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BrownsZone: Is Peyton Manning the answer for Browns?

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Cheer up, it’s not like the Browns are 0-13, 0-15 or something like that.

They’re only 0-10, and there were times Sunday when they played with the crispness of an 0-6 or 0-7 team.

But stuff keeps happening in Browns games that you don’t see in your average NFL game.

Like the 2:06 warning.

There was one of those in the fourth quarter Sunday. Six seconds later there was the two-minute warning. Don’t ask.

Referee Pete Morelli left his microphone on when it shouldn’t have been on for certain chunks of the game. At times, you could hear him when he was just standing there breathing. That was kind of creepy, actually.

So is the direction the directionless Browns are headed.

Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Browns are going to need a bigger boat.

Much bigger.

These aren’t games. These are more like viewings. Calling hours on a deceased season. (“The Browns? Down this hall, second room on the right.”).

The growing number of empty suites and empty seats, the lack of atmosphere, or even will to cheer, the depressed Dawg Pound and the mass exodus once the “stranger things have happened” point of every loss is reached, screams for the obvious:

Anybody got Peyton Manning’s phone number?

CBS’ Jason LaCanfora threw some logs on that fire Sunday by reporting that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has a “very strong and sincere” interest in hiring Manning to come in and straighten out this mess.

According to LaCanfora, Haslam’s relationship with Manning is “much closer” than many realize.

Should he take the bait, Manning’s title in Cleveland would be almost superfluous. Team president, general manager, vice president of football operations. Call it what you want, but Manning would be the organization’s Grand High Exalted Football Ruler.

Whether Manning and Haslam, who also have Tennessee ties, can consummate an agreement for the future Hall of Famer to come to Cleveland and bail out his buddy’s business is obviously dependent on a lot of factors, starting with the obvious.

Who would want any part of this dysfunctional circus? If Manning is ready to enter the next phase of his career, as a football executive, he would presumably have far better options than Cleveland.

On the other hand, whoever does ride into town on a white horse and rescues the franchise from itself will have etched his name in NFL executive history.

He’d be a football Florence Nightingale.

If not Manning, someone. With the current regime’s meter now reading 0-10 and 1-26, and still running, it’s clear that following the last regime blowup two years ago, the Haslams overcompensated. They went overboard on analytics.

The result has been … well, we all know that sad and sordid tale.

Analytics has its place, but so does football smarts, grapevine knowledge and league relationships on which to lean when building a team.

For example, the analytics gang might have identified Kenny Britt’s body of work last year with the Rams as statistically attractive, but a “football guy” might have known or had the contacts that would have “buyer bewared” the Browns about Britt’s shaky intangibles.

“We’re honestly trying to win,” said embattled coach Hue Jackson after Sunday’s sloppy loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars who, by the way, have uniforms that are almost as ugly as the Browns’ season.

“Our guys are fighting their tails off. But I’ll say it again, we need to play an almost perfect game to have a chance to win.”

That’s the second time this season Jackson has launched that distress flare over Haslam Place. The message from the coach couldn’t be more desperate: “Will somebody please get me some players?”

Step 1 should be bringing in a respected football voice as the final decision maker in the roster construction room, which may soon have some empty chairs, if, as is the growing expectation, the Haslams clean house again.

Manning checks several boxes on what should be the Haslams’ to-do list. First and foremost, it would be a jolt of positive publicity for a franchise desperate for some.

As one of the most cerebral quarterbacks ever, Manning certainly would be a gigantic improvement in the area of player evaluation, which lies at the crux of the Browns’ death spiral. Manning also knows a thing or two about the quarterback position, which couldn’t hurt for a front office that wouldn’t know a quarterback if they were sitting on Tom Brady’s lap.

So go get Manning, or somebody like Manning, to bring a football IQ to the Browns’ think tank. Analytics have their place. But lawyers and numbers crunchers alone should not be running the Browns’ draft, the importance of which will be greater than ever in 2018.

Fixing the Browns’ front office should be the top priority for the 0-10 Haslams, who are on the clock.

And the 2:06 warning is fast approaching.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com.



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