Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi are calling the shots, but they won’t get anywhere unless summer camp is all about assimilating the numerous key Browns acquired during the three-year Heckert-Holmgren era. We examine the Holmgren-Heckert view of what they left the new guys.
As Browns training camp storms the summer playground, the sound and fury of a new regime masks a big underlying reality.
New chiefs Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi are going nowhere in 2013 unless new head coach Rob Chudzinski skillfully manages the remains of the days of Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren.
“Chud,” naturally, must hope that the sum of the talent amassed in 2010, 2011 and 2012 by Heckert and Holmgren isn’t a dud.
The Browns don’t have to release their official depth chart until the week of the Aug. 8 preseason opener against St. Louis.
However, it can be said emphatically as camp opens that it will be peppered with players picked by Heckert and Holmgren.
Based on the best current guess, 27 of the 44 starters and top backups are Heckert-Holmgren acquisitions. That includes 16 of the 22 projected starters.
The influence of regimes prior to Heckert-Holmgren is almost gone. Only four of the 44 projected starters and top backups were on the team before 2010.
Banner and Lombardi spent the offseason feverishly tweaking the roster; yet, only 13 of the 44 are players the new CEO and general manager picked up since January.
It hasn’t even been a year. On Aug. 4, 2012, Haslam burst into the press room as the new owner and pounded his right hands on his left palm to drive home points about how it was going to be.
Holmgren, then still in shock that Randy Lerner had decided to sell, was effectively finished after less than three years as Lerner’s czar.
Holmgren stuck around for a while. The shock wore off. As the season was rolling, not long before he walked out the door for the last time, Holmgren reflected on what he was turning over to Banner and Haslam.
“The part that I’ll feel bad about is for Randy,” Holmgren said. “I wasn't able to help put a winning product on the field, at least enough yet.
“While we fixed up a number of things, that was one thing that we haven't been able to fix yet. Now, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
By then, Heckert had a strong sense he would follow Holmgren out the door. Heckert condensed his thoughts about what his regime had done by saying the Browns should content for the AFC North title in 2013.
Holmgren was less convinced.
“I think anytime you have change, dramatic change, all of a sudden any momentum you had moving forward probably stalls a little bit,” Holmgren said. “How fast you can get rolling again and moving ... ultimately, it’s about the players we have.
“I think we’ve had good drafts. Tom has done a great job in the draft. The question was have we found our quarterback? I think we have.”
Page 2 of 2 - Brandon Weeden wound up with a 5-10 record as a rookie starter. The team lost its first five games, then enjoyed a 5-3 warming trend, then gave up the ghost after Weeden’s disappointing loss to Washington rookie Kirk Cousins.
On his way out the door, though, Holmgren predicted success for Weeden.
“He’s an excellent passer,” Holmgren said. “I like how he leads. This is his first crack at playing against NFL teams and it's different than college. I think he has done very well, and I just think there’s a bright future.
“I think we’ve ... the organization has found their quarterback.”
The hopes bubbling in the new camp are tied to Weeden’s position. It goes deeper than that. Weeden is one of nine potential starters on offense who was drafted by the Heckert-Holmgren regime.
On Tuesday, both of the new coordinators implied an understanding how vital it will be to assimilate the Heckert-Holmgren nucleus.
Defensive boss Ray Horton lit up when he talked about 2011 second-round pick Jabaal Sheard, whose playing time seemed threatened because he must convert from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
“He was one of the surprises of OTAs and minicamp,” Horton said. “He was fantastic.”
Horton said inside linebacker Craig Robertson, acquired by Heckert as an undrafted rookie in 2011, is another surprise, more than just a stopgap candidate to start, but rather an “ace in the hole.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was fired up about another 2011 second-round pick, wideout Greg Little. Turner said Little reminds him of ideal fits for his offense he has coached in the past. He mentioned Vincent Jackson, who has turned into an NFL star.
Turner is holding the party line on Weeden, not declaring him as the starting quarterback. Yet, he sounds genuinely enthused about last year’s controversial first-round pick.
“He can make all the throws,” Turner said. “He can throw every way we need him to. I’m excited with what he brings.”
Undoubtedly, if the Browns are to make any hay after summer camp melts into the season, Horton and Turner must milk big years out of the talent Heckert and Holmgren left them.
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or email@example.com
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