagine this. Davidson, a highly respected and sought-after coach was able to simply walk away from the organization, despite an obvious need for as many skilled offensive coaches as the team could gather.
There was little fanfare regarding Davidson's departure, but while looking into things for the Orange and Brown Report we stumbled onto some of the reasoning behind his quiet heaving from Cleveland.
After the season, Davidson gave a report to the front office regarding the state of the offense. Inside his report, Davidson noted a lack of leadership within the team, and discussed quarterbacks Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson as being players who couldn't be used successfully in his offense. Davidson also questioned the talent on the offensive line and at skill positions, including the distractive issues of wide receiver Braylon Edwards and former Browns' running back Reuben Droughns.
It was Davidson's loyalty which jettisoned him out of town. Hired by the Carolina Panthers as their new offensive coordinator following his departure from the Browns, Davidson has been left to instill his philosophy into the Panthers. He is implementing a zone blocking scheme which could mean good things for the Panthers' running attack.
While Davidson would not confirm or deny anything when I talked to him during the off-season, he did nothing to dispel any of these reports.
He did wish the Browns and the fans "Good Luck".
With the 2007 season around the corner, the Browns enter the season with yet another inexperienced offensive coordinator and same cast of players at the quarterback position. While the offensive line has been improved, the receiving corps remains questionable.
Did we mention that the quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart are the same?
The Tuna Speaks
Calling Brady Quinn, paging Mr. Quinn... Please come to the head coaches office. You played too well last week against the Detroit Lions and have been showing too much progress in practice.
The Quinn factor is going to reap continued press and pressure on this organization in the weeks to come.
The cries for Quinn are going to get louder and more prominent as this team struggles. The head coach has not appeared receptive to giving the rookie significant practice or playing time with the first-team offense so far, although it could not hurt the chemistry and potential productivity of the unit.
Realistically, nobody expects Quinn to step in and lead this team right now, especially following his extended holdout in camp. However, his demeanor and energy level dwarfs the competition at the position, as well as his mental capacity to grasp the offense, according to those close to the player and the offensive side of the team.
Romeo Crennel comes from the Bill Parcells coaching tree. He coached under Parcells, as well as Bill Belichick, another disciple of Parcells, who instilled the values of loyalty and strong will in our current head coach.
We must wonder if Crennel happened to hear his old friend and mentor Parcells on ESPN the other evening, when Parcells stated he would play Quinn.
Then again, Parcells has retired (once again) and Crennel is the coach of the Cleveland Browns and running this training camp. So he must know something, or does he?
Time will tell. The clock is ticking and getting louder by the minute.