Could the Cleveland Browns Actually Be Good this Year?

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The Browns have been an absolute dumpster fire since being revived in 1999 and even before then their existence in the Super Bowl era hasn’t been anything to write home about. The ineptitude that has been showcased by this franchise has made them the laughing stock of the league. From firing their head coach seemingly every year, to keeping the worst of the bunch longer than he’s earned simply because of the aforementioned reputation, missing out on a trade of a perceived franchise quarterback because you didn’t submit the paperwork in time, to going 0-16, the Browns have been pretty rough. And this was just last season alone.

Hue Jackson has been a disaster as head coach. While the talent around him hasn’t been great, most teams can usually “luck” their way into a victory or two. In his 2-year tenure, Jackson holds a record of 1-31 with the Browns, that one win being against the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2016 thanks to a late blocked field goal. That was on a Saturday. The Browns haven’t won on a Sunday since 2015 when Johnny Manziel was their quarterback. To make matters worse, Jackson swore that if the Browns went 0-16, he’d jump into one of the Great Lakes, implying he would do it at the end of the season. He just did it a couple days ago.

And then of course, there’s the jersey.

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This picture of the jersey is a bit outdated because it doesn’t include Deshone Kizer, Cody Kessler, or Kevin Hogan, all of whom have made starts for the Browns in the Hue Jackson era, all of whom have since been shipped out since the start of the offseason when new GM John Dorsey took over. Quarterback has been the definition of a black hole since the Browns returned to the league. Starting with Tim Couch in 1999, the Browns have taken the following quarterbacks in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft: Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, Deshone Kizer, now Baker Mayfield. Everyone up until Mayfield has been a colossal bust, some were hard to dispute at the time of drafting (Brady Quinn seemed to be can’t-miss coming out of college), some were head scratchers (Brandon Weeden was 28 years old when the Browns made him a first round pick in 2012), while others made everybody question what they know about football (Johnny Manziel was the exact opposite of what a quarterback is typically classified as and the Browns still took him 22nd overall).

But is there hope? The team that the Browns are set to field in 2018 is, on paper, the best they may have had since their re-inception. With the recent addition of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the Browns suddenly have arguably the best group of linebackers in football with Kendricks, Jamie Collins, and the VASTLY underrated Christian Kirksey. They’ve got a potent pass rushing duo in Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. They just drafted a very solid corner in Denzel Ward fourth overall. They’re getting Josh Gordon back for a full season and he looks as good as he did prior to his suspension. They acquired Jarvis Landry in a trade with the Dolphins. They acquired a competent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. They drafted Baker Mayfield first overall to sit behind Taylor for a year to develop. Even without the recently retired Joe Thomas, the Browns still have a solid offensive line. Carlos Hyde is a new addition in the backfield. There is legit talent on this Browns team this year and it’s thanks in large part to the addition of John Dorsey in the GM’s seat.

Now am I saying the Browns are going to win a Super Bowl in 2018? Of course not, the dumbest football fan on the planet won’t even say that unironically. The only way anybody is placing any Super Bowl bets on the Browns is if they DESPERATELY need hundreds of millions of dollars right now to pay off their debt to the mob. But could they actually be competitive this year? Well…yeah! I’m actually going to go ahead and say I think this team could feasibly go 8-8…on paper.

The problem is, a culture of losing is very difficult to shake. Trust me, I know. My high school football team won 4 games in my 4 years there, 3 of those came in my sophomore year and my freshman and senior seasons were winless seasons. You always doubt yourself and your ability to win the game. In fact, I went into a few games thinking to myself “I hope the score will at least be close so we have something to hold our heads up high about.” It’s going to take a DRASTIC culture change if the Browns are going to take things to the next level and the type of thinking that’s probably running rampant amongst guys within the organization right now is going to hold them back. While the roster overhaul is a good start, this team needed to be gutted to the core. No seat is going to be hotter than Hue Jackson’s in 2018 and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see him get gutted the moment things start spiraling for the Browns in 2018. Besides, they do have Todd Haley at Offensive Coordinator, who does have head coaching experience with the Chiefs. He was 19-26 with the Chiefs, though he did lead them to the playoffs in his second of 3 seasons.

But I’m not just talking about Jackson. I’m talking everybody in the organization should be on the hot seat, INCLUDING owner Jimmy Haslam. While you can’t exactly fire the owner, I really don’t think the Browns are going to go very far while he’s at the helm. The ineptitude starts at the top with him. I mean for God’s sake, Dorsey wouldn’t even tell his boss who he was drafting first overall until the night before the Draft! If the Browns were to be sold, we could see things take a turn for the better provided it’s to a capable buyer. Just look at what happened with the New England Patriots. They were basically the Browns of the 20th century in the AFC and while they did appear in a Super Bowl prior to new ownership, they got absolutely DESTROYED by the Chicago Bears and really had no business being in that game in the first place (they upset Dan Marino’s Dolphins to get to the big game). However, since Robert Kraft bought the team in the early-90’s, pretty much everything has gone New England’s way. While it took a while for the Patriots to become what we know them to be today, they did eventually become arguably the most dominant franchise in NFL history. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Browns

That’s going to do it for today, let me know what you think of the Browns’ chances at future success in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Draft Rumors A Week Ahead of Round 1

I’m baaaaaack. The longest of my papers coming up just got finished a week ahead of its due date so I’m pretty comfortable with returning to the blog on a regular basis. I appreciate all the patience. My family also got the puppy I mentioned a few blogs back, we went with the name Maizie Blue. Izzy and Fred were caught off guard by her presence. Fred seems to like her and Izzy seems to be confused by her. More updates to come. But anyhow, we’re about a week away from the Draft and there are rumors GALORE, most of which concern the Browns, who hold the first and fourth picks in the Draft. So I’m going to go down the list of some of the more interesting rumors I’ve heard and talk about whether I think they’re bullshit or not because this is the time of year when teams try and push fake stories, or smokescreens, to try and trick other teams as to what their plans are. It’s like the NFL’s Game of Thrones. So let’s get to the rumors. I’m going to try and limit them to just rumors that pertain to the first round, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

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Browns GM John Dorsey knows who he wants at #1, isn’t telling anybody (not even Browns owner Jimmy Haslam) until the night before the draft

I’m actually a little surprised we, the public, don’t already know who the pick is going to be. Typically by this time in the process there is a clear favorite for the draft’s top pick. Last year it was Myles Garrett, the year before it was Jared Goff, before that Jameis Winston, before that JaDeveon Clowney. By the time the Draft typically rolls around, there’s very little mystery about who is going first. This year is completely different. There are three guys who are all still being linked to the top pick: USC QB Sam Darnold, Wyoming QB Josh Allen, and Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. I like the move by Dorsey not to tell anyone in the organization who he’s taking. Not only does it make the Draft more intriguing because the risk of that choice getting leaked is minimized significantly, but the Browns have been run so incompetently for so long that you have to imagine if somebody got wind of who their pick was going to be, they’d muck it up. I think Dorsey’s known who he wants for a while now. He’s likely been thinking about this pick since the fall and he’ll have certainly done his due diligence at this point.

Verdict: Probably True

Browns are considering drafting two QB’s at high spots

This isn’t something that’s unheard of. The Redskins did it back in 2012 by taking Baylor QB Robert Griffin III second overall then taking Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round. While Griffin’s career flamed out after a spectacular rookie season, Cousins has gotten better every year and just got a big fat paycheck from the Vikings. Cousins was kind of an insurance policy to RG3 and he ended up paying dividends for the Redskins, even if they refused to recognize it by giving him a long-term deal. However the Redskins’ quarterback situation was a little more dire than Cleveland’s currently is. At the time, the Redskins were fielding Rex Grossman and John Beck as their quarterbacks. The Browns at least have a competent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor to hold things down for a year so their rookie quarterback can have time to develop. Plus, the only quarterback in this class who compares to RG3 is Lamar Jackson and Jackson doesn’t have the injury history RG3 did coming out of college, so I doubt the need for an insurance policy like what the 2012 Redskins went with.

Verdict: Doubtful, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they take a guy like Toledo’s Logan Woodside in the 5th or 6th round

The Jets are preparing to make Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield the 3rd overall pick

According to an article I read on Bleacher Report, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com is claiming that Mayfield to the Jets is a “done deal.” I’ve also read that the Jets are also seriously considering Sam Darnold perhaps suggesting they think Darnold will go to the Browns first or the Giants second. I have no doubt in my mind the Jets swapped picks with the Colts in order to take one of the quarterbacks in this class. But I’m not so sure it’s going to be Mayfield. I’ve blogged this several times, but the Jets’ division rival Dolphins are reportedly “enamored” by Mayfield, the Bills are trying to trade into the top 5 for a quarterback, and even the Patriots have been linked to the Heisman Trophy winner. I think the Jets may be throwing this name out there to try and entice their division rivals, all of whom hold picks outside of the top 10, to make a blockbuster trade with the Jets to try and stockpile picks, or get another desperate team to move up with them, perhaps Denver at 5. I would be a little surprised if the pick was Mayfield, as he’s a guy who needs more development than others and the Jets have shown they develop quarterbacks about as well as I develop proper eating habits. Not great. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are the more finished products that will require less seasoning and it’s very likely that Rosen is the one that will still be there at #3. But if the Jets aren’t totally sold on him, then I think it would be wise of them to stockpile draft picks.

Verdict: Smokescreen

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to slide in the draft and may fall to the Patriots

A lot of people have been starting to mock Josh Rosen out of the top-10 in the Draft, let alone out of the top-5. Apparently the concerns about his love for the game are very real in NFL circles. This also, according to reports, has the Patriots’ ears perking up. It’s being reported that the Patriots may try and trade up to take Rosen to be Tom Brady’s successor should he slide in the Draft and considering New England has 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders this year, they seem to have the ammunition to do so. However they will likely have to trade with the Raiders at 10 at the very latest, considering the Dolphins and Bills hold the 11th and 12th picks, respectively, and both teams are going to be salivating watching Rosen fall. However it’s also being reported by NESN’s Mike Kyed that the 49ers may make a deal with the Patriots at 9th overall, saying so much as the 49ers “owe it” to the Patriots for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade despite the Browns making a better offer. As a Patriots fan, I’d rather see them get a left tackle and get a developmental quarterback later on rather than spend all their assets for the latter, even though Rosen is my top-ranked quarterback. But if the Patriots do pull the trigger on Rosen, I won’t complain. Just make sure he and Brady will be able to stay upright.

Verdict: Rosen’s slide seems likely, but he won’t fall within New England’s reach

Broncos looking to trade the 5th overall pick

John Elway has stated that the Broncos are very open to trading the 5th overall pick and given the teams that sound like they’re desperate to move up, it seems like a good chance that they’ll get an offer they like. Buffalo seems to be most desperate and they’ve also got a lot of ammunition (2 first rounders, 2 second rounders) to make a big splash. Denver needs a developmental quarterback, though with the newly-signed Case Keenum, the desperation isn’t as great as it was prior to the signing when the quarterbacks were Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. The Cardinals have also been rumored to be looking to trade up for a quarterback even after signing Sam Bradford to a 3-year deal. The Broncos will have a number of suitors should they make the 5th overall pick available.

Verdict: Very Likely

The Colts are trying to trade down again from 6th overall

The Colts originally held the third overall pick but they made a trade with the Jets to move down to #6 and acquired 3 second rounders in the process. Again, Miami and Buffalo are two teams to keep an eye out for as teams that may try and make a move with the Colts, especially if one or more of the top 4 quarterbacks falls out of the top 5. The Colts have needs pretty much everywhere and they aren’t going to fix all their problems with one pick so it’s very likely that they try and acquire as many picks as they can. However there’s a game-wrecking edge rusher in this class in Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State that I think could really be useful to the Colts and it’s very possible he falls to them at #6 given the quarterback craze that’s expected. The Giants have been linked to him at #2 overall, though and I think they’re the Colts’ biggest threat to getting him. Plus if the Giants do take Chubb, that’s one less QB-needy team that spent their high pick on a quarterback, meaning teams that are trying to trade up will have one more quarterback option to consider, meaning more suitors for the Colts.

Verdict: If Bradley Chubb is gone, I guarantee this happens

Packers are either going to take Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick or Iowa corner Josh Jackson

The secondary in Green Bay is LOADED with holes and you really can’t go wrong with either of these two guys at this spot. However there’s little to no chance that Fitzpatrick falls this far. Fitzpatrick is my #3 overall prospect and top safety and teams like the Browns at #4, the Buccaneers at #7, the 49ers at #9, and the Raiders at #10 are all very possible landing spots for him. However, Jackson isn’t as highly-touted by all teams as Fitzpatrick is and I think it’s very likely that he’ll be around for Green Bay at #14. Jackson’s ball-hawking skills led him to being #1 in the nation in interceptions and he played a similar role with the Hawkeyes as former teammate Desmond King, who had a very successful rookie season with the Chargers. However if Florida State safety Derwin James is still available when the Packers pick at 14, I think they should seriously consider him.

Verdict: Fitzpatrick won’t be there, but Jackson is very likely. Also don’t rule out James

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Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch may go higher than people expect

I’ve been consistently mocking the Boise State linebacker to the Steelers at 28, however something interesting occurred a couple weeks ago. The Titans reportedly cancelled their visit with Vander Esch because they felt he “wouldn’t be there when they picked.” Tennessee holds the 25th overall pick. Vander Esch is an excellent physical specimen who seems like he’s still really learning how to play linebacker even though he’s played it for most, if not all of his career. As mentioned above, I have him as a late first round prospect but the fact the Titans cancelled their workout with him because they didn’t expect him to be there is telling. Among teams that pick ahead of them that need a linebacker include the Raiders, Dolphins, Chargers, Lions, Bills, and Patriots.

Those are just a few of the rumors I’ve been hearing that pertain to the first round of the Draft. Amongst later round rumors are the Chargers wanting to draft Philip Rivers’ successor in the 2nd round, Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam garnering significant interest in the middle rounds, and Ronald Jones II being very high on the Colts’ board. Let me know what you think of these rumors in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.