5 Moves the Cleveland Browns Can Make to Get Right Back in Contention for 2013
This past week the Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner granted interviews to the local beat writers and most of the questions leaned towards the future. Unfortunately, at this point the most interesting thing about the 2-7 Browns is what will happen after the season is over.
You can't win big without a great coach and a great quarterback, he said. And frankly, if you have a great enough coach and quarterback, you can afford to make a few more personnel mistakes. You've got to lock them in.
So, for 2013, Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner have head coach at the top of the list for the “get it right” plan.
The last seven games of the Browns' season will determine if Pat Shurmur is that head coach. In the same interview, Joe Banner said that the quarterback and general manager are tied for second on the to-do list, so Brandon Weeden and Tom Heckert are under the microscope as well.
The ink is mostly dry for Tom Heckert as the work of the general manager is mostly geared at getting ready for the draft and free agency at this point in the season. The new ownership is not going to allow Heckert to extend a player’s contract or release a player of value. He will be limited to signing a free agent if the Browns incur a season-ending injury. The lock down on Heckert is normal in this situation, it is simply just a matter of Jimmy Haslam protecting his investment.
Pat Shurmur and Brandon Weeden still have game performance to help determine their fate. The head coach must improve his game management skills in order to keep his job. Weeden, on the other hand, needs to rebound from back-to-back bad games. If he can keep the interceptions down and keep throwing touchdowns he could be a keeper.
The Browns have some talent and if they make the right moves in 2013, they can turn things around quickly.
Let’s take a look at five moves the Cleveland Browns must make in 2013.
Get the Right Head Coach
Pat Shurmur has made a number of bizarre game management decisions in his first two seasons as a head coach. The Cleveland Browns have lost several close games in those two seasons, which could ultimately cost him his job.
If Shurmur can identify and implement fixes for the game management problems during the bye week, he could be the right guy for Jimmy Haslam. The lower the win total, the better the performance the quarterback will need to have to save Shurmur. The wins will show Shurmur can make decisions that lead to victory and the quarterback performance will show he is the right guy to coach the franchise quarterback.
Keep Tom Heckert
Tom Heckert hasn't been perfect in three years with the Cleveland Browns, but he has been pretty good. The best players that Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam will keep and most likely pay big contracts to in the future have been selected by Heckert. You can easily see Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, and Trent Richardson being cornerstones to the future success of this team, no matter who the coach and general manager are in 2013.
He also secured the best players he didn't select by signing Joe Thomas and D'Qwell Jackson to long-term extensions. The big question will if he fumbled the quarterback position. He could have stuck with Colt McCoy and given him Julio Jones. He could have given the Rams a bigger picks package to take Robert Griffin III. He could have stuck with Colt again and given him Trent Richardson and another playmaker with the second first-round pick and still drafted Mitchell Schwartz.
The question we don't know the answer to is how much influence Mike Holmgren had in shaping those decisions.One thing is sure: Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam will find out.
Brandon Weeden Needs a Longer Look
The numbers are on pace to break the rookie records for Cleveland Browns quarterbacks, but Brandon Weeden needs to show a few more things to stop the quarterback bleeding for the Browns.
The rookie likes to use his big arm for downfield throws first and often passes up sure completions to wait for his receiver to get open. The problem for him is opponents know this and drop safeties deep, leaving Weeden only time for a dump off after waiting for the deep receiver.
He has two things left on the franchise quarterback list:
1) Bring his team back late in the fourth quarter.
2) Carry the team with his arm and head to a victory for an entire game.
Add Veteran Players at the Offensive Skill Positions
No matter who the quarterback is for the Cleveland Browns next year, he will need players at the skill positions with experience.
One of the factors that has helped out Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson is the presence of veteran wide receivers. The Seahawks have Sidney Rice and the Colts have Reggie Wayne, who have both been trained by great quarterbacks (Brett Favre and Peyton Manning). The Seahawks and Colts made it priority to get and keep those receivers, knowing young players would be at the quarterback position.
The veteran wide receivers know the small details that get you open in the NFL and become a security blanket to young quarterbacks. A good example is how Derek Mason was a key receiver during Joe Flacco's rookie season.
Sign Phil Dawson to a Multi-Year Contract
The lone player from the Cleveland Browns 1999 team is one of the best kickers in the league on back-to-back franchise tags.
The value to team is not only in the fact that he is one of the best kickers in the league, he is also the best kicker in the windy Cleveland Browns stadium. When the team gets good and the weather is bad in the playoffs they will need Phil Dawson.
A five-year deal should take care of the timeline for regular trips to playoffs for the Browns.