By Doing Nothing At The Trade Deadline, The Browns Did A Lot
By Steven King
Remember Sam Rutigliano, the coach of the Cleveland Browns during their “Kardiac Kids” days of the late 1970s and early 1980s?
When the Browns let the NFL trading deadline come and go Tuesday afternoon without trading WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron – both of whom were rumored to be heading elsewhere – it was hard not to think back to Rutigliano.
“I didn’t get paid to coach Clay Matthews; I got paid to coach Chip Banks,” Rutigliano has said a number of time about his two star linebackers.
The coach didn’t have to worry one bit about Matthews. He was a choir boy, the consummate pro who prepared well, practiced hard and stayed out of trouble.
Banks, on the other hand, was just the opposite. He always seemed to be one step ahead of danger. As such, Rutigliano had to keep an eye on him at all times.
Like Banks, who would have been the best linebacker in Browns’ history – and possibly also a Pro Football Hall of Famer – had he dedicated himself, the immensely talented Gordon walks a fine line. He has two strikes against him in regards to the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and is just one false move away from being suspended for an entire season.
But instead of trading him and letting somebody else deal with him, the Browns decided to keep Gordon and let coach Rob Chudzinski work with him on and off the field so the second-year pro can help the club and help himself at the same time. It was a wise move, for he is big, fast, strong and easily the team’s most explosive offensive weapon.
The Browns don’t have enough good skill players as it is. They can ill afford to let one get away.
It is a high-risk, high-reward situation and Chudzinski is being paid to make sure the gamble pays off.
After a non-descript rookie season in 2012, Cameron has blossomed through the first half of this year into one of the best young tight ends in the game. He is putting up Ozzie Newsome-like numbers.
As such, it was hard to fathom that the Browns would consider dealing him, but the rumors of such a move persisted. And where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
All this may have stemmed from the fact that when CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi arrived, they took a big broom, went through the organization and swept out many of the players they inherited. They wanted to start with a clean slate.
When Rutigliano arrived in 1978, he did just the opposite. He went through the roster player by player and tried to figure out who could help the team. He kept many of them. There was no use jettisoning someone if they had value. More than wanting to start with a clean slate, he wanted to win. And the more talent he had, the easier it would be to win.
In that way, there was no need to get rid of Cameron. He has value – a great amount of it, in fact. He is also good in the locker room. As the Browns go forward with their rebuilding, he will play a major role.
So without even having practiced Tuesday – the players had the day off as the coaches huddled to prepare the game plan for Sunday’s visit by the Baltimore Ravens to FirstEnergy Stadium – the Browns got better by doing absolutely nothing and keeping Gordon and Cameron, two of their best players.
Now 82 and living in the same house in Waite Hill in the eastern Cleveland suburbs that he did when he coached the Browns, Rutigliano had to like that major inactivity a lot – a whole lot.