I love this time of year, and it's not just the weather.
The period of time between the end of June mini-camp and the beginning of training camp is one of the few times of the year that those covering the NFL can actually kick back and take a bit of a breather.
Those of us of a "certain age" can dimly remember a time when one had three TV channels and had to get cross the room to change them. The generation before us remembers no televisions at all, no computers, no internet, no millions of sources of information pounding away at your brain 24/7.
As much as I love technology, I'm pretty sure we're not really built for this. Being, basically, a bunch of social-yet-violent hunter/gatherers, sometimes we would clearly be happier picking berries or hunting down small furry mammals with a rock.
There's a natural human desire to simplify, unclutter, and get rid of the noise. And there is no shortage of noise these days.
Let's get back to basics. Let's cut through the noise, together, shall we?
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The latest media drama in Cleveland is about Eric Mangini's refusal to clearly state that Jake Delhomme is the team's starting quarterback. He certainly has had no shortage of opportunities to do so, but said that he wanted "to see what happens" when training camp starts.
Mangini is no oracle, I guess. Here's what happens, in advance: Jake Delhomme is going to be the starting quarterback.
Or, as DesertDawg so aptly put it in our subscriber discussion forum: The team knows Jake is the starter, the coaches know Jake is the starter, the media knows Jake is the starter, and the fans know Jake is the starter. We're getting our panties in a wedge because Mangini hasn't named him the starter?
The real story isn't the temporary lack of clarity about the team's eventual starter, it's that the team's head coach refuses and say and do the obvious. This is really about Mangini's tendency to over-think things, a characteristic that Holmgren will perhaps help him conquer.
It's the same thing that caused some weird timeouts at the end of the Lions game, or perhaps convinced Mangini to gamble on a player like David Veikune when he "didn't run" the draft in 2009.
My take on this has been that the NFL's creation of an absolutely level competitive playing field gives head coaches and front office personnel a tendency to put pressure on themselves to try to be their team's competitive advantage. They try to do the unexpected, analyze things until the forest disappears amongst the mass of trees, and place their hopes on out-smarting their competitors.
Or perhaps it's that head coaches (or executives of any kind) sometimes get so focused on details of running their operations that they wind up doing things that don't make sense to folks who see only the bigger picture.
In this case, Mangini has his own reasons, worked over his mind during those long days and nights he labors over his team. Perhaps he wants to be consistent in saying that every starting job is available. Perhaps he's still reluctant to commit after remembering Delhomme's awful 2009 season.
Whatever the reason, the irony is that the results of over-analysis can sometimes be indistinguishable from cluelessness to the untrained eye. This is one of those times.
I could be wrong, but suspect this little new ripple is reallly about the maturation of a head coach who might need to get a little more zen. This is where having an unflappable, experienced mentor like Mike Holmgren might really be able to help Mangini. It could make all the difference, in fact.
Over the last ten years, the number of people who seriously report on the team on an every day basis has gone down dramatically as the newspaper business began sinking. Simultaneously, teams continue to cut down any information leaks coming from their clubs.
For better or worse, in parallel with this, the number of people with internet outlets to talk about NFL teams has skyrocketed.
It's simple math: There are clearly now a lot more words about a lot fewer facts than there used to be. Lots of opinions, little substance. There's not much new to be found in the din.
The signal-to-noise ratio has tipped dramatically over to noise. We try to track everything worthwhile in our Newswire and Blogs, but we've given up in thinking that there's value in passing everything through. We used to run something called The.Raw.Feed back in 2003 or so that was really a series of merged RSS feeds and articles scraped off of other sites. We were just pouring information through every minute. Sort of like Google News, but without some of the blog links that clutter up Google News these days.
Just like we were, I think, a bit ahead of the curve in being a Browns portal, the OBR will now try to again be ahead of the curve by focusing on helping fans filter out the noise. The problem in 2010 is different than in 2000. Now, there's little problem getting access to generally available information and vanilla analysis.
With chatter exploding around us, the value is in weeding out the crap so that fans get the news that matters, get facts rather than third-hand references, and perhaps get some new information to them that's not available elsewhere.
In other words, it's about information that's actually valuable.
That's our model. Visitors to the site may notice that there's less of a variety of voices here than in the past, including some darn good writers who we've split from. There's now 1,000 sites and blogs out there that will spew fan takes and opinion at you around the clock. Browns Nation doesn't need us for that anymore. We want a clean signal, without the noise.
We're going back to the old school a bit. We want to get back to accessibility. If someone writes here, you can talk to them. More like old-school BTNG in that we're just a handful of people again. In exchange, each of us will do more, like my returning to write columns as much as I can.
You know us, we know you, and we're going to follow this Cleveland Browns adventure together.
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I feel a bit bad for D'Qwell Jackson and others who have been caught up in the RFA holdout situations. Most of them are upset, and rightfully so, that they lost the right to sell their services to the highest bidder.
Fans may look on players as greedy or petulant by sitting out practices and asking for more cash. They aren't helped by outliers like Albert Haynesworth who represent all players in the minds of many fans.
A little nudging from the labor union helped the holdouts. On the other side, NFL teams stocked up in positions where their top RFAs were. Guys like Jackson seem to be in the middle as more powerful entities play a game of high-stakes chess.
Most players have a very limited timeframe to make money from their chosen career, a game that they play at a stunningly high level, and for which their bodies will ache for the rest of their lives.
The players like Jackson just have the misfortune to be in the right place at the wrong time.
At it's most basic, the labor battle is about NFL owners wanting a larger slice of the pie. They used to give players X percent. Now they want to give them X minus Y percent. They would like to "Y" to invest in their business and grow it, so they can make more money later. As I'll discuss in future weeks, some of the NFL's financial ambitions border on the obscene, especially in an era which looks like it will be increasingly marked with financial austerity, or worse.
Players who have only a few years to make money have a much shorter planning horizon. If you take money from them now, you better guarantee them that they'll get more, and soon, because they have a window of opportunity that's very small.
In my view, that's the conflict. Owners with long-term planning horizons versus workers who need to maximize their income today.
The problem isn't easily solvable, so the owners will force a lockout to get what they want. And they'll get most of it, but only after putting fans and small businesses like the OBR through hell to get it.
Call me paranoid, but I'm guessing that it's not exactly a coincidence that the Browns stocked up on running backs and linebackers this off-season. They even added a fullback. Look through the list of the top RFAs around the league, you'll see positions where their former teams have stocked up. The league is already playing hardball.
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Simplicity isn't a goal or an end result. Simplicity is a means to an end, with the ultimate destination being a remarkable life focused on what matters most to you. You don't practice simplicity for simplicity's sake, you practice simplicity to clear the distractions that get in the way of the life you desire.
Yes, that. Problem is that what I desire is a Super Bowl.
Maybe when this team really and truly doesn't have to over-think who their starting quarterback is, we'll have things simplified enough to get it.
During parts of his day, Barry McBride is the founder and publisher of the Orange and Brown Report. In other parts, he's some guy who works for Fox Sports. In what remains, he's a suburban Dad and a hopelessly optimistic Cleveland Browns fan. You can write to him here, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theobr