Welcome to my world.....

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear Peyton Hillis, Can I trust you?

Dear Peyton,

I read today that you would like to sign a long term contract with the Browns. That you really love being in Cleveland. That you said this team, this city, represents who you are. My question is simple: Can I trust you?

You've been here long enough to know about the trials and tribulations that we, Cleveland Sports Fans, have been through over the years. We've had people tell us they loved us, wanted to be here forever, wanted to "win us a ring." And then they left. And a little piece of my heart died each time.

I try not to be bitter. I still love my teams and try to maintain a hopeful attitude as each season begins. Sometimes I vent my frustrations with the players that have betrayed us, but always there is love for the team behind it.

I still buy game tickets and t-shirts repping the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers. I bought "Madden 12" for my husband (Shh - don't tell him. It's a surprise). I still believe. But I only own two players jerseys. I have #32 BROWN jersey for the great Jim Brown; a legend in this town no matter what has gone on in recent years. And I have the #17 VAREJAO that my daughters had made for me three years ago for Mother's Day. They had to have it custom-made because he wasn't popular enough at that time to warrant his own spot in the nba.com store inventory. My daughters totally get me.

I've tried to live the cliche: "Root for the team on the front of the shirt, not the name on the back." But you tempt me. Oh, you tempt me to run out and buy #40 jerseys for my whole family. You tempt me to believe that this one time, a player really does love us and wants to be here and a part of us for his whole career. That we matter to someone. But I don't think I could survive the pain if you left, like so many before you.

It doesn't matter if you are chasing a ring or cashing in for big money, rejection is still rejection. And, right or wrong, we take that personally. That is just part and parcel with this town. We can't understand things like "It's just business" because this is personal for us.

So I'm asking you: Can I trust you? Will you stay as long as the Browns Front Office wants you? Will you be a part of this town, this team? Will you proudly wear the brown & orange?

Will your break my heart?

Respectfully Submitted,

K8 - Cleveland sports fan

Friday, August 26, 2011

The "Reid" Rule or "How Throwing a Red Flag Cost Me 15 Yards"

Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Defense. 15 yard penalty.

What? What did I miss? (rewinding DVR) I'm watching the TD play. I don't see any defenders making contact afterwards. I don't see any defenders acting a fool on the field. Wait - what did the announcer just say? The penalty is on Head Coach Andy Reid? Well heck, what did he do, punch an offensive player? No? He threw the Red Challenge Flag? I'm so confused.

TE Alex Smith made a great catch on a pass from Seneca Wallace that was batted around a bit. He caught, tucked, and rolled with the ball and the refs signaled touchdown. The TV camera angle showed him from behind so I was not at all surprised to see the Red Challenge Flag come flying from the Eagles sidelines. Even though it's preseason, the review crew needs practice too.
But apparently, that was the wrong call.

On his attempt to have a Cleveland touchdown reception reviewed which led to a 15-yard penalty and the play not being reviewed:

"I blew that one. The tough thing is that the referee has a little buzzer on him. The kicker is getting ready to kick the (extra point) and you're hoping that the referee knows the rule (that all scoring plays are automatically reviewed). I shouldn't have thrown (the challenge flag), but when you see someone step out of bounds, you expect the review to happen right now. You're sitting there waiting, and waiting. It's a new rule, and we're learning with it, so I should have just held onto the flag."

Along with the stupid new kickoff rule (don't even get me started on the emasculation of the national football league), there is a rule in place starting this year that ALL scoring plays are now Booth Review Only. Great. Awesome. Love it. But god forbid that after 19 years of coaching in the NFL you forget for just a moment and grab your Red Flag and whip it out there.... or you'll get a 15 yard penalty! Oy. How about a warning for the first offense? 15 yards is WAY harsh - even for the Browns opponent - on something that had nothing to do with the actual game. Again I'll say it. Oy.

I love the Booth Review for all Scores rule. Too many times the Red Flags have made a difference in the game. Instant Replay is important because we all want the same thing: to get it right. Whether the call goes for or against your favorite team, we all really just want it to be the RIGHT call. So as a coach, it must be hard to decide the throw the flag, knowing that you only get a limited number of challenges. Knowing that a bad challenge now could mean giving up a bad TD later that you CAN'T challenge. You have to weigh the risk/reward of every Challenge when you really just want the calls to be right. So I love the new rule. All scores will be reviewed by the booth. Yeah, most won't need review. But at least in the 4th quarter with the game on the line, I won't be crying in my beer because Mangini wasted a call on some stupid incomplete pass that wouldn't have given us the first down anyway (sorry, still have a bit of PTSD from last year).

So at the end of the day, it's obvious that the preseason isn't just for players to get back into the groove of playing the game. It's also for the officials to practice blowing calls and for the coaching staff to get smacked on the hand for not remembering the brand new rules. Yes, it's their job to know the rules. I totally get that. All I'm saying is that when you change something that had previously been such an ingrained habit - question the call, throw the flag - that you need to give people a bit of a break. A warning during the preseason would have been nice.

But then again, Football is not Nice. And I'm willing to bet that this is one of those calls that only gets made once. Meaning - Andy Reid learned a powerful lesson last night - one that ALL Head Coaches in the NFL will be talking about today. And I don't think we will see it called again for the rest of the season. Sometimes the harsh lessons are the ones that people all learn from.

Respectfully Submitted,


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Making Sense of the Pryor situation

Today, the NFL announced that Terrelle Pryor will be eligible for the 2011 Supplemental Draft, but that his NCAA imposed five game suspension will be carried over into the NFL season. If he is taken, he can practice until week 1 and then cannot play or practice until after week 5. And people are losing their minds. Since I can't get all of my thoughts into 140 characters or less, I'll do it here.

The Supplemental Draft was set up for two main reasons: to help players who missed the filing deadline for the regular draft or because issues developed which affected their eligibility to play college football. And that second reason is what we have here. The NCAA suspended Pryor for the first five games of the 2011 season due to tattoo-gate last year. Now here is where it gets sticky. For all intents and purposes, Pryor intended to return to OSU and sit out that suspension. I can deduce this by the fact that he did not declare for the regular draft.

So why the supplemental draft? What changed? Reports are out that the NCAA was still digging into Pryor's activities at OSU. Players are required to submit bank records to the NCAA if asked. According to reports, Pryor was asked and submitted those records and then promptly began talking about the supplemental draft. Hmmm. This makes me think he was concerned about further sanctions. Either way, the NCAA hasn't actually charged him with anything or given him any sanctions. This means his playing situation and eligibility have not changed. This means he is not eligible for the supplemental draft. Period.

And yet Pryor petitioned the NFL for entry and the NFL postponed the supplemental draft to review his case and meet with him. And today we have the decision: Pryor will be allowed to enter the supplemental draft but he will have to serve his 5 game NCAA imposed suspension. Either Roger Goodell has taken the "God" in his name to heart or the NFL is taking the recent NCAA scandals into account and are laying the groundwork for a future partnership with the NCAA. Maybe I'm giving the NFL too much credit, but I think that is where they are heading.

We can all agree that the NCAA is a big moneymaker. Most of us would also agree that there is something unbalanced in the NCAA making all this money while the players are living under strict financial rules. This is not the time and place for my opinions on paying players or the NCAA rules, but it is the situation the NCAA is living in. The NFL admittedly uses the NCAA as a minor league system; letting players grow and learn while scouts use their games to create lists of potential NFL stars. At some point, it is only natural for them to form some kind of partnership, even if only in spirit.

When a player is found guilty of committing NCAA violations, he and the university are punished. However, if the player is good enough, he can escape this punishment by declaring for the NFL draft. No harm no foul to him. But the university still faces the loss of scholarships or bowl games. Wait - what? Reggie Busch is a good example of a player who was already out of school and playing in the NFL when penalties were assessed. USC is still paying the price for Busch's activities and he is living the big life. Yes, USC shares the blame for what went on, for not monitoring or reporting, but should their penalties outlast those of the players? Maybe. As an institution they should have the higher responsibility. But where is the deterrent for players to follow the rules?

For those concerned about "setting precedents" and "slippery slopes" keep this in mind: negotiated entry into the supplemental draft as a new rule ONLY affects a future players eligibility to enter the supplemental draft. Goodell didn't grab a current player and punish him for past sins. He didn't grab a player getting ready for the regular draft and tell him HE would have to suffer any NCAA sanctions that had already been imposed on him. Simple answer: to avoid NFL game suspension, file for the draft before the deadline. Yeah, it's just that easy.

Perhaps if the threat of NCAA sanctions following a player into the NFL becomes a reality, they will start turning down yacht rides and hookers, stop trading memorabilia for tattoos, stop taking free cars... (it could happen)

Perhaps the NFL wants to help keep the NCAA clean of the influence of unscrupulous characters who will lure unsuspecting players into the sordid life of girls, gambling, and ponzi schemes.... (not bloody likely)

Or, Perhaps the NFL sees the hypocrisy of the NCAA rules and by taking this action, will get the NFLPA into the fight to help force the NCAA to take another look at the system and come up with something that makes the college football business more balanced for both sides.... (I kinda like the conspiracy-theory in this one)

At the end of the day, Pryor really is not eligible for the supplemental draft. No amount of whining by him or his attorney can change that. Roger Goodell's offer to let him in but keep his 5 game suspension is a compromise Pryor must have agreed to or else the NFL statement would have simply said he remains ineligible. Maybe Pryor fans, instead of complaining, should be grateful that they only have to wait until week 6 for the chance to see him play again instead of an entire year.

Then again, what do I know. I could just be a biased Buckeye Honk. (and proud of it)

Respectfully Submitted,


Friday, August 12, 2011

Fantasy Football is no place for "Homers!"

It’s that time of year – yep, Fantasy Football Draft parties are starting next week. And frenzied managers are looking all over the internet for tips and tricks to get the best players in their league.

Well, I would just like to remind everyone that: Fantasy Football is no place for “Homers!”

I’m a “Homer.” I love the Cleveland Browns and think that they can win every week. I cheer for them and talk trash with my friends that are fans of other teams. And believe me, there’s lots of trash-talk - especially during Browns-Steelers week. That is my Holy Week… a week of name calling and bad jokes and crazy bets.

I’m much more practical when it comes to Fantasy Football. I’d love to have a few Browns players on my roster so that when they win on Sunday I also score a ton of points in my league. And I don’t want any Steeler or Ravens on my team because I just can’t root for them to do well. It’s a dilemma. But lucky for me, there’s plenty of talent in the NFL so I can field a pretty good team without any Steelers or Ravens.

If I put my “homer” status aside, are there any Browns that are truly worth picking up in Fantasy Football? And what about actually starting? I’m here to tell you there are 3 that should be starting in every Fantasy Football league, and a few more guys that could turn out to be starters by the end of the season, or at least good bye-week replacements.

The Obvious first choice is Peyton Hillis. Cleveland’s own Madden cover-boy is ranked 4th best RB overall in most of the online stat comparison’s I’ve seen from last year. With Hardesty still recovering from the knee injury, Hillis will be sharing carries with Brandon Jackson.
While Jackson looks to be a good 3rd down back, Hillis should still be getting the majority of the carries as well as the goal line shots so his fantasy numbers will remain strong this year.

Next, and this one may surprise you, is Phil Dawson. This is a team with a new Head Coach learning a new offensive scheme in a shortened practice season. I anticipate it will take them a while to get everything clicking so in the meantime; Dawson’s field goal kicking will be a big part of the offense.

Finally, at tight end we have Ben Watson and Evan Moore. While Ben did well with the fantasy points last year, Moore has been burning up training camp. He’s clicking with Colt McCoy and is showing that he wants to be the man this year. The Browns also have some questionable talent in the wide receiving group, so while they are sorting that out, the tight ends will be the “go to” guys for Colt on his progressions. Watson is the smart choice for a fantasy starter but Moore is a great pick up if you want to hedge your bets for later in the season.

As a “homer” I hope and pray that Colt McCoy becomes fantasy gold. But this year if you want to take a chance, pick him up in later rounds. This offense could start clicking mid-season and you might find you’ve got a good bye-week or injury replacement. Also, if he does prove to be the QB of the future, he would make a good Keeper for next year. As for Josh Cribbs, it’s hard to know exactly how he will be used this year. As a kick returner? With the new NFL rules on kicks I don’t see many opportunities for the big run-back for a TD so that hurts Cribb’s value. As a WR? Too risky for me. But again, he is a guy you could grab in round 14 and hold on to “just in case.”

So to all you wannabe NFL Managers out there… don’t overlook the Browns.
Don’t assume that because they’ve been knocked down to the 28th position in the NFL power rankings that they don’t have a few stud players. Because they do. And that should give all “Homers” like me the hope that the Browns have some great pieces to build around and that the future is nothing but bright for the team and all of my fellow “Homers.”

Respectfully Submitted,


Monday, August 8, 2011

Really, how important IS the QB in the NFL?

Colt McCoy. #12. Camp Colt. Rookie. Longhorn. Future. Or should that one be Future "?". This year will decide Colt's fate as a starter in the NFL and as the future of the Cleveland Browns. Head Coach Pat Shurmer has named Colt the starting QB. This has fans debating the need for a veteran WR to be picked up in free agency. They are also saying that we'd have a better chance to win with Seneca Wallace taking snaps. I take more of a long-term view of this season, and a more realistic one.

Let's first face the reality that this team, no matter how much we love them, is not going to the Super Bowl this year. There, I said it. Not gonna happen. And that's ok. No, it's not ok that the Browns can't dominate the AFC but it is ok that I can see this team for who they are, that I can see the direction Holmgren and Heckert are moving in, that I can "drink the koolaid" and see a future where the Browns are a team that makes me proud.

As long as they are making progress, I'm willing to give them a little more time for this rebuilding process. I understand the frustration with the word "rebuilding." Heck, we've been doing it since 1999! That is unacceptable, and yet I feel that we are finally getting the right people in the right places at the top to create our dynasty. One of the keys to doing that is selecting the right QB, or at least that's what everyone tells me.

Having Seneca Wallace or Jarrett Brown start doesn't make sense. I've heard the argument that "Seneca gives us the best chance to win now." Fine, so we win 8 games, finish 8-8 and in third place in our division and... what? Season over. But what did we learn? What do we know about the team for next year, or about Colt McCoy? How do we enter next year's draft without knowing if we have our QB of the future? We don't. Colt has to play this year to we can figure out exactly what we have. And we have to give them time to learn the West Coast Offense to see if that is the right scheme for this group of players. And if we are lucky, Holmgren-Heckert-Shurmur have come up with the right formula of players and game plans and we are going to see some great things going forward.

Picking up an veteran WR in free agency sounds great. Give Colt a set of sure hands to catch his passes and evaluate his skills. And give us fans some wins. But at what cost? How much are we willing to pay for a rent-a-receiver for the year? A WR isn't the final piece we need to get to the playoffs... it'd be very nice, but it's really not necessary. Sorry, but that's the reality of this team. I once argued for getting a WR - Derrick Mason in particular. However, you can still evaluate Colt's skills without great WR's. You can still judge his accuracy, his arm strength, his leadership while guys are dropping balls. And you can judge the guys currently on the roster. This receiving core needs to be evaluated as well. As a fan I think it is going to make for some bad games. But it's still the truth. We are rebuilding and this is part of the process.

I decided to do a little research and looked at the past five seasons in the NFL, 2006-2010. I looked at wins, loses, playoffs, and the number of QB's to start each game. STARTING QB. Not everyone who took a snap. Just Starters. Well surprise surprise - we are not the worst team in the NFL! Oh, it's close, but still.... three teams in worse shape than us!

Detroit Lions 23% wins, 6 QB's, 0 super bowls
St Louis Rams 26% wins, 7 QB's, 0 super bowls
Oakland Raiders 30% wins, 8 QB's, 0 super bowls
Cleveland Browns 35% wins, 8 QB's, 0 super bowls

Seeing a pattern here? Let's look at the top four teams:

Pittsburgh Steelers 64% wins, 3 QB's (because of Ben's injury), 2 super bowls
San Diego Chargers 69% wins, 1 QB, 0 super bowls
Indianapolis Colts 76% wins, 1 QB, 2 super bowls
New England Patriots 79% wins, 2 QB's (injury to Brady), 1 super bowl

Wow - Only team to have more starting QB's over the past five season is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 9 but they've had a ton of injuries and STILL managed to land a 44% winning stat.

What have we learned here, people? Well, I've learned that if you don't have that top Go-To Guy, the "Ace" QB, the Leader in the Huddle, statistics show that your team is going to suck. Harsh reality, but there it is. So, if H.H.S. needs some time to evaluate Colt and decide if he's our guy, I'm willing to let them have this year to do that. Because that is the single biggest question facing the Browns right now. I know that we are ALL tired of rebuilding but won't it be nice to at least have the QB piece of our puzzle nailed down? Then fans can feel good about buying their ticket to ride the Colt Bandwagon. I know I will.

Respectfully Submitted,


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Up close and TOO personal? Fans vs Athletes

Back in the good old days - and I mean the 1980's - if you wanted to send a message to your favorite pro athlete, it took some time. You had to write a letter, put a stamp on it, mail it, and about five days later it would arrive at the offices of the team he played for. Then maybe, just maybe, within another week or two it would actually get to the player. And usually, between the time that you were motivated to fire off a letter and your actually getting it ready to mail, you were no longer really upset by whatever motivated you to write in the first place. You had some cool-down time. And you just tore up the letter and went on with your day.

Typically, it was kids who actually mailed fan letters to their sports heroes. If they were very lucky, they would check the mailbox everyday for a month or two and one happy day, find either a form letter or a picture with a machine printed signature on it. And danced all the way into the house to show dad what they got.

In the '90's, we all got computers and the Internet. We could look up players on websites and get their email addresses. We could fire off nasty emails when they made us made, either by bad game play or by something that they reportedly said. Either way, our actions were immediate - we angrily banged the keys on the computer and fired off a wickedly rude email. And then we were done. On the other end, who knew if the player ever even read the emails. My guess was that they had assistants who would "filter" the emails and shield them from the rough stuff sent by crazy fanatics.

Then we come to today. We have FaceBook and Twitter. We have the Blogosphere. We have fans expressing opinions on talk radio. Whoever you are, if you have an opinion on a team or an athlete, there are MANY venues for you to use to get your message out. And there are no filters. And once you say something, it's out there for anyone to see. And you can't take it back.

To make matters worse, our favorite athletes are also out there, trying to be more accessible than ever. They are FaceBook-ing and Tweeting every day, and responding to fans like never before. Fans are now able to get up close and personnal with athletes, and, in my opinion, TOO personnal. No one on either side of the fence THINKS before the TWEET. They just fire off the first thing that pops into their heads. That is both the "Beauty" and the "Beast" of social media like FaceBook and Twitter.

Sports is a Passion for fans but has become a Business for the athletes. As fans, we often forget this fact. We expect them to have the same love and devotion for our team and our city that we do and that is just not the case. We lash out without thinking because we FEEL so much for out team. We don't take the time to consider that the person on the receiving end of our sharp tongue/key strokes is, indeed, a PERSON. We would never say these things to one of our friends or family members, yet while we feel that we "own" our team's athletes, we don't treat them very well.

Now, I am not advocating censorship or even filtering. I'm just asking people to think a bit about what they are putting out there. A simple "lol" at the end of a comment let's everyone know that you are being sarcastic or kidding or not intending to hurt someone's feelings. And if you really are angry, and if you really would say the same things to a person who was standing in front of you, then please don't be surprised when athletes react. They are people too and have the same feelings that you do. And are equally guilty of lashing out when they feel attacked. It's all part of the new world we live in.

So the next time you want to criticize an athlete, by all means, go ahead. But don't expect them just to take it. And don't be surprised if they strike back. I understand that they make obscene amounts of money to play a game and be in the public eye. For that compensation, they lose their privacy and there are expectations placed on them by the "people paying their salaries." A thick-skin is required as part of the deal when they sign on the dotted line. I get all of that.

But I am also incredibly thankful that every mistake I make isn't viewed by millions of people. And that those people don't have permission to rip me to shreads for it wherever the can. #JustSayin

Respectfully Submitted,


Monday, August 1, 2011

Class of 2011 NFL Hall Of Fame

Getting lost in all the hype over the end of the NFL lockout and the rapid-fire trading going on is the fact that this weekend is the Enshrinement Ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2011. Shannon Sharpe, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Chris Hanburger, and Les Richter are this year's inductees. I think each of these gentlemen has left his mark on football - and in the records books.

Shannon Sharpe - wasn't always a commentator for CBS Sports. He was also one of the best Tight Ends to ever play football. With 815 catches and over 10,000 yards, Shannon sets the mark for other TE's. Except for two years spent in Baltimore working under the watchful eye of one of his heroes, Ozzie Newsome, he spent his career as a Denver Bronco. He won two Super Bowls as a Bronco and one as a Raven. Since I hate both of those teams, that is all I have to say about that. Oh, except that his brother, Sterling, a former NFL player himself, will introduce him at the ceremony.

Deion Sanders - Prime Time - may truly be the most feared pass defender to ever play the game. Ranked as the 4th fastest football player in NFL history, Sanders is one of the best athletes of all time. He started his career as a baseball player before moving to football. He remains the only player in history to hit a home run and score a touch down in the same week. He is also the only player to be in the World Series AND the Super Bowl. Finally, is only the second player to score a TD in the NFL six different ways: punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing, fumble recovery, and interception return. Damn!

Marshall Faulk - 1999 NFL Offensive player of the year and Pro Bowl starter, Faulk is known best for his rushing, but it was his receiving abilities that made him truly dangerous. The Tennessee Titans found this out first hand in Super Bowl XXXIV where Jeff Fischer was able to scheme his defense so that Faulk was held to just 17 yards rushing. However, the 90 yards he got through the air was enough to win the St Louis Rams the Lombardi Trophy. He retired due to knee problems in 2006 with 12,279 rushing yards and 6,875 passing yards. That's nearly 20,000 yards in 13 seasons people! Do the math!

Richard Dent - Da Bears. That's what I know about him. I remember the SNL skits withe Da Bears fans and the refrigerator Perry and Jim McMahon wearing his Rozelle sweat band. And through all that,
Dent just kept kicking butt and taking names on the defensive side of the ball and earned himself the MVP of Super Bowl XX trophy. He also was on the Super Bowl XXIX San Fran 49ers team even though he was injured most of the season. Now, in my opinion, the best film to watch of Dent involves YouTube and search term "Super Bowl Shuffle." But that just might be me.

Ed Sabol - was the president and one of the founding members of NFL Films. He is partly responsible for "Hard Knocks." Enough said.

Chris Hanburger - "The Hangman" - a linebacker who played his entire career with the Washington Redskins, 1965-1978. Like many players of his generation, he went into the Army before going to college at UNC. After playing both sides of the ball as a Tarheel, Center and Linebacker, he was drafted by the Redskins. The nine-time Pro Bowler and 1972 NFL Defensive Player of the Year still couldn't get past the Miami Dolphins during their perfect season. While the Redskins only allowed 14 points to the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII, it was all Miami needed. On a side note, my mom's cousin Doug Crusan #77 was a member of that Dolphin team, so it's all good.

Les Richter - Drafted in 1952 by the Dallas Texans, he was then traded in one of the most lop-sided eleven-player trades in NFL history and ended up a Los Angeles Ram. (For the record, the largest player trade remains at 15 between Cleveland and Baltimre back in '53. Don't get me started on THAT! Who trades away Don Shula!) As a Linebacker & Guard, his stats include 16 interceptions. His stats also include 106 extra points and 29 field goals. Yep that's right - he was also the team's kicker! I could not even imagine the whining and crying that would go on now if a player was asked to play both sides of the ball on every down or play linebacker and THEN kick the ball. Unfortunately, the NFL waited too long to give the HOF to Richter as he has passed away. I'm sure it will be an emotional day for his son who will be at the enshrinement on his behalf.

So there you have it - the Class of 2011. I'll be at the enshrinement ceremonies so that I can see these seven pieces of NFL history be given their accolades. And I'll be clapping and celebrating for all of them. Without these guys, and especially Hanburger and Richter, we wouldn't have the NFL that we all know and love today. Thanks guys!

Respectfully Submitted,