Six Points: Surviving Cleveland Browns Silly Season
NASCAR fans call the period between Homestead and Daytona “silly season.”
A whole lot of nothing happens and only rule changes, racing teams, and rumors are discussed.
NFL fans are now in that parallel universe, where the only news is no news.
Commentators either say a whole lot of nothing or go into hibernation.
Someone woke Six Points up from the long slumber. It’s now time to add to the vast expanse of nothingness before the pads come on later this month.
1. Have Gun, Will Travel:
That was the title of a popular 1960s TV show in an era when the idiot box was dominated by Westerns.
Television wasn’t called a “vast wasteland” for nothing.
Six Points has forgotten stuff while preparing to fly. Underwear, socks, ties, and sometimes even big stuff.
In a rush to make an early flight home to Cleveland after days of getting liquored-up in South Beach, Six Points once had to have some expensive stuff he forgot FedExed back to his office.
No, the expensive stuff Six Points forgot did not require bullets, but only batteries.
Two Browns defensive linemen now face charges of bringing loaded guns into airports. In this post-9/11 climate, most of us are loath to even say the word “firearm” in an airport, much less carry one.
General Manager Tom Heckert has been quoted as having an affinity for “smart, tough, character guys” on his squad.
So much for “smart.”
Shaving cream in your carry-on? Forget it. Shampoo? Buy it at Walgreens wherever you land after picking up your rental car.
No more than four ounces of liquid? Got it. I’m with the program.
But no one said anything about a loaded pistol!
Cue the Wizard of Oz soundtrack: “If I Only Had a Brain.”
2. Danso With The Stars:
When Six Points started following NASCAR around seven years ago, a longtime fan said, “You gotta pick a driver.”
For the record, Six Points selected Ryan Newman, based on the “one of us” factor. No redneck, Newman has a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue and is a son of Big Ten country. Good enough.
In NFL Silly Season, Six Points likes to pick a rookie. No first-round picks here, and no Notre Dame quarterbacks.
Kwaku Danso does not fit the “one of us” criteria by any means, but this undrafted free agent comes with a great story line.
A 28-year-old native of Ghana who graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in construction engineering, Danso stands 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 336 pounds.
His college football career consisted of appearing in an entire three games in “garbage time” for the Pirates, and he worked his way through college, finally getting his degree from the third university he attended.
Yes, Six Points likes longshots.
But Danso’s background virtually screams “smart, tough, character.”
And Danso may not be as much of a longshot as his lack of experience would indicate.
Take your average defensive lineman who played four years in college. He goes to the NFL at age 22 or so, with the impact from playing four previous years in high school already having taken its toll on his body.
Just like going to college and having to “unlearn” a lot of the crap you were fed in high school history class, your average NFL player had to “unlearn” high school techniques when he got to BCS-level play, and will have to “unlearn” BCS techniques when he reaches the NFL.
Danso comes in six years older, but with much less wear on his body. He also will not have to “unlearn” anything.
In terms of a learning curve, Six Points has to cite Danso’s engineering degree. Pass-rushing schemes are an intellectual piece of cake compared to advanced calculus.
Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan took a look at Danso during East Carolina’s Pro day and said, “Who is this guy?”
Six Points would love to have Ben Roethlisberger ask the same question this season.
Speaking of questions, how do we write Sandra Bullock into this script?
3. The Secondary is Primary:
The NFL has evolved (or devolved, depending on one’s perspective) into a “pass-first” league.
Dave Kolonich of clevelandreboot.com calls the league's current state "glorified flag football,” and Six Points concurs.
Since Browns v2.0 was launched in 1999, the team’s pass defense has been porous.
The team has never had an Ed Reed or a Troy Polamalu as an enforcer and the corners have been eligible for volume discounts at MetroHealth Medical Center’s Burn Unit.
Thus, Six Points had to exhibit some cautious optimism when the brain trust loaded up on secondary help during the offseason.
But, like receivers, cornerbacks often take time to develop.
Years ago, Six Points watched a rookie who looked hopelessly out of place in his first season, and his play ensured that Browns fans’ language would send them back to confession the following Sunday.
That hapless rookie’s name was Hanford Dixon. You might have heard of him.
Patience can be a virtue.
4. Deep Depth:
Six Points loves quotes from college football coaches.
From the late Woody Hayes, to Bobby Bowden, to countless others, from the mouths of coaches on Saturday come homilies that make one smile on Monday.
From the mouth of some long-forgotten BCS coach many years ago came the following praise for an opponent:
“They don't just have depth, they have deep depth.”
That’s what the Browns linebacking corps is starting to look like.
Kamerion Wimbley was shipped to the Raiders for a third-round draft choice and another Savage mistake is now off the books in Berea.
Philadelphia Phil, we want Ngata lot to do with you here in the land where we still won’t go root for Buffalo.
Adding Scott Fujita in free agency should solidify the unit, and there’s a mix of youth and journeymen that could make Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme very interesting in 2010.
D’Qwell Jackson may not be long for the orange helmet, and most eyes will be dry if he is given his walking papers.
Leading the team in tackles is admirable, but when most of the stops are made six or more yards downfield, that leadership is akin to being the smartest kid on the short bus.
5. The Process:
A generation previous to mine could not let go of He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned firing Paul Brown in the early 1960s.
In that context, it’s no surprise that the Intertubes still abound with Mangini bashers.
“Hey! It’s Silly Season and I have to write a column! I really have nothing to say, but ... I got it! Let’s pick a week Holmgren fires Mangini and takes over as head coach!”
Want Eric Mangini fired yesterday? Don’t hold your breath.
Mangini walked into a train wreck of a team and an organization, weeded out the divas, and began building the foundation.
In 2009, the Browns eliminated the exasperating penalties of the Crennel era, going from one of the NFL’s most-penalized teams to one of the least-penalized.
The special teams, once mediocre at best, were one of the NFL’s premier units.
If Mangini was on the hot seat or in line for a pink slip, it would have happened not long after Mike Holmgren came to town.
It should be noted that Holmgren represents a distant branch of the Paul Brown tree.
Holmgren’s mentor, Bill Walsh, coached under Brown.
Even repeating a 5-11 record could be enough to keep Mangini around if the team shows continued progress.
Yes, Mangini-bashers, Six Points knows you want Bill Cowher on Cleveland's sideline.
And I want a lap dance from Megan Fox.
6. The Question:
Will the real Jake Delhomme please stand up?
Prior to 2009, most fan bases around the league would have gladly taken Delhomme to be their field general. The man could light up the scoreboard and came close to winning a Super Bowl.
Last year, the wheels came off. Or did they?
After last season’s Two-Headed Quarterback Suck Monster, Delhomme at least brings solid, veteran leadership. He also brings potential Favre levels of scintillation and exasperation.
What’s in the bottle? How much is left in the tank?
We don’t know that.
Hopefully, Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, and Eric Mangini know. And more hopefully, they know something good.
Although the new Berea regime is far more media friendly, remember that even in the public relations nadir of 2009, Eric Mangini never threw a player under the bus in public.
If Delhomme has nothing left, you won’t hear it from the Browns brain trust. You’ll see it on Sundays.
On the glass half-full side, NFL history is rife with examples of veteran quarterbacks who have acquired new leases on life from changes of scenery.
In French, “Delhomme” translates into “The Man.”
Six Points can only hope he is.
Extra Point: Congratulations, Virginia Beach!
On Independence Day in the midst of vacation season, Six Points turns his thoughts to Virginia Beach, a popular tourist destination and a growing city.
That city has grown from a tourist strip with a couple of military bases into a city with 11 public high schools and a population rivaling that of Cleveland itself.
But, it never had a downtown.
Virginia Beach is basically a poster child for endless suburban sprawl. Farmer sells land. Builds housing development. Rinse and repeat.
Imagine a Parma extending over a land mass about the size of Cuyahoga County and you pretty much have Virginia Beach.
A few years back, the city whose population is now greater than 400,000 decided it needed a “downtown,” so it built one from scratch.
Miles inland from the Atlantic Avenue resort area, Virginia Beach built Town Center, an ersatz downtown featuring office buildings, condos, hotels, and just about every chain restaurant known to humankind.
Even though Town Center boasts the tallest building in the Commonwealth of Virginia, its credibility as a “real” downtown was dubious.
For instant credibility, enter Michael Vick’s birthday party. We’ve all seen the story.
One of Vick’s former running mates from his nearby hometown of Newport News, a convicted felon from the Bad Newz Kennels case and therefore persona non grata under the terms of Vick’s parole, was shot outside a Town Center nightclub after Vick’s birthday party.
Congratulations, Virginia Beach. Your downtown now has real street cred.
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