Rebuilding the Browns: a 5 part look — Part 1: Top 5 Mistakes the Browns have made this decade
by Chaz Bolte, AFCNorthTalk writer
(Originally Published on http://www.afcnorthtalk.com Nov 22, 2009)
5. Brady Quinn draft day trade
It’s far too early to judge Brady Quinn’s career. Many quarterbacks have had rough starts to careers and gone on to storied careers. But the part of this trade that will haunt the Browns for the upcoming years is that they had to give up their 2008 first round pick. The 22nd pick was used by the Cowboys to select running back Felix Jones. The next two selections were running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson. All three of these players would currently be much better options than Jamal Lewis and would eliminate one gaping hole in the offensive strategy. Passing on Quinn with their first pick to select Joe Thomas has turned out to be brilliant both because Thomas will be a quality tackle in the NFL going into the next decade and because they got Quinn anyway. But it is always risky to gamble your future on the present. Imagine a scenario where the Browns had Thomas on the line and Mendenhall in the backfield with the QB of the future ready to step in next year. In all probability the Browns will have a top 5 pick next year which they could use to select a QB like Washington’s Jake Locker. Although in my opinion it would be better used on a player like Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy. It is hard to pass up a player like Quinn, but every year the NFL drafts first round is filled with 3 or 4 QB’s equal to Brady Quinn. If they had let things go their course and not traded away their 2008 first round pick I believe the Browns would be in better shape today
4. Firing Crennel/Hiring Mangini
The 2008 Browns lost their last six games and went 24 consecutive quarters without a touchdown a year after finishing 10-6. While it made sense that the team had to find new leadership firing Romeo Crennel may soon be looked at as a huge mistake. Crennel’s final season with the Browns was abysmal, but the fact that they had three starting quarterbacks injured and were down to Bruce Gradkowski may have been a bigger factor than his lack of leadership. He was the only Browns head coach in the decade to win 10 games and had built a team that was considered a favorite to win the AFC North at the beginning of the 2008 season before the injury bug struck Cleveland and Uncle Romeo was shown the door. Mangini had been somewhat of a failure in New York going 23 and 25, and his 2008 Jets collapsed towards the end of the season, missing the playoffs after starting off 8-3. Mangini, a Belichick disciple, is in no way a superior coach to Crennel and is barely his equal. Some type of change needed to be made on the Browns after their 2008 collapse but hiring someone simply to make a change will probably be the first chapter in the upcoming book, “How I got fired and further sank a sinking ship” by George Kokinis.
3. Drafting Kellen Winslow 6th overall in 2004
We all knew he was a soldier, what we didn’t know was how dumb he was. In his first two years a leg injury and motorcycle accident limited Winslow to 5 receptions for 50 yards. His talent wasn’t even able to be displayed until 2006 when he had an impressive 89 catches for 875 yards and 3 touchdowns. That January he underwent more surgery to further repair the knee cartilage he hurt in the 2005 motorcycle wreck. 2007 was his career year and he made his first Pro Bowl when the Chargers Antonio Gates could not play. He finished the season with 82 receptions for 1106 yards and five touchdowns. But just as Winslow began to show signs that he was going to live up to his potential 2008 came and his season was marked by staph infections and complaints that former Browns GM Phil Savage was doing nothing to prevent his players from getting them. He was traded to the Tampa bay Buccaneers in February for a 2009 2nd round pick and a 2010 5th rounder. He is currently having a slightly above acceptable season with the 1-9 Bucs, coming up with 42 receptions for 454 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, just as in the case of Tim Couch, the failure of this pick must be measured by who they passed on. DeAngelo Hall, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jonathan Vlima were selected in the next few picks. Unfortunately for Winslow his legacy will be more in the dumb things he said than the great plays he made. He was a man who for many different reasons could never perform at 100%. We all remember that Winslow said, “I think my 90 percent is still better than every tight end out there.” Unfortunately for him and the Browns, it’s not.
2. Owner Randy Lerner
When you’re the head of a company any failures are immediately attached to you and since 2002 Randy Lerner has presided over a never ending cycle of failures, blunders, and mistakes. He allowed slightly below average coaches like Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, and Eric Mangini to be in charge. He hired or allowed to be hired all the men who have been a part of a majority of the things on this list. He hired Eric Mangini for far too much money, so he would have a ‘yes man’ and together they have gone 1 – 8 this season. He recently made an attempt to bring Mike Holmgren into the fray which could turn out to be a huge positive for the franchise, but it isn’t final yet. He’s allowed conditions of facilities to deteriorate to a point where 7 players caught staph infections. His actions have led to the current state of the team and unfortunately for Cleveland he will be the man responsible for reversing it.
1. Drafted Tim Couch 1st Overall in 1999
The expansion Browns were given an opportunity to select a potential franchise player in their first year back in the NFL. Chris Palmer decided that he would lay the future of the team in the hands of University of Kentucky Quarterback Tim Couch. In Couch’s senior year as a Wildcat he threw for 4,611 yards and 38 touchdowns while completing 71.5% of his passes, however he never reached his potential with the Browns and threw for over 3,000 yards in only one season (2001). A proper team was never built around him and he eventually had to battle Kelly Holcomb for the starting job. His career accomplishments include leading the 2002 Browns to 9 wins and marrying Playboy Playmate Heather Kozar. The part of this selection that hurt the Browns most was who they passed on to pick Couch. Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey were all drafted in the upcoming picks. The team didn’t get a franchise player, ruined an opportunity to build around a winner, and never recovered.
About the Author: Chaz Bolte is a 2008 Graduate of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania where he earned a B.S. in Communication ~ Emerging Technolgy and Multimedia. At SRU he served as host of the weekly sports show “Pittsburgh Talk” on WSRU~TV and as host of “The Chaz Bolte Radio Hour” on WRSK 88.1 FM. He is currently the Director of Broadcast and New Media for the Pittsburgh Phantoms of the American Basketball Association.