The Browns are 4-11. One game left in this season and then the new President of Football Operations Mike Holmgren will come into town and start doing what he wants with this franchise in an effort to return it to it’s historically winning ways and bring a championship to Cleveland. There is, no doubt, many changes coming to this franchise with this new regime, even if Eric Mangini is still around, many of ‘his’ guys will be out of here. One person who needs a new contract, as his is running out, is Jerome Harrison. He is making n$530,000 this year, and is due to become a free agent after this season ends. This is problematic. I have read a few articles about the 10 things that Holmgren needs to do in Cleveland and all sorts of things like that, and many people think we should either not resign Harrison or work a sign and trade. Why? That’s a great reward for a guy that finished this season like he did. A team starved for playmakers would be VERY very stupid to let one of the 2 playmakers on the offense walk or trade him away. With one game left in the season he has gotten 161 carries for 735 yards. A 4.6 yards per carry average. Better than Jamal Lewis did, I don’t care if that has mostly come in the last 2 weeks, it is a impressive statistic, and imagine if he got the same carries, same blocking for a whole season. He could easily eclipse 1,000 yards. He is only 26, just finishing his 4th season in the league and his rookie contract is finishing.
The Browns NEED to resign him. Regardless of who the coach ends up being, and regardless of who Holmgren decides to draft. Harrison adds a new level to this offense that it has been missing throughout the years since the team has been re-instated into the NFL. He has the potential to bust out for a huge gain at any time, as he has proven several times in the last few weeks. He is producing like this despite playing beside an offensive line that really only has 2 or 3 good, solid blockers. He does run behind the best FullBack in the League, but even without Lawrence Vickers he would be effective. Just watching the film of the last few weeks and even beyond that, it is amazing what he can do once he gets through the opposing defensive line. He is so fast and changes directions so swiftly without slowing down that he is almost impossible to tackle. On the big run he had from the team’s 5 yard line on 3rd and long against the Raiders, he busted out a 20 yarder that set up a first down. Once he got into space, he looked like he was going to be nailed by a linebacker, and then with a blink of an eye he sidestepped and darted past the guy, so quickly that he didn’t even get a hand on Harrison. Wow. He is an elusive back that can really help this team. Even if we draft a running back fairly high in the draft, Harrison would give us that 2-back system that everyone is employing, and would be the #1 regardless of who we get… I hope.
He is finally gotten his chance to prove how productive he can be with the amount of carries a #1 RB gets. In the last 2 years he hasn’t gotten many chances, but he has been a very effective runner. In 2008 he had 34 carries for 246 yards. 7.2 YPC! He was even, this year especially, very effective receiving the ball out of the backfield and can be a really effective combo back given the opportunity. In 2007, he only got about 23 carries but had 142 yards for a 6.2 YPC. He is obviously a good running back that does not go down easily and can gain your team a good chunk of yardage day in and day out. If this team does not resign him, there will be plenty of teams licking their chops waiting to pick up someone who will no doubt come pretty cheap, and produce very well for them. For some reason, whether it is because he has struggled to block on pass plays, or because he isn’t the “complete” RB the team is hoping to find, he has not gotten his chances. Obviously Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini have vastly undervalued this player. I think Holmgren will see that this production isn’t a fluke and that he can put up good numbers as your feature runner. I don’t expect him to finish the season with another 150 or 280 yard game, but if he did have another big game he could end up with close to 1000 yards on the year. He needs 265 to get there, which is a bit of a far fetched expectation, but I would not at all be surprised if he got over 100 again.
It is unknown to me whether or not he would be able to handle 30+ carries a game for the length of the season, that will be something to find out next year, with a new contract, with the Browns, not some other team. But for the time being he is proving that he can handle the NFL workload, and give a team a dynamic RB that can be used in a ball control offense. Which is what the Browns need to be if they want to win with Brady Quinn. Quinn will never be the gunslinger who will throw for 400 yards a game. He is a smart QB who will not turn the ball over, and it will be in his best interest to keep his pass attempts under 30 a game, which is very possible if Harrison can carry 30 times a game and get over 100 yards, and the team will be effective. Holmgren needs to seriously consider keeping Harrison around and making sure whoever the coach is, plays him. He has always been really impressive in what little time he has gotten to play, and now that Jamal Lewis is gone, Harrison is the man. I don’t care if the team gives him just a 1 year contract to see what he can do as THE GUY next year, at least he will prove that with us and give the team a chance to keep him around. We can only wait and see what happens, but I would love to see this guy kept around, him and Joshua Cribbs can really add a new level to this team if they are used appropriately. You never know, we could become an explosive offense in the next few years with guys like them.
All I can really say to sum this up, is that Jerome Harrison needs to be the Browns RB next year. He has proven his worth this year and if the team does not resign him, it will be an early failure of the Mike Holmgren era as team President. He needs to make the fans happy, and keeping Harrison and giving Cribbs a new contract need to definitely be of the highest priority to the Browns.