Monthly Archives: February 2015

Browns add great guy in Josh McCown, but who is quarterback?

The Cleveland Browns added a mentor to their roster when they signed Josh McCown.

How much of a player they added remains to be seen.

McCown is a tremendous individual, but at 35, he’s coming off a Tampa Bay season in which he was given the starting job and went 1-10 — against the NFC South.

The Browns gave him a three-year deal. The team can explain its reasons, and those reasons could turn out to be correct. But at this point, this move seems to make as much sense as so many moves of the post-1999 Browns, which is to say very little.

The team will make its case. McCown can be a mentor. He doesn’t have to start to do that; he wants that role. He worked with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in 2007 in Oakland. And the team concluded it does not see Brian Hoyer as a long-term starter.

They’re entitled to those decisions, just as fans are entitled to throw their hands up and scream at the thought of McCown and Johnny Manziel as the team’s quarterbacks in 2015.

So many questions follow, which isn’t supposed to be the case when a team makes a signing at its most important position.

Do the Browns think McCown can start? Does what he showed in Tampa Bay give more belief than what Hoyer showed in Cleveland? Do they believe Manziel will be available to play this year? And if he is, do they believe, based on what they saw in the seven quarters he played, that he can be a starter? If they felt the need to sign McCown, what does it say about how the team feels about the available quarterbacks in free agency? Will they add anyone in free agency, and at what price?

At this point, the signs don’t point to another major addition, except perhaps through the draft (has Marcus Mariota ever looked better?)

McCown was good two years ago, as the backup to Jay Cutler. He had a positive effect on Cutler. Maybe he can do the same with Manziel.

But that doesn’t eliminate the concerns about whether Manziel can succeed in the NFL, at his height and with his style and his commitment — remember, he didn’t know the plays when he finally started in Game 14 of the past season — and whether McCown is even a starting quarterback in the NFL.

McCown actually falls into a pattern long-established by the ever-changing organization that is the Cleveland Browns. That would be the pattern of the veteran quarterback signed late in his career — too late to make a positive impact on the Browns.

Go down the list.

Jake Delhomme. Jeff Garcia. Trent Dilfer. They’re all on the infamous jersey that no doubt will have a 23rd name (and second McCown) added to it in 2015.

All were going to be saviors. They all lasted one year.

Only in Cleveland.

At 6-3, then 7-4 the past season, the Browns seemed headed in the right direction. But things have unraveled wildly since.

An offensive coordinator left two years’ pay on the table to get out, the GM admitted to texting assistant coaches during games in violation of league rules, Manziel entered rehab, ticket prices went up, Josh Gordon was suspended and … well … it almost seems pointless to go on.

Except through it all, the Browns and owner Jimmy Haslam said things were fine and dandy. Now he has a 35-year-old quarterback to prove his point.

To which the only response seems to be: Seriously?

Ken Norton Jr. to draw from his experience with 1990s Dallas dynasty

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Just like Jack Del Rio did, new Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. says he learned much of his philosophy on playing in the NFL from former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson. Norton will need to rely on that and a whole lot more in Oakland.

Hired on Friday just five days after helping coach Seattle in the Super Bowl, Norton inherits a defense that has been mostly mediocre for the past decade.

There were some signs of progress in 2014, most notably in the linebacking corps with Khalil Mack and Sio Moore. The Raiders also have some promising young talent up front to go with veterans like Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, and ageless safety Charles Woodson is the bright spot in the secondary.

Beyond that, though, Norton has some serious work to do to improve a defense that ranked 21st overall and led the NFL in points allowed.

Johnson faced a similar challenge in Dallas when he took over a defense that ranked 20th overall in 1988. During Johnson’s five seasons in Texas, the Cowboys had a top-10 defense three times and owned the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense in 1992.
Norton plans to use much of what he learned from Johnson now that he’s in Oakland.

“There is no question, you have to get everything you can out of each and every individual,” Norton said. “(Johnson) treated everybody differently, and he really knew how to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. He made it clear that he loved you when you were making plays. If you weren’t making plays, he was going to get rid of you.”

That will be a change from what the Raiders have done in the past. They historically have overpaid players, inexplicably kept underachieving players in the lineup, and tried to make do with outdated schemes and philosophies.

Oakland’s defense made minimal progress under Jason Tarver. With Norton — who also credits Seattle coach Pete Carroll for his development as a coach — the unit is expected to make an even bigger jump.

Specifically, the Raiders need to improve their pass rush and the play in the secondary. Those two areas are tied together, meaning upgrading one will have a trickle-down effect on the other.

There is concern in the secondary, where Woodson is the lone starter from 2014 guaranteed of coming back. Safety Tyvon Branch could be a salary-cap casualty, and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers are free agents.

Tackling has been another issue in Oakland. Norton, one of the fiercest tacklers in the NFL when he played, should be able to improve that over time.

More than anything, Norton hopes to bring some swagger and physical aggression to the defense.

“No question,” Norton said. “We’ve had a lot of success. You watch our defenses (in Seattle) over the last few years, how physical, how smart, how dominant they’ve been up front, out-hitting, out-hustling and doing all these aggressive things. Jack has a fantastic background with his defense as well.”