So, apparently Sam Bradford, yes that Sam Bradford is a hot commodity. The Philadelphia Eagles gave significant compensation to acquire the oft-injured quarterback and the Cleveland Browns who reportedly offered one of their two first round picks (19th overall) to Philadelphia for Bradford, think that he is the answer to their team’s franchise quarterback prayer. Before I continue, I would like to point out that I actually like Sam Bradford. Thought he would be a terrific pro IF he could stay healthy which he has failed to do throughout his not so young career thus far. I get it, the NFL is a QB driven and starved league where teams will pay TOP dollar for average quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler) if they demonstrate a modicum of competency at the most scrutinized position in the game. However, the level of desperation Cleveland apparently has, to forfeit a first round pick for a quarterback that has neither made a pro bowl nor been able to play a full slate of games in consecutive seasons truly demonstrates the futility the Browns’ organization faces.
Allow me to point out that I am NOT a Cleveland Browns fan. Which inherently means that I am the least qualified person to analyze why the Browns have been awful for so long and continue to be awful. If you are able to get past my thinly veiled sarcasm I will proceed. Certainly, finding or perhaps even the novel idea of developing a franchise quarterback would go a long way in changing the fortunes of a franchise mired in irrelevance. However, until the organization can establish continuity throughout the front office and coaching staff the Browns will continue to have the occasional double-digit win season followed by 8-10 years of sub .500 football.
In my lifetime, the Browns have had 10 general managers. In other words, over the past 30 years the Browns have averaged a new general manager every three years. Keep in mind “The Move” which encompasses the time period between the team being moved to Baltimore in the mid 90s and the resurrection of the franchise at the turn of the century. Interestingly enough, Baltimore Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome was the Director of Pro Personnel for one year in Cleveland, the last year before the franchise was effectively deactivated. Newsome was a member of the Browns during his playing days, leads the franchise in receptions and receiving yards and is a Hall of Famer. In 2002, he was named general manager of the Baltimore Ravens (previously a Raven front office executive since 1996). The Ravens have won two Super Bowls since the team’s inception in 1996. 2015 will be Newsome’s 14th season manning the controls of the Ravens’ roster and he is one of the most respected and accomplished front office personas throughout the entire NFL. Contrarily during the span of Newsome’s tenure as Ravens’ GM the Browns have had six general managers not including Mike Holmgren’s three-year stint as Team President (2010-12).
The revolving door of decision-making personnel is a combination of impatience on behalf of Browns’ ownership as well as the ineffectiveness of said general managers. How many times does it take to get it right? Michael Lombardi was replaced by Ray Farmer after one year as general manager in 2013. Ray Farmer proceeded to draft Johnny Manziel during his first draft as GM and may very well not make it through a second season before he is shit-canned. If the courtship of Sam Bradford is any indication, Farmer and current head coach Mike Pettine won’t make it beyond 2015. That isn’t to say that Johnny Manziel is the answer. What I don’t understand is how paid professionals with all of the technology, empirical evidence and a scouting department can get wrapped up in the media hype that invariably surrounds some player or players each draft? Yes, everyone gets it wrong from time-to-time but the Browns seemingly get it wrong every time. You mean to tell me Teddy Bridgewater’s pro day (which was terrible) completely undermines three-years of exquisite tape in a pro-style offense where he not only called plays (did you see Manziel at Gruden’s quarterback camp he couldn’t even call a play) but made all the reads, was responsible for all protection adjustments and didn’t rely upon an assembly line of coaches on the sideline to call an audible. Conversely, Marcus Mariota (spread QB not-unlike Manziel) struggled at his Pro Day but no one expects him to last until the end of the first round. Hell, Blake Bortles’ “measurables” and apparent “higher” ceiling was the reason why he was taken 29 spots ahead of Teddy despite many talent evaluators’ belief that Bridgewater was the most “pro-ready” of the three QBs in the 2014 draft. Again, the Browns’ aren’t the only guilty culprit. Does Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers ring a bell? They are simply the latest offender and with two picks in the first round of the 2014 draft they managed to pass up Bridgewater twice.
Since, 1999 the Browns have selected the following quarterbacks: Tim Couch (1st overall), Spergon Wynn, Luke McCown, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. That’s terrible. The Tim Couch debacle was a tough one, not easy to recover from that pick although I certainly thought Donovan McNabb was the best quarterback in that draft class. The Browns’ struggle with evaluating, drafting and developing talent isn’t exclusive to the quarterback position. If you take a look at their draft classes over the past 15 years you will struggle to recognize many of the names of players the Browns have drafted. Only one of their nine selections in the 1999 draft played in the NFL beyond 2005, tight end James Dearth. Who? Just to give you and idea, Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt and Champ Bailey were all selected subsequent to Couch in the 99′ draft. The contemporary move to let Brian Hoyer (below average QB) walk to opt for Josh McCown (older, worst QB) is classic Browns’ roster management. What the hell?
You can’t win in the NFL without talent, and you won’t win consistently without excellent quarterback play. So it comes as no surprise to see a revolving door of coaches in Cleveland either. Since 1984, the Browns have had 12 different head coaches (two interim). Only one of the 12 coaches has a winning record during their tenure, that would be Marty Schottenheimer from 1984-88 with a 44-27 record, a 62% winning percentage. Fortunately for Marty he had Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde during his reign as the Browns’ head coach. Bill Belichick was the next most successful or least unsuccessful coach during that span with a 45% winning percentage. Obviously, we all know what Belichick and Tom Brady have accomplished in New England. Perhaps the Browns, or perhaps more appropriately the Cleveland fans, are snake-bit. The team is deactivated despite having Belichick and Newsome on staff and subsequently both go on to have wild success. Meanwhile, the Browns continue to languish at the bottom of the barrel. Tough pill to swallow.
The Browns’ losing ways are certain to continue until they can manage to get a competent pairing of general manager and head coach. Otherwise, they will continue to grasp at straws in their ongoing hunt for a franchise quarterback. A decent general manager/head coach combination would focus on building the talent on the roster instead of gambling on highly questionable quarterback prospects time and again. Just a thought.