One of the nice things about writing for Scene Magazine is that nobody knows who I am. With a few minor tweaks, I feel like Harry Doyle’s commentary on the Indians’ attendance in Major League could easily cross apply to the hits I generate.
“In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the comments section, you haven’t…”
But there is always a silver lining to every cloud. You see, with my powers of anonymity, I have been able to hole up in a certain NE Ohio hospital recently occupied Mister Tom Heckert.
Yes Tom, I was the “ugly” nurse. You have good gut instincts. I’m glad to have you on board the S.S. Holmgren.
But that being said, I am proud to announce I have the inside scoop on the Browns draft/ free agency plans. Yes, all those long hours of “recovery” were spent pouring over draft moves and roster adjustments, and I was privy to it all. (Not really, but roll with me anyway.)
Now, as a fanatical Browns supporter, I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the chances of my favorite team winning. As predictable as Shurmur’s offense was last year, I really shouldn’t be spilling the beans on the Browns’ off-season plans.
But then again, if I inadvertently hit the “send” button with this article attached, maybe I will be “reassigned” by Cleveland Scene and then can finally get my dream job at ESPN/WKNR…
Tom Heckert’s Master Plan
Phase One: The Ultimate (Mc)DeCoy — Play off the fact no one thinks McCoy is the answer at QB
Step 1: Feign Interest in RG3
Yes, he’s a super talent. But plain and simple, the goals of the Browns offensive system simply do not match up with Griffin’s skill set. Yes, yes, the fans are clamoring for him. But they also clamored for Kelly Holcomb, Brady Quinn, and Colt McCoy. They’ll get over it. Just make sure to lock the doors of the Berea complex before Dawg Pound Mike comes knocking again. Griffin would never develop under the currently run West Coast offense, so Heckert will create a smoke screen and hope some desperate team will go Ted Stepien here. Hey, as long as no one takes our guy, we’re good to go. Speaking of our guy…
Step 2: Obtain More Draft Picks
Tom figures as long as Browns fans are ready to crucify him over “botching” what would really be “trading away the future of the franchise for one unproven quarterback,” he might as well do the other unthinkable: trading down. The front office brass has never come out and officially said it, but based off what Tom said while I changed his catheter bag, Shurmur was given last year to “feel out how to do the job” and “work out the kinks.” Translation: We didn’t exactly give a 100% effort last year, especially after the holdout, so we would be in position to make as many moves as possible the following year (this year).
Heckert is known for being a shrewd drafter and strong evaluator of talent. He knows he can get quality players, so he wants quantity when it comes to draft picks (another obvious reason he was never going to give multiple picks away for RG3). But it takes two to tango, so who could the Browns find to work out a deal with? The Bengals and Patriots each have two first rounders this year, but neither was willing to deal both away. Poor Tom Heckert… you’d think a guy who just had major surgery could get a little love right now. Wait a minute… Tom Heckert… brotherly love… could it be?
Step 3: Yes, It’s ALWAYS Sunny in Philadelphia!
(Roger Goodell steps up to the podium) “The Cleveland Browns have traded the number four pick in the draft to the Philadelphia Eagles.”
I know you don’t like it, but it’s going to happen. After last year’s disappointing season, the Eagles still feel like they are just a couple players away from making a serious Super Bowl run. The three areas of greatest concern for them are the Linebackers, Wide Receivers, and Cornerbacks. The troop of linebackers they have is talented, but very young and unpolished. The Eagles will most likely spend most of their $22 million in cap space on bringing in some veteran guys to bring the pups along. They might have enough left over for one of the other two needs, but they will have to go through the draft to get the impact player and instant starter they need for a possible title run. With Luck, Griffin, and Kahil off the board, the #4 pick provides Philadelphia the opportunity to take either the best WR (Blackmon) or CB (Claiborne) they need.
You heard it here first: the Browns will trade the #4 pick overall to the Eagles for their #15 pick overall. But while you pound your fists and scream at the TV, Tom Heckert will smile as he accepts the Eagles’ two second round picks, numbers 46 and 51 overall. Yes, the Browns will have to throw in their second of two 4th round picks (119), but the deal clearly works to the strategies of both teams.
Now, Tom Heckert, one of the league’s best drafters, has five of the first 51 picks in this year’s draft. The Cleveland Browns get 10% of the top 51 college players. If you don’t believe me, then how else do you explain Heckert making such a speedy recovery? I’m not a doctor, but I did pretend to be a nurse for a few weeks.
Phase 2: Playing ODOT — Opening / Closing Lanes for the Running Game
Step One: The Offensive Line
No matter what anyone tells you, Joe Thomas is still the greatest Left Tackle on Earth. The players said it and I trust them on it. Like Tom Heckert said to me, “Look at how much Sheard developed through the course of the season; who do you think he got paired up against in practice?” But Joe Thomas is only one man; so while Alex Mack has been solid, already earning his fair share of All-Pro talk around the league, after him, it’s a questionable situation.
Heckert is high on Steinbach’s recovery, but if he isn’t able to pan out, he feels comfortable with Shawn Lauvao or Jason Pinkston as backups. Key word: backups. They both performed admirable in significant playing time as rookies, but the Offensive Line, especially in the AFC North, needs to be a position of strength for the Browns to overcome their divisional foes.
That leads us to the Right Tackle position occupied somewhat by Tony Pashos. While he always has something big to say and provides an even bigger block, Pashos simply has not been healthy enough to warrant the Browns giving him a legitimate shot at the position. That leaves Heckert with the job of bringing in two starters, with Right Tackle being the larger of the priorities. None of the sexy names were discussed, but options, from what I could gather while “taking notes in his chart” include Tackles: Anthony Collins (CIN), Paul McQuistan (SEA), and Adam Snyder (SF) and Guards: Jake Scott (TEN), Leonard Davis (DET), and Jacob Bell (STL, and Saint Ignatius/Miami (Ohio) grad).
(UPDATE: The Cardinals released Levi Brown, who would be a great fit if he switched from LT to RT, clearly his better position.)
Step 2: The Defensive Line
Heckert’s heart issues may be a direct result of the Browns’ inability to stop the run this year. Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin give the Browns a formidable front two, but the rotation has to be deeper and able to create more disruption in the backfield. Seattle’s Red Bryant, San Diego’s Antonio Garay, and Philadelphia’s Derek Landri would provide some quality affordable depth and run-stuffing experience. However, this year’s draft also presents a large selection of defensive linemen to select from. With the Browns owning five picks between 15 and 51, (remember, Heckert is trading down from #4) I could see one of them spent on young interior linemen.
Jabaal Sheard solidifies one Defensive End, but where will the Browns go to get someone to place pressure on the other side of the ball? I know what you’re thinking: Mario Williams or Dwight Freeney! Yeah, right. And I also suppose you also want Peyton Manning too? Are you tripping on the same pain medication Heckert is on? If so, trust me, it’s strong stuff (I can’t say exactly though… HIPAA violation).
No, the Browns will again go with a mid-tier free agent here and then look to the draft for a young speed rusher they can develop. John Abraham (ATL) would be a terrific fit for a couple years, but his price tag seems to be high for Heckert’s liking. If he can be talked down, he would make a nice addition and add some veteran leadership. However, good Abraham or Jacksonville’s Jermey Mincey would look in Brown and Orange, if the Browns do make a move here in free agency, it will most likely be for a cheaper, but stable option in the form of a Frostee Rucker (CIN) type of player.
Phase Three: Back to the Future: Parts One Through Five
Yes, I know there were only three Back to the Future movies, but the five draft picks Cleveland owns in the first 51 picks will either restore the franchise back to the dominance of its 1980’s teams or put us back to square one and 1999 all over again.
The great thing about having a 4-12 team, if there is a good thing about that, is that you don’t have to be too choosey when it comes to finding a player to fill just one void.
Then again, I feel the Browns did underachieve last year, allowing Shurmur to make as many as mistakes (which he did) without the fear of losing his job or having to prove himself. Am I accusing the Browns of tanking the season? Not at all. But I think it’s fair to say once the Browns front office saw they weren’t going to fulfill their initial expectations, they certainly didn’t go out of their way in attempting to fix it. If there’s one thing I’ve come away from Heckert’s hospital room with, it’s the fact that the front office as a whole realizes a Band-Aid isn’t going to solve the problem. Fixing this team, is almost as complex as all of the medical procedures Heckert just went through.
Without further ado, my, I mean, Tom Heckert’s 2012 Cleveland Browns Draft Board:
1 (15): Dre Kirkpatrick (CB), Alabama
1 (22): Stephan Hill (WR), Georgia Tech
2 (5): Kevin Zeitler (OG), Wisconsin / Devon Still (DT), Penn State
2 (14): Zebrie Sanders (OT), Florida State
2 (19): Chandler Jones (DE), Syracuse
3 (4): Chris Polk (RB), Washington
4 (5): Tommy Streeter (WR), Miami
5 (4): Ryan Lindley (QB) San Diego State
6 (5): Najee Good (ILB), West Virginia
7 (4): Cliff Harris (CB), Oregon
The Ultimate Question: Who Will Be The Browns’ Starting Quarterback?!?
As much time as I spent in the hospital, I have to admit, I have no clue who will start for the Browns next year. All I can say is this much: The 2013 Class of NFL Free Agent Quarterbacks is not loaded with impressive names. Flacco and Schaub top the list, but I can’t believe either will be let go by their respective teams. Also, I get the impression the Browns are not overly impressed with the talent at the position in this year’s draft.
At this point, the Browns will do one of two things: Make a play at a Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb and over-pay for one of them, or try to surround Colt with as many pieces as they can. I believe the Browns are not happy with Colt’s performance thus far, but feel they can survive if they make the defense the calling card of this team. Beefing up the Offensive and Defensive lines will go a long way towards ensuring the Browns are more in control of the clock (though how Shurmur manages that clock is a totally different question).
At the end of the day, I think you’ll see Colt taking the first team snaps next season. But you’ll also see a guy carting cases of Tums and Zantac into the building as if they were cases of Gatorade bottles.
Although, it is my sincere hope those are the only kinds of medical treatments the members of the front office staff need for next season. Feel better Tom and thanks for being such a good patient!
(Editor’s Note: The author of this article never falsified documents or credentials in any way to gain access to the hospital room of Tom Heckert. Cleveland Scene Magzine does not encourage its columnists in any way to distort medical records or compromise the integrity of the medical establishment.)