Today's absurd prediction:
Brady Quinn's first NFL start comes in week 12 against Houston.
I expect Charlie Frye to start the season promisingly, and the Browns' record will hang around .500 until they hit a brutal stretch mid-season that will drop them out of the playoff picture. Starting Quinn for the first time against a weaker opponent at home is the way to go. While the season will contain some glimpses of hope for the future, the Browns are in for another long season. The 2008 first-round draft pick Dallas got in the trade that allowed Cleveland to draft Quinn should be a good one.
Here's the breakdown for the Cleveland Browns:
Coaching Changes: B+
Romeo Crennel needs to have a good season, or he'll be looking for a new job this winter. That could end up being a good thing for his long-term career - he might be a good fit in New York after Tom Coughlin gets fired. But lately it's been rare that a head coach loses his job and gets another head coaching job the next season; they usually have to coordinate for a year or so. He retains Todd Grantham as his defensive coordinator, but is bringing in a new OC, Rob Chudzinski. Chud was the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for the U when Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, and Kellen Winslow II were students. His presence could mean great things for Winslow. Chud actually served as the Browns' tight ends coach the year Winslow was drafted, and became the interim offensive coordinator after Butch Davis was fired and Terry Robiskie took over as interim head coach. So while he didn't serve under Crennel, his familiarity with the franchise could help. His experience is minimal, which is the main point of concern. Crennel, however, is an offensive coach, and his mentorship should help.
They had two players to decide between at the #3 overall pick, and ended up getting both, one of them at #22. That's a major coup in and of itself. They now have a stud LT in the making in Joe Thomas, and hopefully they also have the quarterback he'll be protecting for a long time to come. It is, of course, possible that Quinn won't live up to the pre-draft hype, but that really has no bearing on this year since I don't expect him to start for a while. The clincher for the A was getting Eric Wright late in the second round. Yes, he might turn out to be the next Pacman Jones with his history of off-field issues. The difference is, the Titans got Pacman with the 6th overall pick, and if they decide to cut him, they're out a lot of money. Wright was selected 53rd overall, and the risk-reward ratio is pretty great. If the Browns get two good seasons out of Wright, like the Titans did with Jones, they'll have gotten their money's worth. Why isn't it an A+? No third- or fourth-round picks. These are the guys that pad your depth chart with capable spot players, and the Browns didn't get any.
Player Movement: B
It looks like LeCharles Bentley might recover from his injury faster than expected and be able to play this year. With Hank Fraley still on the roster, they should have a solid center no matter what, unless another freak series of problems happens. The big change in the Browns' roster is losing Reuben Droughns and acquiring Jamal Lewis at running back. This move I didn't like - Lewis hasn't been good since he did time, and there's no reason to think the change of location will be good for him. Droughns, on the other hand, was less skilled but a harder worker who played with consistency. However, watch out for Jerome Harrison this season - he'll see more carries, and may come out of nowhere and break a few 20-yard runs. The Browns got WR Tim Carter in the Droughns trade, which offsets the loss of Dennis Northcutt more or less. They cut Joe Andruzzi, who was no longer needed after the pickup of the younger Eric Steinbach. A lot of changes have been made on the line, which may mean some rough spots early on, but with Crennel's experience and the all-around talent of the players, this should be a very solid line in time.
Another of the AFC's easier schedules, with the contest against the Patriots and the six divisional games being the worst they'll have to face. They play the NFC West and AFC East, and draw Houston and Oakland. The aforementioned brutal stretch is weeks 8-11: at St. Louis, Seattle, at Pittsburgh, at Baltimore. St. Louis will be tough in the dome, and traveling to a division rival's home turf sucks.
Charlie Frye may pull a Drew Brees on us and suddenly become a great QB with the pressure of a younger talent waiting to take his spot. I don't consider that likely, but who considered it likely when Brees did it? They have a pretty decent-looking defense, which will enable them to pull off some surprises. But the big question is: how will the team respond to the knowledge that Crennel's job is on the line?
The Record: 5-11
Crennel's only hope is that the losses are clearly due to the brilliance and superiority of the opposition, and that the youngsters show enough promise that owner Randy Lerner gives his coach another year to build up the talent. But if he gets the axe, there will certainly be other jobs open for him.