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Browns rumors now link them to Patriots backup QB in 2013 — for real

By Pat McManamon

Before proceeding, I would emphasize what follows is a rumor, and has not been confirmed.

But it comes from the Boston Globe and its excellent NFL writer Greg Bedard.

He was one of the first guys who reported that Joe Banner would hire Mike Lombardi as the team’s new GM, after Banner let Tom Heckert go. Bedard attributed that report to two independent sources he calls “influential.”

Today Bedard repeated the rumor, and fueled another one, that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would be the coach — provided Nick Saban and Chip Kelly do the expected and turn down the Browns.

McDaniels is an Ohio guy with head coaching experience, albeit failed experience. He started a two-year career in Denver with four wins in a row, then finished 4-8 that season and 3-9 the next before he was fired. Those are numbers that should make McDaniels jealous of Pat Shurmur. McDaniels didn’t even finish his second season.

Why McDaniels is a step up from a guy who has two years into the team is beyond me, but maybe some people think he is. Who knows, he may be. But he’s clearly not someone who jumps out of the gate and catches immediate attention the way a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden type would (I’m not saying they would or should be the choice, merely pointing out the kind of coach that would be exciting). McDaniels in many ways sound like Eric Mangini II, a guy who has done an excellent job as coordinator working with Bill Belichick, but a poor job as head coach. He’s the same kind of learn-on-the-job guy the Browns have been hiring since 1999.

At least that’s the way it seems.

Then Bedard added this little tidbit, which shows the consequence of further change with the Browns:

… those two initial sources said that if Lombardi and McDaniels indeed team up in Cleveland, the chances are good that they will attempt to trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and install him as the franchise quarterback. Brandon Weeden would be out, or in a backup role.

Ryan Mallett?

Could it be any more evident that 2013 would again fall into the “retool” mode, if this happens? The Browns would have committed a first-round draft pick and a complete season to a guy, only to jettison him for an unproven backup who isn’t even Matt Cassel at this point in his career (Cassel did start for a year before the Chiefs acquired him).

In two seasons in New England, Mallett has thrown four passes and completed one. One.

He also has an interception.

What is the lunacy that visits the NFL with these decisions? Because if this is true, it is lunacy. And it’s a scene the Browns have presented to their fans over and over and over.

They commit to a quarterback, work with him, then when he’s at the point where he can just go play they get rid of him and start over with someone else.

Ryan Mallett.

Again, there is no saying if this is true or not. This is the time of year when rumors fly, and the Browns are an A-1 target given their future uncertainty that began way back on the first day of training camp. On a conference call Tuesday, Banner said he would not go down the road of speculation about a GM; since he has a coach he also won’t go down that speculative coach road. Or speculative quarterback road.

I’ve been told the Lombardi talk is overblown, that he’s just one of many names the Browns might consider, but that his hiring is far less likely than it’s being portrayed.

Yet his name won’t go away.

And while it won’t go away, word continues to circulate that Banner will take charge of football and be involved in football decisions normally left to the football guys. The hiring of Alec Scheiner as president beneath Banner to handle business affairs did nothing to quell that talk.

Banner said Tuesday he’s not determined the football structure and won’t until he knows who is in place, but the chatter continues.

Now comes the Mallett report. Mallett may turn out to be a good player, but nobody really knows. What is safe to say is that he will probably struggle in his first season as a starter. That’s been proven through the years in Cleveland.

At this point, one has to hope that Banner is not falling into the trap of many NFL execs, and that is to make a move without thinking through where the team would wind up after the move. One would hope he is well aware what coaches he can hire, and what GMs would work with what coaches. If he’s not aware and he gets rid of Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert, it’s a scramble. And who knows where it winds up.

But if nobody else will say it, I’ll say it: If the Browns make changes and wind up with a pairing of or like Lombardi and McDaniels, they’ll be starting over and dooming their fans to the high likelihood of another double-digit loss season — the sixth in a row — in 2013.

Keeping the status quo would be better.

Because the tandem of Heckert and Shurmur (with all his foibles) has spent two years getting the team to the point it can compete. Add a draft and an active free agency, with Heckert picking the players, and there’s no reason to think the Browns will not be where they should be in 2013. That would be competing in games, winning more and building an offense and defense with talent that could last.

Lombardi-McDaniels?

That’s another re-start, another offseason of change and adjustment, another year when we hear about the never-ending “process” that must be endured. Another year for long-suffering Browns fans to wait while other teams build consistently and steadily.

McDaniels may be a fine coach, given a second chance. But the finest coach can’t avoid the fact that change means adjustment and adjustment means time. There’s no escaping that reality. Browns fans have seen it over and over and over.

Haslam came in amidst some big talk, giving the impression he would make significant hires. He’s since left his coaches and front office in limbo. Now come these rumors. Lombardi. McDaniels. Mallett.

Rumors, all of them.

But persistent rumors.

If that’s the best the Browns can do, the status quo is better.

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