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Posted on: April 16, 2009 2:24 am
Edited on: April 16, 2009 2:52 am
 

The Same Old Story

The Cleveland Browns hired a 38-year-old coach to be the new face of the once proud franchise. His success as a defensive coordinator earned him the nickname, "genius," as his peers and superiors agreed - he was destined to be a great coach.

Bill thought so too.

Bill mentored the young coach and knew better than anyone how talented his young protegee was. As a matter of fact, Bill did everything in his power to retain his young defensive coordinator, but to no avail. The Cleveland situation presented itself, and the young prodigy had no choice but to test his merits with the historic Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland team he inherited looked completely lost the year prior to his arrival. They finished the season with double digit losses - enough to prompt the owner to fire the head coach and move in a younger direction.

After a brief look at the personnel, the young coach from Wesleyan knew this was not going to be a quick fix. He saw a complacent roster void of talent and filled with overpayed, underachieving players. He saw a team that lacked discipline. He saw their beloved quarterback (a first round selection born in Ohio) as mediocre, and knew that quarterback was unable to get the job done.

He saw all of this, but the fans and media disagreed.

They had seen their Browns do rather well the year before the disappointing season. With many of the big named players still on the roster, they envisioned a quick fix and a quick return to prominence.

So everyone called him a dictator. They called him a tyrant. His strict, tight-lipped policy with the media only served to make things worse, which only fueled their anger. What's more is, he wasn't see as one of them .

How can some hot shot from New York , they thought, come to a blue collar town like Cleveland , and tell them what they already knew to be true about their football team?

The expectations for immediate success were there from the start, and the young genius knew this well. Because of this, the coach imported free agents to help shore up a porous defensive unit expected to contend almost immediately. Most of the players he added were cast off veterans and old linebackers from New York that he happened to know well. These moves were overlooked by Clevelanders who believed these crusty veterans were not the solution to their problems.

So the fans called for his head. This was far too much. This man has no right to throw his weight around like he's Paul Brown , they thought. After all, the only thing of note on his resume was a Super Bowl win, but that was as a defensive coordinator.

And everyone knows that was Bill's team anyway .

Ostracizing star players and introducing a quarterback competition with their native son made him public enemy number one.

They officially hated him.

 


 

If only those disgruntled Browns fans had given that poor head coach a chance...

 

 

 

Looking back on it, Bill Belichick wasn't such a bad coach, now was he?

 

 

Posted on: April 7, 2009 12:29 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2009 9:37 pm
 

Sircheeks' Mock Draft 2.0

Scheme, scheme, scheme.

When re-building a franchise, one cannot underestimate how important it is to draft to fit the organizational philosophy. Teams like the Patriots and Colts are so good at this year in and year out. With 12 rookie head coaches poised to make an impact, they will undoubtedly look to find players who fit in well within the confines of their scheme.

With that in mind, I present the updated version of my mock draft.

 


 

1. Aaron Curry, OLB Wake Forest



Analysis : The more I read about Curry, the more confident I feel about this selection for Detroit. The truth of the matter is this: Matthew Stafford is not your prototypical franchise quarterback. Detroit could use a new face of the franchise, however they could use something else more – wins. Aaron Curry is good enough to step in and start for the Lions - who should be vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Eugene Monroe, T Virginia



Analysis : Saint Louis has their choice of offensive tackles with the second overall selection, so either Monroe or Jason Smith could be the pick here. I like Monroe better. Not only is Monroe a more polished blocker on the field than Jason Smith, he has good character, work ethic, and tremendous football instincts. The term mauler can only be used with few linemen nowadays, and Monroe certainly fits the billing. Eugene Monroe is the right choice here.

3.  Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech



Analysis : General Manager Scott Pioli understands the importance of drafting to fill a system. It is no secret Todd Haley favors an aerial-based offense, so the Chiefs complement this by landing the most explosive collegiate wide receiver in the nation. The combination of Michael Crabtree, Dewayne Bowe, and Tony Gonzalez should provide Matt Cassel a chance to duplicate the success he enjoyed last year with New England.

4.  Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia



Analysis : After the Michael Vick debacle in Atlanta, Jim Mora’s regime in Seattle selects their prototype pocket passer as the new face of the Seahawks ’ franchise. The 34-year old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck has strong ties to former head coach Mike Holmgreen. Last year’s season-ending surgery coupled with Holmgreen’s departure prove too much for Hasselbeck, as 2009 marks his final year in Seattle.

5.  Malcolm Jenkins, DB Ohio State



Analysis : Jenkins' stock has soared through the roof after he eliminated doubts about his straight line speed at Ohio State's pro day. The unquestioned leader of the Buckeye defense, Jenkins not only brings tremendous character, professionalism, and confidence to the position, but unmatched physical attributes, body control, and leaping ability. The Browns have lacked a ball-hawking defender since their return in 1999, and they find their man in Jenkins.

6. Jason Smith, T Baylor



Analysis : Without Stacey Andrews at tackle, Cincinnati has an immediate need along the offensive line. For the Bengals to make any noise in the AFC North, they will have to contend with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each season. Jason Smith will help them do just that. With proper coaching and experience in the pros, Smith will be able to contend with the fiercest of edge rushers. His intelligence in reading and adjusting to blitzes will prove an invaluable resource for the Bengals.

7.  Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri



Analysis : The Oakland Raiders have their franchise passer in JaMarcus Russell. For Russell to succeed, the Raiders must play to his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Oakland needs to find a wide receiver capable of stretching the field and breaking the long touchdown run, and no player may be better at that then Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Maclin's shifty nature and acceleration compare favorably to Carolina's Steve Smith - a lofty comparison he may actually live up to. The only question remains whether Davis will stop drooling over Jeremy's 4.3 speed to hand in the selection card.

8. Percy Harvin, WR Florida



Analysis : Jacksonville would have loved to find Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree at this spot, but they don't so they go with the next best receiver available in Percy Harvin. With speed, elusiveness, and game-changing ability, Harvin could easily end up being the steal of the draft. The knock on him is health, but teams will overlook that. A healthy Harvin has more than enough value to the Jags at 8, and they roll the dice with the Florida superstar.

9. B.J. Raji, Boston College



Analysis : B.J. Raji is a force. For a team like the Packers attempting to convert to a base 3-4 defense, finding the nation's premier nose tackle prospect here is a blessing which they happily receive. Character, intelligence, and academic issues have hurt Raji's stock, but his supreme talent on the field ensures he falls no further than 9. Still a bit raw coming out of Boston College, B.J. Raji has the build, strength, and athletic ability to shine in a 3-4 defensive set.

10. Brian Orakpo, DE Texas



Analysis : With former first round selection Vernon Davis coming into his third year and new free ageny acquisition Brandon Jones providing a speedy compliment on the outside, the 49ers can afford to tweak what little concerns they have on defense. Mike Singletary and Scott McCloughan select Brian Orakpo to stand up and fill the lone outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense. Under Mike Singletary, Brian Orakpo can blossom into a playmaking edge rusher and thrive in their system.

11.  Everette Brown, DE Florida State



Analysis : Buffalo has a chance at landing one of the premier pass rushers in the draft, and they do just that by selecting Everette Brown. The talented pass rusher from Florida State will be employed in the Bills' 4-3 scheme, where he will be asked to do play defensive end - his specialty in college. Buffalo hasn't had a signature pass rusher since Bruce Smith. Everette Brown will change that.

12.  Mark Sanchez, QB Southern California



Analysis : There is no reason for the Broncos to get cute here. If Mark Sanchez is here at 12, I fully expect Denver to select him with their first round selection. For Josh McDaniels and the Broncos to succeed in a system predicated on smart quarterback play, they will need to find a franchise passer with the poise, intelligence and accuracy demanded out of quarterbacks. Sanchez ran the same system Matt Cassel studied under at USC. McDaniels hand picks his franchise quarterback.

13.  Andre Smith, T Alabama



Analysis : With one of the oldest offensive lines in football and Chris Samuels on the cusp of retirement, it would be wise for the Redskins to plan ahead and draft an offensive linemen. On film, there may not be anyone than Andre Smith. Smith's dominance as a run blocker figures well into Washington's ground-based offense. Smith will not start immediately - a blessing in disguise for both parties. Veterans like Samuels, Dockery, and Thomas will help Smith mature into a professional.

14.  Brian Cushing, LB Southern California



Analysis : The 2008 Saints were one of the best offensive teams in football. Defensively, however, was an entirely different story. With their lone first round selection, the Saints look to add a playmaker on defense, and that playmaker is USC standout Brian Cushing. Blessed with the speed to drop back in coverage and the strength to make sledgehammer-type hits, Cushing is the ideal 4-3 outside linebacker. He should start immediately for New Orleans and make an immediate impact from day one.

15. Clay Matthews Jr., LB Southern California



Analysis : DeMeco Ryans has developed into an excellent player. For him and the Texans to continue progressing, Rick Smith selects Clay Matthews Jr. with the 15th pick in the NFL Draft. Matthews is a rangy linebacker who may take some time to adjust to the NFL game. Like his USC counterpart Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews does have a bit of injury history which may concern a few teams. His upside is too great for the Texans to pass up here, as Houston fills an immediate need in their front 7.

16.  Tyson Jackson, DE Louisiana State



Analysis : Veteran defensive end Igor Olshansky was not retained during the offseason. For San Diego to be successful in their 3-4 defense, they need to fill that hole and they do so with Tyson Jackson. Jackson's ideal bulk and decline as a pass rusher have limited his projections to a 3-4 defensive end, and fortunately for the Chargers, that's just what they need.

17. Rey Maualuga, LB Southern California



Analysis : Many teams talk about selecting the best player available, but few have the determination to do so when the time comes. If the Jets are on the clock and Rey Maualuga is still available, New York will waste little time in selecting the hard-hitting linebacker from Southern California. Maualuga fits the mold of inside linebacker in Rex Ryan's defense, so this pick is virtually a lock if the stars align themselves accordingly.

18.  James Laurinaitis, LB Ohio State



Analysis : Denver will need a defensive centerpiece with which to rebuild that unit, and Laurinaitis fits the bill. The Broncos' defense has been their achillies heel for the past few seasons, so it is imparitive they find some help sooner rather than later. The co-captain from Ohio State will thrive as a middle linebacker in a 3-4 defense due to his outstanding instincts and feel for the game.

19.  Peria Jerry, DT Mississippi



Analysis : New Buccaneers ’ defensive coordinator Jim Bates runs a defensive system predicated on smart, physical play from all four defensive linemen. The conversion from the “Tampa 2” won’t be particularly easy, but the Bucs nab their centerpiece in the disruptive tackle from Mississippi. Jerry’s prowess as an interior pass rusher along with his run stopping ability will help Tampa improve on a unit that gave up nearly 120 yards per game.

20.  Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State



Analysis : Detroit needs a franchise quarterback in the worst way, so they opt to go with Josh Freeman from Kansas State. Freeman will need to sit on the bench for a few years to make the adjustment into the NFL. Daunte Culpepper will start in 2009 while mentoring the young Freeman along the way. The Lions should be much improved on the defensive side of the ball, so they will be competitive sooner rather than later. Once Freeman matures into the starting role, this team can finally start looking towards the playoffs.

21.  Michael  Oher, T Mississippi



Analysis : Philadelphia is known for their shrewd approach toward the NFL Draft. With their first of two first round selections, they fill the immediate hole at tackle with Michael Oher. Tra Thomas has been an integral part of the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive success for so long. It is imparitive the Eagles address this loss through the draft for the future success of the organization.

22. Darrius Heward-Bey, WR Maryland



Analysis : Judging from how aggressively Vikings management pursued wide receiver T.J Houshmanzadeh, Minnesota is seriously looking to upgrade their receiving corps. Darrius Heward-Bey is a playmaking wideout with the potential to be great. Heward's speed will force defenses to commit more defenders to the secondary, which should free up things for Adrian Peterson in the backfield.

23.  Vontae Davis, CB Illinois



Analysis :  The Patriots would be thrilled to find Vontae Davis here. Blessed with outstanding speed, agility, and instincts for the game, Vontae Davis is regarded by some as a better defensive back than Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins. Regardless of his ranking, one thing is true - Davis is a football player. You can't teach athletic ability, and Vontae Davis is brimming with it. New England finds a cornerback to be what Asante Samuel was for them so many years ago.

24. Larry English, OLB Northern Illinois



Analysis : Atlanta’s offense seems to be in good hands with Matt Ryan at the helm. The defense lost an important piece with the departure of veteran linebacker Keith Brooking, so a replacement pick here seems likely. Larry English should thrive in Atlanta’s 4-3 defensive scheme. English is a high motor type player who brings it every down. This will be a great pickup for the Falcons.

25. Evander Hood, DT Missouri



Analysis : Bill Parcells understands the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Because of this, the Dolphins used first day selections on Philip Merling and Kendall Langford. Jason Ferguson only has so much left in the tank, so Miami selects Evander Hood in preparation for Ferguson’s departure. Hood is a big, strong tackle with college experience and intelligence. He should be a great pro, and a great fit for Miami at 25.

26. Darrius Butler, CB Connecticut



Analysis : The Baltimore Ravens could stand to upgrade their defensive backfield. Chris McCallister is aging and could not get the job done, so Ozzie Newsome undoubtedly looks to the draft to find someone who can. Darrius Butler is the best cornerback available, so Newsome and company should have no qualms about selecting him. Butler has the physical skill set to be great, but how he transitions to the NFL from a program like Connecticut is something worth keeping an eye on.

27.  Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina



Analysis : Indianapolis has two fine wideouts in Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez , however the 3-base receiver sets indicate the Colts can still do with additional help. After releasing Marvin Harrison, look for Bill Polian to further supplement his receiving corps with the talented Nicks. Much like the player he is replacing, Nicks is a quiet leader who lets his supreme talent speak for itself. The Colts find their slot receiver and the eventual replacement for the 30-year old Reggie Wayne.

28. Chris "Beenie" Wells, RB Ohio State



Analysis : With the offensive line addressed and Brian Westbrook to turn 30 during the season, Philadelphia does what they do best and that's plan ahead. Chris Wells gives the Eagles tremendous value at this selection as he is one of the mroe talented runners to emerge into the NFL in recent history. Wells needs to work on his hands as he is not a natural receiver, but the Eagles can work around that. When healthy, Chris Wells is a transcendent talent who is capable of becoming a franchise tailback in this league.

29.  Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers



Analysis : Eli Manning will miss recently departed receiver Plaxico Burress more than many realize. Rutgers' all-time leading receiver has been the apple of the Giants' eye for quite some time now, so he will be the selection here. Britt's size (6'3 218lbs) and hands should allow him to take over for Burress. While Kenny Britt doesn't have game-changing speed, he is a big-bodied pass catcher who will act as possession receiver in the Giants' offense.

30.  Michael Johnson, DE/OLB Georgia Tech



Analysis : When a team is selecting this low in the draft, it usually means there are few pressing needs on either side of the ball. This is true for the Tennessee Titans, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL. The Titans can afford to roll the dice by selecting the intriguing Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech. Johnson will have time to learn the system, which will benefit both him and the Titans in the long run.

31.  Aaron Maybin, DE Penn State



Analysis : Arizona defied all odds and shocked the football world last year on their way to a rare Super Bowl appearance. After losing Antonio Smith to free agency this off season, the Cardinals look to bolster their defensive line. With the second to last pick in the first round, Arizona accomplishes just that by selecting the project pass rusher, Aaron Maybin.

32.  Alex Mack, C California



Analysis : The Steelers select Alex Mack to help fortify the interior of their offensive line. The intelligent Mack has been a model of consistency throughout his collegiate career, so it should come as no surprise Pittsburgh would be interested in him. Mack is versatile enough to play either of the guard positions – something Mike Tomlin and the Steelers would love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: April 5, 2009 1:43 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2009 12:41 pm
 

Cutler's Cost Could Benefit Browns


Jay Cutler’s trade to the Chicago Bears could have implications on how much the Browns receive should they decide to trade quarterback Derek Anderson.

In a copycat league where precedent is as much a part of reality as anything else, don’t be surprised if Cleveland receives as much as a first round selection if they decide to trade Derek Anderson before this year's NFL Draft.

Thursday’s blockbuster deal between the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears sent shockwaves around the football world. In exchange for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler and a fifth round selection, the Denver Broncos received the Bears’ 2009 first and third round selections in addition to a first round selection in 2010 and quarterback Kyle Orton.

In his third year out of Vanderbilt, Cutler is coming off his best season as a pro. Under Mike Shanahan, Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with 18 interceptions. Derek Anderson's only full season as a starter produced comparable results. In 2007, Anderson threw for 3,787 yards with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

The similarities between Jay Cutler and Derek Anderson are uncanny. Both are strong armed quarterbacks entering their 3rd full seasons as starters in the NFL. The two 25-year-old quarterbacks have made the Pro Bowl once, but have no playoff experience to speak of. Denver's offensive system and Cleveland's miserable 2008 season skew the statistical comparison toward Cutler, but both players have the tools to succeed at this level.

 

Chicago paid a king's ransom for Cutler. Could Anderson be next?

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 21, 2009 12:52 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:10 pm
 

A Letter to Eric Mangini

Eric Mangini
Cleveland Browns
76 Lou Groza Blvd
Berea, OH 44017

Dear Eric,

First of all, congratulations on becoming head coach of the Cleveland Browns! It's not often that one goes from making coffee runs to running a football team, so you certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

How is Julie doing? And the three boys? I know you're hard at work making tough decisions for the team, but don't forget about your family. They are very important.

Speaking of those decisions, I must commend you on doing an excellent job so far. Some members of the media can’t see what you've done for the Browns in such a short period of time. They just see a bunch of former Jets and think nothing of it... but they're wrong.

By bringing in veterans like David Bowens, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Barton, you've extended your sphere of influence and control over the locker room - something the last few coaches have been unable to do. These veterans will show the younger guys how to be professionals. Presumably, they’ve already bought into your brand of football, and will play an instrumental part in selling it to the rest of the team.

David Bowens will show the Browns how to play...and how to celebrate!


From a football perspective, I couldn't be happier with the recent additions. The 3-4 defense requires every player to understand and execute their given role in the scheme. Experienced veterans are perfect for that. What's more, the Browns are a particularly young team on defense, so a player like Hank Poteat would be a valuable resource in interpreting guidance given by the position coaches. The most effective way to teach is through example, and you've assembled a group of veterans to do just that.

The Browns' roster you've inherited is a group largely comprised of overpaid underachievers. I'm sure you've seen that on film study alone. A guy like Kevin Shaffer, for example, didn’t have the skill set to play tackle in this division. Andra Davis wore down after so many losing seasons, didn’t tackle well, and lacked the passion to play linebacker in the NFL. Sean Jones had potential, but never did anything to warrant the money he likely demanded.

Out of all the subtractions made, none made me happier than trading Kellen Winslow to the Buccaneers. You must have foreseen how big of a liability a player like Winslow could have been to the team. He had multiple procedures done on both knees and played in something like 54% of games in his career. Furthermore, he was the type of outspoken individual that may go against the unified team vision you work so hard to get across. From a football standpoint, Kellen Winslow never blocked well. What good is a blocker that doesn't block anyway?

Now Eric, there still are a few things that need to be done, and I hope you and George have the resolve make these tough decisions. First, get rid of Shaun Rogers. Cut him, trade him, I don't care. Rogers may be a disruptive force on the field, but I fear he may be an equally disruptive force in the locker room as well. How a professional "athlete" can complain about a request such as maintaining a desired weight is beyond me. I know there will be cap ramifications, but you're in the business of doing what's best for the team, right? I saw you guys hired Dawn Aponte as a salary cap specialist. She and her team can work around this move. It just needs to be done.

Second, I ask that you give Brady Quinn a chance. Even if the reports are true and you believe him to be inaccurate, do not trade him. The backlash from the fans and media would be far too great, and it may cost you your job. Give Brady Quinn a full season to prove the kind of player you see him to be, and then take it from there. One season of 'poor quarterbacking' won't kill you. Sometimes circumstances dictate things need to be done a certain way, and Brady Quinn starting for the Browns is one of them.


Brady Quinn

Give him a chance, Eric! You may just like what you see...

I know you're a busy man, so I should let you go. I leave you with this - Cleveland is a tough town desperate for a successful football team. Fans will treat you like royalty if you win, but don't let that fool you. The pitch forks and torches will always be lurking in the background.

Take care and enjoy the ride!

Respectfully,
The Gentledawg

P.S. - Malcolm Jenkins at 5!

 

 

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 18, 2009 6:16 am
 

Opening Day Anticipation

It's almost here. Can you feel it?

Teams are fine-tuning their rosters and players are shaking the dust off from the near 5 month layoff. Meaningless spring training games tease fans with a glimpse of the excitement that has yet to come. The World Baseball Classic attempts to hold our interest until spring bestowes upon us that gift that comes once per year with alarming regularity.

Opening Day.

Yes, Opening Day - a day which marks the beginning of the long distance marathon known as the Major League Baseball season. A day where people flock to stadiums in order to sneak a peek at new faces and admonish those of years past. As excitement builds for the first pitch, I can't help but ask myself one thing:

What are we really excited about, anyway?

Don't get me wrong - I love baseball and all the excitement created by the Opening Day festivities. I love the intrigue and speculation that goes into naming the Opening Day starters. I love the extra effort down first base, the added concentration at the plate, and how skippers manage like its game 7 of the World Series. I love all of these things except for the actual game that's being played.

That game is meaningless .

In a 162 game baseball season, the first game counts just as much as the 25th, 85th, or 155th game does. The first 9 of over 1,400 innings of play means no more than the last 9, yet for some reason to us - they do.

Cleveland Indians' shortstop Jhonny Peralta creates a lasting memory for a lucky fan.

Again I pose the question: where does this unfounded fascination with the first game of the year come from? Why should the first 27 outs be any more special than the remaining 4,347?

The answer to this question goes deeper than any statistic I could raise in defense.

Tradition.

For millions of Americans around the country, Opening Day is more than just another baseball game - it is a new beginning. For the proud father taking his son to Fenway Park for the first time, it's the beginning of a family tradition. For that son, it's the beginning of a dream. For the elderly couple who've held season tickets at Wrigley Field for 30 years, it's the beginning of another baseball-filled summer of hot dogs, laughs, and memories both old and new. For that casual fan sitting in Mezzanine section 321 of Progressive Field , it's the chance to reacquaint with familiar faces while creating new friendships all the same.

Unlike any other professional sport, baseball is just as much about what happens off the field than what happens on it. The conversations and experiences that go into the three hour session at the ballpark often times mean more than anything football, basketball, or hockey could ever hope to create.

The reason for this lies mostly in the nature of the game itself. Compared to its fall and winter counterparts, the slow-paced game of baseball generates little "action," and that often times alienates the casual fan in the process. Any action on the field involves only 3 of the potential 12 participants  - the rest of which appear to be doing more than standing around in the grass. Those factors in addition to the exhausting length of the game itself create the makings of what many consider a total snoozefest. Right?

Wrong.

Going to the ball park is an experience in and of itself strictly unique to America's National Pasttime. To many who follow the game, Opening Day is about so much more. It's about complaining over $8 beers and parking prices with friends and fellow fans. It's about booing for the 'bad guys', rooting for the 'good guys', and neglecting everything else inbetween. It's about Jimmy, Paulie, and Raffie.  It's about praying that foul ball somehow manages to find its way into your section of the bleachers. Put simply - it's all about things that surround the game that go beyond just balls and strikes.

In the grand scheme of things, Opening Day does little to define a team's success on the baseball field. What it does define are the beginnings of traditions that transcend the events of the sport itself.

And that makes this the most important game of them all.

 

 

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2009 2:34 am
Edited on: March 30, 2009 12:44 pm
 

Sircheeks' Mock Draft

With the NFL Draft still a good 26 days away, what better time than the present to compile meaningless information and assemble a mock draft? I won't waste time with the details, but I've scoured the internet for rumors and combined that information with my own team analysis. 

*Please note* As with the real NFL draft, teams are forced to adapt to what others in front of them have done. Selections were made accordingly.

 

 


 

1. Aaron Curry, OLB Wake Forest


Analysis : The Lions defy conventional wisdom here and select the best defensive player on the board. The free agent signings of veterans Philip Buchannon, Julian Peterson, Anthony Henry, and Grady Jackson indicate the new Lions regime is determined to fix this team – one side of the ball at a time. Curry is a safe pick in a field of question marks, and Detroit can’t afford to miss.

 

2. Eugene Monroe, T Virginia


Analysis : The Rams’ roster is littered with holes, and no hole is bigger than the one left by the departure of Orlando Pace. The Rams have their pick of top tackles, and they elect to go with the more polished Monroe. Coach Spagnuolo understands the value of athletic offensive linemen from his time in New York, so the Rams select the tight end convert with the number 2 overall selection.

 

3.  Jason Smith, T Baylor


Analysis : The acquisition of Matt Cassel virtually demands the Chiefs fortify their offensive line, and they do so with one of the best tackles in the nation. Smith, a tackle better known for his pass protection skills, is a perfect fit to the presumed aerial offense to be installed in Kansas City. Defense is an area of concern, but the Pioli drafts for value here and lands a franchise tackle.

 

4.  Matt Stafford, QB Georgia


Analysis : After the Michael Vick debacle in Atlanta, Jim Mora’s regime in Seattle selects their prototype pocket passer as the new face of the Seahawks’ franchise. The 34-year old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck has strong ties to former head coach Mike Holmgreen. Last year’s season-ending surgery coupled with Holmgreen’s departure prove too much for Hasselbeck, as 2009 marks his final year in Seattle.

 

5.  Malcolm Jenkins, DB Ohio State


Analysis : Jenkins' stock has soared through the roof after he eliminated doubts about his straight line speed at Ohio State's pro day. The unquestioned leader of the Buckeye defense, Jenkins not only brings tremendous character, professionalism, and confidence to the position, but unmatched physical attributes, body control, and leaping ability. The Browns have lacked a ball-hawking defender since their return in 1999, and they find their man in Jenkins.

 

6. B.J. Raji, DT Boston College


Analysis : Cincinnati needs an impact player on the defensive front, and no interior defensive lineman delivers like Raji. A great reason the Bengals finished the 2008 campaign with a 4-11-1 record was their inability to stop the run. Raji instantly upgrades their 21st ranked rush defense while providing a pass rusher to pair along side Robert Geathers and John Thorton.

 

7.  Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech


Analysis : The Raiders look to take the next step in turning their organization around and select a receiver some call the most explosive player in the entire draft. Al Davis’ love of athleticism pays off in a big way with the selection of Crabtree. While injury concerns linger around the Texas Tech standout, Oakland rolls the dice here and gives JaMarcus Russell a big time player with tremendous upside.

 

8.  Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri


Analysis : The loss of Matt Jones and the remarkably average career of Reggie Williams make finding a legitimate receiving threat top priority in Jacksonville. Jeremy Maclin is the closest thing to a can't miss prospect at the position, so the Jaguars happily select him here. Maclin's toughness, speed, and work ethic provide a breath of fresh air to a position in so much disarray.

 

9. Andre Smith, T Alabama


Analysis : One of the most under-looked elements of Green Bay’s success during the Brett Favre era was a consistently dominant offensive line. Names like Mike Whale and Mike Flanagan have since departed – leaving the Packers void of talent up front. Ted Thompson’s crew selects Smith and gives Aaron Rogers a fighting chance to emulate the accomplishments of his predecessor.

 

10. Brian Orakpo, DE Texas


Analysis : With former first round selection Vernon Davis coming into his third year and new free ageny acquisition Brandon Jones providing a speedy compliment on the outside, the 49ers can afford to tweak what little concerns they have on defense. Mike Singletary and Scott McCloughan select Brian Orakpo to play opposite of Justin Smith on the defensive line. Orakpo has the size to stand up and play the Sam or bulk up and play 3 technique. Either way, San Francisco comes out on top.

 

11.  Brian Cushing, OLB Southern California


Analysis : The Bills waste little time in selecting Cushing in a move that instantly improves their suspect linebacker corps. Brian Cushing is a pure linebacker with the experience and pedigree to fill in as the face of an overall pedestrian defense. Blessed with physicality to go along with above average coverage skills, Cushing gives the Bills a playmaker that will anchor their defense for years to come.

 

12.  Tyson Jackson, DT LSU


Analysis : After years of unsuccessful attempts to patch up the defensive line, McDaniels and the Broncos get it right and draft the Jackson - the best defensive lineman available. While Tyson Jackson isn't known for his pass rushing moves, he is stout enout at the point to stop the run - something the 29th ranked defensive unit would welcome with open arms.

 

13.  Michael Oher, T Mississippi


Analysis : Michael Oher is a great fit here for two reasons: first, the Redskins have one of, if not the oldest offensive lines in football. Chris Samuels missed some time in 2008 and he's heading into his 11th year in the league. For a team who predicates themselves on the power running game, a replacement tackle is necessary. Oher is still raw coming out of Ole Miss, but Joe Bugel is one of the best in the business and should have no problem helping Oher reach his potential.

 

14.  Everette Brown, DE Florida State


Analysis : The Saints have few selections in this year's draft, so they will certainly look to make an impact with their lone day one selection. For where they are selecting, no player can provide the Saints with a bigger impact than the player some hail as the best pass rusher in the draft. Do to his size and pash rushing abilities, Everette Brown projects well as a linebacker in Sean Payton's 4-3 defense.

 

15.  Rey Maualuga, LB Southern California


Analysis : With the recent strides the Texans have made on defense, they select the final piece of the puzzle in the hard-hitting linebacker from USC. Maualuga’s tough, intelligent brand of football compliments rising star DeMeco Ryans – leaving the Texans with a 1-2 punch capable of shaking up the long-standing hierarchy of the AFC South.

 

16.  Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia


Analysis : The Chargers select the best player available in preparation for the eventual release of LaDainian Tomlinson. The physically demanding nature of playing running back in the NFL requires that teams carry two capable runners on their roster. Moreno provides the Chargers with a 3rd down back for the present and an eventual replacement of the future.

 

17. Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State


Analysis : As is the case with many new NFL regimes, handpicking their signal caller is of the utmost priority. Rex Ryan selects the physically gifted Josh Freeman as their version of “Joe Flacco” in an attempt to solidify the hotly contested quarterback position. Freeman gets the nod over Sanchez for three reasons: experience, upside, and leadership. Rex Ryan gets his quarterback of the future.

 

18.  Percy Harvin, WR Florida


Analysis : Percy Harvin's game-changing speed and ability are just what the Chicago Bears are looking for. Devin Hester's production as a return man has declined with his incorporation in the offense, and there is chatter around Halas that Hester would be best served as a return specialist. Harvin's potential will help Kyle Orton take the next step in becoming great while providing Chicago with an exciting playmaker in the process.

 

19.  Peria Jerry, DT Mississippi


Analysis : New Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator Jim Bates runs a defensive system predicated on smart, physical play from all four defensive linemen. The conversion from the “Tampa 2” won’t be particularly easy, but the Bucs nab their centerpiece in the disruptive tackle from Mississippi. Jerry’s prowess as an interior pass rusher along with his run stopping ability will help Tampa improve on a unit that gave up nearly 120 yards per game.

 

20.  Mark Sanchez, QB Southern California


Analysis : Detroit relishes in their good fortune as their franchise quarterback falls down into their arms. Coming off the worst season in modern professional football history, the Lions desperately need a new face for the organization. Drafting Sanchez re-energizes their fan base as well as endows the team with a quarterback to develop as a long-term answer.

 

21.  Brandon Pettigrew, TE Oklahoma State


Analysis : Donavan McNabb has quietly asked the Eagles to acquire a dynamic receiving threat, and they answer his call by selecting the premier tight end in the nation. Pettigrew may be the most complete player heading into the draft – regardless of position. His prowess as a blocker is only surpassed by the natural hands he shows for making the reception. The Eagles replace the oft-injured L.J. Smith and pick up a solid playmaker in the process.

 

22.  Darrius Butler, CB Connecticut


Analysis : You don't run on Minnesota. Period. Teams have taken to the air against the Vikings, and have done so with relative success. Due to this and the aging of cornerback Antoine Winfield (31) and the release of safety Darren Sharper, the Vikings select the best DB on the board in Darrius Butler. Butler will provide Minnesota with an instant upgrade to their 24th rated pass defense while giving them a starter for years to come.

 

23.  James Laurinaitis, ILB Ohio State


Analysis :  The Patriots select the blue-chip prospect James Laurinaitis in an effort to replace some of the veteran linebackers who have proven themselves serviceable in the past. Laurinaitis has everything Bill Belichick looks for in a linebacker – great size, instincts, technique, and intelligence. The sure tackling linebacker from Ohio State falls to the Patriots in a match made in football heaven.

 

24.  Aaron Maybin, DE Penn State


Analysis : The Falcons have proven themselves among the NFL’s elite in a short time. With few dramatic needs on either side of the ball, Atlanta selects the best player on the board. Aaron Maybin has been frequently described as a developmental prospect – one few teams have the luxury of waiting on. The Falcons, however, do have that luxury and select Maybin to groom into a defensive end or an outside linebacker.

 

25.  Darrius Heyward-Bay, WR Maryland


Analysis : The Miami Dolphins desperately need an explosive receiving threat, and they find one in Heyward-Bay. Darrius possesses great size and tremendous speed – two things Dolphin receivers are currently lacking. Heyward-Bay isn’t extremely physical, but if included in an offensive scheme featuring known speed threat Ted Ginn, he certainly won’t need to be.

 

26. Clay Matthews Jr., OLB Southern California


Analysis : The well-oiled machine known as the Baltimore Ravens continues operation as they select Matthews to replace the departed Bart Scott. Matthews’ journey to the NFL has allowed him to play with a chip on his shoulder throughout his college career. The Ravens love that. The tenacity, emotion, and tremendous upside to Matthews make this a steal for Baltimore – who happily select him here.

 

27.  Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina


Analysis : Indianapolis has two fine wideouts in Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, however the 3-base receiver sets indicate the Colts can still do with additional help. After releasing Marvin Harrison, look for Bill Polian to further supplement his receiving corps with the talented Nicks. Much like the player he is replacing, Nicks is a quiet leader who lets his supreme talent speak for itself. The Colts find their slot receiver and the eventual replacement for the 30-year old Reggie Wayne.

 

28.  Eben Britton, T Arizona


Analysis : The Eagles lost Tra Thomas and Stacey Andrews to free agency, so it only makes sense for the Eagles to draft a suitable replacement for their veteran tackles. Tom Heckert and Andy Reid are two of the best in the business when it comes to replacing talent. With the 28th overall selection, Philadelphia continues its strong draft and nabs one of the most underrated tackles in this year’s class.

 

29.  Chris Wells, RB Ohio State


Analysis : The Giants are one of the few teams with few immediate needs, so they can afford somewhat of a luxury pick here. With Brandon Jacobs’ injury concerns, Derrick Ward’s signing with the Buccaneers, and New York’s commitment to running the football, a secondary running back jumps to the forefront of concerns for Big Blue. The Giants replace “Wind” with “Thunder” as they pick up the next best runner available.

 

30.  Vontae Davis, CB Illinois


Analysis : When you look at the moves Tennessee has made this offseason, you have to start with the loss of Albert Hanesworth. What made the Titans so good was their ability to generate pressure with their front 4 and play excellent coverage on the back end. No Hanesworth means less pressure which creates addition pressure on their secondary. The Titans select Vontae Davis to alleviate some of that pressure now and start in place of Nick Harper (34) later.

 

31.  Michael Johnson, DE/OLB Georgia Tech


Analysis : Arizona defied all odds and shocked the football world last year on their way to a rare Super Bowl appearance. After losing Antonio Smith to free agency this off season, the Cardinals look to bolster their defensive line. With the second to last pick in the first round, Arizona accomplishes just that by selecting the highly intriguing Georgia Tech prospect – Michael Johnson.

 

32.  Max Unger, OL Oregon


Analysis : The Steelers select Max Unger.

 


 

So there it is. Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Feedback is appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 11, 2009 4:07 am
Edited on: March 11, 2009 5:12 am
 

Cleveland Browns Dynamic Duo?

Montana and Rice .

Goose and Maverick .

Mike Freeman and Greg Doyel .

The thing that makes every great duo special is the sacred reliance each member has on their respective counterpart. Joe Montana's greatest never transcends the pages of history without Jerry Rice making acrobatic catches downfield. Take Goose away from Maverick and he becomes another hot-shot pilate gunned down out of the sky. Without Greg Doyel as the punch line of Mike Freeman's jokes...well...I'd rather not imagine the consequences.

 

The Cleveland Browns' management pair of Eric Mangini and George Kokinis (affectionately known as "ManKok") may not be as proven as their counterparts, but they certainly have the makings of another historic duo. With the recent free agent signings coming out of Berea, one has to question whether this duo...really is a duo at all.

Just how much "Kok" goes into the "ManKok" regime?

The Browns have signed a total of four free agents this offseason (LB David Bowens, DB Hank Poteat, TE Robert Royal, and DT C.J. Mosley). Out of the four, Bowens, Poteat, and Mosley all played under Eric Mangini in New York. The fourth, Robert Royal, played against Mangini two times each season in his three year tenure with the Buffalo Bills. While nothing in the NFL can be assumed with 100 percent certainty, it looks like Mangini alone, not Kokinis, was responsible for the recent additions to the Cleveland Browns' roster.

On the surface, everything seems to be working out just fine. All four players are high character veterans who understand Mangini's system and appear willing to buy in. Both the head coach and GM are saying the right things, and the Browns appear to be moving in the right direction.

...or are they?

We've seen this before from failed regimes of the past. Whenever the dominant member of the head coach/GM tandem is wrong, the franchise takes a step in the wrong direction. Butch Davis and Phil Savage were not united with their respective partners in crime, and the decision-making process suffered as a result. In each instance, both men signed players they knew on a personal level while neglecting various second opinions along the way. Each series of such moves turned out to be catastrophic, and the Cleveland Browns suffered as a result.

Now it is possible George Kokinis played an active role with Mangini in signing all four players. It is possible Kokinis and Mangini reviewed free agents together and collectively decided on landing these ex-Jets. It is even possible Kokinis came to such a conclusion himself and Eric Mangini simply went along with it

Possible, but not probable.

Everything rumored to be true about Eric Mangini indicates that this will be his football team. Mangini's personal media lockdown of the comes from the Belichickian school of censorship. Mangini's head-strong personality coupled with the mild-mannered nature of a rookie GM screams out dictatorship. The order in which the two men were hired leaves no room for partnership. As the days go by it's becoming clear just who is steering this ship, and there seems to be only one captain.

Even if this duo isn't quite as dynamic as originally intended, there is no reason for Browns fans to panic. "NFL Monarchies" have worked in the past and continue to do so today. Patriots' coach Bill Belichick may be surrounded with good football people, but when it comes down to it, he alone has final say on all team decisions. Cowboys' owner/president/GM/czar Jerry Jones has done an adequate job fielding a competitive football team over the years, and he too gives the final word on all football operations. As former monarch Bill Parcells constantly likes to remind us: who better to shop for the ingredients than the cook of the meal himself? It is very possible for Mangini to follow his predecessors in re-building the Browns with complete authority over the football decision-making process

Eric Mangini has put his royal fingerprints all over the Cleveland Browns. The Mangini/Kokinis tandem has definitely shown us more "Man" than "Kok," but all hope is not yet lost. It remains to be seen how effective this regime will function, but we know this much is for certain - a great deal of the burden will fall upon the well-rounded shoulders of a fourth-year football coach.

They might not be Sanford and Son , but if new Browns management can succeed where others have failed, they will be praised and revered.

And that couple might be the most important pairing of them all.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 1, 2009 10:36 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2009 10:37 pm
 

No Flurry for these Browns

In Cleveland, Ohio, early March is normally a season filled with flurries.


Every year around this time, scattered snow flurries refuse to acknowledge the beginnings of the warm spring months. The Cleveland Indians play in a flurry of irrelevant spring training games while the Browns kick off free agency by making a flurry of moves.


This year in Cleveland, something definitely unusual and I’m not talking about the white stuff on the ground.


For the first time since their reincarnation into the league in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have withstood the devilish temptations of free agency and stood firm in their organizational philosophy.


Browns rookie general manager George Kokinis knows the period of these past few days very well. Kokinis spent the last five seasons working as the director of pro personnel for the Baltimore Ravens under Ozzie Newsome. Part of his job in Baltimore included compiling and analyzing detailed information about prospective free agents. His contributions to free agency helped Baltimore land players such as special teams standout Brandon Ayanbadejo and talented cover corner Samari Rolle. For a man with such as strong background in player personnel, last Friday’s beginning of NFL free agency should have been like Christmas to the George Kokinis.


Instead, it was just another day at the office.

As of today, Kokinis and the Browns have yet to sign a single free agent. In fact, since the “Ko-genius” regime has arrived in Berea, the Browns have done nothing but release, cut or trade pieces of last year’s 4-12 football team. This conservative approach toward free agency comes in stark contrast to that used by the previous Browns’ regime. Former GM Phil Savage relied heavily upon free agency – signing high profile veterans in each of his 4 seasons with the team. The limited success he garnered was marred in inconsistency – as many of his signings never lived up to the lofty expectations that come with high-priced contracts.

 

George Kokinis and head coach Eric Mangini understand the proper way to run a football organization. Building a winning football team in professional football’s free agency era comes through a solid draft and astute salary cap management. Without these two things, a football team is doomed to mediocrity and inconsistency. Although it is still early, the Browns appear on their way to striking the perfect balance of both.


Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make. George Kokinis and the Browns’ coaching staff should be commended thus far for avoiding the pitfalls of expensive veteran players. If new Browns management continues to exert good judgment and temperance, Clevelanders will have a flurry of something new to look forward to this fall:

Wins.

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com