It’s time for the Rams to clean house

It’s time for the Los Angeles Rams to fire Head Coach Jeff Fisher. It’s time for the Rams to fire Fisher and General Manager Les Snead. It has been time for the Rams to fire Fisher and Snead since the conclusion of 2014 season.

In 2012, the Rams then based in St. Louis hired long-time Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher to take over the 2-14 Rams. In addition to Fisher, the team hired Les Snead away from the Atlanta Falcons to be their general manager.

In four and a half seasons the Rams are 30-41-1 under Fisher and Snead. But the team’s results have plateaued after the duo improved from 2-14 to 7-8-1 in their first season in charge of the Rams. After the Rams record regressed to 6-10 in 2014, the Rams should have fired both of Fisher and Snead.

In 22 seasons as an NFL head coach Fisher has earned the reputation as a coach who will finish the season with a 7-9 or 8-8 record. In 22 seasons, Fisher is 172-161-1, and has finished above five hundred in just six seasons. In ten seasons Fisher has won seven or eight games. Fisher is not the coach who can elevate his teams, and that is exactly why he needs to go. You cannot expect to do better than 8-8 with Fisher as your coach.

Entering their fifth season together and final year of their contracts, the duo went all in and made a last ditch attempt to save their jobs. The Rams traded up to select California QB Jared Goff first overall. In exchange for the first pick, a fourth and sixth round pick, the Rams gave up the 15th pick, two seconds, a third round pick in 2016, and a first and third round pick in 2017.

After eight games, Goff has yet to take a snap for the Rams. A large reason why Goff has not seen any playing time is due to the stubborn nature of Fisher. Fisher’s refusal to play Goff draws back to Fisher’s clash with former third overall pick quarterback Vince Young. Young won offensive rookie of the year. But constant clashes with Fisher cost both the coach and quarterback their jobs with the Titans.

In Tennessee, Fisher elected to start journeyman veteran Kerry Collins over Young. Collins was the prototypical big armed quarterback drafted fifth overall. But Collins failed to live up to his draft hype, playing most of his career as an average quarterback who barely threw more touchdowns than interceptions.

Fisher and the Rams refusal to remove Case Keenum from the starting lineup is inexcusable. Keenum is a below average quarterback. He has been for his entire four year career. In 23 career starts Keenum owns a 58.5 completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt and a 24 touchdown, 20 interception ratio.  The numbers are shockingly similar to Collins. Collins completed 55.7 percent of his passes, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt with 208 touchdowns and 196 interceptions. With Keenum as the starter, the Rams can expect another losing season.

Fisher’s refusal to bench Keenum, leads to obvious question of why. There are two conclusions that can be drawn from not playing Goff. One, Goff is not ready to play and represents a significant downgrade from the below average Case Keenum. The second conclusion is that Fisher believes his best chance of winning and saving his job is with Keenum. Either way, the Los Angeles fans have begun chanting for Goff at home games. For Fisher and the Rams, those chants will continue to grow louder. So loud, that Fisher will no longer be able to deny hearing them.

If the Rams believe Goff is a significant downgrade from Keenum, it draws into question the scouting department led by Snead. Since Snead took over in 2012, the Rams have made seven picks in the first round, five in the second and six in the third round. In addition the duo inherited a former first overall pick in quarterback Sam Bradford. Despite trading back to acquire extra draft capital, the Rams have failed to coach and develop the talent they have selected.

In five drafts under Snead, the team has made 18 picks in the first three rounds. 14 of the 18 players drafted remain on the active roster. Two of the 18 are on the inactive roster (former third round picks Tre Mason failure to report and Stedman Bailey gunshot wound) and have not played for the Rams in over a year. Former second round pick Isaiah Pead went bust and is now in Miami. While boom or bust cornerback Janorius Jenkins signed a big with the New York Giants in the off-season.

With the 18 picks, the Rams have drafted only one superstar in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. It’s not a matter of if Donald wins a defensive player of the year, it’s when. Donald is a disruptive force, who pressures opposing quarterbacks and stuffs the run game. The drop off from reigning defensive player of the year JJ Watt is minimal.

After making the highly praised decision to trade down with the Washington Redskins in 2012 so they could select Robert Griffin III, the Rams traded down again with the Cowboys. The two trades gave the Rams extra draft capital. But the Rams failed to generate a great return on their extra draft picks.  The Rams selected a decent starting defensive tackle in Michael Brockers 14th overall. But more was expected from Brockers, who the Rams are now paying $11 million a year.

With the 8th pick they selected 5’9” gadget wide receiver and return man Tavon Austin. Austin has shown explosive flashes of ability, but Fisher and the offensive coordinators that he has hired have failed to find ways to get the football to. The pick still looks questionable today. But when you consider the Rams traded up to get Austin and just gave him a $40 million, four year extension, it’s beginning to look worse.

The Rams selected two players from Georgia with success. Alec Olgetree is more of the better young starting linebacker. Running back Todd Gurley appeared to be a superstar in the making after his first season. But this year he is averaging 1.7 yards less per carry. After 21 games it’s too early to determine which season’s is a better indicator of Gurley’s abilities. Gurley’s first season was marked by an amazing start. But he cooled off by the end of the season. The truth about Gurley is likely somewhere in the middle.

When the  Rams selected Greg Robinson second overall, they expected him to be the second coming of Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace. The Rams selected Pace first overall in 1997. Pace was a dominant pass and run blocked, and fans expected the same from Robinson who dominated in college at Auburn. So far, Robinson has been a complete bust. Robinson has failed to be the dominant run blocker he was in college. But more concerning is how terrible Robinson has been in pass protection.

Outside of the first round, Trumaine Johnson is a good starting corner who was worth of the Rams’ franchise tag. Safety TJ McDonald is an above average starter. Lamarcus Joyner is a nice player, but is not without his flaws in the secondary. Outside of the first three rounds the Rams best pick is kicker Greg Zuerlein. Rob Havenstein is the Rams best lineman, and looks like the only long-term starter on the offensive line. But it’s not like he has a lot of competition for that honour. Outside of those five players, the Rams success outside of the first round is pathetic.

When you consider all the extra picks the Rams have had, it’s even more pathetic. If you want to build a successful team, you need to find players later in the draft. The draft will ultimately be the downfall of Snead. The lack of the Rams success in the draft raises more questions about Goff’s potential as a pro. If the Rams are this terrible at identifying talent, and cannot develop, coach and get the most out of players under Fisher, what hope does Goff have?

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Toronto sports fans are the worst

Toronto sports fans are the worst. Throwing cans of beer, racial and homophobic insults are just the beginning of why Toronto sports fans are some of the worst behaved fans in North America.

During the seventh inning of the Toronto Blue Jays American League Wild Card game, Baltimore Orioles left fielder Hyun-son Kim made a routine catch on a warning track fly ball. Or at least it should have been a routine play, except for a Toronto fan throwing a beer can at the Orioles’ outfielder.

This was not the first incident of Toronto fans throwing cans of beer onto the field. In the prior season’s playoff series against Texas, Toronto fans littered the field with everything they could throw onto the field after the fan base disagreed with the umpires call on the field. In previous years’ home openers, fans have stolen rolls of toilet paper out of the bathroom and thrown them from the upper deck onto the field. Sit in the lower level outfield for a game and you will hear and chances are you will a few comments yelled at the opposing outfielders that are offensive.

But what can you expect; the Blue Jays have made going to the game more about getting drunk than baseball. By removing a restaurant and replacing it with a beer garden it’s more about drinking than enjoying the game. The Blue Jays should be taking more accountability for their fans bad behaviour. But the fans need to behave like responsible adults and not toddlers who throw toys when they get upset.

But Blue Jays fans are not the only bad sports fans in the Ontario capital. Earlier this summer Toronto FC fans brought a sign to Montreal that depicted a Montreal Impact fan performing oral sex on a Toronto FC fan. The team had to apologize for the sign, but it’s not the first instance of the fan base has behaved poorly. In 2008, approximately 2000 TFC fans travelled to Columbus for a game. But prior to the game, fights broke out between the two fan bases in the parking lot.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans, besides being delusional in their expectations of Stanley Cup parades, are known for running players out of town and again throwing stuff on the ice. With the Leafs finishing near the bottom of the NHL standings for the past few seasons, fans threw jerseys on the ice. The fans were charged with trespassing, forced to pay a fine and banned from the Air Canada Centre for a year.

Scarborough native and Hockey Hall of Famer, Larry Murphy was traded for virtually nothing after the fans constant harassment became too much for management to ignore.  In 151 games, Murphy produced 19 goals, 100 points and just a minus one rating. It wasn’t enough for the delusional fan base, and Murphy traded away to Detroit and won two cups with the Red Wings.

Want a more recent reference see Kessel, Phil; who was ripped by the fan base before being trading to Pittsburgh where he would go on to win the cup. Toronto fans complained that Kessel was fat, lazy and consumed too many hot dogs. Oh and let’s not forget, that Maple Leaf fans threw waffles on the ice and at the aforementioned Kessel.

The Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Rock are the two most successful teams in the city. But the city fails to support them. For years, the city’s sport fans made excuses as to why they would not go to an Argos game inside of the Skydome. First it was the sight lines, and then it was the fact that there was no tailgating. But when they moved outdoors to BMO field and introduced tailgating, attendance was expected to improve. Spoiler alert, attendance has not improved. With the exception of the home opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (and their fans who made the trip), the Argos have not exceeded 18,000 fans in any of their other seven home games.  The Argos current average attendance is 16,550 fans per game. The team ranks dead last in the league, averaging over 3,500 fewer than second last British Columbia.

The Toronto Rock won championships in 2012-13 and 2015. But attendance has been on the decline since their 2005 championship when attendance peaked at over 17,000. In 2015, attendance was hovering around 10000, an all-time low for the franchise.

Maybe the best behaved fan base within the city is for the Toronto Raptors. The fans travel well to opposing cities, and sell out home games. The fans don’t just sell out home games, they jam pack the plaza outside of the arena to watch the games. If there is one complaint, it is the bandwagon nature of the fan base. A few years ago when the Raptors found themselves near the bottom of the NBA standings, the arena was not coming close to selling out, and it was incredibly easy to find tickets on the secondary market for significantly less than face value.

The Highs and Lows of Josh Gordon’s NFL Career

There is no denying that when Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Josh Gordon is on a NFL field he is a tremendous player. The problem is Gordon has not played in a NFL game since December 21st 2014 because of several suspensions for marijuana use and drunk driving. Week five was supposed to mark the return of Gordon to the NFL, after 659 days away from the field. But on September 29th, Gordon announced that he would enter an inpatient rehab facility, further delaying his return to the Browns.

Since being taken in the 2012 supplement draft by the Browns, Gordon has played in 35 of a possible 68 games through the first four weeks of the 2016 season. In the games he has played in Gordon has caught 161 passes for 2754 yards and 14 touchdowns. In the 2013 season, Gordon led the league in receiving yards, despite missing the first two games due to suspension.

Suspensions have followed Gordon throughout his football career. While playing his college football at Baylor, Gordon was found by local Waco, Texas police officers passed out with his teammate in a Taco Bell drive through. Marijuana was found in the car, and Gordon received his suspension in October 2010. In July 2011, Gordon failed a drug test for marijuana and was kicked off the Baylor team.

Gordon declared for the supplement draft and the Browns gave up a second round pick to select him, dispute his off the field troubles. For almost two years, Gordon looked to have put his issues behind him. But he would fail another drug test in June 2013. The NFL suspended him the first two games of the season. When Gordon returned to the field that season he was the best receiver in the NFL.

Despite the Browns’ struggles on the field since they returned to the NFL in 1999, Gordon had given the entire fan base some reason to be optimistic. But that optimism would be crushed following a disastrous offseason by Gordon. In June 2014, he would be arrested for a DUI in Raleigh. Seven weeks later, Gordon would fail another drug test and was initially suspended for the entire season. Upon appeal, Gordon had his suspension reduced to ten games. Gordon returned from his suspension to play five games for the Browns, before the team suspended him for what they called a violation of team rules.

In the weeks following the Browns’ decision to suspend Gordon, he failed another test. On February 3rd 2015, Gordon was officially suspended for the entire 2015 season, for failing a test for alcohol use. Due to his previous failed tests, and DUI, Gordon was subjected to suspension if he tested positive for alcohol as part of his agreement with the NFL substance abuse program.

After a year away from football, Gordon applied for reinstatement, only to have his application rejected after failing yet another test in March 2016. Since his first acknowledge failed test at Baylor in July 2011, Gordon has failed at least five other drug tests. In July, Gordon was officially reinstated, but suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.

Sunday October 9th, Gordon was return to the field, when the Browns play the New England Patriots and returning Quarterback Tom Brady. It would have been 659 days since Gordon last played a NFL game. But with Gordon’s decision to enter rehab, the days will continue to go on, and fans of the Browns will wonder if they will ever get to see the electric receiver they had seen in 2013. Time will tell if Gordon ever returns to the NFL, and if he can play at the same levels he reached in his 35 games with the Browns.

The Rise and Fall of Robert Griffin

It was supposed to be “the era of unbridled optimism.” Or at least that’s how long-time Washington Post writer, radio host and Pardon the Interruption star Tony Kornheiser described Robert Griffin III, following his impressive debut for the Washington Redskins in 2012. However, since his rookie season, the once bright, unstoppable star of RG3, is fading fast and nearing extinction following the latest in a string of major injuries.

Coming out of high school in Texas, Griffin was a four star recruit, wanted by big time colleges for his ability to run hurdles as much as his ability to quarterback an offense. Griffin initially committed to the University of Houston, before switching his commit to Baylor after Houston Head Coach Art Brilies accepted the same position at Baylor.

Griffin enrolled at Baylor for the spring semester in 2008. Competing on the track team, Griffin ran 400 meter hurdles that semester. Griffin didn’t just run track, he dominated the Big 12 competition and finish third in the NCAA that season. Griffin’s early college success would give him the chance to compete at the 2008 United States’ Olympic trials. As a 17 year old made it to the semi-finals, but failed to qualify for Beijing. The initial foundation for Griffin’s stardom was ignited, and he hadn’t taken a snap on the football field.

As the seasons changed from spring to summer and then fall, Griffin would be named the starting quarterback for the Baylor football team. Griffin’s freshman season, saw him capture the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year, after he completed 59.9 per cent of his passes for 2091 yards and 15 touchdowns. But it was the explosive running ability that put Griffin’s star on the map. Griffin finished the season with 846 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Baylor finished 4–8, near the bottom of the Big 12 standings.

Griffin’s initial season would be a sign of what would come during the next four year of his life. But three games into his sophomore season would foreshadow the past four years of Griffin’s career.

Two games into Griffin’s second season, he showed improvement throwing the football. Early in Baylor’s third game of the season, Griffin tore his ACL and was granted a medical redshirt from the NCAA. Griffin would be relegated to the classroom and rehab room. Coming from a military family, work ethic was installed within him from an early age. While at Baylor, Griffin graduated in three years with a GPA of 3.67 and a degree in political science.

After a year of rehab, Griffin returned to the starting lineup for his redshirt sophomore season. Griffin’s ascent to stardom continued, as Baylor reached its first bowl game in 16 years, finishing with a 7–6 record. Griffin continued to improve as a passer, completing 67 per cent of his pass for 3501 yards and 22 touchdowns. The prior year’s injury did not have a negative effect on Griffin’s running ability, as he ran for 635 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Entering his redshirt junior season, Griffin was a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but nowhere near the favourite to win it. That would all change after one game. Unranked Baylor hosted the 14th ranked Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, in a nationally televised primetime Sunday night game. In what can only be described as an instant classic, Baylor defeated TCU 50–48, with Griffin electrifying the Waco crowd. Griffin completed 21 of 27 passes for 359 yards and five touchdown passes. Griffin was officially a star. The nickname RG3 was nationally known.

Baylor would finish the season 10–3 and ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll. In the classroom, Griffin graduated and began working on his masters in communications. On the football field, Griffin completed 70.2 per cent of his passes for 4293 yards and 37 touchdowns, while adding another 10 touchdowns and 699 yards rushing. Griffin would be awarded the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football.

But Griffin was more than just a star in college. He had the type of star power that turned Baylor into a star itself. Before the arrival of Griffin, Baylor was a perennial bottom feeder that rarely won anything. But with the Griffin and Briles combination, Baylor became a winner destination program for the top recruits. Baylor had never been a destination program. Top recruits were suddenly coming to Waco, Texas. Despite being located between Dallas and Austin, Texas, nobody ever wanted to come to Baylor, until RG3 made it a destination.

A few weeks later after winning the Heisman, Griffin would play his final game for Baylor. When the lights shined the brightest on national television, so did RG3. Griffin put on yet another highlight reel in a nationally televised primetime game, a trend throughout his career. The season started the same way the season began for Baylor, an instant classic. Baylor defeated Washington 67–56 behind Griffin’s 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Weeks later, Griffin would declare for the 2012 NFL draft. Griffin, along with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (who Griffin beat for the Heisman) were considered the top two players available. The Indianapolis Colts selected Luck with the first pick. While the Redskins traded up with the St. Louis Rams. For the Rams’ second overall pick the Redskins sent the sixth overall pick, a second round pick in 2012 (39th overall), and first round picks in 2013 (22nd overall) and 2014 (2nd overall). Expectations were through the roof for Griffin, after the Redskins traded up to select him.

To be a star in college is one thing. Being a star in the NFL is another. Numerous college stars have failed in the NFL. Becoming a star in the NFL, takes a player from national stardom, to international stardom.

The Redskins opened the season in New Orleans against the Saints its notoriously hostile home field advantage. In his first game Griffin announced to the world he was a star and Kornheiser coined the phrase, “era of unbridled optimism.”

Griffin’s stardom can be pinpointed to one play. After completing his first six passes and leading the Redskins to a field goal on their owning drive. Griffin found his offense starting on their 12 yard line. Griffin took the snap from the center faking a handoff to the running back running to his right. The fake, holds up blitzing Saints’ safety Malcolm Jenkins for a split second. The second is all Griffin needs as he throws the ball across the middle of the field to receive Pierre Garcon right before Jenkins hits him. 88 yards later, Garcon wins a footrace to the endzone. The replays cut back to Griffin, showing Jenkins knock him down. Lying on his back, Griffin watches as Garcon breaks loose. At first Griffin’s shoulders slightly off the ground, but as Griffin sees Garcon is going to score he sits up with both arms extending into the air and both index fingers pointing. Griffin would finish with 362 yards and touchdowns leading the Redskins to a 40–32 win.

Washington would start the season 3–3 and would feature Griffin being knocked out of one game and the following week’s game with a concussion. After three consecutive losses, the Redskins season appeared to be over at 3–6.

But Griffin had different ideas. Washington would win their remaining six games, including five divisional games. Yet again, it was Griffin performing on a nationally televised game that again raised his stardom. Following a four touchdown performance, in which he completed 93.3 per cent of his passes in a win over Philadelphia, Washington travelled to Dallas for the annual Thursday Thanksgiving game. Again, Griffin dominated in front of one of the traditionally highest view games of the year. Griffin threw four touchdowns in the win. Griffin would win league honours as rookie of the year after completing 65.6 per cent of his passes for 3200 yards and 20 touchdowns. On the ground Griffin added another 815 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Washington would make the playoffs after winning the NFC East and hosted the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game. Although, no one knew it at the time, this game proved to dimming of the RG3 star. Washington jumped out to a 14–0 lead, but the Seattle defense did not allow another point after the first quarter. Late in the game Washington center Will Montgomery botches the shotgun snap. Attempting to pick up the loose ball, Griffin’s knee buckles and he collapses on the field, unable to get up. The fans within the stadium were in “stunned silence” as described by Fox play by play man Joe Buck. Griffin had torn his ACL and LCL.

During the off-season, Adidas and Griffin launched their marketing campaign, “All in for week one.” The ads featured Griffin promising to be back for week one of the NFL season, just eight months following major knee surgery. The regular recovery time is closer to a full year.

Kornheiser ripped Griffin. The media firestorm picked up. The once unquestioned star was now second guessed and ridiculed for every comment he made. Griffin did return for week one, but could not reproduce his rookie form and would be shutdown with three games to spare in the season. Griffin produced similar yardage rates, but was less efficient doing so. To compound problems, Griffin’s touchdown numbers sharply declined, while his turnovers increased from seven in 16 regular season games as a rookie to 13 turnovers in 13 games. After the season, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was fired and replaced with Jay Gruden.

Griffin’s third season saw his passing efficiency improve to levels near his rookie season. But again, Griffin had more turnovers than touchdowns. For the third straight season, Griffin would miss time with an injury. In the second week of the season Griffin dislocated his ankle missing half of the season. Griffin would return to the lineup only to be benched for Colt McCoy. When McCoy was injured, Griffin returned to starting lineup.

Throughout his first three seasons, Griffin had a rocky relationship with both Shanahan and Gruden. Griffin and Shanahan struggled to get along, but made it work in their first season together. The second season saw the relationship fall apart and Shanahan fired for it. The relationship with Gruden never developed. Gruden started Griffin because he had to, not because he wanted to.

Entering his fourth season, Griffin was named the started by Gruden, months prior to camp before changing his mind. Gruden named Kirk Cousins the Redskins starter after Griffin suffered a concussion in the preseason. Cousins was drafted by the Redskins in the fourth round of the same draft as Griffin. The move was second guessed from the moment it was made.

With Cousins as the starter, Griffin dressed for just one game throughout the seasons. The Redskins were doing everything they could to prevent Griffin from getting injured and guaranteeing the fifth year of his contract. Cousins completed 69.8 per cent of his pass for 4166 yards and 29 touchdowns leading the Redskins to a 9–7 record and NFC East title, but lost in the first round to the Green Bay Packers. The Redskins success with Cousins as the starting quarterback ended the RG3 experiment in the District.

Following the conclusion of the NFL season, Griffin was released. A few weeks later, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns to be their starter. One game into the season, Griffin showed flashes of the electric player he had been. But again late in the game, Griffin was injured breaking his coracoid bone in his left shoulder. The injury potential extinguishes the Robert Griffin III star for good. The Browns placed the once star quarterback on injured reserve. Although eligible to return this season, we may have witnessed the last start for RG3 in the NFL. In sad and unfortunate end of an era of unbridled optimism.

Six NFL Teams Gambling on Quarterbacks

In the NFL, quarterback is the most important position. Have one of the best in the league and annually you are in contention to win a Superbowl. If your team is not lucky enough to have one of the few top guys, your chances of winning it all with few exceptions (2000 Baltimore Ravens), are virtually zero. That’s why coming in the 2016 season, six NFL franchises have taken large gambles in attempt to find their man.

The most conventional way for NFL teams to find their starting quarterback is by drafting them, 20 of the 32 teams will be starting a player they drafted. The Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos have each invested draft capital into finding their starter.

The Rams and Eagles both traded up to selected quarterbacks first and second overall in the draft. Both teams are gambling that Jared Goff or Carson Wentz turn into long term starters for their teams. But taking a quarterback at the top of the draft does not guarantee success. For every Peyton Manning drafted first overall in 1999, there is a Ryan Leaf who famously flamed out of the league. If either quarterback hits, it will be easier to justify trading most of their draft picks in the 2016 and 2017 drafts. If one of both of the quarterbacks turns out to be Ryan Leaf like busts, both franchises will be set back three seasons and the coaches and general managers who drafted them will be out of work. While the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch with the 25th pick overall.

For the Eagles and Broncos it’s a little more complicated than the Rams situation. Before trading up in the draft the Eagles gave incumbent starter Sam Bradford, a mediocre first overall pick for his entire 6 year career a $36 million extension. In addition to signing Bradford, the Eagles gave $21 million to backup Chase Daniel. Add in the Carson Wentz contract and the Eagles will be spending over $30 million on quarterbacks next season.

The Broncos meanwhile are gambling that they made the right decision by refusing to pay former starter Brock Osweiler. The Houston Texans are gambling on Osweiler, by giving him a $72 million contract. Osweiler started seven games in the middle of last season for the Broncos. Osweiler showed some ability but limited mobility in the pocket. By no means did Osweiler blow anyone away and that was largely the reason the Broncos to replace Osweiler with Manning in the playoffs. The Texans are gambling $18 million a year for the next four years that Denver made a mistake letting Osweiler leave town.

In response to losing Osweiler, the Broncos traded virtually nothing to the Eagles for Mark Sanchez. Sanchez, once a sixth overall pick is most famous for running into the butt of his offensive lineman and fumbling. Prior the trade the Broncos had just one quarterback left on the roster, former seventh round pick Trevor Siemian, who has almost no experience. With the lack of quarterback options, the Broncos draft Lynch in the first round. Regarded as a talent project, Lynch could ultimately be the best quarterback drafted in the first round. But Lynch and his raw athletic ability is not expected to play much in 2016. Leaving the Broncos to rely on Sanchez, which the New York Jets and Eagles have learned, is not something you want to do.

The final two teams taking gambles on quarterbacks are the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns. Last season Tyrod Taylor was a revelation in Buffalo. A late round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Taylor sat on the bench for four seasons. Buffalo gave him a small contract and the opportunity to win the starters job. Taylor won the quarterback job, and performed as a top ten quarterback. The Bills in response are making a $92 million gamble that Taylor is the long term answer in Buffalo.

Perhaps the most interesting and smartest gamble was made by the Browns. The Browns signed former rookie of the year Robert Griffin III to a two year contract worth $15 million. In 2012, Griffin was one of the league’s best and most exciting players. But after tearing his ACL and dislocating his ankle, Griffin is damaged goods. In addition to injuries, Griffin has clashed with two different head coaches while with the Washington Redskins. While the Browns are betting on Griffin this season, they have their bet hedged next season thanks to the Eagles. When the Eagles traded up to second overall they sent a 2017 first round pick to Cleveland. What makes the trade more interesting is, that Cleveland made the trade because they did not believe that Wentz was a quarterback worth taking second overall. The Eagles disagreed and made the large gamble. For the Browns, should Griffin not work out for the Browns they can draft next year’s quarterback prize, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.

Defense Wins Super Bowl 50

The Carolina Panthers have been the NFL’s best team this season. Despite the Panthers winning 14 straight games and finishing the regular season 15-1, few people wanted to acknowledge how good the Panthers are. The Panthers are the betting favourites in Super Bowl 50 for a reason. They are going to win and they are going to win big.

Lead by MVP favourite Cam Newton, and a great defense the Panthers were among the league leaders in points scored and points allowed. In the playoffs the Panthers were more dominate. In their first game the Panthers jumped out to a 31-0 lead eliminating defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.

In the NFC championship game, the Panthers dominated the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers defense forced Carson Palmer into four interceptions and recovered a pair of fumbles. The Panthers won 49-15, punching their Super Bowl tickets.

Cam Newton deserves the majority of credit for leading one of the league’s best offenses. However it is the defense that makes the Panthers a truly special team. The defense is headlined by linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Panthers selected the Boston College tackling machine 9th overall in 2012. Kuechly struggled in coverage early in his career. However, Kuechly has emerged as the league’s best linebacker in coverage, and it’s not even close according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks see receivers being covered by Kuechly and assume that a linebacker covering a receiver is mismatch. It’s a mistake that both Russell Wilson and Palmer made in the playoffs. Both times Kuechly intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown. In Denver’s victory over New England in the AFC championship game, tight end Owen Daniels scored two touchdowns on blown coverages. Against Kuechly, Daniels will not be able to create any separation.

Part of what makes Kuechly so effective, is Panthers dominate defensive line that beats opposing offensive lineman and prevents them from getting to Kuechly in the second level. The Panthers built the interior of their defensive line in the 2013 NFL draft. The Panthers selected Star Lotulelei 13th overall and Kawann Short 44th overall. Both have been disruptive forces in the middle of the line. Lotulelei received the major of media hype early on, but it has been Short that has emerged as the star.

Short was named to the All-Pro team after he routinely beat offensive lineman. Short finished with 55 tackles and 11 sacks. The biggest weakest on the Broncos offense is their offensive line, that Khalil Mack dominated for five sacks in a half. With Short and Lotulelei, the Panthers should win the battle in the trenches, limiting any running game for the Broncos and collapsing the pocket on Peyton Manning.

If there is a weakness for the Panthers defense it is the secondary and an injury to linebacker Thomas Davis. Davis broke his arm in the Arizona game but vows to play in the Super Bowl. His replacement is Panthers first round pick Shaq Thompson. Thompson did not see many snaps his rookie season, but maybe a better athlete than Davis. Thompson played both running back and safety at Washington before settling in as a coverage linebacker in the Panthers sub packages. While in the secondary, Josh Norman has emerged from small school obscurity into one of the NFL’s top corners. For most of the season throwing at Norman was no better than throwing the ball into the dirt. Norman will be in coverage on either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders and limit their impact on the game. Outside of Norman, the Broncos could find mismatches with Roman Harper who is a good run stuffer as a safety, but a liability in coverage.

Offensively, the Panthers have to counter a Broncos pass rush that hit Tom Brady a record 23 times. Like the Broncos, the Panthers have a poor offensive line. Blind Side tackle Michael Oher maybe a well-regarded player due to the Michael Lewis book and movie about his life. But Oher has consistently graded as one of the NFL’s worst tackles over the past three seasons. Luckily for Oher, Newton counters any pass rush with his size and speed. Newton is similar in size to both of Denver’s top pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. What makes Newton so dangerous is his ability to break contain, extend the play and pick up first downs.

The Broncos possess a very good run defense lead by Derek Wolfe. The Broncos will certainly limit the production of Panthers’ back Jonathan Stewart, but they will not be able to limit Newton’s effectiveness as a runner. Newton’s ability to run makes him extremely difficult to account for. Wade Phillips knows this and will almost certainly place a spy on Newton. But this will leave the Broncos vulnerable in coverage.

The Broncos have a definite advantage in the passing game. Denver has three capable starting corners in Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Jr and Bradley Roby. The Panthers’ receivers outside of tight end Greg Olsen, somehow form a functional unit, despite being a collection of players no one really wanted. With no star receiver, the Broncos won’t match a corner up with any receiver. However they will likely match safety T.J. Ward on Olsen. Olsen has been Newton’s favourite target over the five seasons they have played together.

When the game concludes, the Panthers offense will not be the unit that wins them the game. It will be the defense. A defense that will create turnovers and great field position for the offense. Super Bowl 50 could look a lot like the Broncos last trip to the Super Bowl two seasons ago when they lost 43-8 to the Seahawks.

Why The Cleveland Browns Have Been Dysfunctional Since 1999

Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been a laughingstock and an example of how not to run any sports team. And yet somehow they have found a way of reaching new levels of being a dysfunction franchise.

In 1995 then Browns owner Art Modell relocated his historic 4-time championship winning NFL franchise to Baltimore. During the same off-season Modell fired then Browns’ Head Coach Bill Belichick. By 2000 the Baltimore Ravens were Super Bowl champions lead by an all-time great defence. The foundation was set for the Ravens championship team at 1996 NFL draft when the Ravens, selected Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden with what would have been the Browns’ fourth overall pick. Thanks to Belichick, the Ravens had an additional first round pick after a trade at the previous year’s draft that saw the San Francisco 49ers traded up from 30th overall to 10th overall to select wide receiver J.J. Stokes. In addition to the 30th pick the Browns received the 26th overall pick in 1996. With that pick, the Ravens selected University of Miami linebacker and future first ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.

From 1996 season until 1998 the Cleveland Browns franchise was officially a suspended operation. As part of an agreement between the city of Cleveland and the NFL, the city was allowed to keep the name, logo and colours associated with the franchise and a promise that if a new stadium was built the Browns would return as an expansion franchise. In 1998 Al Lerner paid a then record fee for the Browns franchise to return. The Lerner family would continue to own the Browns until 2012, despite Al’s death 2002.

The rebooted Browns started operations in February 1999, with an expansion draft. Despite not having a single player on the roster, the Browns under General Manager Dwight Clark were only able to select two players who would end as starters the first season. The team hired Chris Palmer as their head coach. In the 1999 draft, the Browns selected Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch first overall, hoping for him to be their franchise quarterback. With the second overall pick the Philadelphia Eagles selected Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb. Despite selecting six players who would be starters in their initial season, none would have long or impactful careers. Bad drafting is a recurring theme that has plagued the franchise since the 1999 return.

In 2000 the Browns would yet again have the first overall pick, and predictably selected the wrong player. Penn St defensive lineman Courtney Brown was picked and would last just five years in Cleveland. Brown would be traded to Denver in 2005, and retired after just one season with the Broncos.

However, it would be Belichick who would come away the biggest winner of the 2000 NFL draft, in his first season as Head Coach of the New England Patriots. With the 183th overall pick the Browns selected Texas St. quarterback Spergon Wynn. Wynn would be out of the NFL following the 2001 season. Wynn would go on to play a few seasons in the CFL before retiring. Wynn’s career NFL quarterback rating is 39.5. That is only noteworthy because that if he were to drop back and throw the ball directly into the ground every play, his quarterback rating would be 39.6. The next quarterback drafted, 199th overall, was some guy from the University of Michigan you may have heard of, Tom Brady.

In 2001, Belichick and Brady would win their first of four Super Bowls. The Browns meanwhile hired University of Miami head coach Butch Davis, to be their general manager and replace Palmer who went 5-27 in his two seasons as the Browns’ head coach. Under Davis the Browns improved to 7-9 and 9-7 in 2002, making the playoffs for the first and only time since the franchise return in 1999. The Browns would travel to division rival Pittsburgh losing 36-33. However, there was reason for optimism in Cleveland. The sense of optimism around the team would be brief.

Despite experience some minor success the Browns draft picks continued to be horrible. In their first four seasons, the Browns would select just four players who would spend more than 6 seasons as starters in the NFL (Daylon McCutcheon, Gerard Warren, Anthony Henry and Andre Davis). Former first overall pick Tim Couch would be cut following the 2003 season as the Browns search for a franchise quarterback continued to go unfulfilled.

Davis was fired near the end of the 2004 season. After making the playoffs in 2002, Davis went 5-11 in 2003 and started the 2004 season 4-7 before being fired. 2003 would mark one of Cleveland’s best drafts, selecting Chris Crocker and Jeff Faine. Both Crocker and Faine would each be starters in the NFL for more than six seasons.

It is the career of Faine that best illustrates some of the bad luck the Browns have also suffered. In 2006, the Browns would make a big splash in free agency signing the best available player, center and Cleveland native LaCharles Bentley to a 6 year $36 million dollar contract, from the New Orleans Saints. The Browns would then trade incumbent starting center Jeff Faine to New Orleans. On the first play of training camp, Bentley suffered a serious knee injury and tore his patella tendon. Bentley would undergo multiple surgeries and nearly lose his leg to a staph infection. Bentley would never end up playing a single snap for the Browns. While Faine would go on to make the Pro Bowl with the Saints.

In 2004 the Browns would again find two starters of six plus season, Kellen Winslow Jr., and Sean Jones. Again bad luck would haunt the Browns. In the second game of his rookie season, Winslow broke his leg. In the off-season, Winslow would crash his motorcycle and tear his ACL. Despite recording over 1100 yards in 2007 season, Winslow would be traded after the 2008 season, after feuding with then General Manager Phil Savage after Winslow contracted a staph infection at the Browns’ facilities.

The 2004 off-season the Browns attempted to solve their quarterback problem by signing former three time Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia from the 49ers. Garcia signed for $25 million over four years. Garcia was 34 at the time of his signing, lasted just one season in Cleveland before being released. Garcia started just ten games in 2004, going 3-7. Garcia would spend the rest of his career bouncing from team to team as a backup, before retiring in 2011.

In 2005, the Browns looked to the coaching tree of Belichick for their next head coach. The Browns hired Patriots defensive coordinator and former Browns’ assistant Romeo Crennel. In the four previous seasons, Crennel won three Super Bowls as the defensive coordinator for the Brady and Belichick lead Patriots. By the time Crennel was hired, the Browns had started 7 different quarterbacks. By the end of Crennel’s tenure in 2008 the Browns would be up to 13 different starting quarterbacks. In four seasons Crennel’s record would be 24-40. That record looks even worse considering the Browns nearly made the playoffs in 2007 with a 10-6 record. In the other three seasons the Browns were 14-34 under Crennel. Crennel’s tenure was tied to Savage who served as the Browns general manager from 2005 until 2008.

The Crennel era would again be plagued with disastrous drafts and free agent signings. In the first six years of the rebooted Browns, the team drafted in the top 6 four times. Crennel would begin his tenure with the third overall pick selecting Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Edwards like Winslow before him would be plagued by knee injuries and a staph infection. Edwards produced one fantastic season for the Browns, recorded 1289 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007. After four games into the 2009 season, Edwards was traded to the New York Jets.

The Browns once again made a big splash in free agency, signing cornerback Gary Baxter away from division rival Baltimore Ravens for $30 million and six seasons. The Browns gave Braxter a $10.5 million signing bonus. In his first season in Cleveland Baxter missed 11 games after tearing his pectoral muscle. The following season, Baxter tore his patella tendon in both of his knees just three games into the season. Baxter spent the entire 2007 season on injury reserve as he recovered from his injury. In total, Baxter played in just eight games for the Browns and was released prior to the 2008 season.

The Browns drafted two starters of 6 or more seasons in the 2006 draft (Kamerion Wimbley and D’Qwell Jackson). In 2007, the Browns drafted Wisconsin Left Tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas is easily the best player the Browns have fielded since their return in 1999 and will a future Hall of famer. In addition to Thomas, the Browns drafted another 6 year plus starter in cornerback Eric Wright. Unfortunately in the same draft the Browns mortgaged most of their 2008 draft in a trade to select Notre Dame quarterback and Ohio native Brady Quinn 22nd overall. The Browns’ 2008 draft was a complete write off. With just six picks and none until the fourth round Browns came away with almost nothing.

Surprisingly the Browns’ were successful when they entered the free agent market in 2007. Unfortunately, for the Browns the 2008 off-season would again be disastrous. In 2007 the Browns lured Eric Steinbach away from in state rival Cincinnati. Steinbach would team with Thomas to form one of the best left sides of an offensive line in football for several seasons. The Browns also successfully signed former 2000 yard rusher Jamal Lewis from the Ravens. Lewis would produce two 1000 yard seasons for the Browns before retiring after the 2009 season.

In 2008 the Browns had perhaps their worst off-season since their return. The Browns first traded for Green Bay Packers franchise tag defensive lineman Corey Williams. The Browns would extend Williams with a six year $38.6 million contract. After just two seasons, Williams was traded to Detroit for virtually nothing. A week later, the Browns signed former Saints wide receiver Donte Stallworth to a seven year $35 million contract. In his first season Stallworth recorded just 17 catches and 170 yards. During the off-season Stallworth was charged with DUI manslaughter and suspended the entire 2009 season. Upon being reinstated the Browns terminated Stallworth’s contact.

For the second straight head coaching hire, the Browns looked to the Belichick coaching tree, hiring Eric Mangini. Mangini was fresh off a three year stint as the head coach of the New York Jets, where he made the playoff once and went 23-25. Mangini would last just two seasons with the Browns, as the same themes continued throughout his tenure.

For the first ten seasons of the Cleveland Browns reboot, the lack of success could be attributed to poor draft results, bad luck and playing in a division dominated by the Ravens and Pittsbugh Steelers, who combined to win three Super Bowls. However, in 2009 the Browns dropped to a new level of being a dysfunction, poorly run franchise. The Browns hired George Kokinis to replace Savage as the general manager. After a 1-7 start to the season, Kokinis was fired and escorted out of the building by security.

In his lone draft as General Manager Kokinis selected center Alex Mack in the first round. Mack continues to be the starting center of the Browns through the 2015 season. However, every other pick made by Kokinis provided little value and only special teams player Don Carey still in the league by 2015. The Browns would start 1-11 before winning their final four games to finish the season.

After the unmemorable tenure of Kokinis, the Browns provided their fans with optimism, by hiring former Packers and Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren to be the team’s president. Holmgren won a Super Bowl with the Brett Favre lead Packers, leaving to become the head coach and general manager of the Seahawks. After a few seasons in both roles for the Seahawks, Holmgren was removed as the general manager, but remained the head coach leading the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance. Holmgren’s first move for the Browns was hiring with former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert Jr. to replace Kokinis.

Heckert had a successful first draft with the Browns, selecting three starters of four seasons in Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Shawn Lauvao. Heckert successfully dipped into free agency to sign tight end Ben Watson to a three year $12 million contract that Watson would actually fulfill unlike most Browns signings. However, Heckert signed quarterback Jake Delhomme to a two year contract. Delhomme lead the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance but lost to Belicheck and Brady. Delhomme was paid $7 million for the 2010 season before getting released and not playing out the second year of his contract.

The 2010 season would be the last for Eric Mangini who was fired after consecutive 5-11 seasons. By the end of the Mangini tenure, the Browns starting quarterback count was up to 16.

Heckert and Holmgren would hire former Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as the new head coach. In his first season as head coach the Browns started 2-2, and would only win two more games the rest of the season. The Browns finished with a 4-12 season.

Heckert followed up his first draft was a second, solid but unspectacular draft. Heckert traded back from sixth overall pick to 27th with the Atlanta Falcons picking up additional picks. Heckert then traded up from 27 to 21 to selected mammoth defensive lineman Phil Taylor. Taylor would spend four seasons as a starter for the Browns but missed the majority of two seasons with injuries. Taylor would be cut prior to the 2015 season, and spent the year out of football.

In the second round Heckert selected Jabaal Sheard. Sheard spent three seasons as a starter in Cleveland before leaving for New England as a free agent, recording 31 sacks in his first five seasons. On the third day of the draft Heckert selected tight end Jordan Cameron and versatile defensive back Buster Skrine. Both Cameron and Skrine left the Browns as free agents following the 2014 season after two seasons of starting for the Browns.

From 1999 to 2011 the Browns went 68-140.Yet somehow the Browns managed to become even more dysfunctional. The story of the Cleveland Browns took a turn that very few could have seen coming. The Browns became even more of a comedic joke that even the best Hollywood comedy writers could not have come up with.

The 2012 off-season started with the team not making any mistakes in free agency, but that is more due to the team not making any major signings. Six weeks later, the draft arrived and general manager Heckert was extremely active.

At the 2012 draft, the Browns held the third overall pick. Heckert traded down to fourth picking up three extra day three picks. In total the Browns held 11 picks, including two in the first round. The Browns appeared to be moving in the right direction.

With the fourth overall pick, the Browns selected Alabama running back Trent Richardson. At the time the pick was praised as a selecting a “can’t miss” prospect. Richardson played 17 games for the Browns before being traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick. Richardson would be out of football for the entire 2015 season.

With the 22nd overall pick, the Browns selected former New York Yankees pitching prospect and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden was already 28 years old when the Browns drafted him, leaving him little room to improve. Like Richardson, Weeden was traded after two seasons and 20 starts with the Browns.

The remaining nine picks for the Browns produced similar success as their first two picks. Of the 11 picks the Browns had in 2012, only three players remain on the Browns through the 2015 season. Guard Mitchell Schwartz has proven to be a four year starter for the team replacing Steinbach at left guard, next to Thomas. Defensive lineman John Hughes has been a depth defender for the team. Receiver and return man Travis Benjamin has improve each year as a pro has emerged as an elite returner and starting receiver.

As part of the supplemental draft, the Browns selected troubled Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon with a second round pick. At Baylor, Gordon had been suspended twice for drug related offenses. With the Browns, Gordon was very productive. In 2013, Gordon was suspended for the first two games of the season due to violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Despite the suspension, Gordon finished the season with 87 catches for 1646 yards and nine touchdowns. The following season, Gordon would be suspended 10 games for violating the substance policy again. Gordon would be suspended the entire 2015 for yet another substance abuse policy violation.

During the middle of the season, the Browns were sold. Jimmy Haslem purchased the franchise from the Lerner family for just around a billion dollars. Haslem earned his fortune through owning the Pilot Flying J truck stop empire. Haslem was a seemingly unknown figure, but as information surfaced the optimism that ownership changes usually bring sports franchise was quickly gone. In 2008, Haslem purchased a minority share of Brown rival the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haslem was forced to sell as part of his agreement when buying the Browns.

Predictably, as is the case when a new owner takes over the Browns cleaned house and fired executives Holmgren and Heckert. Like Mangini before him, Shurmur was fired after just his second season. By the end of the Shurmur, Heckert and Holmgren era the Browns had reached 18 different starting quarterbacks.

Haslem hired former Browns and Belichick director of pro personal Michael Lombardi. Lombardi worked for Bill Walsh’s 49ers dynasty in the 80s before being hired by the Browns in 1987 and staying with the team until 1996. From 1998 to 2007 Lombardi worked for the Oakland Raiders. Lombardi was qualified for to be the General Manager, but had spent the previous six seasons working in the media.

Lombardi hired former Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as the head coach. Lombardi would then turn his focus to free agency where he hoped to rebuild the Browns’ defense. Lombardi spent a large portion of his available cap room on five year contracts for defensive lineman Desmond Bryant ($34 million) and edge defender Paul Kruger ($40 million). The moves both proved to be good, but neither proved to be anything to brag about. Lombardi would also sign Gary Barnidge to a bargain contract. In 2015, out of no where Barnidge caught 79 passes for 1043 yards and nine touchdowns. Barnidge’s 2015 stat line exceed his combined stats for the previous six seasons.

The Browns continued to reach new comedic levels in April 2013. Prior to the NFL draft it was revealed that Haslem’s truck stop business was being investigated by the FBI for fraud. Haslem and his company agreed to pay $92 million as part of a criminal enforcement agreement.

The 2013 draft proved to be nearly as terrible as their 2012 draft. With just five picks, the Browns hoped yet another top six pick would help their defence. The Browns again held a top six pick and elected to take LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo. Lombardi expected Mingo to team with Kruger to provide the Browns with a dynamic pass rush. However after three seasons, Mingo has struggled to even establish himself as a starter. Mingo has started 16 of a possible 48 games recording just seven sacks. The only other player from the 2013 draft class on the roster is seventh round pick Armonty Bryant a depth defensive lineman who has got 8.5 sacks in his three seasons.

The 2013 Browns got out to a better than expected start, going 3-2 in their first five games. However like Browns teams before them, the 2013 version would win just one game of their remaining 11. For the second straight off-season, Haslem cleaned house, firing both Lombardi and Chudzinski after just one season. The Browns starting quarterback reached 20 since 1999.

Again looking for a new general manager and head coach, Haslem looked within for a general manager. Haslem decided to promote former player Ray Farmer to general manager. Prior to joining the Browns organization, Farmer had worked for both the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons. After a month long search, Haslem hired former Bills and Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as Head coach.

Like Lombardi before him, Farmer made an early splash in free agency by signing several high profile players with the aims of improving the defence. Farmer signed 29 year old strong safety and Cleveland native Donte Whitner to a four year $28 million. Farmer followed by giving 33 year old linebacker Karlos Dansby four years and $24 million. Farmer added to the offense by signing receiver Andrew Hawkins and running back Ben Tate. Expected to be the feature back, Tate was cut by the Browns after 8 games and play on both the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers before the end of the 2014 season. Hawkins signed for four years and $13.6 million from the Bengals as a restricted free agent. Hawkins had a productive first season, before missing half of the 2015 season.

At the draft, Farmer looked to improve on the 2012 and 2013 drafts, which was not a hard accomplishment given how horrible those drafts were for the Browns. Although early the 2014 draft is on pace to be just as bad as the two previous drafts. Farmer started with the fourth overall pick, but made a trade with the Bills for the pick. As part of the return, Farmer received the ninth overall pick and Buffalo’s first round pick in 2015. Farmer would then trade up from nine to eight in a deal with Minnesota.

With the eighth pick, Cleveland selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, despite the fact he was not the consensus best player at his position. Gilbert has struggled badly at corner his first two seasons, struggling to see the field and often being left as an inactive. Gilbert has even flirted with a position change.

As part of the Richardson trade with Indianapolis, the Browns had an extra first round pick. Farmer traded up from 26th to 22nd with the Eagles to select the draft’s highest profile player, Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. After two seasons, Manziel has lost back to back training camp battles for the starter’s job. In eight career starts Manziel’s play has been far from impressive and puts him on a similar career path as former Browns’ quarterbacks selected 22nd overall Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden. Despite the disastrous play of Quinn and Weeden, Manziel’s off-field issues have made him even more disappointing. After his first season, Manziel went to rehab. As the 2015 season ended, reports surfaced that Manziel who was injured with a concussion skipped his concussion protocol meeting at Browns headquarters on a Saturday to party in Las Vegas. Making the story even more ridiculous, reports have stated that Manziel was in Vegas wearing a blonde wig and moustache referring to himself as “Billy,” but as much as it seems plausible with the Browns is difficult to believe.

The only saving grace from the 2014 draft for Cleveland is Joel Bitonio. The Nevada offensive line product was excellent as a rookie before injuries ended his 2015 season prematurely. If there is anywhere the Browns can have any hope it is on the offensive line where stalwarts Thomas and Mack are teamed with young talents in Bitonio and Schwartz.

At the end of the season, Farmer suspended the first four games of the 2015 for violating NFL rules regarding texting the Browns coaching staff during the middle of games. The Browns were $250,000 for the violations.

The Browns also elected to introduce new jerseys and logo during the off-season. The jersey’s were universally panned and criticized by fans and media members.

After finishing 7-9, owner Jimmy Haslem surprisingly showed a little patience with his general manager and head coach, allowing both to return for a second season. For the second straight season, Farmer went into free agency with lots of cap space available.

Farmer looked to improve his offense by signing quarterback McCown to a three year $14 million contract. Looking to give McCown some receivers to make his life easier, Farmer signed two year contracts with former 1000 yard receivers Dwayne Bowe ($13 million) and Brian Hartline ($6 million). As with his signings the year before, Farmer signed older players. McCown was 36, Bowe 30 and Hartline 28.

All three moves turned into disasters, as none of Farmer’s signings played the entire season. McCown played well in eight games. Bowe was a disaster, looking completely shot as many could have predicted following his last three seasons with the Chiefs. Bowe finished the season with just five catches for 53 yards. Hartline played 12 games before a season ending injury.

On defence Farmer signed 32 year old corner Tramon Williams to a three year $21 million dollar contract, to play the corner that former eighth overall pick Gilbert proved unable to play. In addition to Williams, Farmer signed 31 year old Randy Starks to a two year contract worth $8 million.

The best move made by Farmer, trading for punter Andy Lee, who continued to be one of the league’s best punters of the past decade. Outside of the trade for Lee, Farmer’s off-season can be described as a disaster and the reason why the 2015 Browns regressed after the 2014 seven win season.

The Browns entered the 2015 with 12 picks, including two in the first and third rounds. With the eleventh pick the Browns selected athletic giant defensive lineman Danny Shelton. Shelton proved to be good but not great, and a work in progress. With the 19th pick the Browns selected versatile Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Irving. Irving started just four games and was viewed as a pick made for 2016 when he will likely replace a departing lineman in either Mack or Schwartz. Second round pick Nate Orchard started 11 games, while third round pick Duke Johnson started 7. Although early, the returns are at least better than the three previous drafts. However, it is nearly impossible to be worse.

The Browns regressed to 3-13. As history has shown, Haslem’s patience ran out for Farmer and Pettine and both were fired at the end of the season. The Cleveland quarterback graveyard grew to 24.

As the 2016 off-season begins, Haslem is searching for his fourth general manager and head coach since buying the team in 2012. Although still searching for a new general manager, Haslem made an extremely interesting front office hire.

Paul DePodesta is best known for his tenure as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For those who may be confused, you read that right, Haslem hired a baseball executive to be the Browns’ “chief strategy officer.” DePodesta will report directly to Haslem himself.

DePodesta gained fame through the Michael Lewis book Moneyball that looked at the analytically approach of Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane. DePodesta was portrayed by Jonah Hill in the film adaptation of Moneyball under a different name. As a general manager, DePodesta tenure with the Dodgers is considered a failure, by many as the team failed to improve from when he took over. Then Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, fired DePodesta after two seasons, and in many ways McCourt is very similar to Haslem as he nearly destroyed the Dodgers franchise.

As inexperienced as DePodesta appears on the surface, this is not his first time working as a football executive. DePodesta played for Harvard in college and worked for the Baltimore Stallions of the CFL. DePodesta was not hired to scout players. DePodesta was hired to bring analytical thinking to the Browns. Adding an additional set of information and data to every decision the Browns make. Logically thinking, immediate impact from the DePodesta will be on the current roster and free agency. Immediately, people should expect players under performing their contracts to be gone. In free agency, analytics should help prevent the Browns from signing old declining players.

Following the DePodesta hire, Halsem lured former Oakland Raiders Head Coach and Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to be the Browns Head Coach. Jackson’s tenure as Raiders head coach lasted just the 2011 season, finishing 8-8. Normally that would be good enough to keep your job, but Jackson was in an unusual circumstance.

In the middle of the 2011 season, Raiders hall of fame owner and general manager Al Davis died the day prior to the Raiders week five game against the Houston Texans. The Raiders would win to start 3-2. The Raiders would play the Browns the following week, winning but losing starting quarterback Jason Campbell. In response, Jackson traded a first and second round pick for then retired quarterback Carson Palmer a day after beating Cleveland.

The trade was a disaster for the Raiders, setting them back two years and would eventually lose their division lead to the Tim Tebow lead Denver Broncos. Jackson would be fired by Mark Davis who cleaned house. Jackson would be hired by the Bengals working directly with quarterback Andy Dalton improving his play steadily over his tenure with the team.

For the Browns, franchise to have any success, Haslem will have to give Jackson time to install his offense with a quarterback of his choosing. Reports suggest Jackson and ownership are ready to move on from troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel. For Jackson, it will be an interesting test to see how he will use the analytics generated by DePodesta. Once again, Cleveland has reason to be optimistic about the Browns.

Since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, the team has gone 87-185, averaging a 5-11 record annually. The team has had seven different head coaches, seven different general managers and one interim head coach (Terry Robiskie, 2004). The Browns have selected in the top 8 of the NFL draft ten times and started 24 different quarterbacks. At least for Browns fans, it can not get any worse. However, under Haslem’s ownership there is little reason for optimism as the owner continues to be a self-destructive force to his billion dollar franchise. But at the very least, Haslem has burned his franchise down to the ground so he can rebuild in a new analytical approach.