Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best Damn Fans In The Land?

I was born and raised a Buckeye fan but living in Columbus, Ohio is starting to drive me away from the scarlet and gray. People around here think they’re great fans and they pat themselves on the back regularly. The fact is, they are pretty avid and the revenue generated by the Ohio State football program is pretty phenomenal but they leave much to be desired.

First, it’s all football all the time. In case you missed it, Ohio State plunged deep into the NCAA Tournament last year. That’s basketball for the reader in Columbus. The round orange sphere tall guys shoot through a hoop. Ring a bell? The men’s hoops team made it all the way to the championship game before getting clipped by a loaded Florida squad. They put up a fight but in the end Florida’s depth was too much to overcome. Buckeye fans didn’t take much of an interest until about halfway through the Georgetown game. What did they do during the regular season? Obsess over football.

Buckeye fans also have a reputation for inhospitable behavior. It’s often dismissed as a few “bad apples” giving the rest a bad name but I’ve been on Lane Avenue before a game and there are a lot of people behaving badly. The problem is exacerbated by the self-proclaimed good fans that stand idly by while their reckless counterparts run amuck. And the abuse isn’t limited to opposing players, coaches and fans. Ohio State football players who put in a lackluster performance are subjected to intense ridicule, personal insults and even death threats if the stakes are high enough. Most don’t condone personal attacks but the rest of the abuse is regarded as the price a player pays for playing big time college ball. Never mind the fact that these are kids who are trying to juggle big time college ball with full time college course work.

It goes deeper than that. Fans around Columbus are so obsessed they lash out at anything not scarlet and gray… literally in some cases. One of the area high schools, the one that produced All American wide receiver Terry Glenn, no less, happens to sport colors similar to those worn by Michigan. Wouldn’t you know those kids get harasses around town if they do something crazy like wear their letter jackets? And heaven forbid somebody taking an objective point of view and paying a compliment to a Michigan player. In fact, the Columbus Dispatch received bags full of angry letters expressing sheer outrage that Michigan Wolverine Braylon Edwards was depicted on the front page of the sports section after the Cleveland Browns made him their top pick a few years ago.

Former Buckeye hero Kirk Herbstreit routinely gets lambasted by local fanatics who can’t accept the fact that he has to be objective when breaking down games nationally. When he drops by to contribute to his local radio show he plays to the home crowd just a little bit but if he does something crazy such as rank a loaded Michigan team over Ohio State in a preseason poll the pitchforks come out. Keep in mind that this guy was the face of Buckeye football when he played in the early 1990s.

With the Buckeyes getting ready to kick off their 2007 campaign with a leisurely romp against Youngstown State, analysts aren’t lining up to praise Ohio State’s strength of schedule. Buckeye Nation is starting to get defensive. Fans are pouring over schedules looking for punch lines as comical as YAWN but the reality is that Ohio State won’t face a test until well into October.

The Big Ten looks weak, Ohio State doesn’t have to play one of the conference rivals that might be respectable which leaves two formidable opponents out of the 12. Now there’s a chance that Michigan State or Penn State will surprise some people and prove to be a challenge but as of right now the Big 10 looks more like the Big Easy and Ohio State looks like Homer Simpson hoarding all the cream puffs.

I hope the Buckeyes do well and believe that they’ll be a lot tougher than people think. Even though they lost all of their firepower from last year the people stepping up to fill those holes are capable. The Buckeyes will have a solid line and Chris Wells will be a more dynamic running back than Antonio Pittman. Pittman left Ohio State early because he was going to lose his starting job to Wells. Troy Smith leaves behind a Heisman-sized crater at quarterback but Todd Boekman has been a diligent understudy since 2003. He should be just fine and if he’s not, Tressel needs to take the heat for not developing his prized recruit over such a long period of time.

In spite of my high hopes and fervent belief that the Buckeyes will be serious contenders I can’t take offense to those who doubt Ohio State. This is a team coming off an embarrassing performance in the BCS championship and I have serious questions about the coaching staff. Jim Tressel might be a god in Columbus but I see a stodgy old man who doesn’t adapt very well and his loyalty to idiotic assistant coaches, like Jim Bollman, worries me.

Until I see this team prove to me that it can win creatively I’m dubious and I can’t argue with those who predict a 9-3 season. Tressel has had a great start to his career but he has a long way to go and this year’s team is where he’ll have to prove something. Anybody could win with the talent he had last year and 2002 had fluke written all over it. I loved it, but looking back with objectivity I can’t say that it could happen again. That offense was pitiful!

My doubts don’t make me less of a fan but in Columbus it’s dangerous to say these things. People have been punched out for less. That’s why I think Ohio State fans leave a lot to be desired. Overall I they go too far. There’s nothing wrong with taking your football seriously but you have to have perspective. That’s a foreign concept in Columbus and that’s why I’ve retired my Buckeye regalia. I don’t want to be counted among the nuts.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's just business, baby.

It looks like Michael Vick won’t be making things easy for the NFL. Reports indicate that Vick will plead guilty to interstate commerce charges but when it comes to killing dogs and gambling he maintains his innocence. That means there’s a possibility that Michael Vick will be available to play next season.

Michael Vick was essentially put on administrative leave by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It wasn’t a formal punitive action. Simply put: the league couldn’t afford to keep Michael Vick active while criminal proceedings were under way. Technically the NFL had no grounds to do this and Vick could have challenged this decision but he couldn’t afford the additional publicity. A judge and jury would not take kindly to somebody who didn’t have the good sense to step aside when asked. Of course that was when the NFL expected a lengthy trial.

The NFL had it easy. The trial would last well past the point at which Vick could return to his team and the final outcome would absolve the NFL of the responsibility tied to rendering a decision on Vick’s playing status. If found guilty Vick would do a couple of years in prison rendering a return to football a moot point but if he was exonerated in a court of law the NFL could welcome him back with open arms. But the reality of our legal system came back to bite the NFL.

The NFL has no formal policy on interstate commerce or dog fighting. Goodell might be able to impose a short suspension under the conduct provision but it’s important to note that the recent suspensions imposed by Goodell have no legal standing as there is no policy outlining conduct provisions. Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, and Tank Johnson are serving their suspensions because Goodell and other league officials have convinced them that it’s the right thing to do but nobody has challenged them. Yet. That could become an issue if Vick is a free man come next August.

Goodell’s easy out was illegal gambling. If the feds forced Vick to plead guilty to illegal gambling then the league had precedent to suspend Vick for life but Vick isn’t copping to placing bets on the dogs. That means Goodell has to make something up. He’s been pretty good at that to this point but suspending relatively unknown players with a history of poor judgment is not the same as putting the screws to a guy who was once an officially licensed icon. Vick was one of the few players tapped to be the face of the NFL and he probably won’t go down with out a fight.

For Goodell it’s not personal. It’s not even a question of right and wrong. The stiffened disciplinary procedures have little to do with morality. Everything the NFL does is about money. It’s dollars and cents. The league doesn’t care about athletes run amuck unless those athletes create an image problem that hurts the bottom line. Rules aren’t imposed to improve safety or reduce injury, they are drafted to keep revenue flowing. That’s why all of the rules seem to protect quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are marketable because every play runs through them and the casual fan identifies more readily with quarterbacks. That’s why Peyton Manning is the most recognizable player in the NFL. He’s the best player at the most popular position. And that’s exactly why Michael Vick is drawing so much attention now.

It’s ironic that Fred McCrary, Algee Crumpler and Stephon Marbury have come out and voiced support for Vick. They wouldn’t attract this much attention if they were facing the same charges. Vick is the victim of his own popularity. He was not only a quarterback in the NFL but he was one of the more marketable quarterbacks.

At one point he was more popular than Peyton Manning but his inconsistent play and reported clashes with coaches made him a little less appealing. Some might point to race but the reality is that Vick was a mediocre quarterback with remarkable athletic ability. Based solely on his quarterbacking, Vick probably would have been cut years ago but his ability to run made him a star. A highly paid star at that.

It’s often stated that quarterbacks get all of the credit when their team does well but that they also take an undue amount of blame when their teams fair poorly. That’s a reality every quarterback accepts. They know that all eyes are on them and that everything they do, on an off the field, will be scrutinized and discussed. Tom Brady stirred up a mild controversy when he was photographed wearing a Yankees cap while shopping with his fiancĂ©e. Peyton Manning was lambasted a few years ago for criticizing his linemen after a Colts loss and Dante Culpepper was cut by the Vikings for being linked to the infamous “party boat” scandal. Mind you, Culpepper wasn’t found guilty of anything but the fact that he was there was enough to wear out his welcome in Minnesota.

So it’s not surprising that Vick is drawing all of this attention and that’s what makes this hard for the NFL. It doesn’t matter if the public outrage is fair. The NFL is a business and it has to make a business decision. If allowing Michael Vick back on the field will cost the league millions of dollars they have to try to keep him out. The league has to keep Michael Vick at arm’s length until the public is ready to accept him.

Michael Vick is entitled to due process. He’s entitled to his day in court and after he pays his debt to society he is entitled to a second chance. However, the second chance doesn’t necessarily mean he’s entitled to playing in the NFL again. Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. The NFL has already lost money because it bet on Michael Vick. The Atlanta Falcons traded a pretty solid back-up quarterback to the Texans to demonstrate their commitment to Vick and he betrayed that trust. He associated with criminals and engaged in illegal activity. While he’s the only one facing a prison sentence, the NFL and the Falcons paid a price, why should they be compelled to pay it again?

The NFL is a business. Michael Vick knew that when he became on of the highest paid players in league history. Every player in the league realizes this. The NFL is not interested in justice or morality. Michael Vick is bad for business. Companies all over the country deny opportunities to convicted criminals, often on a case by case basis. They analyze the risks and consider the rewards. Second chances don’t come easy. Why should the NFL be any different?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ohio State demonstrates need for playoffs with a YAWN.

Youngstown; Akron; Washington; Northwestern

How fitting that Ohio State opens it’s season with a Y.A.W.N. Yes it’s become an old joke already but the fact that the initials of the Buckeyes’ first four foes spells out what football fans will be doing when they watch these games should have driven whoever drafted this schedule to reconsider. Expect the national pundits to beat that dead horse late in the season and watch it send Ohio State’s stock into a tailspin.

The Big 10 takes a lot of heat from commentators around the country thanks to a rotating schedule that often results in conference powers avoiding a meaningful confrontation. Last year Ohio State and Michigan closed out their schedules with a head to head showdown that had national championship implications but Wisconsin squeaked into the BCS picture by avoiding a difficult game against Ohio State and because of this quirk the Big 10 title is often shared. In 2005 Penn State shared the conference title with Ohio State even though the Lions beat the Buckeyes during the regular season. The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes won the national title but shared the conference championship with Iowa and back in 1998 the conference title was split three ways. It’s ridiculous, but the Big 10 sells it as tradition. It was also tradition that a Big 10 program couldn’t represent the conference in back to back bowls. What happened to that one?

So all eyes are on the Big 10 and this year Ohio State, fresh off a perfect regular season capped by a disgraceful performance n the BCS Championship game, has responded to the challenge by booking a non-conference schedule that opens with Youngstown State. That’s the Division I double-A Youngstown State Jim Tressel coached at prior to starting his stint with the Buckeyes.

Ohio State chases its opening patsy with Akron, takes the road to face a Washington team that is still in the early stages of a major rebuilding plan and then it’s back to Columbus for a contest with Northwestern. Somehow Ohio State managed to maintain the integrity of its bye week by scheduling Kent State on October 13th.

It’s a schedule that Indiana would be sheepish about and it’s made worse by the fact that this is a down year for the conference. It’s not uncommon for Big 10 programs to schedule two creampuffs each year, generally one being an instate rival (that’s a loose interpretation of the term) and another being an at large whipping boy. This practice is normally quite acceptable as the conference has a history of being pretty tough. Not this year; Michigan and Wisconsin are expected to be solid but the rest of the Big 10 would struggle in the M.A.C.

This isn’t exactly Ohio State’s fault. The structure of the BCS rewards perfection over the course of a mediocre schedule. Thanks to the way teams are rated in the system it’s far better to be unbeaten than it is to be good. That’s not true in the case of a program like Boise State which plays in a non-BCS conference but if Boise State wants to have a shot at a national championship they can always move out of the W.A.C. The BCS is inherently flawed but would not be enhanced if the winners of the garbage conferences got a bite at the apple by default.

Why should Ohio State beat itself up with a tough non conference schedule when the road to the national championship is paved with patsies? Why would Ohio State trade the revenue generated by those extra home games when there’s nothing to gain in the BCS by playing on the road? The system rewards cowardice.

Ohio State’s uncharacteristically bad schedule is why the NCAA needs to step in and insist on a meaningful playoff system. Adopting a playoff format for determining a national champion would not eliminate bowls, it would just alter the bowl schedule to accommodate playoffs and those teams failing to qualify for the playoffs would still be able to play in the already meaningless bowls available to them. People would still watch Bowling Green play Utah State in the Crane Plumbing Products Toilet Bowl on December 21. We could still have the Motor City Bowl sponsored by Tampax.

A version of the BCS system would still be necessary for selecting the playoff teams but instead of giving conference champions automatic selections the criteria would be simplified to include the top 12 teams. The idea is that if a team couldn’t play well enough to merit a top 12 ranking it wouldn’t deserve a post season bid.

The top four teams would get a bye while the remaining eight teams played for the right to advance to the first round of eight. The play in round would take place in early December after the final BCS poll was released. The second round could then be played as an extra home game at the respective field of the top four teams and then the subsequent rounds would be scheduled as BCS bowl games on a rotating basis. The championship game could then be played on or around the ninth of January as is under the current system.

Because the additional games would take place over the winter break, the playoffs wouldn’t interfere with academics. No that the academics argument holds water anyway. The NCAA has managed to feature playoffs in the other divisions for years. The sticking point at the Division 1a level is money. University president are afraid that altering the current system will change the way money changes hands. A lot of people get rich off of the current system and they don’t want that to change.

But it will have to change. The integrity of the game is at stake and that will drive fans away in droves. Why would anybody pay money to watch a juggernaut like Ohio State lay the wood to Youngstown State? The fact is they won’t. Sure they’ll put up with it for a little while but as the practice of padding the schedule with soft opposition becomes more widely accepted by university officials, fans will lose interest and the money will stop flowing.

People are already growing weary of the annual ritual of crowning a paper champion. When the BCS system was first introduced fans were excited because traditional post season barriers were torn down. Now that college football is stuck in another arbitrary rut the chants for a better format are getting louder. The next step will be the dreaded “plus one” game but after that something will have to give. As much as the university officials hate to admit it, the fans call the shots.

Hopefully people realize this before it’s too late.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Can Jim Tressel Evolve

Let me tell you a secret nobody in central Ohio would dare utter: Jim Tressel is vastly overrated.

Shhh. Don’t tell the people Columbus. They’re still in love with him. In spite of a coaching disaster in the BCS Championship last year, Tressel is still a God. They won’t lose faith in him because of one game.

But it’s not one game. Aside from 2002 the Ohio State Buckeyes have underachieved. Granted, Tressel has an impressive overall record and he has dominated arch rival Michigan but there are still some pretty big chinks in his armor. These flaws aren’t quirky or easily fixed. They are fundamental problems that have the potential to destroy the entire program.

Jim Tressel was hired because Ohio State needed to clean up its image. John Cooper let his recruits run a little wild and the result was embarrassing for the Buckeyes. Players were getting arrested, struggling in school and displaying personality traits that rubbed fans the wrong way. Jim Tressel was supposed to change all of that when he was hired in 2000. People were concerned as to whether or not Jim Tressel could make the jump from Youngstown State to Big 10 football but Ohio State needed to tighten up its image. Jim Tressel was supposed to do that.

He didn’t. Sure, the players all sing Carmen Ohio after every game but there’s still concern over academic performance and several players have been arrested. As bad as John Cooper appeared to be he never invoked the wrath of the NCAA, but Jim Tressel’s program was worthy of an extensive investigation. Tressel managed to avoid official sanctions but it was under his watch that Ohio State saw its reputation take a hit in the national media. When you compare police blotters, Jim Tressel represents no improvement over John Cooper. Ohio State’s has had more than its share of trouble.

Much of that revolved around the petulant tailback Maurice Clarett. As a freshman Clarett attracted national attention as the only offensive weapon Ohio State had. While the defense stifled opponents it was Clarett’s ability to gain yards at will that made it possible for Ohio State to overcome formidable opponents. He clashed with coaches and struggled with personal decisions but he rushed for over 1000 yards on one of the worst offenses in college football. One could argue that he was the offense.

Clarett was eventually suspended for receiving illegal compensation. Clarett accused Tressel of providing that compensation but it was not substantiated and Clarett recanted. Still, Tressel had to know that Clarett was struggling with the pressures and temptations associated with stardom and Tressel should have been suspicious of how Clarett was acquiring access to clothing, jewelry and automobiles. For some reason everybody seemed to look the other way when the flamboyant Clarett drew attention to himself and it almost cost Ohio State dearly. To be fair Clarett is not the only player to get into trouble at OSU but he was the marquee player on that 2002 championship team. A lot of people around Columbus try to downplay that fact but they don’t downplay the title, even though others do.

Because Ohio State’s 106th ranked offense was so ineffective a lot of people dismiss Ohio States 2002 National Championship as a fluke. Miami fans dismiss the Fiesta Bowl as a whitewash by officials who called the game in Ohio State’s favor. It is true Ohio State did get some calls and some bounces but 14-0 is 14-0. You can’t take anything from Tressel in 2002. The Buckeyes enjoyed plenty of good luck but they didn’t make critical mistakes. That became the hallmark of Tressel ball.

However 2003 was a different story. Ohio State should have been able to repeat. The offense had another year to improve and an entire summer to recover from the loss of the suspended Clarett. Tressel’s team cruised through a weak opening schedule with an offensive attack that was even less impressive than the previous year and the team went 11-2, beating Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. A low point of that season was when senior linebacker Robert Reynolds was caught on camera trying to crush Wisconsin quarterback, Jim Sorgi’s throat after a play. The violent act drew plenty of media attention but only a one game suspension. Jim Tressel dismissed it as a mistake by a player who is normally classy. A few years later Reynolds was dismissed from the Tennessee Titans after his wife filed domestic assault charges. Clearly Tressel is not a good judge of character.

11-2 is hardly a disappointment but this was a team that managed to return a lot of good players and the two loses were directly attributable to Tressel’s tentative offensive schemes. The blocking was weak, the plays were unimaginative and in 2003 the defense simply couldn’t hold on. The offense wasn’t holding the ball as long as it had in 2002 and the running game was not wearing opponents down at all.

2004 was ugly. The line was even worse and highly touted quarterback prospect Justin Zwick was getting brutalized. The running game was inconsistent again and the Buckeyes fell to 8-4. The season improved when Tressel replaced the battered Zwick with a nimble Troy Smith and the offense suddenly opened up a little. Play calling seemed to improve either because Smith could buy time with his legs or because 3 straight conference losses made the coaching staff a little desperate. Whatever the case it worked. Fans might have been upset if it had no been for a modest upset of Michigan and a sound beating of Oklahoma State in the Alamo bowl.

2005 was marred by yet another disciplinary issue. Troy Smith got caught taking money from a booster and was suspended for the opener which forced Tressel to capitulate on his starter for an early winner take all showdown with Texas. Tressel rightfully started Zwick who struggled with the more restrained play calling. Ohio State’s defense did a fine job containing the explosive Longhorn offense but Tressel squandered scoring opportunities by changing quarterbacks. The offense simply couldn’t find any rhythm and Ohio State lost a nail biter. Later in the 2005 season the stagnant offense came back to haunt the Buckeyes again and they fell 17-10.

After that Tressel seemed to open things up and Ohio State went on to dominate its opponents. This trend carried into the 2006 season where Ohio State marched through the entire schedule with a perfect record. After beating Michigan in a classic that will be replayed for decades to come Ohio State secured its spot in the BCS Championship game and waited for the BCS to select an opponent. The rest is history. Ohio State simply laid an egg. Nobody was prepared and they never made adjustments. Tressel failed to properly motivate his team and they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of an inferior team.

On paper it’s hard to criticize Jim Tressel. He’s won five national championships and he owns a career record of 197-71-2 (61-14 at Ohio State). He is 4-2 in bowl games and he has practically claimed ownership of his arch rival Michigan with a 5-1 record. It’s no wonder Ohio State fans love him. He’s a fantastic coach but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

2007 is going to be telling. Did Jim Tressel learn an important lesson last year? He’s not an emotional guy so it’s hard to tell if he’s got any fire. His record indicates that he does but his response to the BCS Championship debacle was a little too reserved. It’s OK to take a loss in stride…sometimes you aren’t the better team...but throwing a game away? That’s not supposed to sit well with coaches.

Tressel will be taking the field with a lot of new faces on offense. He’ll have to trust a new quarterback and try to find reliable receivers. He lost an experienced tailback and while Chris Wells has shown moments of sheer brilliance, there is a question as to whether or not he can hold on to the ball. Will Tressel give these new kids a chance to play or will he take the ball out of their hands and count on his defense to win games?

In Columbus fans are drawing comparisons to 2002. The return of Tressel ball. Unfortunately this is a defense that had some glaring weaknesses exposed when they faced formidable opponents late last season. Michigan and Florida put up a lot of points and gained yards at will. This unit might not be up to the challenge of achieving perfection week after week and Tressel might not get some of the breaks he got in 2002. He didn’t get them in 2003, 2004 or 2005. Sometimes you have to move the ball and score. Punts don’t win football games, points do. Just because it worked in 2002 doesn’t mean it will again. The question is whether or not Tressel has learned that lesson.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


756 doesn't mean anything to me because I know that there is more to baseball than hitting home runs. Even if you take away the ugly pall of steroids you're still left with Barry Bonds, a player who has chosen to define his career as a testament to himself. It's fitting that his greatest feats are individual achievements. Not only has he failed to win a World Series, Bonds has been a big part of the reason none of his teams could win it all, alienating players and coaches who could have helped him. He's never played the game the right way...steroids or not.

To be fair, I also don't hold Babe Ruth's numbers in high esteem. Some of the best baseball players of his era were forbidden from playing major league baseball. Ruth set himself apart because he chose to swing for the fences when his contemporaries kept the ball in the park but in the Negro Leagues players were already exploiting the long ball. Would Babe Ruth's record mean anything if he'd faced a pitcher like Satchel Paige or if Josh Gibson had been allowed to compete in the Majors? We'll never know but the very question puts 714 in doubt. It's not Babe's fault but understanding the context of that record makes it hard to honor.

It's subjective but 755 means the most to me. Hank Aaron was a class act who proved himself to be a model of consistency. He was also a true champion batting .393 in the 1957 World Series and leading the way to an important Braves victory. He managed to stay on track in spite of dealing with racial hostility the likes of which Barry Bonds can't begin to comprehend. Aaron actually endured being segregated from his team when he went on the road and maintained his focus in spite of receiving death threats in an era where it seemed much more likely they would be carried out.

Numbers are meaningless without context. No matter how many home runs Barry Bonds finishes his career with, he'll never surpass what Aaron accomplished.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Browns can't win

Brady Quinn doesn’t think his contract demands are unreasonable but he admits that his agent, Tom Condon, is handling everything. We can only speculate as to what is really going on. Quinn claims that the sticking point is the incentive clause he wants included should he become an effective starting quarterback.

Pundits and Browns’ fans seem to think Brady Quinn is asking for too much. Suddenly he is overrated and fortunate that the Browns saw fit to end his draft day free fall. While there were some scouts and insiders expressing concern that Brady Quinn wasn’t perfect, everybody seemed genuinely surprised that he fell to the 22nd spot. The Browns weren’t alone in their quest to secure a second first round pick to acquire Quinn as several teams were actively trying to negotiate a trade after Miami passed on Quinn for Ted Ginn Jr.

The Browns forfeited their leverage in this negotiation process when they made such a fuss over Brady Quinn before the draft. Before Jamarcus Russell wowed everybody with his arm, Brady Quinn was the top-ranked quarterback. People questioned his ability to win big games but when they considered the fact that he wasn’t surrounded by the same talent his chief rivals enjoyed that point became less important. Besides, that was the big knock on Peyton Manning until this past Super Bowl. Quinn would be just fine.

Initially the Browns looked poised to take Quinn. Russell was the top pick and a lot of people thought that Detroit would take Joe Thomas over Calvin Johnson because Detroit had plenty of talented receivers and no means of getting them the ball. The Browns would then be forced to choose between Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn since they weren’t in the market for a receiver either. The Browns were enamored with Quinn.

Even when it became clear that Joe Thomas would be available the Browns, in spite of dire needs on the line, were still smitten by Quinn. They finally decided that Joe Thomas was the best choice but went out of their way to smooth it over with Quinn by contacting him the night before and explaining the decision to him. It was a classy move on the team’s part.

Then teams passed on Quinn and the circus began. When the Browns finally acquired the pick that brought Brady to Cleveland the front office gushed. They bragged about how highly they had Quinn rated and paraded him around like some kind of trophy. The future was now and Brady was an integral part of it.

So why are the Browns surprised that Brady Quinn is holding out for a better deal than your average 22nd pick would dare to ask for? Could it be because Brady Quinn knows he isn’t the average 22nd pick? Everybody seemed stunned that the Dolphins passed on him with the ninth pick so Quinn’s got to believe he’s worth top 10 money and then the Browns made it clear that they viewed him as valuable a selection as Joe Thomas. This made it easy for Tom Condon.

Teams will often take a quarterback with a third or fourth round pick to shake things up and challenge a veteran who might be getting complacent. The Patriots did that with Tom Brady a few years back and look how it turned out. But Quinn wasn’t some diamond in the rough. He was viewed by everybody as a ready made franchise quarterback and the Browns made no effort to disguise their excitement in landing him.

They showed Quinn their cards at the start of the game and now they want to bluff. Romeo Crennel is pretending that he’ll pick his starter after the first preseason game but word out of camp indicates that neither Charlie Frye nor Derek Anderson seem ready to lead this team. The quarterback position in Cleveland is as wide open as it ever was and Brady Quinn isn’t losing any ground by working out in Arizona with other big name players who are holding out for better contracts. How can the Browns win when Quinn knows what he is worth and has veteran NFL players encouraging him to stay firm in his demands?

The Browns have nothing to bargain with. They need Brady Quinn more than he needs them. In fact, Quinn would be better served to sit out the entire year and end up with a good team that needs to replace an old quarterback. Cleveland has already ruined one highly rated QB prospect. If he can’t get the contract he wants in Cleveland he’s better off taking less money to play elsewhere.

Everybody knows that the Browns are going to blink. They want Quinn in camp. They banked their future on him. Next year Dallas is going to have Cleveland’s first round pick and there’s a good chance it’s going to be in the top five. So give Quinn top five money and get him into camp. Phil Savage made this bed and might as well lay in it.