Owen Marecic was a hack sportswriter’s wet dream. At Stanford, he played both sides of the ball as a linebacker and fullback for the Andrew Luck era Cardinal teams. He was a true throwback with that rare grit and intangibles that made commentators collectively lose their minds. With his flowing blonde hair, he almost could have passed for the woman of pundits’ dreams.
I’ll admit it; I fell for him as well. When the Browns drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft I had visions of Marecic flying around the field, his locks spilling out of the bottom of his helmet, stuffing opposing running backs on one side of the ball and blowing open holes on the other.
Of course, this is the NFL, so he was never going to play both ways. The Browns opted to play Marecic at fullback, and he earned the starting job lead blocking for Peyton Hillis in his rookie season. Through no fault of Marecic’s, the team’s ground game was an unequivocal disaster that season. Hillis’s list of injuries and illnesses in the 2011 season was almost as extensive as the list of trucking companies Jimmy Haslam recently settled with, and he finished with just 587 yards and three touchdowns in only 10 games.
Marecic actually acquitted himself decently well that season. With the selection of Trent Richardson in 2012, most of the amateur Cleveland punditry assumed Marecic would benefit from having a true number one running back hitting the holes he would be opening.
That sounded really good in theory, didn’t it? We all know the reality that last season brought. Richardson’s rookie year was more or less a success in spite of his struggles to stay healthy, but Marecic was not the main driver of his production. The second year fullback struggled to open holes. Oh yeah, and he couldn’t catch a predator if he found himself in the Vatican with Chris Hansen.
Now, with a new regime in place, Marecic finds his roster spot in jeopardy, thrusting the Browns fullback depth chart into further disarray. Rob Chudzinski and his staff have made noises about converting Chris Ogbonnaya to fullback. Brad Smelley, a tight end in college at Alabama with Richardson, will be tried out as a fullback/H-back hybrid. Free agent tight end signing Kellen Davis could be deployed in a similar way.
None of these options are the lead blocker that Trent Richardson needs and deserves (although I am slightly intrigued by Smelley’s potential and the possibility of converting Ogbonnaya). Two names on the fullback market continue to intrigue me. Both are familiar to Browns fans. Three-time Pro Bowler Vonta Leach was released by the Ravens last month after he could not agree to a restructured contract with the Super Bowl champions. The Dolphins have expressed interest in the 31 year-old three time All-Pro and Baltimore has offered him a $2 million base contract with $1 million in incentives to rejoin the team, but he remains unsigned. Reports following his release said that the Browns were not interested for reasons that remain unexplained to peasant fans like myself.
The other player who the Browns should be calling is an old fan favorite. Lawrence Vickers was not resigned after the Browns drafted Marecic prior to the 2011 season. He played the 2011 season with Houston and then spent the 2012 season in Dallas. On July 12, he was released by the Cowboys, a fact which somehow evaded my knowledge until this morning. It says something about my experience with the Browns that I was so excited by the news of Vickers’s release, but it seems that many Browns fans agree with me. Why wouldn’t the Browns take a shot on a guy who’s been a proven performer as well as a beloved player in this very city? At the very least, I’d love to see the Browns bring the 30 year-old Vickers for training camp. I don’t doubt that Marecic has been working hard to chisel those stone hands of his into some shape that may actually allow him to catch a football, but I’d rather have another true fullback at camp in the event that Marecic proves that he does not belong on an NFL roster.
Browns fans can’t really stand Owen Marecic. Twitter’s echo chamber is set to maximum volume whenever he drops a pass or blows a blocking assignment. Browns fans loved Lawrence Vickers and would hop on board if he showed up in Berea for training camp next week. This seems like an easy decision to me, but unfortunately I just get to write about it on the Internet. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, make the call.