It's time for preaseason week 4, where many guys will get their final taste of being in a Bears jersey, while the rest fight to secure the back end spots on the roster. As is tradition, the Bears and Browns will match up again and we reached out to editor Chris Pokorny of Dawgs by Nature, the best Cleveland Browns site on the web. Follow Chris on twitter @DawgsByNature, and make sure to stay tuned. Questions? Include them below. A big thanks for Chris taking time out of a very busy short week.
Also, check out our answers to their questions here.
1. The Browns are on their fifth coach since 2005. How much of that is the quality of the front office/owners in terms of talent acquisition, and how much is on coaches?
It really is on everybody. When I look back at the 2005-2008 seasons now, I'm shocked that we had a head coach make it through four seasons (Romeo Crennel). After him, the Browns went through Eric Mangini (2 years), Pat Shurmur (2 years), and Rob Chudzinski (1 year). When you look at those latter three hires, none of them were thought very highly of around the NFL circles. Just when Mangini actually started gaining the respect of the team in 2010, team president Mike Holmgren fired him and brought in Shurmur. That was probably the most asinine pairing to set this franchise back. Our owner at the time, Randy Lerner, opened his wallet to bring a guy like Holmgren in. The problem is that we needed Holmren as a coach, not as a team president.
For all intents and purposes, Holmgren collected a paycheck, went with Shurmur on a whim as the team's head coach because he wanted a "yes man," and then did nothing else. By the time Lerner saw that the Holmgren experiment failed, he sold the team to Jimmy Haslam. Haslam, being new to the NFL, hired Joe Banner as the CEO, and he really did do a very good job on the business side of things. The problem was on the football side, namely the hiring of Michael Lombardi as general manager. The reputation of those two men soon became toxic, and I give credit to Haslam for pulling the trigger when he did to fire both of them and make Alec Scheiner the team president and Ray Farmer the general manager. This is probably the best regime Cleveland has had since 1999, but the jury is still out on head coach Mike Pettine, considering he hasn't coached a regular season game yet.
Talent acquisition shouldn't be a big problem for the Browns with the current front office. They have one of the best cap situations in the NFL, and that's with them already having several key players already locked up. Farmer already worked his magic this past April (getting Johnny Manziel AND the Bills' first-rounder in 2015), so this might finally be the front office to steer the ship in the right direction.
2. With Josh Gordon banned for a year, the Browns curiously didn't go with any wide receivers in the draft. What's the depth behind Gordon look like?
To defend the Browns organization a little bit, our general manager reportedly was not informed about the Gordon news until two weeks prior to the draft. If I understand the regulations correctly, he was not allowed to reveal that information to the coaching staff. Let's say the Browns had spent several months of Mike Pettine and Farmer discussing how they did not need a wide receiver in the first two rounds. Wouldn't it look odd if Farmer just changed his tune right when the draft was about to start, especially when you're supposed to be building a good relationship with your head coach? Finally, on top of all of that, Farmer had no guarantee that Gordon would be suspended for a year. It was really a poor situation to be in.
The current receiver depth is not good. I love Andrew Hawkins, but he's supposed to be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. He'll still fulfill a niche, but the Browns don't have anyone who is close to being a No. 1 receiver. We'll ask either Miles Austin or Nate Burleson to fulfill that void, but good luck with that given their age and injury history. In a perfect world, we'll get lucky and have someone emerge as "the next Marques Colston," but I wouldn't bet on it. Cleveland does have ammunition to make a trade for a receiver, but I get the impression that they'd rather go with a tough defense and running game mentality.
3. So, Johnny Football, eh? Is there a sense of pressure to get Manziel on the field ASAP, do the concerns about his character hold water, and do you think he's the long term solution at that position for Cleveland?
There is obviously a pretty significant split among the fan base, but I'll try to summarize what I feel the majority consensus is. First, there are no concerns about his character -- we knew the type of player we were getting when we drafted him, and we're fine with that. Second, he is definitely the long-term solution at the position for Cleveland. He isn't polished enough to be thrown into the mix right away, at least to a point where he is as effective as we'd like him to be as a rookie starter. The Browns also have an ideal bye week for their quarterback situation: they play three games before having a bye week. That early bye week will allow the coaching staff to re-evaluate their quarterback situation. If Hoyer had looked solid during that stretch, he can stay in. If he's been shaky, then one would think that another full month of preparation would get Manziel ready to be inserted into the starting role.
4. If you could pluck one player off of the Bears and insert them into the Browns roster, who would it be and why?
Yeah, I think this one is a no-brainer: Alshon Jeffery. Aside from Gordon, Jeffery was probably the best receiver in the NFL last season. Jeffery would instantly solve the Browns' wide receiver problem, and then next year, could you imagine both Gordon and Jeffery playing together?
5. The Browns were ranked ninth in the NFL last year in YPG (332.4 allowed), and by my count lost five games by 8 points or less. This is a conference right now where 9-7 was a playoff team last year. Can the defense keep that type of ranking up, and is this offense set to help support them a little more?
The defense actually struggled toward the later part of last season due to injuries, and they've gotten better this offseason. Cleveland excelled against the run last season, and this offseason, they added several players who thrived at defending the pass. In the process, they sacrificed a couple of their better run defenders, but overall, the positives outweigh the positives. Mike Pettine's defense in Buffalo also led the league in sacks last year, and he probably has more pass rushers to work with in Cleveland than he did in Buffalo.
I'd like to talk up the offense, but that's pretty tough to do, given how our quarterbacks looked in the preseason and the loss of Josh Gordon. I will say this, though: Brian Hoyer was very effective at the end of the fourth quarter in his two starts last year. That might not seem like a big deal to most teams, but we haven't seen that type of fourth quarter play in Cleveland since early in the Tim Couch era. The Browns shouldn't light it up, but if they can do the simple things -- like moving the ball enough to win the field position game and cutting down on the turnovers -- then maybe the offense will be "good enough."
5a. Predict a score for this, the most meaningless of football games.
Most meaningless of football games is right (although I do understand that those guys fighting for a roster spot still treat it very seriously). I'll go with the Browns winning 23-20, for no good rhyme or reason.
Thanks again, Chris! Here's hoping for a good, short game that is injury free.