Archive for January, 2009

Cleveland Browns Redraft:2003

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

After redrafting the Browns from 1999 to 2002, we have a powerhouse club set, in theory, to win multiple championships. We have Pro Bowlers at almost every position, and a good amount of talented depth. Now, our goal is to maintain that level of talent as we continue to reexamine the drafts, while also facing the challenges of salary caps, free agency, and risk of injuries. Here’s what out team looks like at this point (1999 free agent signings in italics, number of Pro Bowl selections for players indicated by number after name):

Position Player Position Player
QB Kerry Collins (1), Jeff Garcia (4), Jake Delhomme (1), Tom Brady (4) DT Kelly Gregg, Rob Meier, Kris Jenkins (3)
FB Tony Richardson, Dan Kreider DE Jevon Kearse (3), Aaron Smith (1), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (1), Adewale Ogunleye (1), Aaron Kampman (2)
RB Reuben Droughns, LaDainian Tomlinson (5), Dominic Rhodes, Brian Westbrook (2) ILB Eric Barton, Brian Urlacher (6), Antonio Pierce (1), Larry Foote, Bart Scott (1)
WR Marty Booker (1), Brian Finneran, Donald Driver (3), Laveranues Coles (1), Dante Hall (2), Steve Smith (3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1), David Givens OLB Jamir Miller (1), Joey Porter (4), Adalius Thomas (1), James Harrison (1)
TE Desmond Clark (1), Jermaine Wiggins CB Corey Fuller, Mike KcKenzie, Nate Clements (1), Nick Harper, Sheldon Brown
C Jeff Saturday (3), Todd McClure SS Mike Green, Ed Reed (5)
OG Adam Timmerman (1), Randy Thomas, Jamar Nesbit, Brian Walters (3), Floyd Womack, LeCharles Bentley (2) FS Mike Brown (1)
OT Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels (5) LS Mike Schneck (1)
K Phil Dawson P Chris Gardocki (1)

I’m assuming at this point we’re losing players. In reality, LB Jamir Miller retired following a serious Achilles injury in 2002, and offensive guard Randy Thomas left as a free agent following the 2002 season. CB Corey Fuller, TE Desmond Clark and OG Jamar Nesbit were either released or left their 2002 teams as free agents. I’ll assume all of those occured as well. That thins our roster a bit. Now let’s look at what picks I have going into the 2003 draft:

Round Player
1 C Jeff Faine (21)
2 LB Chaun Thompson (52)
3 DB Chris Crocker (84)
4 RB Lee Suggs (115)
5 C Ryan Pontbriand (142)
5 DB Michael Lehan (152)
6 DE Antonio Garay (195)

Cleveland’s draft that year was better than in year’s past, but average at best overall. I would be happy to keep things as they are, but I also have a number of players that are good trade material in positions that are loaded, and could net me some additional draft picks. Looking back at the actual 2003 draft, there was a lot of talent that came out, especially in rounds 2-4. One strong potential trade would be with the Dallas Cowboys, who had one of the worst passing attacks (31 of 32) in the NFL in 2002, still struggling with the retirements of Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Dallas is also known to like to wheel-and-deal during the draft. I would offer QB Jeff Garcia and WR Laveranues Coles and my second fifth-round pick for Dallas’ third round pick (69) and sixth round pick (178).

I would also try to work out a deal with the Houston Texans. I would offer ILB Eric Barton, RB Reuben Droughns and WR Marty Booker for their second of three third round picks (75) and a possible conditional pick in 2004. Next, I would trade FB Cecil Martin and C Todd McClure and my last sixth-round pick to Atlanta for their fourth round pick (121) and their sizth-round pick in 2004. Lastly, I would trade WR Brian Finneran or WR Dante Hall and the third round pick from Houston to Arizona for their second round pick (54). That leaves my draft board looking like this:

Round Player
1 C Jeff Faine (21)
2 (from Arizona)
2 LB Chaun Thompson (52)
3 (from Dallas)
3 DB Chris Crocker (84)
4 (from Atlanta)
4 RB Lee Suggs (115)
5 C Ryan Pontbriand (142)
6 (from Dallas)

That leaves me with nine total picks. Let’s look at what we can (re)do with the 2003 draft:

2003 Redraft

Round Original Pick New Pick
1 C Jeff Faine FS Ken Hamlin

A second round pick, Hamlin made an impact immediately with Seattle, playing in every game during his rookie year and starting 14 games. With the exception of 2005, when he missed ten games due to injury, Hamlinhas played in every game, starting all but two during his rookie year. During his three full years with Seattle (2003, 2004, 2006), he recorded at least 80 tackles a season and and averaged over two picks a season. He signed with Dallas in 2007 and played in every game in his two seasons with the Cowboys, averaging 70 tackles and recording six INTs in those two years.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 none WR Anquan Boldin

Wide receiver is a major strength of my new team, even after trading away a number of players in this position. But Boldin, the Cardinals second-round pick, is so talented, its hard not to take him. He caught 101 receptions his rookie year and was the only rookie elected to the Pro Bowl that year. A three-time Pro Bowl participant, Boldin has set numerous records during his brief career with Arizona. Despite missing 16 games during his career, Boldin has averaged 84 receptions for 1,083 yards and seven TDs. If you remove his 2004 stats, in which he only played in ten games, his averages jump to 89 receptions for 1,175 yards and eight TDs.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 LB Chaun Thompson OLB Lance Briggs

Like Boldin above, Briggs joins an already deep position on my new team, but is too talented to pass on. A third-round pick by Chicago, he is a four-time Pro Bowler (2005-2008), and has missed only two games in his six-year career with the Bears. Briggs averages 109 tackles, one sack and 1.5 interceptions a season.

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 none TE Jason Witten

Taken in the third round by Dallas, Witten caught 35 passes his rookie year, and became the starting tight end in his second year. Since then, he’s been elected to the Pro Bowl every year (five times so far) and averages 79 receptions with 918 yards and five TDs. In 2007, Witten became only the third tight end to catch at least 96 passes in a season. He’s become the favorite target of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 DB Chris Crocker CB Asante Samuel

A fourth round pick by the Patriots, Samuels worked his way into New England’s starting lineup during the 2004 season, and never gave it up. His best season was 2006 with 64 tackles and ten interceptions. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl the following year with 44 tackles and six INTs. Samuel signed with Philadelphia the following year as a free agent and earned his second straight Pro Bowl trip.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 none DE Robert Mathis

The Colts fourth round pick, Mathis established himself as a pass rush specialist his rookie year, seeing action in all 16 regular season games and recording 20 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. During the last five seasons, he’s played in all but seven games and averages 47 tackles and ten sacks a season. Mathis was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2008.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 RB Lee Suggs P Mike Scifres

Picked by the Chargers in the fifth round, Scifres became their primary punter in 2004. During the last five seasons, he’s averaged 44.1 yards per punt and 29 punts inside the 20 yard-line a season. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006. In the Chargers’ 2009 Wild Card Playoff versus the Colts, Scifres kicked a 67-yard punt and averaged 51.7 yards with six punts. Also, all his punts during the game were inside the Colts’ 20-yard line, with 4 inside their 10-yard line.

Round Original Pick New Pick
5 C Ryan Pontbriand G Kris Dielman

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers, San Diego converted Dielman from a defensive tackle of offensive lineman. By 2005, he became their starting left guard and missed only two games since. He’s been elected to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008. Dielman’s teammates referred to him as their “enforcer” and “battering ram”.

Round Original Pick New Pick
6 none TE Antonio Gates

Another undrafted free agent signed by the Chargers, Gates has gone to five consecutive Pro Bowls (2004-2008). He’s played in all but three games for the Chargers, and started all but seven. Over the last five seasons, Gates has averaged 75 receptions for 935 yards and tex TDs.

2003 Redraft Summary

With the 2003 redraft, I addressed the last few weaknesses on my team at tight end (Witten and Gates) and depth at free safety (Hamlin), and also drafted a replacement for punter Chris Gardocki (Scifres), who left the Browns as a free agent following the 2003 season. I also added to already deep positions at outside linebacker (Briggs),wide receiver (Boldin), cornerback (Samuel), defensive end (Mathis), and offensive guard (Dielman). This helps me out over the long term with free agent defections and salary cap issues, enabling me to part with higher-paid players in those positions without losing quality. Overall, the team that I built over the last five years is incredibly talented and deep, and should be a dynasty if their level of play with my team matches what they’ve done in reality.

I think I’ll end my redrafts of the “new” Cleveland Browns here after five seasons (the same length as my ’90s redraft of Cleveland). I could go on through Davis’ last year, and reexamine the Savage/Crennel years, which just ended, but you get the point. Granted, anyone can go back and lament who their favorite team passed over and build almost the exact team I did during the same seasons. And there’s no guarantee that a team with all this talent will actually win a multiple Super Bowls, much less one. But my point is to show just how poorly the Browns have performed in the personnel department over their first five years upon reentering the league. Even if they took half, or even a quarter, of the players I did, the end results could have been much different over this past decade of football futility in northeast Ohio. One can only wish and dream.

Five Questions for Eric Rickabaugh

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Eric Rickabaugh is the owner of Rickabaugh Graphics, located in the Columbus, Ohio suburb of Gahanna. For over twenty years Rickabaugh Graphics has been creating award-winning logo designs for numerous Fortune 500 companies including Hasbro Toys, Coca-Cola, Toyota, MGM and Clorox. The firm has also worked on pro sports brands for the NFL, the NHL, the NBA and Minor League Baseball. Over the last decade and a half the firm has been applying their extensive logo expertise to the collegiate market.  In this time they have become the leading collegiate branding firm and their clients have included the Big East Conference, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, Seton Hall University, Vanderbilt University, North Carolina State, Baylor, Texas A&M University and many, many others.  Their tremendous success in revitalizing collegiate brands has resulted in the studio becoming the primary firm assisting schools with native American nicknames build new traditons around less controversial icons.  The studio’s collegiate designs have been the subject of feature articles in five major design publications and the firm’s owner, Eric Rickabaugh, has lectured on graphic design and branding issues at conventions for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the International Collegiate Licensing Association, Major and Minor League Baseball and at the The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

White Boxer (WB):
You’ve been going graphic design professionally for 24 years, but during the last 10-15 years, you’ve really made a name for yourself in rebranding colleges and universities. How did that come about?

Examples of Eric Rickenbaugh's work
Logo designs by Eric Rickenbaugh (Clockwise from upper left): The Ohio State University, Vanderbuilt University, Old Dominion University, Philadelphia 76ers.

Eric:
Our company has always been known as a leading logo/identity firm but early on we primarily did corporate logos. Based on our accomplishments in corporate identity we were selected in 1991 by The Ohio State University to redesign their athletic identity. We applied all that we had learned in doing award-winning corporate identities to that project and it was a real success. In the first couple of years after the new identity was introduced the university saw a 225% increase in licensed income (that represents about one and a half million dollars). Of course with that kind of success other universities took notice and we were soon hired to design athletic identities for the University of Dayton and Xavier University. In 1995 the NBA noticed our work on these three projects and hired us to redesign the identity for the Philadelphia 76ers. It was at this point that I realized we were developing a very positive reputation in the specific field of athletic identity design. I began to actively promote Rickabaugh Graphics as an athletic identity design firm and also started to aggressively seek out clients who might be interested in our expertise. It is now nearly fifteen years later and we have worked for the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, Minor League Baseball and over one hundred universities across the country. Our expertise has also grown quite significantly from just doing athletic branding to also providing academic branding, youth mark and kid’s club programs, identity research and testing, mascot costume design and many other full-range collegiate branding services. Our many years of experience have provided us with the necessary insights to really assist our collegiate clients in dealing with many very challenging branding issues.
WB:
How is working with colleges and universities, and pro sports leagues for that matter, than working with your typical corporation when doing a rebranding project?
Eric:
Working with pro sports leagues is very much like working with any corporate client when creating a retail mark. The pace is fast, the goal is profit and the process is straight forward. Collegiate clients on the other hand are a very unique animal. The attachment to their logos is very emotional. Even a small change must be considered carefully as the response to an improperly handled change can be very negative. In addition, the stakeholders at a university are not only personally connected but they are also very diverse. A university’s audiences include students, faculty, administration, alumni, the community and fans just to name a few. The extreme range of their values, attitudes and age make the collegiate environment very complex and highly political. For this reason it is tremendously important to have a very deliberate branding process that includes involving many members of these audiences in focus groups to get a sense for their reaction to any proposed design. It is a very challenging and demanding branding specialty.
WB:
I would also think another challenge with the collegiate clients is the obscure or historical mascots some schools have that aren’t associated with sports very well (North Carolina Tarheels for example). One client of yours that seems to fit that is the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. How did you go about finding an identity that the university’s audience got behind?

Examples of sports logos
Clockwise from upper left: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, New York Yankees, University of Texas Longhorns.

Eric:
Certainly many colleges have some very interesting nicknames. In addition to the Hilltoppers we have also done Catamounts, Nor’easters, Wonder Boys and of course the Buckeyes. The challenge in coming up with an image for a unique name is part of the fun of what we do. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers is an interesting case. When I arrived on campus they had a poorly drawn image of a “severed” hand holding a red towel as a logo. I was absolutely certain that we would come up with something other than that for the new athletic image. But upon doing the necessary research and talking to the university’s stakeholders it was clear just how “near and dear” that red towel image was to the WKU fans. It is steeped in a tradition which surrounds a famous WKU basketball coach who always waved a red towel at the games. It soon became apparent that we would be re-drawing the red towel logo rather than discarding it. We added a new set of wordmarks to the new red towel logo and the brand was complete. As you can see we let the university audiences help us find the correct image for their school.
WB:
What college or pro team identity do you see out there, besides your work,  that you really admire?
Eric:
There is a lot of wonderful work that exists in the sports identity market. Of course the Yankees logo is a classic that has stood the test of time and is a very identifiable symbol. The Texas longhorn silhouette is another classic that stands out. More recent brands that appeal to me include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Houston Texans among many, many others.

Comparing the NFL logos
The old NFL logo (left) and new (right).

WB:
Two recent professional logos have been revealed this fall. What’s you opinion of both the updated look of the NFL logo, and the logo for the NBa’s Oklahoma City Thunder?
Eric:
The new NFL logo is an excellent refinement of a very successful brand. The typography has been cleaned up and given a much more contemporary feel. The football illustration looks like a dimensional football rather than the “hamburger” that the NFL players fondly called it. And the eight stars in the blue field now represent the eight divisions in the NFL and should be much easier to embroider. Overall an great job by the designers.I hate criticizing other designer’s work because none of us know the issues that were involved in the design process. Did the client dictate the design or in some other way hinder the design process? We don’t know the inside story. Still the new NBA Thunder logo is somewhat disappointing. Rather than portraying an image of a sport that is fast and exciting the logo looks dated and stagnant. There is very little personality in the design and if you take away the basketball it has very little meaning. There could have been a lot of visual excitement with the use of some lightning or clouds. Seems like a missed opportunity.

Five for Friday: 1.2.2009

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and wrap up to 2008. mine was pretty enjoyable, although hectic with two young girls in the house and traveling to visit family. 2008 was a busy year for me, so I thought I’d kick off the new year’s Five for Friday series with five projects I wrapped up over the last quarter of 2008. These are all web sites I completed at the day job as lead (meaning sole) web designer and developer atTCS Software. All sites are built using ourRuby-On-Rails-driven WebSuite2 CMS.

National Career Development Association (NCDA)

Screenshot of NCDA web site
Launched in early December, the NCDA site redesign was a major challenge and undertaking. Not only did we need to work with the client in reworking the content structure, but this is the first site using the Products Module, WebSuite2’s custom shopping cart. The early feedback from members indicates that the relauch exceeded expectations.

National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI)

Screenshot of NADDI web site
The NADDI redesign was an interesting project. The previous version of the site was fairly dark in appearance and mood, and the navigation structure was rather difficult to sort through. We worked with the client to steamline their content structure and made the site warmer in feel. The home page also better organizes their important content without seeming cluttered.

Ohio Automobile Dealers Association

Screenshot of OADA web site
TCS Software was contracted by OADA to redesign their web site to be more engaging, visually more appealing, and easier to use. Along with a complete design makeover, the backend improvements to this site is what really makes it zing, especially the member management features.

Payments Central

Screenshot of Payments Central web site
A slight redesign of a current client, the Payments Central web site doesn’t seem much different from the version that ran on our previous CMS. The real difference is on the back end. The CSS structure is significantly cleaner than the previous version, which was about three years old. There are also additional features that came along with the new CMS, including a true sitewide search and better member login and management features. This is also the second site to use our new Prodcuts Module. On the visual side, the home page is better organized and uses the space much better than the previous version.

Association for Financial Technology

Screenshot of AFT web site
A complete overhaul of their previous site, AFT jumped to TCS Software to have a true CMS system for their site content. Not only is the site appearance a vast improvement over its predecessor, but the interactivity greatly enhances the site’s usability and value.

This is a small sampling of the work I’ve been doing at TCS Software this past year. Overall, I’ve been pleased with the work our team has produced, and the vast majority of our clients are great to work with. You can see more of my work at TCS Software at TCS Labs in the upper right rotating portfolio. All but three or four of those sites were designed and built by me. This year, I also plan to post some write-ups of the creative process on some of those projects as well as some new ones that are currently in the works.