Cleveland Sports Insiders

Ernie Camacho's favorite blog…


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Manziel’s Best-In-The-League Arm Strength

College Football statistics concern themselves with the realm of the past; they tell the story of what was with very little ability to project what will happen. Were one to use CFB statistics to forecast the future, one would conclude that Case Keenum was the most toolsy QB in history and that Ron Dayne would go on to run rampant over a National Football League unprepared for his Achillean might. College Football stats are the Herodotus of scouting: they chronicle what has happened, aren’t much concerned with what will, and they have a very tenuous relationship with a certain mistress named Truth.

If CFB stats are Herodotus, then game film and scouting might be called College Football’s Thucydides. The tale of the tape confronts us with past performances, and while it is incumbent upon the reader to determine what this means for the future, one can glean a much more complete narrative – how good or poor a QB’s footwork is, how accurate their throws are, whether they’re playing behind an offensive line that weighs a total of 750 pounds. The tape provided us with a conflicting narrative for Johnny Manziel – a QB with abysmal footwork but core strength that resulted in rather good arm strength. If his leg drive were better/existant at A&M, his arm strength might have received a much higher projection.

During his pro day, he demonstrated much-improved footwork. But the resulting improvement arm strength was something no one could have predicted:

Manziel, it seems, has thrown a football from Berea, OH all the way to Cameroon, Africa. Directly east of Nigeria, Cameroon seems like a very strange target for Johnny Manziel to throw to. As of yet, reports are unclear whether Manziel intended to throw the ball to Cameroon, or whether he was aiming for Nigeria and overshot.

While the accuracy issues pose a question, it remains clear that Johnny Manziel now has the single strongest arm in the league – a terrifying prospect both by virtue of his now boundless potential, but also because of the grave, grave health threat now posed to his receivers. If Manziel feels compelled to throw between defenders, the zip he could put on the ball would pose a certain prospect of death or dismemberment to any receivers targeted.

Even before Manziel’s Mach-24 performance, his NFL prospects were divisive, and the question arose whether he was more concerned about his branding than his performance. This literal salvo to the African market is sure to only increase that polarization in the upcoming months.


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Haden Extension Fallout: Patrick Peterson’s Quintuple Factorial Demands

Earlier this morn, after the author had cracked for himself some eggs and roasted up a homestyle country breakfast, the brazen alarum bells of domestic politics sounded. According to Pro Football Talk, the Browns have signed Joe Haden to an extension through the 2019 season, with $22M guaranteed and an additional $23M guaranteed in case of injury – in short, Joe Haden is guaranteed $45M.

In this offseason, the Browns have added substantial help to the secondary, adding, in the first round of the draft, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and, in free agency, Ohio State safety, known by no one as Margrave Whitner of Hits. At this point, the Browns have – to the shock and awe of all – assembled what is on paper one of the best secondaries in the league in the next several years. And while a great secondary on paper isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s also not the guarantee of mediocrity that the Browns have had for over a decade. Browns fans are allowed to feel #blessed for at least few minutes.

Yet while the move eclipses Richard Sherman’s deal as the most lucrative guaranteed deal for a defensive back thus far this offseason, other premier cornerbacks in the league have their eyes on even bigger amounts. In response to Haden’s extension, Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson puts forward his own contract demands – demands not only outrageous, but wholly unprecedented. Continue reading


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2015 Mock Drafts: An Exercise in Antique Vase-Smashing

George Santayana is the only Spanish-American philosopher who has made any advancement into the American consciousness. ‘Any,’ of course, is the operative word in that sentence, given that he’s known for precisely one (1) sentence(s). “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” blithely repeat political analysts. Given that shows involving Charles Krauthammer and others like him are frequently as entertaining as they are incisive, said analysts frequently forget that they had uttered that same phrase only several seconds previous. “Those who do not remember what they said only several seconds previous are doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana never said.

Mock draftists have taken to heart Santayana’s words. With the memory of the 2014 NFL draft vividly implanted in the hearts and minds of America and now formally part of The Past, draft personages wish to ensure that we not only remember the past, but also apply its lessons to the future. Primary among these lessons: “The Draft happened.” Secondary: “The Draft will happen again.” Continue reading


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The Ellis Quarterback Metric

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McCarron excited to be at the top of the Ellis QB Metric (RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES)

Over the past two years I have talked about and worked on a formula taking the stats of college quarterbacks and trying to make a metric to judge which players would be the best pro quarterbacks. The thought started a year ago when I watched the Browns Brandon Weeden struggle as a rookie while Russell Wilson excelled in Seattle.

While I knew the answer and I had a bunch of numbers circulating in my head, the question was whether or not I could find which indictors are the most important, and how could I weight them to find a formula that would accurately show that measure.

I started by entering the data of every quarterback drafted in the top three rounds over the last decade. I then added every starting quarterback in the league, and over the last two years, I entered every prospect with a draft grade over fifth round or greater. I tried at least five or six models before settling on the one I have now. While it’s not perfect, it does seem to indicate a few things. Continue reading


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Carpe Diem: The Browns and Self-Imposed Powerlessness

“I grow old,” an elder murmurs.

It’s not the case that the Cleveland Browns have been merely terrible. It’s not the case that they have merely had the third-worst record through the first thirteen years of their existence of every expansion team in NFL history, operating in an era where rebuilding is only easier than previously. To answer this question, one must also ask whether, at any point in the last fourteen years, Browns fans have had a rational reason to believe they would be good.

“Kelly Holcomb!” we exclaimed, frantic, eleven years ago. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Kelly Holcomb! Behold the messiah, behold the 30-year-old Immanuel with his 3 games started and 10:12 TD:INT ratio!”

Ten years later, we scoff at having believed in the false prophet Holcomb. Yet these sneers transform into wide-eyed adulation when we lay our eyes upon our new savior, Brian Hoyer, who unlike Holcomb is a spry 29 years of age, sage, capable of imbuing all with Wisdom by means of his vast experience (Four games started!) and his miraculous 8:7 TD:INT ratio. “Brian Hoyer!” we cry. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Brian Hoyer!”

And Hoyer shall be called Wonderful, Counselor. Continue reading


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500 words or less…on draft day optimism

I suppose it is getting to that time of year again, the time of year when the Browns’ regular season woes are a distant enough memory that they do not suppress a glass half full approach. Indeed, with Pettine in hand, the drama of a drawn out coaching search behind us, the Browns are freed from the criticism of the Cleveland area. I suppose this is mostly due to an unforgettably poor Cavs season, where despite their intentions to “contend” they will probably sit comfortably in the middle of the lottery.

It is quite possible that had the Cavaliers been within a stones throw of competence, the Browns would be receiving a more comprehensive media thrashing which is undoubtedly deserved. Dysfunction seems to be the modus operandi of Cleveland sports, yet for the Browns; an ownership group being targeted for fraud, firing a head coach after just one season and a continued failure to find a quarterback close to league average, made for an especially irritating season.

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Deluded Ralph Reflects on the 2013 Browns

Welp, it’s that time of year again, folks. The time where we look back on the 2013 regular season that was. Relive the 2013 and its Shakespearean mix of laughter and tears. It’s like how I laughed at the wacky hijinks of Duck Dynasty, only to realize that I also manufacture bird calls in the deep south and, though myself an aspiring aesthete robed in luxurious Italian camo, have not once been invited to talk with GQ. Weeping ensued, permanently staining my bemberg-lined fishing attire.

The first week of the playoffs have come and gone, and as most Browns fans expected at the beginning of the season, our Browns did not participate. I’ll say this – there was a stretch when I thought that our orange-clad defense would have us competing this past week, but given the state of our offense, that just wasn’t going to happen.

And was there any other possible outcome with that passing attack? The offense almost single-handedly kept us out of the wild-card round of the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns’ offense ended up breaking some kind of record in 2013.

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Jimmy Haslam’s Cleveland Browns get it all wrong

Banner (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Banner (TONY DEJAK — AP Photo)

Hostages.

Cleveland Browns fans are all just hostages to a brand name that can do no wrong in Cleveland. Okay,that’s not quite right.  What I meant was, by doing no wrong in Cleveland, I really meant they do no right in Cleveland, which has just demolished the brand name of the Cleveland Browns.

But somehow, none of that matters.

Confused yet? Fortunately for all of us, confusion is the name of the game with the Browns since 1995. We aren’t all witnesses, we are all walking callouses.

Cleveland Browns fans are passionate about their team, and that may be the understatement of all understatements. It’s been a strange road that has only been enhanced by the team leaving back in 1995 when Art Modell owned the team. It was enhanced further when they came back, played badly, and drafted badly…over and over and over again.

Thoughts of Tim Couch still ring in my ears, and he may have been one of the better quarterbacks the Browns have drafted.

Seriously.

The Cleveland Browns brand-name is virtually untouchable, and the owner and the president and the GM know it. I have visions of these three sitting together during planning meetings just laughing, knowing that they could retire Brandon Weeden‘s number tomorrow, and still likely sell out the opening game of the season next year if they announced it as “Brandon Weeden day.”

It’s not just in Cleveland, but the market on the North Coast is so uniquely tied to this team, that there’s something special about this hostage mentality. Perhaps we all have some form of Stockholm syndrome, in which we’ve bonded with these idiotic front offices that we’ve grown to despise so much over the years.

Cleveland teams don’t win titles, but Cleveland fans want a title so badly, that these ownership groups really can do anything they want, and fans will keep coming back. In many ways, there’s been an embracing of the “what’s next” mentality, so that when weekends like this come up, fans actually say, “Meh, it’s just Cleveland.”
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The Sunday Drive with Josh Gordon, Chris Grant and Carlos Beltran

Gordon (AP Photo/David Richard)

Gordon (AP Photo/David Richard)

This weekend was a horrific mess of circumstances here in my little slice of Cleveland away from home. We had playdates and birthday parties and sleepovers and horses and dinner dates to contend with. When you toss in the biggest East Coast parade not located in New York City or Orlando, you have one massive conundrum of hoopla, sleep, running around, crying and did I mention sleep?

Okay..sleep deprivation is more like it.

As crazy as things were here in my own version of the North Coast Carolina, they were relatively silent back in Cleveland with regards to the Browns, the Indians and the Cavaliers.

Seriously.

Unless you throw in the fact that it’s Pittsburgh Steelers week, or the fact that the Indians made their first move of the offseason, or that the Cavs are in a spiral of struggle after getting rolled by San Antonio on Sunday night.

Yeah, it can only mean that it’s the holiday season, and with Thanksgiving and Michigan Week about to take over here, let’s get driving, before I fall asleep from the Turkey.

It’s Steelers’ week, and while that has generally meant a lot more to the Browns in recent years than the Steelers, it’s still the Browns’ top rival. I’ve been to many, many games at Cleveland Stadium involving these two teams, and I’ve seen some of the most amusing exchanges between fans. My favorite memory is of a ‘Terrible Towel’ waving fan sitting in front of me during halftime of a 1984 game between the two teams. The Steelers were up 7-0 at that point, and he was taking particular glee in waving the towel as though the Steelers had won the Super Bowl that very afternoon. Several minutes later, he was literally carried off by a contingent of pre-Dawg Pound Browns’ fans. He never returned. The Browns went on to win 20-10.

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