With the 2017 NFL Draft less than 48 hours away, the NFL’s perennial punch line in the Cleveland Browns are once again on the clock.
In what seems to be an annual rite of spring, football fans can count on three things, the New England Patriots winning Super Bowls, teams overpaying in free agency and the Cleveland Browns picking in the top end of the draft.
Forty-eight hours before D-day, and there is a sense of imminent angst amongst the fan base, that the Browns will do what they always do in overthinking things and trying to be cute and outsmart everyone in being bold or trying to be different.
Sadly, Cleveland’s draft history shows how short-sighted such a draft strategy up.
It’s really sad when Hollywood pans your own beloved franchise in having Kevin Costner as a fictional general manager, who seems to have a clue on how to wheel and deal on draft day.
Like I said, sad.
Thanks to drafting all-time busts such as Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren. Kellen Winslow II, Brady Quinn, Johnny Manziel, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo and Justin Gilbert, prescriptions for Percocet’s and Xanax are at an all-time high right now in Cleveland.
What is an even scarier fact is that their last five picks from the last five drafts in Richardson, Weeden, Mingo, Manziel and Gilbert are no longer with the team, out of football or on another team entirely.
By some miracle, Mingo was able to get a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots, only because of Cleveland trading for Jamie Collins.
Things do appear to be proverbially turning the corner in Cleveland, as the Browns have assembling a promising nucleus to build around in the form of Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Christian Kirksey, the forementioned Collins, Cody Kessler, Corey Coleman to build around for the future.
Now just imagine if Cleveland does in fact tab Myles Garrett and pair him across from second-year stud in Emmanuel Ogbah? Imagine if the Browns draft a Corey Davis, O.J. Howard or Mike Williams, giving Kessler—or Brock Osweiler a dynamic weapon on offense to utilize.
Imagine if Josh Gordon actually got clean and back on the field. Yes, I know it’s too much to stomach—and a snowball’s chance in hell—but imagine how potent the Browns otherwise anemic offense would transform overnight?
It all starts in the draft. Always has been, always will be.
Look no further than the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the gold standard of stability and success.
The have employed a simple—yet effective strategy of drafting for over 40 years in drafting the best player available on their board, and sticking to it. There is a reason why they won four titles in six years and two this millennium, by sticking with what works.
Pittsburgh may not draft the flashiest or biggest name player, they draft mean, nasty hitters, meat grinders who kick your ass for three hours on and off the field.
The Steelers EXPECT to win titles, the Browns HOPE to finish .500. That right there exemplifies the contrasting mindsets amongst the fans, franchise and media.
Having lived in Pittsburgh for the last 10-plus years, I can attest to this, ANYTHING less than a Lombardi Trophy being raised in February is considered a failure in the Steel City, whereas the closest the Browns get to a Super Bowl is having a great draft in April.
Such expectations need to change if Cleveland hopes to avoid being the NFL’s welcome mat in 2017. Hopefully, the Browns take another step in drafting the best and rewarding their long-suffering, loyal fans the same.
Even Sonny Weaver Jr. can appreciate that.