Part of the reasons athletes and coaches detest the media, by are large, is the hypocrisy. Writers and broadcasters complain vociferously about people who duck questions (or answer in processed soundbites)– Bill Belicheat, John Fox– here, it was Marty Schottenheimer.
Yet when a coach is dumb enough to answer honestly, he always pays.
Of course the Browns have talked about signing Ray Rice. The four teams I have direct ties to have. Probably every team except the Ravens (who cut him) and Vikings (who have Adrian Peterson) has.
If ISIS has a soccer team, Belicheat has scouted them.
It’s how businesses work. You run down the list of positives and negatives and make a decision. The case for Rice is easy to make:
- He’s still 28
- He’s a three-time Pro Bowler
- He helped lead his team into the playoffs consistently, and to a Super Bowl win
- He can block and he’s and excellent receiver (over 2,000 yards from scrimmage twice).
- Until he became worse than Anthony Sowell and Ariel Castro combined, everyone mythologized Rice as a wonderful human being and team leader.
- He’s on the market and probably would accept peanuts to sign.
- He might help troubled players deal with a crisis (in Cleveland, it would be Johnny Rehab).
The case against him is easy too:
1. Has he got anything left?
Probably not. Running backs’ careers are measured in carries, not years. Rice is tenth among active players and #86 all-time. Of the guys ahead of him:
- Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy have some tread left on their tires
- Peterson, Chris Johnson and Matt Forte appear to be on the downhill slide.
- Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Deangelo WIlliams are cooked.
Most star runners poop out after about 1,600 carries ; he’s at 1,430.
2. Does it make sense to bring him in?
No. It’s foolish for any losing team to bring in a guy who has maybe 2-3 years left. A 7-9 team should be trying to find long-term solutions.The team that signs Rice should be a veteran club with title hopes who loses a starting back.
Aside from the theory, there’s a practical reason not to sign Rice. Even if he works out this year, he’ll be done in a year or two. The Browns already have way too many players who will run out of gas this year or next:
- 30: TE Gary “Clank” Barnidge, DE Desmond Bryant, G John Greco, QB Thaddeus Lewis, C Alex Mack, RB Jalen Parmele, SS Donte Whitner
- 31: WR Dwayne Bowe, T Joe Thomas
- 32: DL Randy Starks, CB Tramon Williams
- 33: P Andy Lee
- 34: LB Karlos Dansby
- 36: QB Josh McCown
The best way to fix problems is to not take them on.
3. Don’t the Browns need help at running back?
If the organization believes this, they should sign Rice and announce that GM Ray “Snapchat” Farmer will not return from his suspension. Farmer is halfway to being Butch Davis (who, at one point, had four receivers Cleveland had drafted with a #2 pick):
- In 2014, after giving away the third-round pick away to ensure he got Johhny Rehab– Farmer traded three picks to get Terrance West in round three.
- Last year Cleveland drafted Duke Johnson in round three.
They also have Isaiah Crowell, a free agent who was a pleasant surprise last year. They need to work through those players and see what they have. Period.
4. What kind of a hit would the team take?
It would be catastrophic. Nobody in town gets this, but the Browns are widely considered to be one of the laughing stocks of the league:
- The only team that has missed the playoffs for more consecutive seasons than Cleveland (last there in 2002) is Buffalo (1999). The Raiders are tied with Cleveland, but their last trip was to the Super Bowl, so they win on tiebreak.
- Farmer is the latest in a long string of front office execs who behaved unprofessionally: Carmen Policy (violated salary cap, tried to poach coach under contract), Butch Davis, Phil Savage (the obscene email to the fan) Eric Mangini, Mike Holmgren and the Three Stooges.
- They already have ties to Jim Brown, who was the Ray Rice of his era– second only to Orenthal James Simpson on the “Violence Against Women” list.
- Jimmy Haslam is considered a yahoo– Jerry Jones without the titles. And he’s also a three-time loser. He was fined three times for cheating people: (a) gouging people on fuel after a hurricane, (b) illegally classifying people as managers to deny them overtime, (c) the contract overcharges on fuel.
- They have both Johnny Rehab and Puff Gordon under contract, indicating that they’re not big on citizenship. What you say pales next to who you pay.
- They traded a #1 and #3 to get Johnny Rehab– and then signed 36-year-old Josh McCown.– and the quarterback position looks like a disaster.
- They have two high picks and a second-year player at running back.
- Since the Rice thing, another scandal about athletes beating women (this time, in MMA) has broken.
Plus most people are picking the club to go somewhere between 2-14 and 4-12. If they lose the first three games (Jets, Titans and Raiders) they’ll be 0-13 before the next possible win. You want a firestorm of controversy on top of that?
This is the point where I would normally say “I feel bad for Pettine– he answered honestly and look what happens.” But he has a history of shooting off his mouth without thinking. Last year he said that he didn’t think Johnny Football’s partying was a big deal, and got into a pissing match with his old boss.
Coupled with his bailing out on his head coach in Buffalo very late in the 2014-15 off-season last year– and then wanting a bunch of those coaches– he isn’t well thought of. (Doug Marrone’s decision to bail tamped that down a bit. )
The only thing I’ll say in his defense is that Pettine was in a no-win situation. The backs haven’t been playing well; the position coach just shot off his mouth about how much they suck right now.
In such cases, the media will always ask you if you want to sign some guy who’s on the street but has obvious liabilities. If so you have two options:
- Say “No”– or “No comment”– and watch everybody write what a moron you are for not even considering the great guy who can save your sorry butt.
- Say “yes” or “Maybe” and have everyone flame you for being desperate, sociopathic or crazy.
It really is a mug’s game– which is why coaches tend to mumble “We had problems with our execution.” The media are the enemy– they’re there to sell papers and get hits by making you look bad. Why help them?