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The Banner Plan.


The floggings will continue until morale improves.


I wrote a post Thursday/Friday that was triggered by the Trent Richardson trade.  It was emotional, hot, angry, pleading, salty.  But yet it seems its point was not made effectively.  I’ve read several responses to it where the reaction centers on the trading Trent Richardson (and what value the Browns got for him).  That not just misses the primary point it ignores a whole section with a boldface heading that says, “Richardson trade *is* good value.  But that’s not the problem here.”  So let me try again and do better this time.

Joe Banner’s plan is a figurative keelhauling of Browns fans.  You have been harnessed and thrown over the bow of the smokey oil slick of a 18th century whaling ship that is 2013 Berea.  You will be pulled up from the stern after a long salt-water immersion-waterboarding and scoured by the thousands of barnicles on the vessel’s hull under water level.  You will emerge in 2018 proven worthy and absolved of past misdeeds.  If you aren’t dismembered or drowned by the process.

Still too allegorical?  Ok.

Joe Banner is writing off the next three/four years on a 50-50 bet that the team will be better then; on the much smaller chance that the Browns-with-Joe-Banner’s-guys will show up in the playoffs in 2018.

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You think Trent Richardson is the start?  You think Teddy “My-God-Teddy-Bridgewater” Bridgewater is the end game?

Smarten up and grow up, you foolish child Browns fan.

Trent Richardson heralds the midpoint of the first step in the process:  be just good enough to be competitive but just bad enough to lose.  Bad enough to lose every game, that is.  The Trent Richardson trade is the part where the strategy is non-verbally, formally announced to Browns fans.  “Hey Browns fans, this is Vegas.  Yeah, you’re not gonna be favored in a game until December and even that Jets game is looking iffy.  Just thought you’d want to know.”

Fans are waking up to the reality of a tanked season and that is why they are pissed.

Fans are not pissed because (the possibly/probably overrated) Trent Richardson was traded for a first round pick in 2014.  They’re pissed this transaction crystallized several vague thoughts for them:

  1. We’re really not trying?  Damn Kanick was right:  we’re REALLY not trying.  TRich may not be all he’s hyped, but he is our best offensive weapon or so we’ve been programmed for the last two years and if he’s not our weapon then who the fuck is?


    If you think Joe Banner holds on to Reggie Wayne after the Peyton Manning trade, you’re simply not paying attention.

  2. The Colts organization embodies all the Browns are not.  You say they got lucky with Andrew Luck.  No doubt.  But they’re supposed to be a crap team this year, just ask anyone at Grantland.  This is the team that brought “regress to mean” into the football fan’s lexicon.  In the face of the staggering analytical analyses of joyless stat nerds masquerading as football people, the Colts say:  “Eff that, we ain’t regressing, we would we?”  Colts have $3M in cap space which is also approximately their 2012 rollover amount.  The Colts just acquired the third pick in last year’s draft to go with their #1 pick.  The Colts are doing all they can to win.  And as to the trade itself, who’s to say TRich doesn’t turn into Steven Jackson playing for a playoff team… Marshawn Lynch seemed to improve after he left Buffalo.
    • Sidebar to all who believe Banner’s cap horseshit and think not competing and spending this year is sound financial planning and to do otherwise will condemn the Browns into a morass of cap hell:  Colts 2014 cap is 30th in the league, $82M
  3. And finally, they’re pissed because it’s dawning on them that this is just the start of the gutting.

Just the start of the gutting.

It was Kolonich who got me thinking about the idea that this is just starting.

Richardson was probably only the beginning of this new reboot.  I can’t imagine Gordon, Little, Schwartz, Weeden (obvious), Lauvao, Pinkston, etc. survive into 2014 and beyond.  Not to mention Mack, Rubin, Ward and possibly even Haden.

For those who didn’t figure this out way back in January, we’re in the beginning stages of a total reset.  Just like Savage wiped out Davis and Mangini wiped out Savage and Heckert wiped out Mangini, and so on and so on. (more…)

Breaking faith with Browns fans.

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Speaking only for myself:  I found my Browns fan experience yesterday largely unchanged from past years.  How was yours?

The CSAT numbers can’t be good; perhaps a note to the VP of Fan Experience is in order.

Because, I kid you not, the Browns can afford such an executive although apparently they cannot afford a probowl, never-missed-a-start center.  (We’ll get to Alex Mack.)

After an off-season featuring the implementation of new office furniture and the adoption of analytics-to-improve-personnel talk (if not use); after healthier cafeterias and improved stadium cell service; after the junking of the dinosaur 4-3 defense in favor of the the current preferred turbo/hybrid attacking aggressive 3-4; after prudently eschewing free-agency use in favor of building through the draft (albeit next year’s draft); and dee-jays don’t forget dee-jays … it turns out that when you don’t significantly improve the roster of a 5-11 team, they continue to look like a 5-11 team.

And yet in yesterday’s #CheddarBay work, our generally savvy pickers threw down a collective 39 points on the Browns versus one point on the Dolphins.  It goes to show how the reportage on the Browns has been wanting for objective, sober analysis.

The question I have is who let you down more:  The Banner regime and its dedication to window dressing or the Cleveland sports media and its fawning over it?

They both thought you were pretty dumb; they’re soon to find out you can be pretty pissed before lapsing into wholly apathetic.  It’s a longshot but:  the Browns and their sycophantic reporters are actually at risk of losing the best sports fan base in the country.

I’ll work the media angle today.


Stop me if this looks familiar.

I’m not going to dig into the problems we saw yesterday.  Thin offensive line?  Pass rush not a panacea?  Vulnerable secondary?  Nope, I’ve done some work on the problematic talent acquisition strategy of this off-season.  Just some.  Here’s a taste of what’s been written here at Kanick and you can dive into it at these links:

2013 Brown preview (Indifference); TRich, Dancing Bear; The Fallacy of Attacking 3-4 defensesHaving a short secondaryParsimonious Joe BannerAlex Mack, Y U NO SIGN HIMNo one cares about Berea’s makeoverJoe Banner’s window-dressing strategyNorv Turner, paid gun for hireGimmicky defenses reliant on personnel packages for specific down/distances are soon to be obsoleteShort d-back issue not tended to in draftThe lunacy and hypocrisy of trading out of the fourth and fifth rounds after eschewing free-agency with the ‘Build through the draft’ mantraShort d-backs (with math)Drafting redundant pass-rusherCommitment to non-ExcellenceHow did a front line with Taylor, Rubin, Sheard become a focal point for renewal? Short d-backs (Kerry Rhodes please)Explaining salary cap rollover and Banner’s hoarding of sameWhat a smart draft looks likeILB depth (draft Alec Ogletree)Defining the needs of the team and addressing them through free-agency and draftO-Guard depth (sign Andy Levitre)Short d-backs (sign Keenan Lewis); Why the 4-3 is inherently better.

No since I’ve done that already, today it’s worth looking at how people who are actually paid to cover the team are serving their readers.

An ominous beginning.

The day started on a sour note with a La Canfora’s tweet.

If any paid media member so much as asked Joe Banner about Alex Mack in a salary cap context, let alone got a meaningful response, I surely missed it.  As it stands, I’m pretty sure that some guy with a blog in NH is the only one asking the obvious question:  what the hell are you doing with $30 million in unused cap while Alex Mack is about to become the best and pretty much only UFA Center to hit the market in six months? (more…)

Keeping the world safe from offset language.

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Browns cap number: greater than three sigmas from mean. #analytics #math #stats
Click to see dataset used “CAP SPACE, 7/18.”


We can all sleep easier, Joe Banner has taken the black to protect -someone- from the NFL version of grumpkins and snarks:  offset language.  If this means the Browns top draft pick has to hold out, that’s ok.  Pay that no mind and don’t forget the guys who are at Berea have a healthier cafeteria?  Good thing the Browns have staffed their communications and fan experience departments.


Tonight his watch begins.

Berea seems to be asking a lot of loyal Browns fans this off-season.

As of 7/19 AM, Barkevious Mingo is unsigned due to the line-in-the-sand drawn by Joe Banner on offset language.

Here’s a definition of offset language.  As I’ll show below, it doesn’t matter.  But we should be on the same page on what we’re talking about.

Thanks to the new CBA, first-round contracts are four-year deals with a fifth-year option for the team.  That option must be picked up by the March following the player’s third year.  Once that is exercised, a player’s fifth year of the contract (as much as $10 million) is guaranteed for injury.  Essentially, teams will make decisions on their first-rounders after Year 3, determining whether or not they want to be on the hook for the remaining money.

But in the fourth year comes the debate over offset language.  If there is offset language, it allows the team to save money when releasing a player. Let’s say a first-rounder is due $2 million in his fourth year.  If he’s released, and then agrees to a $2 million deal with a new team, the original team is completely off the hook.  He receives $2 million from his new club, and the team that drafted him washes its hands of the situation.  If there is no offset language, the discarded player receives the guaranteed money from his original team and the full salary from his new team. The original team can’t merely allow the new team to pay the remaining guaranteed money as part of the new deal.

This is interesting background and shows how utterly improbable it is that offset language will ever factor.  If the Browns are waiving Barky Mingo after four years… no one else is signing him.  We don’t even need a bell curve for this.  Won’t happen.

[And quite frankly, why SHOULD a player accept offset language?  If I’m not working for you, because you fired me, who the hell are you to restrict my future earnings?]


Wasn’t gonna start anyway so no biggie?

But even if it WAS a realistic possibility, it doesn’t matter.  The market has been set.  Robert Quinn got a contract without offsets at #14 last year.  In 2012 only one top 10 pick did not have offset language:  the implausibly highly drafted Ryan Tannehill.  (And I would bet my left nut that “The Brady Quinn Holdout of 2007” figured in the Tannehill talks.)  This year, three top 10 picks have signed (Joeckel, Ansah, Austin).  None have offset language.  But we can shorten this discussion:  Tavon Austin was drafted at #8.  Mingo was drafted at #6.  If you were an agent, would you allow your client at #6 to sign to worse terms than this year’s #8?  Than last year’s top 10s?

You would not.  That is because your singular reason for existence is to know the market and ensure your player is paid at or above it.  To do otherwise without specific reasons is bad for your client, true, but also career limiting ending for you.  Imagine interviewing your next client.  “Yeah I was the only agent who didn’t get offset language waived for my top ten draft pick client.”  “Click.”

This is nothing more than a hold-the-line GM and responsible agent richard measuring contest.  And Banner will lose.  Even if he wins, he loses.  Because it’s more important to have the sixth overall pick in camp on time than it is to prevent an individual from striking a contract with another business after you fired him.  In four years.

To recap the hand Banner is playing:

1. The market says #6 picks do not have offset language.
2. Offset language itself is highly improbable to go into effect.
3. Agents hate being the worst ones at their jobs.
4. It’s a wrong policy for any employment contract on it’s face.


Joe Banner is gonna fix your uniforms with focus groups.

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One of these teams was founded in 1931. But all look like expansion teams from the 90s. /focus grupe’d


Ooops, my bad.  New Jags logo.

Why do seemingly reasonable men turn into pompous asses when they take charge of the Browns’ operations?

  • Carmen Policy.  Wins four Super Bowls as CEO with the 49ers; abruptly quits as Browns CEO under a cloud.*
  • Mike Collins.  Marketing executive pulls sloppy back-channel power play to fire GM Phil Savage, gets fired himself.
  • Mike Holmgren.  SB winning coach can’t be bothered coaching, wants to learn the CEO side of the business and wades into Port of Cleveland parking contract negotiations.

And now this guy Banner.  It’s time for Joe Banner to follow the advice command he’s given to the rest of Berea and speak less.  Because he had quite an interview with Clark Judge Wednesday.  He leads off with a stunning display of ignorance and gracelessness:


… future draft picks.

New York Jets vs. St. Louis Rams

Was traded for…

Everybody talked about a long-term plan, but when’s the last time the team traded for a future draft pick? When’s the last time the team said, ‘We may not have position ‘X’ with the best player this year because there’s nobody in the marketplace who’s that good, and we don’t want to waste all the future cap money just so we win six games instead of five?

I don’t know Joe, two years?  three years?   This is awkward, Joe … but … The Mark Sanchez trade?  The Julio Jones trade?  I’m not even going to link them, but they were in the news.  You can look them up via Google.  Yeah, I know you don’t Joe.  Ask that IT guy who’s a security risk.  He’ll help you with that.

As far as cap space, is not cap space truly wasted when it evaporates into the ether?  It’s a good thing you have all those analytics-y math-y smart guys over there.  Maybe one of them can explain to you that cap space dollars are not like cellphone rollover minutes.  And as much as you say not spending cap monies is smart, it’s dumb.  It puts your team at a competitive disadvantage.

But today is not about pointing out the obvious, i.e., NFL player payroll at $130M is usually better than a player payroll at $100M.  Because buried later in the interview we find out …

Joe Banner is gonna fix our logo and uniforms with focus groups.

New, forward-looking, and energetic.
Yet still 55-75 since the change.

That’s right.  FOCUS GROUPS!  

From the same Judge interview we find this:

Q: But everyone has a plan when they go in. What’s yours and why do you think you can do what others before you have not?

Banner: Over the next couple of years, for instance, we’re going to change the logo and uniforms in a way that will respect the history but will be forward looking.

Q: You’re going to change the uniforms? How do you think that will fly with a loyal fan base?

Banner: We promise that the helmet won’t change. We promise the new look will respect the history. We’re going to do a lot of focus groups. We’re not going to put something out there that we haven’t done a lot of research on. It’s not going to be anything radical, I can guarantee that. But it will be new, forward looking and energetic (!!). It will reflect what we want the franchise to be.”

I’ve got your focus group right here, Joe. (more…)

Cap rollover provisions and the Browns.

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This is a clarification post.  It stops short of a retraction on the Smaug’s Cave post from the weekend.  But I do wish to soften that critique with today’s piece.  I’ve gained a new and key understanding on NFL salary cap and it needs to be shared because it affects how we view the Browns’ activity in this FA season.

Let me explain.

I’ve been hammering the Browns for whiffing on a CB acquisition in free agency.  Ditto tight end, safety, guard.  I’ve made note –in an unkind way– of the Browns’ position in cap spend being last or tied with the Bengals for last.

Yowch. What a stare.

And I was all set to tee off on Jimmy Haslam’s statement yesterday that the Browns are saving half their cap space to use next year (go to 4:50 of link).  I did not think teams could spend over the cap so I thought it was an incorrect statement.

But it turns out, this:

Can a team carry excess/unused cap space into the next year?
Yes. Unused cap space from a team’s previous year cap can be added to the following year. The team must notify the league of their intent to rollover cap money at least 14 days prior to the start of the next season’s league year.

Does it continue to rollover like cellphone minutes?
No. Rollover money from 2012 into 2013 is treated as “adjusted cap”. Any unused “adjusted” money in 2013 cannot be rolled over again into 2014.

. (more…)

Smaug’s Cave found.

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Smaug’s Cave inside Lonely Mountain?  Or Berea, March 2013?


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Thank goodness for (Bengals owner) Mike Brown?


Well this is awkward.  Pretty quiet out there.  Nobody wants to say it?  Ok, I will:

The Browns’ execution of this free agency period has been ‘disappointing.’

Unrelated to Smaug the dragon, this magazine can be found in Berea lobby.

Browns currently sit with the most or second most cap space of any team; just as they started the FA season.  Their cap space –left to Banner/Lombardi by Heckert– provided a rare opportunity to maneuver and acquire the TOP free agents.  At worst, one would think, short contracts could be used to exhaust this year’s cap room without handcuffing future years.

But here we are with $15MM remaining available to spend this on FAs this year, but all the best FAs are gone.  The opportunity, the advantage, has been squandered.

This is the GM equivalent taking three timeouts into the locker room at half time.

No cornerbacks signed.  One of the two big players signed plays the strongest position on the team and joins Rubin, Taylor, Hughes, Winn, Kitchen on the preeminent of defensive tackle corps in the league.  No free safety.  No guard.  An efficient tight end who played for Chud.  A speedy edge linebacker about whom Banner was quick to say:  Jabaal Sheard will play the new guy’s position.  Both key signings were made to address the needs of a ‘new defensive system’ put in place for reasons that can only be called arrogant; the change surely was not borne out of a sober evaluation of the talent on the current roster.

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22 FA CBs signed; 16 are over 6’0″.


1. Signed a good OLB;
2. Signed a DT to add to the three excellent ones on the roster;
3. Signed a fast OLB who used to play for Horton and will not start;
4. Signed a cheap TE who used to play for Chud, and;
5. Did not sign a CB, though 22 were signed.


The definitive review of Joe Banner in Philly

We’re gonna get to Norv Turner and Mike Lombardi.  But in today’s Lombardi press conference, Joe Banner went to great lengths to differentiate between assembling talent and building a team.  He stressed that there is a big and important difference, one that Lombardi understands.  This got me thinking.

Just what the hell are you talking about with that jive?  And do you yourself understand the difference?  **cough** 3-4 defense transition **cough**

I haven’t liked how Banner carries himself in press conferences.  I believe the source of this post and find it plausible that his first choice HC candidates passed in large part because they didn’t want to work for Banner.  And I’ve always found the Eagles a non-great perennial playoff team if that makes any sense for a Browns fan of all people to make such a judgement.  But in fairness, I haven’t attempted to take an objective look.

So with that said, let’s get analytical with the data we can find while at the same time acknowledging we don’t know where Banner stops and Reid begins.


This is the flattering pic.

Joe Banner.

Dennison grad.  (All hail Woody.)

Sports radio intern, reporter, producer.  (All hail Fedor?)

Hired by his friend Jeff Lurie in 1994; EVP in 1997.

Following is what I could pull together on the Eagles from 1997 until his departure in June 2012.  Let’s review, I’ll grade each year on a 1-10 scale.


1997, 6-9-1.  Drafted DE Jon Harris in first round, bust (out of league in 1998).  Duce Staley in 3rd round had good career.
Grade:  3  (bad miss in 1st round.)


Chip Kelly interview with Banner lore…

Just to induce vomit…a birdie in the know told me that the Chip Kelly interview went sour because Banner’s pleasant, salesman side is actually still somewhat reminiscent of a penis.

This is from a friend not prone to hyperbole on Jan. 9.

I won’t get too out front on this.  It’s probable Frowns was/is working on fleshing out this lead into a more substantive piece.