4:05 p.m. Sunday (Browns Family Day, Cleveland, Ohio): If autograph-signing won quarterback jobs, Brady Quinn would be a Hall of Famer. Now. For 65 minutes, he signed for the crowd of 14,000 attending the Brown-White Scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and when he got back to the locker room after the scrimmage, most of his teammates were gone.
Nothing decided today in the scrimmage. Quinn threw a gorgeous, early touchdown, but still looks to have accuracy issues, and Derek Anderson threw a bad interception to D'Qwell Jackson at the goal line, ruining one drive.
I told Quinn he didn't look as frenetic in and around the pocket as he'd looked the last two years. Being frenetic doesn't help a quarterback be great; just ask Kyle Boller. Quinn told me he spent part of the offseason looking at all of Brady's 599 pass-drops in the 2007 season, trying to get a feel for his footwork and pocket presence. Good idea, and it's showing. Quinn looks calmer, which is good, and he's sucking in the knowledge from new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, formerly with the Patriots, on all things Brady.
The Browns, however, were the first team I've been around this summer that I just didn't get a good vibe from. The players are still feeling out Eric Mangini, and more than a few think he's working them too hard.
Well, the Browns were 4-12 last year, fired the coach and GM, and need a new sheriff. That's what Mangini is trying to be.
This week, it's Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago and then out west to see the Broncos-Niners Friday and Seahawks-Chargers Saturday. On Sunday, I will either rest or go comatose, and Monday I'll be in Denver to check out the Broncos. Then it's home. For a while.
Quote of the Week I
"Dick LeBeau. Man, I hope the voters, seriously, I hope the voters get it right. First of all, he belongs in [the Pro Football Hall of Fame] as a player. Secondly, if you don't want to put him in as a player, you put him in as a contributor, because he did so much for the National Football League as a player and a coach for over 50 years. He deserves it.''
Couldn't have said it better. Well, actually, I'll try. This is LeBeau's 51st year in the NFL as a player or coach. His play at cornerback for the Detroit Lions placed him seventh on the all-time interceptions list, and no cornerback has started more consecutive games in NFL history than his 171. He invented a defense in Cincinnati in 1984, the Zone Blitz, that everyone in the NFL has copied to some degree since then, and in three of the last five years, he's coordinated the top-ranked defense in football in Pittsburgh and helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.
LeBeau did not succeed as a head coach, going 12-36 in three seasons with the Bengals when he finally got his chance to run a team. But I can tell, having been around that team a lot over the years, that Vince Lombardi could have coached them with Bill Walsh his offensive coordinator and Bill Belichick on the defensive side, and it'd still have been a disaster.
I don't know if I can do much, but as one of the 44 selectors, I'll try everything I can to get LeBeau into the Hall this year, or very soon.
Quote of the Week II
"You'll find out during the season.''
Quote of the Week III
"I don't like getting letters saying, 'Your father would never have done this,' or 'Your father's rolling over in his grave.' But in this job you've got to make tough decisions, and if we were going to build a new stadium, there's no question it had to be done with PSL money. If you're not going to get public funding, you cannot build a stadium these days without using PSLs.''
The stadium in the Meadowlands shared by the Giants and Jets cost approximately $850 million per franchise. I asked Mara the other day if he had any regrets about his decision (after the death of his father, longtime Giants owner Wellington Mara) to build the stadium, set to open in 2010, with personal seat licenses. That choice has caused some fans who held season-tickets for decades to rip the team for having no loyalty to those who trekked to Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and the Meadowlands as the team wandered over the years. "Not really,'' he said. "We studied it for so long. Maybe there's one thing -- I wish we could have done the construction sooner so we'd have been able to sell the stadium before this economic downturn. And maybe some of the pricing structure would be different. But the concept? No. I've had some people say the stadium we have now is perfectly good and we don't need a new one. But I'm not sure I'd feel good about our situation 20 years down the road if we didn't build this stadium now.''
Stat of the Week
In 2006, at age 27, Larry Johnson had an NFL-record 457 touches from scrimmage (416 rushes, 41 receptions). In the last two seasons, Johnson has missed 12 games due to nagging injuries and touched the ball 393 times total (351 rushes, 42 receptions).
I wanted two answers from Johnson: Did overuse in 2006 ruin him? And does he have anything left now, when coach Todd Haley -- the world considers Haley a 60-40 pass-run play-caller -- wants to run the ball more than anyone thinks?
Point 1: "I definitely was done by the end of that season. When we went to play the Colts in the playoffs, my legs were gone. I had nothing left. But it didn't destroy me.''
Point 2: Johnson is down to 225 pounds from his norm of 233. He looks good, very fit. "I include myself in this, but I think we were getting too comfortable in the Herman Edwards/Dick Vermeil era. I feel great right now. Nothing hurts. I know I'm not done. I still have the juice. I can definitely be a 300-plus carry back again.''
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