Changes, Injuries Hurting Cavs Right Now

The Cleveland Cavaliers still sit at the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings at 30-12, but they’ve hit a little bit of a slump.

They have split their last eight games, six of those coming on a long trip that spanned from Brooklyn to Golden State.

It appears the changes that have occurred to the roster have caught up a bit to Tyronn Lue and the guys in wine and gold.

First, they lost JR Smith to a thumb injury that will keep him out of the lineup until the middle of March at the earliest.  That led Lue to replace him with DeAndre Liggins, but he is not a very good outside shooter, and the league figured that out pretty quickly.

That forced Lue to start Iman Shumpert in Smith’s usual spot, which takes away from the defense on the second unit.

For example, Lue started newly acquired Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Liggins with LeBron James at the start of the second and fourth quarters, and San Antonio went on runs both times.

Getting Korver is another change for Lue to handle.  He doesn’t seem to know exactly how he fits right now, mostly because of the very little practice time the team has had since he arrived.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to start Korver in Smith’s spot and put everyone back in their accustomed spots, the way it was early in the year when the Cavs were rolling.

Another complication has been nagging injuries to two of the “Big Three”, an ankle problem for Kyrie Irving and a back issue for Kevin Love.

Irving is shooting the three ball like he did two years ago, and his assist numbers are the highest since before James returned to the team.

In the seven games right before he hurt his ankle vs. Boston, Irving averaged 24 points and 10 assists per game with slightly less than three turnovers.

Since returning to the lineup, he has played eight games.  His scoring is fine at 23.5 points, but his assists are down to 4.5 and his turnovers are over three per night.

He just hasn’t found the groove he was in before the ankle issue.

Love’s back has been bothering him since the New Orleans game the day after New Year’s, and his production has dropping off dramatically.

He has scored over 20 points just once in that span and hasn’t shot over 50% in a game since the Cavaliers beat the Lakers on December 17th.

Besides the back issues, it seems like the Cavs have gotten away from getting Love touches near the basket, as he is relying more and more on three point shots.

In last night’s loss to the Spurs, Love took 15 total shots, 11 of those from behind the arc.

The team needs a healthy Kevin Love to succeed, but the lack of depth at the #4 and #5 spots in the lineup make it tough for that to happen.

We know James has lobbied for a back up point guard, but right now, the weakness that needs to be addressed is interior defense, which hasn’t been good as of late, and really the only player who can be counted on the contribute there is Tristan Thompson.

GM David Griffin needs to get another big, and the sooner the better.

We have faith that Lue will get the rotations down quickly and when Korver is more acclimated to the team, the Cavs will start playing well again soon.

We know what this team is capable of, and the talent is certainly there.  They are simply going through a period where a lot of players are nicked up and others have had to change their roles.

Lue and Griffin have earned the trust that they will take care of this.  With three home games following Monday’s game in New Orleans, and then five out of the next six on the road, it might be time to right the ship.

JK

 

 

Thome In ’18, And Other Hall Of Fame Thoughts

A year from now, Cleveland Indians’ fans will be waiting for the results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting with great anticipation.

Jim Thome will be eligible for the first time and with over 600 home runs in his career and not even any anecdotal connection to performance enhancing drugs, he should be a strong candidate to get elected next year.

He would be the first player to play the majority of his career in a Cleveland uniform since Larry Doby was inducted in 1998, and we believe he would be the first Indians to be elected by the baseball writers since Lou Boudreau in 1970.

It says a lot about the state of the franchise from 1960-1994 that it has been 46 years since the Tribe had a Hall of Famer that played to the Indians in the prime of his career.

Thome played 55% of his games with Cleveland, and coincidentally hit 55% of his 612 home runs in an Indians’ uniform.  He also played every one of his games with the Tribe through age 31.

He belted 200 more long balls with the Indians than he did with any other team.

Omar Vizquel will also be eligible for the first time, although he likely will not get in on his first year on the ballot.

The shortstop, best known for his defense, won 11 Gold Gloves and managed to get 2877 hits in his long career.  He was a solid offensive player through age 39 with the Giants when he hit .295 with a 749 OPS.

With Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero just missing enshrinement this year and Chipper Jones being eligible for the first time along with Thome, it may be tough for all four to make it into the Hall.

That makes it doubly tough for Vizquel in 2018.

As for yesterday’s results, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens received over 50% of the vote for the first time, and only three players who attained that level did not finally get into Cooperstown.

Many experts are saying the increase is due to younger voters, who didn’t cover the game in the “Steroid Era”.

Our opinion is they should talk to the writers who did cover the sport then and talk about what happened.  This is a situation where the statistics do not tell the entire story.

We weren’t alive when Lincoln was assassinated, but we know what happened.  Not doing the research is not doing your due diligence.

Those players blatantly cheated, and we understand some players who used may already be enshrined, like Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell.  We would not have voted for Pudge, who was mentioned in Jose Canseco’s book.

There is nothing that concrete on Bagwell.

After watching the last installment of Ken Burns’ documentary on the game, which addresses the best hitter and pitcher of that generation using PEDs, we can’t understand how anyone could vote for either after watching.

And yes, they were great players before they took performance enhancers, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook that they used.

What they did wasn’t fair to the players who didn’t use, and their accomplishments have hindered the candidacies of players like Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina.

Hopefully, a year from now, we will have cause to celebrate Jim Thome, the first true Tribe player in a generation to make the Hall of Fame.

Another thing many of us have never seen in our lifetime.

MW

 

Cavs Loss Last Night? Not A Huge Deal.

If you are a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you have to be disappointed in last night’s 126-91 defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

There were some things to be concerned about for GM David Griffin and coach Tyronn Lue, but not to be simplistic, but when you shoot 34% and your opponent shoots 53%, you will probably lose.

As LeBron James says, it’s a shot making league, and last night Golden State made theirs, and the Cavaliers did not.

The schedule also didn’t do the wine and gold any favors.  The home team was really the home team as Steve Kerr’s team hasn’t left the state of California since they lost in Cleveland on Christmas Day.

On the other hand, the Cavs were on the last game of a six game trip that started in Brooklyn.  They didn’t have their legs and it showed.

That doesn’t mean the Cavaliers should be happy this morning, but they shouldn’t be overreaction either.

One of the ways the wine and gold have played well against the Warriors is they have been able to control the tempo, and they have done this by making shots and not letting Golden State get out and run.

When the Warriors fast break, they take a lot of three point shots in transition, and they did that with a few minutes remaining in the first quarter, when Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant started draining threes in transition.

So, not only did the poor shooting kill the Cavs offensively, which is obvious, but it also hurt them defensively, which was a hidden problem.

And though it will sound like sour grapes, the Warriors continued their habit of fouling virtually every time down the floor, hoping the referees will not call them all, and that influenced the misses of many shots, particularly those near the basket.

The other thing in Cleveland’s favor is they did not have JR Smith, and we know that Griffin is not done tinkering with the wine and gold’s roster.  He understands his team needs another big man and another playmaker, and we have all the faith in the world that the GM will solve both of those needs.

To be fair, we are sure the Warriors will make a move to add to their roster as well.

Remember, the Cavaliers got blown out at home on Martin Luther King Day a year ago.  What happened at the end of the season?  A championship.  That’s why no one should overreact to what happened yesterday.

If you feel the need to be concerned, worry about the injury to Smith, and getting Kyle Korver up to speed both offensively, but also in the team’s defensive concepts.

Be concerned that DeAndre Liggins’s usefulness is becoming lessened by the game.  He cannot shoot, and the opposition knows it.  They aren’t guarding him.  He also struggles defending players without the ball.

On the other hand, the season is far from over.  The playoffs don’t start for three months, and there is plenty of time to improve.

Last year, the Cavs found out after game two of The Finals that they needed to make some adjustments.  They did and they won the title.

So, excuse us if we aren’t worried about a game in January against a team the Cavs defeated four consecutive games before yesterday.

JK

 

In Public, Cavs Take The High Road

Tomorrow evening, the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in a renewal of the rivalry that has developed since the two teams met for the NBA title in 2014-15.

Steve Kerr’s Warriors won that one in six games, and immediately after Draymond Green commented before their victory parade that the Cavs “sucked”.

Before the Warriors played their regular season game in 2015-16 at Quicken Loans Arena, Stephen Curry said he hoped the visitor’s locker room still smelled like champagne.

Did we mention that when Golden State won the championship, they defeated a Cleveland team without Kevin Love for the entire series, and without Kyrie Irving for all but the first game.

We believe that anyone would rank those two in the top 30 NBA players currently in the league.

Then in last year’s Finals after taking a 3-1 series lead, Klay Thompson of the Warriors commented that LeBron James may have gotten his feelings hurt in Game 4, won by Golden State.

Klay’s squad never won another game in the series.

Thompson commented this week that the Cavs’ actions after coming back to win the title last summer were childish.

Reportedly, at a Halloween Party thrown by James, there were cookies with tombstones with Warriors’ players names on them, and you had to walk over a doll in the likeness of Curry to get through the entrance.

On the other hand, publicly, you never hear a Cavalier player say anything bad about the team they played in each of the last two Finals.

James went out of his way after Friday night’s win over Sacramento to say Golden State has been the best team in the league over the last two years, and the Cavs were just trying to get better.

Some joy from the Cavaliers gets out every once in a while, like Thompson mocking Green’s comments the year prior during the Cleveland victory parade, but for the most part, the Cavs give the Warriors the respect they deserve as a great team.

You just don’t hear that out of the Golden State players, and even Steve Kerr mocked the Quicken Loans Arena scoreboard last week.  (NOTE:  We think “The Diff” is stupid too.)

On the other hand, James talks up the other players in the league a lot.  Perhaps he is using it to soften his opponents, but we genuinely believe he is a fan of the game, and respects the talents of other great players.

When asked earlier in the year about averaging a triple-double, James said he doubted he could do it now, but quickly added that Russell Westbrook could.

Granted we get more coverage of the Cavs than the Warriors, but when was the last time you heard Curry or another Golden State player comment about how good another player in the NBA was?

We also believe other people involved in the NBA are getting tired of the hype surrounding Golden State.  Recently, Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers reminded the press that the Warriors have only won one title.

Some of this stems from ESPN’s continuing coverage of anything blue and gold, despite “defending champs” missing from the Golden State story.  Some of that is due to the high profile free agent signing of Kevin Durant this summer.

And of course, the four letter network loves to climb on a bandwagon.

If the Cavs win tomorrow, we are sure the players will talk about a great win against a great team to finish off a long trip.

If the Warriors win, we are anxious to see if there will be any humility after losing the title last season.  Or will they trash talk some more giving James and his teammates more motivation if the two teams meet for a third time in June.

Either way, the newest rivalry in professional basketball writes another chapter tomorrow.  It’s not just another game.

JK

 

 

Is LeBron Getting Enough Rest?

The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be conducting an experiment with LeBron James this season.

With James turning 32 years old at the end of December, one of the favorite things for fans and media alike to debate is rest for The King.

LeBron is currently third in the NBA in average minutes per game, behind only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Minnesota’s Zach LeVine, playing slightly over 37 minutes per night, an increase of about a minute and a half more than a year ago.

On the other hand, James doesn’t rank in the top 20 in the league in minutes played for the season, as a result of sitting out three games already this season, and we are sure there are more to follow.

The experiment is this…what is better for the athlete, reducing minutes on a nightly basis, or having the player just not play on certain nights.  That way, he doesn’t warm up, doesn’t get mentally prepared to play.  It’s just a complete day off.

We understand that Tyronn Lue has said all along that a reduction in James’ minutes would occur in January and February when the schedule got a little contracted, but on this current trip, the least minutes in a game for #23 was the 35 he played in Brooklyn on the first game on the roadie.

Right now, James doesn’t show any signs of fatigue and the guy is obviously a physical freak.  He doesn’t seem to get tired, even at the end of games.

While San Antonio is famous for starting the concept of giving players game days off, sitting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili when the schedule got heavy, Gregg Popovich also cut the players minutes per game.

At age 32, Duncan played 32.7 minutes per night, while at the same ages, Parker played 28.7 and Ginobili also spent 28.7 minutes on the floor per game.

Obviously, the goal is to have James fresh through the middle of June as the wine and gold defend their championship.  The concern is with The King getting older, can he take on the heavier minutes per night, and still be his dominant self throughout the playoffs.

We are sure there are constant conversations with Lue, James, and the training staff about how the player feels, and the organization has done studies on what is the proper way to keep a high caliber NBA athlete fresh after they have reached the age of 30.

We also know that LeBron James doesn’t care about chasing a regular season win record.  He understands the ultimate prize is winning another title, and he knows the most important thing is to be healthy and strong in April, May, and June.

We should have learned by now that comparing LeBron James to other athletes doesn’t make sense.  He is a freak of nature.  As someone once said about guarding him, “if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough”.

We also believe the Cavs will have the first overall seed in the East wrapped up sooner than they did this year, which should mean a lesser load for James toward the end of the year.

That should get James some fresher legs heading into the post-season.

If James appears tired in the playoffs, then the Cavaliers will have to adjust their plan going into next season.  However, if he is dominant through the last game of the season, then it will be even more evidence that The King is incomparable.

JK

 

 

Is Garoppolo The Guy Browns Should Want?

It would be an understatement to say many in the media who cover the Browns are obsessed with the quarterback position.

It is literally all some of them talk about.

We feel the Browns will address the position this off-season, either through the draft, using one of their four choices in the first and second rounds, or by trading for a veteran currently a back up on another team.

Most of the speculation on the latter centers around New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron.

Should the Browns go after either of these passers, who both will be free agents at the end of the 2017 season?

We liked Garoppolo coming out of the draft in 2014, but the Browns went in another direction.

It has been reported that the Patriots want the same price as the Eagles got for veteran Sam Bradford, that being a first and fourth round pick.

The difference is that Bradford had 64 NFL starts under his belt, while Garoppolo has just two.  So, the first thing would be for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to get back to reality and set their sights a little lower.

Of course, they may say if they can’t get that price, they will go ahead and keep Jimmy G. and continue to groom him as Tom Brady’s replacement.

Garoppolo came into the NFL as a guy with a good arm and a very quick release, which would be a sharp contrast from the quarterbacks the Browns used in 2016, who seemed to hold the ball forever.

In his two starts with the Patriots this season, he completed 42 of his 59 throws for 496 yards and four touchdowns.  Keep in mind, he has Patriots machine, the best franchise in pro football over the last 15 years, behind him.

So the question is how much would you give up for a little used young quarterback who has been around the league for three years.

The difference between Garoppolo and the others in the Tom Brady back up club (Matt Cassell, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Mallett) is that he is the highest draft choice of the quartet.

Cassell wasn’t a starter at USC, Hoyer was a free agent from Michigan State and Mallett was a third rounder, and had a bad senior season.  Garoppolo was a second round choice, and probably would have gone in the first round had he played for a major college program.

So when people say to be wary of trading for a Brady backup, be advised that Garoppolo is a cut above the rest.

However, that doesn’t mean the Browns should give up the 12th overall pick for a guy who has started just two NFL games.

On the other hand, why not move the first pick in the second round?

As we wrote earlier, the Browns are likely to address quarterback with one of the picks they have in the first or second round, and if you are going to draft one, you might as well trade for someone who has two more NFL starts than anyone you will draft.

And if you aren’t going to draft a QB this year, then surely you would use a high pick on a passer in 2018.

The best option might just be Jimmy Garoppolo, especially if DeShaun Watson is gone before the 12th selection based on his performance in last night’s title game.

Why not deal for a guy with at least a slight track record of success in the NFL?

JD

Griffin Is Cavs’ Not So Secret Weapon

Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin must be a magician.  There isn’t any other explanation for the moves he makes to improve his basketball team.

Over the summer, when the Chicago Bulls signed Dwyane Wade as a free agent, Griffin slid in and took Mike Dunleavy off their hands to add to the wine and gold’s array of shooters.

Dunleavy, now 36 years old, saw his three point shooting numbers (the main reason the Cavs wanted him) decline from around 40% over the last five years, to 35% this year.

Tyronn Lue lost confidence in the veteran and over the last couple of weeks, he barely saw any time on the court, partially because he was battling an ankle injury.

Add in JR Smith being lost to the team until March with a broken thumb, and you needed to add another outside shooter to back up point guard and a serviceable big man to the list of needs for the defending champions.

So, what does Griffin do?  He deals for one of the best three point shooters in history in Kyle Korver, and moves Dunleavy in the deal along with Mo Williams, who isn’t even playing right now.

He swapped his first round pick in 2017 to Portland to get back the Cavs’ first rounder in ’18 to get around the rule you can’t trade first rounders in consecutive years, so he could deal his first pick in 2019 to the Hawks as part of the deal.

The Cavs payroll and luxury tax bill actually goes down with this trade, and it allow Cleveland to add a player, probably a point guard, because they now have an open roster spot.

Talk about a win-win scenario.

As for Korver, yes he has declined since he was an all-star in 2015, when he averaged 12.1 points per night and shot a league high 49.2% from behind the arc.  He’s averaging 9.5 points and shooting 41% from three point range this year.

But remember this.  When the Cavs played Atlanta in the playoffs each of the last two seasons, David Blatt and Lue made it a priority to keep Korver under control.  They felt he was the Hawks’ game changer.

And now he plays for the Cavaliers.

Korver will turn 36 in March, thus joining the veteran bench club with Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, and he was averaging 28 minutes per night with Atlanta.

We would expect those minutes will be reduced here, and perhaps with less of a workload, Korver’s shooting efficiency will return to the levels he attained from 2011-12 through 2014-15, when the lowest he shot from distance was 43.5%.

He is hitting almost 50% of his shots from 16 feet to the three point line, and knocking down 52% of his threes from the corner.

The guy can flat out shoot the rock.  And with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving’s ability to breakdown defenses and get to the hole, well, we all saw the results last May and June.

With the open roster spot, we would anticipate a complimentary move from Griffin to add a veteran back up point guard soon.

Kay Felder has shown flashes, but we will repeat, when you a competing for a title, you can’t expect a rookie to be a major contributor.  Felder looks like he can play, and will see more time next year and years to come, but Lue doesn’t want to have to rely on him in a playoff situation.

The Cavs are sailing right now at 27-8, the top record in the Eastern Conference.  But David Griffin sees the bigger picture.  He saw a way to improve this team and went out and got it done.

That’s what the great GMs in sports do.  They are proactive, not reactive.  Because if you are the latter, when you make a move, it might be too late.

JK

 

 

Tribe Thinking Like A Contender, As They Should

Today, the Cleveland Indians will announce the signing of free agent 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion to the largest contract in club history.

We have all been waiting for the official signing because the news has been out there since the weekend before Christmas, and the Tribe fans have been excited about the move for two weeks.

And the contract has paid immediate dividends as even more season ticket packages were sold after the announcement that Encarnacion, arguably the most consistent slugger in the game over the last five years, was joining the team.

Thus, a new era for the Indians is here.  They are legitimate contenders to win a World Series.  That’s what happens when you get to the seventh game of the Fall Classic the prior year.

Unlike the last times the Indians made the post-season, in 2007 and 2013, they haven’t stood pat.  They improved the ballclub.  Make no mistake, no matter how important Mike Napoli was to the 2016 Tribe, Edwin Encarnacion is a better hitter.  No question about it.

With the departure of Rajai Davis as a free agent, the current outfield set up looks to be a platoon of Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte in centerfield, another platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer in rightfield, and hopefully Michael Brantley in left.

However, until we see Brantley swing the bat effectively in spring training, there is a lingering doubt that he can return to the form he exhibited in 2014 and 2015.

If he can, the Tribe offense should be even better than it was last year, and remember, they ranked second in the AL in runs scored last season.

What if Brantley isn’t ready or he is not as effective as in the past, what can the Indians do?

When you are a contender, you can’t rely totally on rookies.  They may be able to do the job ultimately, but you need to have a backup plan.

Preferably, they would sign another veteran bat who could play in left if Brantley isn’t healthy and may be able to slide over to centerfield if Naquin’s end of the year struggles continue into 2017.

We like several young players currently in the Cleveland farm system, particularly Yandy Diaz, who can play the outfield and 3B, and Bradley Zimmer or Greg Allen, both of whom could be candidates to play CF before the end of 2017.

However, it is tough to depend on rookies when you are chasing a ring.  You have to have a backup plan if they don’t hit or need more experience.

Which is why it seems at times that Terry Francona would rather go with a veteran.  When your expectation is winning the division there is no time to go through the growing pains of a rookie.

In our opinion, that’s why we would rather start the year with a rookie and if the player isn’t working out, you have the veteran in reserve.  However, neither Diaz, Zimmer, or Allen have any major league experience and none of the three have spent an entire year in AAA, although Diaz spent most of ’16 there.

Another alternative would be moving Jose Ramirez to LF and look at using Giovanny Urshela at third.

We have confidence the Tribe front office will bring in a low risk, high reward veteran outfielder as insurance for Brantley.

It’s part of the new philosophy at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.  The philosophy of a team trying to bring a title to Cleveland.

KM

 

The War Between The Browns & The People Who Cover Them.

It has been evident all year long that there is a disconnect between the front office of the Cleveland Browns and the people who cover the team.

There is no question that the Browns’ front office is trying something that really hasn’t been done since the Dallas Cowboys after Tom Landry was fired, and Jerry Jones bought the team and hired Jimmy Johnson as head coach.

After last season, they decided to release older players who were making big money, and accumulate draft picks.

To do that, they needed to trade down in the 2016 draft, and in doing so, passed up on several players who made an immediate impact this season, namely Ohio State products Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa.

They had 14 picks in 2016 and will have 13 more next spring, as they try to lay a foundation for the future, one that hasn’t been laid before.

Of course, this is difficult to sell to a media that has covered a team that has made one playoff appearance since 1994.  They are exposed to this everyday and to be sure it gets old, covering loss after loss, with seemingly a new head coach and new promises every other year.

At yesterday’s press conference with Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Hue Jackson, you could hear the conflict with the questions that were asked.

And there was one article today addressing the “arrogance” of Brown and DePodesta after a season in which there was one win.

Look, we aren’t a genius, but here is what we feel the Browns plan is:

They wanted to rid the roster of high-priced veterans with no upside to their careers, and replace them with young players who will get better with experience.  We are talking about guys like Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner.

To do that, they wanted to accumulate extra draft choices in the 2016 draft to fill the holes on the roster and lay a foundation for the future.  To do that, they made a decision to get out of the top ten picks, and therefore passing on some elite talents.

Whether they did that remains to be seen, because unlike some folks, we aren’t going to make rash judgments on first year players.

However, we do see promise in Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Derrick Kindred, Seth DeValve, and Shon Coleman.

With those young players in place, now the front office will try to use the four picks they have in the first 50 selections to pick some impact talent to go along with the ’16 draft class.

That’s why we are under the belief that they will not trade down from the first overall pick.  They may trade down from #12 if they think they can get the player they want by moving down slightly.

They also understand they need a quarterback, but they aren’t going to draft let’s say the 50th best player at #1 or #12.  They are going to be true to their draft board.

Which, of course, is something they should be doing.

The media is in love with quarterbacks.  Most of them pooh-poohed Carson Wentz before last year’s draft, but after Wentz played well in his first three games (including one vs. Cleveland), they hammered the front office for trading down.

This isn’t to say what the front office is doing will work, but it should be given a chance before it is condemned.  They’ve tried mixing veterans with young guys, bringing in some vets for leadership, etc.

Guess what?  It hasn’t worked.

Why not tear it down and start completely over?  And don’t blame these guys for mistakes made by past regimes.

It’s not difficult to understand.  Would it be too much to ask for the media to open their minds?

JD

 

Browns On The Clock, But Showed Some Good Things

If you were one of the fans who wanted the Cleveland Browns to have the first overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, you couldn’t have written a better script than today’s 27-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Include us in that group.  We are a fan of the team, but since they are building from the ground up, and have suffered through a painful 1-15 season, why not be all in about having the first selection in the draft.

We understood the Steelers were rested their three most important offensive weapons in QB Ben Roethlisburger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown, so we certainly didn’t want Hue Jackson’s crew to get buried.

But the four turnovers cost Cleveland, who really played better today, that is, outside of giving the ball away.

The Browns took a 14-0 lead in the first half, moving the ball with ease, and defensively applying pressure to Steelers’ back up QB Landry Jones.

Pittsburgh crept to within a touchdown by halftime, and it the second half, the Browns treated the ball like it was a greased pigskin.

We wanted the Browns to show they haven’t quit on Jackson, and that some of the young players have made progress, and they did just that, but still managed to lose, thereby securing the first pick in the draft.

Cleveland outgained the black and gold, 437 yards to 312, and several players had good performances, outside, of course, of turning the ball over.

Isaiah Crowell had his fourth 100 yard rushing game of the year, gaining 152 yards on 19 attempts, but his critical fourth quarter fumble, with the Browns staring a chip shot go ahead field goal in the face, allowed the game to go into overtime.

Briean Boddy-Calhoun, returned an intercepted pass 67 yards, but fumbled on the two yard line, so instead of a point blank touchdown, the Steelers regained the ball on a touchback.

The rookie was also the victim on the game winning TD throw to Cobi Hamilton.

Robert Griffin III showed flashes, completing 29 of 40 throws for 232 yards and his first two TD throws as a Brown, but he threw a critical interception at the end of the first half, and fumbled in the second half.

Griffin led the Browns to eight third down conversions in 15 tries, one of their better marks of the season.

Terrelle Pryor caught seven passes for 94 yards, getting 1,000 yards receiving in his first full season as a wide receiver.

Rookie TE Seth DeValve scored on a 12 yard pass from Griffin, and his play over the last four or five weeks, should have the organization wanting to see more.

LB Christian Kirksey had 11 tackles, including a sack, closing out a very good season.

Another rookie Carl Nassib had a sack (when Jones tripped over a lineman’s foot), and yet another first year player, Emmanuel Ogbah sniffed out a reverse and dropped the ball carrier for a 12 yard loss.

The Browns looked like an NFL team every where except on the right end of the scoreboard, and for the good of the franchise going forward, that’s probably the best thing, right?

In overtime, Cleveland had a first and goal at the Steelers’ 2, but couldn’t get in the end zone.  The curious thing was they didn’t try to run, despite averaging seven yards a carry.

With the Steelers playing a lot of substitutes, there wasn’t really anything to be gained by a win today.  So, although we mentioned all these good things, how do we know what would have happened had Pittsburgh been playing their regulars.

The downside is having to hear four months of who should/will the Browns take with the first overall pick.  To be sure, the players will appear and disappear as the flavor of the month.

The consensus best player is Texas A& M pass rusher Myles Garrett.  Hopefully, the Browns do their homework, don’t trade down, and don’t out think themselves.

Speeding up the building process depends on getting impact players, which the first overall pick should be.

JD