The Cleveland Browns. Was it really that long ago the name was synonymous with excellence?
Four AAFC Championships. Four NFL Championships. All time great players such as Jim Brown, Lou “the Toe” Groza, Ozzie Newsome, Clay Mathews, Paul Warfield and Bernie Kosar and we haven’t even mentioned arguably the all-time best QB in the history of professional football Otto Graham.
Otto Graham played his entire career for the Browns over a span of ten years. In each of those years the Browns played in the Championship Game and they came away winners seven times with Graham at the helm. That’s a bar of excellence no other team in the league can claim.
Balancing the books Cleveland also has one of the historically evil owners in the league. Short version is in 1996 Cleveland owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore despite excellent attendance at home. Due to his own greed and the subsequent losses his business decisions cost him Modell wanted a publicly funded, first class stadium to increase his revenues which was all the rage at the time. You know the rest of the story and the die was cast. The Browns remained in Cleveland in name only until 1998 when the new Browns were born. A storied team in name, an expansion team in every sense of the word.
Fifteen years later and the best the team has mustered has been one winning season in 2007 grinding out a 10-6 record on a team where Brady Quinn was considered the future at QB. We all know how that and pretty much every other Browns first round pick since 1999 has gone. I’m not kidding, it’s epic bad.
- 1999 – Tim Couch
- 2000 – Courtney Brown
- 2001 – Gerard Warren
- 2002 – William Green
- 2003 -Jeff Faine
- 2004 -Kellen Winslow II
- 2005 – Braylon Edwards
- 2006 – Kamerion Wimbley
- 2007 – Joe Thomas
- 2007 – Brady Quinn
- 2008 – No Pick
- 2009 – Alex Mack
- 2010 – Joe Haden
- 2011 – Phil Taylor
- 2012 – Trent Richardson
- 2012 – Brandon Weeden
- 2013 – Barkevious Mingo
- 2014 – Justin Gilbert
- 2014 – Johnny Manziel
- 2015 – Danny Shelton
- 2015 – Cameron Erving
- 2016 – Corey Coleman
Epic bad. One hit (Joe Thomas) in 22 tries of generally very high first round selections. If you know a name on this list at all it’s probably because of how badly they’ve done. It’s like an all time first round bust list. If you’ve yet to do the math, it’s a .045 % success rate. Conversely that’s a 99.955% failure rate. Did I mention epic?
Einstein explained it simply when he posited the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Say what you will about Jimmy Haslam, it only took him four years to figure out that it’s the top of the organization that needs to have an owners attention and he has turned his full focus to this group. Rather than continuing to churn coaches and top first round picks Haslam turned over the top of his football organization and I believe he has been hugely successful.
Tired of the same results it’s a new style of NFL front office organization being implemented in Cleveland. New titles have been created. Old titles have been given a fond farewell. GM? Don’t really have one though Executive Vice President Sashi Brown is most often refereed to as a guy fulfilling many of those traditional functions. Chief Strategy Officer Paul Depodesta brings his Moneyball (metrics) approach and maximizing the number of draft picks available to the team is the vehicle the team has hitched it’s future to.
Will all of this work? I honestly don’t know. I can say however I like it. I like it a lot. It’s bold. It’s being professionally implemented. I’m not seeing a haphazard approach but rather a measured process of well thought out steps implementing a well defined vision. That sounds like winning football.
Better yet the Brown’s front office and coaches to a man are all about playing down expectations. The team is not overselling RGIII. They aren’t touting their new first round selection as the savior of the team. Instead there are statements about competition and honest assessments about team needs. That’s refreshing.
Structured from the top down the latest Cleveland Browns rebuild isn’t a band aid or clever diversion. Instead fans can now watch as a vision is enacted by professional sports personnel and implemented by competent, passionate coaches.
After years of epic failure I believe we may be witnessing the beginning of years of excellence giving Browns fans once again the team they deserve.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over