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Report: Browns inquired about Rams’ Sam Bradford

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford

ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi reported earlier today that the Browns inquired about a trade for Sam Bradford before eventually attempting, and failing, to acquire the No. 2 overall pick.

The Browns asked the Rams about trading for quarterback Sam Bradford before turning their attention to Robert Griffin III, sources said at NFL meetings this week.

The Rams said no.

“His name came up, not from us,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday morning. “Clubs inquired. But there was no consideration whatsoever on our part (to trade Bradford).”

Fisher would not confirm the Browns were one of the teams.

“I prefer not to get into specifics about the conversations. I can say there were teams that inquired,” Fisher said.

This would be the second time the Browns tried to snatch Bradford. Prior to the 2010 draft, President Mike Holmgren made a last-ditch offer to move up from No. 7 to No. 1. The Rams – under a different regime – held the top pick and wouldn’t budge.

In a text response, Shurmur declined to comment on whether the Browns tried to trade for Bradford.

I think it’s a little odd that both Fisher and Shurmur either denied or declined to talk about whether or not the Browns tried to trade for Bradford and yet Grossi still wrote, “The Browns asked the Rams about trading for quarterback Sam Bradford,” in the first sentence of his article. I don’t doubt that Grossi has other sources but it’s funny how both head coaches washed their hands of the report and Grossi ran with it anyway.

But I digress. I’m not surprised to hear that the Browns allegedly tried to trade for Bradford this offseason. He and Shurmur had success working together in St. Louis two years ago and he’s a perfect fit for what Cleveland is trying to do offensively. But while I’m not surprised that the Browns inquired about Bradford, I’m even less surprised that the Rams turned them down.

Bradford is coming off a bad season but he has the makings to become a great quarterback under the right tutelage. His rookie year was comparable to Matt Ryan and Dan Marino’s first seasons (at least statistically) and he has the intangibles to develop nicely under Fisher (who must see Bradford’s potential or else he would have traded him when he had the opportunity). Last year Bradford tried to learn a complicated Josh McDaniels offense in a lockout-shortened offseason and wound up getting hurt under the Rams’ shoddy protection. I’m more inclined to think that 2011 was the aberration and not 2010.

What’s interesting to me about Grossi’s report is whether or not Mike Holmgren has tipped his draft hand here. He’s allegedly made two attempts this offseason to try and upgrade the Browns’ quarterback situation so does that mean that Cleveland will take Ryan Tannehill at No. 4? That seems too high for Tannehill but hey, it’s the NFL draft – you just never know.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Colt McCoy could be poised for big things in WCO

When he was an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 60s and early 70s, Bill Walsh knew he had to find the right quarterback to fit his system.

Back then, the “right quarterback” had the same attributes as the “right quarterback” does today: Tall, strong-armed, intelligent, etc. But Walsh knew that in order for his offense to work, he needed a signal caller who was accurate first and foremost, and who possessed the ability to make quick decisions in order to get the ball out of his hands in a timely manner.

In Sam Wyche, the Bengals had what some deemed a prototypical quarterback already on the roster. But Walsh clearly didn’t think Wyche was the exact fit to run what is now called the West Coast Offense, so the Bengals acquired former sixth round pick Virgil Carter from the Bears.

Unlike Wyche, Carter wasn’t your prototypical quarterback in that he only stood 6’1” and 192 pounds and didn’t posses a strong arm. But he was smart and accurate, which is exactly what Walsh envisioned for his offense. Carter went on to lead the NFL in completion percentage in 1971 and was third in overall passing. He was the first player to successfully implement Walsh’s system.

Fast-forward to present day where Browns’ team president Mike Holmgren hopes he has found a quarterback to implement his system. Like Carter, the biggest knock on Colt McCoy is arm strength (or lack thereof). He lasted into the third round of the 2010 draft because teams were worried about whether or not he could make all the throws required of a pro quarterback. But Holmgren snatched him with the 85th pick because he too runs a version of Walsh’s West Coast system and sees a signal caller born to run his offense.

In theory, the West Coast predicates itself on using short, horizontal passes to stretch a defense sideline-to-sideline, as opposed to more traditional offenses that want to stretch a defense out vertically. In essence, the WCO uses those short passes to help open up longer running plays and create opportunities for deeper passes to be completed at a higher percentage.

But in order for the offense to work, it needs a quarterback that can read a defense quickly, get the ball out of his hands in a timely manner and most importantly, be accurate with his throws. If his passes are off the mark or delivered too fast or too slowly, the receiver’s timing is off as well and the entire play breaks down. Thus, there’s no need to have a quarterback with Aaron Rodgers’ arm strength running the show. (Although it certainly doesn’t hurt, as the Mike Holmgren-led Packers can attest to with Brett Favre.)

In the Browns’ first preseason game, you can see why fans are starting to get excited about McCoy’s potential. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown while running Pat Shurmur’s offense to near perfection. He looked comfortable, poised and spread the ball around with little to no hesitation. If he can carry that performance into the regular season, there’s no reason the Browns can’t at least be competitive.

Now, nobody is suggesting that the Browns are playoff bound or that McCoy is heading to the Pro Bowl anytime soon. One preseason game does not a player or team make. But for a franchise that has desperately searched for direction for nearly a decade, this is a positive start for Cleveland. And it’s not like McCoy didn’t posses these same attributes in college: His completion percentage never dipped below 65.1 in any of his four seasons at Texas, and he finished his junior season with a comp percentage of 76.7 and his senior season with a mark of 70.6. He also posses the intangibles that every team wants to see out of their quarterback, including strong leadership skills and the willingness to work on his craft (which was on display this summer when he sought out Favre’s help in Mississippi).

In McCoy, the Browns seemingly have the perfect fit at quarterback for Holmgren and Shurmur’s offense. They seemingly have found their Virgil Carter.

Teams like the Browns could suffer the most if there’s a lengthy lockout

You have to appreciate Browns’ new coach Pat Shurmur trying to stay focused and positive in difficult times for NFL teams.

Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Colt McCoy is seen on the sidelines as the Brows play the Baltimore Ravens at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

While recently speaking to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Shurmur said that even though the Browns are one of a handful of teams that have changed coaches, they won’t suffer more hardships than any other team during a lockout.

“Whatever happens, 32 teams will be in the same situation. I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I feel as though we’ve hired some great teachers and the systems we’re going to teach and employ are proven. I trust and am confident that we’ll get it done.”

What is Shurmur supposed to say? That the Browns are screwed? They’re doomed if a lockout goes into September and he can’t meet with his players? That the Browns shouldn’t even bother playing if there does happen to be a season next year?

No, he’s not going to make excuses for himself or his team, nor is he going to cast any doubt in his first couple of months on the job. That would be extremely unwise and it would make him appear weak.

That said, I couldn’t disagree with him more. Teams like the Browns, Panthers, Broncos and 49ers are at a distinct disadvantage because they changed coaching staffs and are implementing new schemes. Sure, every team will be affected in some ways by a lockout, but Aaron Rodgers already knows how to run Mike McCarthy’s offense. The Steelers’ defenders already know their responsibilities in Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz scheme. Imagine running a five-hour marathon and you have to start an hour behind everyone. You could catch up, but it’ll be difficult and that’s what teams like the Browns, Panthers, Broncos and 49ers face if the lockout lasts months.

In that same article by the Plain Dealer, it’s mentioned that the Browns were one of several teams reminded this week by the NFL that players are not supposed to “meet” with coaches or be given playbooks during this time. Thus, Shurmur can’t even give his extremely young quarterback Colt McCoy his freaking playbook.

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NFL Offseason Notes: Rice, Jacobs, Hillis, Bush & combine QBs

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis (40) is stopped by Miami Dolphins Tim Dobbins (51) after a short gain in first half action at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on December 5, 2010. UPI/Michael Bush

What’s the deal with Rice’s hip?
There have been conflicting reports about the status of Viking receiver Sidney Rice’s hip. Said coach Leslie Frazier on Friday: “Our medical staff has assured us that he’s going to be fine…productive for years to come.” He also stressed that Rice is a high priority and the Vikings want to sign him to a long-term deal. But Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman reports that “close friends” of Rice claim that he’s dealing with an arthritic condition in his hip after playing hurt last season. If you’re looking to choose a side in this race, I’d go with the head coach over the beat reporter. But that’s just me.

Shurmur likes the idea of Hillis and Hardesty teaming up
New Browns coach Pat Shurmur told the media on Friday that he likes the idea of a two-back tandem featuring bulldozer Peyton Hillis and second-year back Montario Hardesty. I don’t know why he wouldn’t. Bill Walsh used Roger Craig and Tom Rathman together in his version of the West Coast Offense when the Niners won the 1988 Super Bowl. The book is still out on Hardesty, but Hillis proved to be a one-man wrecking crew at times last year and showed that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, too. Good coaches use the weapons they have and it would be a shame for the Browns not to incorporate some two-back looks with both Hillis and Hardesty lined up in the backfield.

Coughlin admits Jacobs needs to carry the ball more
It’s assumed by many that the Giants will dump running back Brandon Jacobs and his $4.65 million salary this offseason. But after hearing the comments coach Tom Coughlin made on Friday, maybe the G-Men plan to keep Jacobs around next year. “As you look at everything at the end of the year, Brandon was fresher than he’s ever been, healthier than he’s ever been and probably needs to carry the ball a little more,” said Coughlin, who also said that Jacobs has “a lot of gas in the tank.” Considering Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent, Coughlin’s comments are rather interesting.

Bush not expected to be released
Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune doesn’t expect the Saints to release Reggie Bush before the end of the league year on March 4. Triplett writes that the team will probably wait and work on a “possible extension or restructure.” I find it hard to believe that the Saints would pay Bush the $11.8 million he’s owed next season, so he’s going to have to take a dramatic pay cut if he wants to stay in New Orleans. As of right now, it seems like he is willing to do that.

Newton “physically imposing,” Mallett…not so much.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post is at the scouting combine this week and was there when the quarterbacks weighed in on Friday. Cam Newton checked in at 6-5 and 248 pounds, while Ryan Mallett was nearly 6-7 and 253 pounds. According to Bunting, Newton looked “physically imposing” and has an “impressive” athletic build, while Mallett “had a bad body” and seemed “soft.” For those who have seen photos of Tom Brady at his combine weigh-in, these comments could mean very little. (That’s not a knock on Bunting, who is an excellent draft analyst. I’m just pointing out that Brady didn’t look like an extra from the movie “300″ when he was drafted and he’s gone on to win three Super Bowls.)

Browns start rebuilding process under Shurmur, release six veterans

I started laughing when I wrote that title.

Start rebuilding process? Haven’t the Browns been rebuilding since 1999? Hahahaha…ahhhhh, their fans deserve better.

The Browns’ latest rebuilding project has started under new head coach Pat Shurmur, who on Wednesday night released veterans Shaun Rogers, Kenyon Coleman, John St. Clair, Robert Royal, David Bowens and Eric Barton. Most of those players were considered “Eric Mangini guys,” so it’s not surprising to see that they were let go.

By parting with those six players, the Browns will save roughly $16 million next year. The biggest name is obviously Rogers, who struggled with injuries last year and played in only a third of the team’s snaps. He was due a $5.5 million salary as well as a $500K roster bonus so even though he’s versatile enough to play in a 4-3 (which the Browns will switch to under Shurmur), he wasn’t worth the coin in the end. He turns 32 in March and it’s clear that the Browns want to get younger on defense, so parting with him makes sense on paper.

Under former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Browns finished 22nd in total defense last year, 18th against the pass and 27th against the run. Considering they were on the field a lot thanks to a horrendous offense, those numbers could have been a lot worse. But at the end of the day, the Browns are changing schemes and weren’t going to keep players that Mangini had brought in to fit his defense.

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