By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
This one could easily fly under the radar.
The Browns signed John Greco to a five-year contract extension on Tuesday.
The transaction won’t draw nearly as much attention as, say, the four-year deal the Browns reached over the weekend with Keke Mingo because Mingo is their first-round draft pick and he plays outside linebacker, a particularly glamorous position in the team’s new 3-4 defensive scheme. He’s paid to get to the quarterback and generate game-changing plays that bring fans to their feet.
There’s nothing glamorous about what Greco, entering his sixth NFL season, does because he plays offensive guard. His is one of the least conspicuous roles on the team … unless, of course, he screws it up.
And that’s the thing.
Greco didn’t screw it up last season under circumstances that were hardly ordinary.
When Jason Pinkston, who began the year as the Browns’ starting left guard, developed a blood clot in his lung six games into the season, Greco did so much more than merely fill a hole on the offensive line – a hole that would need filling through the balance of the schedule.
He played the position consistently well, which means he was barely noticed.
That was no easy accomplishment on a team that won only five games and started a rookie quarterback, but Greco pulled it off. Through the balance of the Oct. 14 game against the Bengals and his 10 starts (714 snaps total), he allowed only three sacks, seven hits on the quarterback, and seven hurries, which was better than many other guards in the NFL, according to the statistic website Pro Football Focus.
It certainly helped that Greco played between six-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas and standout center Alex Mack. But Greco did plenty on his own to hold his own. He was steady and poised while facing defenses that, week after week, were determined to take maximum advantage of Brandon Weeden’s inexperience and do even more of that against Thaddeus Lewis, who made his first pro start in the season-finale at Pittsburgh.
Typical for the position, there is nothing flashy about Greco. He is cooperative with the media, but is much more comfortable staying out of the spotlight.
He’s also a local guy, growing up a Browns fan in Youngstown, Ohio, and attending the same high school (Boardman) as Bernie Kosar.
What’s interesting is, unlike Kosar, Greco didn’t travel a direct path to the Browns from college, the University of Toledo. The Browns acquired him in a 2011 trade with the St. Louis Rams.
That transaction stayed way under the radar. Greco was generally viewed as a veteran backup whose best quality was that Pat Shurmur, the Browns’ coach at the time, liked him from their days together when Shurmur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator.
Greco has clearly proved since that he has much more going for him than that. He managed to prove to a new coach (Rob Chudzinski), a new offensive coordinator (Norv Turner), and an entirely new group of decision-makers led by chief executive officer Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi, that he was worth tying up contractually for a long time.
That doesn’t mean anything is promised to Greco. He is competing with Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao, the incumbent starter at right guard, for one of the starting guard spots.
But it does mean he is clearly deserving of at least a blip on the radar.
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