TSL’s Cover 2: The Cleveland Browns Are Circling The Drain Again


(Editor's note: We join TSLers D.J. Dunson and J.R. Gamble in our usual late-week NFL discussion.)

Are the Cleveland Browns crazy like a fox or just plain crazy for trading Trent Richardson? They've been rebuilding for 14 years. Will they screw this up again?

GAMBLE: Cleveland is just plain crazy. I get that the Browns don’t have a franchise QB in Brandon Weeden, but if you can’t assess your draft picks properly, duds are going to come your way all day. Cleveland has probably had the worst crop of QBs and draft luck in NFL history. It looks like they just wasted another high pick on Trent Richardson, who probably didn’t warrant such a high pick in this pass-happy NFL anyway. Richardson should take the family out to dinner and celebrate that fact that he escaped football’s Rikers Island. Maybe Cleveland gets lucky on that No. 1 draft pick they got in return, but I wouldn’t count on it.    

D.J.: These are anything but foxy Browns. Cleveland is chasing their own tails in circles again. The Browns pinning their hopes on drafting the right player is akin to Lucy placholding that pigskin for Charlie Brown. After earning the third overall pick in one of the deepest quarterback drafts in history, the Browns walked out with Trent Richardson and a 29-year-old Air Raid system quarterback?

Two years ago, the Browns were in position to draft an electric passer named RGIII. All they had to do was make a deal with the one team in front of them. Everyone including yours truly, was absolutely convinced the Cleveland (Charlie) Browns would package a few picks to swap picks with the Rams. Turns out the Browns eschewed the consensus because they weren’t all that enamored with RGIII or even Ryan Tannehill.

I know Joe Banner, Jimmy Haslam and Michael Lombardi (no relation to Vince) weren’t in the foxhole when Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Courtney Brown, Brandon Weeden and Richardson were drafted. However, Lombardi’s resume doesn’t inspire much confidence. His previous NFL executive gig was for a decade in Oakland from ’98 to ‘07. Haslam is under investigation by the feds. That doesn’t inspire much confidence. The Cleveland Browns fans can soon begin shuffling into FirstEnergy Stadium for their weekly lobotomies.


Robert Griffin III believes the Redskins need him to run more often to be successful.  Is that true or should he concentrate more on improving his inconsistent pocket passing mechanics and efficiency? Which benefits the Redskins most?

GAMBLE: You don’t ask a 280-pound home run hitter to start bunting and stealing bases. RG3’s pocket presence is not what got him drafted No. 2 overall and made him the mega celebrity he is today. His rare and refined combination of speed and agility at the QB position, coupled with his ever-improving and super simplified passing game, did the trick. How about we just cut the legs off of Usain Bolt and ask him to win the high jump? Everyone agreed that eventually RG3 would have to alter his game as he got older, but switching his whole style up after one season is just idiotic. There was never any guarantee he would become a dope pocket passer.

D.J.: If RGIII says he needs to run more, then he’s backtracking from what he and his father were telling Shanahan during the offseason. This season should be all about his progression as a passer. Shanahan’s zone-read allowed him to take baby steps into the world of complex NFL schemes, but it shouldn’t define his career. Michael Vick already fell for that scam by settling into being a quarterback reliant on his legs.

I had an AAU basketball coach who used to drill into his point guards heads that, on the fast break, a pass was quicker than the dribble. The same philosophy applies to NFL quarterbacking. If RGIII wants to run more, he should use it to buy space throwing behind the line of scrimmage rather than putting his health in peril by picking up yards on the ground. Besides he won’t have 23-year-old legs forever.

RGIII’s throwing woes are more problematic because bad habits are hard to break. It’s better he figure out now rather than later how to restrain himself from using his running ability as a clutch to mask deficiencies passing. Griffin took the league by storm thanks in part to his accurate intermediate and downfield passing last season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Griffin had the fifth-fewest off-target passes of any quarterback in the league as a rookie. So far, he's looked tentative, nervous, his footwork has been sloppy and naturally he’s been wildly inconsistent. Matt Stafford is a naturally talented slingshot artist whose career has been hindered by poor pocket mechanics. We’ll miss the flashy RGIII for a while, but he's not here to entertain. Time and time again in sports, we re-discover that the fundamentals are the foundation for greatness.