It’s easy to make fun of the Cleveland Browns, so here it goes.
While typing this sentence, the Browns were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. In the apparent renaissance of Cleveland athletics — where the Cavs overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to defeat a historically potent Golden State Warriors team and the Cleveland Indians were one win away from a World Series — the Browns finished 1-15. Whenever I have a child, I’ll legally change my last name to Brown and name my son/daughter Cleveland so they can get ridiculed in school.
Sure, there are franchises with longer playoff droughts (the Buffalo Bills) and stretches of losing football (da Rams), but there’s a certain charm to the Browns’ futility. It’s not that they are woefully dysfunctional, it’s the manner in which they choose to be.
I think back to the movie Draft Day — the most ridiculous sports movie ever created — where Kevin Costner’s job is the most readily available in the United States: General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. Seriously, let’s have that job title in every sector. It’s sure to boost the economy. But then again, this is the Browns, so maybe it’ll trigger another Great Depression.
In this gold standard of modern cinema, Costner goes rogue and somehow manages to coordinate the greatest draft performance of all time, using an intricate combination of oddball questioning and Jedi mind tricks to snag his desired players and picks. How he convinces Seattle to trade with him is absolutely preposterous, and the Jacksonville GM becomes so flustered and unsure of his abilities that it makes me wonder if that’s an accurate representation of the real life Jacksonville GM.
But what if I told you Draft Day isn’t about the Browns? The film is actually symbolic of what the other 31 NFL teams do to Cleveland on a year-to-year basis. When the draft rolls around, every franchise has set up an elaborate series of trap doors for the Browns to drop into. Like clockwork, Cleveland falls for every trap and sends itself into a habitual twilight zone.
Just look at they’ve performed in every draft since 1999:
- 1999: Used the top overall pick on quarterback Tim Couch when they could’ve drafted Donovan McNabb. Couch had his “moments,” but overall, was a colossal bust.
- 2000: Another bone-headed selection at No. 1. The Browns selected defensive end Courtney Brown when they could’ve had LaVar Arrington or Brian Urlacher.
- 2001: Back-to-back blunders on the defensive line. Used the No. 3 pick on Florida defensive tackle Gerard Warren when Richard Seymour was available.
- 2002: Cleveland drafts right in the middle at No. 16 and foolishly selection running back William Green. Meanwhile, transcendent safety Ed Reed was readily available.
- 2003: After making the playoffs in 2002, the Browns draft at No. 21, where they select center Jeff Faine. Not much quality was available here, but Willis McGahee and Dallas Clark certainly provided more value to their respective teams than Faine did during his short stint in Cleveland.
- 2004: Perhaps the team’s most consequential blunder. At No. 6, they draft tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. Just eight picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers draft Ben Roethlisberger. In his career, Big Ben is 21-2 against the Browns.
- 2005: Remember how I said 2004 was perhaps the team’s most consequential blunder? Well, that statement is incorrect. With the third overall pick, Cleveland selected wide receiver Braylor Edwards… WHEN THEY COULD’VE DRAFTED AARON FREAKIN RODGERS. Sure, Rodgers looked like a goat back in 2005 and had a wonky delivery, but 12 years later, Rodgers is in the G.O.A.T. conversation. Cleveland, if it looks like goat, smells like a goat and quacks like a goat, it’s probably Aaron Rodgers.
- 2006: With the No. 13 pick, Cleveland selects defensive end Kamerion Wimdley. They originally began with the No. 12 pick, but swapped with the Baltimore Ravens, who used the Browns’ original pick to draft Haloti Ngata. Lol.
- 2007: Cleveland uses the No. 3 pick on left tackle Joe Thomas. An incredible pick. Thomas hasn’t missed a snap since being drafted and is a perennial Pro Bowl selection.
- 2008: This is the draft that killed the Browns’ future. If you’ll recall, they actually finished 10-6 in 2007. Although they missed the playoffs, 10 wins for Cleveland might as well be three-consecutive perfect seasons. But the franchise was set back thanks to a porous 2008 draft performance. The Browns held the fewest picks (5) and didn’t have a pick in the first three rounds. They traded their first round pick to Dallas the year prior so they could draft…. Brady Quinn. They then traded their second and third round picks for a pair of defensive linemen that were both gone by the time 2011 rolled around.
- 2009: Cleveland pulled a play right out of the New England handbook and traded back in the first round three times. It originally held the No. 5 pick, but swapped it to the Jets for the No. 17 and No. 52 picks. Then, at No. 17, they traded with Tampa Bay for its first round pick (No. 19) and a sixth-round selection. Then, at No. 19, the Browns swapped with Philadelphia at No. 21 and received yet another sixth-round pick. Ultimately, Cleveland drafted center Alex Mack, who in seven seasons with the Browns earned three Pro Bowl nods.
- 2010: With the No. 7 pick, Cleveland drafted cornerback Joe Haden. When healthy, Haden is an elite defensive back, but that’s the issue: He’s rarely healthy.
- 2011: The Browns appeared to hit the jackpot when they traded the No. 6 pick to Atlanta for a host of picks. Of course, the Falcons used that pick to draft Julio Jones, and after Cleveland traded up to the 21st pick, it opted to go with defensive tackle Phil Taylor over budding superstar Cameron Jordan.
- 2012: The Browns and Vikings swapped first-round picks, which provided Cleveland with the glorious opportunity of drafting Trent Richardson. Meanwhile, Minnesota drafted pro-bowl offensive tackle Matt Kalil and the Carolina Panthers later snagged Luke Kuechly. This is also a good time to mention that the Browns drafted Brandon Weeden at No. 22, a quarterback who was already exiting his prime as soon as he entered the league, and passed up on Kirk Cousins in the fourth round.
- 2013: A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad draft class. The Browns selected Barkevious Mingo at No. 6, and although he isn’t with the team anymore (my beloved Indianapolis Colts have him…lol), there wasn’t much this draft class had to offer.
- 2014: Minnesota duped Cleveland once before, so the purple and gold thought maybe, just maybe, they could pull it off again. Well, they did just that. Again, the Vikings stood one spot above the Browns. Cleveland had its sights set on a player, so they swapped their No. 9 pick with Minnesota’s No. 8 pick to draft… Justin Gilbert. Meanwhile, Minnesota drafted stud linebacker Anthony Barr. The Browns could’ve used their pick to draft Odell Beckham Jr. or Aaron Donald. Think that’s bad? Oh, it gets much worse. Cleveland traded up to No. 22 so they could draft Johnny Manziel. You know who was waiting in the wings? Derek Carr.
- 2015: The Browns used the No. 12 pick on defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Not a bad pick, but Shelton’s teammate at Washington, cornerback Marcus Peters, would’ve been a much better selection.
- 2016: It’s too early to tell, but the Hue Jackson regime didn’t receive much help despite Cleveland holding 14 draft picks. The Browns used their first-round pick on Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman. In fact, five of the team’s 14 selections were pass catchers.
Cleveland has yet another chance to alter its course in the right direction heading into Thursday. They’re tied with Cincinnati for the most total picks (11), hold the No. 1 overall pick (where they’ll draft Myles Garrett… if they don’t pull a Cleveland), and have a host of flexible assets — the No. 12 pick, a pair of second-round picks (that Brock Osweiler trade was silky smooth) and the first pick in the third round.
But the Browns have had plenty of assets before and still managed to come away with nothing. It’s obvious their front office and scout department are not fully in sync, especially when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks, which is unequivocally the genesis of the franchise’s problems.
Since 1999, 26 different quarterbacks have started for the Cleveland Browns, with only ONE completing a full season. That’s no recipe for NFL success.
Cleveland is the embodiment of why having a franchise quarterback matters. If we look at all 51 Super Bowl champions, what’s the common theme? Franchise quarterbacks.
Pittsburgh has six Lombardi Trophies thanks to Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. Dallas secured two with Roger Staubach and earned an additional three with Troy Aikman. All five of New England’s championships featured Tom Brady under center. San Francisco started its dynasty with Joe Montana and capped it off with Steve Young. Green Bay won the first two Super Bowls ever with Bart Starr, then had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers snag one apiece. The New York Giants won a Super Bowl with Phil “The Greatest Broadcaster of All Time” Simms and two with Eli “Rain” Manning. Denver got two with an aging John Elway, then another with an aging Peyton Manning. Peyton also helped the Indianapolis Colts win a Super Bowl over 30 years after the combination of Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas got it done for the Baltimore Colts back in 1971. The Raiders — whether it was Oakland or Los Angeles — had solid quarterback play from Ken Stabler (1976) and Jim Plunkett (1980 and 1983). Miami went back-to-back in the early 1970s thanks to Bob Griese. The Chiefs lone Super Bowl victory was spearheaded by Len Dawson, while the Rams went from worst-to-first in 1999 thanks to the arm of Kurt Warner.
There are outliers, of course. But even if a Super Bowl winning team was absent exceptional quarterback play, it either received surprising performances from an otherwise inconsistent signal callers (Look at the 1987 and 1991 Redskins, plus the 2012 Baltimore Ravens) or featured an elite defense (The 1985 Bears, 1990 Giants, 2000 Ravens, 20002 Buccaneers, 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos).
Not only are Cleveland’s shortcomings at quarterback evaluation well documented, it’s also failed at constructing a complete team.
But given that quarterback is the sport’s premier position, it can mask a lot of problems. Unfortunately, the Browns haven’t drafted one quarterback with the capability since 1999. Their list of quarterbacks is as depressing and inconsistent as Drake’s career.
Which Drake album is each Cleveland QB since 1999?
I’ll include every major release of Aubrey Graham’s since 2010, while pairing Views and More Life together. I’m doing it because this is my article and I can do whatever the hell I want to do.
Thank Me Later (2010)
Quarterback Description: Utter trash.
List: Tim Couch, Doug Pederson, Charlie Frye
Take Care (2011)
Quarterback Description: Displayed potential, but inconsistent overall
List: Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson, Josh McGown, and Cody Kessler
Nothing Was the Same (2013)
Quarterback Description: The failed experiment.
List: Johnny Manziel, Brady Quinn, RGIII, and Brandon Weeden
If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (2015)
Quarterback Description: The throwaways
List: Jeff Garcia, Jason Campbell, Jake Delhomme, Ty Detmer, and Trent Dilfer
Views (2016) and More Life (2017)
Quarterback Description: Forget it ever happened
List: Connor Shaw, Austin Davis, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Seneca Wallace, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Thad Lewis, and Luke McGown
Of all the icons just mentioned, Cody Kessler stands out as the one with the highest upside, but is he the answer? Essentially, Kessler is a poor man’s Alex Smith who got absolutely murdered behind Cleveland’s “offensive line.” How Kessler voluntarily trotted onto the field after every one of his concussions is beyond me. And sure, Cleveland aggressively attacked the offensive line free agent market this past offseason, but this is Cleveland we’re talking about. The coaches are programmed to downgrade players not named Joe Thomas.
So if Cleveland wants to at least have a fighting chance in multiple wars — the war to escape the conversation of the worst franchises in sports, the war for the AFC North and the war for Cleveland athletic supremacy — it needs a quality starting quarterback. Someone they can plug in immediately, regardless of the surrounding personnel, and get immediate results from.
Unfortunately, this draft class has little to offer.
Deshaun Watson is the class’ top prospect — he’s a proven winner with athleticism. But his ceiling is low and his accuracy is troublesome. Mitchell Trubisky is too inexperienced at this juncture to carry Cleveland’s incompetent roster. Patrick Mahomes is a joke. Let’s stop entertaining this, please. Deshone Kizer says he has the body of Cam Newton and the mind of Tom Brady. Unfortunately, he has the tape of Deshone Kizer. Joshua Dobbs is an Aerospace Engineer. He’s also inconsistent when it comes to throwing the football, which is a pretty big deal IMO JMO H2O. Davis Webb… ha.
The aforementioned names won’t turn Cleveland around overnight. So the Browns’ easiest path to immediate success after flirting with 0-16 is by shooting their shot and going after an existing NFL starter.
Here’s how they can get them.
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
What Green Bay would need: The entire city of Cleveland, LeBron James traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Aaron Rodgers is in the perfect stage of his career. He’s experienced plenty of high-pressure playoff games and still has at least six remaining seasons of making throws like this:
Rodgers is basically LeBron James — the perfect physical specimen with unmatched vision whose executed so many how-in-the-hell-did-you-do-that moments that it’s become normal at this point. Rodgers just had a season where he went 40-7 and it might be the fourth best season of his career. Similarly, LeBron just went 26-8-8 on nearly 55 percent shooting and he’s probably had five better seasons.
Rodgers might not be the G.O.A.T. — that’s Tom Brady — but in terms of pure throwing ability, there’s nobody better. That blink-of-an-eye delivery, the impeccable touch on downfield throws, and the way his throws always seem to slice through any wrinkle of space.
That’s why his price is so hefty. He’s so sensational at dropping our jaws and elevating the players around him that giving the Packers the entire city of Cleveland for his services wasn’t enough. So I had to reward Wisconsin basketball with LeBron James to the Milwaukee Bucks. Could you imagine the LeBron-Giannis combo? With a (hopefully) healthy Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Landon Brogdon, Greg Monroe, and Delly?
Screw this hypothetical situation, THAT needs to happen now!
Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
What Indianapolis would need: An infinite supply of books since Luck’s Book Club would move with him, neck beard grooming kits because Luck wouldn’t be there to guide the team, and a boatload of board games.
Andrew Luck has swag because he doesn’t have swag and couldn’t care less about it. You have Brady married to a supermodel, creating $200 cookbooks, and embarking on multiple revenge tours against the commissioner. You have Rodgers breaking up with insanely attractive women and playing second banana in a fractured family to Jordan Rodgers, a.k.a. the winner of The Bachelorette, a.k.a. the color commentator for the Tennessee-Tennessee Tech homecoming game last season.
Meanwhile, Luck’s at home reading books and playing board games.
If Luck were to go to Cleveland, the Browns would have to compensate Indianapolis with all its books because that Andrew Luck Book Club is going to be sorely missed.
But Luck’s true vallue — aside from his neck beard — is his understanding of life with Arena Football League talent around him, and his ability to thrive in that situation.
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
What Seattle would need: Contract where Future performs at halftime of every game.
The Seahawks are in serious need of culture. With Marshawn Lynch gone and Richard Sherman spending considerable time on the trading block, Michael Bennett isn’t cavalier enough to bring the culture by his lonesome.
Given the modern trends in hip-hop right now. Future is undoubtedly the King of the Culture. But because Russell Wilson took his girl, there’s no way Future was allowed around Seahawk games.
If Cleveland wants Russell Wilson, it must provide Seattle with what it’s been missing these past few years. To quote Future, “I just took a b**ch to eat at chipotle/ Spent another 60 thou on a rollie.”
Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
What Atlanta would need: Every therapist in Cleveland.
When analysts say the Atlanta Falcons can make it back to the Super Bowl, I don’t think they understand the magnitude of Atlanta’s loss in the Super Bowl. It’s not that they blew a 28-3 lead, it’s the fact that they had several opportunities to ice the game with simple handoffs. As Michael Lombardi said on multiple platforms, “Atlanta’s opponent wasn’t the Patriots, it was the clock.”
No matter what Matt Ryan or any other Falcon says, the team hasn’t gotten over the Super Bowl, and I doubt they ever will.
Luckily, Cleveland is a sports town with enough battle scars to fully sympathize with Atlanta’s pain. While Atlanta has The Collapse, Cleveland has The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Blown Save, The Move and The Decision. If any sane Cleveland fans still exist, that’s a miracle.
The Falcons need therapy and the Browns certainly have plenty of them, but they’ll keep a few for Matt Ryan, who’ll probably need therapy because he’s playing for a team whose entire helmet is its logo.
Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
What Ne–… lol.
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
What Tampa Bay would need: A nationwide effort to restore Florida’s crab legs.
The most savage moment in NFL draft history: After being drafted No. 1 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, not only did Winston not attend the draft, but as soon as the ESPN live coverage switched over to his location, in his hands were none other than crab legs, which he infamously stole from a Publix during his turbulent sophomore season in Talahassee.
During his first season, it was apparent Winston was still obsessed with crab legs.
But after he slimmed down, it got me thinking: Did he consume every single crab leg in the state of Florida?
I choose to believe he did. I don’t know if Cleveland is a hub for crab legs, so it needs to convince the nation to provide crab leg relief for all of Florida if the Browns want Winston.
Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
What Oakland would need: A bunch of money to keep the team in Oakland.
This is just sad. The Raiders belong in Oakland, and if they’re going to move cities, why couldn’t it have been Los Angeles?
They have the young, budding superstar quarterback (Derek Carr), they could potentially have the league’s most interesting running back (Marshawn Lynch), a star wide receiver (Amari Cooper) and an absolutely devastating defensive force (Khalil Mack). It’s so much better than what the Rams and Chargers have to offer.
As fun as Los Angeles would be, like I said, the Raiders belong in Oakland. The Black Hole is legendary, and the Bay Area needs to tough-nosed team to offset the softness of the Golden State Warriors.
If Jimmy Haslam can shell out the money for the Raiders to stay in Oakland, then Derek Carr will fall right in his lap.
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)
What Tennessee would need: Brock Osweiler.
Both are on the same level: Trash.
Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
What Dallas would need: An elaborate plan to convince Tony Romo to ditch CBS and join the Browns so Jerry Jones has a way to get rid of Dak Prescott and reunite with the love of his life.
Kirk Cousins (The Washington)
What Washington would need: Trade a quarterback who politely asks reports, “Did you enjoy what just transpired?”
Imagine if Cousins’ cousins were reporters, then there’s no way he yells at them.
Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
What Kansas City would need: Any quarterback who doesn’t have Alexsmithphobia, aka, the fear of throwing past the line of scrimmage.
They already have Cody Kessler, so.
Matt Stafford (Detroit Lions)
What Detroit would need: Nothing.
Detroit’s population decreases every year, he’ll likely leave at some point. Just gotta be patient.
Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
What New Orleans would need: Brock Osweiler.
Because he’s tall and New Orleans is tired of its midget quarterback problem.
Eli Manning (New York Giants)
What New York would need: Real, game-worn memorabilia.
It’s an epidemic.
Edited by Robert Hughes
Featured image by wikimedia commons