NFL: Latest personnel purge means Browns’ Holmgren has explaining to do
By Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal
Cleveland Browns’ first-round draft picks might eventually dub it Black Sunday. They might even laugh about it.
But above all else, the Browns’ trades of quarterback Brady Quinn to the Denver Broncos and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley to the Oakland Raiders look like a complete repudiation of the regime of General Manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel.
Quinn was taken 22nd overall in 2007 and came at a high price — a second-round pick that year and a first-rounder in 2008. Wimbley was the 13th overall pick in 2006.
Dumping Quinn and Wimbley left the Browns with only three players taken on the first day of the draft from 2005-08. Those remaining are left tackle Joe Thomas, cornerback Eric Wright and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who is available for a second-round draft choice.
Only nine draft picks are left from the pre-coach Eric Mangini days and linebacker Alex Hall is another hanging by a thread. Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand was selected by then-coach Butch Davis in 2003.
Thomas (2007) and center Alex Mack (2009) are the only Browns first-rounders to survive the purge.
A housecleaning was expected with the arrival of President Mike Holmgren in December. Browns owner Randy Lerner approved all this when he gave Holmgren the keys to the castle. Imagine being a fly on the wall at the Holmgren-Lerner interview when Holmgren told Lerner his talent cupboard was bare. And that it was about to be reduced to shelf-paper liner.
Savage hoped Wimbley would be another Peter Boulware, a Florida State defensive end-turned-outside linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens. After an 11-sack performance in Wimbley’s rookie year, that projection didn’t seem far-fetched. The following season, Wimbley said his goal was a sack a game.
Wimbley was a maximum-effort player who always seemed to be chasing the quarterback. Savage boasted of Wimbley’s 20 pressures in 2008, trying to justify his lack of sacks. But with his limited pass rush moves, Wimbley was never a player an opponent game-planned around. In 2009, even defensive coordinator Rob Ryan couldn’t coax much out of Wimbley, who was upstaged by late-season waiver wire pickup Matt Roth, who arrived on Nov. 25. Roth finished with four sacks; Wimbley, 6.5.
That said, the trade of Wimbley was shocking, especially for a team with so many other needs.
The Browns’ linebacking corps is now left in a jumbled mess with 32-year-olds David Bowens and Eric Barton, recently signed free agent Scott Fujita, Jason Trusnik, restricted free agents Jackson and Roth, special teamers Blake Costanzo, Titus Brown and Hall and ’09 draft picks Kaluka Maiava and David Veikune.
Any in that category strike fear in the hearts of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens? Perhaps Fujita and Roth can play outside, Bowens and Jackson inside. Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain is looking a heckuva lot more appealing at this moment, Crohn’s disease or not.
But even more alarming is the state of the quarterback position.
When ex-Carolina Panther Jake Delhomme signs his two-year contract, perhaps as early as Monday morning, the roster will boast the 35-year-old Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Brett Ratliff.
Are Delhomme and Wallace better than Quinn and Derek Anderson, who was released Tuesday? That’s the question Browns fans are asking.
The answer is that they should be better at running Holmgren’s West Coast offense. Holmgren coached Wallace for six of Wallace’s seven years with the Seattle Seahawks. Delhomme has experience in it from his days with the New Orleans Saints, where future Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was his offensive coordinator in 2000-02.
Anderson couldn’t complete a pass under 10 yards and Quinn struggled with his accuracy during 12 starts in three years. NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi said at the NFL Combine that was the reason Quinn slipped to No. 22 in the draft. Lombardi said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis covered up that flaw with the bubble screens preferred in college football.
All this makes it appear that the Browns will take a quarterback in the April 22-24 draft, which does not appear stocked with franchise makers. Perhaps Holmgren can work his magic with a second- or third-rounder.
Just as troublesome is that the Browns gave Quinn to the Broncos for what seemed like penny candy — fullback Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional choice in 2012. It seemed surprising that if Quinn’s value was so low, they wouldn’t wait until draft day and throw him into a package deal. Apparently they thought keeping him around for Monday’s start of the offseason program would be counterproductive.
Heartbroken Quinn fans should consider that the Browns did Quinn a favor. If he’s the real deal, he should be able to beat out Kyle Orton. Plus he’ll be groomed by Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who got the job off his tutoring of Tom Brady with the New England Patriots.
Holmgren will explain what all this means Monday afternoon, and, boy, does he have some ’splaining to do. Because at this moment, it’s hard to believe that the Browns have taken a step forward in the past few days.