Winners and Losers of the Cleveland Browns' Offseason Thus Far

Will Burge@WillBurgeContributor IJune 17, 2014

Winners and Losers of the Cleveland Browns' Offseason Thus Far

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    Duncan/Associated Press

    It’s time to play winners and losers. The game is simple: Perform well in OTAs and mini camps and you are a winner. Find yourself cut or in the midst of controversy and you are a loser. The Cleveland Browns currently have both types on their roster.

    Just because someone is a winner or loser so far in the offseason does not mean that player cannot turn it around. At this point last season, wide receiver Davone Bess was a clear winner. One awful season, a bunch of weed photos and a crazy incident at the airport later, and Bess is no longer in the NFL.

    Things can change quickly, so building on positive days is a must for NFL players. Understanding that tomorrow is never promised because of injury is a necessity. Therefore, effort is the only thing players can truly control.

    Here are the winners and losers of the offseason thus far for the Browns.

Winner: Brian Hoyer

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    The hometown golden boy has kept his nose clean and said all the right things thus far. You can barely tell that he has the power of the entire Internet (well, mostly TMZ) nipping at his heals for the starting quarterback position.

    Brian Hoyer has not done too much to separate himself on the field just yet. Even head coach Mike Pettine said the gap he holds over Johnny Manziel can be made up.

    "I think when Ray (Farmer) made the comment, (it was) just because of the circumstances, that Brian had been here for those seven, eight weeks before the draft even started,'' said Pettine to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "That was essentially a head start and I don't think it's insurmountable. Brian is securely ahead of him right now, but we will compete and we will decide.”

    Hoyer is the starter heading into training camp, and that already makes him a winner. If he can stay healthy and play as good as Manziel he should be the starter Week 1 in Pittsburgh. Of course, that is easier said than done.

    At the very least he has the endorsement of a veteran defensive player on the team.

    "In my mind, Hoyer's the guy," Paul Kruger told KFAN-AM in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Hoyer came in, won us four games, unfortunately got hurt. The guy was on fire when he was healthy and he's proven himself at a different level and has worked extremely hard."

    Granted, Hoyer really only won the Browns two games last season, but we get what you’re saying, Paul.

Loser: Johnny Manziel

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Johnny Football certainly has a knack for finding the spotlight now doesn’t he? Every single weekend since he was drafted by the Browns, Manziel has been spotted partying in a different city across America.

    The latest sighting was in Houston for a celebration thrown by rapper Drake. A video hit the Internet Monday morning of Manziel holding a giant stack of cash and pretending it was a phone. Sound stupid? It sure does. Is it newsworthy? It’s Manziel, so of course it is.

    Manziel looks visibly drunk in the video. I for one subscribe to the school of thought that, until you mess up on the field, it does not matter what you do off of it. Unfortunately, others in Cleveland and around the country do not share my sentiments.

    Posted Johnny Manziel "money phone" story this AM with poll asking if Johnny needs to slow down. So far, 62% say yes:

    — Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) June 16, 2014

    Whether you care about his partying or not, the reality of the situation is that he is not giving himself much of a cushion to fall back on. The first time he makes a huge mistake on the field fans will openly question whether or not that would have happened if he was not partying so much.

    His real worry should be if the front office and coaching staff will secretly question him the same way.

Winner: Andrew Hawkins

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Hopefully, I can say that Andrew Hawkins has been extremely impressive without sounding like a hypocrite after I just warned you about Davone Bess last offseason. Because he has.

    It does not mean all that much to be impressive in drills and 11-on-11's when no one can hit you. This is especially true when you stand just 5’7” tall and weigh just 180 pounds.

    The fact still remains that there is a long suspension likely hanging over Josh Gordon’s head, and there will be plenty of passes to go around if he is gone. With no clear-cut favorite to win Gordon’s job in his absence, Hawkins has made leeway by building chemistry with both Hoyer and Manziel.

    The primary receiver does not always have to be the go-to guy in the passing game. Look at Wes Welker in New England a few years ago. It can be done; it's just not that easy.

Loser: Josh Gordon

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Anytime you repeatedly get busted by the NFL’s drug policy and could possibly miss an entire season you will get labeled as a loser. It just comes with the territory.

    Gordon has transformed himself from an underachieving pothead in college to an NFL reclamation story and back again. No matter what the outcome of his appeal will be, the Browns can never trust Gordon again.

    This was the guy who supposedly grew up so much off the field and matured throughout last season, and yet he once again finds himself awaiting the gavel from "judge" Roger Goodell. We all know Goodell’s history with discipline in the NFL.

    It seems as though the Browns would be lucky to have Gordon for the final four or six games of the season at this point. In fact, that very well might just end up being a miracle. No matter what happens, however, the team just want s this put behind them.

    “There’s a level of frustration (while waiting to find out Gordon’s fate),” Pettine told The Bull & The Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland last week.

    One can only guess the team’s level of frustration with the guy who repeatedly puts himself in these situations.

Winner: Barkevious Mingo

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Last season was not one that linebacker Barkevious Mingo will want to be remembered by. If he is, then that means he never panned out to warrant the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft.

    Closing out your rookie campaign with just one sack in the final eight games is never the desired outcome. This is even truer since he took the majority of the snaps over that span as well.

    Luckily for Mingo, the new coaching staff sees a star in him. Browns new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, per, said that he wanted to draft Mingo when he was in Buffalo. He wanted the young man on his defense so bad that his wife made a tray of cupcakes which said “Mingo” on each to try and persuade the front office to draft him.

    Pettine, who has also openly said Mingo has great potential, is a little more reserved in his analysis at this point, however.

    “He is a lean, angular guy, and the NFL is a size and speed league,” Pettine told Nate Ulrich of The Akron-Beacon Journal. “If he has the frame capable of carrying more weight, which I think it’s pretty clear that he does, that’s something we’re going to push for him to do.”

    Either way, the Browns' new coaching staff will be devising ways to unleash the athletic pass-rushing ability of Mingo on offenses, and that already makes him a winner.

Loser: Quentin Groves

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    One of the free-agent signings last offseason has already been shown the door. Outside linebacker Quentin Groves did not even survive until training camp. He was cut by the Browns during OTAs.

    It is obvious the Browns are looking for speed at the linebacker position, and it is even more obvious from watching practices that Groves just does not have it. Sure, Groves will fit in someone’s defense; it just won’t be in Cleveland.

    He has reportedly already met with New England and Washington according to's Ian Rapoport (h/t Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk).

    He managed to wrangle just two sacks in five games during an injury-riddled 2013 season. It was an oddity in his career because he had never been unavailable for more than one game in his five-year NFL stint.

    Either way, Groves did not have the speed that the coaching staff was looking for and now finds himself out of work.

Winners: Browns Fans

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    OK, so the fans are not a player, but they are still winning so far this offseason. Sure, they had to deal with Josh Gordon allegedly making another boneheaded decision, but other than that, this has been a pretty smooth ride thus far.

    They are now enjoying NFL relevance again because one of the biggest names in the entire NFL is on their roster. And yes, Manziel is already one of the biggest names in the league before he has even taken a snap whether you like it or not.

    His partying may make headlines every week, but his play will as well. Whether he is on the field or waiting on the sidelines, the days of wishing for SportsCenter to talk about the Browns are gone. They are in heavier rotation than a Beyonce single at this point.

    They are also winners because the Browns are revamping FirstEnergy Stadium. The much-needed facelift will subtract some seating but add more fan-friendly experiences.

    Another view of where one of video boards will go. Will be 3 times size of old boards & 4th-largest boards in NFL:

    — Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) June 16, 2014

    New scoreboards and a new sound system mean the Browns are entering the 21st century. Just about everyone who goes to games during the season can get on board with that.

Losers: Browns PR Department

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    John Reid/Associated Press

    As a media member, it is against my nature to feel bad for any public-relations flack. They are our sworn enemies and try their hardest to keep information away from us.

    That being said, the Browns have a heck of a staff now, and boy do I feel for them. Every week they have to deal with a new Manziel headline and story. To make matters worse, they have to field phone calls from out-of-touch old beat writers who constantly want a comment.

    I can hear them now. “Sorry, we do not have a comment on our first-round draft pick talking into a pile of money like it is a telephone. Thanks for calling though.”

    They have not even had to deal with much news on owner Jimmy Haslam recently which has saved them some headaches. If Haslam news does break, however, and it is on a Friday or Saturday night when Manziel may be out and about, then they may end up asking themselves why they got into this business in the first place.