“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ...” — Shakespeare, Henry V
On the most important day of the calendar year for the Cleveland Browns I wanted to spend some time in this space pondering, ruing, imagining what the franchise is and could be. When I went to select an image for the article I searched Cleveland Browns and pictures of Hue Jackson came up. Pictures of Jim Brown came up. Sashi Brown’s photo. The first photo of a recent Cleveland Brown was Josh McCown. Or Luke McCown. I can’t keep them straight. Okay, I know it’s Josh McCown. I committed his name to memory even though I really hadn’t wanted to.
The Browns run the draft. They have the 1st pick. They have the 12th pick. They have the 33rd and 52nd picks. They’ve had many picks before. They’ve embraced analytics now, and part of that means that they seem to value those picks more than ever. If a team with six picks is as good as a team with nine picks at judging talent, it stands to reason that the team with nine picks is more likely to end up with difference-makers. This is good, it seems to me. And it’s had prominent supporters like Jimmy Johnson in the past, which makes it an easier sell for an impatient man like Jimmy Haslam.
The team has a long way to go, of course. They start from a 1-15 record that may or may not have been a result of tanking. Paul DePodesta, the man hired to, well, we aren’t really sure, has likened what happened to the roster last summer as ripping a house down to the studs. And the roster was pretty bad anyway, so that may very well have been the right call. Outside of Joe Thomas and Jamie Collins, who came midseason, the best player on that team was Terrelle Pryor, and he has now moved on.
So what can you do? The same thing you did in 1997 and 1998, I’d argue. You throw yourself into the draft, and the young guys with promise who have been banged up and hey maybe you can salvage this diamond in the rough. Tim Couch? Akili Smith? Mitch Trubisky? Deshaun Watson? This team won’t be good in 1999. In fact, it’s likely to be bad. But it’s a team. They play in a big NFL stadium and everything. It’s not what you had in 1988 or 1993 or 1964, but they will be the Browns.
This team likely won’t be good in 2017. You might not even want to consider them the Browns. But they’ll be young, and they’ll be motivated, and we’ll have to wait and see. My friends will be over and we’ll be trying to believe that the Browns can change their stars. Act as ye have faith, and faith shall be given unto you. I’ll try and muster the energy and enthusiasm I had when I was 11 years old and Couch and Kevin Johnson were going to be my childhood heroes. I suppose growing up doesn’t really allow for that.
I do still have my Kevin Johnson jersey, though. And the Browns do have a lot of picks. Once more unto the breach indeed.
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