The “Biggest Gut-Punch Loss” in Browns History? SI Has One Everyone Remembers

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Sports Illustrated has put out a piece on the “Biggest gut-punch loss” for each and every franchise, the Browns included.

The game that the author the piece, Doug Farrar, picked is one that everyone can recall, the famous ‘Fumble’ from the 1988 AFC Title Game – the second of three losses to the Broncos.

Cleveland Browns: Jan. 17, 1988, AFC championship—Broncos 38, Browns 33

The first of three AFC teams on our list coached by Marty Schottenheimer. Denver got past the Browns in the AFC championship game a year earlier thanks to John Elway’s famous drive. In the 1987 rematch, Denver jumped out to a 21–3 lead, but Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes to bring his team back. One of those scoring throws was to running back Earnest Byner, and Byner also rushed for a four-yard touchdown in the third quarter. However, with the Browns driving late in the game, down 38–31, Byner fumbled the ball at the Denver two-yard line, stripped by Denver defensive back Jeremiah Castille.

The Broncos recovered and gave the Browns an intentional safety to essentially end the game.

“Earnest never saw Castille coming,” Schottenheimer later told ESPN. “Earnest was the reason we were still in the game at that point. He had several heroic runs and catches over the course of the second half that allowed us to have a chance to tie the game at 38. All of these heroics, unfortunately, were overshadowed by a single draw play from the eight-yard-line.”

It’s a shame, too, because Byner was a great player who rushed for more than 8,000 yards in his career, and eventually got a Super Bowl ring with the 1991 Redskins. But that’s the play for which he’ll always be remembered—the biggest gut-punch for a franchise that has had more than its share.

Even though it was tough, most Browns fans probably to this day will still argue the year before the game known as “The Drive” was even tougher as the Browns had a 20-13 lead and were at home for that AFC Championship Game.

Power Struggle Appears Brewing Between Browns Coach Pettine and GM Farmer

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

According to a report from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, the departure of the Browns’ former director of player engagement (Dr. Jamil Northcutt) may be the first public sign of a power struggle between the team’s coach, Mike Pettine, and general manager, Ray Farmer, Jared Dubin of CBS Sports reports.

Northcutt was a nonentity to fans. A former college linebacker at the University of Mississippi, he didn’t make (or miss) a tackle, or directly influence what happened on game days.

But in the politics of Browns football, Northcutt was an inordinately major “player” in the 2014 season – a confidante of GM Ray Farmer and, it turned out, a thorn in the side of Mike Pettine’s coaching staff.

And Northcutt’s ouster – which the club is characterizing as a mutual parting – reflects a seeping rift between Pettine and the GM who is facing a four-game suspension for breaking NFL rules by texting, and badgering, coaches in the press box booth during games.

According to the report, Northcutt may or may not have been the recipient of Farmer’s game day text messages, and may or may not have then relayed some of those messages to the coaching staff on the sideline. (The report cites one source that says he was the recipient, and another that denied that was the case.) Additionally, the report cited “stories” of Northcutt’s sideline confrontations with both offensive and defensive coaches on separate occasions.

There is a story of Northcutt having a confrontation with defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil during that horrible 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans on Nov. 16, in which nondescript Houston running backs Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes combined for 49 carries and 210 yards on the ground. O’Neil did not take kindly to Northcutt’s intrusion during the difficult day, sources said.

There is also a story of Northcutt having a “conversation” with offensive line coach Andy Moeller concerning the non-use of reserve guard Vinston Painter after the injury to center Alex Mack. According to a source, that was outside the boundaries of Northcutt’s job description.

Former Browns WR Dawson Missing After Falling in Lake in Texas

JaJuan Dawson #88

Former NFL wide receiver JaJuan Dawson has gone missing after falling off of a boat into Lavon Lake in Collin County, Texas on Sunday, Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com reports.

Dawson was in the boat with his three children and two other family members when he fell into the lake, Lieutenant Chris Havey of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office told NFL Media. Dawson was not wearing a life vest at the time of the incident. Havey said that alcohol is not a contributing factor to his disappearance.

Dawson was drafted out of Tulane by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played three seasons in the NFL, amassing 52 receptions, 664 yards and two TDs for the Browns and Houston Texans.

The sheriff’s office received a 911 call at 6:28 p.m. Sunday from one of Dawson’s family members. Rescuers began searching for Dawson at 6:30 p.m. before calling off the search at 11:30 pm, according to Havey. The search resumed at 7:20 a.m. Monday and is ongoing. Aiding in the search are the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, Wylie Fire Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife and Branch Fire Department

Terrelle Pryor Talking to Steelers WR Brown for Help at Wide Out

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Terrelle Pryor has reached out to Steeler receiver Antonio Brown and others for help in making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver, Bob Pompeani of KDKA in Pittsburgh reports.

“There’s not a lot of guys who work like I work,” says Pryor. “I truly believe that. I believe somebody who works extremely hard is Antonio Brown. Definitely I’ve worked with him, I have had to opportunity to work out with him an awful lot. We spent a lot of time together in 2011 down in Florida, so I saw his work ethic. The drive, the nights we would run in the sand along the ocean, run 6 miles every night.”

He will also be working out soon with both Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress. Both of whom are 6-foot-5 like Pryor.

“Just athletic cuts, moves, catching the ball with people on me, practicing that big time,” said Pryor. “Working on cuts, getting out of breaks. Really getting defenders on you and then losing them, the footwork and the timing of a route. So there’s a lot of stuff.”

But more than anything else, there’s motivation. Pryor wants to prove people wrong. He wants to show he belongs, even if he’ll be catching and not throwing the football.

“I believe I can get great at anything,” he said. “Just need the reps and just got to prove it.”

New Browns WR Terrelle Pryor Willing to be the Next ‘Slash’

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks

Terrelle Pryor is proud, believing he can play quarterback in the NFL even after being traded once and cut thrice, Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

But the former Ohio State star isn’t too proud to play another position. Even after declaring, “If I can’t play quarterback, I can’t play football” only a month ago.

Despite those words of defiance, we know Pryor can play football. The question is whether it’s quarterback or another position.

When he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a wide receiver, it was a sign the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2008, infamous for the ESPN-televised news conference to announce he hadn’t made his college choice, had humbled himself to do whatever it takes to play in the NFL.

“I’m going to give this slash-player deal a chance,” Pryor told Trib Total Media on Thursday night. “I just want to play football. I’m a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities.”

Upon deciding to make the move to wideout after being cut by the Cincinnati Bengals on June 18, his first call was to Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown. Pryor plans to work out with Brown and Randy Moss, absorbing whatever they can teach him about the position’s nuances.

“The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants,” Pryor said.

“What I’ve got to work on is the specifics, cutting in and out of the breaks. Athletically, I believe I can do anything on the field. When I get on the field, I may not be the best, but I always feel like I am. I bring that mindset. I work my hardest to be the best I can at that position.”

Browns QB Johnny Manziel Speaks: No More ‘Money Sign’

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel broke his silence Wednesday and spoke for the first time since the end of last season, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. A lot has happened since then, including 10 weeks of rehab at the Caron addiction treatment center.

Here are a few quick highlights:

• He said the Johnny Football persona overtook him and he wants to quiet the noise. “The money sign will not be back.”

• He said he doesn’t want to talk about going to rehab and all that it entailed. “I’m trying to close a chapter on my life.”

• He acknowledged, “I was a little bit of a distraction last year and I feel bad about that.”

• He graded his two starts last season as a “disaster.”

• He regretted that his teammates have had to answer endless questions about him.

• He said we’ll know he’s different this year “by my actions.”

• He said, “I haven’t given up on the fact the Browns brought me in here to be a first-round pick.”

• He admitted he’s “not proud of the chapter” of his life that was the tumultuous 2014 season.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus – WR Gordon Still Has a Bright NFL Future

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Josh Gordon’s agent says his client is doing well and determined to be re-instated to the NFL after his minimum year-long ban expires in February, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

“With Josh, he’s hanging in there,” Drew Rosenhaus told Northeast Ohio Media Group Saturday at the Joe Haden & Friends softball game at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio.

“He’s biding his time. It’s a difficult process and it’s meant to be difficult obviously. But I’ve got faith in him and he’ll get through this tough time and he still has a very bright future in the NFL in my opinion.”

Rosenhaus said Gordon, a Houston native, is still living in the Cleveland area and spending time with his teammates away from the Browns facility. During his unpaid ban, Gordon is not permitted to work out with the team or attend meetings.

In essence, he’s been kicked out of the league for multiple violations of the substance abuse policy and won’t be permitted at team functions until he gets the green light from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“The players on this team really care about Josh,” Rosenhaus said. “Joe Haden’s been great to him and so have all of his friends on the team. That’s really meant a lot to Josh during this difficult time.”

One reason for Rosenhaus’ optimism is that another one of his clients, former Redskins tight end Fred Davis, was recently re-instated and signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Davis was suspended indefinitely in February of 2014 for multiple violations of the substance abuse policy and spent all last season out of football. He was reinstated by Goodell on May 7th and signed by New England on May 11th.

“Josh is just as determined to make it back as Fred was,” said Rosenhaus.

Rosenhaus acknowledged that it’s difficult for players suspended indefinitely to be banned from their teams and separated from their support structure. Gordon, who was banned after drinking alcohol on a plane to Las Vegas in January with teammates and former Browns receivers coach Mike McDaniel, plays pickup basketball with his Browns teammates and hangs out at Haden’s house, but misses working out at the Browns facility and being on the field for organized team activities.

“It’s not an easy situation to be in and he’s just taking it one day at a time,” said Rosenhaus.

Browns Trade for Punter Andy Lee

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The Cleveland Browns traded their 2017 seventh-round draft-pick to the San Francisco 49ers for punter Andy Lee over the weekend.  Lee is a three-time Pro Bowler, but was not in the 49ers’ future plans, as San Francisco drafted punter Bradley Pinion out of Clemson with their fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Lee’s last Pro Bowl appearance was in 2011, and before that he received the honor in 2007 and 2009.

The trade resulted in the Browns cutting ties with punter Spencer Lanning, who spent two seasons in Cleveland.  The Browns have made several moves to alter their special teams this off-season, waiving long-snapper Christian Yount, and cutting kicker Garrett Hartley.

Cleveland’s special teams were not near the top of the league in any regard in the 2014 season.  The Browns were 15th in net average on punts, 28th in field goal percentage,  28th in kick return average, and 28th in punt return average. Cleveland has not had one of the league’s more potent offenses in recent memory, so the field position battle will be crucial for a team that wants to rely on a strong running game and tough defense to win games.

Cleveland is not known as an easy place to kick, due to the unpredictable winds off the lake and the harsh winters of Northeast Ohio, but San Francisco is not known as a kicker-friendly place either, which is one reason why the 49ers went after long-time Browns kicker Phil Dawson in 2013. So the move from San Francisco to Cleveland may not be as hard for Lee to make the adjustments as it would with other punters.

Lee is 32 years old, entering his 12th season in the NFL, and has four years left on a six-year deal that he signed with San Francisco in 2012.  Lee is under contract to make roughly $12 mil. over the next four seasons, making him the fifth highest-paid punter in the league. The Browns will have a competition to see who will be the kicker on the shores of Lake Erie in the 2015 season, but appear to have one special teams spot set for years to come with Lee.