Now that formal “Organized Team Activities” (OTA) have begun, it’s hard not to get caught up in that vibrant optimism where each year, our vaunted draft picks finally get to share the field with ‘real’ footballers. Perhaps this vernal hope is rooted in nature; as life-giving warmth and rain brings wildlife out of hibernation, flowers to bloom and birds north, so too it may awaken a primal energy within each of us where we seek evidence affirming that which we intrinsically know is true, that this year is different. Such is the spiritual consequence of being a Dawg By Nature.
In spite of the years of data that rationally advise a wait-and-see approach, an approach that eases the pain on Monday morning, seeks to mitigate a 16-week emotional roller coaster, I still defy this logic. This year does feel different.
On Organizational Culture
Each Browns Front Office has had a different atmosphere. Unlike the past varieties of dysfunction, it feels as if the winds have finally shifted. We’ve had a draft lauded by the national news media, we’ve signed several impact free agents and Hue Jackson is so infectiously upbeat.
Through all of this, it’s important to remember that it didn’t have to turn out this way. As we entered the offseason, flashes of 2015 abounded. Our Passing-Game Coordinator left the team seemingly in a rush to jump off a sinking ship; while a 32-point power point document justifying his departure was not left in trail, there was still high risk that Pep Hamilton could be the canary in the coal mine. Instead, the looming implosion has yet to occur. We hired one of the most seasoned Defensive Coordinators in Gregg Williams and attacked the off-season like a team fiercely struggling to reverse its fate.
Here, it perhaps makes one wonder - how was the narrative of the inherent dysfunction within Cleveland overcome? All signs point towards the cultural revolution initiated by Hue Jackson, and furthered by Gregg Williams.
Hue Jackson has said that Williams is the closest man he’s met to being his twin. It certainly appears that in addition to his notorious vocabulary of 4-letter words, Williams (similar to Jackson) deeply cares for his players. Even today, he apparently gets 200 - 300 calls yearly on Father’s Day. It is this reputation that furthers the changing narrative that Cleveland is a desirable location.
All of this is punctuated by yesterday’s breaking news that Jamie Collins played a roll in bringing Jason McCourty to the Browns:
Jason McCourty said today that his brother told him Jamie Collins loves it in Cleveland, something that influenced his decision. pic.twitter.com/ovr5x11SmN— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) May 24, 2017
Collins, despite the losing season, has loved everything about Cleveland. Even when he had free will to stay or leave, that Collins chose to stay (coincidentally, 4-days after we brought in Williams) is a testament that pro-bowl caliber players believed that there is more to the Browns than the record indicates. Moreover, it is extremely important to recognize how the positive culture Collins experienced led to our recruitment of a key free agent. The significance of this cannot be over emphasized - it’s like we started pushing a small snowball down the hill, and now it’s growing from it’s own momentum.
Hue Jackson stated that the culture in the building is the best that he’s seen here, and player actions seem to be matching his words. This, alone, is cause for some of the greatest optimism we’ve had reason for in years.
On Grigson’s Hiring
Controversially, the Browns hired Ryan Grigson as a new “Senior Personnel Executive”. Grigson’s new boss will be Andrew Berry, who was subordinate to Grigson in Indianapolis before he made the transition to Cleveland. For Grigson, he essentially was demoted two steps, now reporting to the person that reports to the GM. The concerns about Grigson’s suitability to work in our front office are two-fold:
- His record as a general manager is fairly poor. Wasting first round picks on Trent Richardson and Phillip Dorsett, while falling out of the playoffs two years in a row despite playing in arguably the weakest division in football? Oh, and Andrew Luck was his quarterback. There’s a lot to dislike at how he had managed the Colts. Fortunately, this position allows him to go back to his strengths where all he needs to focus on is on-field talent. He rose through the NFL ranks as a scout and talent evaluator - hopefully by refocusing on this singularly he will recapture the attributes that got him hired as a GM in the first place.
- He has been labeled as culturally toxic. If he was as bad as Pat McAfee makes him out to be then Andrew Berry would have blocked the move. As discussed earlier, team culture is now a strength. I am convinced that if he becomes toxic, he will be let go - but more importantly, he won’t have the power and influence that he formerly had, and the effects of a potentially abrasive personality can be contained.
Despite my general disdain for Grigson, it’s hard to dislike the idea of adding an extremely seasoned talent evaluator into our personnel directorate. I am cautiously optimistic that he can work within our system where we can take advantage of his strengths while mitigating his weaknesses.
- Cody Kessler reports increased arm strength. Also, if you care, he’ll tell you what he ate for 3 months.
- Brock Osweiler says that he is good enough to be the starting quaterback, and that his last two years of film support this statement.
- Garrett is ready to go full tilt next week.
- If we can’t field a football team, we’ll at least have a paramilitary force: