Tag:Cleveland Browns
Posted on: November 4, 2011 4:28 pm

No Hillis, West Coast scheme means predictable O

A former coach can predict the Browns' offensive play call 95 percent of the time. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Browns got off to a promising start, winning two of their first three games. They've since dropped two of three and head to Houston this weekend to face the AFC South-leading Texans. And it looks like they'll do it without running back Peyton Hillis, who reinjured him hamstring at Friday's practice.

Hillis, one of the league's best backs a season ago, hasn't been a factor in 2011. Partly because he's been injured, but also because he's looking for a new contract. Things have apparently become so acrimonious that some Browns' players held an intervention of sorts for Hillis.

Details via Yahoo.com's Michael Silver.

"By Wednesday, a group of about eight Browns veterans had summoned Hillis into a meeting room for an intervention-style, air-clearing session designed to restore his focus. After a breakout season in 2010 that vaulted him to national prominence, including a spot on the Madden NFL ’12 cover, the 25-year-old back’s consuming desire for a new contract has become a locker room distraction that numerous teammates regard as an impediment to cohesion and collective success."

Hillis has played in just four games this season, rushing for 211 yards on 60 carries. According to Football Outsiders, the Browns' running ranks 30th in 2011 after finishing 15th in 2010.

Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans will host Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they take a look at this matchup. Watch the game at 1 PM ET on CBS.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” one Browns veteran told Silver. “Last year, Peyton was such a positive, inspirational force on our team – but now he’s like a different guy. It’s like he’s in a funk that he can’t get out of, and it’s killing us, because we really need him. And we’ve told him that. But we’re at the point where we just don’t know what to do.”

Also not helping the Browns: predictable play-calling. Second-year quarterback Colt McCoy has struggled after showing potential in 2010. He has a lower completion percentage than his rookie season (57.0 vs. 60.8), lower yards per attempt (5.7 vs. 7.1), and his scrambling totals are down (3.3 YPC vs. 4.9 YPC).

But that might not be all on McCoy. NFL Network's Mike Lombardi explains that the Browns are so married to their offensive philosophy that people half-paying attention can tell you what's coming. We're not joking.

"Writing about the Browns offense leads me to a game I play every week at NFL Films. I sit in my office in Mt Laurel, N.J., put the Browns offense on my screen and call a friend who was a coach in the league, but is now in between successes. I tell my friend the personnel group, the formation, where the ball is located on the field and what hash mark and describe the motion -- if there is any -- and ask him to tell me the exact play that will be run," Lombardi writes.

"He is correct about 95 percent of the time. No lie. The Browns are so integrated into the West Coast system that their predictability is becoming legendary around the league."

So Cleveland either has to score a ton of points on the five percent of plays the opponent can't readily identify what's coming, or they need to change up their offensive strategy. Given that the Browns have been outscored 140-107 seven games into the season, we're guessing the former isn't working.

Lombardi adds that Cleveland "needs more playmakers and a better quarterback," and it's hard to dispute that. You know what else might help? Peyton Hillis.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 3:35 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 3:36 pm

Ex-player says Belichick paid him to start fights

Belichick reportedly gave players money for fighting on more than one occasion. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Chad Eaton played eight NFL seasons from 1996 to 2004, including five with the New England Patriots. On Thursday, the Dayton Daily News published a feature on Eaton, who now coaches at Central State University, a historically black college in Wilberforce, Ohio.

It's a wide-ranging piece that covers much of Eaton's professional life as a player and coach, but the part that caught our attention was his time with Bill Belichick. Drafted in the seventh round in 1995 by the Cardinals, Eaton was cut twice before landing on the Browns' practice squad. Belichick was the coach, and he took a liking to Eaton because of his hard-nosed style.

“If practice was going slow, he’d look at me and just say, ‘It’s time,’” Eaton told the Daily News. “He wanted me to get on somebody’s (case) and start a little fight. I was known for that and it paid off on Fridays. There’d always be some extra money in my locker. Practice players don’t make much, so I really appreciated it.”

Coaches instigating fights among players is nothing new. Jets head coach Rex Ryan admitted to as much during prior to the 2010 season on HBO's "Hard Knocks." 

ESPN New York's Rich Cimini recounts the incident.

"Ryan was so concerned by [former first-round pick Vernon Gholston's] lack of fire that he actually assigned backup center Rob Turner -- the Jets' version of a hockey goon -- to pick a fight with Gholston in practice. It's a macho thing; the objective is to see if Gholston is man enough to respond. Ryan apparently liked the outcome because he used an off-color, coming-of-age description to compliment Gholston to his coaches."

The difference? Turner didn't find any "extra money" in his locker afterwards.

PFT.com's Mike Florio writes that "Giving extra cash to players raises the specter of potential salary-cap violations."

We suppose, but it still seems like a stretch.

Either way, the strategy backfired. After going 11-5 and leading the Browns to the playoffs in 1994, Belichick's '95 team went 5-11. Then-owner Art Modell promptly announced the team was relocating to Baltimore and, oh, yeah, Belichick was fired.

The Boston Globe's Chad Finn unearthed another example of Belichick paying a player to mix it up during practice. In 2000, then with the Pats, Belichick gave practice squad offensive lineman Rob Gatrell $200 "to go after (safety) Lawyer Milloy… Milloy was chosen because he's considered the most emotional, toughest, and meanest player on the defense. Milloy responded just as Belichick hoped, going after Gatrell and creating a massive brawl that involved up to 30 players - offensive vs. defensive. Smaller fights ensued throughout practice."

You'd have to really be up against the salary cap for what amounts to NFL lunch money to be a violation.

Belichick was asked about Eaton's comments Friday.

"I don't remember that," he said, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard.

Works for us.

After a disappointing loss last week over the Steelers, the New England Patriots hope to rebound as they prepare to host the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they break down this game.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 12:46 pm

Hillis reinjures hamstring, game status in doubt

Whether it's the Madden curse or bad luck, Hillis is injured again. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It could be nothing. Or it could be the latest in a never-ending stream of mishaps to befall Browns running back Peyton Hillis. The face of Madden 12 left Friday's practice after reinjuring his hamstring. According to CBSSport.com Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, "He took a handoff before pulling up lame. He tossed the ball and his helmet angrily and limped to the sideline before walking off with a trainer. He is now very unlikely to play Sunday."

Through eight weeks, Hillis has played in four games and rushed for 211 yards with a paltry 3.5 yards-per-carry average. It hardly resembles his 1,177-yard, 4.4 YPC output from a season ago.

The struggles with injuries are frustrating enough, but Hillis' off-field issues have possibly alienated him from teammates and raised doubts about his future with the team.

In the last year of a rookie contract that pays him $600,000 in this season, there were rumors that Hillis missed a late September game against the Dolphins not because of strep throat but because he wanted a new deal. A few weeks later, head coach Pat Shurmur and team president Mike Holmgren said they had no intentions of trading Hillis. Then, Hillis missed a Halloween event for the Boys and Girls Club in Cleveland, prompting former Browns center LeCharles Bentley to tweet: "Peyton Hillis looking for 10mil guaranteed from Browns and can't show up to kids charity event? #ManPlease."

Hillis later apologized.  "If I had known the full depths of it I would not have missed it," he said. "Still, I'm truly sorry and there's no excuse."

To reiterate: there is no Madden curse. Uh huh.

Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans will host Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they take a look at this matchup. Watch the game at 1 PM ET on CBS.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:15 pm

Hillis: 'No excuse' for missing charity event

Posted by Will Brinson

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote in his 10-Point Stance Wednesday that Browns running Peyton Hillis missed a Boys and Girls Club event in Cleveland, and pointed out that "there are privately some hesitations" with the Browns about Hillis.

Freeman also wrote that Hillis' absence at the charity event might be "some sort of misunderstanding more than a blow off." According to Hillis on Wednesday, that's exactly the case.

Via our Browns Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, Hillis apologized for missing the event and called it a "miscommunication" with his management team, not him simply skipping the event.

"If I had known the full depths of it I would not have missed it," Hillis said. "Still, I'm truly sorry and there's no excuse."

The worst part of Hillis absence is the timing of the whole thing. Hillis was considered after last season's breakout the ultimate Cleveland star athlete, mixing a blue-collar attitude and work ethic en route to re-establishing a dominant, power rushing attack for the Browns.

But he's struggled mightily this season, topping out at 97 yards on the ground in Week 2, and averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in four games.

Rumors have run rampant about Hillis' unhappiness with his contract status, and there've been questions as to whether or not Hillis could have played when he was sick/hurt.

At this point, the only thing Hillis can really do in order to make it up to the city of Cleveland is get on the field and start producing again, although a charitable donation to the Boys and Girls Club probably wouldn't hurt either.

On the bright side, at least he's living up to the annual Madden Curse expectations.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 3:42 pm

Browns RB corps grows even thinner

M. Hardesty will miss some time with a calf tear (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

During his Monday news conference, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said there would be no excuses why the Browns are 3-4 while scoring a combined 16 points in the past two games. But who could blame him if he started feeling sorry for himself just a little bit?

Especially after the news he brought today when he said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that running back Montario Hardesty will miss time with a moderate calf tear.

Though it doesn’t sound like a major injury, the loss of Hardesty leaves Cleveland with a bare cupboard at the running back spot. After rushing 33 times in Week 7 vs. the Seahawks, Hardesty missed the final three quarters of Sunday’s loss to the 49ers because of the injury.

Considering Peyton Hillis is still day to day with a bum hamstring and Brandon Jackson has been affected by a toe injury, the only healthy tailback on the roster is Chris Ogbonnaya, who was on the Texans practice squad a few weeks ago. Cleveland also has Armond Smith on the practice squad, and, if the team was desperate, the Browns could use Josh Cribbs as a running back.

Shurmur also said the team would try out free agent running backs on Tuesday (though I’m pretty sure Terrell Owens couldn’t pass as a running back).

As for how long Hardesty could be out? “It's going to take some time to heal,” Shurmur said.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:09 pm

For the gambler in you, Week 8


Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

FYI, Tim Tebow, a leader of men, had a big impact on Bodog’s business last week. For good and for bad. Said Richard Gardner, Bodog’s sportsbook manager: "With Tim Tebow playing for the Broncos we saw more action on the Denver this week than we have in a long time.  It will be interesting to see how the bettors treat the Broncos this week against the Lions since Detroit has also become a very publicly bet team this season.  Either way Tebow is good for the game and good for the book, even though he cost us a lot last week."

Just to remind you, last week I said you should go under on Tebow’s O/U of 175.5 passing yards and over on his O/U of 45.5 rushing yards. His totals from last week’s game in Miami: 161 passing and 59 rushing. Just pointing that out.

Will there be another game this regular season with no touchdowns scored? (Last week the Seahawks/Browns game had no touchdowns)     

Yes +115    

No -145    

Do the Browns and Seahawks play each other again? No? Good. I’ll go with No on this one.

Which coach will be fired or resign first?     
Jim Caldwell 2/3       

Ken Whisenhunt 2/1       

Steve Spagnuolo 3/1      

I love that they don’t put even put Tony Sparano’s name up there. Like the world would implode before he wasn’t fired by the end of this season; like there’s no reality in this world that Sparano will be employed after this year is finished. I don’t see Whisenhunt and Spagnuolo losing their jobs in the middle of the season, and I don’t really see Caldwell suffering that fate either. But it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, especially if the Colts are sitting at 0-12 and 0-13. So, go with Caldwell. Then, maybe Peyton Manning can become the head coach.

DeMarco Murray -- total rushing yards Week 8?  
Over/Under 85½

After the 253-yard ridiculousness he showed last week, Murray is bound to come back to earth this week. He’s also never gained more than 34 rushing yards in any other game during his short career. Although the Cowboys are playing the Eagles, ranked No. 23 in rush defense this year, I’d still go under with Murray.

Will Tim Tebow have another 4th quarter comeback when trailing by 13 or more points in the 2011 regular season?

Yes 10/1     

Obviously, he won’t. But I like the idea of taking the long odds. So, if I were putting money on it, I’d go with yes. Because, as we’ve all learned, anything with Tebow is possible.

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:08 pm

Peyton Hillis probably won't play Sunday

HillisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Without Peyton Hillis in the lineup last week vs. the Seahawks, Montario Hardesty ran 33 times and gained 95 yards, the best-looking stat line in his career.

But Hardesty is probably better off with some help, especially if it’s from the Madden cover boy, but, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it’s unlikely to come this Sunday.

That’s because it’s looking like Hillis and his balky hamstring probably won’t play vs. San Francisco, making it the second-straight game he won’t be around and the third time in the past five weeks (and that’s not counting his six-carry, 14-yard performance in Week 6).

Hillis was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, but his hamstring was sore Thursday and prevented him from practicing. Apparently, that soreness has bled into Friday.

In other Cleveland injury news, tight end Ben Watson (concussion) practiced Friday and worked with the starting group, while receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, also coming off a head injury, didn’t practice and probably won’t play.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:23 pm

Pete Carroll thinks ref blew call, cost 'Hawks TD

The Seahawks' biggest play against the Browns was called back, but should it have been? (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We'll be honest: we didn't watch every play of the Seattle-Cleveland game -- that's the type of punishment reserved for Gitmo detainees. In case you missed it (and we imagine you did), the Browns won the war of attrition, 6-3.

But if you ask Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, his team had a touchdown taken off the board and it probably cost them the game. Midway through the third quarter, with the Browns leading 3-0, Leon Washington returned a punt 81 yards to give Seattle the lead. Except that Kennard Cox was flagged for an illegal block, nullifying the score. Replays showed that Cox got his hand on the back of a Browns' player, though it would've been hard to argue if the officials hadn't thrown a flag at all. (Judge for yourself below. The play in question starts around the 1:05 mark.)

"I didn't think that was a call that should have been made," Carroll said Monday. "That was unfortunate. … There's a lot of calls that happen at light speed out there that are challenging to call, and that was one," he continued. "Unfortunately it was the play of the game for us. It was our touchdown in this game, and it got away from us, you know."

That's the saddest part to all this: it was the play of the game for the Seahawks. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, filling in for Tarvaris Jackson, looked incapable of executing anything beyond a hand-off, and it makes you wonder why Carroll traded a second-round pick for him prior to the 2010 season.

And unlike last year, when the NFC West was up for grabs from for 17 weeks, the 49ers have already run away with the division. And barring an epic collapse by every other NFC wild-card team (or perhaps more likely, an asteroid strike), Seattle's season is just above done.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com