The Browns have been masters of the media in recent weeks, painting Jamir
Miller as a player who turns up his nose at millions, and playing up the
strengths of new linebacker Chaun Thompson and the rest of the youngsters who
will now man the position for the Browns. Miller hasn't handled the public or
the press as well since the start, and there will be few tears shed as he exits.
Until the games start to count, at any rate.
The genesis of this conflict goes back to 2001, when Miller's Pro Bowl season
resulted in his desire to re-negotiate his contract. A quick tour of the news
articles and fan comments at the time makes it easy to remember how this attempt
was perceived. Miller was a popular figure for disparagement back then, another
"greedy" player out to make a buck.
I still think, though, but Miller was guilty mostly of understanding how the
game is played.
* * *
While it has helped the NFL avoid the fiscal orgy which threatens to destroy
baseball, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and clubs has
created a brutal atmosphere where competent players are tossed away when their
salaries become inconvenient. Well-paid veterans, rather than being protected as
in other union agreements, are instead the most exposed. It is younger, cheaper,
talent which is prized, and veterans discover that they have only a short window
in which to make their fortunes.
Miller tried to make a move during the window that opened after 2001, and now
he has paid the price.
After threats of holdouts evaporated with Miller's appearance on day one of
the 2002 training camp, the Browns compromised by providing some new incentives
in his contract, and talk of a big roster bonus in 2003. One torn Achilles
tendon later, that talk was just a memory.
The irony here is that a torn Achilles tendon is exactly the type of thing
that players like Miller fear most, and why you see negotiations like Miller
tried before the 2002 training camp. Players realize that the gravy train can
end at any moment. Strike while you can. Anonymity is just one play away.
* * *
Today's smile on the newswire comes courtesy of the Seattle Times, which
offers a hopeful story about Browns long-snapper candidate Bryan Pittman.
Here's an athlete more of the type the team would like us to talk about, a
player who has struggled for years to get the opportunity to play in the NFL.
Refining his long-snapping skills in college and semi-pro ball, Pittman
continues to chase the dream. Even the Browns unlikely drafting of long-snapper
Ryan Pontbriand can't get him down for long.
Pittman will keep chasing that dream. If the team lets him, he will come to
camp and battle the very long odds that now present themselves. Sooner or later,
we can hope, Pittman will latch on with an NFL team. Dreams are supposed to come
true. Stories are supposed to have a happy ending.
I love stories like this, about the guys who are giving their all just to
latch on to the bottom of a roster. I think all fans do. Let's not worry about
what happens next.
Brutality is reality, but the dream is what sells.
* * *
Since the moment Jamir Miller sat forlorn on the hard artificial surface of
the Metrodome, the Browns haven't exuded much sympathy for his plight. The
team's president, Carmen Policy, has spun this brilliantly in the press,
painting the picture of a patient team dealing with an athlete reluctant to play
for a paltry million dollars.
At the same time, though, it seemed that whenever there was positive news of
compromise, another shoe would drop.
The Browns have seemed to go out of their way since the end of 2001 to
minimize Miller's accomplishments during his tenure with the team. As the 2002
season started, Butch Davis pointed to the defensive scheme as the source of
Miller's success the previous year, inferring that other linebackers could, and
likely would, rack up similar eye-popping stats thanks to Foge Fazio's brilliant
The 2002 season proved Davis wrong. Without Miller, the Browns were unable to
mount a consistent pass rush, and a defensive unit which appeared to be emerging
as a top squad in the AFC imploded at critical times. Fazio "resigned"
immediately after the season and was replaced by Dave Campo, who knew Davis from
his time in Dallas. The entire linebacking corps was tossed aside, along with
veteran cornerback Corey Fuller.
After 2001, the Browns had suggested that a smart defensive scheme and
surrounding talent made an average linebacker look great. The results of the
following year's campaign suggest that the opposite may have been true.
* * *
It took me more than forty years, but I have come to believe that believe
that you define a person by the life they lead, rather than the things they
have. At least, that's how I like to think about it.
I've been asked to do some nasty things in my career and I've taken some
blows right to the head. That's the way of business, where political intrigue
often takes precedent over the corporate good or personal lives. Reality is
There are those close to me who may think that I'm a fool for making some of
the decisions I've made But sometimes a man has to make decisions based on what
he feels is right, and sometimes money isn't the most important thing. You have
to do what enables you to sleep at night.
* * *
Despite the public disparagement, Miller and the Browns kept talking. After
all, he had little choice. The Pro Bowl year, the glowing praise in the press,
meant little now. All that mattered was muscle tissue.
This month, the team began referring to Miller in the press as a situational
player, undoubtedly a huge blow to a player who considered himself a top talent.
As Pat's article shows, this was a crucial issue, as Miller wanted to be an
Sports talk shows have known that it's easy to blast "greedy" athletes for a
long time now. It makes a quick column in the newspaper. No person would be
ridiculous enough to walk away from a million dollars.
Not unless he had been treated like something that is wiped from the bottom
of a shoe, perhaps.
Sometimes, it's about more than money.
Good luck, Jamir, wherever you go. Thanks for some great years.