Commentary

Browns, Bengals facing decisions

Quarterback and coach facing uncertainty in Cleveland, Cincinnati

Originally Published: June 18, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

The NFL is wrapping up its offseason schedule this week with six remaining teams holding their final mandatory minicamps. Then, there will be a much-needed lull.

On Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell heard the appeals of Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith, the four players suspended for their alleged roles in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. It is unlikely the players, who appealed to the man who suspended them, got much satisfaction out of the process.

It likely was as rewarding as minicamps have been under the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement, which is to say not rewarding at all.

In the meantime, here are a few other issues from around the league.

Mike Holmgren recognizes that Colt McCoy didn't have a fair shot last season, but that's life. In one of the better moves of the offseason, the Cleveland president has decided to avail himself more frequently to the media, which means his thoughts and feelings will be more available to Browns fans. Holmgren said he is not trying to usurp second-year coach Pat Shurmur or general manager Tom Heckert, but rather, he is consenting to the wishes of fans and local media. What a concept.

Anyway, last week Holmgren spoke at length about his quarterbacks -- McCoy, rookie Brandon Weeden and veteran Seneca Wallace -- and although he didn't come out and say, "We're going to trade McCoy," it certainly sounded like the Browns will try, thus saving the 25-year-old McCoy from the indignity of getting cut. Either way, the result will be the same: Weeden will be the man, and McCoy will get dumped.

"I like Colt McCoy," Holmgren said. "I've made no secrets about that. I think he's a wonderful young man and a good football player, and if you are asking me to say, 'Was it fair last year?', he had a tough go, and he didn't get as much help as I thought he was going to get, but heck, that's football."

Bengals owner Mike Brown needs to re-sign Marvin Lewis. Nothing says "dead duck" to players like a head coach entering the final year of his contract, and that is where Lewis stands in Cincinnati.

The Bengals are a young team on the upswing. Lewis has successfully transitioned Cincinnati from the Carson Palmer-Chad Ochocinco era to the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era, no easy feat.

Brown would be foolish to let Lewis' contract situation be a distraction to the coach or a sign to the players that he doesn't believe in Lewis. That could be more than a little counterproductive. Once players tune out a coach, there is no turning back. Brown should make sure that doesn't happen.

Lewis told ESPN.com AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley that there had been no progress made in contract negotiations and that "I can't let that consume what I do." No, he can't, just like Brown can't wait to extend his head coach.

[+] EnlargeTomlinson
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson will always be remembered as a Charger, so retiring in San Diego is fitting.

LaDainian Tomlinson is doing the right thing. On Monday, Tomlinson will sign with San Diego and immediately retire as a Charger. It was a good call by Tomlinson, 32, who played nine seasons in San Diego and was one of the most dynamic players of his era.

Rarely is the end game what players want it to be, and Tomlinson wasn't thrilled about his exit from San Diego after the 2009 season. He hung around for two years with the New York Jets, but he will be remembered for the versatility he showed in San Diego. A three-time All-Pro and the NFL's MVP in 2006, Tomlinson started 141 games for the Chargers, becoming their all-time leading rusher with 12,490 yards and 138 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 530 passes for 3,955 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Tomlinson was the prototypical multifaceted back. He could run. He could catch. He could block. He was resilient. And he was productive, with eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, starting in his rookie year out of TCU. Tomlinson finished his career in New York, but he made it in San Diego, and it is only fitting that it ends where it started.

Not everybody loves the new practice rules. This won't come as any huge shock, but coaches aren't exactly gushing about the lightened offseason workload the way New York Giants veteran Justin Tuck did upon completion of the shortened mandatory offseason workouts.

"I think this … year is huge for veterans," Tuck said last week. "I think it might put younger guys behind the eight ball because they don't get as much work as we did when we were younger. But I think it's got to help prolong a lot of guys' careers, and I don't think you're going to see as many injuries because it's giving us a little bit more time to heal our bodies after a long season."

Said Tuck's head coach, Tom Coughlin: "The players have got to understand, as we tried to make them understand, that there is three or four times the mental part of it to the physical part of it now, and that is evidently the way they want it."

Read: The way they want it, not the way we want it.

Six teams -- Atlanta, Buffalo, Miami, Minnesota, San Diego and Tennessee -- will hold minicamps this week and then join the other 26 teams in the league and break for a month until training camp, which also will be modified, with one practice each day and intermittent days off. Players love the lightened workload. Coaches are adjusting.

For all the talk about this being a big year for Tony Romo, it's just as big for Dez Bryant. Last week, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones called out Bryant during an interview with a Dallas radio station, saying that Bryant has to embrace the role of the No. 1 receiver even when teams try to stop him. Jones said Romo has to be able to count on Bryant to be precise and run the right routes at the right depths.

Jones is correct, of course, but if you have to remind a wide receiver to run the right routes, you might be counting on the wrong guy to be your No. 1 receiver. Bryant is capable of being a No. 1. Teams fear his speed more than they fear Miles Austin. But in his first two seasons with the Cowboys, Bryant was not consistent or precise. This will be Year 3 for Bryant, time to prove that he can play the role of the No. 1.