A call for civility in Browns debates and on the wrongness of my opinions

George Washington's Rules of CivilityLast week, I wrote an article about how the Browns don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Someone on Twitter wanted to post a response to my article and asked me if I “minded.” Obviously, I said I didn’t. In fact, I still don’t. But, the article that was posted on November 27 (linked at the end) ended up being an attack job on me. I wanted to bring it up not as a way to continue any kind of Internet flame war, but just to try and talk about the community of Browns fans, commentators and analysts. One of the most frustrating parts of rooting for bad teams is how the civility in debate seems to disappear among fans and commentators of the team. I find it disheartening, to say the least.

Rather than talk about the ideas and criticisms I’ve expressed about the Browns, the article used my name eleven times and ultimately insulted my intelligence. The author proclaimed that “not only is Lyndall wrong, but he looks out of his depth when it comes to the game of football.” Nice to know now that when I was asked whether I minded a rebuttal of my article I was green-lighting a personal attack on me. To think that all this acrimony is due to a difference of opinion over a bad NFL football team makes it all the more ponderous. It’s one thing to disagree, but to attack me personally seems like a really bad way to go about things. Not to mention the fact that there were inaccuracies and mischaracterizations all over the post.

So let’s start from the top…

“Lyndall wants to be better right this second and is looking almost entirely in the short term while the Browns have made it painfully clear right from the start of the season they were looking at the present and the future.”

False. I was fine with the draft day trade the Browns made that enabled Pittsburgh to draft Shamarko Thomas. So, this isn’t even a difference of opinion. That first statement is just factually incorrect. I defended the Browns not using all their cap space in the first year as well. So, to characterize me as being all in for 2013 simply isn’t true. There is danger when you try to boil a complex set of opinions down to a simple statement.

“Lyndall was extremely critical the Browns did not sign a fourth quarterback when Brian Hoyer went down for the season.  The Browns made it painfully clear in press conferences and media availability that the value of a fourth quarterback was not more than a position player somewhere else.”

I think the Browns were wrong. When there are injuries at the QB position, I don’t think you can devalue that position as much as the Browns did in the name of speculative special teamers and potential backups at other positions. I’m entitled to that opinion and it’s certainly not something that can be considered “wrong.” It’s a matter of preference.

Consider that since the Browns put Brian Hoyer on the IR, they’ve had transactions with players including Reggie Dunn, Charles Johnson, Julian Posey, Tori Gurley, Jordan Poyer, Brian Tyms, Jamaine Cook, Brandon Magee, Darius Eubanks, Reid Fragel, Justin Staples, Josh Cooper, Andre Smith, Patrick Lewis, and Jeremiah Warren before they signed Alex Tanney to come to the team on November 26. Today with even more question marks, they’ve signed Caleb Hanie. It seems to me that these guys having maybe 10 days of combined Browns experience prior to a game against the New England Patriots is doing a disservice to the top five guys on the roster, regardless of what kind of value there is on the bottom of the roster.

I understand the efficient use of the bottom of the roster and the practice squad, but you can’t tell me that even with low expectations of competing, that the 2013 team is better off not only having to potentially play a guy like Alex Tanney, but also doing so without a full complement of time in and around the team at practice and in meetings. I get that you don’t want to miss out on the next great undrafted player to become an NFL starter because you’re hoarding silly players. I just don’t think signing a guy like Alex Tanney earlier than the Browns did is me being an unreasonable “win now” goof ball.

Now for the really juicy attacking stuff…

“If Lyndall’s article has displayed anything, it is a trend of being on the wrong side of history.  Railing against the Richardson trade has been dead wrong since the trade happened; even revisiting the subject and refusing to admit what was painfully clear several games into the trade.  Using the win-loss record as a blanket statement to question whether the team has improved.”

Pardon me, but being on the wrong side of history with regards to analyzing the Cleveland Browns would be betting on a new regime. That’s not to say I don’t have some hope for this new crew, because I do, but the right side of history in terms of betting on the Cleveland Browns is to bet they won’t get it right and they won’t build a winner. I’m not saying that because I believe that to be the case, but it’s pretty much an undeniable fact that this is the history they’re fighting against as they head to the draft with the Colts’ draft pick and all that dead Richardson money in 2014.

Railing against the Richardson trade hasn’t been “dead wrong” even as it has looked better for the Browns. The fact remains that the Browns traded an underperforming running back and haven’t done anything but perform just as badly since he departed. Say what you want about Richardson and his inability to run the ball, but the Browns’ short-term answer – Willis McGahee – was equally bad. Again, that might be alright with the author, but it doesn’t make me “wrong” to say that I don’t like  that aspect of it as I endure the rest of 2013.

And of course, just like the T-Rich trade has started to look better for the Browns since it was made, it can only continue to look better if the Browns get that pick right. Simply getting value at time zero isn’t good enough for a trade to be a success as we’ve learned continually with Browns drafts from Mangini’s disastrous second round to the Heckert / Holmgren first round that yielded T-Rich and Brandon Weeden.

Finally, I never said the team hadn’t improved. I think they have and said so in a WFNY roundtable.

“Call it an entertainment venture that is not entertaining; the job of the Browns front office is to deliver a Super Bowl, not make fans and Lyndall feel good for an insignificant amount of time in the here and now at the cost of roster spots or the salary cap.”

First, I’d argue whether my time is insignificant. I’d also question what, exactly, I’ve argued the Browns should have wasted in roster spots or salary cap. I’ve mostly talked about having the perception that they’re actually still trying this season. I didn’t think that was too much to ask.

“They are working to make the team a consistent contender, which is what Jimmy Haslam has tasked them to do.  Throwing away assets or wasteful spending because of the announcement of stadium improvements is stupid.  And  using those improvements as an argument for doing that is ignorant.”

Lyndall says, “What?” I talk about a lot of different things with regard to the Browns, but in no way do I think they’re all connected in some kind of intricate network of causes and effects. Never once did I say the stadium was some kind of either/or proposition related to improving the team. I’ve argued in favor of improving gameday experience and stated numerous times that doing so isn’t mutually exclusive of improving the team’s play on the field.

I will say that it’s tough to fight the perception that the Browns were too busy working on a stadium deal forced through on a quick timeline with the city to bother signing a quarterback. That’s probably too simplistic a viewpoint – which I freely admit – but I think it’s undeniable that the Browns have opened themselves up to that perception over the last month. Again, it’s my opinion and you may not agree with where I come out on it, but I think the logic is pretty sound.

“If Banner and the front office deliver an offense next year, not only is Lyndall wrong, but he looks out of his depth when it comes to the game of football.  Some might call that approach bold, but it ultimately comes off as being uninformed.”

If Banner and the front office deliver an offense next year, it doesn’t make me wrong in saying that they didn’t deliver enough this year. Again, it’s a difference of opinion not a pure “right or wrong” proposition.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I don’t think the Browns should have signed Mike Wallace since he was paid the way the Dolphins paid him. I said the same thing a year ago as the Redskins paid a lot of money for Pierre Garcon. I loved the idea of Garcon playing for the Browns, but at the price Washington paid, it became significantly less appealing because you do have to be wise to efficiently build a roster.

That’s what was so frustrating about this post rebutting my article. I’m a guy who has been on record with lots of things over the years at WFNY. I write posts, do podcasts, talk to guys like Les Levine and Joe Lull on occasion. I say so many things and express so many opinions on a variety of topics that I’m not easily fit into a box. I think few of those who spend time covering the Browns truly are.  I’m right sometimes and wrong other times, but I always try to tell you where I’m coming from, how I got to my opinion while also show some respect for opposing viewpoints. Ultimately that’s a big part of why WFNY has become a great place to talk about sports. We have differing opinions on how to get there, but we’re all recognize we’re shooting for the same destination.

I don’t want the Browns to harm the long-term plan by being stupid for the present. It’s not something I think anyone who knows me would think I would say either. That said, regardless of how I feel about the future, none of us outsiders know anything until wins outpace losses. None of us know anything conclusively until current year win totals outpace those from the immediately preceding years. And at this stage of the game in my experience with the Browns, I don’t think I’m being unfair. Ask Alec Scheiner. He’s not looking to make excuses or pretend like they’re anything but a four-win team at this point.

I just don’t think to build a consistent winner long-term you must be an embarrassment in the present year. I do think this team is an embarrassment even to their own standards. If I’m wrong, tell me why without telling me I’m dumb for despising what we saw on Sunday that had Joe Haden nearly in tears after the game. Respect the logical process I use to arrive at my opinions enough to understand that I don’t arrive at them reflexively and without thought and experience.

Most of all, it’s time to remember that we need to be civil to each other. We can disagree without challenging each other’s intelligence and being confrontational.

You know? Same team, and all that.


If you’d like to read the post in its entirety, here you go.

  • CB Everett

    Yes, Mark won the trade with you. He did make a stupid decision later by buying another worthless gravel/TRich, but that is a separate transaction and a separate issue.

  • mgbode

    it doesn’t change it’s value ahead of time, but the ROI factors into it if I think we won the trade at the end.

    did we win the Julio Jones trade? when it was made, a bunch of people thought ATL gave up way too much:

    does what Julio has done or the fact we used one of the ATL picks to draft Weeden not get to factor into it at all if we won that trade in the end? what you do with collected assets is a huge part of the deal (we also used some of the assets to go and get Phil Taylor and with Julio’s injury issues I’d actually call that trade a near wash at this point).

  • mgbode

    and that is where the disagreement lies. there is no use collecting assets if you are foolish with your assets collected. they are definitively connected.

  • That’s exactly the point. When I sell you a rock for $5, we can judge that transaction and decide that I made a hell of a deal.

    If I turn around and lose that $5 to a grifter and his 3 card monty game, my driveway may not end up any better, but that’s a conversation for another time.

    I still sold the hell out of that worthless rock.

  • mgbode

    another way of viewing it. if we had traded Richardson for a player, then would you factor in how that player plays?

    I view it as we have traded Trent for a player, we just do not know which player yet. I think that might be the point of distinction here.

  • I don’t see it that way. Even in your scenario, you’re still stuck with some worthless piece of gravel if you don’t sell it.

  • I agree with you mg… You’re not trading for $5. You’re trading for a deferred option of undetermined value.

  • CB Everett

    I don’t disagree with you (nor does anyone) that it’s foolish to waste it–but there are two separate issues here: 1. The trade itself and 2. Capitalizing on the trade. Connected issues yes, but I think they require separate analyses for trading and drafting.

    Another analogy: If I work hard, make a bunch of money, and then blow it by partying and making it rain with Pacman Jones—it doesn’t mean that I’m not a hard worker or didn’t earn that money, right?

  • mgbode

    either way you’re broke (though there is likely utility in the entertainment gained vs. utility in the life of leisure of not earning the money in the first place to weigh).

  • mgbode

    yes, I agree that I lost that transaction. But, you don’t get to win because that $5 is just a piece of paper until you use it. if you waste it on the same thing you sold, then you don’t win.

  • mgbode

    and btw, the one thing I love about December as a Browns fan is that we can have long debates about economic utility to avoid discussing the team 🙂

  • CB Everett

    Damn. Tough crowd today. You won’t even give me that I’m a hard worker. Man!

  • mgbode

    ok, ok. there is also definitely utility in the satisfaction in working hard to earn that money too 🙂

  • Steve

    I must just not believe anything you say? Huh? Talk about deflection and reducing someone to a singular opinion. If you’re so frustrated by having your opinions challenged, I suggest not putting them on the internet.

  • Harv 21

    agree with all this, and it’s what I meant when I said we won some nice potential and that’s it, that when discussing “winning a trade” what we ultimately do can’t be decoupled from the draft pick, and that it’s just too early to get very excited. After all, Weeden was picked in a possibly higher draft slot than we will get from Indy. It’s like rejoicing over winning th NBA lottery in June, and then watching a fat, lost and timid Anthony Bennett for one-for-gazillion in November. This discussion thread is getting so academic that it’s moving away from our essential question: how happy should a Browns fan be today about the Richardson trade? I say: given where the pick will be and who’s calling our draft shots: mildly optimistic. It beats getting a second rounder because it presumably reduces Lombardi’s margin of error. Or not.

  • “deferred option of undetermined value”?

    Now you’re just being stubborn.

  • It’s not defending my opinions. I’m happy to do that. But when I tell you that I’m not obsessed with the short term in an unreasonable capacity and provide my proof which you fluff off and then you continue to say that I am, I’m not really sure where to go next. Just seems like you don’t believe me.

    I try to explain the Indians fan post again and rather than believing me when I say what I was trying to do and that maybe it didn’t work – a concession – you tell me to “own it” for something you think it is rather than what I’m telling you it was. IE, you don’t believe me. You are convinced it was something else and want me to “own it” based on your definition. I’ll try to explain it until I’m blue in the face, but I won’t bend on the truth of what I did and what I was trying to do.

    I’m a reasonable guy, but either you believe me or you don’t. You apparently do not. That’s not something I can overcome with you.

  • nj0

    All this actually makes me happy that most Clevelanders ignore the Indians.

  • Really wasn’t trying to be. Feels more like a stock option than a set dollar amount. With an option you’re betting on the market in the future, etc.

  • Steve

    You’re not respond to any of my points, and just keep repeating the same thing. And now you’ve moved the goalposts to “obsessed with the short term in an unreasonable capacity”, which is quite the nebulous target, and not something you’ve been accused of, the writer says “looking almost entirely in the short term”. Surely you can see the huge chasm between the two.

    I “fluff” it off, because in the big picture, a 4th round pick is fairly meaningless, and you know that. And are you trying to suggest that your fretting over a 4th string QB and still being upset about the Richardson trade are not evidence that you’re quite focused on the short term?

    And what you need to own is that that actually was a real live person that you directed your anger at. You might have made up a backstory, but that was living and breathing flesh and blood. There’s nothing about that passage more true than that.

    I’m reasonable too. That’s why I think that being one of the last guys in town to keep defending your hatred of the Richardson trade suggests you’re too focused on the short term, and don’t think trading away or acquiring 4th round picks says much about short-term or long-term focus.

    You’ve made it perfectly clear that you don’t want to have a discussion, you just want your statements to stand unchallenged. Fine, that’s been your M.O. for a while now. Just say that instead of not actually adding anything to the discussion and blaming me for the impasse. Because the impasse can be easily overcome if you ever want to explain how a 4th round pick trade means more than demanding a 4th string QB or your reaction to the Richardson trade, because you’ve still yet to do that.

  • Henry Brown

    I didn’t really agree with your original article but I couldn’t even finish reading the rebuttal. When I saw the headline I thought it would be compelling and it was great to see cross-site discussions, personally would love to see more of them. However, I couldn’t take more than a few paragraphs. It was completely distasteful with the personal attacks and when not insulting, was lacking any substance or information that’s not already well known. Still the premise was good and probably just needs some better execution.

  • BallsMahoney

    BTW im new here everyone hello!

  • BallsMahoney

    you can really tell u ment nothing by it by the way u went out of ur way to mention him and keep answering saying how ur right

  • CB Everett

    Sorry, but I’m a bit lost. I don’t know what you’re saying. That said, I don’t really want to carry on the discussion with or about that guy. Not really worth it.

  • CB Everett

    Sorry, but I’m a bit lost. I don’t know what you’re saying. That said, I don’t really want to carry on the discussion with or about that guy. Not really worth it.

  • BallsMahoney

    you dont want to continue it yet u respond? exactly my point from before u went out of ur way to say u argured with him and insult him then said u dont want to fight which is it?

  • I’ll reply here, but this reply is really to both you and Harv.

    We aren’t totally disagreeing here. I am by no means writing off Richardson’s future. However, I said when the Browns made the trade that I felt that even if Richardson went on to have a good career, I still felt it was a smart move by the Browns simply because I agree with Joe Banner that RBs are overvalued by teams in the NFL today. You have to have better than McGahee, obviously, but how many RBs are consistently good in the NFL? AP, McCoy….anyone else? Jamaal Charles, I guess? Here’s my point….In 2003, there were 6 RBs averaging over 100 yards per game and 9 were averaging over 90 yards per game. By 2007, there were 0 RBs averaging over 100 yards. In every year since then, there has never been more than 2 RBs to average 100 yards/game. This year, only AP is over 100 and McCoy is the only other RB to be even over 90. I personally feel that the evolution of these freak athletic defensive lineman, combined with LBs who run as fast as WRs have made the run game increasingly irrelevant in the NFL. So while this doesn’t have anything to do with my point about the draft being different than the trade, I wanted to make sure I clarified that I’m allowing for the possibility of Richardson to be a good RB yet. But even if he is a Pro Bowl RB, a Pro Bowl RB in today’s NFL looks very different from 10 years ago.

    So I fully admit that Richardson’s future and the actual slot of the Colts’ pick are both fluid right now. I just personally think that giving up Richardson for a 1st round pick is a great return on value in today’s NFL. And my biggest point here is that I feel that way independent of what they do with the pick. I’ll be pissed if they blow the pick. It’s extremely important that they nail this pick for the future of the Browns. I just feel that the NFL Draft is a separate entity from this trade. To me, this was a good trade. Now they have to make it a good draft.

  • Ok, but as an organization, you simply cannot operate under the assumption that you are going to blow every draft pick. You just can’t think like that. Nobody knows what the draft pick will be, but whatever it is, that’s not what the Browns traded Richardson for. They traded him for the 1st round draft pick. The right to pick in that slot. And that’s what this trade should be evaluated on. It’s easy to look back after the pick and say the trade was good or bad. Hindsight is always 20/20. But teams can’t operate in hindsight. They can only work with what the value is today.

  • I’ve wasted a lot of words when this succinct comment pretty much sums up how I feel exactly.


    “I just personally think that giving up Richardson for a 1st round pick is a great return on value in today’s NFL.”

    Totally agree, and I wasn’t trying to say otherwise. I’m just saying that, to me, it’s impossible to declare a “winner” in this trade until all of the returns are in down the road. I still think the potential for a Browns “win” in the trade is very, very high. That said, to say (and I’m not saying you said this, Andrew) that there’s no way the Browns could end up the “losers” in this deal long-term just doesn’t make sense to me. (Given the thesis of this post overall, I’m not going to say it’s “wrong” hehehe.)

  • I totally agree the Browns could be losers in the end. But if they’re losers, it’s because they drafted poorly, not because they made a bad trade. That’s where I’m coming from.

  • Can we at least agree that the need to proclaim “winners” and “losers” at this stage may be only for the sake of discourse? Winning and losing is finality—it’s an outcome that follows the entire game being played. Isn’t there a chance that, in the end, no one wins? Isn’t there a chance that, if the pick is wasted like many before it, the Browns have a sizable cap hit for a player they no longer have on their roster in addition to paying the player who didn’t pan out? It’s for these reasons why I simply can’t agree that the Browns have “won” anything. Until you sell that stock, it’s just a piece of paper.

  • Totally. I’m by no means calling the Browns “winners” in the big picture. I’ve only been trying to talk about analyzing this specific trade at this point in time. I do think it’s a good trade for the Browns at this point in time. I felt it was a good trade when they made it. I will always think it’s a good trade (unless Richardson becomes an AP-type RB). But that doesn’t make them “winners”. It hasn’t translated into any kind of tangible on-field success (well, I still contend there’s value merely in relieving the pressure to pound the ball with a RB who wasn’t producing….but the results haven’t been great, mostly thanks to atrocious QB play).

    All I’m saying is the trade happened now. It’s fair to discuss it in the present. Like I’ve been saying, it’s always easy to use hindsight and say moves were good or bad. But in the present, we can only analyze based on the information we have.

  • Big Z

    Smith is obviously just not a passionate Browns fan and seems content to wait ANOTHER 20 years for the team to finally become winners; that’s my takeaway from his article.
    Craig, I agree that the Browns NEEDED to get a QB to fill Weeden’s roster spot as soon as Hoyer went down. Weeden is the worst QB in the league and shouldn’t have been allowed to get back on the field in ANY capacity. The FO did the team, the fans, and the city a COLOSSAL disservice by failing to act. Allowing him to continually see action has demoralized the entire team, induced turmoil in the locker room, caused the coaching staff to draw scrutiny, spurred a downtrodden fanbase to lose interest in the team, and deepened the sense that the new regime will fail like the rest, and strengthened the losing culture that the Browns are trying to shake.

  • Bryan

    Amen Bup.

    Craig – I agree that civility is needed. But when you keep advancing an opinion like yours re: T-Rich, that opinion is going to be attacked vigorously, and the attack will end up being partly personal since you are the one advancing it in the face of logic and evidence.

    As Bup noted, the following statement doesn’t really make any sense and is not supported by evidence: “The fact remains that the Browns traded an underperforming running back and haven’t done anything but perform just as badly since he departed.”

    I think what you are trying to say here is that the trade is bad because it made us worse off in the short-run. But you continue to provide no evidence of that. Your statement above actually supports the proposition that T-Rich didn’t make us better off – you are arguing that we are performing the same was we did with him, i.e. he made no difference. So your logic is flawed – you are using evidence (that our performance hasn’t improved) to support a conclusion (we somehow are WORSE off) that does not follow from that evidence. That is unsound logic.

    I don’t view this critique as personal in any way. It’s just a really weak argument, and people should continue to call you out for it.