AFC North: Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel's rookie season in photos

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
1:30
PM ET
Johnny Manziel might have been disappointed to fall to the No. 22 pick on draft night, but that paled in comparison to the problems he would later encounter during his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.

From being fined for an obscene gesture during a preseason game to posting a 1.0 QBR in his debut to being fined for missing a treatment on his injured hamstring, Manziel stayed in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Here is a look back in pictures at a much-publicized, if not successful, rookie season.

Johnny ManzielElsa/Getty ImagesFalling to Cleveland with the 22nd pick didn't humble Manziel, as the former Heisman winner flashed his money sign on stage. Within 25 minutes of Manziel's selection, the Browns had sold 200 season tickets and had 300 renewed.
Johnny ManzielESPNCoach Mike Pettine wasn't amused when he learned Manziel had flipped off taunters on the Redskins' sideline during a preseason game. Manziel was fined $12,000 by the league for his momentary loss of composure.
Johnny ManzielKevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsManziel led an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 10-yard run, on his first possession after subbing for a struggling Brian Hoyer against the Bills. It was the highlight of his rookie season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardManziel looked ill prepared in his first start, in Week 15 against the Bengals. He was 10-of-18 passing for 80 yards and two interceptions as Cleveland lost 30-0, its first shutout defeat in five years. Manziel's QBR was 1.0.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardMoney signs were being flashed in Week 15, but not by Manziel. The Bengals had fun with his trademark gesture after smothering the rookie in his first start.
Johnny Manziel Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesA hamstring injury cut Manziel's season short, and being fined for not showing up for treatment on the injury the following week was one of the low points of his season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/Don WrightThe Browns' quarterback situation is as uncertain as ever after Manziel's performance on the field and questions about his commitment off the field. Brian Hoyer is an impending free agent whose return is in doubt.


The message from the Cleveland Browns about the team’s quarterback situation in 2015 remains consistent: Johnny Manziel is not a given.

The Browns are answering questions bluntly about Manziel by saying there is no certainty they will turn to him as their guy.

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Then again, they also said before last season that they didn’t want him to play at all as a rookie. Can’t ignore that fact.

What are the Browns saying?

Coach Mike Pettine the day after the season: "It's just still very early to tell just what [Manziel's] future holds for us."

General manager Ray Farmer two days after the season: "There could be any number of stones that we overturn to try to find the right [player] to bring in here to help improve our roster."

New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo on Thursday: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not."

Pettine on Thursday: The quarterback possibilities "are all items that will be on the table for discussion."

Even owner Jimmy Haslam weighed in the same way, speaking to a group of reporters at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Thursday night.

"We don't know who our quarterback's going to be next season," Haslam said.

The clear message is that the Browns, publicly at least, are not willing to commit to Manziel based on the six quarters they saw from him as the starter. They don't seem inclined to cut ties with him, but they don't seem inclined to anoint him, either.

Couple that with the reality that the team reached out to Brian Hoyer about returning -- no numbers discussed yet -- and the message delivered is that the Browns are pondering options.

And while they ponder, they are evaluating Manziel and his future.

To hear the Browns, they don't know how it will play out.

It's not exactly a comforting feeling to see a team be so open about the uncertain status of its most important position, but it is January. A lot can happen before minicamp, let alone training camp.

But there seem to be some very clear and direct signals going from the team to its second-year quarterback.
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Two interesting things happened related to the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation on a usually meaningless mid-January day.

First, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said the team really doesn’t know who the quarterback will be in 2015.

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Hoyer
Speaking with head coach Mike Pettine sitting next to him, DeFilippo said: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not. If he is, great. If he's not, that's great too."

Shortly after the news conference, Brian Hoyer's agent Joe Linta told Browns writer Jeremy Fowler that the team had reached out to him about a contract extension.

"We've left the door open both ways," Linta said.

Time will tell what it all means, but it is interesting. Clearly, though, the details are what matters. If the Browns offer Hoyer backup money, he will go to free agency.

Last offseason the team declined to offer more than that. Hoyer declined to sign. Now the Browns have their new offensive coordinator talking about not knowing the quarterback.

DeFilippo's statement, like the Browns' negotiations with Hoyer, comes down to details. Because DeFilippo admitted he was eager to work with Johnny Manziel, or whoever walked through the door. DeFilippo said he’s used to late adjustments, and mentioned guys like Derek Carr, Matt Flynn, and Matt Schaub arriving as free agents or via the drafts.

The problem is that neither Flynn nor Schaub did a whole lot of anything in Oakland. Flynn had one start and 34 pass attempts. Schaub had 10 passes while Carr played throughout his rookie season.

Carr did well, but the veterans on the free agent market this offseason are kind of reminiscent of Flynn and Schaub. Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan Mallett. There really isn’t a lot of there there to add to that ever-growing Browns jersey with the list of names.

Hoyer is among the free agents, and the Browns at least know him. He might be amenable to a deal that pays him if he performs -- with incentives for things like wins and playoff appearances -- but he will be starting with a new system as well.

Hoyer would not be afraid of competition, but given the water under the bridge, it would probably take a pretty significant offer for Hoyer not to at least see what is out there for him in free agency.

As for Manziel, the message seemed to be that nothing will be granted.

If Manziel earns the job, he earns it. But as of this moment, the job is not his. At least that is what DeFilippo and Pettine tried to convey.

DeFilippo is the sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons.

He’s just the latest to walk into the Browns annual uncertainty at the team’s most important position.
The Cleveland Browns made official the hiring of John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator late Tuesday.

The team’s news release had several quotes from coach Mike Pettine and DeFilippo on how he would approach the job.

The best news?

DeFilippo said he would not insist on changing everything just for the sake of change, that if the team is comfortable doing something a certain way or hearing it a certain way, he will not force the entire offense to adjust. Instead, he will adjust.

“We're going to make this offense, the transition, as simple as we can for our players,” DeFilippo said in a news release provided by the team.

He also said he would work with all the quarterbacks on the team equally.

“This isn't going to be my offense or ‘so and so's’ offense," DeFilippo said. "This is going to be the Cleveland Browns' offense. Whatever that is to get our best players the football, it's going to be very flexible.

"We're not going to just scrap something just because I'm here. I don't have that type of ego. If something's good that our players do well and they know, we're going to keep doing it.

"That's going to be my job here the next few weeks is I'm going to really study our last 16 games of this season and see what we're good at, see where it fits and see where it meshes with myself and Coach Pettine seeing this offense.”

Pettine called DeFillipo the "total package."

“That was a big part of it, making sure we weren't bringing in just a playbook ... we were bringing in a good person," Pettine said. "That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why he's here.”

MOBILE, Ala. -- NFL teams interview dozens of players each year at the Senior Bowl, but I found it interesting that the Cleveland Browns were very impressed with Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty's demeanor in their talk with him, and notified of such on the field Wednesday. This is no surprise -- Petty comes across as genuine and is from a good family.

"Whatever it entails to be a great NFL quarterback, that’s what I want to do," Petty told reporters after a Senior Bowl practice session.

Petty is adjusting from Baylor's no-huddle offense to an NFL system, which could take time. Petty looked rusty in the first session Tuesday, but threw with more confidence Wednesday. Oregon State's Sean Mannion might have looked the most comfortable among quarterbacks throwing Wednesday morning.

But Petty could be an intriguing option for the Browns, possibly as a one- or two-year stash option to develop him behind the scenes. Petty has good size (6-foot-2 3/4, 230 pounds) and wasn't overly accurate at Baylor (low-60s completion percentages) but made up for that by averaging nearly 10 yards per passing attempt over two seasons as a starter. He's athletic for his size, notching 20 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons.

"I hope they are patient and understand I want to be here and learn," Petty said about whichever team drafts him. "I’m going to give it all I’ve got, that’s for sure. Step one is being here."

Petty admits he's had to think through plays the first two days at the Senior Bowl, which is less ideal than mastering the concepts and reacting, but he's getting more comfortable every day.

He knows the last two high-profile Big 12 quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden, have had their struggles in the pros. Weeden was out of a starting job in Cleveland after two years.

"All that will and prove that I can learn an NFL offense and hopefully it won't be two years -- it will be 15," said Petty, who noted he would be comfortable going "anywhere" on the NFL map. "I have no doubt I can transition. It’s just about getting in there and doing it."
The Cleveland Browns didn't draft Derek Carr, but they hired the quarterbacks coach who guided him.

That the coach just so happened to interview to be the team's offensive coordinator a year ago probably was a pleasant coincidence.

Manziel
John DeFilippo, a 36-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, native, will take over for Kyle Shanahan. The team is expected to make the announcement Wednesday.

What this means about Johnny Manziel will remain to be seen, but it's pretty clear the Browns' emphasis was on finding someone they believe could get the most out of him.

DeFilippo's resume shows a lot of work with young quarterbacks.

Carr had a better-than-expected rookie season, throwing for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. DeFilippo will be tied to his rookie season.

In 2013, DeFilippo was responsible for Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, and they threw for a combined 3,345 yards.

The major concern: He has never called plays in the NFL, though he did when he was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at San Jose State in 2011, according to his bio in the Raiders' media guide.

In 2011, San Jose State averaged 30 runs per game and 40 passes. The team gained 276 yards passing per game, 101 rushing.

Quarterback Matt Faulkner was credited for throwing for 3,149 yards, but he had 13 interceptions to go with 13 touchdowns.

His numbers with DeFilippo calling plays translate to an NFL passer rating of 84.7.

In the NFL, DeFilippo has been a quality control coach for the Giants, assistant quarterbacks coach for the Jets and twice was quarterbacks coach for the Raiders -- the stints sandwiched around his tenure at San Jose State.

Was DeFilippo hired to maximize Manziel? The Browns didn't hire several veteran coordinators who, in theory at least, might be more set in their ways.

Shanahan left the Browns in part because he didn't believe in Manziel, according to several sources.

The Browns turned to a coordinator coach Mike Pettine worked with in New York and interviewed one year ago, a young coordinator who has had experience with young quarterbacks.

It's not too complicated to connect all these dots.
Johnny Manziel had a rocky rookie season, but his jerseys sold well enough in the offseason that he ranks fifth in the NFL in jersey sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Manziel
That information came in a jersey sale report posted by the store. The page includes all kinds of interesting ways to compare jersey sales, and see how they progressed during the season.

Manziel’s sales ranked overall behind Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Luke Kuechly.

However, Manziel’s sales dropped as the season progressed.

Around the time of the draft, a chart on the the sporting goods site (click on Manziel's name) shows that Manziel had 55 percent of the jersey sales. That number was at 5 percent around the time of the season opener and at zero percent by season’s end. By comparison, New England quarterback Tom Brady was at 3 percent in May and 24 percent by last week.

In July, the NFL reported that Manziel's jersey led all sales at NFLShop.com.

Manziel is the fourth-ranked offensive player in jersey sales at Dick's, and the top rookie. The Browns ranked fifth in the league in overall jersey sales, behind Seattle, Denver, Carolina and Chicago. Joe Haden was the Browns' top selling defensive jersey, third overall, with Donte Whitner 21st. Offensively, Brian Hoyer was the second-ranked Brown, 28th among players on that side of the ball.
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A couple years back I had the honor and pleasure of being able to sit down with Ted Ginn Sr. for an interview about 'What He'd Learned' for Cleveland Magazine.

Ginn is a Cleveland legend, the football coach and product of Glenville High School. But he’s more than a coach. He’s a leader in his community, a man who develops kids into men and helps them rise out of difficult circumstances. The Browns' Donte Whitner is one of many who have gone on to success after playing for Ginn.

When I talked to him, Ginn had just recovered from a bout with pancreatic cancer. He explained he was a living miracle and he was brought back to do important work.

Some of the things Ginn said then resonated when quarterback Cardale Jones announced Thursday that he would return to Ohio State to get his degree.

"One of the most important things for me is to graduate," Jones said.

Ginn runs The Ginn Academy, and kids who go to school there play at Glenville, where he coaches.

But Ginn said he doesn’t like football.

"It gets in the way of the truth," he said. "It gets in the way of what we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to save lives."

His purpose with football?

"You teach them how to take football and education and navigate their way throughout the world," he said. "It takes money to be educated. It takes money to live. It takes money to raise, to guide. They have to understand how to parlay all that stuff into how to be a man, a great father, a great kid, a leader."

Ginn talked about where he lives, works and grew up and admitted "people make us think we’re nowhere."

His view: "This is a diamond mine, brother. I’m the only person who stayed after 30 or 40 years. People been walking among all these diamonds, without picking them up. They didn’t pick me up. And all I did was pick them up, brush them off and polish them off."

Jones is a product of that environment. He played for Glenville, then went to Ohio State where he made mistakes. Jones has gone from an infamous tweet he posted as a freshman asking why he had to go to class, to deciding that getting his degree is his top priority. Ginn never gives up on one of his pupils, and when Jones made his announcement Ginn stood behind him.

Jones seems to have grown up. He says many right things. He accepts all that happened to him with the national championship with humility and amazement. He will make mistakes again -- don’t we all -- but he’s come a long way. And he’s staying in college to finish his education because he said that is what is important.

There was some pushback and snark at Jones’ decision. Why have a news conference if he’s staying?

Which is fine if you haven’t been around Ginn or the Ginn Academy or Glenville. The idea behind having Jones make this announcement on Thursday was to send the message to the other kids in Cleveland who were listening.

Education matters, and who better to hear it from than one of their own, who skipped the easy money and took the longer route.

Ginn does not let his kids turn left when walking in the hallways at The Ginn Academy.

"They come out of a door, and their next class is a few feet away, I make them walk all the way around to go in that door to their left," Ginn said. "They ask why, and I say, 'That’s the shortcut. Go right, man. Just stay right.' ... Because if you do everything right, you can’t go wrong."

Jones seems to have listened to that lesson.
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns are expected to interview Buffalo Bills senior offensive assistant coach Jim Hostler late this week, according to a source.

Hostler, a former 49ers offensive coordinator who also served as Ravens wide receivers coach for six seasons, is at least the third candidate to visit this week, joining New York Jets-bound Chan Gailey and former Bears coach Marc Trestman.

Hostler was coordinator for one year with the 49ers as part of the Mike Nolan regime. The 49ers failed to score more than 20 points in all but two games that year.

Easily the Browns' most experienced candidate is Trestman, who was in the building Wednesday, but Trestman also got a call from new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who might want to hire him. The Raiders have a promising quarterback in Derek Carr. Trestman's two-year stint in Chicago fizzled, but he's known as a stout playcaller who's good with managing quarterbacks. (Josh McCown threw for 13 touchdowns to one interception for Trestman in 2013.)

If the Browns let Trestman walk, who's the backup plan? Position coaches won't elicit excitement among Browns fans who just watched a lot of bad offense in November and December.

Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn seems like a strong candidate. The Jets finished third in the NFL in rushing last year, and the Jaguars also reportedly want to interview Lynn.

Pettine seems to be drawing on familiar faces from his Bills/Ravens/Jets days. The Browns will make clear soon enough whether those interviews produced a new coordinator or a bunch of talking.

Whoever takes the job will have a challenge -- mold Johnny Manziel (or a new quarterback) into a winner, or else lame-duck status awaits.
The Cleveland Browns and Jordan Cameron both have decisions to make.

Cameron is headed to free agency; the Browns have to decide if they want to retain him, and at what cost.

It’s important to know what kind of player Cameron is when discussing him, because Cameron brings unique talents to the tight end position.

Consider:

  • Cameron led all NFL tight ends last season with four receptions of at least 40 yards. The two longest -- for 81 and 51 yards -- were for touchdowns against Carolina and Pittsburgh; the other two were for 47 and 42 against Pittsburgh, according to Pro Football Reference.
  • ESPN Stats and Information reports that since 2001, only two tight ends -- Jimmy Graham in 2013 and Vernon Davis in 2010 -- had more than four 40-yard plays in a season, both with five.
  • In that time, only three tight ends have had at least four big plays of that nature in a season: Davis, Graham and Cameron.
  • Last season, Cameron doubled the second-highest total, as Washington’s Niles Paul, Tennessee’s Delanie Walker and Indianapolis’ Coby Fleener had two plays of 40 yards or more.

Clearly Cameron brings something unique. Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski would be the prototype tight ends of the past 15 or so years. Gates has seven career receptions longer than 40 yards, but never more than one in a season. Gronk has six in his career, never more than three in a season.

[+] EnlargeJordan Cameron
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsJordan Cameron has unique speed and big-play ability for a tight end.
Cameron was a fourth-round pick in the Tom Heckert era after playing one year at tight end at USC. He started as a basketball player at BYU, decided to play football and transferred to USC, where he moved from receiver to tight end his senior season.

He basically made a name for himself at the combine, where his athletic ability opened eyes. Cameron admits testing had nothing to do with football, but it got him drafted.

Because he hadn’t played much, the Browns did not play him a lot as a rookie. But in training camp before his second season, Mike Holmgren singled out Cameron as the player most ready to make a significant leap.

He was one year early. Cameron improved his second season, but became a Pro Bowler in 2013 with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He and Josh Gordon both helped themselves to career seasons in the Norv Turner/Rob Chudzinski downfield offense.

Cameron’s production dropped this season to 24 catches for 424 yards and two TDs for two reasons. With Gordon suspended, Cameron drew much of the defensive attention -- and double-teams. Because of that, Brian Hoyer turned to wideouts Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins.

They all contributed, which affected Cameron, whose total targets dropped from 118 to 48.

He also was injured, first with a shoulder issue and then with a concussion that sidelined him five games. The concussion was the result of a late hit from Oakland’s Brandian Ross, a brutal hit that snapped Cameron’s head forward in a way that looked scary. Ross was fined heavily for the hit and wound up playing that week for free.

Cameron spent weeks trying to regain his mental well-being but never hesitated to come back, playing in the team’s final three games. His 81-yard reception in the fourth quarter against Carolina briefly gave the Browns the lead.

Any team that signs him, including the Browns, has to keep in mind he has had three concussions in three years.

Still, Cameron represents the new breed of tight ends made popular by Gates and Bill Belichick’s New England offense. Cameron is 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds and can run away from safeties. He has excellent hands and can get downfield and make plays. His signature catch came in the win over Pittsburgh, when he reached back in full stride and snagged a well-thrown ball in front of two Steelers, then ran away from them for a touchdown. The TD came from reading the defense, as Cameron adjusted his route and Hoyer saw it and found him.

In four seasons, Cameron has 130 catches, 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In those four seasons, he also had nine quarterbacks, four offensive coordinators, three tight end coaches, three general managers and three head coaches.

The latest coach/GM tandem talks of wanting guys who will “play like a Brown.” Cameron embodies everything the team talks about when it uses that phrase.

He’s tough, humble, dedicated and professional. He doesn’t complain or cause problems, but he does take accountability.

As the Browns decide how to approach his future, they have a lot to weigh.

But as Cameron looks to free agency, it would seem he’s in a good spot.

What NFL team would not want a professional who can provide the big plays Cameron has given the Browns?
CLEVELAND -- Former Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and Raiders quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are expected to be involved in the Browns' offensive coordinator search and the team could start interviews early next week, according to sources.

Several names surfaced in media reports Saturday morning, inluding 49ers coordinator Greg Roman and Raiders coordinator Al Saunders, according to NFL Network.

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Trestman
The Browns are taking this week to evaluate the offense in light of Kyle Shanahan's departure amid whispers of dissatisfaction with the Browns' personnel department and the quarterback situation. Wide-ranging meetings with personnel execs and coaches evaluated the team's quarterback situation and Johnny Manziel's place in it.

The Browns formally announced Shanahan's resignation and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains' firing, saying Shanahan's departure is "in the best interest of the Cleveland Browns" after conversations with him this week. Moving on from Loggains was difficult but necessary, coach Mike Pettine said in a statement.

"Our focus quickly turns to finding an outstanding coach to lead our offense and I am confident we will bring in highly qualified individuals to help us develop, improve and achieve the success we are all seeking," Pettine said.

Shanahan said in the Browns' release that he regrets how "the inner workings of the organization were represented publicly over the last few days," likely referring to a Cleveland.com report on Tuesday that Shanahan was willing to accept a lateral job to get out of Cleveland, and that at least one non-coaching staffer was suggesting play calls via texts to the sideline. The NFL is investigating the matter.

DeFilippo, who talked with coach Mike Pettine about the offensive coordinator job last year that went to Shanahan, has acquitted himself well after working with Derek Carr, who threw for nearly 3,300 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a rookie.

Trestman, who was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Browns in 1988-89, is known as a good offensive mind, but his Bears limped to a 5-11 finish despite elite playmakers, though it's noteworthy Jay Cutler wasn't his style of quarterback. He prefers a quarterback suited for his West Coast system, of which the Browns have principles from Shanahan's offense.

Candidates for the job might be asked these two things:

1. Can you make Manziel better?

2. How well can you work with different styles of quarterbacks, Manziel or otherwise? This gives the Browns flexibility with the position.
It might take an act of the U.S. Congress to bring stability and continuity to the Cleveland Browns -- and we’ve all seen how that body has worked together lately.

One year after firing a coach who had one year on the job and bringing in a new coach and new offensive coordinator, the Browns will start again with a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive system -- and perhaps a new quarterback.

Continuity, anyone?

The new hire will be the Browns' 13th offensive coordinator in 17 seasons (see chart).

It will also be the sixth O-coordinator in six years -- going back to Brian Daboll in 2010, then coach Pat Shurmur doing double-duty in 2011, Brad Childress in 2012, Norv Turner in 2013, Kyle Shanahan in 2014 and the new hire for '15.

If Mike Pettine cannot find a coordinator to run the same system as Shanahan -- and there is no one evident on the horizon who knows the system -- it means another offensive overhaul and another new playbook.

And the Browns wonder why they can’t win.

It seems clear at this point (and, yes, I was way wrong when I opined that I thought Shanahan would be back) that the Browns did not feel they could force Shanahan to stay. Various reports (on cleveland.com and on ESPN.com) made it plain that there was leftover friction from the decision to go to Johnny Manziel late in the season.

The way Manziel played left one great question: Why did the team go to Manziel in such a key game when he looked so unprepared to play?

Pettine said he had no choice because of the way Brian Hoyer was playing, but he admitted Manziel was an unknown.

General manager Ray Farmer said that Manziel probably thought he was ready but that when he played he quickly learned the challenge was even greater than he expected.

Asked whether he thought Manziel was more prepared than he showed, Farmer said: “Sure.”

Something was amiss, and, from what team sources said, Shanahan felt he was placed in an untenable position. He did not believe Manziel was ready, and he believed the decision was affected by front-office pressure to play the next guy in waiting.

It’s a pattern that has been repeated over and over in Cleveland. Constant change leads to a desire of the new people to find their guy, which leads to constant hype and speculation on the next guy. Which leads to uncertainty, eroding of confidence and change and more change. In this case, it resulted in the team's only quarterback with a winning record since '99 -- albeit a struggling quarterback -- being benched for an unknown.

It’s almost as if the Browns walked into the trap they’ve been setting for themselves every year since 1999. With their eyes open.

By doing it this time, they wound up losing a smart, respected coordinator -- a guy the players liked.

A new one will come in and life will go on, but the Browns start 2015 with a handicap. The Browns will spend another offseason installing another new system with another new playbook. Without a quarterback. With two backs who did not exactly get better as the season went on. Without a trusted No. 1 receiver. This is called being behind the proverbial 40-foot-tall eight ball.

One year ago, there was so much excitement and interest when Manziel texted “wreck this league” to quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains on draft night. Now Loggains is fired with more change ahead.

Which is just one more offseason in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns have shown since 1999 that it’s wise to expect anything and everything.

Still ... when the Browns line up to play in 2015 I expect Kyle Shanahan to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

He’s a good coach. The Browns like him. They’ve invested a year in his system. They don’t need to start over again. Barring his receiving a head-coaching job, which I don’t expect to happen this year, he’ll be back.

[+] EnlargeShanahan
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsUnless he gets a head-coaching job, Kyle Shanahan should remain as the Browns' offensive coordinator.
Not that Shanahan isn’t a realist.

He understands the Browns' quarterback position is a mess ... or "muddy," as the head coach said. He knows the schedule is tough in '15. And he knows tenures can be short in the NFL. If he gets a job elsewhere he may have more job security.

But at this point there is no reason for the Browns to allow him out of his contract, and there are many reasons for stability and continuity. The biggest question the Browns must answer is whether they can go forward with Johnny Manziel, and if they don't what do they do then?

That's part of what is being discussed now. The Browns this week are in normal end-of-the-season discussions about the state of the team. Those discussions are standard operating procedure.

Coaching changes could come out of those talks. But the reality with the Browns is this: They made a major overhaul a year ago, after making a major overhaul the year before that.

The safest bet this side of Secretariat is that Jimmy Haslam wanted no part of another overhaul after this season. Despite a stumbling finish, the Browns showed improvement in 2014. Seven wins is more than the four from 2013. Continuity matters.

Shanahan is a bright guy who knows what he’s doing. As tough as the finish was, there still were good games against Pittsburgh and New Orleans at home and Cincinnati on the road. There were also the amazing road comebacks on the road against Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

He will interview for the Bills' opening on Thursday, and he could get the job. He’s smart and will present himself well. But it’s my feeling that his candidacy is a bit of a long shot.

If Buffalo hires someone else, Shanahan is under contract with the Browns. The team would have to release him from his deal to make a lateral move.

In many ways, this possibility just does not add up.

The Browns have a logically thinking coach in place who has made logical moves. Letting the offensive coordinator go and starting over again smacks of the irrational thinking of the past. There’s no reason to expect the coach and GM will act irrationally based on what they showed all year. It’s not logical to spend a year installing a zone-blocking and play-action-pass system and then one year later install a new one.

Is Shanahan on board with Johnny Manziel? That's tough to read. He never really said anything negative about any of his players, and always -- publicly at least -- seemed to try to do the best with whoever played.

If he's not, that could be reason for a switch, especially if Shanahan feels the move was forced on him. But think logically: Would a team make a move with one of its coordinators at the expense of a quarterback who has serious questions to answer about his professionalism, both on and off the field?

Manziel is a great uncertainty. Brian Hoyer is a free agent. The options right now aren’t pretty, but who knows what happens? The Browns have an offseason to address and solve the problem. The possibilities don’t seem bright, but a lot can happen between now and July.

Whatever way it shakes out and whoever is at the quarterback position, I expect Kyle Shanahan will be his coordinator.
CLEVELAND – Ask around about this Kyle Shanahan story to folks in NFL circles and the responses are similar.

[+] EnlargeKyle Shanahan and Johnny Manziel
AP Photo/Mark DuncanIf reports are correct and Kyle Shanahan (left) is looking for an escape route from Cleveland, it would likely be another reboot for Johnny Manziel and the Browns.
Dysfunction in Cleveland? Isn’t that more ritual than eye-opener? A yearly rite of passage? Just another Friday night? The franchise that rivals the Raiders in coaching turnover and lack of continuity knows internal strife as well as it does bad quarterbacks.

But the most significant, and potentially alarming, nugget to the Cleveland.com report that Shanahan would consider leaving Cleveland for a lateral move is this – that a noncoaching staffer would suggest play calls via text to the coaching staff on the sideline during games.

I have not verified that nugget, but if true, that would define dysfunction and would tempt any coach to feel uneasy about the Browns’ staff stability, even before evaluating the muddy quarterback picture.

Logistically, coaches aren’t exactly checking their cell phones during games. Perhaps messages are sent through lower-level staffers. Or maybe two execs texted each other frustrations and word got out. Semantics are important here.

Each new regime vows to be different, to change the same-old-Browns narrative. Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer really do seem intent on redirection through sound player evaluation and accountability. Pettine hasn’t been unafraid to punish Josh Gordon and Justin Gilbert for missing meetings.

Stories like this, however, suggest that process has a long way to go. Successful organizations undercut the internal bashing. Only a united front, publicly and privately, will shake the perpetual stink that has figuratively permeated the team’s facility.

Steady quarterback play can always erase internal problems. After all, reports of dysfunction only surface in losing locker rooms. Everything was fine when Cleveland was 6-3 and Brian Hoyer's free agency was buzzworthy.

Quarterback issues test the internal strength of the organization, which in Cleveland's case was clearly divided between playing Hoyer or Johnny Manziel late in the season. The Browns really had no good choices because Hoyer was struggling and Manziel wasn't ready.

The Browns want Shanahan to help fix that, hoping continuity in the second year of his zone-blocking scheme will pay off in 2015. But if he's willing to make a lateral move to get out, that says a lot about his feelings on Manziel. Leaving for a head coaching opportunity is different. Becoming the Raiders or Jets or Bears' offensive coordinator would suggest he believes he can't win with either quarterback.

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