The 2013 season has been difficult for Browns fans. Many feel as if the front office in Cleveland has let us down once more. My blood also runs brown and orange, but I see a completely different picture.
The public perspective as of late has been something like this:
Joe Banner is trigger happy and simply wiping out any remnants of the prior regime. Jimmy Haslam has dealt with legal issues and must not be trusted. Rob Chudzinski is not a big name and could not be any good because of it, and if Mike Lombardi was capable of performing the job he has been hired to do, he wouldn’t have been an analyst instead.
Perhaps what we should consider is reality. Take a look at the changes to the Browns since they have taken over.
During free agency, they made decisions that brought in guys like Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, Quentin Groves, Brian Hoyer, Dion Lewis and Jason Campbell, among others. Granted, Dion Lewis suffered an injury before the season began and we never had opportunity to see what contributions he could make. As for the rest of the bunch, I think we have all been pleased. I have openly criticized Campbell for not stretching the field, but I do feel that he is a competent and capable backup.
Then there was the draft, during which many of us focused on the holes in our roster and looked for the help that we still desperately needed. Instead, Mr. Banner opted to trade our picks in rounds four and five for a third and fourth round pick the year following. The outrage of fans still echoes in Cleveland as our team has struggled with a lack of depth and talent in many areas.
Was I outraged? No, I was not.
Was I disappointed? Certainly, I had been watching several players that I thought would help.
Those players may have helped, but I also realized that Banner had essentially traded our fourth round pick into a deeper draft class and moved a fifth round pick into the third round. He also picked up a guy named Davone Bess, who was to solidify our core of receivers and give them some much needed veteran experience and leadership. I doubt any of us have been overwhelmed by his play, but he has proven a somewhat reliable third down receiver and I can only assume the locker room is better off with him than without, at least for now.
Are we better off after the draft-day trades? Absolutely. It was brilliant.
Did he abandon the season before it began? Certainly not. He did however, understand that a winning team is a result of several years of building and the dynasty we desire will not grow overnight. He made valuable decisions that greatly increased our overall value.
Let us also examine the picks they did bring in, being Barkevious Mingo, Leon McFadden, Jamoris Slaughter, Garrett Gilkey and Armonty Bryant. As for Mingo, Bryant, and Gilkey, we should all be satisfied with the promise they have shown. Mingo started off very strong after his injured lung, yet his emergence has not come full circle. But how much attention does he draw? Would that attention free up other players to make plays? If he provides enough bark for others to bite, I say fantastic. Bark away Barkevious.
Hopefully, McFadden and Slaughter will grow into solid players, but they could well be a bust. Of course, that guy named Buster Skrine was too, right? Young players are exactly that, young. They will improve. Let us not forget that McFadden came along with an endorsement of one of the most beloved Browns in our history, being Brian Sipe.
The season began with Brandon Weeden at the helm and it quickly turned ugly. Was that a result of the current front office? No, not by any means. The prior regime had placed such a high value on him that they simply had no choice but to see if he could live up to it. We all know that he did not. Would they have drafted him? No, they would not have.
Then there was the fiasco known as the “T-Rich trade”, a move that instantly shocked us all. Our hopes for the season had been sent off to Indianapolis and the season was over before it began, right? Well hindsight has shown that move to quite possibly be the most brilliant transaction in years, in any sport. Banner squeezed a first round pick out of a backup running back. I love the hard-nosed style of Trent Richardson and I still hope that he will emerge in Indy as the back we thought he would be, but thus far, he has not. Would you rather we still be waiting?
Many fans continue to blame the front office for this season’s failures and several questions keep coming up. Why didn’t we have more depth at quarterback? Why didn’t they get us the offensive firepower we needed? Why didn’t they get a running back sooner?
Now, let us pause right there. Really? How many quarterbacks do we need? Should they have predicted an ACL injury and multiple concussions? They may have predicted Weeden’s play would be subpar, but they had to give him a shot. Why on earth would they deepen the roster at quarterback when so many other positions needed depth? We had three quarterbacks on the roster already, while many teams only carry two.
And offensive firepower? Seriously? We all assumed our offensive line was solid and it obviously was not. We had depth at quarterback and running back, but injuries happen. Would anyone be saying that if Hoyer and Lewis were healthy? Should they have predicted that we would have two right guards, a running back and three quarterbacks go down with injury? How much would you prefer they spend to get a suitable replacement? Should they have spent our future to sustain a year of growth? No, they worked with what they had to work with. Would you mortgage your home because your car got a flat tire? No, you throw on a spare and fix it as soon as you can.
Ah, and a running back, why oh why didn’t they bring in a running back? Well they did, several actually. The first one broke his leg. Of course, they should have predicted that too, right? Then that T-Rich guy, but well, shouldn’t they have given our top pick a chance to prove himself as well, or would you rather they just straight fired everyone that the prior regime invested in, as many suggest Banner has done. They gave him a chance, did not like what they saw, and got a first round pick for him in trade. Keep in mind that they also brought in several other promising backs in Bobby Rainey and Dennis Johnson. They did not like what they saw and moved on.
Yes, it sucked not having a running game, but what would the cost have been to bring in an established back with any significant miles left in him? Too much, if you run out of gas, don’t sell your car. Get a can and fill it up with the nearest Willis McGahee. They did not sell out, as many wanted, we have a first round pick next year, and as I mentioned, they knew it would take time to build a winning team.
And the last question I want to touch base on. How are we ever going to get a “franchise” quarterback with these guys running the show? Do you seriously think that they will simply abandon the quarterback position? Or, will they do as they have done and continue to improve our overall value. I don’t know how the draft next year will play out. I hope for a quarterback with the first pick. Don’t you think they do as well?
Would you rather have a home built tonight, or one that is carefully planned out and built to specifications? What do you think they are doing? Should we settle for a shack that we can throw up overnight and hope it never gets too windy? No, absolutely not. We need a fortress. We need a strong foundation. We need to build one brick at a time and make absolutely certain that our structure is solid.
They have tried a few leftover pieces and tried to salvage a few more. They have placed cornerstones in the form of Mingo, Bryant and Kruger alongside the existing ones in Joe Haden, Josh Gordon and Joe Thomas. They spotted a tremendous value in Skrine and Jordan Cameron and placed them in a position to strengthen the foundation as well.
In summary, I ask you. What exactly is it that our front office has done so poorly?
Best I can tell, their only flaws have been taking over for the regime that left our house in shambles and not predicting injuries or selling out to remedy them. I am glad they are our construction crew and I look forward to seeing the fortress they are building, once it is complete.
You may wish they had cut a few corners and saved some time, but I am thankful that they have not. I want to sit comfortably while the storm rages outside. I want to know my world is secure when the neighbors come and try to tear it all down. I want to know that the Ravens and Steelers can push and prod all they want and my walls will remain. Yes, I do see the open hole where a quarterback should be, but I want what they are building and I will settle for nothing less.