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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the eve of 2010 draft, Browns can start to erase a decade of futility by making smart choices tomorrow night

Anyone who is even a casual follower of the NFL knows that, since the Cleveland Browns rejoined the league as an expansion franchise in 1999, they have been among the worst ballclubs in professionall football.  The Browns have had only two winning seasons in that time span, going 9-7 in 2002, and 10-6 and 2007, with 2002 being their only playoff appearance.  Counting games played by the old Browns, I believe the last time Cleveland actually won a playoff game was in 1989.  That is a span of over 20 years without a playoff victory. Browns fans have started to feel a little like the late Rodney Dangerfield: they don't get no respect.  Many people point to the instability of the head coach position as a primary reason for their failures.  Others will even go as far as to say the Browns are cursed.  I believe, however, that there is a more practical reason for the Cleveland Browns' shortcomings.  More specifically, I believe that Cleveland's year in and year out poor performance on the football field can be directly attributed to their poor track record in NFL drafts since rejoining the league. Names like Tim Couch, Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Kellen Winslow,  Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, and Kamerion Wimbley have in part given credence to the moniker 'Mistake by the Lake.'  Especially when some of the names that the Browns' brass has passed up on include Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Peterson, and even Beanie Wells, Mark Sanchez and Rey Maualuga in last year's draft. 

But there still is hope for Cleveland fans.  The Browns went out and drafted an individual who has had over 20 years evaluating NFL talent.  He has also led two different teams to the Super Bowl, winning one of them with the Green Bay Packers.  He is  now charged with not only running the business of the Cleveland Browns, but also restoring crediblity to an organization with a proud history that includes not only Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Lou Groza, and Otto Graham, but also Brian Sipe, Clay Matthews Sr. and Bernie Kosar.  And he must do that first and foremost by rebuilding through the draft, starting with 2010.   That's a lot of pressure for anyone, even someone with such lofty credentials as Mike Holmgren has. 

My advice to Mr. Holmgren and company before the 2010 NFL draft is not to get cute; draft players according to need and availability, but be efficient about it.  If a player you like falls into your lap at number 7 then draft him; but with over 10 picks in this year's draft there is no need to overpay for a player.  Eric Berry(the safety from Tennessee) would be good at number 7, but so would  S Earl Thomas of Texas; you don't need to trade up to number 4 in order to get Berry.  Likewise, if you were really impressed by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, and he is available in the second round, you should take him; but again there is no need to trade up back into the first round to get him.  Sure there are many people who believe that McCoy may be the next Drew Brees, and I tend to agree with that sentiment, but if you can get McCoy in the second round then you have the flexibilty to let him learn from the sidelines during his rookie season.  The main thing Holmgren, Heckert(Tom Heckert, the Browns' GM), Mangini and company must realize is that by trying too hard to fake out the media(and, by extension, the 31 other NFL franchises) they may be doing the franchise more harm than good.

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