I really don’t like what I’m about to do. I make my intentions pretty clear as I write this column and I do my best to make them consistent. But I want to judge the Browns’ draft and they’re not even to camp yet.
Maybe it’s not so much the draft itself that I want to judge – it’s more the stance that they’re taking and how we morons are reacting to it.
Going into April’s daft, the Browns “needed” help at wide receiver, running back, right tackle, and maybe defensive line/secondary, with the eternal question mark remaining at quarterback. As we all know, they selected Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in the first round, then Mitchell Schwartz in the second, and now the addition of Josh Gordon with another second. So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s a running back, a quarterback, a right tackle, and a wide receiver, with the third-rounder being a defensive lineman.
When the schedule came out this year, the Browns were pegged to have another bad season. Like…really bad. They’re projected to be the underdog in something like 14 out of 16 games. No one expects a bunch of rookies to come in and turn this team around. Yet people are making judgments about how Tom Heckert has drafted very nicely and is setting the team up for some major improvements.
My question is simply this: Who cares? Even if the team miracuously turns in a monster season, clicks on all cylinders, and becomes a – gasp! – playoff team, there’s no way of knowing what sparked it. For as terrible as last season was, if you changed the outcome of about five plays, the Browns could have had eight wins. It’s a fickle game.
Every year we see teams go from contender to total bust in the span of about ten weeks. And every year we see a relatively unchanged crappy team begin to turn it around and surprise everyone with some big wins. Sometimes it’s on the heels of adding some big-time players (the Lions, for example), sometimes it’s a coach (49ers), and sometimes it’s just weird luck (having your starting quarterback/guy who has thrown for 45,000 yards go down with an injury on your struggling team, only to be led on a 12-year run of relative dominance by the backup whom no one expected to produce).
My point is that it looks liek Heckert has done well this offseason. It looks like some solid things are in place and it looks like the Browns are moving in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean this will be a good season. It doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad season either. There is just too much to take into account over the course of a football game – let alone an entire season – to point to one day and say, with conviction, that it was the difference. Even if that day was when multiple players were added to the roster.
For all we know, it could be the release of Armond Smith that ultimately spurred the Browns to get Richardson, which led them to get a lineman, which led them to utilize the supplemental draft, which leads them to cut Alex Smith, meaning there won’t be a handoff to him on the goal line, which then turns a loss into a win, building some positive momentum.
Lord knows I could be more wrong than I’ve ever been. However, I’m a very firm believer in the butterfly effect being a real thing in the world of sports and not just a terrible movie in the rest of the world.
So maybe I’m not judging them way too early. Maybe I should be able to rest my head comfortably this evening because I’ve relatively abided by my own rules. But it’s more because I’m already aware that it takes a lot of outside forces to create a successful football season. Especially for a team that is consistently unsuccessful.