For the Cleveland Browns organization, a lot can change in a two-month time period.
At the beginning of September, the Browns had an elite offensive line, an elite secondary, potentially one of the best defenses in the league and were supposed to sport a power rushing attack heading into the 2015 season. On top of that, the team made it sound like they had just “struck gold” by claiming Robert Turbin off waivers with an injured ankle from the Seattle Seahawks.
Oh, how things have changed since September 11th.
Not only has the on-field performance of the Browns been nearly a reverse of those claims, but the team just waived Turbin after he registered carries in just three games with the team. For the team’s struggling rushing attack, Turbin’s downhill running style was supposed to be a welcome addition—in fact, it was one of the main reasons why head coach Mike Pettine and company wanted him here.
Let’s rewind back to the day the Browns were awarded Turbin off waivers.
In a press conference that was posted on the team’s website, Pettine stated, “To me, the timing of it for us was we knew that there were other teams interested and that being where we were in the claiming order. We could have let him potentially clear and then try to recruit him and sign him or let him on his own but you’re competing with 30 other teams essentially for that. We think enough of him that that wasn’t something that we were willing to risk, that ‘hey, we have a chance to get him here, let’s get him here.”
When asked what they liked about him, Pettine continued, “He’s downhill. When you watch him play he is physical. You talk about playing with an attitude, that’s the way he is. When you go down the list of attributes what we’re looking for in a running back, and then also just the bonus part of it is the person that we’re bringing to the room – nothing but positive opinions on how he is in the locker room, in the meeting room, on the practice field – it was just a move that we felt was best for us.”
As we all know, the Browns waived fan-favorite Terrelle Pryor to make space for Turbin. Pettine addressed that as well in the press conference. He stated, “We viewed that spot as the 53rd roster spot and there was a lot of debate over it. Terrelle certainly has the ability to make the transition to receiver. We were hopeful that we were going to be able to have that time to do it, but that, to me, is viewed as a luxury. Given where we were when we looked at our running back room, given our circumstances and having always been a Robert Turbin fan, just admiring how he plays and the mentality he takes to the field, that was an opportunity that we felt we couldn’t pass up.”
Well, after dressing for four games (he didn’t register a carry against the Cincinnati Bengals so he only played in three) it appears that Pettine and company are no longer on “Team Robert Turbin.”
Despite being a fan of Turbin and what he could potentially bring to the team, the Browns waived him after 18 carries for 60 yards. Yes, you read that correctly—Ray Farmer and company decided that after waiting weeks for Turbin’s ankle injury to heal and finally getting him back, they used an 18-carry sample size to determine it was time to let him go.
Insert your confused, befuddled emjoi and facial expression here.
The same organization that has allowed their $9 million guaranteed investment of Dwayne Bowe to hang out on the sidelines inactive for the majority of the season, decided to cut a player who had shown the potential in a few of his 18 carries to be a solid contributor to the run game.
Sure, there were one or two botched handoffs between Turbin and quarterback Josh McCown which could have contributed to concern of potential fumbling issues. But if you make that type of time investment in terms of a roster spot, practice time and passing on other rushing options, that usually means you believe in a player and are going to give him a real chance to get in your rotation. Forgive me if 18 carries in four games does not seem like a major effort.
To make matters even more confusing, it seems the move was made in order to “see what they have” in running back Glenn Winston, who is making his return to practice from the non-football injury list this week. However, this does not mean he is going to be active for the Browns this week—as they have three weeks from when he returns to practice to officially elevate him to their active roster.
On top of that, the team promoted offensive lineman Darrian Miller from the practice squad to take Turbin’s spot on the roster. Reports are the team is concerned about Joel Bitonio’s ankle injury he suffered in the Bengals game, which is why they added another lineman to the mix. You know, the same mix that has first-round pick Cameron Erving in it with eight total lineman on the roster now. In comparison, the Browns now have just two running backs on their 53-man roster as of writing this article.
In the grand scheme of things, cutting your third running back on the roster should really not draw this much ire of the fans and media, but when you add it to the long list of puzzling moves this organization has made in two years under the watch of Farmer, it is difficult not to question the move. After publically announcing your faith and excitement for a player, you cut him without really providing much of a chance to truly “see what you have” in said player.
Now that Turbin is gone, the Browns are going to feature a run game comprised of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr.—two players who have struggled to get the run game going this season. Also, Johnson has proven to be injury-prone this season, which means this team is one hit away from having just one running back left on the roster. If that isn’t a red-flag and cause from concern for this front office and coaching staff right about now, there may be bigger issues behind the scenes than we have imagined to this point.
With players like Bowe, Rob Housler (now on the IR) and others just sitting around collecting paychecks, it is a tough pill to swallow seeing a guy like Turbin cut to make room for a practice squad offensive lineman and to “see what you have” in a 26-year old, undrafted running back who has never recorded a regular season rush in the NFL.
But hey, when you are the “smartest man in the room” I guess you do not have to answer to anyone for wasting money, roster spots and missing out on impact talent for two years.