Browns’ coaching job attractive

Posted by Vic Carucci on December 31, 2012 – 11:22 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner weren’t merely being polite Monday when they said the outgoing general manager and head coach of the Browns left the team in better shape than they had found it.

Haslam, the Browns’ owner, and Banner, the team’s chief executive officer, were stating a fact shared by others throughout the NFL.

The Browns have improved since Tom Heckert became their GM in 2010 and Pat Shurmur became their head coach a year later.

Obviously, it wasn’t enough of an improvement for them to keep their jobs. Fourteen wins in the time that Heckert had been with the Browns and nine in the time that Shurmur was with the team didn’t provide a compelling case for Haslam and Banner to stand pat, and on Monday they parted ways with Heckert and Shurmur.

But what remains of their brief legacy is compelling and is a significant factor in the search for a new coach, who will have a more expansive role than his predecessor, and someone to become either the new GM or director of player personnel.

There is a solid core of young players on the roster, some with exceptional talent that should only become more evident in years to come. There is a dynamic running back in rookie Trent Richardson, who should achieve elite status in his second season. There is, in Brandon Weeden, a quarterback who, at the very least, could sufficiently fill the starting spot for another year and, at the very most, could prove to be a long-term answer.

There is one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Joe Haden and a defensive tackle, in Phil Taylor, capable of being dominant. There is a team that, for the better part of 16 games, competed hard and held its own and very easily could have added about three more victories to its 5-11 record.

That’s a large part of the reason why, when Haslam said during a joint news conference with Banner that “this is a very attractive job,” it was easy to agree with him.

The new people who will join Banner in running the football operation won’t need to build something from scratch.

“There’s nobody that wants to have a winning team more than the two of us, OK?” Haslam said of himself and Banner. “But we’re going to do it in the right way and we’re going to build it in the right way, and we’ve got the core foundation. There were some good young players, and we need to add to it.”

Yes, as Banner pointed out, the Browns still have “a ways to go” on further enhancing the roster.

But the task isn’t nearly as daunting as it was or might be elsewhere.

The Browns also can sell to the best candidates available something that didn’t previously exist: stable ownership that is fully invested in doing everything it takes to make the team a consistent playoff contender. Haslam and Banner, with his wealth of experience of running a top-flight NFL organization from the 19 years he spent with the Philadelphia Eagles, can approach prospective coaches with every bit as much to offer as any of the other NFL clubs with such vacancies – and probably more.

The sales job shouldn’t be difficult.

As Banner said, “We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available – at least the top people in our opinion – and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation. Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win, and we think we can make a very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right now.”

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.


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Final thoughts from Browns-Steelers

Posted by Vic Carucci on December 30, 2012 – 10:35 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

PITTSBURGH – Here are some final thoughts on the Browns’ 24-10 loss against the Steelers at Heinz Field:

>>Right to the very end of the season, the Browns had to lean heavily on their youth. And just as happened in many of their previous losses, youthful mistakes proved costly. In the case of this defeat, it was two rookie fumbles (by wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon) that led to 14 points for the Steelers.

>>Mistakes notwithstanding, the overall effort by the Browns was commendable, given that there were no playoff implications and the air of uncertainty surrounding the team as it heads into the offseason. The defense did a fairly good job of preventing the Steelers from making big plays while limiting them to an average of 3.3 yards per carry. The Steelers’ greatest offensive success resulted from working with the short field the Browns provided with turnovers. As usual, the Browns’ defense hit hard and made the Steelers earn everything they got.

>>For someone who went from practice squad to starting quarterback in a matter of days and who was facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense (and No. 1 pass defense) in his first pro start, Thaddeus Lewis gave an impressive performance in place of injured Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy. He showed excellent poise and decisiveness. He got rid of the ball quickly and, for the most part, accurately. Lewis’ decision-making was reasonably sound.

>>Before leaving the game late after taking a hit to the back, Lewis displayed every bit the “live” arm that the Browns’ coaches were touting before the game. He also showed effectiveness when throwing on the run, as he did on his seven-yard touchdown pass to Greg Little. Since joining the team last season, Lewis had vowed to his receivers that, given the chance to play, he would not hesitant to “sling it,” and he did exactly that.

>>With the season over, it is time to think about the 2013 NFL Draft. The Browns will have the sixth overall pick, behind the Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, and Lions. That’s two spots lower than the Browns originally drafted last April before trading up one spot to select Trent Richardson.

>>It was nice to see reserve safety Ray Ventrone, a scrappy and hard-working contributor on special teams, get the chance to enjoy a moment in the spotlight with his 35-yard carry after taking a direct snap on a fake punt. Ventrone displayed exceptional speed on the play. And it was extra special for him because it came in his hometown with many of his family and friends in attendance.

>>Seven different receivers caught passes for the Browns, and the group showed, once again, there is reason to be encouraged by its future. Little played well in catching three passes for 38 yards, and averaging a team-best 12.7 yards per catch. Fumbles notwithstanding, Benjamin and Gordon also were pretty effective against the Steelers’ loose coverage with four receptions each. In playing what might very well have been his final game with the Browns, veteran tight end Benjamin Watson did a good job in contributing seven catches for 64 yards.

>>Despite the absence of the injured Richardson, the Browns put together a decent running game by committee. Brandon Jackson led the way with 54 yards on eight carries, an average of 6.8 yards per rush, and had a long gain of 25 yards. He ran exceptionally hard, as did Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.


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Game Recap: Steelers 24, Browns 10

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 8:57 pm

PITTSBURGH — On the strength of two second-half touchdown passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers earned a 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger and extended the Steelers’ lead over the Browns to 24-10 with 3:20 remaining in the game. Burress ran a slant route, got past the coverage, went up in the air and secured his first touchdown catch of the season.

The six-play, 27-yard drive was set up by a Browns turnover.

After making a diving catch for a first down, rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin tried to extend the play and gain more yards. However, the ball was knocked loose by Pittsburgh cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen then recovered the ball and returned it 25 yards.

The Steelers held a 17-10 lead over the Browns after three quarters of play.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass and put the Steelers back in front of the Browns, 17-10, with 4:39 left to play in the third quarter.

On third-and-goal from the nine, Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun formation, but was forced out of the pocket with pressure from the Browns’ defense. As Roethlisberger scrambled to his right, Brown darted past a Cleveland defender and caught the scoring pass.

The Steelers’ scoring drive covered 80 yards in 12 plays and took 6:24 off the third-quarter clock.

Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and tied the game with the Steelers at 10-10 with 11:03 remaining in the third quarter.

On second-and-goal from the seven, Lewis took the snap from center Alex Mack and dropped back to pass. With his initial options covered by the Steelers’ defense, Lewis rolled to his left and found Little along the back line of the end zone for the touchdown. After releasing the pass, Lewis was hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the veteran defender.

Earlier in the six-play scoring drive, the Browns faced a fourth down from their own 25-yard line. Long-snapper Christian Yount utilized a direct snap to defensive back Ray Ventrone, and the veteran ran for a 35-yard gain.

The fake punt came two plays after the Browns faced a third-and-13 following John Greco’s false start penalty.

With Roethlisberger’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Leonard Pope with less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Steelers held a 10-3 halftime lead over the Browns. The three-play, 24-yard drive came after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was stripped of the football following a pass from Lewis.

Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson converted a 51-yard field goal attempt, which helped the Browns tie the Steelers, at 3-3, with 3:48 remaining in the first half. Dawson’s field goal is tied for the second-longest field goal in Heinz Field history. Former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed set the record with a 52-yarder in 2010.

With the kick, Dawson is now seven of seven on field goals of at least 50 yards this season. He is 13 of 14 from 40 or more and entered the game with an NFL-best 13 field goals from at least 50 yards since the start of the 2011 season.

Dawson’s kick capped off a 10-play, 47-yard drive that lasted 4:05.

Kicker Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead over the Browns with 7:53 remaining in the second quarter of play.

Suisham, now 28 of 31 on field goal attempts this season, capped off a nine-play, 48-yard drive that took 4:52 off the second-quarter clock. The Steelers were forced to attempt a field goal after running back Isaac Redman was stopped for no gain on third-and-three from the Browns’ 23-yard line.

The Browns and Steelers played a scoreless first quarter. It was the third time this season where the Browns and their opponents played a scoreless first quarter. In the previous two games, the Browns lost at Baltimore, 23-16, but won at Oakland, 20-17.

In the first quarter of his first career NFL start, Lewis completed 7 of 11 attempts for 86 yards with an interception. He has connected four different players, wide receivers Gordon, Little and Travis Benjamin, as well as tight end Benjamin Watson. All except for Watson have a reception of at least 12 yards.

Running back Montario Hardesty gained 20 yards on six carries, and had a long run of 16 yards on the day.

Between Lewis’ passing and Hardesty’s running, the Browns were able to hold the ball for 8:20 in the first quarter.

Game Recap is presented by Giant Eagle, the Official Supermarket of the Cleveland Browns.


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Burress catches touchdown pass

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 8:47 pm

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and extended the Steelers’ lead over the Cleveland Browns to 24-10 with 3:20 remaining in the game.

Burress ran a slant route, got past the coverage, went up in the air and secured his first touchdown catch of the season.

The six-play, 27-yard drive was set up by a Browns turnover.

After making a diving catch for a first down, rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin tried to extend the play and gain more yards. However, the ball was knocked loose by Pittsburgh cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen then recovered the ball and returned it 25 yards.


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Browns trail after three quarters

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 8:12 pm

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers held a 17-10 lead over the Cleveland Browns after three quarters of play from Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass and put the Steelers back in front of the Browns, 17-10, with 4:39 left to play in the third quarter.

On third-and-goal from the nine, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun formation, but was forced out of the pocket with pressure from the Browns’ defense. As Roethlisberger scrambled to his right, Brown darted past a Cleveland defender and caught the scoring pass.

The Steelers’ scoring drive covered 80 yards in 12 plays and took 6:24 off the third-quarter clock.

Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and tied the game with the Steelers at 10-10 with 11:03 remaining in the third quarter.

On second-and-goal from the seven, Lewis took the snap from center Alex Mack and dropped back to pass. With his initial options covered by the Steelers’ defense, Lewis rolled to his left and found Little along the back line of the end zone for the touchdown. After releasing the pass, Lewis was hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the veteran defender.

Earlier in the six-play scoring drive, the Browns faced a fourth down from their own 25-yard line. Long-snapper Christian Yount utilized a direct snap to defensive back Ray Ventrone, and the veteran ran for a 35-yard gain.

The fake punt came two plays after the Browns faced a third-and-13 following John Greco’s false start penalty.

With Roethlisberger’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Leonard Pope with less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Steelers held a 10-3 halftime lead over the Browns. The three-play, 24-yard drive came after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was stripped of the football following a pass from Lewis.

Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson converted a 51-yard field goal attempt, which helped the Browns tie the Steelers, at 3-3, with 3:48 remaining in the first half. Dawson’s field goal is tied for the second-longest field goal in Heinz Field history. Former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed set the record with a 52-yarder in 2010.

With the kick, Dawson is now seven of seven on field goals of at least 50 yards this season. He is 13 of 14 from 40 or more and entered the game with an NFL-best 13 field goals from at least 50 yards since the start of the 2011 season.

Dawson’s kick capped off a 10-play, 47-yard drive that lasted 4:05.

Kicker Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead over the Browns with 7:53 remaining in the second quarter of play.

Suisham, now 28 of 31 on field goal attempts this season, capped off a nine-play, 48-yard drive that took 4:52 off the second-quarter clock. The Steelers were forced to attempt a field goal after running back Isaac Redman was stopped for no gain on third-and-three from the Browns’ 23-yard line.

The Browns and Steelers played a scoreless first quarter. It was the third time this season where the Browns and their opponents played a scoreless first quarter. In the previous two games, the Browns lost at Baltimore, 23-16, but won at Oakland, 20-17.

In the first quarter of his first career NFL start, Lewis completed 7 of 11 attempts for 86 yards with an interception. He has connected four different players, wide receivers Gordon, Little and Travis Benjamin, as well as tight end Benjamin Watson. All except for Watson have a reception of at least 12 yards.

Running back Montario Hardesty gained 20 yards on six carries, and had a long run of 16 yards on the day.

Between Lewis’ passing and Hardesty’s running, the Browns were able to hold the ball for 8:20 in the first quarter.


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Brown catches touchdown pass

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 8:02 pm

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass and put the Steelers back in front of the Cleveland Browns, 17-10, with 4:39 left to play in the third quarter from Heinz Field.

On third-and-goal from the nine, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun formation, but was forced out of the pocket with pressure from the Browns’ defense. As Roethlisberger scrambled to his right, Brown darted past a Cleveland defender and caught the scoring pass.

The Steelers’ scoring drive covered 80 yards in 12 plays and took 6:24 off the third-quarter clock.


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Little catches TD pass

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 7:44 pm

PITTSBURGH — Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and tied the game with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 10-10 with 11:03 remaining in the third quarter of play from Heinz Field.

On second-and-goal from the seven, Lewis took the snap from center Alex Mack and dropped back to pass. With his initial options covered by the Steelers’ defense, Lewis rolled to his left and found Little along the back line of the end zone for the touchdown. After releasing the pass, Lewis was hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the veteran defender.

Earlier in the six-play scoring drive, the Browns faced a fourth down from their own 25-yard line. Long-snapper Christian Yount utilized a direct snap to defensive back Ray Ventrone, and the veteran ran for a 35-yard gain.

The fake punt came two plays after the Browns faced a third-and-13 following John Greco’s false start penalty.


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First-half thoughts from Browns-Steelers

Posted by Vic Carucci on December 30, 2012 – 7:30 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

PITTSBURGH – Here are some thoughts on the first half of the Browns’ game against the Steelers at Heinz Field:

What I liked…

>>The Browns’ overall effort. They truly came to play rather than go through the motions in the final game of the season.

>>Thaddeus Lewis’ performance in his first NFL start. Lewis entered the game at a distinct disadvantage, going from practice squad to starter in a matter of days earlier in the week. He has shown excellent poise and made some good throws. He also has been off-target at other times, but that’s to be expected given that he has had almost no time to develop timing with his receivers.

>>The Browns’ defensive front. It has been fairly stout and physical, keeping the Steelers’ running game in check. In general, the Browns’ defense has held its own.

>>Phil Dawson adding more history to his historic career. His 51-yard field goal in the second quarter put him in a three-way tie with Billy Cundiff (Baltimore) and Nick Novak (San Diego) for the second-longest field goal at Heinz Field. It was a nice rebound from the 39-yarder he missed earlier in the second quarter.

What I didn’t like …

>>The Browns giving up a touchdown right before halftime. They had decent control of the momentum at that point, and began letting it slip away. They need a fast start to the second half.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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Steelers lead at halftime

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 7:24 pm

PITTSBURGH — With Ben Roethlisberger’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Leonard Pope with less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Pittsburgh Steelers held a 10-3 halftime lead over the Cleveland Browns from Heinz Field.

The three-play, 24-yard drive came after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was stripped of the football following a pass from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson converted a 51-yard field goal attempt, which helped the Browns tie the Steelers, at 3-3, with 3:48 remaining in the first half. Dawson’s field goal is tied for the second-longest field goal in Heinz Field history. Former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed set the record with a 52-yarder in 2010.

With the kick, Dawson is now seven of seven on field goals of at least 50 yards this season. He is 13 of 14 from 40 or more and entered the game with an NFL-best 13 field goals from at least 50 yards since the start of the 2011 season.

Dawson’s kick capped off a 10-play, 47-yard drive that lasted 4:05.

Kicker Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead over the Browns with 7:53 remaining in the second quarter of play.

Suisham, now 28 of 31 on field goal attempts this season, capped off a nine-play, 48-yard drive that took 4:52 off the second-quarter clock. The Steelers were forced to attempt a field goal after running back Isaac Redman was stopped for no gain on third-and-three from the Browns’ 23-yard line.

The Browns and Steelers played a scoreless first quarter at Heinz Field. It was the third time this season where the Browns and their opponents played a scoreless first quarter. In the previous two games, the Browns lost at Baltimore, 23-16, but won at Oakland, 20-17.

In the first quarter of his first career NFL start, Lewis completed 7 of 11 attempts for 86 yards with an interception. He has connected four different players, wide receivers Gordon, Greg Little and Travis Benjamin, as well as tight end Benjamin Watson. All except for Watson have a reception of at least 12 yards.

Running back Montario Hardesty gained 20 yards on six carries, and had a long run of 16 yards on the day.

Between Lewis’ passing and Hardesty’s running, the Browns were able to hold the ball for 8:20 in the first quarter.


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Roethlisberger tosses TD pass

Posted by Matt Florjancic on December 30, 2012 – 7:20 pm

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Leonard Pope and put the Steelers back in front of the Cleveland Browns by a 10-3 count with less than a minute remaining in the first half of play from Heinz Field.

The three-play, 24-yard drive came after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was stripped of the football following a pass from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.


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