Are the Cleveland Browns done with problem players?
The Cleveland Browns have been known to take chances on troubled players, but should they continue to do so?
The Cleveland Browns historically have been eager to draft problem players if they have upside, but they are totally unprepared for such players. As far as this fan can tell, the plan is to draft talented players even if they have drug or behavioral issues, then threaten them with maximum punishment, namely getting kicked off the team if there are any problems. Then the Browns prove that they have no special ability to treat these players and their investment is usually lost as the players are sent packing.
Most recently, the Browns dodged a bullet as left tackle Greg Robinson was busted with 157 pounds of marijuana in Texas. Fortunately for the Browns, Robinson is scheduled to become a free agent this month and the loss of contractual ties means nothing at this point. The disappointing thing is that this player had a significant drug problem, it appears, and yet the team apparently knew nothing about it.
Prior to that the Browns lost a No. 3 receiver in 2019 when Antonio Callaway also allegedly had a substance issue. The result was to immediately cut him from the team’s roster, allowing a division rival to sign him if they wanted to.
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The Browns also signed Kareem Hunt after an alleged assault issue. Hunt also wound up in hot water this offseason due to marijuana allegedly found in the car he was driving. Although it appears he is not being legally charged with anything, there should be at least a dim recognition that this player may have a problem of some sort. Presumably the Browns have engaged the best possible treatment for Hunt. At any rate it looks a bit rocky at the moment.
They also whiffed on Mychal Kendricks, who was in trouble over stock trading, and do not even get me started on Josh Gordon, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. In short, there is no reason to think that the Browns are particularly adept at helping troubled young men turn their lives around. To put it bluntly, the Browns do not know squat about what they are doing with these troubled personalities.
Kendricks in particular should have been retained, because his crime was saying he was innocent when he was guilty. To expect him to give a full confession to team authorities was terribly naive. This is not 20-20 hindsight, as it was all laid out by your humble correspondent in Dawg Pound Daily as it occurred.
Hence there is no reason to suppose that these players should be more valuable to the Browns than to some other team, and there is quite a bit of evidence that the Browns are actually in over their heads. So they need to stop acquiring problem players if they are not confident that they can be helped.
It is really not funny, but see if you can stop yourself from laughing out loud as you read the following quote from the late Tom Heckert, who was the Browns general manager from 2010 to 2012, describing the process of selecting Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft.
"“It’s something that we really did our homework on, there’s no question about it. We brought the kid in and met with him here then I talked to a zillion guys at both Baylor and Utah. To be honest with you, I couldn’t find anybody to say one bad thing about the kid.” – Heckert via Dawgs By Nature"
You have to conclude that the Browns have been overconfident, if not delusional and blind about substance abuse issues with talented players. The worst organizational failure came with Johnny Manziel, as he misbehaved from the start. The team ran off a competent starting quarterback in Brian Hoyer in order to install Manziel in a position that he did not earn, while he prepared for game day by floating on inflatable swans and guzzling champagne, with tacit approval from upper management.
The fact is, however, that despite the Browns’ foibles, a well-prepared organization can benefit from troubled players if they are good at providing rehab (i.e., especially when they are savvy enough to know when the player is lying about his intentions). It is analogous to investing in junk bonds or penny stocks on Wall Street. If the price is low enough, a shrewd investor can make money.
In the case of football, the league greatly favors ownership when trouble emerges. The league suspends the player, so that the team can avoid salary cap charges and not lose the roster spot. The Browns foolishly panic and cut the player from the team before finding out whether the guy will be able to play again. Kendricks did, Gordon made it for a while. Manziel flopped, and the jury is still out on Callaway. But the team better know what they are doing, and the Cleveland Browns as an organization have not yet demonstrated that they are savvy enough to bet on problem players.
Therefore if they are in a draft situation where the obvious choice is a player with a substance issue or behavioral disorder, the Browns would do well to trade out, because they are poor at helping those people. They need to weigh character highly in their decision-making process for their draft selections and free agent signings. They are not entitled to assume that the player will automatically correct his problem based on a threatening lecture from the general manager. Shortcuts and easy fixes are not working in Cleveland, so stop relying on them.