The Reason To Let Manziel Sit is Inexperience, Not Hoyer

Cleveland football fans are a fickle lot to be sure.

One week ago, people were talking about how well Brian Hoyer has played this season, this week, they are calling for Johnny Manziel to start.

We have said before that the difference in Mike Pettine and his staff vs. the past few coaching regimes is the emphasis on winning.  These Browns are playing to win and right now, they are very much in a race for a playoff spot.

Just looked at how they’ve handled first round draft choice Justin Gilbert.  He wasn’t playing well, so the staff went with K’Waun Williams, an undrafted free agent.  They aren’t giving out playing time based on draft position.

That’s the biggest reason why the coaching staff will be very hesitant to play Manziel with the team still in play for a spot in the post-season, which would be the Browns first since 2002.

Take a look around the NFL.  Right now, there are three teams starting rookie quarterbacks:  Oakland (Derek Carr), Jacksonville (Blake Bortles), and Minnesota (Teddy Bridgewater).  Those teams combined records?  Try 3-17

The Raiders currently rank 31st in the NFL in scoring and 32nd in the league in total offense.  Carr has played fairly well, completing 60.5% of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

Jacksonville is just the opposite and by that we mean they are 32nd in the NFL in scoring and 31st in yardage.  Bortles has completed 65.5% of his throws, but turnovers have been a big problem in the five games he has played (four starts), as he has tossed 10 interceptions, including three in the win over the Browns.

The Vikings also have one of the league’s worst offense, ranking 30th in scoring and 29th in yardage.  Bridgewater has made three starts and appeared in four games in total, completing 61.1% of his passes, with only one touchdown and five picks.

By contrast, the Browns, with a veteran quarterback in Hoyer at the controls, rank 14th in points scored and 10th in yardage through the first six games of the season.

Look, Brian Hoyer isn’t an All Pro quarterback, and he certainly isn’t one of the top ten players at his position in the sport.  He’s better than a lot of back ups, but probably not good enough to be a starter long term in this league.  That’s why the Browns drafted Manziel, he likely will be the guy who the front office expects will be the long-term starter.

We get that, and we believe Johnny Manziel will be that guy in the future.  However, that future isn’t now.

What you will get right now if Manziel plays is something like the other rookie starters are giving their teams, and that is not many points, and a lot of turnovers.  That flies directly against Pettine’s vision for the team.  He wants to run the football, play defense, and avoid mistakes.

It is doubtful a rookie quarterback, unless he is Andrew Luck, can provide that.

That’s what Manziel’s true competition is, the experience factor.

If and when the Browns are out of playoff contention, and/or the offense’s production with Hoyer at the controls starts to be among the worst in the NFL, then we will see Johnny Manziel, because the Browns need to find out what they have in him.

However, right now, to give his team their best chance to win, it makes sense for Pettine to stay with Hoyer, who has been more good than bad so far in 2014.

JD

 

Jags Stuff the Run, Offense Couldn’t Handle It.

Cleveland Browns’ fans have a history of over reacting and it showed up again today.

After the Browns’ huge win over the Steelers last week, supporters of the team starting talking about how the team had turned the corner.

The Jacksonville Jaguars reminded everyone today that although the Browns have indeed improved, there is a long way to go, defeating the Browns 24-6.

We have sung the praises of Brian Hoyer after the first four games, but Jags’ coach Gus Bradley decided to see just how good Hoyer is, and put the game on his arm by playing nine men in the box on a regular basis, and stuffing the best things about the Cleveland offense after five games, the running attack.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense gained just 69 yards on 30 carries, an average of just over two yards a crack, and that put the entire onus on moving the ball on Hoyer’s right arm.  And he had a bad day.

Meanwhile, the weakness on the Cleveland defense also killed them, the inability to stop the run.  The Jaguars had one of the worst running games in the NFL coming into the game, but they ran for 174 yards today.

Once again, we will reiterate.  If you can’t run the ball, and you can’t stop the run, it is difficult to win in the National Football League.

And add in three turnovers, two by Hoyer (fumble being hit while throwing, and an interception), and a horrible decision to try to catch a punt inside the five yard line by Jordan Poyer, and it became a recipe for defeat.

Also, to be sure, other teams will copy this formula to stop the Cleveland running game, and it is up to Shanahan to devise a counter for what Jacksonville did to his offense.

It certainly didn’t help that Hoyer was inaccurate either.  He completed just 16 of 41 throws for 215 yards, and for the first time this year, he couldn’t guide the team into the end zone.

The best way to combat the Jags’ philosophy is to throw on first down with so many players near the line of scrimmage, but Hoyer couldn’t hit on some short throws early, and add in some drops by receivers as well, and they seemed to be in second and third and long all day, in direct contrast with the season’s first five contests.

Many will point to Mike Pettine’s gamble late in the first half with Cleveland leading 6-0, to go for it on fourth down from the Jacksonville 24-yard line with two minutes to go.  They failed and the momentum switched.  The Jaguars suddenly had hope.

The defense tried its best to keep the Browns in the game with three interceptions of rookie QB Blake Bortles, two by Tashaun Gipson and another by Buster Skrine in the red zone.

Bortles threw for just 159 yards on the day, but once again the defense couldn’t contain the ground game and that made it is easier for Bortles, who hurt the Browns in the second half with some read option plays.

Keep in mind, even with all of the problems Cleveland had today, this was very much a game until Poyer dropped the punt with a little over six minutes to go.  It was a 10-6 game at that point.

Pettine and GM Ray Farmer simply have to shore up the punt returner spot, as it has been a problem all year.

With the next two games against losing teams and at home, here’s hoping today’s defeat was a wake up call that the Browns aren’t as good as they thought they were.

The coaching staff should be held accountable too, they seemed to coach like the Jaguars had no chance to win, and it came back to bite them.

Playoff teams would have found a way to win this game, it just shows the Browns aren’t there quite yet.

JD

 

Royals Success is Cruel Reminder of Tribe Inactivity

Let this soak in for a minute…the Kansas City Royals are the American League Champions.

They will host the first two games of the World Series next week and have provided their fans with three weeks of excitement.  We remember that feeling from 2007.

During the regular season, the Royals won exactly four more games than the Indians (89 vs. 85) and based on run differential, the Royals should have won 84 games as opposed to the Tribe’s 83.  As you can see there isn’t much difference between the two clubs.

Kansas City GM Drayton Moore went all in to make the post-season, perhaps because the Royals last trip to the playoffs came in 1985.  He traded for right-handed hitter Josh Willingham, relief pitcher Jason Frasor, and veteran left-handed bat Raul Ibanez.

As we have well documented, the Indians traded Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, and brought in OF J.B. Shuck and utility man Chris Gimenez.

The point isn’t the contributions made by the players who joined Kansas City in the last two months of the season, it’s that they made a commitment to the rest of the players on the roster.

We remember in 1995 when then GM John Hart traded for Ken Hill at the trade deadline even though the Indians were way ahead in the AL Central Division standings.  They didn’t need to add a pitcher, but Hart wanted to send the message to everyone on that team that the organization was it in to win a World Series.

And think about it, what message did GM Chris Antonetti send to this year’s team when he didn’t help them out on July 31st?

Kansas City’s success this year is a reminder that baseball is the one sport where getting into the playoffs gives you a chance to be the World Series Champions.  The percentages of the eighth seed in the NBA playoffs advancing past the first round are very slim, they are usually dominated by the best team in each conference.

In the NFL, although it was happened that a team gets on a roll, in most years, the last team to make the post-season, the sixth seed in each conference, has a lot of disadvantages.  They have to play all of their games on the road, and they have to play three games instead of two for the top seeds.

But in baseball, if you can get in, you have a shot.  It comes down to pitching, hitters getting hot at the right time, and solid bullpens.  That’s why the San Francisco Giants, on the verge of advancing to their third World Series in five years, have missed the playoffs twice in the same span.

They have a team perfectly set up for the playoffs, but sometimes they don’t hit enough to qualify for the post-season over a 162 game slate.

This year, if the Giants and Royals play in the Fall Classic, we will be assured that a great team will not win the Series.  That isn’t belittling either squad, but it is simply a fact, and it goes to show how important it can be to just make the playoffs.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Cleveland Indians didn’t go the extra mile to get in even though they were right on the doorstep.

The front office has to look at the Royals and think “that could be us”.

KM

Extentions For Players? Depends on Your Perspective

Contract extensions are in the news in our fair city with many debating about Browns’ QB Brian Hoyer’s status and other speculating whether or not the Indians should offer one to Corey Kluber.

Hoyer was offered a deal in the spring by the Browns, one that would have paid the quarterback very handsomely, but with the money based on him being a backup signal caller.  Hoyer would have received more money than he is making now, but he chose, as is his prerogative, to bet on himself.

His gamble so far has turned out to be a great one so far.  He is playing very well, has his team sitting at 3-2 on the season, and has guided the brown and orange to over 21 points in each of the games, the first time that has occurred in Cleveland since 1969.

With every win, his price tag only increases, so while he is still betting on his own performance, he is also making it very difficult for the front office not to take care of him.

Let’s say Hoyer guides the Browns into the playoffs, their first visit since 2002.  Do you really think the team will not do everything it can to reach an agreement with a hometown hero that guided the team to the post-season?

On the other hand, if Hoyer wants to be paid like an elite player at his position, the Browns can’t do that.  We would say it is doubtful Hoyer will make such a demand, he simply wants a deal like a starter.  It’s probably the only opportunity he will have in his career for a big payday.

In the NFL world of non-guaranteed contracts, some sort of compromise will be met. But if the Browns keep winning, the proverbial cash register will continue to say cha-ching for Brian Hoyer.

For the Indians, their fans tremble with fear at losing good players to other teams who can pay more money.  Since winning their last division title in 2007, the organization has dealt two Cy Young Award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee.

If Kluber doesn’t win that award in 2014, he most certainly will finish second, so fans and media alike have speculated the right-hander will get a multi-year contract this winter.

We say it would be prudent if the Indians simply waited.

Why?  Unlike Hoyer, who has been in the NFL was several years and can be a free agent at the end of the season, Kluber has spent just two full years in the big leagues, and isn’t even eligible for arbitration until 2016.

With the volatility of pitchers, what happens if the Tribe gave Kluber a four-year deal even at modest money only to see him become a back of the rotation starter or worse?

The Tribe should give Kluber another one year deal for 2015 with a good-sized raise and find out exactly what they have.  If Kluber has another excellent season, he still is under club control until 2019, so he can’t go anywhere and the Indians aren’t on the hook for a bad deal.

We understand that doesn’t seem fair after his outstanding season, but he also pitched more innings than ever before and no one knows how his arm will handle the after effects of that.

As much as we all love sports, it still is a business for the owners.  And although we question the spending habits of the Dolans, there is simply no reason to make a long-term deal with a pitcher until you have to or until the pitcher shows a proven track record.

There is no need to be in a rush for either team, but Hoyer’s impending free agency doesn’t afford the Browns that luxury.

MW

Three Solid Quarters, Big Plays Lead to Big Win for Browns

One of the criticisms about the Cleveland Browns after the four regular season games was that they couldn’t put four solid quarters together in a game.  They didn’t today against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, the three solid one they played today were enough to crush the Steelers at First Energy Stadium, knocking them off 31-10 to raise they record to 3-2 on the season, and also dumping the black and yellow boys into the division basement.

After one quarter, Cleveland had -8 yards of total offense and the visitors led 3-0, but the momentum switched when a second field goal try was botched by Pittsburgh holder Brad Wing, and the Browns took over on their own 32-yard line.

Brian Hoyer started to get it going after that, hitting WR Miles Austin for 17 yards and the team’s first first down of the game, and then hit a huge misdirection thrown to TE Jordan Cameron for 42 yards to set up a 5-yard TD run by Isaiah Crowell which gave Cleveland a lead it would never relinquish.

After the defense forced a three and out, Hoyer found Cameron again for a 51-yard scoring strike to make it 14-3.  The defense forced another putn after four plays, and this time offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan used the ground game using nine running plays and two passes to move 85 yards and give Cleveland a commanding 21-3 lead.

This one wouldn’t be decided on a last second field goal.

In the second half, the Browns were content to eat clock and move the football by running it and basically costed to the win.  Hoyer only threw the ball 17 times, completing 8 of those throws for 217 yards.  By the way, that’s a whopping 12.8 yards per pass play.

Meanwhile, Ben Tate (78 yards in 25 carries) and Crowell (77 yards in 11 attempts) kept moving the football and eating the clock.

Cameron had his first breakout game of the year, catching 3 passes for 102 yards, and receivers Jim Dray (31 yards), Travis Benjamin (31 yards), and Taylor Gabriel (24 yards) all had receptions over 20 yards.

The only downer on offense was an injury to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who was carted off the field in the second quarter with a broken leg and will likely be out for the rest of the year.

It shows how much respect Mack has in the locker room that many Browns, both offensive and defensive, gave Mack well wishes before he was carted off the field.

On defense, it appeared that head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil made a decision to dial back the aggressiveness with the blitz and rush just four and drop seven into coverage.

The defense gave up 138 yards on the ground, but the longest run was 15 yards by Dri Archer.  The longest pass completion was the 26-yard touchdown throw to Lance Moore, but that came in the fourth quarter.

The new philosophy eliminated the big plays that were killing the team in the first four games of the year.  It may have been brought out because of all the injuries on the defensive front, but whatever the reason, it worked, and the Browns allowed just 10 points.

The big defensive plays were turned in by Karlos Dansby, who was in on 11 tackles, including one sack, Des Bryant also had a sack, and CB Buster Skrine had an interception on a pass deflected at line by John Hughes.

Now the Browns hit the road against a struggling Jacksonville squad full of confidence.  However, the big win today doesn’t mean anything if they lay an egg in Florida.

It will be on Pettine and the coaching staff to keep this young team’s feet securely on the ground.  If they and the veterans brought in can do this, it could be a very fun fall for football fans in northeast Ohio.

JD

Will Bosh’s Feelings Affect Love?

We have always had the thought that everyone likes to win, but we’d rather have players that hate to lose.

We will find out this season if the Cleveland Cavaliers have enough of the latter.

All of the holdovers from last season’s team have to be thrilled to have players like LeBron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, and Shawn Marion join the roster, because the days of finishing under .500 are over.  The sheer talent brought in this off-season pretty much guarantees that.

However, if all of those players loathe losing, then the Cavs have a chance to be something special.

We bring this up because of Chris Bosh’s comments today about playing with a guy like James, more specifically the adjustments that Kevin Love will have to make coming from being the best player on a also-ran to being the second or third best player on a great team.

We agree with Bosh that some guys can make that transition and other guys can’t.

Going back in NBA history, we can think of at least two times where a superstar player subjugated his game for the good of the team.

The first is when Wilt Chamberlain did it twice, first with the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, and again with the Lakers in 1971-72.

In the first case, The Big Dipper’s scoring average dropped from 33.5 to 24.1 and his assist total jumped from 5.2 to 7.8 playing with the likes of Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson.

With the Lakers in 71-72, Chamberlain’s scoring average dipped drastically again from 20.7 to 14.8, allowing Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, and Jim McMillian to do the heavy lifting in the scoring department.

Earl Monroe made a similar transition when he went from prolific scorer with the Baltimore Bullets (20.0 plus average) to fit in with a very good New York Knicks group.

In recent times, we saw the Boston Celtics put together Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen to go with Paul Pierce, and win a title in their first year together.  All three had to change their games for the greater good.

If you think that is normal, think about how many titles Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant could have one if either decided taking a step back was worth it to collect more hardware.

The fact that the situation in Miami the past few seasons seems to irritate Bosh slightly is probably the reason it didn’t work in the long run.  And if Bosh hated losing, he wouldn’t have cared how many touches he would be getting, as long as the Heat kept collecting Larry O’Brien Trophies.

Comparing Love to Bosh, remember that Love wanted to come here once James announced his return because he wanted to escape the losing.  He didn’t come to Cleveland as part of a plan devised by friends while playing together on the US National team.

Plus, passing has always been a part of Love’s game, going back to his college days.  We were struck watching him at UCLA the good court vision he had, and that was before he became an outside shooting threat.

Only time will tell of course, but it seems that Love has the disdain for losing that is needed to play with James.  There is no question that players like Love, Miller, Marion, etc. came to Cleveland not only to play with LeBron, but to play with him knowing a title was very much possible.

The bigger question is can they all, including James, sacrifice individual stats to accomplish that goal.

Another huge question is how the holdover Cavs handle the culture change as well.  With the youth in that group, that could be the bigger challenge.

JK

 

Shapiro’s Message Isn’t the One Fans Want to Hear

There was a lot of conservation today regarding Indians’ president Mark Shapiro’s interview with Kevin Kleps in Crain’s Cleveland Business.  Most of the discussion had to do with Shapiro’s comment that the Tribe will use every method they can find to improve the team other than “the highest level of free agent”.

In reality, that’s understandable.

If you look at the list of free agents, particularly hitters, which is the team’s biggest need, it consists of a lot of players in their 30’s, an age where skills are declining.

To be fair, to get one of those players, the franchise would have to get involved with a bloated deal, which runs for longer than the player is useful.

We get that, and most intelligent baseball fans understand it.

However, to say it this while most ticket buyers are still a little upset that the Indians did not make the playoffs, probably isn’t the smartest thing to say, particularly if you already have an attendance problem.

Shapiro thinks he is just being honest and realistic, but he’s now dealing with a fan base that has seen two of the biggest stars in basketball choose to come to Cleveland, and the Browns have a national face in Johnny Manziel.

If the front office is going to make any public statement, it should be something like they are disappointed not to make the post-season in 2014 and the organizational goal is to win a World Series, and everything we do this off-season is working toward that goal.

That isn’t saying you are going to go hog-wild and spend millions and millions of dollars.  But it is proclaiming to everyone that the Cleveland Indians organization is about winning, a thought that many baseball fans in the area don’t think is the case.

Instead, fans get more talk about budgets and positives.

We hate to bring up the past, but when the Dolan family bought the team, they told everyone they would spend when it was appropriate.

Our question is when will it be more appropriate than right now.

They say the name of the game in baseball is pitching, and over the last two months of the season, the Tribe’s starting pitching was championship quality.

Cleveland now has an ace at the top of the rotation in Corey Kluber, who will no doubt finish in the top two in this year’s Cy Young Award voting.  To compliment Kluber, they have a cadre of young, hard throwers in Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer.

Adding another arm to compete with lefty T. J. House, Zack McAllister, and Josh Tomlin, along with some much-needed hitting to put the 2015 Indians in position to be right where the Orioles and Royals are right now, a chance to get to the World Series.

Again, we understand the market constraints and the probability the Indians can’t (or won’t) support a $100 million payroll.  However, isn’t this off-season the time to get out of their $80-$85 million “comfort zone”, and add another $10-$15 million to get this team the help it needs?

We realize that high payrolls don’t always result in a playoff spot or a title, but it helps, and both Kansas City and Baltimore aren’t in the upper echelon in terms of salaries, they do outspend the Indians.

The television ratings show there is interest in the Cleveland Indians, it’s time the ownership and front office gave the fans a reason to buy tickets to Progressive Field.  That reason is showing they want to win and win now.

MW

Titans Gave It Away, But Give Browns Credit for Taking It

At halftime, it appeared the Cleveland Browns inability to stop the running game was going to cost them another game they should’ve been able to win.

The Browns did score right before the half on a Brian Hoyer 1 yard pass to TE Jim Dray, to cut Tennessee’s lead to 28-10, but based on how the Titans moved the ball on the ground, it looked bleak for the brown and orange.

Then, two things happened.  Titans’ QB Jake Locker was ruled out for the rest of the contest, and apparently, so did the home team’s willingness to keep running the football.

It got so odd, that in the middle of the fourth quarter, we were wondering about Tennessee’s refusal to continue to exploit the Cleveland defense’s obvious weakness, stopping the ground game.

The Titans ran the ball 30 times on the day, gaining an average of 5 yards per carry.  Let us repeat, 5 yards per carry!  If you are a Tennessee fan, you  have to be seriously second guessing your coach, particularly with your starting quarterback out of the game.

After reserve passer Charlie Whitehurst completed his first two passes for 86 yards and two TDs, he went 11 of 19 the rest of the game for a paltry 108 yards.

Yes, the Titans gained 38 of their 149 yards on the ground on a reverse to WR Kendall Wright, and Locker picked up 34 more yards on scrambles, but to basically ignore the running game in the second half is puzzling.

All that said, the Browns still had to put up the points to overcome the 25 point deficit, the largest comeback in the team’s illustrious history, in order to come away with the 29-28 win to square the season record at 2-2.

Some of them were the usual, such as the running game, which gained 175 yards during the game, including 123 in 22 carries from Ben Tate, who returned to the lineup after a knee injury in the opener at Pittsburgh.

Hoyer was solid as well, completing 21 of 37 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner to Travis Benjamin, who overcame a muffed punt earlier in the game to garner two TD receptions.

Taylor Gabriel caught four passes for 95 yards and Miles Austin had two big catches on scoring drives.  And TE Jordan Cameron returned to be part of the offense after getting a little healthier during the bye week, grabbing three Hoyer throws for 33 yards.

The special teams chipped in with a huge blocked punt by Tank Carder that resulted in a safety, making the score 28-15.  It took all conversation about when to go for a two-point conversion out the window.

Defensively, the Browns needed to pitch a shutout in the second half and they did.  K’waun Williams played a big role in the game with first round pick Justin Gilbert out of the mix, making six tackles and getting a sack.  Armonty Bryant and Jabaal Sheard also sacked the Tennessee passer during the game.

We also have to mention the horrible officiating crew, which clearly lost control of the game after Locker early in the second quarter to give the Titans a 14-0 lead.

First, they set up the first Tennessee TD with a pass interference penalty on the struggling Joe Haden which gave the Titans a 29-yard penalty.  The pass just at least five yards out-of-bounds.

Second, the personal foul call on the Locker touchdown against Chris Kirksey could be because the Cleveland player was blocked into the sliding Locker.  He did hit the quarterback with a forearm, but to us, we thought it was at least questionable that he aimed for his head.

So, the Browns now sit at 2-2 just a half game behind the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North, with Pittsburgh visiting next week.

Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil have to figure out the run defense because you know the Steelers will come in trying to run the ball right down the Browns’ collective throats.

If that isn’t solved and solved soon, it will be a long year for the Cleveland defense.  Unbelievably, the offense has carried Cleveland thus far.

Who thought that before the season began?

JD

 

Wanting Hoyer Out? That’s a Real “OIC”!

Several years ago, a local broadcaster started referring to the various calamities that have befallen Cleveland sports using the phrase “Only in Cleveland”, which over the years has been shortened to OIC.

We have always hated that expression, mostly because most of what happens to our teams is a result of just not being good enough, not anything else.

“Red Right 88″ was the result of not having a strong armed quarterback on a day that required one.

“The Drive” occurred because the coaching staff decided to change the defense they used to contain John Elway all day was changed.  The only lucky play on that series was the one were the snap hit the motion man and went right to Elway.

“The Fumble” may have been bad luck for a great running back in Earnest Byner, but the Browns’ vaunted defense gave up 35 points that afternoon.  For all emphasis Marty Schottenheimer put on his area of expertise, never forget that it was that side of the ball that failed the team in both AFC Championship Game losses.

“The Shot” was simply the greatest player in the history of the sport beating us.

Even though we can’t stand the term, we have to laugh at some people around town who are still pining for Johnny Manziel to be the Browns’ starting quarterback as soon as this Sunday against Tennessee.

Only in Cleveland would the quarterback play be debated while the team scores over 20 points in each of the first three games since 1969.

We understand that Brian Hoyer doesn’t have a sexy nickname like “Johnny Football”, and he wasn’t a first round draft pick, but to make a change at that position, wouldn’t you have to be losing games because of poor quarterback play?

The Browns currently rank 12th in the NFL in scoring offense, averaging 24.7 points per contest.  That would rank just behind (by .3 points) the 25.0 a game scored by the Denver Broncos, who have Peyton Manning at QB.

Now we aren’t saying Hoyer is Manning, not by a long shot, but scoring points hasn’t been Mike Pettine’s team’s problem in 2014.

That would be the defense, which is allowing 25.7 points a game, ranking 23rd in the league in that category.

The Browns’ defense has allowed the fourth most rushing yards per game in the league, behind only Green Bay (2-2), Oakland (0-4), and St. Louis (1-2), and they allow the second most yardage per play (6.4), trailing only Dallas.

The pass defense ranks seventh in the league, but that is a hollow statistic because if you can move the ball by running it, why would you put the ball in the air?

Hoyer? He ranks 11th in passing efficiency, mostly because he hasn’t thrown an interception this year, and he also ranks 12th in ESPN’s QBR stat.

And for all of those who claim he is a nickel and dime passer, feasting on short throws, he is right in the middle of the pack in yards per pass attempt, right between Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, and ahead of both Mannings and also higher than big arm throwers like Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler.

We wouldn’t disagree with people who say Manziel is the future of the franchise and we look forward to seeing him play too.  But right now, the right man to quarterback the Cleveland Browns is Brian Hoyer.

Until he shows otherwise, any talk about playing Manziel should be muted.

JD

Tribe Shouldn’t Trade Starting Pitching for a Bat.

A lot of discussion has gone on over the past few days about the direction the Cleveland Indians need to go in this winter.  While no one questions whether or not the Tribe needs to get more hitting, the question remains, how to do it.

The Indians finished in the top half of the American League in both runs scored (7th) and in ERA (6th), but no one who watched the team play this season has any doubt the ballclub needs another proven hitter and better defense.

One of the ways suggested to get the hitting Terry Francona’s team needs is to trade one of their pitchers, based on the outstanding work of the starting rotation over the last two months.

However, we would suggest this is not the proper move.

First, it would be a repeat of the pattern the Tribe front office used throughout the 70’s and 80’s, when they would  collect hitters and have no pitching.  Then, they would trade those hitters to get pitchers, thus creating a team with solid pitching but could not hit.

And then they would repeat the cycle all over again.

Quite frankly, beyond the five pitchers Cleveland used in the rotation at the end of the year (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House), there isn’t a lot of depth in the system.

And of those five starters, beyond Kluber, only Bauer demonstrated effectiveness over more than the last two months in 2014.  This isn’t to say the others are flashes in the pan, it is only to show the lack of an established track record.

We have said this before and will repeat, the two areas where the Indians have some depth is in the bullpen and in the middle infield.

With youngsters on the horizon like C.C. Lee, Austin Adams, and guys coming up like Shawn Armstrong, Louis Head, and Tyler Sturdivant, and the emergence of Zack McAllister as another power arm to use in relief, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Bryan Shaw included in a deal.

Shaw has been used hard by Francona and Mickey Callaway over the past two years, and it may be prudent to sell high on the right-hander before his performance drops from the excess use.

In the middle infield, the Indians have 2B Jason Kipnis, coming off a bad year, SS Jose Ramirez, just 22-years-old, and the team’s best prospect, SS Francisco Lindor.  They also have Ronny Rodriguez and Erik Gonzales, who both finished the year at AA Akron.

Kipnis is established and if the front office wants to make room for Lindor, then Ramirez is a solid trade chip, a middle infielder who has great speed, and hit .262 playing regularly over August and September.  There are many teams around the majors who are always looking for help in the middle of the diamond.

Another possible chip could be reserve catcher Roberto Perez, who hit .271 in 85 at bats backing up Yan Gomes after Carlos Santana was shifted to first base.  Perez is just 26-years-old and probably too young to be in a back up role, so teams looking for catchers could be interested.

Besides, with Gomes getting the bulk of the time behind the plate, the Indians don’t need to look too hard to find someone to play 30-40 games in a season.

There is no question the Indians need to get a bat or two, but dealing a starting pitcher isn’t the way to do it.

KM