NFL Picks: Browns Good Choice for Hard Knocks But Not On Future Odds

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 5:44 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015 5:44 PM GMT

The Browns haven't had a winning record since 07 or made the playoffs since 02, but they could make for good TV Show "Hard Knocks" this summer cause that might be the only highlight for the franchise.

It's A Hard Knocks Life
HBO hasn't made an official announcement yet, but media reports on Monday were that Cleveland is the heavy front-runner to be on the very popular and excellent HBO program. (Maybe the Browns would fit better on "Curb Your Enthusiasm!") Why would the network take a franchise that has been irrelevant for so long? Well, I'll give you two words why: Johnny Manziel. He alone should draw viewers, especially as the polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner and perhaps most well-known college football player ever works his way back from a stint in rehab and tries to win the starting quarterback job. Manziel looked overmatched in very limited playing time as a rookie.

It's not clear yet if Cleveland volunteered for the show or was forced to by the NFL. The league instituted some guidelines last year where it could force a team to appear because so many clubs were turning HBO down. Coaches certainly don't want the distraction during training camp. Only teams with new head coaches, those that have appeared in the playoffs the past two years and ones that have been on the show in the past decade are exempt from being picked. The teams that are eligible will meet with NFL Films this week at the league's annual meetings and discuss the show.

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Josh Vs. Johnny
Cleveland was a pleasant surprise for the first three-quarters or so of last season as the club was off to a 7-4 start and in first place in the AFC North behind solid play from veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer. However, Hoyer then really started struggling. Manziel got his first start in Week 15 against Cincinnati but was terrible, going 10-for-18 for 80 yards with two interceptions and three sacks. The Browns had a laughable 107 yards of offense in the 30-0 loss. Manziel started the next week against Carolina, was off to another tough start and then suffered an injury that would end his season. The Browns lost their final five games to finish at 7-9.

Clearly the Browns didn't have their franchise quarterback yet. They made little effort to re-sign  Hoyer, who left for Houston. instead, the Browns signed free-agent Josh McCown to a puzzling three-year deal even though he was 1-10 last year as a starter with Tampa Bay (awful 70.5 rating) and really has only had about one good seven-game stretch in his career (2013 with Bears). McCown also started nine games for the Raiders in 2007 when new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo coached their quarterbacks. I fully expect the Browns to take a QB in this year's draft, although not with one of their two first-round picks. Cleveland reportedly made an offer of its second first-round pick for former Rams and current Eagles QB Sam Bradford.

Cleveland barely had top receiver Josh Gordon last season due to a drug suspension, and he's already been suspended for all of the 2015 campaign at a minimum. The Browns have added former Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, but he's way past his prime and didn't have a single TD catch last year. Cleveland's No. 1 tight end, Jordan Cameron, reportedly agreed to re-sign with the Browns before bolting at the last minute for Miami. Cleveland must get a receiver with one of its first-round picks.

Bowe and McCown are two of what should be five new starters acquired in free agency, along with former Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline, former Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks and ex-Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. The Browns' initial first-round pick last year was cornerback Justin Gilbert but he struggled as a rookie and was criticized for his work effort (like Manziel).

The Browns are +4000 on NFL odds to win the AFC title at sportsbooks and +10000 to win their first Super Bowl. Sorry Cleveland backers, but this is not a playoff team yet again. The defense is solid and the offensive line good, but the offense should be one of the league's worst. 

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