Jim Nantz and the fraternity you don’t belong to.

Jim Nantz had a 15 minute interview with Bull and Fox yesterday.  Nantz’ reason for coming on local radio was obviously to present a recommendation on behalf of his friend Mike Lombardi in the face of a fair amount of disdain for Lombardi’s past record as a personnel guy in the NFL (and also notable commentary on Lombardi’s interpersonal compass).

It was astounding.  You have never heard Nantz like this.  He crossed over the line of objective and candid to haughty, catty, and small no, let’s say ‘real.’  I don’t want to kill Nantz on this because I like warts, we all have them, and it’s somewhat affirming that Nantz may have some too.

We’re going to dig into a lot of his comments below.  But my primary takeaway was:  Wow.  These guys ride in an insular world.  I can’t fault Nantz for playing Pebble Beach with Fred Couples, but I do think his frame of reference would benefit from signing on as a single for 18 holes at Pine Brook.  Love the passion Jim, but I can’t help but think you’d have said the same on behalf of Mike Holmgren after a round with him at Sahalee.  As for the rest of us who just watch the team year after year, we have a healthy and well-founded skepticism of NFL lifers ‘who know football more than we do.’

Image

None of you know more football than Bill Belichick with whom I met because I am in Foxboro covering the AFC Championship Game.

Let’s dig in.

“…with all great respect, I think [Browns fans are the] best football fans in the country, [but] they don’t really know what they’re talking about with this hire.  I think they have been believing what they’re reading and … they don’t always have the greatest sources of information.”

So some of this is good.  I don’t doubt he’s pulling for Cleveland and he doesn’t strike me as a smoke-blower.  We ARE great fans and if he says we’re best, well fine.  But if we don’t have the greatest sources of info.. well wtf?  Why don’t we?  Your own damn company is paying a BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR* presumably to provide coverage of the NFL.  Do you know how many damn Pitbull Bud Light commercials I’ve watched?  Get us some decent sources of info Jim!

“I’ve been reading the vicious remarks and character assassination about Mike by some people in the media … who ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

Obviously, Nantz is looking at Grossi and this is likely the article he’s in a dither about.**  I read it.  I liked it.  Grossi puts his nuts on the line with this article.  Grossi is doing the journalist-y thing… providing readers with sources of information.  Now Jim, here is the context you lack:  we had national and local media fall in line and kiss Mike Holmgren’s ass when he starting collecting checks roughly three years ago.  In my opinion, Grossi should be ashamed if he did NOT tell us what he knows (and what’s he’s heard).  That is Grossi’s job.

Among the many Lombardi pieces that Nantz probably didn’t read was this piece by Frowns.  It outlines just the sort of agenda manipulation by Lombardi that Nantz crows about in the interview.  If Bill Belichick wants to stick it to Eric Mangini, how better than by planting seeds with media member Mike Lombardi?  Frowns lays it out meticulously and to Nantz’ complaint about Lombardi-the-victim-of-character-assassination I say, “Hello Mr. Kettle you’re looking black today.”

“I’ve been around the NFL for 28 years.  There’s only two people I’ve met who stand at a different level above the rest when you sit in a room and talk football.  That would be Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi.”

Well first, I’ve been around the NFL for 45 years so there’s that.  But the point of Nantz’ statement here is to establish his bona-fides with the intent of diminishing your opinion since you’re not the expert, he is.  Weak sauce Jim.  (Although it seemed to work on Fox and to a lesser extent, Bull.)

“… If you really have been an important voice [to the Browns] .. well you haven’t done a very good job.  So what is your knowledge?  … Let’s look at your record if you want to say you have your fingerprints on it.”

Grossi and Frowns take note:  you both have failed the Browns in your roles as Owner, GM, Coach, and player.
(I should point out here that Grossi’s pounding of the table for a ‘credible football person’ did shape the franchise in a disastrous way so point taken there, Jim.)

This never happened.

“It’s been absolutely masterful the way Jimmy Haslam has constructed this.” 

Not sure masterful fits here.

“I married a Cleveland girl, I want to go to Cleveland with the #1 CBS announce team, I’m rooting for this franchise.  I just want to come on here as someone who feels very close to Mike Lombardi because I think he’s been wronged.  There’s one guy in the media there who hopefully can write objectively and … eat his words one day.”

I buy this sure, why not.

“When I found out the news guess who I was in the company of?  Bill Belichick.  Does anyone think he’s a dummy?  Is there anyone who’s listening who thinks they know more football than Bill Belichick?  

–awkward silence–

Bull:  how come Belichick never hired him?

Nantz:  that’s a fan question right there.”

I count five big-timings in the span of fifteen seconds right here.
Translation:  This is Clayton, Sidney, Jugdish, Mohammed, and Lonnie… you’ll have lots to talk about, eh?

“It’s amazing how much back-stabbing there is in the league.”

I would so like to be in the room when Mangini hears this interview.

Here’s the most remarkable part of the interview.  Nantz Monday-Morning-QB’s Heckert’s draft.  (<–short clip is linked.)  He actually says, ‘[if Heckert is so good] Why didn’t he pick Russell Wilson instead of Brandon Weeden?  Why did he trade up for Trent Richardson when you could have had Doug Martin?  Coulda had Alfred Morris in the sixth round?’

Are you shitting me?  If any of us trotted weak shit like that out on a WFNY forum post every mod and a couple dozen posters would rain down hell on us.  My God.  First rule of football draft talk:  you have to call your shot before the draft.  (Thus Dan Whalen has ultimate cred because he pounded the table for Russell Wilson before and during the draft.)  Jim, if you want to defend Lombardi fine.  But if you’re going to cast stones on Heckert, get educated — here’s a tabbed spreadsheet of all of Heckert’s draft picks and signings.  Go to town.  But christ with the road you’re going down, we should also be pissed that we took Courtney Brown in 2000 instead of Tom Brady.  And not for nothing, but Lombardi took Ed King three slots ahead of Brett Favre in 1991.

btw Jim:  Heckert killed it in the sixth round with Billy Winn.

—————-

Lookit.  I’m glad Nantz is pulling for us.  I’m glad that he thinks so highly of Lombardi and with such passion that he showed his ass for (to my knowledge) the first time in his career.  These are good things for the team.

But Jim, give us out here a little credit too.  For example:  we currently have the best six man rotation on d-line in the league.  No hyperbole.  Some d-bag coach is likely going to blow it up and put in his system.  Guys like you will pontificate from New York and Bristol that we fans need to be patient.  But none of you guys remember that we went through five years under RAC and Mangini of being patient while ‘the right personnel’ was assembled.

We’ve been living this slow-motion train-wreck for coming up on two decades.  Check yourself before coming down our street on all this.  As you correctly noted, we’re as good a fandom as there is.  Being quietly patient hasn’t been working for us, so cut us some slack if we’re not.

____

* That’s just CBS’ piece.  The NFL is getting 5.7 BILLION A YEAR in television contracts only through 2021.  Here’s the link again.  Math:  5.7$ /32 teams * 8 years = $1.4 billion guaranteed in next eight years.  Lerner must have utterly and absolutely hated us or Cleveland to sell out.  I mean, Lerner sold for $1.05 billion… and is keeping 30% for four years while Haslam scares up the $300 million he still owes.

** I forgot Marla Ridenour wrote a blunt piece on Lombardi too.  “Hiring Mike Lombardi would be the biggest mistake in the history of the Browns.”  It’s simply unprecedented to have TWO established writers put their Browns-related working relationships on the line with this level of candor.

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  • Jim

    Looks like I have another site to peruse while at work. Nice work. Interestingly, Nantz never provided concrete examples as to WHY Mike Lombardi is a good hire. He spoke in cliches and generalities, in part because of Lombardi’s poor record as a player personnel guy. I want nothing more than Mike Lombardi to succeed because it means the Browns will succeed. But history does not support the hire which is more than a valid point for the local media to point out.

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    Damn, Kanick, you’re doing work!

  • jpftribe

    Kanick
    Good write up, my take is a little different.

    He was obviously referring to Grossi, who in my opinion is doing another hatchet job on both Lombardi and Banner. Banner has been here less than six months, Lombardi a couple of days. As Z points out above, this is the same pattern he dislayed with Mangini and yet gave Holmgren a free pass until it was fashionable to bash him. As Frowns has so eloquently documented, Grossi was a (if not the) primary enabler of bringing Holmgren in. The guy is destructive vs constructive.

    Nance called him out, which for him, or any national sports personality, is almost unheard of. This in itself says something.

    Point taken on Maria, she is one of the few credible journalists that cover the Browns. However, I wouldn’t say Grossi has put his working relationship with the Browns on the line. I would argue that deed was donemany years ago.

    The only part of Nantz’ comments that I took issue with was his answer to Belicheck hiring Lombardi and his criticism of Heckert. Of the former, it was really a non-answer. On the latter, you can criticize Heckert for being Holmgren’s yes man, but the guys drafts have been pretty stellar. Unfortunately, he left himself open to criticism as the guy who took McCoy, bungled the RGIII bid which led to the trade up to no 3 for TRich and Weeden at 22.. Ironically, we may find in retrospect those moves will be very good ones.

    Finally, Haslam and Banner are open to criticism on the Kelly fiasco and I really don’t like the Lombardi hire. But Chud, Turner and Horton are miles and miles ahead of Shurmur, Childress and Jauron. I would hardly characterize Horton as a d-bag coordinator. He’s going to install a hybrid D, as most teams in the NFL have done / will do.

    • i dunno. when grossi and ridenour and frowns are on the same page it’s like halley’s comet: it bears closer inspection.

      and is horton a d-bag? well if he can’t adjust ‘his system’ to fit the strengths of his personnel, then… he kinda is. i’m sorry but this bit about coaches and their systems just goes accepted like benching starters in the 4th pre-season game. it’s the sort of conventional wisdom that simply needs to be challenged. if horton has good reasons, fine. but i’m looking at no playmakers in the linebacking corps and we’re talking about making linebacker the focal point; i’m looking at five ‘play makers’ on the line and they’re going to have less time on the field. when the change is made and if i should make the preceding observation, i’ll be called a fan and asked if i’m smarter than bill belichick. you know, the shit nantz just did; the shit lombardi did with frowns. it’s douche-baggery on it’s face.

      ‘attacking hybrid D.’ lol, ok, whatever. just have four of the six d-men in this rotation (winn-sheard-taylor-rubin-hughes-rucker) on the field at all times and call it whatever you want mr. horton.

      ps, thank you for the kind words!

      • acto

        Love you Kanicki! Fight the good fight.

  • zarathustra

    Ok. You have a lot here.
    There is no rebuttal to the Frowns critique. I would add that as recently as a few months he was taking veiled shots at Mangini when on the Simmons podcast he questioned why some were even allowed to participate in the Cleveland 95 documentary. He was obviously refering to Mangini. As my fangini bona fides are pretty well established needless to say this drives me batty. I am willing to give him a pass, however, because he is merely carrying water for long time friend and colleague. (I’m a parishoner at the Church of Belichick, but his smallness re: Mangini is infuriating.)
    Speaking of Mangini, the mob I heard forming on sportstalk yesterday was eerily similar to the one I heard in 2009. Sorry, but don’t think as highly of the local fans as Nantz. My experience is they typically don’t clearly remember last season very well, let alone seasons decades ago. The reason they are enraged is entirely media-fueled. And the asshole in the media primarily responsible for this is now more powerful than ever on the airwaves of knr–the people who could never even be bothered to read about the team they are so passionate about are the primary audience. It is one thing to question the ability of those running the Browns, but it is another thing when it is a crusade to sabotage him before he has even started. The fact that Grossi didn’t have the same concern about the previous regime–when it skepticism was desperately needed–makes his current journalist-y thing ring hollow.
    I’m not without some concerns about the direction of the team, but the local analysis of Lomabrdi seems humorously lacking. You have previously demonstrated that his drafts with the Browns were lackluster and that is a very valid criticism. I could however add that everywhere he has been saw some pretty nice success within a few years of his arriving. While the local memory of the pre-move Browns is warped, let us not forget that the trendline was positive and the fourth year they went to the second round of the playoffs and the fifth year they were indeed Super Bowl contenders. In Oakland they made one Super Bowl and arguably should have made another. This by no means guarantees that he won’t be a disaster. I do think however the new regime deserves more than the three games the local media and venerated fanbase is prepared to allow them.

    • “I do think however the new regime deserves more than the three games the local media and venerated fanbase is prepared to allow them.”

      oh yeah, 100% agree.

      this whole post was intended to break down nantz’ rant. i do want to get after lombardi’s record more deeply than the list of picks i pulled together on frowns.

      frankly, we may need to create a separate media section in the header to track all this. one thing i learned in researching the kosar piece today is that douchey reporting with an eye toward creating a monolithic mob based on hysteria has been with us at least since 1993 when the ‘Fire Bill Now’ chants were raining down.