Tag:Cleveland Browns
Posted on: October 6, 2011 9:11 pm

What is happening with Cleveland and Hillis?

HillisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

The Peyton Hillis saga in Cleveland is getting rather sticky.

The running back, as you probably remember, missed Week 3 because of strep throat, but reports soon surfaced that speculated that Hillis actually didn’t play as a protest because of a contract dispute.

Although the Browns apparently are working hard to sign Hillis, he’s still playing for $600,000 this year, and obviously, he feels that’s not enough (after what he accomplished last year, he makes a good point). And to make matters a little more sketchy, his agent cautioned him not to perform if he wasn’t 100 percent, fearing it would hurt his career and his potential free agent value.

“I would give him the same advice to him or any of my clients as if he were my son,” Kennard McGuire told the Associated Press (H/T to PFT). “"The game is physical enough, and the way Peyton plays the game, he needs all the elements of his physical game. Him being sick, and the level of his sickness, is the equivalent of being injured.

"Not only could he have hurt himself but he could have hurt his team. Nobody embodies Cleveland like Peyton Hillis. If anyone wants to point a finger, point it at me."

So, when Hillis returned to action in Week 4 in a 31-13 loss to the Titans, he only received 10 carries. Which meant we could ask coach Pat Shurmur if he was mad at Hillis and we could ask Hillis if he felt like the Browns were trying to devalue his worth by keeping his stats artificially low.

Said Hillis: "Take it up with the coach. I'm just running the plays that he tells me to do. I'm just riding the tide and waiting my chances and opportunities and trying to get things done when I can."

Then, on Thursday night, he tweeted this: “if I could have physically played against the Dolphins I would have. I love this city and hope to retire here.”

Said Shurmur: “It's a non-issue."

 Yet, obviously it is an issue and probably will continue to be an issue until Hillis gets a new deal or leaves for somewhere else (this is the final year of his rookie contract). So, what does it all mean? The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi explains:

“I think the coach is somewhat frustrated by all the attention the issue has received. I think Shurmur did believe Hillis was sick. I think Shurmur's play-calling and use of Montario Hardesty is not about "punishing" Hillis or trying to hype up the value of Hardesty. I think Shurmur simply called a bad game when it came to handling his running backs.”

Maybe so, but this issue might not be settled for a while, particularly if, as Grossi says, that Hillis’ next step could be to demand a trade. And it very well could get even uglier, especially if Hillis continues to listen to McGuire’s advice. But considering Hillis is on his third agent in four months (!), there’s a pretty good chance Hillis’ next representative might have a completely different tone anyway.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 11:43 am

Did Hillis' contract affect his decision to play?

                                                                                                                                                                                        (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

This should go over well, either with Browns running back Peyton Hillis or his teammates, but ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that there are whispers in the Cleveland locker room that Hillis' decision to miss last week's game against the Dolphins might have had more to do with the new contract he's looking for than the strep throat that was the official reason he didn't play.

Hillis currently makes $600,000, and given that he's one of the Browns' few offensive weapons and one of the most dynamic running backs in the league, he's certainly deserving of a raise. But it's not just people in the locker room raising eyebrows, former players were critical of Hillis earlier in the week.

The man whose face dons the cover of Madden 12 spoke to the criticism Thursday. “The people that really care about me, and want the best for me would understand,” Hillis said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot. “And the people that don’t, then they don’t. But I can’t control that. And I’m going to do what’s best for me at that point. If it’s going to jeopardize my health in that situation, I’m going to take my own career and my own life in my own hands and do the best I can.”

Two days before the regular-season opener, team president Mike Holmgren confirmed to the Associated Press that the Browns were "trying like crazy" to sign Hillis.  "We're always trying to keep all of our good young players," Holmgren said through a team spokesman.

And Hillis, at the time, sounded like a player focused on the upcoming season. "When the Browns want to extend me, they'll extend me," he said. "I'm going to do my part and play hard and do what I can do to make myself a better player."

Now, almost a month later, some former players -- and allegedly some teammates -- wonder if Hillis' motives extend beyond his health. Given the way the man plays the game, we find that hard to believe.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:58 pm

Shaun Smith vs. Mack remind us of painful days

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Shaun Smith has been called many names throughout his playing career. He’s been called a loafer, a trash-talker and he’s been called the Hamburglar (you can see why in this piece).

But one thing he’ll insist that he’s not: that is a nutcracker.

That was the accusation made last year by Browns center Alex Mack and 49ers tackle Anthony Davis in back-to-back weeks when they said Smith grabbed … well … um … you see … OK …  their junk (you can see the latter incident in the video below).

"I don't think he should be able to do that," Mack said at the time. "I'm still fired up about it."

And the next week, Davis had this reaction: “He tried to feel me. That’s weird, right?”

Not weird enough, apparently, to pay a fine or be disciplined in any way whatsoever, and now that Smith and the Titans will face Mack and the Browns in Cleveland, the subject of how testy Smith plays has returned.

“You can’t believe everything you hear,” Smith told the Tennessean. “The league sorted it all out -- no fine.”

Grabbing dudes wasn’t the only nefarious activity in which Smith allegedly participated during his Browns career. He supposedly punched teammate Brady Quinn in the face, and less than a year later, he was released by coach Eric Mangini after getting into an altercation with Bryan Cox at practice.

But for Smith these days, everything is cool.

“I was a little bitter when they let me go because of the situation with the new regime, but I look at everything as funny now because (Mangini), and the situation with Brady Quinn, they aren’t there any more either,” Smith said. “So to me, I got the best of it. I got the last laugh at the end of the day.”

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 9:08 am
Edited on: September 27, 2011 9:49 am

Hillis back at work and feeling better

HillisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the more surprising inactives from Sunday was Cleveland’s loss of Peyton Hillis because of strep throat. Although he had to miss practice last Friday, Browns coach Pat Shurmur expressed plenty of optimism that Hillis would be feeling fine by Sunday afternoon.

He was wrong, as became clear when a stadium valet fetched Hillis’ car a few hours before kickoff, and the Browns running back took off for home.

Apparently, he felt better Monday, showing up for work and participating in team meetings.

Shurmur told reporters, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Hillis spent Saturday night at the team hotel and that he hoped a good night’s sleep would cure him of his ills.

"He was in all the meetings,'' Shurmur said. "He was getting better. He got really sick in the middle of the week, then he was getting better, so he was at the team hotel on Saturday night. We were hoping he’d get a good night's sleep and then get better. Then it didn’t happen. We were going through the process of getting him ready to play and he felt like he couldn’t go. I made the comment yesterday, with his illness, I felt like if he couldn’t play, the best thing for him to do was go home and get better.”

Surprisingly, the Browns did just fine without him. Montario Hardesty (14 carries, 67 yards) was solid, and somehow, Cleveland survived the Dolphins for its first win of the season. But yeah, the Browns wouldn’t mind having Hillis back in the lineup anyway, and it looks like that's exactly what they'll get for next Sunday.

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Posted on: September 25, 2011 11:08 am

Peyton Hillis out; Hardesty will get start

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Browns running back Peyton Hillis has been battling strep throat since late last week, and scribes in Cleveland today have reported that Hillis didn’t look well and that, at about 10:30 a.m. or so, he  jumped into his car and drove away from the stadium.

Now, it’s official. According to many published reports, Hillis is out for today. Montario Hardesty will start in his place.

Hillis didn’t practice Friday with the illness, but the Browns held out hope he could improve his health in time for today’s game vs. the Dolphins. Said Pat Shurmer on Friday: "He just wasn't feeling well. It just happens this time of year. ... We don't feel like it's going to affect him on Sunday. My thoughts are that he'll be there." 

That obviously has not happened.

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:49 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 8:24 pm

Former NFL lineman Orlando Brown dies at 40

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Orlando Brown died Friday at the age of 40. Police told Baltimore's WJZ that Brown was found dead inside his home and there were no signs of foul play.

"Our heartfelt condolences to the family of Orlando Brown, his three sons," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. "I think everybody knows what he meant to this organization. He's still a big part of us. He's been coming around a lot, working with some of our young players. We're forever grateful just for what he did for the Ravens organization and what he did for the present team. We just can't express our sorrow enough."

Former teammate Terrell Suggs added that "He was a beast on the field but a gentle giant off. It's unfortunate he had to leave us so young." 

Brown played for 11 NFL seasons, though he's probably best remembered for an incident that took place during a December 1999 Jaguars-Browns game. Referee Jeff Triplette accidentally hit Brown in the eye with a weighted penalty flag. Triplette apologized, although the injury forced Brown from the game. As he made his way to the locker room, Brown ran back on the field and shoved Triplette to the ground.

Brown was ejected from the game and and the NFL later suspended him for his actions. A year later and still suffering from the injury, Cleveland released Brown two years into a six-year, $27 million contract. He ended up suing the league for damages.

But CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman warns that we shouldn't let one play define Brown's career.

"Brown wasn't without flaws just like the rest of us but he shouldn't be remembered for that one incident," Freeman writes. "Remember him in total context. A great offensive lineman who never quit, who never stopped, had the unending loyalty of his teammates, long after he left football, and was one of the NFL's great fighters."

Brown returned to the NFL in 2003 with the Ravens. He retired following the 2005 season.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 3:32 pm

Film Room: Colts vs. Browns preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Sometime around Thanksgiving, the Indianapolis Colts will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. By that point, their demise will have been dissected more times than the Roman Empire's. The general consensus will be that the absence of Peyton Manning (neck surgery) did them in.

Is it that simple? Actually, yes. We weren’t kidding all those years when we said this is a 12-win team with Manning and a six-win team without him.

However, many believe that the Manning-less Colts stink because they don’t have a guy audibling them into the perfect play call or throwing darts all over the field. This logic is sensible but also incomplete.
Instead of spending the next two months hashing out how bad the Colts are without Manning, and instead of putting up with all the armchair GM’s who crow that the rest of the Colts organization deserves some of the blame because “There are 52 other players on the roster!”, let’s be proactive and understand why, exactly, the loss of Manning dooms one of the most successful franchises in all of professional sports.

Then, we can move on and worry about the NFL’s 31 other teams.

1. Offensive Line Masking
The Colts have long had a below average offensive line. That comes as no surprise, really; with only a few exceptions (mainly at left tackle) Bill Polian has always turned to former sixth-and seventh-rounders or undrafted players to play up front.

That’s largely why Indy has been able to eat the heavy cost of having virtually all long-tenured first-rounders at the skill positions over the years (Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark).

Polian knew he could get away with a sub-par front five because his quarterback is brilliant in getting rid of the ball quickly and moving in the pocket. No quarterback over the years has made better use of the three-step drop than Manning, and no quarterback (aside from maybe Tom Brady) has better footwork in adjusting to pass-rushers.

Consequently, Manning has been sacked an average of only once per game in his 13-year career, which is about half the amount of a normal quarterback. When Manning does take a sack, it’s usually a result of execution, not misdiagnosing a defense. Thus, the hits never surprise him, which is why he almost never fumbles.

Last Sunday, Kerry Collins took three sacks and lost two fumbles.

2. The Run Game
Manning’s pre-snap adjustments did two things for the run game: They ensure that the Colts would always run to the favorable side (Manning decides at the line whether the run will be to the left or to the right) and it means the Colts run the ball out of the same personnel packages and formations from which they throw.

This prevents defenses from tracking Indy’s tendencies. It also creates a constant threat of throwing, which instills an inkling of hesitation in linebackers or safeties dropping into the box (hesitation always makes players jittery, which is partly why Manning’s play-action is so effective).

All of this prevents defenses from loading up and taking advantage of Indy’s undersized and ungifted offensive line. This often saves the Colts; when they’ve gotten away from the run-pass threat (such as in short-yardage situations), their futile ground game always has been exposed.

But now, this threat is gone, and there’s no reliable ground game to fall back on. Joseph Addai is at his best running out of passing sets (think draw plays) and Donald Brown is at his best running against college competition.

3. Helping the wideouts
The best kept secret in all of Indiana last year was that Reggie Wayne was slowing down. The numbers didn’t show it, but the film did. Wayne was not the same downfield threat he once was. He didn’t have the same burst in his redirection or tempo changes. Teams with good cornerbacks stopped rotating safety help to his side of the field. This changed the outlook for Indy’s other route combinations and forced the Colts to throw more underneath and inside.

Manning was able to recognize Wayne’s decline and adjust by either spreading the ball around or hitting Wayne earlier in his routes (when awareness and presnap alignment are more prevalent than physical execution). This is why Wayne’s yards per catch dipped to a career-low 12.2. Hitting a receiver earlier in the route isn’t normally an option, but Manning has uncanny chemistry with his wideouts (Wayne in particular).

This kind of chemistry can’t be replicated – no matter how savvy the hoary Kerry Collins might be. It’s chemistry that derives from a quarterback working with his receivers for several years and offseasons, and, more importantly, from working out of the same system all that time. Over the years the Colts have tailored their system more and more to Manning.

Even if Collins were intimately familiar with Indy’s system (which he’s not), it still wouldn’t click perfectly because it’s a system that’s custom designed for someone else. And, as we’ve already discussed, that someone else has pocket movement skills that 99.9 percent of the world’s other quarterbacks don’t have.

Without Manning’s timing and vision, Colts receivers now have to learn a new definition of "getting open."

4. The defense
The Colts have always had an undersized defense built on speed. It centers around the edge-rushing abilities of the defensive ends. Generally, as long as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are potent, Indy’s other nine defenders just need to soundly execute basic zone concepts.

A zone-based scheme behind a traditional four-man pass-rush is the type of defense you construct when you plan on playing with a lead. More than that, it’s the type you construct when you plan on playing minimal snaps. The Colts have gotten by with having small linebackers because they’ve had an offense that can consistently sustain drives and allow those small linebackers to always be fresh.

It’s easy to say now that the Colts should have been building a stronger defense in recent years. But the salary cap doesn’t allow for that. Polian probably would have re-signed more linebackers and cornerbacks or brought in more defensive free agents…except he had to pay Manning.

5. Relevance to this week
Indianapolis’ laundry list of limitations may not be as problematic in Week 2 as it will be the rest of the season.

Many pundits peeked at the Browns’ soft early-season schedule and determined that Pat Shurmur’s club would get off to a fast start. But one of the 10,000 or so reasons that pro football is better than college football is that with pro football, you can’t simply look at a schedule and accurately predict what a team’s record will be six weeks down the road. There’s too much talent on every team, and too many dimensions to each matchup.

The Browns are amidst a massive rebuilding project – their fifth one since returning to the NFL, by the way – and might not match up well to Indy’s style. Defensively, Cleveland’s new 4-3 scheme lacks the pass-rushing talent to exploit the Colts’ subpar offensive line. The Browns linebackers also had some trouble identifying underneath route combinations against the Bengals last week – something the Colts, with Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, can surely take advantage of.

Offensively, Pat Shurmur is carefully managing Colt McCoy’s mental workload. Virtually every downfield pass Cleveland attempted in Week 1 came off some sort of play-action or rollout. In play-action and rollouts, the quarterback’s reads are naturally defined, as he only has to scan half the field. It’s a smart tactic, but it will be dicey to execute against the speed of the Colts defensive ends. Look for the Browns to ram the ball with Peyton Hillis. They’ll have to survive with one-dimensionality.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 2:37 pm

Mangini talks about Belichick, Spygate regrets

Eric Mangini has 'a lot of regrets' about the whole Spygate thing. We suspect Bill Belichick does too. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Eric Mangini owes much of his professional success to Bill Belichick, dating back to the mid '90s when the former was a ball boy in Cleveland and the latter was a coach. In 2000, Belichick hired Mangini as a defensive backs coach in New England. In February 2005, as the Patriots were preparing to face the Eagles in the Super Bowl (their third trip since the 2001 season), the New York Daily News profiled Mangini's ascension up the coaching ranks.

"As defensive backs coach for the Patriots this year, Mangini oversaw the rebuilding and fortification of a decimated secondary, using spare parts," the Daily News' Hank Gola noted. "With Romeo Crennel expected to leave after Super Bowl XXXIX to take a long-awaited head coaching job with the Browns, Mangini is the odds-on candidate to take over as defensive coordinator. That's if there isn't a bidding war for his services.

"Know this, however: When the Raiders offered him their coordinator's job last season, he turned it down to stay on Belichick's staff.

"'It just wasn't the right time personally or professionally for the opportunity,' the baby-faced 34-year-old said. 'I was really happy where I was and I thought it was the best decision for my family and myself. I've really enjoyed where I am. I love the organization and being part of it.'"

Mangini was promoted to defensive coordinator a few weeks after the Super Bowl, and in 2006, he took the Jets head coaching job. That's where things took a turn for the worse. During the 2007 Week 1 matchup against the Patriots, Mangini accused Belichick of videotaping the Jets' defensive signals, the league investigated, and eventually fined Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000, and took their 2008 first-round pick for good measure.

Needless to say, things were a little awkward between Belichick and Mangini after that.

Mangini was fired by the Jets in 2008, and lasted just two seasons in Cleveland before landing a gig as an ESPN analyst.  During a radio interview Tuesday with Boston radio's WEEI, Mangini talked about Spygate and his relationship with Belichick.

"It's one of those things where the end result wasn't the goal," Mangini said of the scandal. "I owe so much to Bill, I appreciate what he's done for me and my intention was never to hurt him or the [Patriots] organization, the Kraft family. Yeah, there's a lot of regrets, I didn't want to hurt him or the Patriots by any stretch."

Sounds nice, but we imagine Belichick has a tough time buying that given the way things played out back in '07. As for how things are between the two, Mangini said, "Probably like the New England defense, it's a work in progress."

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