From the security, or lack thereof, of Romeo Crennel's job to the looming QB trouble, here are 5 questions for the Browns.
The briefing was brief indeed. In fact, it didn’t exist.
The Cleveland Browns opted not to preface their 2007 training camp with a huddle between a higher-up and reporters covering the team. Veterans on the beat, stretching their memories to the 1980s, couldn’t recall such an avoidance.
What’s up? That’s the problem.
Too much is up for comfort in a press session called before one must be — and that will be soon, with rookies working out now and the first full-squad practice set for Friday.
Here’s one laundry list of issues that needs to be cleaned up. Are there more questions? Plenty. But first things first.
1. How secure is Romeo Crennel’s job?
Fair or not, Crennel is too old, having turned 60 on June 18, to generate much patience if his program stays below sea level a third straight year.
No one from the Browns will pinpoint what Crennel must do to remain employed beyond ’07. It gets tricky because Crennel and coordinators Rob Chudzinski and Todd Grantham all are signed through 2009.
Bill Cowher, who turned 50 in May, Jeff Fisher, 49, Urban Meyer, 43, and Kirk Ferentz, 51, are names to keep under your hat.
Cowher stands to become the NFL’s first $10 million-a-year head coach after he chills for one season.
Fisher interests some of the right people in Cleveland. His 13th season as head coach of the Titans is looking more and more like his last.
“They are working on a contract extension,” a Titans insider said Wednesday, “but nothing at this point has been finalized.”
They’ve been “working on it” for half a year.
Meyer hurdled over fellow native Ohioan Jim Tressel, 54, as a desirable Browns candidate when his Florida team wrecked Ohio State, 41-14, in January.
Ferentz and General Manager Phil Savage are close. The Iowa head coach’s viability is tied to the latter’s evolving relationship with owner Randy Lerner.
Crennel and his staff?
The range of August emotions could run anywhere from defiant determination to high anxiety.
The pressure of playing five of the first 10 games against division rivals — including three of the first four — weighs heavier than Ted Washington.
2. Who’s The Man?
The quarterback question, a plague dating to the Sept. 12, 1999, game in which Tim Couch replaced Ty Detmer during a 43-0 loss to the Steelers, is more complicated than ever.
In June, Savage predicted contract snags with high draft picks.
“I can give you the quotes (for late July and early August) right now if you want,” the GM said.
Getting rookie No. 22 overall pick Brady Quinn signed today — there’s little chance that will happen — might mean little. After three years, former No. 22 overall pick J.P. Losman is still trying to prove he can lead the Bills.
Sure, the Browns can hope Quinn is Dan Marino (12-4 as a rookie No. 27 overall pick in 1983). More likely, they’ll spend a long time hoping he’s not Kyle Boller (No. 19 overall, 2003).
A theory persists that Charlie Frye’s unspectacular spring shouldn’t erase the fact he has some experience that can be applied to a better cast and his college reputation for doing better in games than in practice.
This clashes with Derek Anderson’s momentum, based on the perception the taller, younger QB looked better than Frye both in the spring of 2007 and the autumn of 2006.
With the preseason opener just 16 days away, forget about an answer as to how playing time will be divvied up against the Chiefs.
3. Was Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas worth a No. 3 overall draft pick?
Thomas seems convinced he’ll avoid the black hole that has engulfed 2004 No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery.
Some scouts see him as a very good but not great left tackle. If they’re right, the big contract he can demand can warp the team’s salary cap balance.
While visiting Canton recently, Thomas said he aims to become a Hall of Famer. However, he won’t throw any more blocks than Gene Hickerson in camp until he signs.
When he does report, he’ll be in the same boat as almost every other touted rookie offensive linemen: Probably needing a year of grooming before helping big-time.
Rebuttals to the Gallery example exist. Jordan Gross (No. 8 overall, 2003) was a rookie when he helped Carolina to a Super Bowl, although he played right tackle. D’Brickashaw Ferguson (No. 4, 2006) helped the Jets reach the playoffs as a rookie left tackle. Key point: Ferguson signed last July 26, reportedly for five years and $27.5 million.
4. Where does LeCharles Bentley fit into a weird offensive line puzzle?
In a Dawg Pounder’s wildest dreams, Bentley resumes his path to being the league’s top center. Joe Thomas plugs right in at left tackle.
Left guard Eric Steinbach goes Honolulu. Ryan Tucker resumes being a good right tackle. Someone, maybe expensive 2006 free agent Kevin Shaffer, turns right guard into a strength.
For this to happen:
- Bentley must fast forward from a mysterious rehab from knee nightmares. The club has been silent on details pertaining to the former Ohio State star’s optimistic quotes about a 2007 comeback.
- Thomas must sign, beat out Shaffer and avoid the traps that stall so many rookies.
- Steinbach must prove he can function with a somewhat light body and a wallet way heavier than the one he carried in Cincinnati.
- Tucker must rebound from mental issues at an age (32) when NFL players tend to fade. Only Joe Jurevicius is older than Tucker among offensive players on the Browns’ training camp roster.
- Shaffer, Seth McKinney, Isaac Sowells, Fred Matua, Lennie Friedman, Rob Smith or maybe Tucker must emerge at right guard. McKinney, Miami’s highest pick in 2003 when Rick Spielman was running the Dolphins’ drafts, might be the most natural candidate, but he sat out 2006 with a neck injury.
5. Can Kellen Winslow Jr. provide a sorely needed big-play target?
The Browns have been squirrelly in projecting whether Winslow can come back swiftly from Jan. 30 microfracture surgery on his right knee.
Injuries mangled each of Winslow’s legs to the extent he missed most of the 2004 season and all of 2005 — 30 games in all. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2006, tying a team record with 89 catches.
Too many of his catches were dink and dunk stuff. His bigger games made little difference. The Browns were 2-10 when he caught four or more passes.
Once seen as a lethal one-two punch, Winslow and Braylon Edwards delivered lightweight impact too often in 2006. Any dramatic leap by the offense rides on them.
Winslow missed spring practice and mini-camp. How soon he might practice full-tilt hasn’t even been a half-answered question.
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org