NFL Football News – The Cleveland Browns, and the Ghost of Draftmas Present
Let’s all hop in a hypothetical time machine, and go back to six months ago. The Cleveland Browns had the #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and there was all this chatter that they were seriously considering passing on defensive end Myles Garret, the consensus #1 prospect, in order to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from the University of North Carolina. As ridiculous as it sounded, especially given that they ended up doing the right thing and taking Garrett with their top, we know two things:
1) They genuinely explored the idea of taking Trubisky at #1 overall. There were plenty of people who thought Trubisky was the best quarterback among the top guys in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a humble, blue-collar, family-oriented guy who grew up right there in Ohio, rooting for the Browns as a kid. The Browns needed a quarterback, and Cleveland taking Trubisky would’ve been a story that the city would’ve eaten up.
2) They would’ve actively tried to move up from their second #1 pick (at #12 overall), into the top five or six picks, so that they could walk out of the first night of the draft having landed cornerstone players for their offense and defense. No team in the NFL had as much draft capital to use in trades as the Browns, and the Tennessee Titans (#5 overall) or New York Jets (#6) overall were itching to make a deal for more picks.
Instead, the Chicago Bears shocked everyone by not only drafting Trubisky, but actually sending San Francisco four draft picks just to swap spots (from #3 to #2) to do so. That move also turned out to be a gigantic turd in the Browns punch bowl.
To make matters worse, the Browns reportedly had Patrick Mahomes as their second-best quarterback, only to watch him get taken with the 10th overall pick (after Kansas City traded with the Buffalo Bills to get him).
So then, the operative question is: why did the Browns pass on Deshaun Watson, who was fully available at #12 overall? Watson-to-the-Browns made a lot of sense. Hue Jackson had experience working with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton — whom Watson’s skillset is very comparable to — when Dalton was coming out of a spread offense at TCU. Watson was months removed from leading Clemson University to an epic upset of the mighty University of Alabama. For all the questions about his arm strength, erratic accuracy, and lack of size, he just oozed that intrinsic “it” factor that quarterbacks require.
But as we all know, Cleveland traded out of the spot, giving the Houston Texans the chance to take Watson, while Cleveland hitched their wagon to quarterback DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame, whom they selected in the second round of the draft. Saying that move hasn’t gone well would be a little bit of an understatement.
In 4 ½ games this year, Watson has accounted for 14 total touchdowns; in five games this year, the entire Browns offense has scored 10 touchdowns. Watson has thrown four interceptions this season; Kizer threw seven interceptions in the month of September. And most importantly: Watson has led the Texans two wins in his four starts this season; the Browns have two wins over the last 730 calendar days (and remain winless in the 2017 season).
The Cleveland Browns — both in their past version, and in their current permutation — have had exactly three quarterbacks go to the Pro Bowl. Prior to Derek Anderson in 2007, the last time Cleveland sent a quarterback to the Pro Bowl, Ronald Reagan was wrapping up his second term as President, and Bill Belichick.
There’s a reason for that. It’s because — whether it was bad luck, bad management, bad coaching, or some perfect storm of all three — they ended up taking Tim Couch over Donovan McNabb or Daunte Culpepper, Brandon Weeded over Russell Wilson or Kirk Cousins, Johnny Manziel over Derek Carr, and even Cody Kessler over Dak Prescott. In consecutive drafts, they’ve traded out of the spot that yielded Carson Wentz, and then Watson.
For all the future draft picks you acquire, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t use them to build a winner. While Cleveland stockpiled draft picks, Prescott won the 2016 NFL rookie of the year award, Wentz has become a darkhorse MVP contender thus far into the 2017 season, and Watson has become the hottest name in the NFL right now.
Cleveland got manhandled by the ghost of Draftmas past in their season-opener last year, when Carson Wentz dropped 278 yards and two touchdown passes on them. Even after losing two of their three best defensive players — including the face of their franchise — to season-ending injuries, Houston is still nearly a double-digit favorite to beat Cleveland on Sunday.
While the Browns hold tightly to their future assets and dream of what could be, they keep getting brutally reminded of what could have been. Protect “your” future assets by getting a kids mouthpiece.