Browns Beginnings: Bad Luck, Enough with Wentz and Just Give it Time

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What are the odds? The Cleveland Browns new front office didn’t need analytics to tell them Robert Griffin III was injury prone and might not last the season, but a crystal ball would have been needed to foresee the rash of injuries plaguing the Cleveland Browns. It’s not a lack of planning or foresight, it’s a matter of bad luck.

Recently, the Browns have been getting beaten up, physically by opponents and locally through words written by the media. I get it, the Browns signed RG3, passed on Carson Wentz and took Cody Kessler in the 3rd round instead.

They blew a huge lead, at home. They have gone through two starting quarterbacks in two weeks, again, and are looking at starting the rookie, Kessler. Basically, it is two weeks into the season and it is already a nightmare for the coaches, front office and fans.Sashi Brown Cleveland Browns

“When we really sat down and talked with Philly, (and understood) the batch of picks they were wanting to put together, where we sit as a roster today, this was the right decision for us.” – Sashi Brown

Enough about Carson

I’m already tired of hearing Wentz‘s name. I don’t care if he becomes the next Ben Roethlisberger in Philadelphia, the Browns didn’t take him and do not know how it would’ve turned out. Here’s a few reasons why:

Hindsight is 20/20 and Wentz, behind this offensive line (think about Wentz dropping back to throw with Austin Pasztor and Cam Erving “protecting him”), would not look anything like he has with the Eagles thus far. His success has been thanks to staying upright for the majority of the first two games, that has not exactly happened for the Browns passers.

Anybody can go back and say “if the Browns would’ve” done this, but let’s deal in reality and with what is, not with what could’ve been. The Browns did pass on Wentz in the draft, but not for Kessler.

The Browns selected wide receiver Corey Coleman with their first selection. Then Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and then Shon Coleman. That’s right. The Cleveland Browns were so enamored with Kessler that he was their third pick of the 3rd round. Or perhaps, the front office took a flyer on a developmental quarterback that the head coach was fond of and planned on (get this) DEVELOPING him in said coach’s offense behind recently signed RG3 and veteran Josh McCown.

The problems comparing Kessler to Wentz start with the draft.

The Browns passed on taking Wentz because of the “batch” of picks Sashi had mentioned, which were referred to earlier. In essence, the Browns decided they weren’t one rookie quarterback away from contending and when Jared Goff, the reported preference of head coach Hue Jackson, was no longer an option, they made the trade with the Eagles to help expedite the construction of their roster as a whole.

Related:   Browns Zone Episode 4: Talking Free Agency, Trades and NFL Draft

Disclaimer: I didn’t like the Kessler pick at the time.

The third round is either too late or too soon to pick a quarterback in my opinion. Too late for a Day 1 starter (Russell Wilson was an anomaly, not the standard) and too soon for a developmental project with so many other options left on the board. The Browns had a lot of picks at their disposal, but Kessler stuck out because he didn’t strike me as a bookworm or physical freak like most of the other picks. His stats, other than accuracy, weren’t even all that impressive to me. Although, I do recall a blurb about him not having much for an o-line, so he should be used to the Browns offense by now.

Say the Browns drafted Wentz, he wouldn’t be throwing to Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, or handing off to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. He’d be throwing to Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins, Gary Barnidge, Josh Gordon – when he returns -and the rookies, other than Coleman. He would be handing off to Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, behind Erving and Pasztor.

Unlike the Browns, Philadelphia isn’t trying to develop a center in front of Wentz, but starting Clevelander Jason Kelce, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2014. Meanwhile, Pasztor and Erving provide easy access for opponents to get into the backfield and even Erving is, at best, a work-in-progress at snapping the football. Perhaps, having a good offensive line helps quarterbacks (who knew, right?). Maybe receivers who have played the position at the pro level more than one-year helps quarterbacks. Heck maybe an effective running game helps, what do I know?

So, does comparing Kessler to Wentz every single Sunday here on out seem like an intelligent way to get an accurate assessment of a rookie quarterback who has barely practiced for the last few weeks because he was the third quarterback on the depth chart? Add in the fact that the offense will (again) be reconstructed in one week to suit his talents, on the road for his first career start when McCown, who has more years of experience than Kessler has weeks of experience, couldn’t do it with the same group at home the previous week? The comparison seems about as fair and accurate as judging Jackson, Brown and Paul DePodesta on their draft and franchise rebuild in Week 3.

Enough with the focus on Hue’s Most Well Known Quote

While some fools are focused on a post-Draft quote from Jackson (“trust me”), perhaps some should pay attention to what Jackson said to Goff’s parents before the draft.

“Don’t worry,” Jackson had assured the Goffs. “I won’t put your son on the field until I know I have an offensive line that can protect him.” – (from Mike Silver’s The First 33 Weeks)

Are the Browns at that point? I’m not defending the Browns, but ask yourself: are the Browns a rookie quarterback away from contending? Would Wentz fix the problems on defense and special teams, too? Are the Browns able to put a quarterback behind this offensive line confident he will be protected?

Related:   Browns Zone Episode 6: We Tried a Crossover and This Happened
Are you ready for Clipboard Jesus? David isn't.
Are you ready for Clipboard Jesus? David isn’t.

Clipboard Jesus, really?

The Browns have done many things I cannot explain or understand, and many things I don’t agree with. Namely, signing Charlie Whitehurst. I understand, he’s a veteran, with a connection to Pep Hamilton and Hal Hunter, and I know the Browns want to see what the rulings are on McCown and Griffin before completely giving up on either for the season, but Charlie Whitehurst?!?!

So far in the construction process of the franchise, the Browns new front office is akin to the Freeling’s having just purchased a beautiful new home in the Cuesta Verde complex in the Poltergeist movie. The natives (or the media, in this case) are restless, and the amusement at the odd turn of events has turned to horror. I’m just having trouble placing McCown in the movie version in my head. I think he could definitely fill Mr. Freeling’s role, but would love to see a 6’4″ Carol Anne!

Give it time people….seriously

Here’s the thing, Jackson, Brown and DePodesta need time to develop the roster and figure out what works best for the Browns in both players and system. The loss to the Ravens at home was a major heart-breaker, but a huge sign of progress. The game as a whole will be viewed as a disappointment, but the young players responded to a loss on the road with aggression and came out fighting.

They just couldn’t finish. In the second quarter when the Ravens scored their first touchdown, Chris Simms said, “The Ravens need to force the Browns to prove they can execute.” Which is exactly what they did. The Browns came out quick, but when the momentum shifted they weren’t able to get it back. Young players weren’t able to consistently execute as a unit on consecutive plays throughout the game.

The real test for Jackson this year will not be coaching a talent-limited roster while maintaining winning aspirations, but getting the young players to buy-in and not quit amidst all of the losing.

Wisely, the Browns aren’t just handing out roles to players because they drafted them, but holding a position to specific standards. The player that reaches those standards or gets closest to them starts, period. Perhaps, that’s why the Browns focused on over-achievers, college walk-ons and players with relentless motors in the draft.

Guys who don’t quit. Guys who can’t quit. Players who go against the odds. I don’t know about you, but that’s a team I can get behind.

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David is a talented writer who has been covering the Browns for a few years now. He is a contributor to CSZ, and also writes for BrownsBeat.com and EverybodyHatesCleveland.com.

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