Opening Day Means Welcoming Old And New Friends.

Today is the day baseball fans in northeast Ohio have been looking forward to since the World Series ended in early November.

The Cleveland Indians are back home at Progressive Field today to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of 81 dates at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It is also the beginning of six division games as the Tigers come in for three games over the Easter weekend, and it is important for the Tribe to again play well within the AL Central as almost half the schedule is divisional contests.

And that schedule is top heavy in terms of road games early for the Indians, as 23 of the first 35 games are away from downtown Cleveland.  While that’s a difficult early slate, it does mean a decided advantage after that stretch is done.

No doubt it will be a party atmosphere at the ballpark tomorrow, it always is for the home opener in this area, but the encouraging thing is it doesn’t appear the park will be a ghost town after tomorrow’s game.

Last year’s post-season run to the World Series sold a lot of tickets, and a good start will get even more people to visit Progressive Field.  The Tribe could have its highest attendance figures in many, many years.

It will be the fans first look at Edwin Encarnacion, their high profile free agent 1B/DH, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.

On the other side, age wise, it will also be the first time they get to see Yandy Diaz, who although he is just 5 for 23 to start the year, has shown an ability to hit the ball extremely hard.

Diaz isn’t likely to be here for long, he will probably go back to Columbus once Jason Kipnis returns from his sore shoulder, but he is a guy who is very much part of the Indians’ not to distant future.

It is time to resume our love for the mainstays of last year’s American League Champions, to celebrate how lucky we are to get to watch Francisco Lindor, now firmly established as one of baseball’s best young players, on an everyday basis.

It’s also a great feeling to have a lead late in the game knowing the Indians have likely the best one-two bullpen combination in the sport in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  That duo can be interchangeable if Terry Francona so desires.

We will say hello to last year’s breakout star in Jose Ramirez, who filled in at several spots in 2016, and is doing the same now at second base, until Kipnis returns, and he moves back to the hot corner.

And we say welcome back to Michael Brantley, remembering it was just three short years ago that he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. It’s easy to forget Brantley has been here since 2009, and he and Kipnis were the first building blocks for a World Series squad.

It’s a day of celebration, remembering what the 2016 edition of the Indians did, and looking forward to what could be another great season at Progressive Field.

The boys of summer have returned to Cleveland.

MW

 

Trust In Cavs’ Playoff Hopes Are Based On LeBron

Since the first of March, we don’t know what to make of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They went through that month sleepwalking on defense for the most part, and their three point shooting, a staple of their offense, began to get hit or miss.

Then, last Wednesday, they hammered the Boston Celtics, their rivals for the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, in Boston no less, and it looked like they were on the right track.

But Friday night, the wine and gold was basically run off their home floor by an Atlanta Hawks’ team that gave their starters the night off.

It was similar to a year ago when Memphis was without many of their regulars and knocked off Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

After the game, Kyrie Irving revealed that his knee was very sore on Thursday, yet Tyronn Lue played him Friday with a two game lead in the Conference standings.

Tristan Thompson is already out of the lineup with a sprained thumb, and Kyle Korver has missed several games recently with a foot issue.

Put all these factors together, and it doesn’t seem like it’s the formula for defending the NBA title the Cavs won last June.

In fact, there is only one reason for optimism.  LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers.

Yes, you can talk about Russell Westbrook and James Harden for MVP, and we know Stephen Curry has won the award the last two seasons, but everyone knows that James is still the best player in the sport, and still its most dominant force.

For all of the talk about how Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors a year ago because Curry was banged up, Andrew Bogut was hurt, and Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, no one talks about how James took that same Warriors’ squad to six games the year before without Irving and Kevin Love.

With Matthew Dellavedova and Thompson as his primary wingmen, he actually had the Cavaliers with a 2-1 lead in the series.

So despite the Cavs’ struggles over the last six weeks, we pin our hopes on James.  And quite frankly, he’s earned that respect.

Lue should be called into question for some of the struggles.  He has played James too many minutes, and Irving too, which many be a reason for his sore knees.

And after integrating the new players seamlessly a year ago, Deron Williams still seems lost, and Derrick Williams, who played well when he first came to Cleveland seems to be a forgotten man.

Deron Williams seems to defer way too much to LeBron and Irving.  Let him do what he has done throughout his career, run the offense.  He’s not a good defender anymore, but he is almost in a shooting role, and he’s not making shots.

The bench has been struggling lately, and it has been missing youth and athleticism, both of which Derrick Williams can provide.  And he showed he could defend when he arrived on the north coast.

Lue needs to give him some minutes, probably at the expense of Iman Shumpert, but with a lot of age on the bench, maybe just use the extra body and play the 30+ year olds a few minutes less per game.

A win on Friday night and a win today in Atlanta would have allowed Lue to rest his key players until the playoffs begin next weekend.

The most important thing for the post-season run is having James, Irving, and Thompson rested and ready to go.  We would include Kevin Love too, but he missed six weeks recently and probably needs the court time.

Pinning hopes on James is a tried and true method of winning, and based on recent events, it’s the only hope fans should be putting any credence in.

JK

 

 

Guess The Cavs Were Bored in March?

If you subscribe to the theory that the Cleveland Cavaliers were just playing out the regular season, waiting for the playoffs, what you saw last night was Exhibit A.

After a feeling out period in the first quarter, after which Boston held a one point lead, the Cavs dominated the Celtics the rest of the way, in route to a resounding 114-91 win.

Did we mention the blowout occurred in Boston?

The win should sew up the top seed in the Eastern Conference for Cleveland, which now holds a one game lead over Boston, and holds the tie-breaker by winning the season series against Brad Stevens’ team, three games to one.

Much has been made about the wine and gold’s play defensively after the All Star break, as the Cavs ranked 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency in that time span, but Tyronn Lue’s squad held the Celts to just 91 points for the game, and just 41% shooting for the contest.

And the wine and gold did some creative things defensively, blitzing the pick and roll on occasion, and trapping too, things they haven’t showed on defense since the calendar turned to 2017.

It was almost like the contest was a dress rehearsal for the playoffs, which start in about a week and a half.

Isaiah Thomas, Boston’s best player, got his, scoring 26 points, but the truth is the Celtics don’t have a good “wingman” for Thomas, as Jae Crowder was next with 13 points, and Al Horford, who must have nightmares about the Cavs, had 12.

Meanwhile, Cleveland had five players in double figures, led by the sport’s best player, LeBron James, who dominated the second quarter, had 36, and he was backed up by Kyrie Irving (19), Kevin Love (15 points, 16 rebounds), and JR Smith, who had 12 points.

Did we mention the Cavs played without their best interior defender, Tristan Thompson, who has a thumb problem?

Now, Lue can start resting his start players in earnest.  With a back-to-back situation on the road on Sunday and Monday (Atlanta then Miami), we would expect James, Irving, and Love to sit in one of those games, and if Wednesday’s regular season finale is inconsequential, which is probably will be, the “Big Three” won’t play in that one either.

Assuming they miss the Monday game vs. the Heat, that would give the trio about a full week off before the post-season begins at Quicken Loans Arena.

We aren’t going overboard about the win last night.  The fact is, it isn’t good enough to play with that kind of intensity for one night during the playoffs, it has to be done every night.

On the other hand, after the shaky month of March, it was good to see the Cavaliers approach a “big” regular season with a determined approach and the result was tremendous.

It shows the Cavs can still play like champions, they still have it in them.

Remember, this is a veteran team.  Cleveland is much more experienced than either Golden State and/or San Antonio.  Perhaps they know how to treat the dog days of the post All Star break schedule, saving energy for the playoff run.

We will find that out very, very soon.

JK

 

Tribe Wins Opener, And More Thoughts On AL Champs

For some reason, many people, including baseball fans put a lot of importance on the results of the Opening Day of baseball.

In reality, it is just one game of 162, but because the non-baseball sports media actually watch the season lidlifter, there is more analysis on game one, compared to a contest in May between the Tribe and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Indians did get off to a winning start, overcoming a 5-1 deficit after three innings to outlast the Texas Rangers 8-5 to go to 1-0 on the season.

Corey Kluber gutted out six innings on a day where he didn’t have his best stuff, Edwin Encarnacion debuted with a home run, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out five of the last seven Texas hitters to wrap this one up.

Remember though that baseball is a series sport, you want to win series, and the Indians have a leg up on that by winning last night.

So, while we celebrate a win in the first game, there are still some issues for this baseball team, although none of them are based on a lack of talent, which is very refreshing.

Over the weekend, the front office signed another player to a multi-year contract, Roberto Perez.  Perez inked a four year deal with two club options that could take him through 2022.

Perez was a star in last year’s post-season, and it says here that he will be the regular catcher by the All-Star break.  It is a well kept secret that Perez is better defensively than Yan Gomes (who is very good behind the plate), and better with a bat in his hand too.

Gomes doesn’t control the strike zone which in our opinion is why he has struggled at the plate since 2014.  Pitchers know they don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.

Perez is also one of the best pitch framers in the business, and draws a ton of walks too.

By the way, we know Terry Francona is protecting rookie Yandy Diaz, but hitting Gomes sixth seems like it will come back to bite the Tribe.

The other situation worth looking at is in the outfield, particularly when Lonnie Chisenhall is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Austin Jackson was told a week before spring training ended, leading to speculation that Abraham Almonte would be sent to the minors.  But Chisenhall’s shoulder issue allowed the switch-hitter to make the team.

We still feel that Almonte is a better choice than Jackson for the roster because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and because Jackson has had issues making contact at times.

We know it is one game, but Almonte had a day, didn’t he?  Two walks and the go ahead single in the ninth.  You have to wonder what happens when Chisenhall is back.

Does Almonte still go to Columbus, or does Jackson agree to go down.  Or will the team send out Tyler Naquin.  Just another problem teams have when they are good.

As for people disappointed that the Indians didn’t open at home?  Relax, worry about something else.  Hopefully, the Tribe wins both series on the road and they come home to a party after a successful trip.

MW

 

Is Kyrie’s Passing The Key To Cavs’ Success?

There is no question that the best player on the roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and for that matter, the entire NBA is LeBron James.

However, you can a very good case that when Kyrie Irving plays at a superstar level, that’s when Cleveland becomes one of the best teams in the league.

The Cavs got off to a tremendous start in 2016-17, heading into the new year with a 25-7 record.

Irving was very efficient in those months, scoring around 24 points per game and taking around 18-19 shots on average.

In December, the wine and gold went 12-4, their best month of the season, and Irving was incredible, averaging 23.2 points and 7.8 assists per game.

In one seven game stretch toward the end of the month, the 25-year-old had 10 or more assists five times, while scoring over 20 points in the same number of games.

However, January saw the beginning of the malaise that has enveloped the Cavs for the last three months.  The team went 7-8 during the first month of the year, and while Irving averaged 25 points per game during those 15 games, his assists numbers dropped to 5.2, and only two games with more than seven dimes.

His shots per game increased as well, going from around 18.5 in November and December to almost 21 in January.

The Cavaliers’ ship righted itself in February going 9-2, and coincidentally, Irving became more of a passer again, averaging 7.1 assists a night (six games with more than five), although the shots were up again at a little over 21 a game.

Kyrie didn’t shoot well from the three point line in February, making just 32% of his long range shots.  He was close to 40% up to that point.

Then came March, the worst month record wise for the Cavs since James returned to the team at 7-10.

Irving’s scoring was up (27.0) and his shooting was very good (almost 50% from the floor and 44% from long range), but his assists totals were down to under five per contest (4.8).

The former first overall pick had six games where he had more than five assists during March, and the Cavs went 5-1 in those games.  That means when Irving had less than five, Cleveland went 2-9.

Now, there can be many reasons for Irving’s assist totals to be down, one of them logically being his teammates not making as many shots as they were earlier in the year.

When you lose JR Smith for 10 weeks and Kevin Love for five, two of the Cavaliers’ better shooters, your assist totals could take a dive.  And there is no question, Irving tried to pick up the scoring slack from the absence of those two players.

However, in watching the games, the ball movement that was a trademark early in the season is no longer there.  There is simply too much isolation ball, and too much dribbling by Cleveland players.

We would also like to see Deron Williams be the playmaker when he and Irving are in the game together.  Williams seems to be deferring to Irving, dribbling the ball across the time line and then giving it to Kyrie right away, instead of letting Irving be the scorer in that lineup.

Perhaps Irving should be more particular as to when he needs to carry the entire burden of the offense, and spend time earlier in games getting the other players going.  Outside of the “Big Three” (and the Cavs do that with Love in the first quarter), the rest of the team is struggling.

Maybe getting them some good early looks will get them into a good rhythm.

But it is clear when Kyrie Irving’s assist numbers are up, the Cleveland Cavaliers win more often.

Another thing to look at for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

JK

 

NFL Draft Can’t Come Soon Enough

One month from today, the NFL Draft will be history, and quite frankly, we can’t wait.

We also feel pretty confident that we will know who the Cleveland Browns are planning to start at quarterback, if not for the league opener, but at least in the not too distant future.

The biggest reason for this anticipated happiness is it will bring a close to the endless speculation as to who the Browns want at quarterback going forward.  Heck, if the franchise ever got a very good passer, sports talk radio might come to an end.

Until then, we are sure that Hue Jackson will be asked about or linked to every living breathing QB in the continental United States.  It’s just a matter of time before someone leaks on social media that Cleveland is trying to lure Joe Namath out of retirement.

And at least one sports reporter will go on the radio and pronounce they have a “good feeling” that Namath may be under center when the Browns open the season in September.

It borders on ridiculous.

By all accounts, the Browns will take pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, filling a need the franchise has had for over 50 years.  Hue Jackson has gone on record as saying they will not trade out of the pick, so they are doing the smart thing here.

Again, we have always said if you have the first pick in the draft, then you take the best player.  Garrett is the consensus best player available on April 27th.

Now, it gets interesting.  We feel the Browns are looking for a QB, so they have to gauge if any team between #2 and #11 want one too.  The Jets could be worrisome, but we feel they are in the same mode Cleveland was in last year.  They want the first pick next year, so they may stay with old favorite Josh McCown and another veteran to get through 2017.

The one argument that drives us crazy is passing on a quarterback this year and putting your eggs into next year’s basket.

First off, the Browns probably aren’t going 1-15 again, the young players will get better, so at the minimum you are looking at a four win season, although we think it could be five or six victories.

With four wins, you aren’t going to have the first pick in the 2018 draft.  For the sake of argument, let’s say the Jets plan works and they are in the Browns’ shoes a year from now.

Do you really think the Jets are going to trade with the Browns, so Cleveland can draft Sam Darnold from USC?  Of course not, so at best you will be getting the second best quarterback in the draft.

Your whole plan would revolve around a team who already has a QB getting the first overall pick so they would be willing to trade with the Browns.  That’s kind of like eating a wish sandwich, isn’t it?

It appears likely that the best quarterback this year will be available in the #5-#12 pick range.  If the Browns really love one of the guys available this year (Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, or Patrick Mahomes), they can trade up IF they don’t think they will fall to them.

In our opinion, since you are getting Garrett at #1, you can afford to take a small gamble with the second first round pick.

Anyway, in a month, all of the speculation will be done.  The crazy season will be over.

And then we can focus on the Cavs’ playoff run and the Indians trying to get back to the World Series.

MW

 

 

Why Tribe Will Repeat As AL Central Champs

A year ago at this time, we predicted an American League Central Division title for the Cleveland Indians.

After consecutive third place finishes in 2014 and 2015, that pick was a little more out on the edge as this year, but we will go ahead and say it anyway, the Indians will win the division title for the second straight year.

It’s not hard to see that Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, and Terry Francona have put together a helluva good baseball team, and they complement that with a farm system that seems to be churning out major league ready players.

The first thing people want to bring up when talking about the Indians is their pitching led by staff ace Corey Kluber, one of the game’s best starters, and the bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw, which was dominant for most of the post-season.

Indeed, Cleveland finished second in the American League in staff ERA in 2016, one of only two AL teams (Toronto) with an ERA of under 4.00.

Besides Kluber, Danny Salazar made the All-Star team a year ago, and Carlos Carrasco is capable of dominating any big league lineup.  Consistency and injuries have been an issue with both hurlers in the past.

Trevor Bauer is the wild card.  There doesn’t seem to be any reason he shouldn’t be able to win 15 games, but he has gone through long stretches of seasons where he pitches poorly.  If he can avoid those, and he’s only 26, he could be an elite starter too.

Josh Tomlin is a solid fifth starter, and in most rotations would be a three or four.  If any of the starters falter, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt can step in.

With the trinity of late inning relievers the Tribe has, most nights, it’s a six inning game for the opposition.

Because of the pitching reputation, people forget the offense, which scored the second most runs in the AL behind Boston.  They did it without Michael Brantley, one of the league’s best hitters.

And this off-season, the front office added perennial 30+ home run, 100+ RBI man, Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup.  After searching for a right-handed power bat for many years, Cleveland now has one of the best in the game.

They also have one of the best and most exciting young players in the sport in SS Francisco Lindor.  If the Indians win the division in 2017, Lindor will be an MVP candidate.

Even if Brantley has a set back, an offensive led by Encarnacion and Lindor, with support from Carlos Santana (34 HR last year), 2B Jason Kipnis, and 3B Jose Ramirez should score a lot of runs.

Kipnis will start the year on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, however.

Francona is a master at using platoon advantages, so even though there aren’t big names in centerfield and rightfield, the Tribe will get production out of those spots.

And behind them in the minor leagues, poised to help in the majors are OFs Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen, 3B/OF Yandy Diaz (if he doesn’t open in Cleveland), and C Francisco Mejia, who will start the year in Akron.

They also have Francona, one of the game’s best leaders, and a master at handling the roster and the clubhouse.

In a long term view, the Cleveland Indians are on the precipice of a good run at the top of the AL Central.  In the short term, they will win the division again, and hope to end what is now the longest World Series winning drought in the sport…69 years.

MW

What Needs To Be Done To Fix Cavs’ D

The Cleveland Cavaliers either have a huge problem or they are deceiving the rest of the NBA.

They haven’t played solid defense for most of the season, but over the last few weeks, the ease at which opponents are scoring has become alarming.  Allowing over 125 points is becoming a regular occurrence.

We feel there are several factors at work here, some of which can be fixed prior to the beginning of the NBA playoffs, and some that may not be able to be repaired.

The first problem is familiarity.  Since JR Smith was injured around the holidays, Cleveland’s roster has been in flux.  Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, and Larry Sanders have all been brought in, and Smith and Kevin Love missed significant time with injuries.

Those things, coupled with the lack of practice time NBA teams, particularly older ones, get during the regular season, make defensive rotations difficult to assimilate, and that shows in games.

There are many nights where the wine and gold look like they just met in a pick up game on the playground.  Really, they pretty much did.

The second problem is the defensive schemes are very vanilla, and this is by design because Tyronn Lue and his staff aren’t showing anything for the playoffs.  For the most part, the Cavs aren’t blitzing the pick and roll, and aren’t trapping point guards to force the ball out of his hands.

We are sure this will be done once the post-season starts.  Think back to the Boston game early in March and last night’s contest vs. Washington.  The Cavaliers pretty much guarded both Isaiah Thomas and John Wall straight up.  That won’t be the case in a playoff series.

It looks ugly now, but why show either potential opponent your cards before you have to.

However, we can call into question Lue’s playing rotations.  He has a deep roster, but still insists on playing LeBron James 38-40 minutes per game.  With the playoffs beckoning, why not reduce that to around 32 per night.

He also has too many lineups on the floor with glaring deficiencies.  For example, a group without Love and Tristan Thompson, which results in opponents getting second and third shot chances.

We see too many group on the floor without a solid defender besides James.  It is his job to make sure there are at least two or maybe three players who can guard someone on the floor at all times.

He has cut back on the playing time of Derrick Williams, an young, active guy who has shown signs he can guard someone.  Which is exactly what the Cavs need right now.

We know Cleveland wants to go into the playoffs healthy, but a big problem defensively is allowing dribble penetration out front.  Kyrie Irving isn’t fighting through picks and isn’t staying in front of his man.

If you know the game, this leads to the interior defenders having to pick those men up, leaving their man open, or leading to ball rotation for an open three point look.  You can’t have that in the playoffs.

Speaking of interior defense, all of the minutes and guarding on the perimeter seem to have taken a toll on Thompson, whose defense has slipped as the season has progressed.

His ability to guard smaller men away from the basket on switches was a key to last year’s title run.

The regular season games are winding down, meaning fixing the problem soon is critical to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If they play defense like they have over the last month or so, they simply will not win the Eastern Conference again.  Let’s hope our theory on being secretive about their plans is correct.

JK

 

 

Who Plays Second For A Few Weeks?

A few days ago, the Cleveland Indians announced 2B Jason Kipnis was about 4-5 weeks away from returning to the lineup.

First off, many people went crazy thinking Kipnis wasn’t going to be able to do anything for 4-5 weeks, meaning his return to the lineup would be about two months away.  Apparently, those people didn’t read correctly.

However, it does mean that the second baseman will miss most, if not all, of the first month of the season, so Terry Francona has to find someone to partner with Francisco Lindor as the team’s keystone combination.

It is not a coincidence that when the amount of time became specified by the Cleveland training staff, we started seeing Jose Ramirez playing in place of Kipnis.

Our guess is if Kipnis was going to miss a couple of weeks of the regular season, Francona would have went with a mixture of Michael Martinez and Erik Gonzalez at second, and left Ramirez at the hot corner, where he played so well in the second half of 2016.

But when it appeared to be a full month, he felt it necessary to move Ramirez back to his natural position, and use find someone else to play third.

In his heart of hearts, Tito probably knows Ramirez is stronger defensively than Kipnis, and a double play combination of Lindor and Ramirez could be among the best in the league.

What to do at 3B?  The primary candidates are Giovanny Urshela who is very good with the glove, but his hitting is questionable because he doesn’t handle the strike zone.

Then you have Yandy Diaz, who looks to be ready with the bat, hitting over .300 combined at Akron and Columbus last year.  The brass seems to be very concerned about his glove, although the defensive metrics show he is solid at third.

A dark horse would be Richie Shaffer, who spent the winter bouncing from team to team, but has made some changes in his swing and approach which has caused his power to spike.

Both Diaz and Shaffer would have to be added to the 40 man roster.

Urshela would be the safe pick, but remember the Indians are in a different situation than in the past.  They are the defending American League champions, they aren’t a contending team anymore, so they should be making decisions to win right now.

We have heard people say Diaz shouldn’t get the nod because they don’t want his service time to be an issue.

This was an issue in 2015 with Francisco Lindor, but the Indians weren’t the top dog in the league at that time.  Of course, the failure to bring him up sooner than June 14th may have cost the Tribe a spot in the playoffs.

But Diaz is 25 (Lindor was 21), so when he does become eligible for free agency, he will be 32 years old, past his prime years.

Our belief is to go with the offense, which means giving Diaz the job.  If you have the lead after six innings, then go to Gonzalez or Martinez, whoever wins the utility man job, for defense.

It’s great news that Kipnis should only miss a month, but they have some options to fill in for him until he’s ready to go.

MW

Browns Endless Search…For A Pass Rusher

As a follower of the Cleveland Browns since the mid 1960’s, we are acutely aware that it has been a long time since the team had a solid quarterback.

We are all aware of the great Otto Graham in the 50’s, and Frank Ryan was at the helm for the last Browns’ championship.  Ryan was acquired in a trade with the Rams, and took the Browns to the playoffs for the next few years.

He was followed by Bill Nelsen, picked up in a trade with the Steelers, of all teams, and Nelsen led the Browns to two NFC title games in 1968 and 1969, albeit on rickety knees.

Needing a replacement for Nelsen, Cleveland made the ill fated trade for Mike Phipps, dealing Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield, and you can make the argument that deal signaled the end of the halcyon days for the franchise.

Since then, there were a few seasons of greatness from Brian Sipe, including one MVP season in 1980, and then Bernie Kosar arrived and so did three losses in the AFC championship game that will be remembered forever.

However, besides quarterback, there is another thing the Browns haven’t had even dating back to the mid sixties, and that is an elite pass rusher, someone opponents have had to game plan against.

Sure, there have been single years or maybe two straight years where Cleveland has had a guy who can get to the quarterback, but they’ve never had that “guy”.

There was Jack Gregory for a year or two, and the trade in 1980 for Lyle Alzado.  Later in the 80’s, Cleveland drafted Chip Banks, who had a troubled career here until he couldn’t get along with Marty Schottenheimer, who traded him to San Diego.

Courtney Brown was supposed to be that guy when he was the first overall pick in 2000, but his knees wouldn’t allow it.  Paul Kruger had one year (2014) where he had 11 sacks, but that was an aberration.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guy you can depend on for 10 sacks every year?

That guy could be Myles Garrett.  Many of the draft gurus have compared him to Julius Peppers, and if he could be that, we’ll sign up right now.

Look at the Browns’ all-time sack leaders.  Clay Matthews is the leader with 62, but those were accumulated over 15 seasons.  Matthews should be enshrined in Canton, but he wasn’t known as a pass rusher.

The others in the top five are Michael Dean Perry (a nose tackle), Rob Burnett, Carl Hairston, and Reggie Camp.  The latter three were solid defensive ends, but weren’t players opponents were planning against.

Let’s go back to Peppers, who has accumulated 143.5 sacks in his career.  That’s more than double Matthews club record.  If Garrett can get half of that total if he is drafted by Cleveland, he would be the new record holder.

So, while we get the “quarterback hysteria”, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who can put pressure on the other team’s passer?

As former Browns GM Ernie Accorsi once said, the two most important players in the NFL are the quarterback, and someone who can get to the other team’s quarterback.

JD