New Browns, New Coach Look Ahead to Game 1 Against Eagles
The new Cleveland Browns will play their first game of the season on Sunday. The question is: are the Browns too new? Cleveland brings a new coach and large contingent of rookies to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles.
They’ll be facing a rookie quarterback -Carson Wentz - a player the Browns passed over when they traded away their draft pick to Philly.
Ideastream’s Mark Urycki reports, the first game has suddenly become more intriguing.
Well, that didn’t last long. When Johnny Manziel and coach Mike Pettine won just three games last year team owner Jimmy Haslam dropped them both. Now the new Browns head coach is Hue Jackson, Cincinnati’s former Offensive Coordinator. He coached the Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 season in 2011 but was fired when new management came in.
Cleveland's new quarterback is a reclamation project from the Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin the Third. RG3 was rookie of the year in 2012 but by last year he had dropped to third string and never played in a single game.
The Browns could have chosen a quarterback with the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft but traded it to the Eagles who did this:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “The Philadelphia Eagles select Carson Wentz, quarterback, North Dakota State.
Why not grab Wentz? Browns Coach Hue Jackson says little about the decision.
“We went in another direction.”
Cleveland’s brain trusts –Paul Podesta and Sashi Brown- came in with a new “Moneyball” style of building a team, based on statistical analysis. They thought it best to move down the draft list and get more lower-ranked players.
Podesta was quoted as saying he didn’t even consider big Carson Wentz a top 20 pick. Now Wentz can prove them wrong in his first professional game.
His coach, Doug Pederson, says the kid will do fine, even if he only played one preseason game and then injured his ribs.
"It’s tough but here’s the thing: he’s a very special guy; this doesn’t bother him. The stage is not that big. He can handle this. That’s why making this decision is very comfortable for me and easy to make.”
The Browns will have to cover him with a lot of rookies like linebackers Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah.
Their two leading tacklers from last year Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, plus pass rusher Paul Kruger were all let go. Veteran cornerback Joe Haden.
“They must believe in the guys that we have. The guys that might not have any stats yet with Ogbah and Nassib, those dudes that we drafted. Coaches have a lot of confidence in them and their ability to make plays. It’s just an opportunity for guys to step up that haven’t done it before.”
13 of the 14 players drafted by DePodesta and Brown made the team and the 14th remains on the practice squad. Coach Jackson sounds at ease with the players he has.
“We have to coach what we have and get those guys to play as well as we can get them to play. I don’t want to elaborate on decisions that were made by our staff. We are just going to move forward, coach what we have here and get these guys better.”
The team is so young that some suggest the Browns are OK with tanking this year because it would mean a chance to draft the highly rated Clemson quarterback Deshaurn Watson next year.
Browns punter Brit Colquitt was with the champion Denver Broncos last year. He was asked if it’s hard to find himself one of the few veterans on a rebuilding team.
“I guess maybe you could say that, but I don’t feel like that right now. The mentality on this team right now is about winning. (Head) Coach (Hue) Jackson, that is all he talks about is winning, and it is very positive and it’s not this negative anything. It has really been great. It feels like you are part of a winning team already and we haven’t got to the season yet.”
Quarterback Robert Griffin III played well in preseason, even though the Browns lost all 4 exhibition games while the Eagles won all four of theirs. The Browns’ most exciting receiver Josh Gordon will be sitting out the first 4 games, as will last year’s leading pass rusher Armonty Bryant. They’re both under suspension for drug violations.
But Hue Jackson, getting his second chance as a head coach, says he wants his team of rookies and reclamation projects to show what they can do.
“We are a group of men who are hungry, that we do understand and realize that there is something to prove, but we hope to have this chip on the shoulder as long as I’m here.
Former Ravens Coach Brian Billick tweeted this week that he doesn’t see the Browns winning a single game this year. They get their first try Sunday at 1:00 in Philadelphia.