Cleveland Browns: Will they learn the lessons of history?

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24: Cleveland Browns helmet (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24: Cleveland Browns helmet (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns are widely expected to draft a quarterback with the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. The unpopular question that still lingers in the air is — should they?

Who will the Cleveland Browns select with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft? The conventional wisdom says they have to take a quarterback.

While it’s hard to understate the importance of the position, it’s easy to overstate the potential of the players who are available with this all-important pick. Which means, with one week to go until the NFL draft, a stubborn question remains: What if the Browns don’t take a quarterback?

In a recent article, one of our contributors wrote about the dangers of confirmation bias. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here. It’s a good reminder that many analysts, no matter how well-connected they are, bring preconceived ideas to their analysis, and look for tape that supports that bias.

Which brings me to my point. The Browns have suffered from a different kind of bias the last few years. It’s termed recency bias. Simply put, recency bias means that we are inclined to use our recent experiences as a baseline for what will happen in the future. Allow me to explain.

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In 2012, the Cleveland Browns selected Brandon Weeden in the first round. Two years later, the Browns selected another quarterback, Johnny Manziel, in the first round. Simply put, each of these failed picks set the franchise back in their own way.

After the 2015 season, a group of highly analytics-oriented thinkers led by Sashi Brown stormed Berea and sought to rebuild the Browns. Let me be the first to say, Sashi Brown did many good things for the organization, and he does not deserve all the criticism he receives.

However, when it comes to the quarterback position, I believe Brown fell victim to recency bias. In my opinion, the shortcomings of Weeden and Manziel tainted how Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson were evaluated. Therefore, Brown concluded that neither quarterback was worth a first-round pick and executed two trades.

Those trades, unquestionably, set the table for the bounty of picks general manager John Dorsey enjoys this year. The other end of that is the success of those quarterbacks sets Dorsey up for another case of recency bias. There is an assumption that the Browns have to take a quarterback because of what Wentz and Watson are, not necessarily because of what any of these prospects actually are — or will be.

There is a silly debate among Browns fans that pits the “football guys” against the “analytics guys.” Successful organizations need both, but there has to be a balance. If one was to construct a Mount Rushmore of “football guys”, Bill Parcells name would be mentioned. However, in the early 80s, it was Parcells who used basic analytics to popularize the idea of going for it on fourth down when in the “no man’s land” inside an opponent’s territory.

My hope for the Browns is that John Dorsey will do exactly what he said in his pre-draft press conference. That he will sincerely listen to all points of view, and then watch the tape one more time. If he decides one of these quarterbacks is worthy of that first pick, I’ll be all in.

Next: Browns 2018 NFL Draft guide

But if not, let me be the first to offer you a tip of the cap Mr. Dorsey.