Q: What do you see the Cleveland Browns doing this year?
A: I think the Browns are going to be a solid 8-8 team. They’ll be very competitive. Their defense is on the rise. Getting Jake Delhomme will help them. It will help them with the efficiency of their offense. It’ll help them in the locker room. I think they’ll go toward more of a West Coast offense. Short passing attack. They are a little light at receiver with some young guys just starting to come into their own. They have a young running back with Montario Hardesty, who I think is going to be there bell-cow back this year. They have a really good offensive line, a seasoned quarterback, and I think the running game and short passing game will keep them in games, and I think their defense is going to win some games for them. They don’t have a lot of depth in their front three — they’re playing the thirty-four (3-4) — but their linebackers and DBs? They have some impressive linebackers and corners on that team. I think they’re going to play hard, they’ll play solid, they’ll surprise some people, but at the end of the season I don’t think they’re going to contend in the division they’re in. But they’re going to be competitive and play a lot of close games this year.
Q: The Browns have had some turmoil at QB, and Jake Delhomme I think was very disappointing last year in Carolina, so what makes him the guy in Cleveland. Why is Jake Delhomme the answer to their longstanding QB issues?
A: Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, those guys never did it. Anderson did it one year but coming out of college he threw a lot of picks, and now he’s conformed back to what he was. I never really liked him then. Brady Quinn is not really naturally an instinctive player. Those guys are so inconsistent throwing the ball. When you look at Delhomme in Carolina, and he had a good supporting cast, Delhomme was on fire. The Carolina Panthers have not done a good job the past few years helping Jake Delhomme. They’ve had terrible outside receivers. They have only one Steve Smith. Dwayne Jarrett has been a bust. They never really had a big-time tight end. They’ve had some running backs but they never really had the passing skill players. The last year he did really well was when he had a decent cast, and they have a decent cast in Cleveland. Yeah, they’re young, but with the West Coast offense and Jake Delhomme and what Holmgren is doing — they’ve got Mangini but a lot of what they’ll be doing is Holmgren — I just think Delhomme is much better than they’ve had, and he was a great passer in the past. Holmgren knew he had to change that position and he did so right off the bat. Anything is better than those other two guys. Those other two guys were never consistent at all, especially Brady Quinn. I think Delhomme and that system and that solid offensive line, with his good QB instincts, I think he’ll be fine. He’s struggled but a lot of his struggles at Carolina weren’t all Jake Delhomme’s fault.
Q: You mentioned Holmgren. Another thing he did this offseason was extend an olive branch to their monster return man, Josh Cribbs. What impact will he have this year — will he fall off the way Dante Hall fell off after a year or two of being the X-Factor? — and do you see him making an impact at wide receiver?
A: Cribbs is one of those jack-of-all-trades. He’ll still be their primary return guy and probably a slot receiver. He’s an underneath guy who should be more productive this season. He’ll catch more passes and I think he’ll be a big part of their offense. I also expect a big year out of Brian Robiskie, the second-year wide receiver out of Ohio State. He’ll be a sleeper. He could easily have 60 catches. I think they’ll be a very efficient offense this season, and with the young running back Hardesty — I think he could compete for rookie of the year this season, and end up having close to 300 carries. He’s much better than Jerome Harrison. I think they’ll be competitive this season. They’ll be in a lot of close games.
Q: The Browns are getting better but they’re still not as good as the rest of the AFC North. What is it going to take for them to perform at the level of their AFC North rivals?
A: They need to keep adding players, especially on defense and especially with the front three. They need to keep adding offensive skill. They need a young quarterback. They need to build this thing up. They’re still a ways off. They have some good linebackers. They’re fine there. Sheldon Brown, who they get from the Eagles, he’s still in his prime. They have the right people in place now. They’ve got the best front office they’ve had in a long time. They just need a couple years to add players and free agents. The environment is there and they’ll be competitive along the way.
Q: You said this year’s Bengals team is as good as any team in Cincy franchise history. This year’s Browns team is as good as ________________ ?
A: The Browns are talented in certain spots. I’d say they’re as talented as they’ve been in, gosh, 11 years. This team has more talent than all of last decade.