The Senior Bowl practices were this past week, and then on Saturday, the actual game took place. The South Team, led by the Houston Texans’ coaching staff, dominated the North Team, led by the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff, by a score of 45-16. Considering the Broncos had the luxury of having both Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen on their roster, the outcome might have been a bit of a surprise.
What we want to recap, though, is everything involving the Cleveland Browns during the week. My original plan was to do daily recaps after each practice regarding all of the Browns-related news, but I’ve been sick for about the past 21 days now, making it difficult to stay on top of things.
1. No One Told Hue to Hire a Coordinator: Down at the Senior Bowl, Browns head coach Hue Jackson briefly met with local reporters on one of the days. He told reporters that “no one has ever told me I needed to hire an offensive coordinator,” trying to dispel rumors that the likes of John Dorsey or Jimmy Haslam nudged him to give up playcalling duties to focus exclusively on being a head coach.
“I made a decision that I thought the best thing for me to do was to become the CEO of this organization in that way. No one forced me, no one asked me and no one told me I had to. This was my decision and what I thought was best for us moving forward. Did I lean on people to ask them advice? Yes, I did. Was John Dorsey one of those people? Yes, he was. Was Jimmy Haslam one of those people? Yes, he was. That is what you do. You use your resources, but nobody, no one, whether it is John or Jimmy (Haslam), ever told me that this is what I needed to do. Nobody.”
Read more at Cleveland.com, as Jackson talks specifically about Haley.
I stopped caring awhile ago about whether Jackson tells the truth or leaks information out to benefit himself; I just got tired of it. Some may find it silly for Jackson to liken his role to “the CEO of the organization now,” but it’s actually something I can agree with him on. If we weren’t going to fire Jackson, then I at least wanted the playcalling duties off of his plate so we could see him in more of a general overseer role with the Browns. I have no reason to know whether he’ll be good in that type of role or not, but it can’t be worse than him (negatively) being consumed with playcalling duties and botching other game management decisions.
Jackson also got the support of left tackle Joe Thomas earlier in the week, who wrote a column for The MMQB defending the decision to keep him a third year.
2. The Baker Mayfield Buzz Builds for Browns: If there is one takeaway from the week at the quarterback position, it was this: Baker Mayfield’s stock is way up when it comes to the Cleveland Browns. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports had the most in-depth look at connecting Mayfield to GM John Dorsey. Here is a snippet:
As practices wrapped Thursday and NFL personnel men flocked to catch flights out of town, a consensus had begun to form on Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, two quarterbacks who have first-round expectations in the upcoming draft. While critics of each continue to be easy to find, both had good showings in terms of building on performances each day. But Mayfield’s skills and on-field mentality left multiple evaluators believing Cleveland is heading into a debate between two players with the No. 1 pick in the draft: Mayfield and USC’s Sam Darnold, who will make his league-wide debut next month at the league’s annual scouting combine.
“A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of [Cleveland Brown’s general manager] John Dorsey,” one source said. “Just his mental makeup as a player, John believes in building around those kinds of guys. … I think he’s a strong candidate [for the top pick] after this week.”
During the week, Mayfield joined Dustin Fox on 92.3 the Fan. You can listen to the interview below, and here’s what he said about possibly being drafted No. 1 overall by the Browns:
“They’re getting a winner. They’re getting somebody that’s going to turn that franchise around. They’re getting somebody that no matter what happens, no matter what anybody else thinks of that franchise, I’m going to put belief and I’m going to put new life into that. I’ll do everything I can to win. Everything for my team and the coaching staff. They’re going to get the biggest competitor they’ve ever seen. That’s what I brought to OU and that’s always what I believed in.”
3. Can’t Escape the Manziel Comparisons: In our first look as masses of talent evaluators and media getting to see Baker Mayfield, it was clear that he will not be able to escape the Johnny Manziel stigma for awhile. Comparisons include the fact that he’s on the shorter side for quarterbacks, and some of his pass in-game (grabbing his crotch and planting a flag at midfield) or off-the-field antics. Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer was at the Senior Bowl this week and obtained these three nuggets from various people:
- From a Scout: “Baker has a pattern of disrespect. Off-the-field, he’s Johnny Manziel.’’
- From a Coach: “He needs work. He’s going to be a challenge.”
- From a High-Level NFL Personnel Executive: “He has not shown anywhere near enough emotional maturity to handle what’s coming his way. ... A lot of Manziel characteristics.”
- He also skipped or shortened some media obligations, but that was attributed to his mother having an illness.
- Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland was one of the media members to spearhead the comparison, saying, “To me, Mayfield looks, sounds, acts and plays like the reincarnation of Manziel – notwithstanding Manziel’s substance abuse issues.”
But others don’t understanding the Manziel comparisons at all, and believe it’s unfair to pigeon hole him into that black hole. This is from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, when he was interviewed on 92.3 the Fan this past week:
.@nfldraftscout on @BullandFox re: Baker Mayfield: "I like him. I don't understand the Manziel comparisons at all. I've never heard anything from people at Oklahoma about Baker not being prepared or not loving the game" #Browns— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) January 26, 2018
Browns GM John Dorsey said that the Mayfield-Manziel comparison is “a narrative that the media has created,” and that he’d find out personally what makes Mayfield tick.
4. GM John Dorsey Talks Mayfield, Browns: 92.3 the Fan also had the chance to interview Browns GM John Dorsey during the week, and one thing you like to hear is how quickly the young QB was able to digest his college playbook:
#Browns GM John Dorsey on Baker Mayfield: “What I was impressed with, when he first got to Oklahoma, his teammates early in summer, he had digested the playbook and understood it within two days. And then the love and conviction that his teammates have for him, you can see that”— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) January 25, 2018
You can listen to Dorsey’s full interview here:
Some of the things he had to say included:
- With QBs, it’s not all about seeing the film on players. You can walk away with some clear narratives on players, in these beginning stages, by talking to them.
- Is there a leader in the clubhouse for the top pick(s)? “Best available player,” said Dorsey, intentionally skirting the question.
- Regarding the work they’ve put in so far: “I’ve said down with the personnel staff, and we’ve gone through 12 days of unrestricted free agents to put that plan in place. I’ve gotten all the coaches’ evaluations. Hue and I have talked numerous times about where should we move forward here.”
- He expects Joe Thomas back, but will still plan for the other scenario just in case.
5. Allen’s Week Wasn’t Bad: Even though Baker Mayfield got all the hype during the week, that doesn’t mean it was a bad week for Josh Allen. Prior to the practices, he also talked to 92.3 the Fan, where he said, “I want to be the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns [because] the guy that does that is going to be immortalized in Cleveland forever.”
“To think about that and to put yourself in that situation and in those shoes, you gotta love that as a quarterback and you gotta love that as a football player and competitor. This is something that can really be set in stone forever, if you’re the guy that can help turn this Cleveland Browns team around. I know they’ve got the youngest team in the NFL, they’ve got the most cap space, the most high draft picks, brand new GM who has done a lot of good things in his past.”
Allen also had a solid day for the North Team as their QB, completing 9-of-13 passes for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mayfield only saw two series of action, completing 3-of-7 passes for 9 yards. Here is one of Allen’s touchdown passes that was dropped right in the bucket:
6. A Few Players Who Helped Their Stock: Based on practice and the game itself, here are some players whose stock increased during the week:
- QB Mike White, Western Kentucky: If Cleveland selects two quarterbacks in the draft, White could be one who Dorsey eyes in a later round. Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst reported that he “was incredibly impressed by White’s poise, patience, accuracy and overall awareness,” and that he was told that White “is a favorite of Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey.” White had a strong first half for the South Team in victory, completing 8-of-11 passes for 128 yards and 1 TD.
- RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State: A 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown was one of the top plays of the game, and Penny made his early impression before the rest of the backs try to shine at the NFL Combine. He’s drawn comparisons to Kareem Hunt.
- WR D.J. Chark, LSU: Caught 5 passes for 160 yards and 1 TD during the game. His speed is what made him stand out among the crowed, which NFL.com noted could be enticing for a special teams coverage player.
- DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA: You won’t see a ton of defense in the Senior Bowl, but Davenport generated some nice pressure during the game and then was the fortunate benefactor of a fumble bouncing right into his arms so he could return it for a short TD.
Browns fans, let us know your impressions from Senior Bowl week!