DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Ryan Alton
In the NFL, the period of eight weeks between the Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft is typically nicknamed “The Silly Season” due to the rumors that often run rampant throughout landscape in the name of misdirection. Teams use misinformation about their intentions and eligible draft prospects to disguise their blueprint leading up to draft day and to throw off other teams who may be interested in similar prospects. The best avenue for laying down a trail of breadcrumbs for rival organizations (and fans) to follow is the media. Acting as if they are completely unaware that they’re being used, the media gobble up every piece of information fed to them, credible or otherwise, and regurgitate it for mass consumption.
What you have, as a result, is a constant stream of conversation and dialogue about teams, prospects and what MIGHT happen for eight straight weeks during a time where literally no football is being played. That’s a great thing if you’re Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the most popular sports league in the world wanting to keep your sport in the topic of conversation during a typically slow time of year. It’s great if you’re one of the 32 NFL General Managers or Personnel Directors trying to throw off the scent from what you’re planning to accomplish on Draft Night. And it’s great if you work in the media and you’re ever left wondering what kind of content you’re going to push out during the so-called NFL off-season. There is no absence of intrigue, especially if you cover a team that has a rather high pick.
It’s not so great, however, if you’re one of said draft prospects trying to get a handle on where and when you’ll be drafted or if, more than likely, you’re one of the millions of NFL fans across the country who just want desperately to know what your respective team is going to do when they are finally ”on the clock”. The rumor mill can be an unforgiving, relentless machine and, if you’re not careful to take everything with a grain of salt, it can chew you up and spit you out.
In many ways, these last few weeks of the 2012 regular season have become a “silly season” prelude for Browns fans. The games that are being played off-the-field have become just as interesting, and in some cases, depressing, as the games still being played on Sundays.
Typically, franchise-altering changes occur within the front office of an NFL team during the off-season when the team and its coaches aren’t being tasked with the hard-enough-as-it-is challenge of winning football games. But this is Cleveland. Things rarely happen the way they’re supposed to. With a new owner and a new CEO coming on the scene in the middle of the regular season, the guess work as to the inevitable changes to come has been as much a part of the conversation as what has transpired on the field. Another in a long line of unprecedented challenges that seem to always affect the way a season unfolds for the Cleveland Browns.
What’s worse is the fact that the team has painfully under-performed this season, which has only served to fuel the speculation like kerosene at a campground. After an overtime loss coming off the Bye Week to the Dallas Cowboys, the rumor mill began to kick into gear as reports of former Browns general manager Michael Lombardi surfaced in connection to new Browns CEO Joe Banner. Reports from various media have claimed that Banner would replace current General Manager, and fan favorite, Tom Heckert with Lombardi, who has a checkered past in player personnel, to say the least.
Naturally, this “news” has not sat well with fans that recognize the job Heckert has done over the past three seasons in completely overhauling the Browns roster from older, stop-gap veterans to a team full of youth, energy, and most importantly, talent. Any move to replace Heckert at this point would be ill-advised, especially if that move involves Michael Lombardi.
During the team’s recent three-game win streak, the rumors appeared to subside and sentiment began building amongst the fan base that perhaps Head Coach Pat Shurmur should be allowed to keep his job. Unfortunately for Shurmur, a demoralizing defeat at home to the Washington Redskins last week has apparently ended any brief stint of goodwill much of the media and fans were willing to grant him. Like clockwork, Lombardi’s name has resurfaced in connection with the Browns and along with it are names of potential head coaching candidates such as New England Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, and even soon-to-be-fired Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.
In case the current game of Connect the Dots being played by certain media entities wasn’t obvious enough, the names of quarterbacks associated with respective candidates are also being thrown in as plausible alternatives to current Browns rookie Brandon Weeden. Ryan Mallett? Mike Vick? Because why not, at this point? Maybe McDaniels can bring some of the Patriots’ ball boys with him too.
While few things are actually known for certain at this point, one fact remains… There are no facts. Only rumors and hearsay and “sources” speaking on the condition of anonymity. Even Joe Banner himself has been asked and has refused to confirm or deny what’s being said, which only adds to the speculation. And for every Lombardi-to-Cleveland rumor, there has been another one suggesting that it’s not true. Much like the period of time before the draft, the fan base is being saturated with so much information, there is no way it can all be true. Only time will tell.
Still, you have people that believe where there is smoke, there is sure to be fire. Nothing short of a personal one-on-one sit down with Joe Banner himself will deter some from biting hook, line and sinker into every morsel being cast out from the all too eager media. And let’s face it… with games left on the road against the surging Denver Broncos and the fighting-for-their-playoff-lives Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns rumor mill might be a welcome escape from reality for some fans.
In conclusion, my point is this… no one knows, perhaps not even Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam (though, I highly doubt it), what is going to happen once the music stops on the 2012 regular season. It seems almost certain that Shurmur and Heckert will be left standing without a chair. But as for their replacements, though it’s fun and entertaining to try, we don’t know who will be sitting in their places when the dust finally settles.
Like a draft prospect wondering what city they will live in with eight weeks to go until Draft Day, it does little good to listen to the chatter and get swept up in the rapidly churning whitewaters of the NFL rumor mill. With a nine month drought from Browns football only two weeks away, I suggest we enjoy it while we can and let the rumors play themselves out. We’ll have plenty of time to dissect what happens after the season. And we just happen to have this nifty new website to that will require some breaking in.
Thanks for reading! Go Browns!!