There is no doubt that the Cleveland Browns are having a tough season. It is easy and convenient to vent one’s frustrations at head coach Pat Shurmur, though some choose to focus their blame on GM Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren. Perhaps citing the notion that this team is “the same old Browns,” fans are understandably frustrated.
But that doesn’t mean anyone needs to jump to any rash decisions. Firing Shurmur after one season and cleaning house accomplishes nothing. One of the main reasons the Browns didn’t bother signing any major free agents this past offseason was because a) they wanted to truly understand what kind of personnel they were dealing with and b) the organization knew this wasn’t a playoff-caliber team from the start.
If you are truly looking for someone – or something – to blame for yet another losing season for the Browns, look to the recent draft classes before Heckert, Holmgren, and Shurmur even arrived in Cleveland.
It’s common knowledge that great teams are built through the NFL Draft. Without quality draft picks on a yearly basis, a team is destined to live in perpetual mediocrity, which is something the current Browns are trying to escape. Judging by the last two draft classes (handled by Heckert and his team), with picks that included cornerback Joe Haden, safety T.J. Ward, quarterback Colt McCoy, defensive tackle Phil Taylor, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, and wide receiver Greg Little, the Browns appear to be on the right track.
Now take a look at the results of the three previous Browns drafts before Heckert arrived:
2009: C Alex Mack (1st), WR Brian Robiskie (2nd), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (2nd), LB David Veikune (2nd), LB Kaluka Maiava (4th), DB Don Carey (6th), DB Coye Francies (6th), RB James Davis (6th)
2008: LB Beau Bell (4th), TE Martin Rucker (4th), DT Ahtyba Rubin (6th), WR Paul Hubbard (6th), DE Alex Hall (7th)
2007: LT Joe Thomas (1st), QB Brady Quinn (1st), CB Eric Wright (2nd), CB Brandon McDonald (5th), DE Mel Purcell (6th), DE Chase Pittman (7th), WR Syndric Steptoe (7th)
It’s nearly impossible to build a winning team with draft classes like that. The only players still with the Browns are Joe Thomas, Ahtyba Rubin, Alex Mack, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Kaluka Maiava. Of those five players, though, only Thomas, Mack, and Rubin can truly be considered big contributors on the team.
That is the situation that Heckert and Holmgren inherited in 2010. Since that time, they have done a commendable job dealing with a lack of quality personnel. After shedding almost all of the aging veterans of the Eric Mangini regime, this team has essentially started from scratch, finally aiming to properly build itself through the draft.
It’s the worst thing in the world for Browns fans to hear, but this current front office needs time and, most importantly, your patience. Give Tom Heckert the chance to produce another solid draft, this time with two first-round picks. Should those picks pan out, the Browns will take another step towards truly competing in the AFC North.